The truth is not in the middle

Chait today:

Former Republican aid turned lobbyist John Feehery has one of those “pox on both houses” repudiations of ideological extremism that inadvertently reveals the whole fallacy of the thing:

Reduced to the absurd.

Ideologues on both sides of the philosophical divide fall dangerously into this trap.

Conservatives who believe that government does not need to exist are every bit as wrong as liberals who believe that the private market must be completely controlled by the government.

The truth is not somewhere in the middle. It is exactly in the middle.

Seriously?  As Chait points out, just another example of a belief in a symmetry that does not exist.  Show me these liberals who believe that the private market must be completely controlled by the government.  There’s no such thing.  Those are communists– and there’s not a lot of them left around since the fall of the Soviet Union.  As much as so many conservatives reflexively hate government they just assume that liberals reflexively love government.  Simply not so.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again– liberals are interested in the best outcomes for the public, whether those outcomes come from the market or the government.

Flat belly scam

So, being on-line as much as I am, I’ve probably seen that “1 tip for a tiny belly” moving ad like a million times.  Turns out it’s part of a major scam the government is cracking down on:

It might be the ad that ate the Internet.

“1 Tip for a Tiny Belly” reads the headline, rendered in what appears to be hand-lettered type and positioned above a crudely animated drawing of a woman’s bare midriff. Try as you might to concentrate on something else, the midriff distracts your eye by shrinking and reinflating — flabby to svelte, svelte to flabby.

“Cut Down a bit of your belly everyday by following this 1 weird old tip,” it reads. The “weird old tip” is revealed only after you abandon what you were reading and click on the ad…

The ad is so broadly distributed that it’s likely you’ve seen it not just once or twice but hundreds of times. The accumulated number of “impressions” — the number of times it has flashed by someone on the Internet over the past 18 months— runs into “the tens of billions,” estimates Steve Wernikoff, a government lawyer who has tracked it. “It’s just a tremendous amount.”

The innocent-seeming “1 Tip” ad is actually the tip of something much larger: a vast array of diet and weight-loss companies hawking everything from pills made from African mangoes to potions made from exotic acai berries. Federal officials have alleged that the companies behind the ads make inflated claims about their products and use deceptive means to market them.

The take so far: at least $1 billion and counting.  [emphasis mine]

A few thoughts…

1) Hooray– no more of this ad!!

2) I’m glad the government is looking out for consumers, but really, what kind of saps are being taken in by this absurd come-on?  Then again, it’s the saps the government needs to look out for in this regard, not you and me.

Casey Anthony and reasonable doubt

I’ve been meaning to do a long post on reasonable doubt.  This isn’t it.  However, despite largely trying not to follow the Casey Anthony case (it was hard to miss on GMA, which I can’t break the habit of turning on in the morning), it was pretty clear that with no actual evidence of a murder other than a dead body (with no physical indications of cause of death)  it’s pretty hard to prove murder.  Is Casey Anthony a horrible person who is surely hiding something criminal?  Beyond virtually any doubt.  Is she guilty of murder or manslaughter?  I’d say– most likely, but that’s certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt.  Oddly enough, the best article I read on this comes via ABCNews.com.  Interestingly, the jurors were literally sick over the verdict, but–good for them– they felt they had to follow the law, and there was just too much doubt:

Casey Anthony juror Jennifer Ford said that she and the other jurors cried and were “sick to our stomachs” after voting to acquit Casey Anthony of charges that she killed her 2-year-old daughter Caylee.

“I did not say she was innocent,” said Ford, who had previously only been identified as juror No. 3. “I just said there was not enough evidence. If you cannot prove what the crime was, you cannot determine what the punishment should be.”

Ford, a 32-year-old nursing student at St. Petersburg College, praised the jurors, but said when deliberations began there were “a lot of conflicting ideas.” At first, people came down on both sides of whether Casey Anthony killed her daughter, Ford said, and the first vote was 10-2 for “not guilty.”

“I toggled on manslaughter and not guilty,” Ford told “Nightline” anchor Terry Moran in an exclusive TV interview. “It doesn’t feel good. It was a horrible decision to have to make.”

That sound about right to me.  I’m pretty sure than in a perfect world, Casey Anthony would be in jail for a long time.  But, when you look at all the innocent people who are sent to jail, I’m happy to see a jury clearly erring on the side of presumption of innocence that’s actually supposed to guide our legal decisions.

What do Republicans have against consumer safety?

Presumably, anything that goes wrong is the fault of the consumer, whereas “job-creating” businesses can do no wrong.  The LA Times’ David Lazarus has a nice column about Republican attempts not only to defund the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but also completely eliminate a database of consumer complaints against products.   Hmmm, why would they want to do that?

What is it about consumer protection that Republican lawmakers don’t like? Is it that they want to see their constituents fleeced and flimflammed by businesses? Is it that they don’t care?

Or is it something as craven as carrying water for corporate interests simply because that’s where the money is?

I’ll take D) all of the above.  The details of the column are pretty much what you would imagine.  And here’s the take-away:

You’ve got to wonder why businesses are fighting so hard to keep this resource away from consumers. Is it because their fears are justified that we’ll misuse this tool (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding)?

Or is it because the last thing they want is a consuming public armed with the latest and most thorough information on the safety of their goods?

And if it’s the latter, you might now ask, what are they trying to hide?

Thank God for the Republican party for standing up and helping these poor embattled businesses against the evil average American looking to be harmed by their products.

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