Beto O’ Rourke Demonstrates a Statistical Concept

Many moons ago in statistics courses as a young, skinny, eager to learn graduate student, we discussed the statistical concept of regression to the mean. I will just put it in layman’s terms, which is that if in statistics you happen across an outlier and subsequent measurements have it closer to the mean, it is known as regression to the mean. Again, I am paraphrasing and not getting into linear regression or any of the more complicated things- you statisticians and math whizzes can clarify anything I have argle-bargled in the comments. At any rate, regression to the mean has a number of colloquial names, one of which is reversion to mediocrity.

Beto O’Rourke really looked like an outlier in his Senate campaign in 2016- people were whispering Barack 2 and there was a huge buzz about him running for President, and blah blah blah you remember the campaign. As time has shown us, running against the most hated man in the Senate who was potentially not only the Zodiac Killer but the son of the man who killed JFK really helped out Beto. Since then it has been a steep decline into a shitty brand of travelogue videos and unforced errors and, well, this:

Which gets me to the point of this post, which is Beto’s announcement today:

Non-military households would pay a “war tax” to help cover the health care of veterans of newly-authorized wars under a plan Beto O’Rourke’s campaign unveiled Monday.

The former Texas congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential contender’s proposal is part of a series of health and economic measures aimed at improving care for veterans.

O’Rourke is in Tampa on Monday for a veterans’ roundtable, where he is expected to discuss his plan for the first time. It comes before the Democratic field holds its first debate Wednesday and Thursday nights in Miami.

O’Rourke is also calling for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with half the money currently being spent there redirected to programs for veterans of those wars.

Money collected through the “war tax” — which he is proposing for future wars — would go into a new trust fund for veterans established at the outset of each war.

I will fully admit that I have not kept up with everything that has oozed out of Seth Moulton’s piehole or followed Tulsi Gabbard’s grift in detail, so I can not say this with 100% certainty, but this is the dumbest fucking thing that I have observed any Democratic candidate propose this election cycle. It’s so stupid I’m sure I can’t cover all the ways it is bad.

First and foremost, we already have a crisis with our military- it’s been volunteer for so long that we now have generations of professional soldiers with children who are now professional soldiers, and it has become the family business. On top of our already jingoistic authoritarianism that is so prevalent (fucking every sporting event is brought to you by the military/industrial complex, military discounts, sappy commercialism, fucking spots at Lowe’s reserved for veterans, and all the other bullshit), we’ve gotten to the point that a number of soldiers and veterans ALREADY think they are better than the rest of the country. That’s bad.

Second, non-military families already pay a war tax, and it is called THE FEDERAL INCOME TAX.

Third, we already set aside money for special things. Perhaps you have heard of social security. That money is safe and secure, right?

And on and on and on. Maybe Beto thinks this will slow down future calls for war. He’s wrong. Only one thing, and one thing only, will do that- bring back the draft.

What he is proposing is a bad idea. Only someone not qualified for President would look at this and say “sure, that makes sense.” Only someone manifestly unfit to be President would then PRESENT THE IDEA AS HIS OWN. Just stop sending fucking people off to pointless wars and stop electing Republicans who want to cut VA funding and privatize it. The End.


So Beto O’Rourke, as it turns out, is very fucking average. And I don’t say that as an insult. I consider myself a very average person. I remember a conversation I had last year with my doctor when he was talking about blood pressure medicine and rare possible side effects, and I just stopped him and told him- “I’ve discovered over the years that I am a very average person. What I mean by that is if a drug, or exercise regimen, or rehab plan, or basically anything works for 95/100 people if they follow it, it will work for me. I’m never one of the 5/100 who has complications.” Everything about me is rather unremarkable- even my blood type is O+, the most common blood type there is. I have very average goals in life, I have very average interests. My intellect may be a little above your average bear, but I have made up for that with decades of booze and a degree in street pharmacology, with a little laziness and by being easily distracted by pretty things and animals.

And I am perfectly ok with that! I know I sound angry a great deal, but it’s because I am usually ranting when you read me, but for the most part I am very happy and content and ok with my lot in life. I like blending in, I like not being the center of attention. I lived with some overachievers in undergraduate- guys who were in student government and fancied themselves leaders and wanted to be the best at everything and you know the type. Went off to be lawyers, work on Wall Street, try to conquer the world and the like. They all are 50-51, just quit their jobs because they are burnt out and miserable, and are really struggling trying to figure things out- what do I want to do, where do I want to live, how do I find meaning, all that kind of shit. I try to tell them to get some dogs and a garden and some birdfeeders and to live more in the moment and stop worrying about what other people think, and if they really want to be humbled and gain some perspective on their place in the universe, get a cat. But they don’t listen and are talking about STARTING A NONPROFIT or GOING TO CULINARY SCHOOL or GIVING BACK.

So average and mediocre aren’t insults- it’s the norm. And it is ok.

Unfortunately for Beto, though, we don’t need an average President. So maybe just pencil in some time for skateboarding or haircuts in 2020. I also hear there is a Senate seat in Texas you could run for.

Independence Day Planning Open Thread: Get Your Tee Now!

Of course, his minions will do their best to protect Lord Smallgloves from knowing about this. But when the MAGAts are faced with the conundrum of choosing between ‘defending Dear Leader’ and ‘supporting Our Sacred Military’… well, if it’s actually possible for heads to explode, Garden State Fireworks and Fireworks by Grucci may have some competition on the National Mall!

Foreign Affairs Open Thread: Which #@%^ Keeps Queuing Up ‘Moldy Oldies’ on the History Channel?!?

Is there a ‘President Eisehower face-palm’ gif out there somewhere?

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The Recent Attack On Shipping in the Gulf of Oman

Two commercial shipping vessels were attacked yesterday in the Gulf of Oman. Both vessels and their cargoes will be salvaged, the crews were safely removed, and none of the potentially environmentally damaging cargo – one of the ships was carrying distillates of naptha, the other methanol – appears to have leaked out into the Gulf of Oman. Because of where these attacks occurred, everyone seems to have immediately decided it was Iran. Secretary of State Pompeo went so far as to state it was unequivocally Iran at his press conference yesterday.

Secretary Pompeo eventually changed his statement to US intelligence assesses, from US government. Regardless, it appears that he’s basing a lot of this on the US Navy surveillance footage that was released of an unexploded ordnance (UXO) tech on one of the Iranian rescue teams removing what could be a magnetically attached mine or magnetically attached shaped charge attached to the side of the Kokaku Courageous. The Navy identified the device as a magnetically attached limpet mine, but the video is too grainy to confirm it.

There are problems with the official US position as expressed by Secretary Pompeo.

Chief Wright has far more experience with this than I do, but I’d add that if we had conclusive proof, as Secretary Pompeo claimed yesterday, that Iran had placed these explosive devices, then he would have released that video instead of video of an Iranian UXO tech disarming and removing an unexploded device that is unidentifiable by video prior to the Iranian rescue team beginning rescue operations aboard the attacked ship. Chief Nance, who like Chief Wright, has far more experience with this than I do, has similar concerns.

James Fallow’s sums the problem up for all of us:

The owners of the Kokaku Courageous have now come out and stated that their ship was not attacked with a mine or a shaped charge, rather by an unidentified airborne device – and not by a torpedo.

One of the tankers that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman was struck by a flying object, the ship’s Japanese operator said on Friday, expressing doubt that a mine had been attached to its hull.

But Yutaka Katada, the company’s president, citing accounts from the ship’s crew, said Friday: “I do not think there was a time bomb or an object attached to the side of the ship.”

Please keep in mind that no evidence has actually been provided of who was responsible for last month’s attacks on shipping vessels in the area.

The bigger issue right now is how Secretary Pompeo and Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor Bolton try to spin this and leverage it to get the war they so clearly want. This includes trying to tie all of this back, in some way, shape, and/or form to Afghanistan and/or the Taliban so they can just take action under the existing 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force that was passed shortly after 9-11. Speaking of pieces of unexploded ordnance lying around waiting to go off…

Until or unless more and better evidence is actually released, all we can do is wait. The only good news in all of this, if there is any good news beyond that no one was seriously injured and no environmental damage appears to have occurred, is that because of the President’s, his cabinet members’, his administration’s, and his surrogates’ well earned reputation for mendacity, no one, including our allies and partners, is simply accepting the official US position on yesterday’s attacks. The same people that asked all of us to believe that no one on the White House staff asked/ordered the Navy to remove the USS John McCain from the President’s sight while he was in Japan, which was a lie, are the same ones that now want us to accept without question that Iran’s famed and feared IRGC carried out a sloppy operation and did so in such an amateurish way that they got caught red handed. Either these guys are the greatest threat to everyone, everywhere or they’re the Keystone Cops. Pick one, they can’t be both. The President’s, his cabinet members’, his administration’s, and his surrogates’ chronic inability to tell the truth may actually be the one thing that keeps things from escalating.

Open thread!

Late Night Clown Shoes Open Thread: Mike Pence Loves A Man in Uniform

But he’ll settle for… whatever this is:

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