Blog Credo

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, October 24, 2014

This Is Nice

The video of Kevin Vickers opening Parliament in Canada is great.  He seems both moved and slightly embarrassed at the applause.

I also hope Chris Jones is right.

I hope this doesn't change Canada, the way acts of terror and violence change our country.

Or to put it another way:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Canadian Bacon

Kevin Vickers is likely to become something of a thing.  And rightfully so.  When he "put down" the shooter, he saved many lives.

But it's this story that really captures what makes Vickers such an interesting person.  Here are some excerpts:
Vickers brought with him a reputation for soft-spoken diplomacy. He told the local Telegraph-Journal that he found it comforting to see fathers and sons tossing Frisbees on the lawn of Parliament Hill. He also spoke of how he didn’t want to see fences around Canada’s Parliament.
“In America, security trumps all,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t think that’s the Canadian way.”
He put his diplomatic reputation on display in the summer of 2000, when he was incident commander for the Mounties in Burnt Church, N.B. in a dispute over native fisheries and land claims.
His immediate response was to send in plainclothes aboriginal officers carrying doughnuts and coffee to talk with protestors, allowing them to vent.

There is something so eminently...Canadian... about that.  He is someone who looked - throughout his career - to de-escalate tensions and try and find common ground.  Despite being a law enforcement officer, he seems to be the sort of person who looks for the best in people.

Some of that may be the relative lack of fear that Canadians express compared to Americans.  America lives in a media climate where..ISIS!  EBOLA!!1! TERRAISTS!!!!

The coverage of yesterday's attack on CBC was sober, respectful and calm.  Meanwhile CNN...Well, just click through the link and see the difference in the coverage.

Stephen Marche at Esquire thinks that this is the end of Canada as he knows it.  That they will collapse into the paranoid security state of their southern neighbors.

But yesterday was the first day that Kevin Vickers fired his weapon in anger.  A career in law enforcement and he never shot at someone before.  Compare him to the Rambo wannabes in Ferguson and the picture could not be more clear.

Culture doesn't change overnight.

Here's hoping there will always be frisbee games on the lawn of the Canadian Parliament.

A Note On Renee Zellweger

I don't usually follow this tripe, but it is broadly interesting.

I hear and understand the arguments that Ms. Zellweger was judged by impossible standards.  I know I personally found her unattractive, though I thought she gave good performances in Bridget Jones, Cold Mountain, Cinderella Man and Chicago.  I thought she was good, therefore, when she was kind of annoying.  And maybe her look played into that.

So I get that she is a victim of the way we look at women and judge them by impossible standards. what point does her personal responsibility enter into it?  She decided to have her eyes changed.  She changed the "window into the soul."  And dramatically so.  She looks like Robin Wright but less.  She made that choice.

I'm constantly torn between the degree to which we acknowledge the broad forces that warp our society and the ability of individuals to transcend those forces.

And to some degree this represents a political bias, too.  I don't think conservatives give enough weight to how society is shaped by broad forces, some of which - racism, sexism, the stigma of poverty - have a very negative effect.

But I also don't think liberals give enough credence to the ability of individuals to transcend social morays.  Of course, it's helpful to remember that it often takes extraordinary people or circumstances to transcend these larger forces.  But it can happen.

Really don't know if that sheds any light on anything, but there you go.  Renee Zellweger is an unfortunate victim of societal sexism and also a freak.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's Not About The College Kids

Barry Goldwater was not "ushering in the New Right" with his Libertarian ideals.

Barry Goldwater was paving the way for George Wallace and Nixon's Southern Strategy.

The rise of the New Right had some connection to the think tanks and political activists that surrounded the Goldwater movement, but that had nothing to do with Goldwater who was simply a vessel for their aspirations to turn back the Great Society and the Civil Rights Movement.

The New Right succeeded because they had demography on their side.

And Rand Paul doesn't.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Working Poor

Yesterday, for Community Service Day, I took four kids to help work at a food bank.  In a couple of hours, we served about 35 families with about a thousand pounds of food.

What was striking was how many of them had jobs.  They were either single moms, working families or people with some form of obvious mental impairment.  Single moms are the backbone of poverty in this country, and I think we can understand why those with cognitive problems would have problems sustaining enough employment to feed themselves.

But the idea that you can work full time - or more likely several part time jobs - and still have food insecurity is striking.  This is a small town in the richest state in the country, and they serve over 200 families each month.

Next month, Republicans will likely win the Senate and a lead pipe cinch retain the House.  The Democrats are running on a platform that is in large part centered on raising the minimum wage.  I would hope that anyone with compassion who would be exposed to the people I saw yesterday would vote to spread the enormous wealth of this country a little more equitably.

I know that Fox News would call that communism, but it is inexcusable that we have a country where you can work 40-50 hours a week and not be sure where your next meal is coming from.  And that's America in 2014.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Evidence, Science and Competency

OK, I guess it's all Ebola, all the time.  WTF....

But here are some things we know.  Travel bans don't work.  Training medical personnel does, but we are doing a lousy job at that.

Hopefully, the blatant pandering to fear mongering that Obama has done with the "Ebola Czar" will yield universal, basic steps to prevent the spread of Ebola.  Because, you know, it's pretty hard to catch Ebola if you know what you're doing.  Doctors Without Borders have thousands of medical professionals in West Africa and only have a handful of cases.

It's not hard.  But it requires clear eyed understanding of the threat and how to meet it.

And that's impossible when the Bedwetter's Caucus continues to distort the public discourse and CNN and Fox are talking about and ISIS-created, Ebola-tinged Sharknado that is coming to your child's school.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The United States of Pants-Peeing Fear

Please read this:

And then explain to me how we are anything but a nation of quaking cowards, afraid of whatever shiny boogeyman that the media thrusts on to our TVs.

We are a nation that things we're John Wayne's Rooster Cogburn, but we're really Don Knotts' Barney Fife.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

First, Kill All The Reporters

Seriously, the level of fear-mongering incompetence over Ebola is criminal in its scope and magnitude.

Meanwhile, thousands of people will actually die this year because Jenny McCarthy was let onto The View.

This Is A Big F-ing Deal

If Lockheed - not exactly prone to crazy, dreamy pronouncement - has really harnessed fusion power, this could dramatically alter the environmental future of the planet.

I know we have to freak out over Ebola for no good reason, but this fusion story should be leading every newspaper in the world.

Can't Believe We Are Going To Elect These Maroons

I think the odds of the GOP controlling the Senate are decent.  I do wonder if the polls sample sizes are being calibrated to reflect 2010, when it's not a 2010 electorate.  I guess we'll see on Election Day (or the following morning).

Meanwhile, Rick Scott refuses to show up on stage to debate Charlie Crist because of a small fan under the podium.  And yet, he could conceivably get another term as governor of Florida, despite having done very little for the people of his state.

Mitch McConnell - a man with negative charisma - makes a statement so obtuse and cynical that it should disqualify him from public office.  Yet he will probably win re-election.

Cory Gardner - whose entire campaign is built on his personality - has been trying to obfuscate a career of carrying water for the anti-abortion extremes.  He currently leads in Colorado.  Same with Jodi Ernst in Iowa, and she's the second coming of Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin by all accounts - a good looking wingnut whose physical attractiveness hides some pretty awful policy positions.

I think Democrats will have a good night on the governors side of things, but the only bright side of the GOP winning the Senate is that they will own the massive clusterfuck that is the US Congress.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MIssed Wednesday

Between work and my neck being in perpetual muscle spasm, I'd really just someone kill me right now anyway.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Oil Prices And Dictatorships

Drive a Prius, save the world.

Forget the tree-hugging aspect of higher MPG, CAFE standards and hybrid cars.  Energy efficiency, especially energy efficiency in petroleum, means less money for dictators.  Some of those dictators are nominally our friends (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, I guess), but many are not (Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, I guess).

The fracking expansion is very controversial and rightfully so.  Its environmental impact is unknown and companies seem to be pretty set on keeping it that way.

But the combination of increased fuel efficiency and expanded domestic production is having political and economic effects beyond the environmental effects.

Dictatorships almost uniformly rely on either coercion or co-optation (or a combination of the two).  And co-optation is almost always accompanied by a resource based economy that the state can control easier than an industrial or service based economy.  Having the bulk of a nation's wealthy sluicing through a pipeline makes it easier for a dictator to siphon off cash that can be distributed to both cronies and the people at large.  It negates the need of going to the people for taxes in order to fund basic necessities.  No taxation, without representation.  It's more than a bumpersticker, it's a principle behind most representative governments.

It would be nice, in a world of coal rolling and Humvees, if we could "sell" fuel efficiency not merely as an environmental good - since some assholes are bound and determined to go out of their way to "Nuke the Whales" - but as a way to combat tyranny around the world.

Hey, Dudebro!  Your SUV is empowering Ayatollah Khamenei.  Just saying.

Republicans And Public Health

Interesting letter from an epidemiologist in Los Angeles about how the Bush Administration "threw money at them" for bioterrorism, which they were able to use for more practical and necessary things.  But then the sequester came along and gutted a lot of staff and resources.

So as we deal with possible pandemics - Ebola ain't one, people - we have a complicated picture of how we provide public health services.

Public health is - you know - public.  It requires public spending.  But the GOP - especially since 2010 - has basically said it is uninterested in any public spending that does not involve bombing other countries.  But the GOP philosophy of slashing public spending has always run into opposition when it comes to actual cuts.

If the GOP takes the Senate - and I remain perversely optimistic that they won't - it will be interesting to see them try and pass a budget with their priorities intact.  It didn't work for Gingrich, and I doubt it will work for Boehner and McConnell.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bad Laws Are Bad Laws

Klein argues that California's new law- that basically codifies the "Antioch Rules" from my days in college- is a bad law, but he supports it anyway, because we have to do something about college sexual assault.

The statistics are shocking about sexual assault on campus.  Maybe George Will doesn't think so, but they are.

So, California has a bill that requires consent at every stage of sexual behavior.  This is a legislative attack on behavior that needs to stop, but is ingrained, sadly, in college culture.  Drunken hook-ups are real and regrettable, maybe for both parties.  But they could now be crimes under this law.

While this is an attempt to create clarity in what is otherwise a murky situation, how exactly will it clarify the actual behavior?

Her: "I gave consent for kissing, but not fondling."

Him: "Yes, she did."

How exactly does that clarify anything?  The only way it does it to create a presumption of guilt on "Him" above.  And presumption of guilt is unconstitutional.

All the feelings of isolation and vulnerability that a woman feels now won't go away - unless the law operates under a presumption of guilt.

This strikes me as a well-intentioned act that overreaches. Not just constitutionally, but like Affirmative Action, it seeks to un-do a lasting social problem with a legal "quick fix".  You can't fix racism by establishing quotas or fact, you reinforce those prejudices.

In a world where we have people coal rolling to protest perfectly reasonably restrictions on pollution, do we really think that these laws won't engender a backlash against efforts to bring sexual assault under control?

I don't mean to suggest that criminal behavior shouldn't be made criminal by legal action.  But sexual assault is already illegal.  Laws haven't changed behavior as much as education can.

Ultimately, if you want to change the sort of sexual assaults that predominate college campuses - drunken licentious behavior that moves from flirtation to assault among people whose already diminished capacity for empathy and long range thinking is impaired by alcohol and drugs - then you have to change their thinking first.

I don't see a legislative mandate as working to change thinking.  I see it as a way for legislators to say they "did something" about the scourge of campus sexual assault.

And a bad law poorly enforced can be worse than no law.

Rooting out the culture of sexual assault and rape will take time and effort that extends beyond a legislative band-aid.  Making every young man feel like a rapist if he moves from kissing to "under the sweater, over the bra" without permission isn't going to solve the problem of men who feel entitled to sex as a matter of course.

This law won't clarify things.  It will make things worse, and I fear it will engender a backlash against the group that bears the most responsibility for ending the problem of campus sexual assault.

If you wanted to make a real dent in campus sexual assault, you should ban fraternities.  And I say that as someone who was in a fraternity.  Large groups of drunken men who feed off poorly imagined ideals of manhood with access to common sources of alcohol are a recipe for sexual assault.  Ban them and I bet the sexual assault rate falls tremendously.

But punishment has always proven to be a poor way to change behavior.  And changing the behavior should be the intent of efforts to reduce the level of sexual assaults.  Not saying, "We did something."

But that would cost legislators votes.  Much easier to do it this way.

Just not as effective.