Profiles In Courage

Posted August 17, 2014 by Tom
Categories: climate, Climate follies, Republican follies, Republican knavery

Tags: , ,

Republicans and global warming:

In stark contrast to their party’s public stance on Capitol Hill, many Republicans privately acknowledge the scientific consensus that human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change and recognize the need to address the problem.

However, they see little political benefit to speaking out on the issue…

Anthony Adragna, writing in Bloomberg BNA, points out that it’s not simply the lack of benefit that constains his sources.  Rather,

Most say the reluctance to publicly support efforts to address climate change has grown discernibly since the 2010 congressional elections, when Tea Party-backed candidates helped the Republican Party win control of the House, in part by targeting vulnerable Democrats for their support of legislation establishing a national emissions cap-and-trade system.

Ah, Brave Sir Robin GOP!

To give themselves cover, as Adragna notes, those who spoke to him came up with all kinds of alternative explanations for their reticence:

…the devastating impacts of the economic crisis, the low priority Americans place on addressing climate change and what Republicans say is overheated rhetoric from Democrats. Also playing a role in the reluctance to speak out is skepticism among Republican voters about federal government intervention and the increasing role of special interest money in elections.

That last one is sweet, isn’t it — that nasty “special interest” money.  I believe that special interest is spelled K.O.C.H. et al., but never mind.

And as for overheated rhetoric — well, I’m gearing up to do some separate posts about how all the climate news lately is worse than we thought, so for now, let me just leave you with this reminder of how badly, f**ked we may already be.

Bertin,_Nicolas_-_Phaéton_on_the_Chariot_of_Apollo_-_c._1720

Of course, no discussion of Republican failure to lead — or even engage — an issue would be complete without laying the blame where it clearly belongs:

“I do believe there is some resistance to come out publicly and say what’s happening here,” Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.), who served in Congress from 1993 through 2011 and is now a partner at the law firm DLA Piper, told Bloomberg BNA. “One thing that would be helpful would be having a president who could articulate the issue well and who the Republicans have some confidence in.”

Yes, if only Barack Obama would stop presidenting while Black/Democrat, the Republican Party would leap into the breach.

To Adragna’s credit, he doesn’t let that claim go unchallenged — that Republicans who hold actual power, as opposed to those who are all ex- or former- somebodies, would actually be willing to take global warming seriously as soon as there’s a change at the White House:

[NRDC Action Fund spokesman David] Goldston said the Tea Party movement has swept many more deniers of climate change into Congress than ever before, and it has pushed Republicans away from basic environmental principles. He disagreed with others who said many Republicans privately acknowledge the risks of climate change, even if they don’t say so publicly.

“It’s very comforting for people to think that these people are pretending,” Goldston said. “It’s not true. The problem would be in many ways easier to solve if it was true.”

Read the whole thing.  Adragna tries to present the notion that Republicans as a party, as opposed to a handful of dissidents, actually do take this most serious of issues at all seriously.  He lets his sources make their best case…and the take-away is of a party that is in the hands of anti-science crackpots whom those who do know better are powerless to control  Which seems about right.

Oh, and when Mitch McConnel says that:

he [does] not believe in human-caused climate change.

“For everybody who thinks [the planet] is warming, I can find somebody who thinks it isn’t,” McConnell told the newspaper.

I say “shut your festering gob” you hopeless git.  For everyone who says you are any kind of a public servant, I can find someone who swears you enjoy the carnal knowledge of barnyard animals.

Image: Nicholas Bertin, Phaéton on the Chariot of Apollo, c. 1720.

Fables of the Reconstruction, Part Deux

Posted August 15, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags:

If you’re reading this, you owe it to yourself to check out my Balloon Juice colleague Richard Mayhew’s post on the con in conservative proposals for health care reform.  Shorter:  the “reform” is to make sure the wrong people get less and more expensive care under the guise of a variety of measures claimed to be (but not) free market efficiencies.  Also too, why Avik Roy isn’t an expert, but a marginally policy-literate hack.

With that out of the way, more on the joys of home renovation.

First the good news.  It turns out that this problem — the wire formation inside our kitchen walls that I’ve since dubbed “Cthulu’s Hairball” — isn’t actually live electrical wires.  Instead, its what you get before you texting became the way to call the kid to dinner.  Before the internet, kiddies, it turns out, people networked their houses in other ways — including setting up, in 1920, a house-wide intercom system.  “Come, child!”

So, not the fire hazard general wiring nightmare we expected.  We’ve still got plenty of knob and tube spread round the place — wiring we’re replacing in bits as we work on the house.  But Cthulu sleeps.

However…and as those of you who know, know, there’s always something.

Check out this:photo-2

That’s what you get when you open up the wall, and find a sill that has been so chewed up by termites you can sweep it away.  I mean, with a broom.  (We did chunk up the rotten timber a bit, before getting out the sweepers, but still.)

Which is to say, it seems our house was holding itself up out of habit.

Here’s another view:

photo-1

That’s the post at the end of that run of sill.

Ah, our six-legged friends.

What’s bugging y’all today?

Republicans Got Nothing…

Posted August 13, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Republican knavery, words mattter

Tags: ,

So they cheat:

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which came under fire earlier this year for a deceptive series of fake Democratic candidate websites that it later changed after public outcry, has launched a new set of deceptive websites, this time designed to look like local news sources.

The NRCC has created about two dozen of these new faux news sites targeting Democrats, both challengers and incumbents, and is promoting them across the country with localized Google search ads.

The NRCC’s single-page sites are designed to appear to be a local news portal, with logos like “North County Update” or “Central Valley Update.” The articles begin in the impartial voice of a political fact-checking site, hoping to lure in readers. “We’ll take a look at her record and let you decide,” starts one. Then they gradually morph into more biting language. At the very bottom, in a box, is the disclaimer that the NRCC paid for the site.

1534_Cranach_Die_Fabel_vom_Mund_der_Wahrheit_anagoria

This isn’t, apparently, illegal.  But it sure is telling.

The Republican party has a deep, long term problem.  The GOP is wrong on every major policy question.  Economics and recession? Wrong. Environment, climate change, public health? Wrong.  Health care? Wrong. Income inequality? Wrong.  Tax policy? A joke. Foreign policy? Explosively wrong. Infrastructure investment? Wrong.  Border security and immigration? Comically (if there weren’t so often tragic consequences) wrong.  Race in America? Viciously wrong.  Industrial safety? Wrong.  Regulation? Ask the phosphate loving folks of Toledo.  Scientific research? Wrong….and so on.  No links for now because I’m in the middle of day-job urgency, but they’re all there.*  For now, the take-away is that the major policy options that are the central pillars of the Republican party’s approach to governance have a track record, and to a startling degree (not to folks here, I know) those options have failed.  See, for just one example, Sam Brownback’s Kansas.

This is a problem come election season.  The voting – age population nation wide is, as widely documented, moving away from the Republican party.  A focus on certain issues produces real problems for the Republican brand – hence the desperate rush to hide from Obamacare repeal now that the program has actual winners who vastly outnumber any loses.   It’s simply toxic for a Republican to have to answer what he or she would do if the ACA were actually to give way to the status quo ante.  Americans really don’t want to send troops hither and yon…and so on.  Y’all know this stuff Ginger Rogers style:  backwards and in high heels.

So what do you do if you  are a Republican strategist determined to hold on to the House and capture the Senate, knowing that  if Americans were motivated to vote in the proportions that have the full range views on the core Republican policy platform, the Republicans would lose.  To avoid fighting an election on that turf, your weapons are three:

*The gerrymander, to make sure that Republican votes are worth more than Democratic ones in the amount of representation a given vote can “buy.”

*Voter suppression, because it’s always easier to simply deny the vote to the wrong folks than it is to risk even the engineered participation of gerrymandering.

and finally,

*Lie.  Pretend to be something other than you are.  Claim you are a “compassionate conservative” or even better — pretend to be an objective source of facts that are in fact bullshit.

It’s like that old lawyers joke:  when facts and law are both against you, pound the table.

One more thing — here’s the most telling detail in the story of the NRCC’s costly gambit, btw:

[NRCC communications director Andrea] Bozek’s response? “They’re just jealous,” she said, “that they didn’t think of this strategy first.”

Ummm. No. This is a strategy for the desperate, for those with nothing left.  It needs countering, to be sure, but not emulating.

One last note:  the basic GOP approach to elections: to deny the franchise; to construct the mechanics of elections to achieve near-certainty of result; and to create a fictional simulacrum of the media to make reality harder and harder to distinguish — all these are the tools of authoritarians, of one-party states, of dictators.  Which is to say, this is the work of an organization committing treason against the ideal of American democracy.

Factio Grandaeva Delenda Est.

*I’m actually thinking about a long essay that expands on these one liners, which may someday see the light of day…but probably not soon, given the real world’s claim on my sorry butt.

Image:  Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Fable of the Mouth of Truth1534.

And the Internet Shall Make Us Free, Gender Equity Division

Posted August 12, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Gender, gender follies, Technology, words mattter

Tags: , ,

I have a friend in the science writing game (many actually; I’m a wealthy man that way).  This particular friend has built a career out of writing about physics, mostly, along with a bit of math,* all with a truly distinct style, voice, and stance.  The work begins from the true premise: physics and the habits of scientific thinking penetrate (or should) every aspect of experience.  Science ain’t just for the boffins — it’s of value and available to anyone willing to crack a book and wind their brain.

My friend has lots of strengths as a writer, full stop, and as a writer about science.  It’s not just the catchy and earned interplay the work achieves between popular culture and real scientific concepts.  What I love as I read books and articles from my friend is the way each piece is built experientially.  The ideas emerge as the narrative voice lives, does actual stuff (road-trip to Vegas! drop acid! check out the rides at Disneyland!).  This is a writer who wants readers to feel their new knowledge down to the bone.  And to have fun with it while they’re at it.

So my friend put out a book a couple of years ago that showcases all this fine writerly stuff on a topic that doesn’t usually make most folks’ lists of beach reading.  Titled The Calculus Diaries it tells the story of what happens when a fully grown adult — a former English major –sets out to master calculus,  both for the beauty of the math involved and to discover its power as a  guide to just about whatever one may encounter in daily life.

My friend has lots of friends, as it happens, many of whom we share.  One of those was talking to yet a third party a few nights ago, and told that person about the book.  The next day, some of the details had vanished, as they are wont to do.  And so this last person in the chain did what anyone would:  ask the magic Google machine to find that tome about the English major who decided to learn calculus.

Then this happened:

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 5.14.25 PM

Oops.

Or rather, what’s telling is that plenty of folks are pissed off at the Google-bot’s assumption here, but no one, I think, is even remotely surprised.  Ben Lillie — the man behind Story Collider, by the way — is the person who told McManus (whom I don’t know) about The Calculus Diaries, by Jennifer Ouellette, possibly also known to some of you as Jen-Luc Picard, proprietress of Cocktail Party Physics.

La_Leçon_d’astronomie_de_la_duchesse_du_Maine_-_François_de_Troy

Ben wrote up a lovely post for his Tumblr on all this, with at least two motives behind the writing, both of which I share.

One is simply to make sure that our mutual friend Jennifer gets all the credit she deserves for having written a wonderful tale and guide-for-the-math-perplexed that I believe serves as a great gateway drug to really important mathematical ideas.  Also, maybe, this’ll help sell some  books.

The other is to use this bit of search-algorithm-“optimization” to cast the obvious sidelight on the fact of embedded sexism in tech — and really society at large.  That pathology is easy to see when you get dudebros making obvious and public tools of themselves.  But (and of course you see this in the way racism persists) when you set the non-sexist/racist/bigot/asshole bar at the level of not being that guy, not using the c word or the n word, or what have you, the deep social and cultural conditions in which actual racism, sexism, discrimination makes itself felt don’t get touched.  Ben wrote a line I can’t beat on this theme:

One of the wonderful things about relying on computers to help us is that if we’re not careful they’ll tell us who we really are.

And so they do.  And what this one little story means as a practical matter is that as long as the assumption that men do math and women don’t runs so far below the surface that even the Google breathes it back at you….then that’s how you know the war on women, like plenty of other battles, ain’t close to over.  La lucha continua, as we used to say.

Discuss — and go buy some books.

*There’s been a recent detour into mind-brain stuff, but we all have our briar patches, don’t we?

Image: François de Troy, Astronomy Lesson of the Duchess du Main, 1702-1704

Welcome To Hell’s Nightclub

Posted August 9, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Mental Health Break

Tags:

Ladles and Jellyspoons!  I give you 36 seconds of the Guitar Center in Times Square.

(h/t @jodyavirgan)

Pity the poor workers there?

In that vein:  what’s the worst job you ever held? How long did you last?

Everything’s Bigger In Texas, Even The Stupid…

Posted August 8, 2014 by Tom
Categories: bad ideas, Climate follies, Republican follies, Republican knavery, Stupidity

Tags: , , ,

….hell, especially the stupid.

Exhibit ∞:   A top Texas official just announced that the state plans both to sue the EPA over its new carbon rules, and just because nullification has always worked out so well, ignore the hell out of them too [vie The Hill]:

The top environmental regulator in Texas said the state may choose not to follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

At a policy event Thursday, Bryan Shaw said he is concerned the rules “are only the camel’s nose under the tent,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Edward_Lear_-_Camel_studies_-_Google_Art_Project

There are any number of ways to plumb the pure cretinism on display here, but if Mr. Shaw is really concerned about a camel proboscis poking across the line, he might want to think on this:

If Texas ignores the rules and refuses to write a plan to implement them, the EPA would have to step in and write a plan for the state.

IOW: stupid has consequences, as Texans have reason (if not apparently the willingness) to know:

Texas also ignored a 2010 federal rule requiring new industrial plants to obtain greenhouse gas permits. The EPA took over, leading to years-long delays for permits, which caused industrial interests to blame the state for its decision.

If they had Darwin awards for states…

Image:  Edward Lear, Camel Study, 1867

Bonus camel image after the jump: Read the rest of this post »

The Lambs Still Scream…

Posted August 7, 2014 by Tom
Categories: American Inquisition, Decline and Fall, Fundamentalisms, religion, Stupidity, Two Parties -- Not the Same

Tags:

…for the performance artist formerly known as Ann Coulter [via TPM]:

In the column, titled “Ebola Doc’s Condition Downgraded To ‘Idiotic,’” Coulter called Dr. Kent Brantly’s humanitarian work in Liberia nothing more than the efforts of an ego-driven Christian and “the first real-world demonstration of the economics of Obamacare.”

…Coulter then said Brantly left the country to provide health insurance for Liberians because he wanted “his membership in the ‘Gold Humanism Honor Society.’”

“There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism,” she wrote.

I guess this is what you write when you hear that anguished sound inside your head, the one that asks “why aren’t they paying attention to MEEEEEE!!!???”

At least that’s what I hope.  Worse, by far, would be the thought that what Ann Coulter says does in fact reflect broader opinion; that within our great polity, a substantial number of people believe that the suffering of others merits no concern; that there are “right” people to care for, distinguished from those wrong ones — wrong by geography, class, color, what have you.

I’m no Christian myself, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, and in the tradition that I inherited we have a term “tikkun olam” — to heal the world.   From earliest Hebrew School — at least at the commie-liberal orthodox synagogue in Berkeley, California in which I was brought up and become bar-mitzvah — we were taught to view tikkun loam as the singular obligation (one most of us meet terribly imperfectly, of course — but it matters that it’s there as the challenge/demand).  I’ve spoken since with rabbis and other teachers who render the essential demand of Judaism on its adherents in almost-Christian terms, a formula in which the law secondary to action:  keep the Sabbath* and do tikkun olam.  That much, and there you have the sinews of a good life.**

571px-Gustave_Doré_-_Dante_Alighieri_-_Inferno_-_Plate_9_(Canto_III_-_Charon)

There is, of course, a Christian formulation of the same idea, one that comes to much the same point.  Matthew 25:34-40 puts it pretty plainly:

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Which leads me to a last thought.  If Ann Coulter thinks that the Jesus of Matthew 25 is a narcissistic Christian, and she does in fact speak for any recognizable segment of the American conservative movement, then you know all you need to know about the theology of those self-proclaimed guardians of values.  If there is in fact a Christian God, a Christian heaven, and especially, a Christian hell, then it would take a Dante to describe the destination for which Coulter and her ilk are bound. It’s beyond me.

*Which I also do most indifferently, though I find that creating what Abraham Joshua Heschel Abraham Joshua Heschel called sacred time is always restorative, on those rare occasions when I can actually bring it off, even for a couple of hours.

**And so it is, I believe; certainly, as an atheist Jew, that’s where my religious tradition retains its claim on my head and my heart.

Gustave Doré, illustration to Dante’s Inferno. Plate IX: Canto III: Arrival of Charon“And lo! towards us coming in a boat / An old man, hoary with the hair of eld, / Crying: ‘Woe unto you, ye souls depraved!'” (Longfellow’s translation), 1857


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,611 other followers