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


Thursday, October 30, 2014

How We Die

http://www.vox.com/2014/10/30/7047429/mortician-death-dying-caitlin-doughty

We are coming up to the Day of the Dead, whereby we remember those who died and celebrate rather than mourn their loss.

The above article is a fascinating inside look at how we treat death.  While the writer - as a mortician - has something of a fixation on death, she raises excellent points.  At what point do we fight our mortality?  Certainly the 35 year old cancer patient should battle like hell to recover.

But my only hope for my own passing from life into death is that I have the ability to do it more or less on my terms.  Selfishly, I want my own parents to be there to watch their grandsons graduate from high school or college.  But would I want to cling to a degraded, decaying life to watch my own grandchildren walk across a stage and get a piece of paper?  There is a line from the haunting Jason Isbell song, Elephant: There's one thing that's real clear to me/no one dies with dignity/we just try and ignore the elephant somehow.  And the truth of that line is devastating.  We fight to ignore the reality of our own mortality, and that fighting leaves us exhausted and scared.

Because we have invested death with such awesome power and because many of us no longer believe in heaven, we fear death more than ever.  The article above has a perfect anecdote about the tech dude-bro who fears his own death and screw everyone else.

I grew up terrified of my own mortality.  But as I approach 50 and my body slides into decline, I can see the merit of an expiration date.  I want decades more.  But the minute my mind starts slipping away is the minute I start to think about making my own quietus with a bare bodkin.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kill It With Fire

http://www.vox.com/2014/10/29/7083837/daylight-saving-time-year-round

Here is another supportable idea from Vox: going to permanent DST.

I LOOOOOOOVE the extra hour of sleep I'm going to get on Sunday, and I broadly feel morally superior as I get up a little earlier during the first week of altered time.

But the early sunsets in New England are just soul crushing.

Soul crushing, people.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Secular Stagnation

http://www.vox.com/2014/10/28/7078167/secular-stagnation

Also known as "demand-side economics"...

I would add that I don't think we fully account for the effect of high energy costs on economic growth.  While producing more supplies (like the shale gas boom in North Dakota) can stimulate local economies, ultimately the demand side of the economy is hurt by taking a significant amount of people's income and lighting it on fire to produce energy.

The current collapse in oil prices could be a very strong predictor of better economic growth.

Monday, October 27, 2014

We ARE A Nation Of Cowards

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/donny-deutsch-nation-of-cowards

I think Deutsch is 100% right.

I also think that as real threats become rarer and rarer, we tend to inflate imagined threats.

In other words, as we no longer have to fear childhood illnesses, we start to fear vaccines.  As we no longer fear rampaging bands of brigands, we start to fear ISIS.  As we no longer fear dying of appendicitis, we start to fear Ebola.

I don't know why it is we seem to cling to fear like an anti-security blanket, but we do.  And if that's not enough, we fear zombies or vampires or other sundry boogeymen.

Is fear so deeply ingrained in us that we create it where it shouldn't exist?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

This Is An Excellent Idea

http://www.vox.com/2014/10/26/6977315/buy-car-hassle-free

This won't win elections or anything, but this is what good governance looks like.  We have a stupid method of selling cars in this country. I have never had a pleasurable experience buying a car, only less unpleasant ones.

The idea of "made to order" - or more broadly Amazon.com for cars - is a really good one.  It would probably lead to MORE sales, as both the price of cars comes down and the experience becomes less a miserable, haggling trial.

But most car salesman are the sort of Babbitt-esque Chamber of Commerce Republicans who see Obamacare as a restraint on trade, but benefit from monopolistic protectionist laws.

Friday, October 24, 2014

This Is Nice

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/chris-jones-canada-shooting?click=feed

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.

But...at 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

http://prospect.org/article/rand-pauls-millennial-quest-little-libertarian-lot-something-else

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:
http://www.vox.com/2014/10/17/6988377/threats-to-americans-ranked-ebola-isis-russia-furniture

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.