Quit Unforcing Those Errors!

Ah, the end of summer: baseball is winding down, kids are going back to school, and the media starts to ridicule conservatives for things they say.

We all know how the game works: when Democrats say stupid things, it’s because they made a simple mistake. When Republicans say stupid things, it’s because they actually mean it!

A recent expression has come up lately: the unforced error. Simply put, this is when a politican—especially a conservative Republican—says something so out-there that the media have a field day, repeating it. Repeating it. Repeating it. Repeating it.

These bonehead comments do not help. And sure, Democrats make them all the time; but Republicans have to know that, handshakes and camera flashes aside, the media is not their friend. The media will never be their friend. So let us be a little smarter out there.

Last week, Mitt Romey famously declared “Corporations are people, too, my friend.” The media high-fived each other and ran with it. Ha! What a bonehead that Mitt Rom—wait, what is that? Someone fact-checked this one, and the story died almost instantly. Why? Because, ahem, corporations are people. They are managers and employees, vendors, suppliers, distributors to and for, and (most importantly) customers. Evidently, no one in the media realized this fact; ironically, if Romney declared “Newspapers have readers, too, my friend,” they would have had no problem with it. So jot down a point for Mitt.

Then, earlier this week, Michele Bachmann famously declared that if she were elected, gas prices would drop below two dollars a gallon. Is it true? Let us see.

Historically, South Carolina enjoys the lowest gas prices of all 50 states, on average. That gives us a head start. As of June 15, that price was $3.43 a gallon. Here is what goes into that:

Extraction Costs $2.37
Refinment Costs $ .27
Transport/Storage Costs $ .30
Station Profit $ .11
Oil Company Profit $ .02
Federal Gas Tax $ .16
State Gas Tax $ .19

This means that only sixteen cents is a federal cost. The cost to extract the oil alone is well over two dollars! So where could she cut costs? She has no authority to force the states to lower their respective gas taxes, and that includes sales tax (which can tack on another 5-10% in some areas). She obviously will not eliminate the oil company’s overhead and profit, nor the overhead and profit of the independently owned-and-operated gas station.

Well, no doubt she meant that the cost of oil would go down. But the cost of domestic oil—which is always cheaper than imported oil (ultimately, because foreign exporters will adjust prices to maintain supply pressure)—is often a fixed cost due to the difficulty in extracting, refining, transporting, and storing the substance. Sure, those costs can come down a bit, but not by the necessary $1.32…at $2 per gallon, extraction costs would need to be $1.38, meaning she would nearly have to eliminate all costs for crude oil. Eliminating all taxes, all inflation, et cetera, will not cover that gap.

Ergo, this was a foolish comment that is going to cost her badly. She clearly has no idea what goes into the cost of gasoline, or she would never have said it.

And in the last couple of days, Rick Perry has enjoyed media attention. He made no less than three comments:

  1. He believes the earth is pretty old; he isn’t even sure how old. Well, factually, one is certainly true; the other possibly true. But if he had to guess, the smart guess would be about 4.5 billion years old. Okay, we get it: the press wanted him to say the Earth was whatever the Bible says it is. Of course, the Bible says no such thing: the so-called Young Earth number (which varies greatly among people who believe it) was sparked by a clumsy 17th Century attempt to explain the Hebrew year. It has no authoritative basis, but is accepted by many Christians without any real understanding of how it was computed (hint: it was made up). Note that many mainstream Christian denominations (particularly Catholicism) accept the 4.5 billion year number based on the simple math of radiometric dating, astronomical measurements, and cooling rate of the core. Perry could have simply used the scientific number; but evidently he decided to play it coy because he still feels compelled to pander to a small number of Christians who cannot add. Most Christians can add quite well, and have no problem whatsoever with a 4.5 billion year-old earth because their faith is based on something stronger than the sloppy arithmetic of a long-dead Anglican minister trying to score points with his bible study group.
  2. Perry believes a large number of scientists dispute global warming, some have greatly faked research, and some appear to receive funding to enforce confirmation bias in their research. Verdict? This is tricky. As our regular readers know, the Gormogons believe that some intriguing research shows concerning fluctuations in climate and temperature; however, we do not necessarily believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant policy and fiscal funding changes as an obvious result. But that aside, Perry is correct: there is a large (and probably growing) opposition to so-called settled science, there have been high profile cases of shoddy work and poorly managed research, and a very vocal concern among scientists that they are denied funding when they take contrary opinions, and/or receive funding immediately upon agreeing to prove a favorable argument in advance. Pro-climate change believers have every reason to be concerned that Perry is not going to be friendly to their interests; but the fact is, the United States (even under a re-elected Obama) is still not going to sign the now-expired and disproven Kyoto Protocol.
  3. He believes that evolution is a theory with gaps in it, that Texas teaches both Creationism and Evolution, and that it is up to the individual to to determine which is right. Wow. Okay.
    • First up, evolution is a theory; he got that right—provided he means the classical definition of a theory as a framework of explanations that synthesize evidence and make predictions about future findings. If he thinks a theory is just a hazy guess, then we refer him to the Theory of Gravity.
    • Second, does it have gaps? No, not really. This long-ago debunked argument is the clearest indicator as to whether someone has been keeping up. We explained it back in May. And added to it, as well.
    • Texas does not teach Creationism. Some Texans might in private schools, but there is no official or unofficial state position. Texas teaches Evolution, and Evolution only, according to all official documents.
    • Perry is exactly right that the person needs to figure this all out for himself. And the Czar is very serious about this: if you are receiving your science from folks who tell you Evolution is a fact, you need to stop listening and start reviewing the material for yourself. And if anyone tells you that Evolution ain’t point-blank reality, you need to shake your head, stop listening, and then do some cursory research. Evolution is not a Law, but there is no better description of reality out there, and it is everywhere. But don’t listen to the Czar: read for yourself, and make up your own mind.

Ron Paul says that Iran has a right to develop nuclear weapons to defend herself, but is not actually doing so. No evidence exists for this, but because Iran is surrounded by so many nuclear powers, it’s only logical she might consider it. We should mind our own business. Also, there would be no unfortunate consequences at all if we simply dissolved our military presence abroad, maintained a small, defensive peacekeeping force, and terminated the positions of almost one million members of the armed forces. There is a good chance that Ron Paul wants to put the Smoot-Hawley Tariff back into play.

Holy crap, if Bachmann and Perry wanted to re-establish their credibility, they should point at Paul and say “I ain’t that nuts.”

Also nuts is the idea that Jon Hunstman has the remotest sliver of a chance of winning. Or being remembered at all in December, 2012.

About The Czar of Muscovy

Божію Поспѣшествующею Милостію Мы, Дима Грозный Императоръ и Самодержецъ Всероссiйскiй, цѣсарь Московскiй. The Czar was born in the steppes of Russia in 1267, and was cheated out of total control of all Russia by upon the death of Boris Mikhailovich, who replaced Alexander Yaroslav Nevsky in 1263. However, in 1283, our Czar was passed over due to a clerical error and the rule of all Russia went to his second cousin Daniil (Даниил Александрович), whom Czar still resents. As a half-hearted apology, the Czar was awarded control over Muscovy, inconveniently located 5,000 miles away just outside Chicago. He now spends his time seething about this and writing about other stuff that bothers him.