Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, September 8, 2019 5:45 pm

Rams 30, Panthers 27

This game was nowhere near as close as the score indicates. It was a winnable game that the Panthers gave away.

Christian McCaffrey ran 19 times for 128 yards and 2 TDs. Credit is due both to him and the greatly improved run-blocking of the O-line. He also had 10 catches on 11 targets for 81 yards.

But after a great-looking opening drive that was strangled by a lost D.J. Moore fumble in the red zone, the passing game never really got going. Cam Newton finished just 25 of 38 for 239 yards, no TDs and two turnovers, a pick and a lost fumble. He completed only four of nine targets to the guy who’s normally his favorite target, tight end Gregg Olsen, throwing off his back foot and over Olsen’s head twice on consecutive plays. The O-line allowed three sacks against a Rams D that didn’t blitz much.

As for the Panthers’ D, after the team finished 28th in sacks in 2018, the much ballyhooed, remade front seven had zero sacks and only three tackles for loss. (Corner James Bradberry had the fourth, to go with a pick.) First-round edge rusher Brian Burns had one tackle for a loss, and although it was impressive, it was his only tackle of the game.

This team was built to win it all this year, but today’s game made clear that this not a Super Bowl team. It’s hard to say what the Bucs will do, but if the Falcons get their awful defense to be even a little better, the 2019 Panthers might not even be a wild-card team. And if they’re not, the reckoning that will follow, and the losses during rebuilding that will follow that, will be so ugly that this team might not make the playoffs again for another few years.

Sunday, September 1, 2019 4:22 pm

Your occasional bit of Shakespeare

News (OK, satire) item: “Endangered polar bear demands face-to-face meeting with Trump.”

Global warming is killing the planet.
But Trump said, “I really don’t care.”
And yet it’s not nice
to kill Mother Nature.
Exit, pursued by a bear.

Hit ’em with the chair

When I was a kid in Charlotte in the 1960s, my brothers, my friends and I watched a lot of pro wrestling on TV, which fact is essential context for what I’m about to say next: In this era, pleas for civility are the last refuge of people who desperately need to be hit with the chair.

As the journalist Eve Fairbanks points out in The Washington Post, conservatives, almost as if they’d all been sent the same list of talking points, have been on and on lately about being “reasonable” and “civil.” She links to many, many examples, almost all of which are premised on a fundamental misunderstanding about what’s actually going on in our society. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Fairbanks, as a senior at Yale, wrote a thesis on the rhetoric of Abraham Lincoln and his political rivals on both sides of the issue of slavery. And today’s conservative rhetoric sounded so familiar to her that she thought she must have heard it somewhere before. Sure enough, there it was in her old research: The language of conservatives in 2019 is almost identical to that of antebellum defenders of slavery. She lays it out in her Post column.

I see another parallel: Both before the Civil War and today, the people defending the indefensible are the ones most insistent upon civility and reason and are trying very hard to cast their opponents as unreasonable and uncivil. In both instances, the people defending the indefensible are able to do so as the result of having amassed great power, much of it unmerited and obtained through dubious, if not evil, means.

The slavery example is self-evident. But what about today?

For the past 40 years, American conservatives, though a minority, have used their greater wealth to get even more money and more power, often at the expense of everyone else. They got the Supreme Court, in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) to declare that money is speech, a category error that likely will be the downfall of the Republic if climate disaster or the Sweet Meteor of Death don’t get us first. They bought themselves congresscritters and legislators who have passed a number of huge tax cuts primarily benefiting the wealthy. The effect of those tax cuts has been the greatest upward transfer and concentration of wealth in history and the greatest income inequality in U.S. history. They have raped the planet, privatizing the profits while socializing the costs and making damn sure they had bought themselves a government that would let them do that, in search of more wealth — there’s roughly $27 trillion of proven carbon reserves still in the ground, and they will be damned if they’ll just write it off, just as slave owners insisted they were entitled not to write off the value of their slaves. They have insisted that health care is not a human right, but rather a consumer good on which they can profit as on few others. In what can only be called modern-day slavery, they are profiting off our correctional systems. They have sought to roll back the civil-rights advances we finally won a century after the 14th and 15th Amendments were ratified. And on and on. All of THAT is “unreasonable.” All of THAT is “uncivil.”

The people who opposed antebellum slavery were portrayed as radical, and indeed some of them were. But they weren’t wrong. And given the horrors of slavery, complaining about their incivility and lack of reason displayed nothing but moral stillbirth.

And so it is today.

Conservatives are pursuing policies that literally threaten the lives of me, my family, and more than 100 million other Americans who have pre-existing conditions and/or are people of color and/or are LGBTQ. And yet they want us to be reasonable and civil.

Screw that noise sideways. Pleas for civility are the last refuge of someone who desperately needs to be hit with the chair. Moreover, any Republican who thinks we need more civility needs to take it up with Newt Gingrich, whose GOPAC began the trend of instructing Republican political candidates to publicly characterize their unremarkable Democratic opponents as “extremist,” “sick” and “un-American.”

Moreover, as Fairbanks points out, conservative writer Ben Shapiro, to name just one example, likely knows and certainly doesn’t care that “ascrib(ing) right-wing anger to unwise left-wing provocation,” as Fairbanks says he does, is the blame-the-victim language of the domestic abuser.

(A note on that: Conservatives are trying to smear those who oppose white nationalists as “antifa,” which they believe to be an organized and violent movement. “Antifa” is simply short for “antifascist,” and the term encompasses everyone from the first wave at Omaha Beach to any American today who opposes the joined forces of fascism and white supremacy. You will seen the term thrown around even by journalists who should know better, but you can safely dismiss anyone who uses it in that way as at best a propagandist and at worst a fascist, particularly if that person works for the Trump administration.)

I’ve said for a long time that anyone doubting the existence of eternity need only ponder the capacity of conservatives for playing the victim. Indeed, I’ve thought for a long time that that might be the most important, and is certainly the most enduring, dynamic of postwar American politics.

I was wrong. Fairbanks’s column shows that it’s the most enduring dynamic of American politics, period. She doesn’t remark on it in her column, but it’s visible throughout so many of the sources she cites (and in fairness, she may have thought it was so obvious she didn’t even need to mention it) — an overweaning mentality of victimhood among conservative antebellum “thinkers” and modern-day conservatives alike.

And why do they feel that way? The answer is in the old saying, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” That’s the fundamental misunderstanding I referred to up at the top of the post. They do it because they can feel their privilege slipping and/or because they can hear and feel the rest of us coming for it. And on some level they’re terrified that we’re going to treat them the way they have treated us. I have no intention of doing this, but given the outrages they have foisted upon us in the past 40 years, from destroying the middle class to sacrificing our children to the Baal of the NRA to lighting the planet on actual fire, I can offer no guarantee regarding anyone else.

And at this point nothing would surprise me. Because when you call things like decent, affordable health care and a strong public education system “socialism” long enough, eventually socialism starts to sound like a good idea. And when you work your ass off for a lifetime and still can’t manage to obtain adequate food, clothing, shelter, and education for your family and equal treatment in society because of every way the system has been rigged by conservatives in the past 40 years, so does “eat the rich.”

UPDATE, 9/1: This was posted before I became aware that Democratic presidential Beto O’Rourke had been quoted as saying, “Yes, this is fucked up,” talking about the federal government’s inaction on mass shootings such as the one Saturday in Odessa, Texas, that claimed eight lives. When the inevitable criticism came, he had the perfect response:

 

Friday, July 19, 2019 7:29 pm

We have a felon and a Nazi in the White House, or, “This is the face of evil.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 7:29 pm

Events this week should have crystallized for every thinking American and even many unthinking ones how Donald Trump is not just unqualified to be president but a criminal besides.

His rally in Greenville came straight out of Nuremberg. When he criticized U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar,  a native of Somalia who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, the crowd started changing, “Send her back!” Trump stood and basked in this for a full 13 second before continuing to speak.

The level of hatred the man has whipped up is not only antithetical to American values of justice and equality, it’s also a danger to public order at this point. He is clearly aware of the possibility, even the likelihood, of stochastic terrorism and is trying to direct it at Omar and the other members of “the Squad” — four freshmen Congress members of color who have not only loudly opposed his policies but equally loudly called out his racism. He and his supporters have argued that they should go back where they came from, the fact that three of the four are native U.S. citizens notwithstanding. It was so repulsive that German Prime Minister Angela Merkel spoke out against Trump and in support of “the Squad.” Imagine that: a German prime minister having to lecture us about our Nazism.

Indeed, Jason Stanley, a scholar of fascism and the author of “How Fascism Works,” said after the rally, “I am not easily shocked. But we are facing an emergency. Journalists must not get away with sugarcoating this. This is the face of evil.”

That would have been bad enough on its own. But on Thursday, search warrant applications and other court documents were unsealed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that strongly indicated that Trump himself had been directly involved in violation of federal election law. The records indicate that Trump had been involved in numerous phone calls pursuant to the payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels, the porn actress with whom he had had a tryst, to keep quiet about it shortly before the 2016 election. The records also indicate that Trump aide Hope Hicks had been involved in arranging the payments, despite her insistence to Congress that she had never discussed the matter with Trump. Had the affair been revealed then, Trump almost certainly would have lost the election, so he cheated to win.

But the Justice Department announced that the investigation was being closed without any additional charges besides Michael Cohen’s guilty plea. Trump had been named as an unindicted co-conspirator, “Individual 1,” in Cohen’s indictment, and, as Cohen had insisted in congressional testimony, had been directly involved in the hush-money payment.

Given that the unsealed documents would appear to implicate Trump in election-law violations and conspiracy, and to implicate Hope Hicks in those two crimes plus possible obstruction of justice, the investigation certainly should not be over. And while no one can prove it, the suspicion, of course, is that Attorney General Bill Barr, whose belief that no president should be investigated if he thinks it’s unfair was a big reason for his getting his current job, has decided to shut this whole thing down — apparently, in Trump’s case, because current Justice policy forbids indicting a sitting president.

So we not only have a fascist bigot in the White House, we also have a guy who has been saved from indictment TWICE now by a Justice Department policy that has no basis in statutory law or the Constitution: The Mueller report, released in March, implicated Trump in up to 10 counts of obstruction of justice and made clear that had it not been for that same policy, Trump would have been indicted.

And maybe it’s just me, but I think anyone who has been saved from indictment twice by that policy doesn’t belong in office.

So: We are being governed by a criminal fascist who is propped up by a corrupt Justice Department and a Republican Party that is ride-or-die Trump even if he ends up being implicated in the child rape case for which his longtime friend Jeffrey Epstein is now sitting in jail without bail awaiting trial. And way too many people are just fine with that. And that’s before you even get into all the wrongdoing in his administration; this executive branch is nothing more or less than a crime syndicate.

This country is at a very dangerous pass, and I don’t mind telling you that right now, I think Trump is going to be re-elected. Blue voters in this country are increasingly congregating in a few coastal states, meaning the Electoral College works against Democrats: Trump, who lost the popular vote in 2016 by 2.9 million votes, could lose it by 5 million votes in 2020 and still win the Electoral College.

What’s worse, the Democratic leadership’s continued refusal to hold impeachment hearings, its continued insistence on treating Trump as a political or policy issue rather than a moral one, is going to turn off the base that brought the party its 2018 Blue Wave. They will sit home in 2020, just as they did in 2014, 2010 and 2002 when party leaders disappointed them. And that’s before you even factor in likely Russian interference and GOP vote suppression in swing states including North Carolina. (And for those of you whining that if he were impeached the GOP-held Senate wouldn’t convict, I reply: Then THAT’S WHAT YOU MAKE THEM RUN ON IN 2020.)

If he IS re-elected, all hell is going to break loose. And I don’t think we will be able to come back from it. I’d love to be wrong about all this, but I don’t think I am.

 

Thursday, May 30, 2019 8:58 pm

Last night, after the Mueller statement, I asked Sen. Thom Tillis to support impeachment hearings. Here’s what he said.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 8:58 pm
Tags: ,

I will respond eventually, but for right now, I’m just posting this without alteration or comment.

* * *Dear Mr. Alexander:

Thank you for taking the time to contact me about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. I appreciate hearing from you.

As you know, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as Special Counsel to oversee the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. On March 22, 2019, Special Counsel Mueller concluded his investigation, and on April 18, 2019, Special Counsel Mueller’s full report was released to Congress and the public. Special Counsel Mueller should be commended for conducting a fair, thorough, and professional investigation.

The report is divided into two volumes. Volume I explores Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Volume II addresses President Trump’s actions involving the FBI investigation into Russian interference. Given the sensitive sources used in this investigation, certain redactions were necessary to protect key intelligence sources in the public release of the report. The redactions included grand jury information, classified information, matters related to ongoing investigations, and information about private individuals. Approximately 10% of the public report contains redactions, the vast majority of which are in Volume I; approximately 2% of Volume II is redacted. Congressional leadership has access to a less redacted version of the report that only excludes grand jury information. This sensitive version of the report redacts approximately 2% overall and redacts 1/10 of 1% of Volume II.

After reading the full report and having had the opportunity to hear directly from Attorney General Barr during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, 2019, I agree with the assessments of Attorney General Barr and Special Counsel Mueller. First, despite active efforts by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election, there was no collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. And second, no underlying crime was committed, and there is insufficient evidence to indict the President on obstruction of justice.

I hope all Americans are relieved to find that the Special Counsel found there was no collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. The Special Counsel did find that elements of the Russian government attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. Although the attempted interference did not change the outcome of the election, we must work to prevent and punish Russia and all other foreign adversaries that attempt to deceptively fan flames on social media and meddle in our democratic process.

The Special Counsel also declined to recommend a charge of obstruction of justice. While some members of the House of Representatives have expressed a desire to launch endless investigations, and ultimately impeachment, I believe pursuing this path would be both divisive and damaging to our nation.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I serve on the committee with oversight of the DOJ. During his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, 2019, Attorney General Barr gave detailed answers on one of the most rigorous investigations in modern history. Over the course of this 22 month investigation, Special Counsel Mueller: issued 34 indictments (including Russians); issued more than 2,800 subpoenas; executed nearly 500 search warrants; obtained over 230 orders for communication records; made 13 requests of foreign governments for evidence; and, interviewed approximately 500 people. I hope my colleagues will ultimately accept the findings of Special Counsel Mueller and move on to advancing the business of the American people in the spirit of bipartisan cooperation.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. Please do not hesitate to reach out again about other important issues.

Sincerely,

Thom Tillis
U.S. Senator

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 7:17 pm

These two things are not the same

It is hard to believe that there are still people around who think that both major political parties in the United States are the same and that they are equally bad. But I ran into one today.

Truth is, they’re not, and here’s some proof:

One and only one party has relied on appeals to bigotry, with decreasing subtlety, for more than 50 years.
One and only one party supports a fact-free economic and tax policy, one that further enriches the already very rich mainly by hoovering up what remains of the wealth of the middle class and the working class.
One and only one party has made torture an instrument of national policy.
One and only one party wiretapped its own citizens without a warrant in felony violation of the law and then, when the news became public, retroactively changed the law to escape punishment.
One and only one party wants to funnel money to for-profit prisons.
One and only one party denies the existence of anthropogenic global warming.
One and only one party supports energy policies that will make global warming worse, not better, even as scientists say we have roughly 10 years, at best, to do some pretty drastic things just to level it off.
One and only one party is imprisoning children at the border.
One and only one party is pushing to reduce LEGAL immigration by 50%, which would be economic suicide.
One and only one party is working actively to weaken our international economic and military alliances and gutting our State Department.
One and only one party is tolerating more than 30,000 firearm deaths per year, many of them absolutely preventable.
One and only one party is just fine with Saudi Arabia assassinating a U.S. journalist.
One and only one party is acting as an agent, or at least an asset, of a hostile foreign power.
 
I could go on, but I hope you get my point: Both parties are not the same. Republicans are demonstrably worse for the country than Democrats and have been since no later than 1992 and arguably since the early 1960s. Anyone who says the two parties are equally bad is lazy, ignorant or lying. There’s no other option.

Monday, November 12, 2018 6:43 pm

RIP Stan Lee

Filed under: Salute!,Say a prayer,Uncategorized — Lex @ 6:43 pm
Tags: , ,

A lot of people know a whole lot more than I do about the creator of the Marvel Comics universe. I’ll just leave you with this observation: At a time when doing so was definitely not popular, he dared to respect his young audience enough to speak to them as adults.

I learned one of the most important moral lessons of my life when I was probably in kindergarten. I learned it from a story in a Spider-Man comic book. You probably know that story, too. It devastated me.

“And a lean, silent figure slowly fades into the gathering darkness, aware at last that in this world, with great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

The cracked front door that didn’t bark; or, Why you should never take what a Republican says at face value

You’ve probably head a lot of talk in the past week about how antifa protesters terrorized Tucker Carlson’s wife and kids in their home, even cracking open their oak front door.

Yes, there were protesters*, and one of them sprayed an anarchy symbol on Carlson’s driveway. But the children were not at home at the time, and the cracked front door? Never happened. The cops who were there didn’t see it. Two Washington Post reporters who visited the house didn’t see it either.

(That’s not to say that a lot of mainstream media, such as USA Today, didn’t run stories repeating Carlson’s claim without independent verification. Of course they did, because anytime a Republican shrieks, “Antifa!” the MSM soil their drawers. Meanwhile, actual 18 USC 241 felony vote suppression is going on right out in the open in Georgia and Florida without the news media calling it what it is, but that’s a subject for another post.)

This anecdote illustrates the peril inherent in taking anything a Republican says at face value, particularly a Republican who literally gets paid to lie on television. You — whether you’re a journalist or a civilian — need to stop doing that. You need to critically question any such claim made by any Republican politician or pundit. And you need to punish news outlets who repeat such claims unquestioningly.

Sunday, November 11, 2018 8:37 pm

About those sealed Mueller indictments …

Filed under: Hold! Them! Accountable!,Uncategorized — Lex @ 8:37 pm
Tags: , ,
I’m seeing a number of people on Twitter claiming that Robert Mueller already has a ton of sealed indictments of Trump, Trump Jr., Fredo, Ivanka, Jared, etc., etc., etc.
 
I’m here to tell you: Anything is possible. But that is almost certainly bullshit.
 
First of all, there is zero direct evidence in the public record that any of that is true. None. And I dare you to prove me wrong. You can’t. (The zero-leak performance of the Mueller probe to date is a model of American law enforcement.)
 
Second, there is zero circumstantial evidence that any of this is true. Again, prove me wrong if you can.
 
Third, there is nontrivial circumstantial evidence that such claims are NOT true. Almost none of the Mueller indictments so far have been sealed. Those that were remained sealed only days before being unsealed. Sealing indictments for long periods of time appears, so far, not to be a technique on which Mueller is relying.
 
Now, as I said before, anything is possible. But the relevant question, given the evidence and Mueller’s modus operandi to date, is: What’s LIKELY?
 
The answer is:
 
1) Some people saying this stuff are trying to make themselves look/sound more in-the-know than they actually are. And, frankly, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the people I see spouting this stuff on Twitter appear to be males in their 20s. They’re bullshitting to try to get laid.
 
2) Other people saying this stuff are trying to get low-information people’s expectations raised unjustifiably high so that when the inevitable disappointment comes, people will question the validity of the whole investigation. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of THESE people have handles and follower counts that strongly suggest they are bots.
 
Understand, I’d freakin’ LOVE it if it were true. But I’ve spent enough time covering grand jury investigations to be very skeptical. And absent additional information, you should be, too.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018 6:51 pm

” … remember the ladies … “

Everyone remembers that as John Adams was working on what would become the Declaration of Independence, his wife, Abigail, wrote him a letter asking that he “remember the ladies.” What they don’t remember is the full quote, which is a lot more interesting and relevant:

I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, take note.

Sunday, September 9, 2018 12:14 pm

On not voting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 12:14 pm

Last night on Twitter, I stumbled into a discussion about why people don’t vote. I dared to agree, pointedly, with another poster that perhaps people who don’t vote because they don’t see a candidate they like need to get over themselves. I was not swarmed, exactly, but I did hear from a few people. Even at 280 characters, Twitter is not the best place to have that discussion, so I’m posting here to both address some specific points from my interlocutors and to make a more general case about why voting is good and not voting is bad even if you don’t like anyone on the ballot.

I was informed by @punksandwitch that my attitude was shitty. I pointed out, correctly, that the attitudes of nonvoters had helped give us both Bush 43 and Trump, by far the two worst presidents in our country’s history.

I was informed by @delmoi that nonvoters don’t need to give me excuses and don’t owe me anything. That’s his/her opinion. Mine is that as citizens in a democratic republic we all owe each other our best judgment, every election, every time, and that willfully choosing not to vote is an abdication of civic responsibility.

@delmoi also suggested that if I want to win elections, I should find out why people aren’t voting and correct the problem. @aimeedemaio helpfully added some data to further that effort:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
Now, voters listed a lot of reasons, some of which we absolutely can address by, for example, making Election Day a national holiday and enacting universal registration, as several states already have done. But the biggest chunk by far of 2016 nonvoters didn’t vote because they didn’t like the candidates and/or issues.

My critics’ take, if I may generalize, is that I (or the Democratic Party, of which I am not a member) need to come up with better candidates and/or issues if I wish to engage this 40 percent. And that’s where they have their heads firmly ensconced in their nether regions.

In 2016, most of us had a choice for president from among four flawed people. One was an authoritarian bigot with narcissistic personality disorder, a decades-long history of financial fraud and sexual assault and a nontrivial chance of being a Russian agent. One was a woman with an awful sense of PR who had nonetheless served with distinction as First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State and, despite having been more throughly investigated than any other public figure in U.S. history, had never been found to be even close to guilty of a crime. The other two were minor-party candidates, one of whom also turned out to have ties to the Russians.

As @MadameOvary put it, “I’m not interested in why they don’t shell out money for the turd sandwich or the turd sandwich with extra diarrhea gravy. We gave them a choice!!!!” And @ald0_sax put it similarly: “Imagine if pepsi gradually changed it’s formula until eventually people started thinking it tasted like shit. Then imagine that for their new ad campaign, pepsi started going around lecturing people for not buying enough pepsi. You are pepsi. Stop being pepsi.” @OpinionatedLab agreed, albeit less colorfully.

Well, Republicans have been arguing for more than half a century that all government is bad and that therefore voting is a waste of time. You’d think people might stop and ask themselves, “If voting is so worthless, why are Republicans trying to stop people from doing it?” But they don’t.

As for candidate quality, despite insistences from such folks as @anthrogirl73 that not only was Hillary Clinton a lousy candidate, so was Al Gore, there is not a lot of evidence that Democratic candidates, at least, are any worse now than they’ve been at any point since the civil-rights era. (Republican candidates, on the other hand, have gotten a lot worse — more corrupt and more crazy. The last sane, noncriminal Republican candidate was Eisenhower.)

So, sure, if you’re uninformed or lazy or holier-than-thou, you can argue that all the 2016 candidates sucked. But you can’t argue that they all sucked equally and still display any intellectual integrity. Anyone with any historical perspective and understanding of the way our system actually works understood that 1) Donald Trump had to be defeated and that 2) the best, most likely way to do that was to vote for Hillary Clinton.

The survey above mentioned not only unsatisfactory candidates but unsatisfactory issues. @walking_fox tweeted, “If you want people to vote, you need to give them something to vote for, instead of promising them pain and then whining about how they are obligated to enable your abuse of them.” Well, here in the real world, in the 2015 general elections and in many special elections so far this year, Democrats have been running, and generally winning, not on pain but on health care and jobs. “The Democrats have no message” has been GOP propaganda mindlessly distributed by some godawfully lazy news media; I’m just sorry some people have been taken in by it.

Here’s the thing: You will never in your life get your perfect candidate for president. I’ve been doing this since 1980. Barack Obama was the only presidential candidate I ever voted for about whom I was genuinely enthusiastic. And even he was a letdown on a number of significant issues. He failed to hold responsible those who ordered torture and warrantless domestic wiretapping. He failed to hold accountable those who blew up the economy in 2008. And he personally ordered the extrajudicial assassination of a U.S. citizen.

But the bottom line is that our constitutional system of choosing a president (and most other office holders) is a winner-take-all system. Under a parliamentary system, or with ranked choice voting, voters might have more flexibility, but under the system we’ve got, we usually end up voting for, if not the lesser of two evils, then someone we’re just not all that enthusiastic about.

Certainly that’s a bad thing, but absent an overnight amendment to the Constitution, we’re stuck with it. Therefore, if you want more progressive candidates, the way to get them is to either find them or become them — and then turn out and vote for them in the primary. Sadly, it’s a fact nationwide that far fewer people vote in primaries than in general elections, partly because some primaries are closed but mainly because a lot of people just don’t bother. But simply demanding better candidates and staying home if you don’t get them is not a solution. Indeed, it plays right into the hands of some of the country’s most awful people and endangers many of its most vulnerable. It might make you feel better, but this isn’t just about you.

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018 7:48 pm

So long, Silent Sam

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 7:48 pm

“Silent Sam,” the statue on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that was built to honor the university’s Confederate Civil War dead, was toppled last night. That act almost certainly was a crime, and the perpetrators should be prepared to pay the price. But it also was a righteous act of civil disobedience. Life is complicated.

The statue, paid for by university alumni and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, was a monument to a myth, the Confederate “Lost Cause”  — the notion that the Civil War was about anything except slavery and white supremacism — that has left toxic residue in our politics and culture even today. The Union won the war, but the Confederacy won Reconstruction, with results that reach even into today’s White House and the N.C. General Assembly.

It was erected not in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, but roughly 50 years later, in 1913, as the Confederacy and its leaders were enjoying a wholly undeserved reputational rehabilitation.

Similar statues and monuments were being built not only across the states of the late Confederacy but in other states as well. It is not a coincidence that the Ku Klux Klan was enjoying a great expansion of its ranks as well. And it doesn’t take inference to understand that white supremacy was behind it all. Julian Carr, the Civil War veteran and ardent white supremacist who gave the dedication speech, made it plain:

The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war [that is, when former Confederate soldiers terrorized freed blacks and Republican whites across the South — Lex] when the facts are, that their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – When “the bottom rail was on top” all over the Southern states, and to-day, as a consequence the purest strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.

I trust I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal. One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with a double-barrel shot gun under my head.

People of color despised the statue not just because of what it symbolized but also because of what it celebrated. And it is understandable that they would do so: Statues aren’t just “history,” but also indicate those people and things that we as a society celebrate. Silent Same stopped doing that a long time ago — praise God.

But there had been efforts and discussions underway for decades about what to do with Silent Sam — leave him where he was on public ground or move him, perhaps to a museum or privately owned Confederate graveyard. Left to themselves, those discussions might have led to a solution that all sides could have lived with, if not been happy about.

But the Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly, who have never met a situation they couldn’t make worse, on race relations or pretty much anything else, passed a vague and ill-considered law in 2015 protecting all such monuments on public property. (My friend and former colleague Joe Killian posted almost exactly a year ago on this subject, after a Confederate monument in Durham had been toppled.) Democrats even filed a bill in the legislature earlier this year to move the statue, but Republicans wouldn’t even give it a hearing. So there was no outlet for rational discussion that might have led to a workable solution.

To be clear, I do not condone criminality, full stop. Those who committed the crime should be prepared to do the time. That said, tearing down the statue when all other avenues of addressing the issues it raised had been cut off fits squarely within the tradition of righteous civil disobedience. I hope the court in its wisdom recognizes these actions as such and imposes minimal punishment, should anyone be convicted.

And to those suggesting that the statue should be left in place because of history, I have a question: How many of you were worried about history when U.S. forces toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 2003? Well, it’s about the same thing.

 

Friday, July 27, 2018 5:55 pm

God bless The Root, but: No, it has NOT proved the Russians altered 2016 vote totals

(Originally posted July 26, 2018, on Facebook; I’m reupping this here on the blog (with a few minor clarifications) to give it a little more reach.)

I’ve seen this article shared a great deal on social media today. Writer Michael Harriot claims to have found proof that Russia actually altered vote totals in the 2016 election to tilt the election to Trump. It proves a lot of things, but not that.

First, I’m not a computer scientist and don’t play one on social media. But I edited the 2004 book “Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century,” by Bev Harris and my good friend David Allen. (In a previous life, David did network security for banks. This is relevant because voting-machine maker Diebold also did bank networks.)

During that project I learned about the many vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines, and this Root article rehashes some of those. It also does a good job of documenting that the Russians had means, motive, opportunity and desire to alter the 2016 election results.

But despite the headline, this article does not provide any evidence, direct or circumstantial, that the Russians actually altered vote totals. It does not provide any evidence, direct or circumstantial, that the Russians deleted voter registration data so as to prevent a single person from voting.

To be clear, I think both those things probably happened. But this article doesn’t prove it, and neither has anyone else that I know of. And I’ve been looking for evidence of this since I started working on “Black Box Voting” more than 15 years ago.

And at this point, the question is irrelevant; the Constitution is silent on the question of undoing a stolen presidential election.

What is HIGHLY relevant, and quite urgent, is that we realize that it could happen (again) in 2018 and 2020 and take steps to prevent it. Off the top of my head, that means, among other things, paper ballots, publicly counted, and mandatory, rigorous election auditing up and down the ballot. These are things we still (barely) have time to make happen before November, and that’s where we ought to focus.

UPDATE, July 27: Having seen this Root article promoted on social media by such respected authorities as Sarah Kendzior, I’ve tried to contact her and a couple of others to make clear that, for lack of a better term, the headline writes a check the reporting can’t cash. I’ve gotten no response from anyone I contacted.

UPDATE, July 28: The Root has pulled the article pending review. Good.

Sunday, March 25, 2018 5:07 pm

About face

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 5:07 pm
Tags: , ,

OK, I’m not getting off Facebook after all, at least not for now. A quick summary of why:

  • The horse is out of the barn. I haven’t indulged in those data-sucking quizzes, games and apps nearly as much a lot of users, but I’ve done it some. And even some was too much. (More on that in a bit.)
  • For some things, Facebook is far and away the most efficient tool. If it were just MY stuff I needed to worry about, that would be one thing. But from political involvement to organizing family events to commenting on any number of news sites, there often is no acceptable substitute.
  • Facebook has 2 billion users. It won’t miss me.
  • Related to that, Facebook friend Steve Harrison told me, “Your presence here actually improves Facebook. Maybe by only .00017%, but it helps.” And a number of others asked me to reconsider.

That’s not to say the problem with Facebook isn’t real. It’s real and it’s awful. Zuckerberg once promised in a televised interview not to share user data with third parties except pursuant to the fact that his business is basically an advertising agency. Well, we now know he did far more and far worse than that; just Google Facebook and Cambridge Analytica for details on that. The UK’s Information Commissioner is investigating CA on a number of related issues (indeed, Facebook’s own auditors, attempting to audit CA on whether it had deleted user data as claimed, were ordered by the British government to “stand down”).

In nearly 30 years of Internet usage, I’ve never advocated government regulation of the Internet, not even to protect user information privacy. But I’m damned well doing it now. Whether there’s any kind of forensic clawback that’s possible, I have no idea (I doubt it). But we can at least prevent more of this damage going forward, and perhaps limit the damage to a couple of generations of users, rather than all users for all time.

 

Friday, February 10, 2017 8:48 pm

Friday Random 10, Feb. 10, 2017

Filed under: Friday Random 10,Uncategorized — Lex @ 8:48 pm

Louisiana Rain – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Tampa to Tulsa (live) – Jayhawks
El Clavo y la Cruz – The Plugz
Champagne and Riffer – Rolling Stones & Buddy Guy
Betterman – Pearl Jam
Promises – Fugazi
Johnny B. Goode – Jimi Hendrix
1,000 Years – The Gaslight Anthem
Down South Jukin’ – Lynyrd Skynyrd
Gloria – Them

lagniappe: Ain’t No Fun (Waiting ‘Round to be a Millionaire) – AC/DC

Monday, November 7, 2016 8:52 pm

Oh, and about your “protest vote” …

For those of you who think you’re too good to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tomorrow: One and only one candidate on the ballot will work to both protect and improve Obamacare, on which both of my brothers depend because of chronic health problems. In other words, fuck your protest vote. Your hurt fee-fees do not outweigh my brothers’ lives. And if you have a problem with that, fuck you with a red-hot poker.

Monday, November 2, 2015 6:48 am

Happy birthday …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 6:48 am

… to a great American and the guy who is effectively this blog’s co-host, Fred Gregory!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015 6:28 pm

Odds and ends for Aug. 26

When Hillary Clinton corralled journalists, journalists and pundits complained, and rightfully so. I trust they’ll do the same now that Donald Trump had reporter Jorge Ramos, whose audience is huge, physically removed from an event. Right?

Speaking of Trump, the N.C. GOP wants to ban him (and anyone else) from the state’s 2016 presidential primary unless they pledge to support whoever the party’s nominee turns out to be and promise not to run a third-party candidacy. This Republican wouldn’t vote for Trump at gunpoint but thinks that if you support him and he has filed, you deserve to get the chance to vote for him.

So, while it may have been incredibly stupid for Hillary Clinton to handle State Department info on a personal email account, it was against neither law nor policy at the time it happened. The same is true when her predecessor, Colin Powell, did the same thing, FWIW.

California schools are requiring kids to get vaccinated, so, naturally, parents are lining up to home-school their kids rather than vaccinate them. We need a vaccination against stupidity, is what we need.

Our legislature, which can’t be bothered to do its own damn job, has decided that it needs to kick the unemployed, even though North Carolina’s unemployed already get the nation’s lowest benefits. They should be reminded that this state is chock-full of pine trees and chickens, the raw material for tar and feathers.

Campaigns of and SuperPACs supporting four GOP governors running for president have received $2.5 million from “companies with state contracts or subsidies,” per the Wall Street Journal. But, go ahead, Justice Anthony Kennedy, tell me again how money in politics creates neither the reality nor the appearance of corruption.

So Raleigh anti-abortion activists are now harassing clinic escorts and trying to get them fired. Becauses that’s what Jesus would do.

And in a setback for veganism, the FDA rules that if you’re going to call something “mayonnaise,” it has to have eggs in it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015 9:00 pm

Odds and ends for April 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 9:00 pm

Oops! Thought I posted this but didn’t. Sorry!

A South Carolina police officer faces murder charges after he was caught on video firing eight shots at the back of a fleeing suspect. Incredible. And, yet, not so much, sadly.

When you strip away their lofty rhetoric, most elected Republicans really only want to do two things: steal your money and kick people when they’re down.

More people who aren’t doing Christianity right: A bill in Tennessee would allow counseling students (and students in social work or psychology) to discriminate against gays, non-Christians, or anyone else on the basis of the student’s religious belief.

That hoovering of phone calls that the DEA was doing years before 9/11? Human Rights Watch and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are suing to stop it. Good.

How former pro football star Darren Sharper’s multi-state rape spree was enabled by police hesitation to act.

We’re now manufacturing tools and other objects in space, with 3-D printing. We live in an age of wonders. Seriously.

Speaking of wonders, credit where due — here’s one thing the Republicans in the N.C. legislature are doing right: pushing to expand solar energy.

On the flip side, they’re going farther into science denialism and sticking government farther into our uteri.

North Carolina’s failure to educate its K-12 students soon may become a legal problem.

Some good news for a change: Netflix is picking up another 17 episodes of “Arrested Development.” It and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” are the two funniest things on TV right now.

And the brontosaurus is back. Pluto remains a “minor planet,” however.

 

Thursday, November 27, 2014 9:39 am

Today I am thankful for …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 9:39 am
Tags:

… health, family, friends, prosperity, and a country so great that not even 35 years’ worth of the best efforts of waterheads, mouthbreathers, knuckle-draggers, and straight-up sociopaths has managed to totally screw it up. Yet.

Be well and be safe.

Saturday, August 23, 2014 6:51 pm

“I’m convinced to my core: The lack of such a database [of police killings] is intentional.”

The question has been raised a lot in recent years: How many people die each year at the hands of the police?

There’s no good way to find out, so D. Brian Burghart of the Reno (Nev.) News & Review set out to try to find out after driving past the scene of an officer-involved shooting about two years ago. He has enlisted the Internet to help him find out.

This, by damn, is why we have, and need, an Internet.

He’s compiling what he and others find, after rigorous fact-checking, at fatalencounters.org. Here’s how he got involved in it:

It began simply enough. Commuting home from my work at Reno’s alt-weekly newspaper, the News & Review, on May 18, 2012, I drove past the aftermath of a police shooting—in this case, that of a man named Jace Herndon. It was a chaotic scene, and I couldn’t help but wonder how often it happened.

I went home and grabbed my laptop and a glass of wine and tried to find out. I found nothing—a failure I simply chalked up to incompetent local media.

A few months later I read about the Dec. 6, 2012, killing of a naked and unarmed 18-year-old college student, Gil Collar, by University of South Alabama police. The killing had attracted national coverage—The New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN—but there was still no context being provided—no figures examining how many people are killed by police.

I started to search in earnest. Nowhere could I find out how many people died during interactions with police in the United States. Try as I might, I just couldn’t wrap my head around that idea. How was it that, in the 21st century, this data wasn’t being tracked, compiled, and made available to the public? How could journalists know if police were killing too many people in their town if they didn’t have a way to compare to other cities? Hell, how could citizens or police? How could cops possibly know “best practices” for dealing with any fluid situation? They couldn’t.

The bottom line was that I found the absence of such a library of police killings offensive. And so I decided to build it. I’m still building it. But I could use some help. You can find my growing database of deadly police violence here, at Fatal Encounters, and I invite you to go here, research one of the listed shootings, fill out the row, and change its background color. It’ll take you about 25 minutes. There are thousands to choose from, and another 2,000 or so on my cloud drive that I haven’t even added yet. After I fact-check and fill in the cracks, your contribution will be added to largest database about police violence in the country. Feel free to check out what has been collected about your locale’s information here.

This is some righteous crowdsourcing, let me tell you.

And what has he learned from all this? Two things, both of them sad and infuriating.

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this project is something I’ll never be able to prove, but I’m convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.

It’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn’t collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.

I’ve been lied to and delayed by state, county and local law enforcement agencies—almost every time. They’ve blatantly broken public records laws, and then thumbed their authoritarian noses at the temerity of a citizen asking for information that might embarrass the agency. And these are the people in charge of enforcing the law.

The second biggest thing I learned is that bad journalism colludes with police to hide this information. The primary reason for this is that police will cut off information to reporters who tell tales. And a reporter can’t work if he or she can’t talk to sources. It happened to me on almost every level as I advanced this year-long Fatal Encounters series through the News & Review. First they talk; then they stop, then they roadblock.

He elaborates on how journalism is failing to deal with this problem. I don’t think it’s quite as intentional as he does, but I do think the consciousness of a lot of reporters and editors needs to be raised on this issue. That means being intentional and serious about collecting data, to the point of lawsuits in jurisdictions in which the law is on journalists’ side.

And it also means taking up for what Jesus called “the least of these,” because — surprise! — that’s who most often winds up dead at the hands of law enforcement:

Journalists also don’t generally report the race of the person killed. Why? It’s unethical to report it unless it’s germane to the story. But race is always germane when police kill somebody.

This is the most most heinous thing I’ve learned in my two years compiling Fatal Encounters. You know who dies in the most population-dense areas? Black men. You know who dies in the least population dense areas? Mentally ill men. It’s not to say there aren’t dangerous and desperate criminals killed across the line. But African-Americans and the mentally ill people make up a huge percentage of people killed by police.

And if you want to get down to nut-cuttin’ time, across the board, it’s poor people who are killed by police. (And by the way, around 96 percent of people killed by police are men.)

I’d like to think that my local daily will get better at this, but I know better. So I’m going to see if I can help this project out. Wherever you are, I hope you will, too. We empower police officers with the right to use deadly force if necessary to protect themselves or innocent others. We deserve in return a full and complete accounting of how that right is used, or misused. There is no excuse for law enforcement to provide less, and there is no excuse for those departments’ communities, including but not limited to news outlets, to expect less.

(h/t: John Robinson)

Monday, August 18, 2014 7:35 pm

Police with tanks and armored personnel carriers and machine guns: de rigeur?

[Things] started out calm enough with barricades on either side of the street and police patrolling down the main drag, but it was only a matter of time (approximately 15 minutes) … before someone shouted,”[Expletive] it, let’s do this!” and the barricades came down as a mob flooded the street.

Even once the crowds flooded the streets the celebrations were still friendly: High-fives were plentiful, beers were passed around, cigars were smoked …

But as the night dragged on, things started to get messy as bottles were shattered haphazardly on the street, empty beer cans were tossed in the air and hoards of people hoisted the barricades in the air for their friends to ride down the street in their own mini-parade.

Ferguson, Mo.? No, Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood after the Black Hawks won the Stanley Cup. So, if anything, far bigger and more drunken crowds than in Ferguson, and yet cops managed to handle things using nothing more intimidating than horses and their own presence.

Now, why do you suppose the cops rolled out the artillery in Ferguson but not in Wrigleyville, where the potential for widespread mayhem was much worse? Call my me cynical, but I’m thinking the answer is as simple as black and white.

(h/t: Athenae, who concludes, “Shockingly, there was no tear gas, or bellyaching in the conservative press about a culture of violence that leads these people to act like animals.”)

Friday, October 25, 2013 10:01 pm

“We’re in the post-antibiotic era.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 10:01 pm

Well, YOU can just rock me to sleep tonight:

There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t.

Nice work, factory farmers.

The PBS show “Frontline” did an episode on this; you can see it here.

 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 6:29 pm

I guess lynching postcards are back in vogue after 75 years or so

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 6:29 pm

SEK at Lawyers, Guns & Money:

[Cartoonist] Michael Ramirez’s “Lynched” serves a single purpose: to allow the overwhelmingly white readership of NRO to believe that the imagined lynching of an abstract value is morally equivalent to the actual lynching ofactual human beings. Because it’s been a long time since white people could really enjoy an image of a lynching.* Some of them probably thought the day would never come again.

But thanks to Michael Ramirez, white readers of NRO can stare with childish wonder at the shapes of men dangling from a limb and feel glee instead of having to fake guilt.

lynch

*No, seriously, these things were bought, sold and traded, practically within my lifetime.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013 6:11 pm

One reason our students isn’t learning

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 6:11 pm

MOOCs are being hailed in some quarters as the salvation of higher education because they, at least theoretically, will enable large numbers of people to take courses at once and lower the high cost of obtaining a college degree. Now, being in an online program with only 20 people in it, I can tell you that online systems aren’t perfect. I can only imagine every problem that might arise with online courses with hundreds, or even thousands, of students, but here’s one we don’t have to imagine:

Michigan professor Gautam Kaul is teaching the Introduction to Finance MOOC on Coursera [an online-learning system, provided by a company of the same name that assists some colleges and universities in setting up online learning — Lex]. In a July 2 email to students, Kaul said students wanted to know correct answers to assignments but he would not oblige their requests. This means some Coursera users who get a question wrong could be left in the dark.

He called the students’ request for correct answers “reasonable” but “very difficult to accommodate.”

“If this were a one-time class, we would have considered posting answers,” Kaul wrote in an e-mail that was provided to Inside Higher Ed by a critic of MOOCs. “It will however be very difficult for us to offer this class again if we have to keep preparing new sets of questions with multiple versions to allow you to attempt each one more than once. Handing out answers will force us to do that.”

You see the problem here for the student: If you don’t know what the right answer is, you might not be able to figure out why you got the question wrong. You might not be able to, in other words, you know, learn.

See, that whole “preparing new sets of questions with multiple versions” thing is what college professors get paid to do, in part.  That’s because it enables a professor to tell students where they went wrong, what the right answers are, and, most importantly, ensure that the students grasp the underlying concepts.

Part of the reason that higher-ed costs are rising faster than inflation is that productivity gains made possible by technology in many other fields aren’t always achievable in higher ed. A professor can only teach so many students, can only grade so many essays, at a time. Sure, you could make all the tests and exams multiple choice and grade them with a machine like the SAT, but when you do that, the nuance and many underlying concepts  — not to mention a lot of the interrelatedness of the various subjects students study in college — go right out the window, and the value of a college degree goes right along with them.

MOOCs may well be the best tool, or the best tool available, for some forms of education. But to surrender higher education to them, as some private interests want us to do, would be the educational equipment of scrapping our military at a time when many of our allies and adversaries are expanding their own. It would be unilateral surrender of world leadership. I don’t know about you, but I like being on top and would like to stay there.

Monday, July 8, 2013 7:00 pm

Stop the presses: GOP makes crap up to get bad law enacted

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 7:00 pm

Remember those 900 dead people who, according to preliminary Department of Motor Vehicles reports, voted in  South Carolina in the late 2000s and early 2010s? Well, the State Law Enforcement Division (S.C.’s equivalent of our SBI) took a look at the more than 200 cases associated with the 2012 election, and guess how many actual fraudulent votes they found.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

You can argue all you like that there really might have been fraudulent votes in the earlier elections. But let’s face it, your best chance of getting away with it would be in a presidential election when turnout is at its peak. And absolutely no fraudulent votes were found in the presidential election, so the odds that there were significant numbers between, say, 2009 and the 2012 primary are just incredibly low.

However, keep in mind that it was the reports of more than 900 dead people voting that enabled S.C. Republicans to enact a voter I.D. law. So now that the justification for such a law is shown to be bullshit, do we get the bad law repealed? I’m not betting the rent.

Vacation, all I ever wanted …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 6:30 pm

Alone among Western industrialized democracies, the U.S. does not guarantee its workers paid vacations. Indeed, most of our peers guarantee 4 weeks off with pay per year. Economist Dean Baker not only thinks we can afford to match our peers, he also has a plausible explanation for why this is exactly the right time to do so:

If we remember the economy’s basic problem right now is a lack of demand, then this would be an excellent time to consider such policies. This is exactly the time when reduced hours actually are likely to translate fairly directly into more employment. It is when the economy is fully employed that reduced hours are likely to create issues with inflation.

And the idea of raising employer costs should hardly be a major matter of concern when profit margins are at record levels. We absolutely want to raise employer costs — shifting income from corporate profits to wage earners. We can debate how much impact paid leave would have in increasing workers’ compensation, but insofar as it does, that’s a positive and not a negative.

The comparison of unemployment rates with Europe is silly. The United States actually did not have a lower unemployment rate going into the downturn. And it certainly does not have a lower unemployment rate now than several of the slackard countries like Germany and Austria, which have unemployment rates of 5.3 percent 4.7 percent, respectively.

Anyone arguing that this change would interfere with our job creation need only look at Germany and Austria, as Baker points out. So maybe the ugly little secret here is that U.S. corporate leaders are just piss-poor managers. It’s only a hypothesis, but it would explain a lot.

 

Sunday, March 10, 2013 10:40 am

Happy birthday …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 10:40 am

… to my little sister and a great American, Jane Alexander!

Friday, November 23, 2012 11:44 am

Your homework assignment: I haz it

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 11:44 am

I realize that November, National Novel Writing Month, is almost over. Makes me no never-mind; I am not much of a fiction writer and never have been. I have been blessed to know a few, some of whom even have ventured gracefully into the literary precincts of “science fiction” (or “fantasy” or “speculative fiction” and related terms/categories) and emerged not just unharmed but enhanced, embraced and emboldened. (Yeah, Andy Duncan, I’m talkin’ ’bout you.)

But here’s the thing, and by “thing” I mean “really cool premise, which is actually happening, for a short story or novel”:

The universe is apparently well past its prime in terms of making stars, and what new ones are being made now across the cosmos will never amount to more than a few percent on top of the numbers already come and gone.

This is the rather disquieting conclusion of a new and significant study of the rate at which stars have been produced through cosmic time.

[Astrophysicist David] Sobral and colleagues recently published the results of a series of ‘snapshots’ made of galaxies busily making stars at different epochs, from about 4 billion years ago (around the time of Earth’s formation) all the way back to nearly 11 billion years ago. This is no simple task, some of the world’s largest and most sensitive telescopes had to be employed.

By observing light at very specific frequencies (corresponding to emission from warm hydrogen atoms – see the note below) they are able to gauge the actual rate at which new stars are condensing out of thick nebular material in a few thousand galactic systems. This yields some very robust statistics on the global changes in the numbers of new stars being made as the universe ages.

The main conclusions come in two parts. First, 95% of all the stars we see around us today were formed during the past 11 billion years, and about half of these were formed between roughly 11 and 8 billion years ago in a flurry of activity. But the real shocker is that the rate at which new stars are being produced in galaxies today is barely 3% of the rate back 11 billion years ago, and declining. This indicates that unless our universe finds a second wind (which is unlikely) it will only ever manage to produce about 5% more stars than exist at this very moment.

This is, quite literally, the beginning of the end.

Let’s suppose we set this work on a planet supporting intelligent life, orbiting the last known star in the universe, albeit one not believed to be going away anytime soon. Let us further suppose that interstellar travel, though by no means simple or routine, is  common enough (within certain time/space limits) that this planet has become the repository of all knowledge and creativity that has survived the death of all other stars (and their planets) in its accessible portion of the universe, if not the whole universe.

What would the personal and global conversations be about? What would the personal priorities be, and those of the body politic? Would these beings succumb to fin-du-monde anarchy, or would they conclude that when the fall is all that’s left, the fall matters? (Maybe they harbor the hope,  however remote, that they will be discovered by a previously unknown form of intelligent life that, even if it chose to make hors d’oeuvres of them, might also be interested in their work?

What lives, what dies, and what matters most in the interstices between them? And how do you render the pondering of these questions, if not the ultimate answers, in language that a reasonably sentient carbon-based life form can understand?

That’s your assignment. I’m feeling generous, so you’ve got until March 31.

Go.

 

Monday, October 29, 2012 7:34 pm

Context. Perspective. They are good things. That John McCain does not have.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex @ 7:34 pm

Thanks to Charlie Pierce for watching John McCain on one of the Sunday gasbag shows yesterday so that I didn’t have to. Here’s what Senator You-Kids-Get-Off-My-Lawn said about the recent Benghazi tragedy:

This tragedy turned into a debacle and massive cover-up or massive incompetence in Libya is having an effect on the voter because of their view of the commander in chief. And it is now the worst cover-up or incompetence that I have ever observed in my life.

Really? Because, keep in mind, kids, that not only was McCain old enough to be sentient during the Vietnam War — speaking of incompetence and cover-up — he spent seven years in an enemy POW camp because of it, as he never ceased to remind us during his 2008 campaign. He was around during Watergate (though not yet inflicted upon the body politic in any meaningful way). And, as Pierce observes:

John McCain was in the Congress when Ronald Reagan sold missiles to the mullahs. John McCain voted for the Iraq war on the instructions of George W. Bush. Perhaps John McCain failed to observe that either cover-up or that incompetence. Perhaps John McCain should get his ass over 2008 and leave the rest of us alone.

As for how horrible this whole Benghazi thing is, you know what? It was horrible. Four Americans died. But when Condoleezza Rice, of all people, tells Republicans they’re making too much of what the Obama administration should or shouldn’t or might or might not have done, maybe they’re, oh, I don’t know,  making too much of it.

Also, on Sept. 20, 1984, two dozen Americans died in a terrorist attack in Lebanon. What did then-President Ronald Reagan do the next day? Made three campaign stops, including one in Iowa where he was up 23 points at the time. Then-Sen. John McCain got in a lot of trouble for his public criticism of the president at the time. Oh. Wait.

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