My Top Gear Review

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This is a bit of a digression for me, but I thought I would “review” the relaunch of Top Gear.  I put “review” in quotes because I didn’t actually see the new episode,but I did did read the live blog provided by the Guardian, and I had more than a few comments.

The summary of this (and few other reviews I have seen) is basically, it was pretty much like the old Top Gear, just not as good.  To which I have to say, I think what they really mean is that the “old” Top Gear just weren’t that good, but everyone had gotten used to the old one.  Sort of like that stinkly smell that just doesn’t really register any more.

I have to say that I was introduced to Top Gear about a year or so ago by my (then) 15 year old son.  I will admit that I am not a fan of the show and I want to take some comments about the relaunch that say exactly why I am not a fan of the show.

About halfway through his live blog, Stuart Heritage had this to say, “If you like watching people you vaguely recognise from TV talking endlessly about cars you’ll never be able to afford, then this is amazing television.” Which is exactly the two sentence review I would have given the old Top Gear about 6 months ago after watching several years worth of episodes.

Living in the Midwestern US, I have pretty much zero chance of even seeing a car they talk about on Top Gear, much less getting up close and personal with one.  So, Heritage’s line about the Stig’s obligatory test lap, “He’s driving the blue car around the track, and it’s all meaningless really because no normal person is ever going to buy one, and what’s the point of it and what’s the point of anything?”  Exactly.  And so it has been for years!

Or as I often put it, “Ohhhh the car that cost as much as an 8000 square foot mansion was two tenths of second faster than the one that only cost as much as a 5000 square foot mansion!”  Wow!  Cue the applause!  Heritage also says that the review segment in the first episode of the relaunch is “IDENTICAL” to the old ones.  Which were all obviously IDENTICAL to each other.  ZZZZZZZ.

Heritage also made a comment that the best way to survive the new show was to record it and fast forward through the boring parts.  Which is the only way that even my son, who is a Top Gear fanatic, can make it through the old episodes.  He never watches the “Star in a Reasonably Priced Car.”  The “news” segment is often passed over as well, as being pretty insufferable.

Which brings us to the legendary “chemistry” amongst the “Three Amigos.”  Frankly, I never saw it.  It was all so forumulaic.  Clarkson, the combination of addled adolescent and crusty curmudgeon.  May, “the voice of reason” and Hammond, the youthful enthusiast.  Such talents!  I dare you to go through the old episodes of Top Gear and count how many times Clarkson moans “Yesssssss” or snears “Could be worse.”  Hilarious!  Just like “Dyn-O-Mite” or “Whachu talking about Willis?”

Or perhaps you go through the news segments and count how many “It’s rubbish” “Oh, I rather like it” exchanges you can find.  Again, ZZZZZZZZ.  Occaisionally a genuinely funny line would gurgle up, but not very often.  I never thought of the three as “great talents.”  This was highlighted when they tried to do other projects.

When May tried to show that he could be “fun” on ManLab, it was unwatchable.  When Hammond tried to be “smart and serious” on that big idea show,  it was also unwatchable.   I guess Clarkson does some kind of game show, but I can’t imagine I would be impressed.

For me, the poor reviews of the new Top Gear simply serve to underscore how bad the old one really was.

Now, that being said, the old Top Gear did sometimes have a saving grace.  Most of the special episodes were actually somewhat watchable.  Taking the hosts way, way out of their comfort zones actually did, occaisionally, make for interesting television.  Yes, they did have their cringe-worthy moments where the people of the host country were deeply disrespected, but seeing the guys truly working together and coming to respect their new surroundings was usually pretty affecting.  But this did not happen often enough.

I wish the new crew well and hope they find a way to move in new directions with Top Gear, because to my mind the old ways never did work anyway.

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Dumb Dumb Donny Fails Econ 101

Trump supporters say they like two things about the spray tanned clown, his “straight talk,” and his “business experience.” We already know that his “straight talk” consists mostly of juvenile insults and untruths, but what about his “business experience?” Well that was on display in North Dakota yesterday during his news conference and frankly it didn’t go so well.  Dumb Dumb Donny is already failing Econ 101.

He spent a good part of his speaking time complaining about Obama’s environmental initiatives and how he was going to get rid of all that so that (basically) we could “drill baby drill” in North Dakota and other places. Now, this is the typical Republican line, but like most Republican lines, it just ain’t true.

Here is what oil and gas production have looked like in the US over the past two decades or so:

Immediately you will notice that although fracking started before Obama took office, it really took off since 2008. Oh yeah, Obama was elected in 2008. Now, it is true that the oil boom has cooled off in the past year or two, but it is not because of any new environmental regulations. It has been pretty much as a result of market forces.

The increase with US oil and gas production was met by OPEC (especially Saudi Arabia) pumping oil like there is no tomorrow, combined with the remnants of the 2007 crash to lead to a world wide oil glut and collapse of natural gas prices.

Fracking is not economically feasible with oil prices less that $50 or $60 dollars a barrel. Prices were as low as $35 a barrel over the past 2 years. And because of that we have been enjoying gas prices at the pump in $2 a gallon range, rather than $4 a gallon like we were seeing several years ago.

Apparently Dumb Dumb Donny wants to raise gas prices to $4 a gallon again.

Which actually, environmentalist would love. Hmmmm…maybe we could slap a $2 a gallon tax on all oil imports, which would actually get North Dakota drilling again. Good luck getting that through a Republican Congress.

It is this kind of brilliant thinking that leads to outstanding business results like these:

Graph comparing Trump Casinos to Index Fund Dumb Dumb Donny’s actual returns.

I will say, I do believe that Dumb Dumb Donny can do for the American economy what he did for his own business: Run it right into the ground.

The Secret Identity of “Ken Ham”

I thought it would be obvious by now, but most people don’t seem to get it, which tells you how wonderfully devious the plan is.  Phil Plait, in Slate has written that “Ken Ham”Really doesn’t understand science.”  Well, of course he doesn’t.  He wasn’t designed to.

No, not in the designed by god, excuse me, the designer who shall not be named but is by no means a religious entity, but is really the father of Jesus, but that is totally unrelated.  I am going to tell you what I mean by “designed” but you have to promise to keep it secret, otherwise I will have to kill you.

“Ken Ham” is no more real than Betty Bowers or the original Steven Colbert.  I would have been pretty damn obvious, really, how could “Ken Ham” be a real person?

“Ham” is a creation of American Society of Satanic Hoaxers and Taunters (ASSHAT).  His whole schtick is designed to create atheists and agnostics.  How could it be otherwise?  The whole idea that if even one word of the Bible is not true, then the whole thing is bogus is perfect for creating non-believers.  You don’t have to be a biblical scholar or read the thing for more than a few minutes to realize that it is riddled with contradictions and falsehoods.  Insisting that it is as perfect as god himself is simply a way to to destroy any confidence in god.

74196424-petersburg-united-states-to-go-with-afp-story-by-mira_1-crop-promo-mediumlargeNow, when ASSHAT first brought “Ham” out (From Australia, what a great cover story!) they assumed that people would see right through him.  Let’s face it, he is casted a bit too perfectly.  A guy who opposes evolution who looks exactly like a cross between a chimp and and a Neanderthal?   You can only make stuff like this up!  It can’t just be a coincidence.  But nobody blew his cover, so the plan went on to the next phase.

The Creation Museum really lays the groundwork for future developments, such as the under construction Ark Museum.  Many people don’t have a problem creationism, per se.  The idea that god created cute koala bears and ponderous pachyderms as is — Presto! — is an appealing idea.  But the museum starts to undercut the cuteness of all that, by showing man with dinosaurs.  Why would god create so many animals that are now dead?  In fact why would he create many, many more dead kinds of animals than live ones?  The seeds of doubt are being sown.

The other seed of doubt that is being sown is what kind of god are we talking about anyway?  Turns out “Ham’s” god is a big fat jerk.  Turns out the Garden of Eden is just trap, a way for people to screw up.  Turns out that Act One tossing out the the innocent looking teenagers in a fit of pique.  And their great sin?  Technically, disobedience, but really they want to be just like dad (god).  And we can’t be having any of that now, can we?  Try to be like me and I throw you out on your ass, this is the god “Ham” worships.  ASSHAT really is that brilliant!

Phase Two just piles on.  When most people think of Noah’s ark, they see the children’s bible illustration of a little boat a couple of elephant trunks sticking out the side and two giraffe necks sticking out the top.  And a couple of cute monkeys or pandas standing next to old man Noah.  “Ham” from ASSHAT is having none of that.  First start with a boat that is just big enough to be unbelievable.  To big for one guy to build, but too small to hold all the animals of the world.  So far so good.

Since it is too small to hold all the species of animals, “Ham” from ASSHAT came up with the brilliant idea of of “kinds” of animals.  According to this “theory,” there were say, two cute pandas on the ark.  And from these two cute pandas we got all the bears in the world — in just 4000 years! That’s right polar bears, grizzley bears, sun bears, black bears, brown bears, sloth bears, spectacled bears all NOT evolved from a single breeding pair in 4000 years.  More like animorphs.  Don’t even get me started on the ducks.  So, god didn’t create each animal perfect in it’s place, he created some genetic templates that change — not evolve! — to match their environment.  Don’t worry if the polar bears die off due to climate change.  We’ll just take a pair of brown bears up there and “poof!” after a couple of hundred years they will polar bears.  And Darwinian evolution is ridiculous!

And if that isn’t enough, what about “Ham’s” god?  Well, he picks right up where he ended after Act One, in a fit of pique.  But this time he is not just going to kick us out on our ass, he is actually going to kill us all.  All the little bitty babies, the kids, pregnant women, all the animals.  Dead.  Completely, entirely dead.  Because we are not worthy of his love, or something.  Wiped out.  Drowned.  No mercy.  Kaput.  Can’t wait to go back to church on Sunday to worship this clown.

Oh, he does save eight lucky people.  That’s right, 4000 years ago there were just 8 people on the earth.  How many generations did first cousins have to have sex?  Ugh.  Oh, this is much better than thinking we evolved.

And course, being all knowing and all god totally picked the most righteous people to survived being drowned with all the baby kittens and panda bears.  Which is why, of course the first thing Noah did was replant grapes so he could make wine and get hammered into a near coma.  And his son would take advantage of him in that state.  So we are all descended from an alcoholic whose son committed gay incest.  Explains a lot about “Ken Ham’s” worldview, doesn’t it?

If there are still any believers left, ASSHAT will move onto Phase Three.  In which people work together to try to be like dad (god) again.  So, once again, in a fit of pique he kills…well this time he doesn’t kill them all.  Just to mix things up I guess. This time god just wrecks the hell out of the tower and makes it so people can ever work together again.  That’s right, god makes sure we all speak different languages and have different cultures so that we will never understand each other and will always be in conflict.

Hard to see how there will be any believers left after that.  If so, we can also have a tour of the smoking ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah, when once again, in a fit of pique…wait are we seeing a pattern here?

It has been famously said that the most effective tool for creating atheists is the bible, properly read.  Since no one actually reads the thing, ASSHAT created “Ken Ham” to make it life size and throw it in their faces.

Well played, ASSHAT, well played!

Review of Buzzed Belief: Bass vs. Carrier

I had the honor and privilege of attending the first Buzzed Belief by the Mythicist Milwaukee.  The debate was about whether the sources for the resurrection of  Jesus are adequate to prove the claims.  On the affirmative side was Justin Bass, Ph.D and on the negative side, Richard Carrier, Ph.D.

Before I get to the review of the content of the debate, let me first give some props to Mythicist Milwaukee.  This was a really great event.  Well over 300 people attended on a Saturday night.  The audience was very respectful during the entire debate and the Q&A session.  Although the audience was overwhelmingly secular, there were some religious people there, at least judging from the questioners.  On the subject of “balance” the only thing I could say is that several atheists received shout outs during the Q&A session, including Melissa Pugh, president of the Atheist Alliance of America.  I hope that in future events there will be well known people from the religious community that will be deserving of shout outs as well.   I think the event was welcoming enough of all points of view and hope that people from all points of view will be curious enough to come and attend future events.

Now, on to the show!  But perhaps before you read the review, you might want to look at the whole thing, which you can do here.

First, let me say that in my estimation, Dr. Bass easily took the evening on style points.  He was charming, open, funny and quite impassioned.  He definitely seems like the kind of guy I could sit down over a cup of coffee and discuss religion and philosophy.  Dr. Carrier certainly had his moments as well, although I thought he made some tactical errors, which I will get to in a bit.  But for as charming and easy going as Dr. Bass was, most of what he said was so illogical and just baldly asserted that only a believer would think he made any kind of case for his position.  So, let’s start at the beginning.

Dr. Bass started his presentation by saying saying that he had recently baptised a former atheist and that we all should really consider the wonders of a “secular Jesus.”  You know the one of the Sermon on the Mount, the golden rule, turn the other cheek and all of that.  I don’t know who he thought he was addressing, but most skeptical atheists are well aware of the moral teachings of Jesus, but also his immoral teachings as well.  And why would we go to a “secular Jesus” when you are going to try and convince us there is good evidence for his literal rising from the dead.  If he really rose from the dead, we should worship that Jesus, should we not?  So before he even started his actual presentation, Dr. Bass was off to an illogical start.  But to give him credit, Dr. Bass was quite consistent in his illogic, more on that in a moment as well.

According to Dr. Bass, all the evidence we need for the resurrection of Jesus is contained in the new testament and we can trust it 100%.  It is as good as any evidence we have for any event in the ancient world.  Why?  Basically because he (and other believing scholars) said so.

For example, he started with the Gospel of  Mark.  He admitted that we have no idea who actually wrote Mark, but then went on to assume that whoever wrote Mark is exactly like the person that Mark is supposed to be, a sort of secretary to Peter, the disciple.  So, really, Dr. Bass asserted, Mark is really the eyewitness account of Peter.  Scholars agree, case closed.  What is the evidence for this?  Tradition! (Yes, you should here singing here.)  So., for Dr. Bass (and most believers) Mark is really an eye witness document.  And yes, you can find many believer scholars who will echo that.  But in reality modern scholarship rejects the Mark/Peter connection and maintain that it is anonymous and not an eye witness account.

He then tried to also use Luke/Acts as further “documentation.”  Dr. Bass sees Luke (or whoever, again, Luke is apparently not written by the claimed author) as authentic history, after all, “Luke” says he carefully checked his sources.  Which is exactly what someone writing historical fiction would say.  Also, Dr. Bass asserts that “Luke” must have actually traveled with Paul because of the “we” passages in Acts.  Evidence for this?  Again — Tradition! (even louder singing.)  Once again, modern scholarship says that the disagreements between Luke/Acts and the actual writings of Paul are so severe that it is very unlikely that Luke was written by a companion of Paul.

Dr. Bass then moved on to Paul himself.  It is generally recognized that Paul is actually a problem for the historical resurrection account.  The problem is that all of the historical detail is completely absent from Paul.  There is no arrest in the garden, no trial before Pilate, no stone in front of a rich man’s tomb, no discovery of that empty tomb, none of it.  All we have in Paul is the barest outline (Jesus was killed and rose again, basically.)  And where did Paul get his information?  Paul himself says that he got it from “no man,” from God and scripture.  But Dr. Bass painted this lovely picture of Paul sitting around with Peter (and Mary herself!)  Which, in Dr. Bass’s eyes also makes Paul an “eye witness.”  Except that once again, Paul has no biographical detail of Jesus in his writings.  None.  So why does Dr. Bass believe that Paul represents a reliable witness?  Because he does, and that’s all.

The final piece of “evidence” that Dr. Bass cited was the creed that is found in 1 Corinthians 15, which he claims (as do others) goes back to within a year or two of the supposed death of Jesus.  Now, it does seem that Dr. Bass is on more solid ground here with many scholars feeling that the creed is authentic and may date back to within a few years of Jesus’s supposed death.  Now, I am no scholar of ancient Greek, so cannot weigh in on the minutiae of the words to determine whether Paul wrote them, but here they are in their (modern) entirety:

 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For being a story about a guy who literally walked out of the grave, it seems to be missing a lot of detail, much of which was added to later, like it being Pilate that ordered the death, or the women that found the empty tomb and so on.  I understand that people think Jesus rose from the dead, but that does not prove that he did.   And even “appeared to” is problematic.  A flesh and blood guy, someone who had a glass of wine with all these folks?  Jesus the friendly ghost, a wispy immaterial being?  Or did he appear to all these folks between their ears — an idea, a vision?  Paul doesn’t say.  Paul seems to indicate that his encounter with the risen Jesus was between the ears — a vision that no one else could see.  If so, Paul’s testimony about Jesus being “risen” is no more evidence of Jesus’s physical resurrection than the testimony of Christians today who claim to have experienced the “risen” Jesus.

After all the biblical “proof” Dr. Bass went on to say that it all this must be true because Christianity “took over the Roman empire” and now is believed by billions of people.  Which proves nothing of course.  By this reasoning we have to believe everything in Islam is true as almost as many people believe that.

That was Dr. Bass’s presentation.

Before the debate, I thought that Dr. Carrier had the easier position to defend, but at the end of Dr. Bass’s presentation, I saw this problem.  Because Dr. Bass had presented so many bald assertions, Carrier was left in the position, essentially of having to prove a negative.  Unfortunately, at this point I felt that Carrier made a tactical mistake.

Dr. Carrier chose to speak from notes, as compared to Dr. Bass’s use of a Powerpoint.  Now, I was able to see the flow of Carrier’s  arguments as I have read his works and others from a similar point of view.  Most of his arguments, I have already included in my objections to Dr. Bass above.  I am sure that Dr. Carrier could have anticipated Dr. Bass’s entire presentation (I certainly did).  Carrier spent some of his presentation time doing rebuttle, which I also thought was a tactical error.  Carrier just didn’t seem as organized as Dr. Bass, although what he said was much more logically consistent.

In my estimation, Dr. Bass also took less defensible positions during the rebuttal and head to head sections of the debate.  His main position is that Christianity is utterly unique among world religions and that is a reason to believe it.  Essentially, it must be from god as it is nothing like what people made up for other religions.  For example, Dr. Bass asserted that Paul was the only person EVER to first persecute and religion and then to convert to it.  Dr. Carrier about fell off his chair and the audience hooted at that one.  Remember that Dr. Bass himself bragged about converting an atheist at the beginning of his presentation?  Isn’t that a tiny Damascus moment?  I thought that Carrier’s rejoinder that he would be more convinced of god’s intervention if the entire  Sanhedrien had converted to be quite a good comeback.

Also during the question and answer period Dr. Bass conceded that perhaps after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire under Constantine that maybe some mistakes were made and that maybe people were coerced into converting.  He said that he was really interested in what happened in the 280 years before that and he felt that the early time period was the genuine period of Christian growth.  Which of course completely undercuts his earlier assertion that resurrection must be true because believers “took over the Roman Empire.”  No, Constantine forced it on the empire.

Dr. Carrier wrote an entire book about that period and showed that the growth of Christianity was actually nothing special, probably less than the growth of Mormonism today.  It didn’t “take over” anything.

Dr. Carrier brought up Mormonism several times and at one point Dr. Bass snorted, “Yeah, I don’t know how that got started.”  But we do know exactly how it got started.  I am sure that both Carrier and Bass would agree that Joseph Smith made a bunch of stuff up and for a lot of complicated cultural reasons people found a reason to believe.  Now, will Mormonism be around 1800 years from now?  I have no idea.  But I think that one reason Christianity is still around is not the truthfulness of its claims, but rather its ability to morph it’s teachings and beliefs to remain “current.”  Even Dr. Bass, I think would concede that the church of today is not the same as that of the first “280 years.”

Which is where I think Dr. Carrier made a strong case that Christianity grew out of the cultural atmosphere of the first century Mediterranean area.  Greek, Roman, Persian and Jewish ideas that all mashed together into an interesting stew that people found interesting and useful, much like Mormonism over the last 150 years.  No need for a real demigod to rise from the dead.

Obviously nothing that Dr. Bass said is going to reconvert me.  I thought he made a couple of good points that perhaps the mythicists need to contend with, such as the creed from Paul and the actual relationship between Peter, Paul and James.   However, in thinking about this my atheism/mythicism has actually grown stronger.  Considering the percentage of believers who form the core of biblical studies and considering how much of the bible is not considered to be inaccurate, forged and so on, it really points out how bad a source it is to back up its claims.

So, Dr. Bass was not convincing to me in this debate in any way.  I can no longer take the believer’s position so I cannot say how I would have reacted to Dr. Carrier’s presentation, but I have to honestly say that it probably have not convinced me.  I find Dr. Carrier’s writings to be very persuasive, but I don’t think his presentation carried the same weight.  Actually, I think Powerpoint would have actually helped.  You need more organized evidence to move toward disproving the bald assertions that made by Dr. Bass.

Finally, I once again want to say that, overall, it was a wonderful, well organized event and I look forward to attending again in the future.

An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Dear Senator Sanders,

Or should I say, Hey Bernie?  It really has been an amazing run for you and it is great that you are raising the consciousness of young voters, we really need that.  If younger voters came out for every election, rather than just the Presidential elections the country would not be so full of regressive state governments as we are now.  But that is not what I think needs to be said right at the moment.  So, here it is:  Bernie, no matter what you do, don’t pull a Marco Rubio.

No, I don’t mean lose your home state, you already more than took care of that, no I mean much more than that.

Marco let his ego get so much in his way that he killed his own political future and his party’s chances in November.  Here’s how I see it.

Early in the Republican process, it was pretty apparent that Rubio and Cruz were simply splitting the majority of the Republican primary allowing Mr. One Third to keep “winning” primaries.  And I will say that I and many others thought that Rubio was the candidate that people might go to, so for a while it was unclear that it was he, not Cruz who should drop out to unify the non-trumped vote.

Rubio was sticking around because he thought that winning Florida would derail Trump and put him on the road to the Whitehouse.  One problem, Rubio never lead the polls in Florida.  Not even close.  A politician who cannot count the votes is pretty useless.  It is possible that Rubio not only killed his chances by not being able to read the tea leaves, he may have killed his party’s chances in November.  I think Rubio’s career is dead.

But Bernie, consider what could have happened.  After Super Tuesday, reading his lousy Florida numbers, Rubio could have suspended his campaign and thrown his support behind Cruz.  No longer splitting the vote, Cruz starts winning primaries and things look very different now.  Cruz probably goes on to win the nomination and surprise, surprise, picks Rubio as his VP.  If the pair went on to lose the general election, Rubio works hard on Senate campaigns and emerges as the shoo-in Republican nominee in 2020.  Or ends up as VP for a term or two and then a sure thing nominee.  Not bad.  But instead he promised something he could not deliver and is now dead as a doornail.

Which brings us to you, Bernie.  Your candidacy is certainly not dead yet, but with every delegate that goes to Hilary it becomes much less likely.  Surely you can read the numbers.  Before it comes to late, heed the lesson of Rubio and look to the greater good.

You don’t have to suspend your campaign, but I do think the time has come to pivot from distinguishing yourself from Hilary to talking about the dangers that lie ahead.  It is time to start energizing your base to not just vote for you, but for more progressive politicians up and down the slate.

You could be at the forefront of a movement that gets younger voters energized about voting for senators, congressman, governors and even school board members that better reflect their values.  As you well know, a great President without legislative backing is useless.  We need a progressive congress much more than we need a progressive President.

And you are the guy right now who can really do that.  Stop running so hard for President.  Start emphasizing where you agree.  Keep talking about solutions and that it will be Congress that actually implements those solutions.  Work hard to get progressive Senators elected.

Now, none of this will make you President.  But it will do something much better.  It will help to bring about the world you are working for.  Much more effectively than if you were actually elected President.

Finally Some Real Math

I fancy myself as a bit of a skeptic and try to keep a realistic view of the world.  I watched the Donald Trump “phenomenon” with quite a bit of bemusement.  I have blogged before about how I see nothing new here.

Nate Silver over at the 538 blog has re-analyzed the primary election results on the Republican side along with some exit polling data which asked who people would vote for in various head to head matchups.  What he found was not too surprising.

These figures estimate that Cruz would have won South Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana in addition to the states where he already beat Trump. He also would have won Minnesota and Puerto Rico, which originally went to Rubio. Several other states, such as Michigan, Georgia and Virginia, would have been close between Trump and Cruz. Trump would be fairly dominant in the Northeast, however, and would still have won Nevada easily.

Silver found that using some assumptions, that if Cruz were running head to head with Trump, he would have the 100 delegate lead, not Trump.   Now, of course we can’t do a rewind at this point, Rubio looked like the more viable candidate early on, but first impressions didn’t pan out.  But I will point out that had there been a single candidate that appealed to the Cruzio voters (a little religion, a bit of outsider, not a complete whack job) with a bit more experience and popularity so that vote was not split,  it is pretty clear Trump would not be the “front runner.” Actually, had the non-Trump vote not been split early on, Trump probably would have dropped out after Super Tuesday, he would have to get out before getting labeled as a complete loser.

Cruz and Rubio were sort of victims of kind of prisoner’s dilemma.  Unfortunately for the Republican party both of them refused to check his ego at the door and cooperate earlier.  Had they done that, one of them would be heading toward the nomination and possibly the other going on to be VP.  As in the dilemma, continuing to complete left them both worse off.

To my way of thinking the country got a case of the DTs as a result of three simple factors:

  1. The mainstream media is most biased towards audience, not ideology.  More people tuned in to see Trump, so they kept him front and center.
  2. The Republican presidential field is extraordinarily weak.  Cruz and Rubio are freshman Senators with little appeal.  Most Republican politicians dislike Cruz personally and Rubio has shown himself to be a lightweight.  Kasich is pretty much your grandfather’s Republican.  Carson, Fiorina, Huckabee and Santorum were all from the delusional class.  Rand Paul, Chris Christie and Jeb!  looked more like they were running away from being president.  Frankly, Trump didn’t have much to contend with.
  3. Last factor, also no surprise, is that about one third of Republican voters care more about slogans and scapegoating rather than actual governance.  We have known this for years , the Tea Party “movement” was just a cynical exploitation of this fact.

So, now this question really is: What should the Republican party do now?  And the answer is actually pretty simple: Dump Trump.  trump-web

Some people freak out at the prospect of Republicans using convention rules to deny Trump the nomination.  Ben Carson, who endorsed the “more cerebral” version of Trump today said that going against Trump would be “thwarting the will of the people.”  Like most of what Carson has said outside the operating room, that is a crock of BS.

By a wide margin, Republican voters have voted against Trump.  I think the party would be well justified in listening to the two-thirds non-Trump majority of their voters.  Why should he get the nomination when he can’t get a majority of the party’s voters?  It’s only common sense.

And the idea that taking out Trump in some way at the convention will cause a revolt is an idea that only the ego of Trump sees as real.  Most Republicans don’t want him, getting rid of him will lead to greatly more cheers than jeers.

The party rules (which of course they made up and so can change) combined with unusual circumstances have conspired to make a loser look like a winner.   The Republican party has the right to nominate anyone they want.  If the Republicans really follow the will of their people, someone other than Trump will be their nominee this November.

Replacing Trump with a Cruz-Rubio ticket, or even better a Cruz-Kasich ticket (they probably can’t win the presidency without Ohio) would make both mathematical and logical sense.

Political Correctness: My Big Fat White Tukis

I will say one thing for the conservative types, they are very good at making up slogans and shouting those slogans over and over until they get their base to rally around them.

One example over the past 30 years has been the Republicans shouting over and over that they are the party of “small government.”  This, as Reason magazine has pointed out over and over again is patent BS.  In fact, the Republicans only want a different kind of intrusive large government from Democrats.  They want a huge military, lots of prisons and to tell women how to use their uteri.  Some might even argue that this is big government as its absolute worst — and Reason certain has.

They are doing exactly the same thing with “Political Correctness.”  The idea is that liberals are so thin skinned that certain words and concepts have to be watered down to the detriment of free speech and free thought.  Somehow the opposite of being PC is “telling the truth.”  This truth telling in the face of the forces of oppression is supposed to be one of the appeals of Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

So, let’s look at a couple of recent examples.

A few months ago there was a controversy at Harvard where Latino students objected to the phrase “House Master” to describe what at other universities might be called Residential Assistants (RAs), students who help keep order in the dorms. The Latino students felt that it was too reminiscent of a slave master.  Steven Pinker, the famous psychologist and linguist tweeted: “We should be teaching students: 1 All words have >1 meaning.. 2. Mature adults resist taking pointless offense.”

Usually I agree with much of what Pinker says, but in this case, I feel he was off base.   But the larger issue is, who was being “Politically Correct”?  I think a good argument can be made for saying it was actually Pinker.

Pinker himself knows full well that language marches on.  To my ears, if nothing else, “house master” sounds like something from a Victorian boarding school.  But (and I know I am putting words in Pinker’s mouth) he wants to say, “stop being children, words are words, we should keep doing it this way because we always have.”

Well, if words are words, why not change them?  Why shut down debate and cling to the past?  That is being politically correct!  “I get all butt hurt when things change, so let’s just keep it all the same so I can comfortably live in the past.”  Who is thin skinned here?  Also when the party in power (Pinker is on the faculty at Harvard) says, “It must be this way,” that shuts down debate more quickly than anything.

A similar, but more settled issue, was the move from “policeman”  to “police officer” and similar changes in nomenclature.  Some people still want to claim that this shift is simply one of “political correctness.”  But again, who is being politically correct?  The use of the phrase “police officer” is simply a reflection of reality. Not everyone on the police force is male.  “Police Officer” is a more accurate description of the members of our police force, it is simply the truth.   Those who would want to continue to call them “policemen” are doing so for a political reason.  They are the ones being politically correct — and often times use bullying and name calling (The PC Police!) to try and make their point, not reason and logic.

Another example arose in the Arizona legislature.  An atheist member of the legislature gave the daily invocation, but he (gasp!) didn’t actually mention god.  The butt hurt Republicans rushed a minister up front post haste to give a “proper” invocation, that is to say one that they approve of.  So, who is being “politically correct” here?  I’ll let you figure it out.  pc

Finally, I’ll get to Mr. Anti-PC himself, Donald Trump.  Trump’s followers, spurred on by the Donald himself, say that he is “just telling the truth” and the rest of us don’t like it because we are just too PC.  Hmmm.  Let’s see.  Now, I can’t evaluate every statement he has made, but here is a pretty typical one:

I think Islam hates us. There’s a tremendous hatred there, there’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us. … it’s radical, but it’s very hard to define. It’s very hard to separate. Because you don’t know who’s who.

Now, if we parse this, it becomes pretty apparent there is not a lot of truth here.  Islam can’t hate anyone.  It is a religion, a philosophy.  People hate, not ideas.  It is also easy to see that whatever some Muslims might feel, the vast majority have no bone to pick with the US or the West.  The most populous Muslim country is Indonesia, which is not exactly a hotbed of anti-American terrorism.  Ten percent of the Muslims in the world live in India, one of our staunchest allies.  Only 20 percent of Muslims live in Arab countries.  Looking down the list of the top ten Muslim countries, I see a lot of poverty, but not a lot of terrorism.

Are there terrorists who use Islam as their justification for their actions?   Undoubtedly.  But it does no good to identify all of the world’s two billion Muslims as potential terrorists, in fact it is extremely harmful to our anti-terrorism efforts.  How much time should we spend looking for terrorists in Indonesia?  How much time in Syria?  I think we can figure who is who.

The problem with Trump is that he is wrong, but he keeps saying these things for political reasons.  He thinks this is what his audience wants to hear, and he appears to be right.  Once again, it is Trump who is being “politically correct” as opposed to factually accurate.  Saying things for political effect in a way that shuts down debate is pretty much the definition of political correctness.  Trump is the king of PC!

Anyone who thinks that Trump is “not a politician” is out of their mind.