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Archive for the ‘Social Commentaries’ Category

Jen and I were just remembering 9/11. I said to myself, surely I blogged about this at the time. I didn’t. Surely I wrote about it the next year? I didn’t. But the next year’s post did remind me that I had a paper journal all through that Junior year in college. I located it. I wrote extensively, and have attached it.

A few things were as I remembered them: I did go to Goshen with Katie that weekend. My visceral reactions remain very similar – the collapse of the 2nd tower was the strongest reaction that I had.

A few things were different. I always claimed that I woke up between the first and second plane. I didn’t, it was just after the 2nd plane. I forgot that we had a large prayer meeting at FCA; I think I was president of that organization at that time. I forgot how we all assumed that 10s of thousands of people died that morning, and really, the number of casualties compared to the number of people those buildings could hold was, frankly, miraculous. And heroic.

Anyway, I still don’t want to talk about it anymore. But there’s what I was thinking at the time. And they (I) say that there’s no point learning to read cursive!

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For night two, I’m feeling a bit peatier, with Kilchoman Machir Bay. Tonight, we have:
Marianne Williamson, who could be literally anyone.
John Hickenlooper, John Kasich’s superfriend.
Andrew Yang, wonks wonk, who I’m going to like.
Pete Buttigieg, who is too well spoken for politics and who is my current favorite.
Joe Biden, who has the opportunity to go toe to toe with Trump.
Bernie Sanders, who is delightfully unhinged, and perhaps the only pure candidate out there.
Kamala Harris, who is the presumptive Vice President.
Kirsten Gillibrand, who serves me tons of Facebook adds, including one where I might get a shot of whiskey with her.
Michael Bennet, who had that one speech a few months ago about something, and is now running for president.
Eric Swalwell, who I confuse with another Erik Prince, the guy who is responsible for some private army.

2101: Who is going to interrupt the most tonight? I’m thinking Bennet, Hickenlooper, and Swalwell. Because they are old, marginalized, white guys. (OK, Stalwell isn’t too old)
2103: Look at that guy. I love how Bernie is always the same. You’ve got to love someone who knows who he is.
2104: Bennet! I knew it. Man, I hate debate interrupters.
2108: The thing about Socialism is that it’s not inherently evil, nor is it communism. All of Northern Europe is better off than we are, and socialist.
2109: Bernie is going for the Trump jugular. Bang!
2110: Gillibrand just successfully interrupted. Good distinction between greed and capitalism. Andrew Yang is about to join the interruption club. Just wait your turn for a few minutes. Wait until they hit everyone once before you start interrupting.
2113: Buttigieg speaks like 7 languages. I love that guy.
2114: Swalwell with a successful, not entirely obnoxious interruption. Andrew Yang is obviously roughly as smart as Buttigieg. He might be Sanders’ Vice President.
2117: Swalwell, you go for the king, you best not miss. Joe Biden, with that million dollar smile just flipped it, no problem.
2120: Harris interrupts with a snarky comment about interrupting.
2121: Gillibrand, very tired of her already. She’s last on my list so far.
2123: I totally agree with Buttigieg on this. Let the government compete, on unfair terms, against the for profit insurance companies. Spectacular again.
2124: Yikes, who is going to interrupt Biden talking about his wife and two of his kids dying?
2126: Where is Williamson’s accent from? She will be the most googled this time around.
2132: Everyone wants to provide health care to immigrants. Disgraceful. Non-Americans show just die, especially, you know.
2134: Phew, break.
2139: Kamala Harris just tried to call immigrants people. By the way, great rant.
2140: I wonder what Andrew Yang is doing, other than waiting patiently. By the way, Buttigieg, not obnoxious. Biden, not obnoxious, because he knows this is all going to come to him.’
2144: Mayor Pete doing a sweet religious takedown. I, of course, agree with him.
2146: I think I’m going to tap out at 9 tonight, or the next time they ask Andrew Yang a question.
2150: Some people talked for a while, I was texting people.
2151: Senator Bennet, a rare appearance. Dropping the H-Bomb. If you only get to talk for a few minutes, you’ve got to drop the term Holocaust. Medieval Wall, that’s what he’s for.
2152: Yang! China! Russian asses!
2154: Tariffs are taxes. Export balance on dishwashers. Fantastic! I think Biden is listening to a man in his ear. Do they have men in their ears for these?
2155: Whiskey gone.
2157: Needs to come up with a high calorie, weight efficient version of GORP.
2159: Chuck Todd has to talk over music tonight, last night he had to talk over a live mike.
2200: Buttigieg gets a hard question. He’s answering it well. But it’s going to be a problem with the Blue Line folks.
2202: Jerry Stallwell just told Buttigieg how to run his city. And Williamson, who is there. Kamala Harris just dropped the race bomb. Meanwhile, she’s not the best with her prosecutorial record.
2205: Biden has to answer this one. He was a public defender, not a prosecutor. Zing. He’s not backing down. Bam! I’m surprised.
2207: Harris is coming back in, she’s smart to get herself this screen time on a personal, weepy, debate.
2208: Bernie glad they were yelling past him.
2210: I’m not going to last much longer. Kirsten Gillibrand, still not my favorite.
2211: Mitch McConnell is awful. True story. I’m about to tap out here.

——–
——–
OK.
Buttigieg is my guy, he wins for me. He’s brilliant.
Next was Bernie, because the dude is just so self-consistent.
Biden and Harris in the next tier. Biden was so smooth, in general, but has 40 years of skeletons. Harris was aggressive and strong.
Yang next, I wish that he got more air time, but he’s also a really bright guy.
Williamson was fine.
Hickenlooper, Swalwell, Bennet
Gillibrand last

Overall:
Buttigieg
Warren
Castro
Sanders
Harris
Booker
Biden
Yang
Klobuchar
Gabbard
Delaney
Ryan
Bennet
Williamson
Hickenlooper
Swalwell
Inslee
de Blasio
Gillibrand
Beto

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The Democrats, smartly, did not set up a Varsity and JV debate as was the Republican approach 4ish years ago. Tonight, we have a mixed bag of biggish hitters and also rans:
Bill de Blasio, the maybe current mayor of NYC who no one likes much.
Tim Ryan, who I’ve never seen or heard of before in my life.
Julián Castro, who did something that I liked at some point, but I can’t remember what.
Cory Booker, who seems underwhelming, but fine.
Elizabeth Warren, who is in my top 3 and has a good head on her shoulders and a coherent set of plans that might find bi-partisan support.
Beto O’Rourke, the invisible man, raising his profile for some future run for office, or maybe a sex scandal.
Amy Klobuchar, who is considered awful by those who work for her.
Tulsi Gabbard, who, despite being pretty foxy, is the target of disdain from some of my liberal friends who think she’s also a Russian plant. I have no idea why.
Jay Inslee, who is all about the environment, which is the most important issue on the planet, but which nobody cares about.
John Delaney, who is Tim Ryan’s uncle.

Of these, I see myself liking Warren the best, appreciating Inslee though finding him to be a lost cause, and that’s probably about it. Overall, the only folks on tonight’s stage with even a puncher’s chance are Warren, Booker, and O’Rourke.

The ground rules: The Democratic president for candidate must either be female, minority (it’s not specified whether homosexual counts), or Joe Biden. The eventual running mate can be anyone, unless Joe Biden is the candidate, in which case the running mate shall be both female and minority and probably Stacey Abrams. The rest are around to waste our time and take up space on the stage, like most of the horses in the Kentucky Derby and the other people in the Peach Pit on Saved by the Bell.

I’ll be back in a bit to start typing some stuff.

Side note: yes, I have noticed that Trump doesn’t have Pence on his 2020 signs. I’d guess Jared Kushner would be his next choice, but that would threaten to overshadow Ivanka, which is his real heir apparent. Too bad she’s mute and not explicitly hate mongering. The base is really going to dig that, sure.

2047: Drink for this evening is Glenfiddich Solera 15. I’m barely into this bottle, maybe my third pour. No strong opinions yet.
2102: They say they’re not going to be shy about cutting people off. Elizabeth Warren comes out guns blazing right from the start. Wow. Imagine if the president could speak in complete sentences? That would be awesome!
2104: Klobuchar, the magic genie. She’s saying fine things, but billionaire yachts and student loans are two different things.
2106: Someone just asked Beto for specifics. Hilarious! What is your specific number? What the hell is he doing. That was like 30 seconds in Spanish, where he probably disclosed what his marginal tax rate was. Hehehe. No, he will not commit to anything. I love it. I like whoever that moderator is.
2109: This first round of questions is awkward. Everyone wants to get their opening statement out there, so they’re not answering questions. Senator Warren gets a second shot before Tim Ryan gets on camera. Please, someone aggregate the total time that each of these candidates get. I would love that.
2111: Julian Castro gets a softball about the wage gap. He also had a good start.
2112: Gabbard, good resume. Foxy gray streak. Not answering the question.
2113: de Blasio comes out strong, with an actual democratic policy.
2115: John Delaney, whoever he is, has some policy information lined up. I’ll tell you, I watch all of these debates. This is the most substantive I’ve seen in a while. Things we’re going to do. Good for them, people got the memo.
2116: Inslee jumps on with unions. Sounds strong, looks presidential.
2117: Tim Ryan! He gets in finally. Ohio. Came in with some heat. Just a dude.
2118: Elizabeth Warren, loving her. This has been a wonderfully organized debate so far. People on time, no gaps, get to everyone. Moderators barely showing up, just as they should.
2121: All foam and no beer. The other one that’s not Klobuchar, Gillibrand or whatever, wants me to donate and maybe she’ll have a shot of whiskey with me.
2122: Warren up again – she’s dominating the time. Remember how Fox News was all about Rubio last time? NBC is all about Elizabeth Warren. O’Rourke is doing the whole “let me tell you about this area man.” It’s not the State of the Union Beto.
2124: de Blasio does the first interruption. Beto looks like death warmed over. This guy Delaney, whoever he is, just jumped in too. How long until someone notices that the white men are all interrupting, and point out that if the women did this, they’d be excoriated.
2128: Warren does the interrupting with something specific and relevant. Governor Inslee shaking his fist, talking about reproductive rights.
2129: Klobuchar just did the obvious on women’s reproductive health. Guys, Gabbard is just stately, look at her.
2130: Pretty sure trans abortion isn’t really a thing.
2131: Wheels came off a bit for a minute or two there. Jay Inslee, the largest man, took over.
2131: New Jersey companies being held criminally liable. Cory Booker coming on strong against pharmaceutical companies, which are evil.
2132: What is Beto doing? Umm, something about being in jail for pot and Purdue pharma.
2133: Phew, take a break.

2135: So far, Warren is dominating. Booker, Castro, Delaney are all showing well. de Blasio and Inslee are bugging me. Klobuchar doesn’t sound like a president. Beto is a grown 9 year old. Tim Ryan spoke for 30 seconds.
2136: That image is going to give me nightmares forever. Castro, by the way, is awesome also.
2138: Second Spanish speaker has a better Spanish accent. I think. Castro knows the name of a law.
2141: What is going on. Beto is not going to win. I have no idea what Castro is busting him on.
2142: By the way, no Republican is going to go for this Spanish-off.
2143: Castro is pissed at O’Rourke.
2144: John Delaney, did not know he was a Maryland congressman.
2145: Klobuchar, maybe HUD Secretary or something.
2146: Congressman Ryan, with his dead eyes, was just caught staring off into space. Good Ole “Same Question, Congressman Ryan.” Give the man 45 seconds in a row, and he will get rolling though.
2147: Cory Booker has an interesting look on his face right now. I think I like this face; serious, enraged, focused.
2149: ICE Agents sounds funny when you say it out load.
2149: Isn’t it Tulsi Gabbard time again?
2150: Dulaney’s grandpa.
2150: Cory Booker, got himself back on stage. Senator Klobuchar, she’s not that bad. But she’s not going to be president.
2153: Chickenhawk Cabinet, nice one Tulsi. Did she just call him Michael Bolton, or did I do that in my own head. It’s not Michael Bolton right?

2159: Recapping the rules, where de Blasio, Inslee, and Delaney don’t interrupt. What is happening in the audience? Bad NBC. Let’s see if Trump is still watching.

2206: I’m getting tired. Guns. Remember when we cared about people shooting kids a few months ago? Too many problems. Warren, how are we going to keep kids safe. We can do the sensible things. Good for Warren.
2208: Warren/Booker. I like that ticket. Buttigieg is my guy though. I don’t know if the Dems would put out a Warren/Buttigieg ticket. I feel like there’s no way they’ll pick two white people.
2212: Tim Ryan, I’d give him a cabinet position. O’Rourke, not terrible on this one. It looks like he puked in a bag and ate some pretzels during the break.
2214: Klobuchar, I like her sidelong glances. And she has an Uncle Dick.
2215: License to buy a firearm is just common sense. Blah blah blah.
2216: Congressman Delaney, who is he again, and why does he keep interrupting? Yikes, de Blasio has a black son, this is awkward.
2218: I am Senator Warren, and I have a plan.
2220: I’m getting tired with this. Delaney punching above his weight, whoever he is.
2221: Governor Inslee pointing his finger ominously. Climate change. OK, I’ll stick around for this. Governor Inslee can’t do anything to save Miami, sorry. Miami is gone. I wish I could bet against the climate. Should I be buying land in Alberta, the world’s next bread basket.
2223: Congressman O’Rourke, you put out a “p-p-plan.” That’s what I’d call it.
2224: I’m going up after the next time Tulsi is given an opportunity to speak. But let’s be honest, she’s polling at like nothing, so why should she talk? Other than her poised posture and electric gray streak.
2227: Full question for crazy-eyed Tim Ryan. Elital! Nice!
2229: By the way, Cap and Trade on Carbon is the right approach.
2229: Tulsi! OK, I’m ready to go upstairs. I like her cadence. Not great for a time limit, but she speaks well.

—-
—-
OK, I’m done. Warren won. Booker and Castro did well, second tier. de Blasio, Delaney, and Inslee were annoying. Tim Ryan remains irrelevant, but says good things. Klobuchar seems wry, I like her, but she’s also not going to win. I can’t have an objective opinion on Gabbard since I have a crush on her, but I think she was pretty good. Beto O’Rourke lost.

Order:
Warren
Castro
Booker
Klobuchar
Gabbard
Delaney
Ryan
Inslee
de Blasio
Beto

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(A Thousand or So Words) On Guns

America has a problem. It is caught in a feedback loop of fear. Guns beget shootings. Shooting beget more guns. More guns beget more shootings. This brand of mass violence is unique to the United States. I’ve been trying to reason out why.

First, let’s talk 2nd Amendment. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

I’m not going to get into the nuance of the well-regulated militia, as the courts have ruled that the grammar allows for two separate rights: one for militias, one for people who also have the individual right to bear arms. I find that to be a mistake, but regardless, why do we have this right? Transport yourself back to the late 18th century. A ragtag group of revolutionaries, using the weaponry available to both individuals and militaries alike, overthrew the yolk of a tyrant. What is the surest way to ensure that they would never again fall under tyranny? To make the government as scare of the people as the people were scared of the government. Our constitution provided not only for institutional checks and balances, but also societal ones – try to enslave free men (well, you know, the right kind of free men), and face armed rebellion. For a nascent state, this was a real threat.

Many in the pro-gun community espouse this concept as their justification for the right to bear the biggest and best arms. I find this to be absurd, as an AR-15 (or whatever), is no match to an Abrams tank or an A-10 or a Predator drone. I think that most can see, at least at a subconscious level, the ridiculousness of this argument. Strip that away, and in reality, the motivation for owning guns is two-fold:
1) People like guns and think they are cool, in much the same way they like horses or cars or scotch or baseball cards or Van Goghs.
2) People are afraid of the world in which they live and need some way to assert control over it.

I reject #1. Some people think kiddie porn or slavery are cool. We don’t let those people and their destructive habits pollute society. #2, then, is the only valid reason to own a gun. And…part of me wants one for this very same reason.

Long ago, humanity evolved beyond toughness, nerve, and grit. In the past, if you wanted to come for my daughters, you’d have to come through me – and I have more to lose than you have to gain. Human ferocity was a buffer against violence. Deadly action at a distance emasculated the act of violence. Any coward with a fire stick could extinguish any number of brave men with everything to lose. In fact, this is what happens several thousand times a year in our country. Cowards with firearms kill the innocent and guilty alike. How is one to protect his family, when no amount of animal strength or righteous rage is sufficient? By fighting firearms with firearms.

This has led to a literal arms race. Half of society has decided that the toothpaste is out of the tube. They only can think to fight violence with additional violence, a sort of microcosm of the mutually assured destruction of the Cold War. The only way to protect the good guys is to kill before you are killed, or at least provide enough deterrence to make violence less likely in the first place.

But, we’ve all paid the price for this Faustian bargain. Our toddlers are far more likely to shoot themselves in the face with our protection than they are to be shot by a home invader. We are more likely to throw gasoline on a minor conflict when firearms immediately raise the stakes to life or death. We are more likely, in a moment of blind passion, to become the very same threat to our own families that we assumed would come from without. And, we become the enablers of the insane with our lax laws and prevalent weaponry. Most of these shooters are using a legally purchased firearm.

But even if we realize this, we are still unwilling to do anything about it. We refuse to relinquish the perceived control, even if it’s for our own good. This all comes down to control, or the illusion of control, over one’s life.

What I don’t understand is the scale of guns. Guns won’t go away. I think that #2 is a strong enough motivation that we will never be a gun free society. But…it’s the influence of the “guns are cool” crowd that gets us into real trouble. Because guns are cool, we need military grade rifles, with attachments that maximize their deadliness. It’s because guns are cool that people decide to shoot 600 of their fellow men from hotel windows. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. If the crazy person didn’t have a gun, he’d use something else. No. If he didn’t have an AR-15, he’d kill less people. He’d kill the other guy’s daughter, but be stopped before he killed yours too. These aren’t statistics, these are dead people, and less dead people is better than more dead people.

Here’s what I think.

1) Improve background checks because why would you not do that? The only reason because you believe restricting any gun right is the opening salvo in an attempt to roll back additional rights. And so people continue to die because we let terrorists and the mentally ill buy and keep guns. Stop it. And who needs a gun an hour from now, unless they intend to use it to shoot someone an hour from now? A mandatory several day cool off period is only sensible.
2) Limit the use of high powered weaponry to “well-regulated militias.” These well-regulated militias can fulfill the role of Civil War re-enacters. A martial hobby, guys that don’t like the gym getting some testosterone flowing with less effort. Fine. Even let them have MORE weaponry, to fulfill the original intent of the 2nd amendment and serve as a check on power. But also make them financially liable for the actions of their members. If your militia’s grand wizard shoots up a church with your grenade launcher, you are liable. You lose your well-regulated militia license and are sued for millions of dollars. This pretty well takes care of #1.

Let’s be clear. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. But people cannot change. People are what they are, and short of Christ returning, we’re going to keep being evil to each other. No extra hugs are going to eliminate sin. People with knives wound people. People with bricks bruise people. People with guns kill people. And our own fear has made us deserve this fate.

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2052: Part of me likes the Balvenie Caribbean Cask, but part of me thinks it has a stomach bile taste early finish. It’s not the rum, I’ve had this with other Balvenie’s as well. Anyway. We don’t have cable, so if NBC is not broadcasting this after this Ellen DeGeneres flushes people down the toilet game show, this will be a very short live blog.
2055: Will and Grace is still on. I don’t watch TV.
2056: I just realized that I’m sitting on the couch cushion that my 2.5 year old peed on a few hours ago. I’m not going to mention it, less my wife take said cushion away.
2057: I’m not sure Ellen is going to be able to wrap this up on time. Wife asked if I’m live blogging the silent game show (which is on mute, because I don’t care what Ellen has to say really).
2058: Lost the cushion.
2059: Quit your yapping DeGeneres.
2100: It would appear that NBC is doing the SotU. By the way, most of the time I watch things like this on Fox, to see if it is possible to justify this moron. Spoiler alert, I loathe Trump. Other caveat. I won’t make it much past 10 PM.
2102: I forgot the punch line of the story – we do over-air TV and Fox doesn’t really come in.
2103: It’s funny that the Dow lost over 300 points today. Sad.
2103: Guy on NBC. I am the middle. I am also hate watching. Look it’s Megyn Kelly! She was like the 8th one to talk. She sounds more gravely than she used to. I think the Fox News made her perk it up, now she’s going for salty dog.
2105: Melania Trump is in attendance. I feel bad for her. Speaking of which, the Trump campaign (which is currently fund raising) has been reusing the term “complicit,” about 8 months after it was relevant, which gave all the home schools time to add it to their vocabulary list.
2108: I pray he doesn’t use a teleprompter. Is it typical to clap for oneself?
2109: Melania’s cold, dead eyes.
2110: WaPo reports that Melania rode to the speech by herself.
2111: He sounds hoarse, sort of like Megyn Kelly.
2112: I thought Las Vegas didn’t happen? He’s not really playing to his base.
2113: Is this going to be 100% stories of Trump supporters being good to people? It is possible.
2116: OK, we’re waiting for some content here.
2117: I miss watching Nancy Pelosi blink. Instead I can see her chew the inside of her face. By the way, I am the last person who should be standing placidly behind any president delivering a speech. Far too fidgety.
2118: Wife is sopping piss out of couch cushion as she watches. It’s the circle of life.
2119: Here’s where Trump takes credit for Obama’s economy, neglecting the fact that the economy of the socialist EU grow faster.
2121: Pooping Turtle Mitch McConnell.
2123: Our government is very creepy looking, all of them. Wife points out that Don keeps clapping in his own microphone.
2124: Trump just said that $4000 is a lot of money with a straight face. That would pay his Secret Service detail for about 14 seconds. Hey, Staub, bring a black guy with you, would you?
2127: If you believe in fairies, than clap your hands (into the microphone).
2128: Speaking of hands, Kevin Love just broke his.
2129: Ut oh – into the flag portion of the speech. This could be dicey.
2130: I thought that was Baron, but Preston. Clap clap clap clap clap.
2131: Melania really does have nice hair. Here we are in the anthem standing portion! Is Colin Kaepernik in the audience tonight?
2133: Neil Gorusch: Leave me out of this.
2135: Removing Federal Employees who “Undermine the public trust or fail the American people,” which sounds nice, except for who is defining the parameters. Good Lord, that’s scary.
2137: All those people with “Clean Coal Lung”.
2139: I’m want to put anyone who comments on Facebook in a ticker in the live blog. Except that that might be an indication of undermining the public trust or otherwise failing the American people.
2140: I agree with the idea of trying experimental trials. By the way, I was “cupped” at physical therapy today.
2141: Paul Ryan looks like a Vorta from the Dominion in Deep Space Nine. And to paraphrase some other person, Mike Pence looks like someone who does mean things to the X-Men.
2144: You know what would have been handy for updating the infrastructure? The trillion dollars that you just gave to the wealthy…
2146: I’m running out of steam. Go off script. Be a man. Tell us how you really feel!
2147: Bernie Sanders with the most pitiful clap of the night.
2148: Unrecognized by wife, by the way. “Older than I thought,” yes, they are all ancient. Sanders, Clinton, Biden, and Trump. Get rid of old people!
2148: Whatever, prison reform. Are you kidding me? Jeff Sessions wants everyone in jail.
2149: Guys, come in the audience, I’m going to talk about how your daughters were murdered. Seriously, this is in your best interest.
2153: Losing interest. Wife thought that he said cweed instead of creed. Americans are dreamers too – eff those immigrant kids!
2154: Trump located literally every minority Trump supporter and has them in the crowd tonight.
2157: Rubio did not clap about that. Wow. Little Marco Rubio.
2158: Awesome, the government will be evaluating “moral character”. I trust Donald with evaluating moral character.
2159: Ahem. I support letting in every single skilled person that wants to be an American. We should be pillaging the world of their best and brightest. I agree with that.
2200: Donald’s family came to America by Chain Migration.
2201: Running low on Scotch, but not buzzed enough to find this interesting anymore. I like the guy with the whooping cough in the background also. Vaccinate your children!
2203: Trump: good with numbers. That was some nice division there – he knew all the days in the year and the hours in the day. Amazing.
2204: Opiods…not obtained from pushers and drug dealers very often eh. Drug companies, can we call out drug companies? No? Are they on the Trump donation ticker, perhaps.
2205: Tell me she was breast feeding at the exact moment Trump called on them. I have to say, that is awesome!
2206: A young Woody Harrelson, that Ryan the police man. If Woody Harrelson were in American History X.
2208: It’s unfortunate, sadly.
2212: My arms are cold, I need a long sleeve shirt. When possible, we have no choice but to annihilate them!
2213: Got a jacket during the torture section.
2214: Interested in the second half of that sentence, the torture part. By the way, Obama, not very effective at closing Guantanamo Bay.
2216: The Democrats are a grim lot, aren’t they. Ivanka is excited about the Jerusalem thing. She’s got about 40 million reasons to be excited.
2218: How are those Russian sanctions going?
2221: Do people like the personal stories? I want him to cut to the chase. But I suppose this is what people want – reality TV.
2222: I am afraid he’s going to announce that bombers are en route.
2223: By the way, Jeff Session would throw that coal thief into jail.
2224: Are you saying that the Korean guy was a chain migrant or what?
2226: I’m going to pack this up soon. Hopefully Trump is also. It sounds like he’s wrapping it up. USA-USA-USA!
2230: Whoa, Alex Smith signed with the Redskins – I guess Kirk Cousins is out.
2230: He’s still talking, sorry, I faded out for a second. This is supposed to be the good part, written in Stephen Miller’s fever dream.
2231: I want to hear what Megyn Kelly has to say. Savannah Guthrie, never heard of her. He TRUMPeted the economy.
2232: Tillerson is still on the job, by the way. I’m ready to call all that strife fake news.
2233: Megyn Kelly is cynical. “I hate news, States of the Union are sucky, this is all stupid, life makes me empty.”
2235: OK, I’m done here. I can’t stand Trump. He’s signing hats now.

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Stephen Paddock did not “snap”. He meticulously planned to do evil. It is my suspicion that he did this to prove that he could do it – to prove that those idiot amateurs were incompetent and anyone with half a brain could do tremendously more damage. But that’s irrelevant. Stephen Paddock is depraved. So are we.

You see it all the time; someone else’s kid grows up to be a drug addict and you tut-tut-tut at their parents and you look at your angelic kids. I’m better than those parents, a silent, hidden commentary says. But then your kids do the same. The families of mass murderers are always mystified and stunned. Don’t think they are just naive. YOU are naive. That could be your brother or father or son. The drug addled woman that leaves her kids in a hot car at Wal-Mart could be your sister or daughter. The jilted lover that takes out revenge, the loving father with a penchant for prostitutes, the trusted accountant with the off shore shell corporation, the kind housewife with an urge to steal things she doesn’t even want, the police officer whose mind goes blank for just the minute around the time when he shoots an unarmed perpetrator, the guy in the pickup who rams the distracted teenager off the road, the mom who drives home after one too many drinks and kills a toddler. These people are not remarkable. They are not outliers. They are representatives of the human condition, guilty of the corruption that infects all of mankind.

You included. Me included.

Thinks you’re better because you don’t murder? Jesus has news for you. The same infection is in your soul. Think maybe this is for one class of people, but not your class of people? You go to church! You are a police man! You are in the military! You are kind to animals! You donate time and money! You help the helpless! No, you are a whitewashed tomb. And no, you’re not exempt. No one is righteous, not even one.

This condition is not new, it’s as old as there are people. It’s restrained by the rule of law and the societal norms of morality. Both of those are crumbling around us. During the Enlightenment, humankind felt that it was getting better, smarter, more compassionate, more illuminated. Then we killed 100 million of our fellow men and women in a decade’s worth of World Wars. We will not heal ourselves. We will not evolve out of this. Evil, as a general trend, increases proportionally to the population. Sure, for a decade or two things might look better. Sure, specific societal ills may decrease. But our true nature will break through in the end, and we will, sometimes, shoot 600 people. Stephen Paddock was not an Other. He was an archetype of the depravity of all of us. Don’t think yourself immune, lest you too lose focus and expose the evil of your soul.

For all that it has been abused over the centuries, this is one of the key draws of Christianity. Biblical Christianity does not make believe that we are perfect. It acknowledges our universal brokenness. It points to a second archetype, a new Adam, in the form of Jesus. It doesn’t make believe that we become Jesus, it surrenders to that fact that we can’t, and instead falls upon its knees to humbly beg Jesus to save us. From ourselves.

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House of Cards

Every few years, a deck of playing cards is generated immortalizing the “most wanted” within some band of miscreants. There was one for Iraq, one for Al Qaeda, one for ISIS, and more I’m sure. I don’t mind Trump’s choices for several roles. For instance, McMasters and Mattis seem to be perfectly acceptable picks. Others I really don’t know enough about to have an opinion. For the remainder, here’s my list of Trump Cabinet and Adviser playing cards. They are in order of Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, sorted by how much I’d like to see them removed from their position. I’ve left the originals and included their replacements if they are likewise deplorable (though such an organizational scheme is not really extensible).

Ace: Trump, Bannon, Pruitt, Kushner
King: Miller, Sessions, Pence, Ivanka Trump
Queen: Zinke, DeVos, Conway, Spicer
Jack: Priebus, Flynn, Price, Mnuchin
10: Tillerson, Huckabee Sanders, Scaramucci, Perry
9: Gorka, Ichan, McMahon, Pompeo

That’s about as deep as I can go. Now, if we were including Congresspeople, this would be a much harder list to make – lots of tough decisions near the top for the spineless collaborators.

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Automata

Some jobs don’t require humans. In the last 300 years, the number of humanless jobs have increased exponentially. This increase has led to an increase in the overall quality of life of mankind. Without first beasts, then machinery, humanity could not support the billions of people on the planet as we currently do – few would say that agricultural automation has been bad for mankind.

At the time, they did. At the time, machines that would spin cloth were thought to be disruptive to the economy. But we would not have drawers full of clothes without them. Automation has, without question, improved quality of life. More goods, and higher quality goods, at less cost.

But in every age, there is a subset of the population resistant to these enhancements. Don’t automate Wendy’s ordering, for instance, because that will put 18 year olds without a GED out of a job. They need some way to make money. Don’t automate manufacturing jobs, because where else will those people work? But time and again, more automation has led to cheaper, higher quality goods. Do we intentionally hamstring society to provide busywork for the uneducated?

But what about those people who lose their jobs to automation? In theory, we should start working less hours, while the machines generate the wealth (in the form of inexpensive cars or clothes or hamburgers) on our behalf. In theory, there should be less of us – birth rates always decline as a function of societal wealth. But in practice, there will be millions left in the lurch until society adjusts to the new norm. Millions that would prefer their well-being over the “greater good”. And rightfully so. Millions didn’t get an education for one reason or another (some would say it was their fault for not working hard – I wouldn’t always agree with him), 50 of whom can be replaced by a single machine. So do we “make work” to keep them busy? If we had a different sort of government, we might find ourselves with a new WPA, where the state flushes the economy with jobs for the greater good – while bankrupting itself. If we had a different sort of government, we might have a guaranteed minimum income; enough for those left in transition to survive, but still too little to disincentivize some from wanting to earn more through more education and hard work. But nanny states are expensive.

I don’t know the solution. But to me the solution is never willful ignorance. One way or another, time and technology marches on.

By the way, side note…the only way to curb inequality is through cataclysm. Perhaps we’re on the right track after all.

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Preaching to the Choir

I haven’t heard anything back from the Honorable Senator from Montana. Many representatives do not care at all what non-constituents think, even those representatives who sit on committees that impact the entire nation. No matter. I’ll write to our Maryland representatives, even though they already are opposed to our current executive and his feckless policies. Anyway, here’s what I just sent to my representative. It’s some words and then my feelings on gerrymandering. I don’t expect he would have read that far – tl/dr, but what’s the harm. I’m effectively sending blog posts to congressmen.

Representative Cummings,
I wish to offer you encouragement in this difficult time. Without a majority in either the House or Senate, and with a President seemingly unfettered by the bonds of civil decorum or basic human dignity, the majority of Americans can do nothing to affect policy. From the so called Muslim Ban to a multitude of measures meant to enrich his fellow billionaires, most disturbingly those at the expense of the natural beauty of this great nation, there is little to be encouraged about from this legislature and our executive branch.

But even in this time, the seeds of change have been sown. The people have embraced their civic duty and risen united against the perceived tyranny. Our President’s approval rating is at an historic low. At this stage, though you may have few political options, you do hold something more dear: the moral high ground. I encourage you and your fellow Democrats to shine a light of dignity and respect that stands in stark contrast to the darkness that otherwise surrounds us. Embrace your colleagues across the aisle who also operate with integrity in opposition to unamerican orders. Right now, the best thing that we can do is to show kindness and restraint in the face of bluster and blunder. The contrast will be clear come Fall of 2018, when the people will ensure that their voices are again heard in the voting booths.

I would like to take this moment to also encourage you to take a stand against what I believe is the central political evil that brought our country to this current situation: gerrymandering. I know that you did not draw our 7th Congressional District, but its tentacles and holes are illustrative of the problem.

When congressional candidates run for office in a “secure” district, they must embrace more polarized views in order to make it out of the primary. We are left with a legislature that does not represent our national centrist tendencies. Instead, we have a House full of extremists, who answer to the most vocal minorities on the far left and right at the peril of being flushed in the next primary. With no room to compromise with those in the middle, the legislative branch deadlocks. Presidents from both parties rule by fiat via executive orders to fill the void left by an ineffectual legislature.

Because of this, I believe that independent redistricting is the only way to elect candidates that properly represent the rank and file citizens of the Unites States. Please consider supporting all measures that would free our country from its comically intertwined districts and allow the majority of the people to have a say in our government.

Thank you for your time, I appreciate your service, and God Bless America,

Eric Furst

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Spacious Skies

My letter to Montana Senator Steve Daines, chairman of the subcommittee on National Parks:

Senator Daines,
Several years ago, my brother and I spent six nights in the backcountry of Glacier National Park. Though I’ve been on many trips before and since, my visit to your great state and its jewel of a park sticks with me. We saw more wildlife in that week than in any other trip before or since; moose by the dozen, grizzlies, black bears, bighorn sheep, foxes, trout (on my plate), and the biggest owl I’ve ever seen. We spent four nights on the same itinerary as an Army Ranger and his wife – his pack was more than 70 lbs, I swear they brought a cast iron skillet or something. We met a man who hikes hundreds of miles a summer in the park in Crocs and a Jansen book bag. We picked up tips on how to eat like normal humans on the trail, we swam next to a glacier in a mountain lake at Stoney Indian pass, and we celebrated our trip with a huge pizza and a couple of delicious beers.

Why am I telling you this? I don’t have a specific agenda. I want to offer you encouragement. There may come a time when someone who doesn’t know anything about the wild places of our national heritage wants to make decisions that imperil those places. Those of us who love the wild look to folks like you to protect it – fellow backpackers who understand that these places are national treasures. Please look out for our national parks and our state parks. In 20 years I want my daughters to see the same big skies, the same cascading waterfalls, the same stark rock faces, and the same grizzlies (whether the glaciers will be there is a different topic). I want them to toil for 20 miles under a heavy pack to earn vistas only seen by those who seek with determination and struggle.

While I have your ear, I encourage you to support our National Park Service workers. I’ve never met an NPS employee that I didn’t respect and admire. They share in our love for the outdoors. That they are also idealistic and politically active makes them true Americans, even if not everyone agrees with their opinions. I am proud to live in a country where we can safely voice our views, where we practice the refined art of checks and balances both via our governmental structure and directly through the voices of our people, and where the protectors of our sovereign lands would also stand up as protectors of our ideals. Please look past the political inconvenience of their acts to the heart behind them.

Thank you for your time, thank you for your great state, and thank you for your beautiful public lands. I hope to visit again soon.

Eric Furst

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I’ve been thinking a bit about patriotism. For instance, if you see a pick-up truck with three American flags flapping in the breeze, you can say “this is a guy who wants to make America great again.” I roll my eyes and check to see if truck nuts are dangling from the back. The question is, are these ostensible displays really indicative of a more profound love for one’s country?

As I take a step back, I wonder what it means to love one’s country. Is it because of something intrinsic in the nature of the country? Because of what the country stands for, what it represents, what it means to others? Is it because the country gives you something? It is irrespective of any properties of the nation itself, but instead a function of the sacrifice made on its behalf, as though the effort used to forge it imbues value into an inherently neutral apparatus?

And why should I love my country? I love people, is that the same? I love God – is his entangled with this country above others? I love my family – but doesn’t everyone in every country? What makes this country special, and more worthy of love? Or does that miss the point? You love the country because you’re there, if you were somewhere else, it’s your duty to love that place just the same.

What is the currency that this country communicates its value to me? What aspects of the country are worth defending? What, if lost, would leave this place different, other, less lovable? What things make America itself and not something else?

When I think of America, I think fondly of the following – and probably countless more, but at least these:

  • Free Speech – simply “freedom” is too vague; define it please.
  • Freedom of the Press – no power answers to no one.
  • Freedom of Religion – that the nation provides a refuge from whatever theocracy would impose its belief system forcibly upon any people.
  • National Park Service – the crown jewels of the world, specifically the backcountry.
  • State Park System – the land of the people, for the people.
  • Interstate Highway System – the land, all of it, free to all the people.
  • Wartime Mobilization and the Ass Kicking we dealt in WWII and to a lesser extend WWI as a result – those moments of clarity, collective will, civic duty, and unshakable resolve.
  • That we didn’t start a nuclear war during the Cold War – that civilians could think of more than military goals when considering what was good, right, and smart.
  • 4th of July – freedom from tyranny, the voice of the people.
  • Tired and huddled masses – melting pot; take the best from the nations and incorporate them into our social fabric to make us more distinctive, stronger, and smarter.
  • Land of opportunity – to the extent that it exists, to the extent that it is available to certain peoples.
  • Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln, FDR, and TBD – philosopher leaders, thinkers, brilliant people.
  • Martin Luther King Jr, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, and more – exceptionalism in word and deed.
  • Amber waves of grain – open spaces, majestic skies, towering mountains, rolling hills, dense forests, regal deserts, rivers, lakes, the oceans…and America the Beautiful the song.
  • That we went to the moon when we tried – that it hasn’t happened in 40 years, a testament to our ability if given focus.
  • The Postal Service – people hate the USPS, but imagine the mission they have – to provide mail to every address in the entire nation daily; daunting.
  • Public Libraries – so useful, so worth whatever we pay for them.
  • Public Radio – the vector of free speech, the press with the least motivation to skew.
  • Our engineers, scientists and soldiers – the reason why others have to steal our work rather than try to make their own.
  • The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail – interstates for seekers who can find anything they look for within the very land itself.
  • That our Founding Fathers had such high minded ideals – they were attempting to make a different kind of nation.

I wonder what other items should be on my list. As you can probably see, I value things that are not valued by everyone. I see two thirds of these items as being threatened by forces at work in our current administration.

One thing that I would point out: this list is not a list of demands or a list of what the country owes me. It doesn’t owe me anything. I was born wherever I happened to be born, to whatever parents happened to bear me. I wasn’t owed a factory job, inherent in my DNA. That I came to a land that represents life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness is a fortunate accident. I am grateful, and not resentful. It seems that many feel that the country, the land itself, must give something of itself to make it worthy of their adoration. That it exists to service their fancy. And maybe it does; a country is not a physical thing, it is a construct upon which people are invited to exist in a certain way. Perhaps they should expect that the country do their particular bidding. I don’t know.

Just don’t mess with my national parks, or I will come for you.

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The Crucible

I was considering live blogging election night, and apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking I should. So, here we go. I can’t imagine this having any where near the density of calamity of the debates. I have no idea what I’ll have to say. I do know that I drank a bunch of water just now with the express purpose of not waking up dehydrated after my double shot of Talisker scotch.

2035: I’m going with George Stephanoplous (or whatever) and ABC for election coverage. They have like 14 people on their panel. Impossible to get the mike on at the right time. They need to raise their hands or pass the conch or something.

2042: I’m rooting for Clinton here, even though I myself didn’t vote for either of them. So far, VA and Florida don’t look very good. I wonder if they’ve counted Richmond or the DC suburbs yet?

2048: But NC and OH look pretty good. Those two would more or less lock it up.

2049: I’m going to blog whatever my three year old whines about when Jen or I go visit her.

2049: There is an inexhaustible supply of analysts here on ABC. They just went to a war room with a pile of people, and then a secret table.

2052: There are these strange, random interstitial messages that keep interrupting the show that we’re watching. I’m unfamiliar with these things. For instance, one involves chasing a dog, but having psoriasis. I don’t understand these strange messages.

2054: I think I sat on the remote a few minutes ago, because now we’re watching CBS. That explains why there are so many new analysts.

2056: Remind me never to go to Kentucky: 2:1 for Trump.

2100: The second the midwest polls close, the states turn red.

2104: I like NE and ME. Why would you not split your vote? We should split it at the county level. At the individual level! Get rid of the college!

2106: The way I see it, Trump will definitely arrest a few hundred dissenters in the first 6 months after he’s elected (if he’s elected). I feel like I’m maybe at the 10,000 mark? 5,000? How many people would Trump have to elect before he came for me?

2111: Sadly, my three year old is asleep already. I was wondering what she’d harass me about, and what adjective she would use to describe my whiskey breath. Because this is boring.

2119: So, the thing about Florida – Boward (or however you spell it) is half reporting. Trump has a 100,000 vote lead, but in Boward, Clinton currently has a 200,000 vote lead. If you extrapolate that difference, Clinton flips it. But, most people don’t understand thing sort of crazy addition and will instead claim that it is fixed.

2125: I don’t understand how the … no idea what I was talking about.

2136: Is this the first time Pence has been in the same place as Trump?

2140: Stephanie Rawlings Blake from Baltimore on ABC! She’s kinda foxy, was unaware.

2146: I think the late precincts are going to be the city districts. Because they make the city people sit in line for four hours, whereas I sit in line for zero seconds since I live in a place with a real infrastructure.

2201: I need some food, depressed.

2216: Nate Silver just said that betting markets have Trump as a narrow favorite. That’s not good. They don’t tend to lose money.

2232: Our ABC affiliate is covering the Baltimore mayoral elections. And the Senate elections. I need more national fear mongering.

2243: I can only hope that Republicans will impeach him in a few months. It all depends on how Michigan shakes out when the cities report.

2254: Maybe I’ll go to bed and wait for Abby to wake me up and check it then.

2303: I’m done. If this isn’t a spectacular disaster, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. The power of low expectations may define the Trump presidency.

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According to Real Clear Politics, 55% of voters find Hilary Clinton to be an unfavorable candidate. 58% say the same about He Who Shall Not Be Named (HWSNBN). We’ve put ourselves in quite the predicament. The resistible object against the movable force. I do not like either choice, but I do not believe that they are on equal footing. One is a corrupt lifelong politician. The other is a swindling demagogue with authoritarian impulses and a propensity for rash behavior that could destroy life as we know it. Interestingly, none of the 5 living presidents supports HWSNBN. They understand that he lacks the knowledge, temperament, and self-reflection to hold an office with the gravity of president. I share their greatest fear – that the republic will not stand under his rule. Clinton may be business as usual, but in four years there will be an election and another chance to get things right. Are we sure that will be the case if HWSNBN is president?

So, what’s a boy to do? First, according to 538’s Election Forecast, Maryland is the safest state in the union – with greater than a 99.9% chance that Clinton will win. In that case, my presidential vote will not sway the general election. This is freeing to me. My strident opposition to HWSNBN need not force me into the camp of a corrupt oligarch. So, I’m going to vote for Jill Stein.

In the past three years, the myth of the “pause” in global warming has been debunked, as we march ever forward to the desolation of our planet. The topic was barely raised. Politicians stay away from the topic, or outright deny it. I’m voting two ways: 1) against the political parties that gave us two uniformly loathed candidates and 2) for an under appreciated issue of huge importance.

Down ballot is more informative. I am voting against HWSNBN’s right to rule. If I see your sign on the same yard as a sign for him, I am voting for your opponent. I will vote against any candidate who thinks that he is a good idea for this country. I will vote against any ballot measure supported by anyone who thinks he is a good idea for this country. He is a dangerous tyrant who must be opposed, either directly or in the form of a strong bulwark to his political standing. And you thought that Obama abused his executive privilege – be ready for the hypocrite train to pull into the station.

Or maybe he won’t be so bad. Maybe he gets into office, quickly bores of it, blowing off meeting with our allies and enemies, preferring to give speeches about programs he has no authority or money to implement. Maybe he becomes increasingly tired of attempts at his life and holes up in the White House, not even delivering the State of the Union. Maybe he’s elected and the markets tank, millions lose their jobs, and the demographic that brought him to power abandons him. Maybe he does three different things worthy of impeachment in the first year of his presidency, and maybe we end up with 2 and a half years of President Pence and a Republican party split between White Nationalists and Small Government Conservatives. Maybe 3/4ths of his supporters in the aristocracy back-peddle with a sort of revisionist history that’s hard to do in the age of social media. Maybe America is resilient against the strong hand of a dictator to be. It was built to be resilient against it.

Or, maybe it’s as a 55 year old, white, retired military man at my work says – if he loses, there will be a civil war. Maybe if he loses, the rural south is inflamed with racial violence. If he wins, the violence may shift to the cities.

Who knows. Protect your family, hope for the best. I’m apprehensive in any scenario. I would rather live in no country other than America. But we are not immune to the sort of fears and strife that threatens the world as a whole. Humans are capable of all forms of evil. God created government to restrain our sin. It does so imperfectly. We will, as always, reap what we have sown.

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Our National Nightmare

I’m trying to decide if I want to punish the entire Republican ticket. I’m actually kind of torn: currently, I’m planning on voting Green for president (why not), Democrat for House (because the republican’s website is only half complete and looks completely unprofessional), and Republican for Senate (because Szeliga is the most reasonable candidate I’ve seen in a while). But the Republicans nominated the Anti-Christ for president. They need to be learn that this kind of pandering does not fly. So, anyway, another debate.

Tonight: A big glass of Laphroaig 10 years. Tawny Port for Jen.

2100: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show event is tomorrow night.” I thought it was tonight!

2101: Watching with Fox today. I hate Trump so much that I want the coverage to be as friendly to him as possible. Shep Smith doing a good job here. Starting to forgive him for saying that Hurricane Matthew was going to kill all your children.

2102: Fox has a tight rope walk ahead tonight. The Trump ship is sinking, and Fox is as tied up with him as you can get. AND Trump is talking about making his own news station…which will be in direct competition with Fox (not MSNBC, I suspect). How do they treat him here tonight?

2105: Mix Trump’s skin with Clinton’s suit, and you have a creamsicle.

2106: Surprised that Clinton got right to the question rather than 45 seconds of preamble. Impressed. Hey, how about this for the Supreme Court – can they just interpret the law?

2107: Laphroaig is often described as “medicinal”. But man, it’s deep. A nice warmth. Oh, news flash, Clinton wants to push along Obama’s nominee. OK, cool.

2108: Trump subdued again. How long would 2 mg of Xanax take to wear off on a bull moose like Trump? 15 minutes? 20 minutes? We’ll check in later.

2110: 10 minutes of open arguing. This is the Fox style.

2111: Sensible gun control (background checks, terror watch list checks, storage etc). I have no idea who would argue against this. I read a good article on Newtown, CT recently.

2114: So far, Chris Wallace is owning this debate. We’ll see how this goes. He comes in with more authority than the previous moderators.

2115: Roe v Wade was passed by a conservative court, I’m told. Abortion is the worst. Gross. A sobering topic, unlike scotch.

2119: Abortion is an evil evil.

2120: Trump doesn’t actually know how birth works; not on a schedule. But so far, I am not mad with him.

2121: Xanax hasn’t worn off yet, and yet he remains coherent. Still sniffing though. He is backpedaling on a full deportation, focusing instead on the hombres.

2125: Andrew Miller, how about him. Cleveland in the World Series. Sorry, zoned out.

2126: If Chris Wallace alienates Trump and Trump starts boycotting Fox News…will he just hang out in his house until the election?

2127: This is why I don’t like it when my 3.5 year old takes a nap. Isn’t it good that Obama deported millions of people?

2129: It is interesting that the Russian government wants Trump to be president. Do we trust them?

2130: Chris Wallace scolds the audience again. I am enjoying this guy. While I was typing that sentence, we got on to Radical Islamic Terrorism. I’m not following his train of thought anymore.

2131: You’re the puppet! Wow, she struck a nerve there. 23 minutes, he’s starting to come off the rails. What was it last time? To the tape!

2132: It was 22 minutes last time. Off the rails. Chris Wallace. Woooo.

2134: Putin’s not my BFF!

2135: He’s sniffing still, but less.

2136: At least Trump can pronounce Nuclear.

2137: I’m digging Chris Wallace.

2137: Abby, who has no soccer ball, has decided that she want’s to be a soccer ball for halloween. She has wanted this for a month. But she wants to be a soccer ball with red patches rather than black. All right. Whatever.

2138: I’ll be honest, I’ve got the bottle right here with me. I’m not really following this baloney anymore. I keep hearing about this “free school” thing, but I’m skeptical.

2140: No one gives Donald more credit than Donald.

2143: Just watched the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer. Just saying. By the way, I agree – Obama did inherit a tremendous catastrophe economically. Dude’s one of the better presidents we’ve had, as people will acknowledge in a decade or two. Especially in comparison with these dopes.

2146: India is growing at 8% but their per capita income is like $4000 a year or something. It’s really not a fair comparison.

2147: Totally lied, and fact checkers actually said I was right. He was very surprised about that. It’s maybe the first time that he’s ever said something true.

2149: Condescending. Bad experience. He’s doing a good job this time. Less incoherent.

2151: That was a powerful Clinton set piece on experience. She rehearsed that well.

2152: By the way, we would be interested in hosting refugees. These are families feeling terrible situations to keep their kids alive. If Trump actually raised his kids, he would have a little more compassion.

2154: Not attractive enough to be assaulted. Yes, that’s a good point. Chris Wallace, still keeping things under control Another strong Clinton set piece by Clinton here, on women.

2156: Nobody in the whole world has more respect for women than Trump. Not even one. There are 3.5 billion men in the world, and Trump is literally the number one respecter of women.

2159: Third powerful set piece of Clinton, this time about all the people he has belittled.

2200: I’m getting sleepy.

2203: Something something something; someone just sent me to Edible Arrangements Facebook page.

2204: Rather than paying a lawsuit, Trump put up an American flag. OK. Good zing on tax returns.

2205: Chris Wallace, please come back.

2206: Rigged election. This is the scariest part of this whole thing. This is terrifying. Peaceful transition of power from Chris Wallace.

2209: Here we are, a fourth Clinton set piece, this on rigging.

2210: Trump as a human is completely off the rails, but he has gotten better at the debates as he’s gone. Less incoherent stories this time. But he’s letting Clinton dominate. She sounds so much smarter than he does.

2214: Trump’s theories on warfare – the element of surprise – a little naive. The Iraqis are in on the Clinton fix too…

2216: Who cares if Trump was for Iraq in 2003, when he was a blubbering idiot who was not running for president.

2217: I hate the look Clinton gets on her face when she thinks she’s said something funny.

2220: Putin, Assad…let’s see if Clinton does a set piece on the axis of evil world leaders that Trump admires.

2221: Lots of luck Hilary. So, did Trump just concede the election to her?

2223: I want some food. This is silly. He didn’t implode. She continued to only say smart things. That is the standard against which the two of them are judged.

2224: Vast swatches of land. I remember swatches!

2225: Trump is delusional. But he believes it. I guess that’s the definition of delusional.

2227: I think the talking point from this debate will be the part where Trump said he was still considering whether he’d stage a coup against a democratically elected government.

2230: I thought it was going to be over at 10:30, yet here we are. I’m going to get something and go to bed.

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Presidential Debate Two

Another live blog. I think this time I’m going to stop paying attention and riff longer on things that strike my fancy. We shall see.

2057: I’m watching on Fox to be more fair and balanced. Currently, an animated HeMan of some sort is killing an bird in a suburban driveway. I think I can expect some hard hitting analysis.

2100: Hey, it’s the guy that told us that Hurricane Matthew was going to kill our children. Have all the other Fox News people distanced themselves from this cancer?

2102: We’ll be using this debate stage to find out who has raped more women, Donald Trump or the Clinton family. We’re reaping what we’ve sown.

2103: Shep Smith: In the mud, as deep as a really deep thing in the mud.

2106: Are you modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth!? HA! ZAP. Children. Any chance this question will keep them being behaving like children in 15 minutes? Start the timer.

2107: Unrelated, we just found a box with a bunch of shoes appropriate for a 18-24 month old. Emily will have shoes. Trump has come out as measured and calm.

2110: More than calm, he would appear to be actually sedated. He’s going to grab ISIS by the p****!

2112: Clinton making a nice point here – Trump not fit to serve, other Republicans are. “We’ve seen him rape women” is what both Jen and I heard. Rate. Rate. Phew. By the way, it’s awkward that they’re both standing up and walking around. I feel like Trump is going to cram that mike into her skull at some point. By the way, Trump is absolutely calm right now. Last time, he would have interrupted 5 times by now. He has a better strategy this time. Can he do it?

2116: Semi-related, breath right strips are awesome. Really opens up the nasal passages.

2117: I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms – high school, college and so on. I’ve never encountered any distance runner who had any sort of leverage over any women whatsoever. The difference between Trump and people in locker rooms is that Trump thinks he’s allowed to do whatever he wants because of who he is. We might joke about bombing North Korea too, but, yeah, we’re not the damn president.

2122: Bernie Sanders “signed on with the devil”. It’s like they are competing for the souls of the damned over there. They both are collecting souls.

2124: I wonder what Pence’s first name is.

2125: Audience: if they can’t talk or clap, why are they there? Whose fault is that?

2127: For laymen. If you see a “C” on a document, it means “Confidential”, one step lower than “Secret” and two steps lower than “Top Secret”. One thing that Trump has never dealt with is anything associated with anything that a president might do.

2128: The sedation is wearing off. 22 minutes. He did bring up the emails Donald. Actually she might have. He doesn’t listen to anyone who speaks other than himself.

2133: Trump doing better on health insurance. I think he has a self-regulated ativan drip in his pants pocket or something.

2135: Steve Pence?

2136: I want to hear what the woman that looks like a 62 year old Terry Hatcher (behind Trump) is going to ask. She’s trying not to give the stink eye, but failing.

2138: Recently, a Muslim reported another Muslim for using the Arabic term for ISIS on a flight. Witch hunts tend to be a problem.

2140: Donald Trump prefers troops who don’t die in combat (or get captures, or have PTSD).

2141: I don’t think that’s how you pronounce Demagogic. Then again, that is not how you pronounce “terror” either.

2143: Extreme vetting = enhanced interrogation

2145: Someone should give Sean Hannity a call to sort this whole Iraq war thing out.

2147: He’s getting time info from people in the audience. It’s a good idea. I’m not sure the times are equitable either. Someone could do an analysis on it.

2150: Google tells me that it’s Mike Pence. I wonder who Steve Pence is.

2152: I stopped paying attention for a second and now he’s talking about building a post office?

2153: Trump is good on tax here. People like the both of them take advantage of all the loop holes. I think that his tax plan is absolute malarkey, but it would be helpful if these super rich people paid some taxes.

2156: I wonder which of them is more corrupt.

2157: How long is this debate? I think I want to go to bed soon.

2158: I feel like Trump is strong on the tax thing and he probably does understand the tax code better than any other candidate. I have no idea what a carried interest deduction is. By the way, that last thing on Hilary having 30 years to do something about all this and not is probably his best set of debate shots so far.

2202: Aleppo? What’s an Aleppo?

2206: Trump is doing much, much better this time. He may have lost the election a few days ago, but he’s not losing it here.

2207: I’m bored, let’s talk about me. I use breath right strips maybe 4 times a week. I can’t say I’ve ever worn one during a televised debate, but I would consider it under some circumstances.

2210: I like Steve Pence’s stance on Russia in Syria, but Trump just repudiated it. But…do we really want a proxy war against Russia in Syria? Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to show them our tech. At least the stuff they haven’t already stolen.

2210: Anderson, you need to poke your co-moderator and remind her that she’s not running for president. She’s getting hostile. Trump is handling her though.

2215: Trump, for what it’s worth, is going over on this question as well. He keeps complaining, but sometimes he gets to go over too.

2216: Clinton’s getting too laughy and snarky recently. People don’t like that.

2217: Trump’s doing much better in this debate. If not for his enormous disaster this week, he’d be grabbing the American public by the p*ssy and giving them a big wet kiss.

2219: The basket of deplorables thing was kind of accurate. Trump could have gotten away with saying something like that, no problem.

2221: You know what Barack Obama has that Trump doesn’t? Dignity. I like the guy. I have very little beef with him.

2223: Just had to go bring my big ole nose to sniff around for smoke. What’d I miss?

2224: We should just cut the mikes. Can they cut the mikes? Why not?!

2225: I was thinking about the Supreme Court justice thing while on my run today. I’d want smart Supreme Court justices. People that know the law backwards and forwards. People that understand the constitution. I don’t think we should be able to cook the books when it comes to the court, and appoint people that will fight for our political agendas. As a result, somehow, I think we need to change the way that the Supreme Court is selected, taking away from both the President and Congress. How about some kind of election among the bar…or something.

2229: Under absolute, literal siege by the Obama administration. Obama and his cabinet are absolutely camped out outside of coal plants, literally bombarding the coal plants with cannonballs and molten oil.

2231: That fly is absolutely feasting on these literal piles of steaming….I actually don’t believe that, I just thought it was funny.

2233: Climate change, poor, marginalized, climate change.

2234: Karl Becker for the win. Clinton was struggling, but pulled it out. She’s no longer talking about the question, however. Waiting for Trump’s answer, but jabber jabber jabber. Hilary doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up. That’s a good compliment. That was a good question. I’m writing in Karl Becker.

2238: I don’t get Fox’s strategy here. They are submarining the entire political process, talking about how ugly this election is. I mean, I agree with them. Actually, try to put your finger on why people hate Clinton, based on the debates at least. She hasn’t been an awful person in the debates. Nor was Trump this debate. This wasn’t that bad.

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Rock and the Hard Place

Full disclosure: I loath Donald Trump and only dislike Hilary Clinton. I find it unlikely that these opinions will change. That said, I will do my best to impartially judge the one liners and ranting lunacy.

2055: Why is Kevin James’ TV wife so good looking? What is it about Kevin James?

2100: I’m watching on CBS. I don’t think it makes a difference.

2101: Why did we do this to ourselves? Yuck.

2102: I’m not impressed by these people on CBS.

2104: They just showed up – more undecided? I don’t know anyone who might possibly like the Don that does not already.

2104: I think I’m going to get some scotch if there’s a commercial break.

2105: It’s sexist to talk about Clinton’s hideous red pant suit so I’m not going to.

2106: Income inequality is bad, economy is good – I smell a tax cut for the rich.

2108: I think we have a child out of bed and wandering around.

2109: Trump is hilarious. Mexico and China; bang that drum. Forget the job report, forget the economic data.

2111: Trickle down economics. “Trumped up Trickle down”. That’s the fourth time she’s spat some hokey pre-planned comment.

2113: Very small $14 million dollar loan. Very very few maids and butlers, a minimal fleet of cars.

2114: That’s Administrative Assistant Clinton, thank you.

2115: Bring them back by not letting them leave. Someone points out he’s sniffely, he is. Ironic that he’s sick.

2117: Trump cannot not bud in. In 12 minutes, he’ll be interrupting and talking over her every 20 seconds.

2119: Thesaurus: Semi-Exact –> approximate. “Pseudo-Precise” thinks Jen.

2119: I mean 2 minutes, not 12 minutes.

2121: She may never get another word in edgewise.

2122: “Donald, I know you live in your own reality.” Zing!

2123: He cannot help himself. The meds are already wearing off.

2124: “Lester, I tell you this”…Who is Lester? Wait, doesn’t someone normally ask questions in these debates?

2125: HilaryClinton.com is a fact checker. Good idea. Side note: Neither of your plans are going to be implemented.

2126: Cut the mike.

2128: Guys, I’m not going to make it another 20 minutes.

2129: Shut up!

2131: I hope Obama does golf the rest of his life. He keeps saying he’s under audit and cannot release. That’s not a thing.

2133: He’s been under audit for 15 years – I doubt he’ll be done in the next month.

2134: Yeah Lester, tough guy on the audience. Can’t get Trump to shut his mouth for 20 seconds in a row, pick on the faceless peons.

2135: “That makes me smart.”

2136: Something he’s hiding…kinda like those emails. Both of you, ugh.

2138: Braggadocios. That’s how spell check renders it.

2139: Or maybe because you haven’t paid any income tax! Zing! Big hit.

2142: I’m getting bored with this. Also, I don’t really blame him for taking advantage of the laws. I also think he’ll tailor the laws to suit his interests.

2143: If he thinks he’s going to confine the defense industry into a fixed price box…that ain’t gonna fly.

2146: The problem for Clinton. She’s talking right now, saying, blah blah blah. Straightforward, what everyone always says. I want to hear Trump blow hot air again. But then he doesn’t say anything that means anything. I just want him to talk so that he can implode. Surely he will soon.

2148: He’s about to say he doesn’t like guns. Say it, say it!

2149: Note: if you want to build a relationship with me, feel free to stop and frisk.

2151: Let’s talk about black people, a topic on which we are both experts.

2153: I also loath the gun lobby as much as I loath the Donald.

2154: Agree on implicit bias. No one else will that doesn’t already believe it.

2155: The Donald and the no fly list, good for you.

2156: I think Trumps people have a way to taser him. He’s calmed down a lot in the last 20 minutes.

2158: Trump and the manipulation of black voters for temporary gains.

2200: Trump is telling a very confusing story about Maclachi.

2204: Holier than though barb is decent.

2206: One of those things…one of those things you know about if you make $649 million a year.

2208: Private sector hacking is probably worse.

2210: He just lost the obese vote.

2211: Donald wants to cyber.

2214: Whenever she goes off script she says something awkward.

2216: “Longest military alliance in the history of the world…” Fact checkers!? Get on that one. NATO is like 65 years old. No.

2218: Donald is very focused on Donald.

2221: I think Lester is about to ask Donald when he stopped beating his wife, if Lester ever gets to speak again.

2222: Trump’s temperament.

2225: I almost want him to be president to prove him wrong.

2227: They’ve both dropped “cavalier” in 3 minutes.

2228: I’m going to bed. This is paining me. I’m depressed. Clinton was far less of a obnoxious blowhard, but no one changed their mind.

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The other week, my daughter told her babysitter that she didn’t want to play with kids who had different color skin than her at the playground. I found this to be more disturbing than I should. My three year old occasionally comes off as a genocidal maniac when she speaks her ridiculous little mind. I generally know better than to pay her much heed. But, given the state of race relations these last few years and especially last few weeks, I couldn’t help but ruminate on it.

We don’t talk to our daughter about race beyond what the Big Book of Why tells us about melanin. Until we moved 3 weeks ago, our neighborhood was very diverse; say 40% white, 20% black, 20% Hispanic, and 20% Indian/East Asian. We were at the playground constantly, and my daughter played well with all kids, without distinction. She would occasionally make references to the girl with the brown skin, but the category “black” meant nothing to her. In fact, she once called an Asian girl with jet black hair “the black girl” while we were also playing with a girl with dark skin. It is the quintessential “color blind” approach. I kept thinking to myself that maybe if she grows up in an environment like this, she’ll know nothing different and her world will be better than the current one.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t grow up in an environment where the default is an equal footing. In fact, I think it’s impossible to passively maintain an understanding of racial equality. Now, humankind in general and white America in particular have a history of malice and are subconsciously tainted by our culturally inherited prejudices…but even in absence of that, I think it’s still impossible. Children cannot ignore obvious discriminating criteria when making value judgments. Race is too obvious for them to be blind to it.

For instance, you go out on a hot driveway barefoot, and you say “that’s hot, I don’t want to do that anymore.” We always correlate based on limited data. In the case of driveways, it’s called common sense, but in the case of people, it’s called stereotyping. In previously mentioned playground incident, we suspect that she came across some rowdy kids who happened to be black, and generated a theory in her head: kids that look like that always act like this. She then tests that theory with all of her future encounters. She’s said very similar things about big kids and boys previously – she doesn’t want to play with the people that recently made her uncomfortable.

The problem, in my mind, is because of confirmation bias. This is a statistically fallacy that we are all guilty of, and one that, I believe, is further strengthened by our deep seated cultural prejudices. Confirmation bias is the idea that you will make a theory, use all supporting data to support your theory, and ignore all opposing data. For instance, I’ve always thought that cops are more likely to pull over black people and pretty women on the highway. Now, some data would say that this profiling is probably statistically supported (at least the black people part), but that’s besides the point. I find myself seeing a car on the side of the road, making an internal bet (“I bet it’s a black person or pretty woman!”), and then giving myself a high five when it’s true. But when it’s false I don’t say “huh, what a crummy theory.” I instead forget that datapoint and wait for my next high five. Confirmation biases always support your own dumb theories, whether justified or not.

Certain characteristics are obvious and easy to associate. Gender, skin color, weight, height, hair color, and so on. We cannot help but draw correlations between these characteristics and behaviors. Once we make these stereotypes, we cannot help but amplify them with our confirmation biases. In order to avoid developing prejudices from these initially harmless daily observations, we must actively evaluate our thoughts. A three year old isn’t particularly introspective. In those cases, we adults have to help them avoid developing bad attitudes, in the same way that we force them to say please or thank you.

A few voices that I respect recently pointed out that the “colorblind” approach is not doing anyone any good. It’s for the same reason that the “all lives matter” rejoinder to the current discussion is useless. We’re not starting from a place where we are prone to respect everyone equally. To be blind is to ignore reality and to leave it unchanged. We certainly aren’t blind by nature. Look at human history – when have we not enslaved, degraded, and persecuted? To combat these trends, it takes an active approach in opposition to our nature.

I have been thinking about how I could handle it if my daughter popped the “I only want to play with kids with the same color skin as me” statement in my presence. One response is “you’ve played with plenty of people who are different than you, don’t be ridiculous.” But that doesn’t correct anything. Maybe a better one is “people are sometimes mean to other people because they are different than them. You’re not allowed to be. Everybody’s different and you can’t decide who you don’t want to play with until you get to know them. Now get out there and say hello or we’re going home.” She doesn’t get juice if she doesn’t say please, she doesn’t get the playground if she disqualifies friends because of how they look. And as adults, we need to do the same thing, either via deep introspection or by talking to someone who has a perspective that can shed lights on where we fall short. There’s no quick fix here, and we might only be able to identify and address a percentage of our own shortcomings. But we can at least help our kids develop less of them than we did.

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Hillary Cheney

Many people despise Hilary Clinton. She is the ultimate opportunist, backroom oligarch. She has done things that would get other people fired, and is so far undisciplined. She may even end up president, despite all this.

In other words, she’s a liberal Dick Cheney. Recall, half of the population loathes Dick Cheney for equal and opposite reasons. He’s a shrewd operator who tests the bounds of legality to accomplish his goals. While Clinton is a woman who threatens the conservative mindset, Cheney is an old white man who personifies it.

I dislike both of them. I don’t like that they represent an America whose leaders are chosen from a privileged minority of power brokers. But I don’t really hate either. They are products of their environment, bred to fulfill a role in a system that requires such polarization. Maybe we can find some camaraderie in the fact that 80% of us loathe someone for similar reasons.

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Networks

Let’s say that a third of Americans are Republicans, a third Democrats, and a third somewhere in the middle (with me). Right now, something like a third of Republicans are all about Donald Trump, which is noteworthy because he’s an insane neo-fascist megalomaniac. That’s about 1/9th of the population. I routinely cull my Facebook friends, but currently have about 250. Statistically speaking, I should have about 30 Trump supporting friends. They should be super excited since no one like him has ever attempted to run for president, and they should be overflowing my feed with calls to bomb Aladdin’s hometown or exterminate religious minorities. But they’re not. Silence. Since I stay fairly close to the center, I have a lot of conservative facebook friends who consider me a militant liberal since I’m the most liberal person in their circle and a lot of liberal facebook friends who think I’m the second coming of Newt Gingrich because they can tolerate no further right perspective than mine.

And therein lies your explanation. Most people are entirely stovepiped. I’d love to see an infographic from Facebook showing the interconnectedness of people politically. Let’s say that we all just told everyone who we wanted to vote for right now. Then, let’s draw different colored lines from you to all your supporters. I’d have 100 Hilary people, 25 Sanders people, 50 Rubio people, a dozen Bush, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Fiorina, and than like four Cruz and Carson and two closeted Trumps. But there are A LOT of Cruz and Trump supporters. They might have 80% of their friends split between Cruz/Trump (natural bed fellows), with their feeds all about making America Great again, like when we had slavery and so on.

That we are polarized as a country and planet is not a novel observation. I just want someone to render it in a graphic. We cluster ourselves into these narrow silos of like thought. It’s no wonder we hate everything else. We can’t possibly understand it. We drink our own bathwater, almost exclusively. We only hear the strawman version of other people’s views. Everyone on our feed bashes Obama, so we think that everyone must think he’s awful, regardless of what the economy says. There are people out there that think Trump is preaching the Gospel, and all of their friends confirm this assessment. No one reminds them that we all kind of felt bad about interning the Japanese in WWII, because all the people that would have that perspective are having apoplectic seizures about how horrible Cruz and Trump are to each other. No one is convinced. No one is educated. No one sees the other side. No one even looks.

This graphic would show a world divided, two ships, at full sail, passing in the night.

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I’m not the first person to have had this thought. And this chain of events certainly won’t play out; I am, like everyone, apathetic and defeated when it comes to politics. But it would be interesting if it did.

Maybe one day I go to a democratic debate and tell them I’m going to ask a question about, I dunno, how to reform the health care system while still hanging on to the beneficial parts. A layup, they’re all excited to answer it. But instead, when I get the mike, I say, “There are 300 million people in this country, yet we get our leaders from two prominent families. Is there something wrong with our system, or are you really just better than the rest of us?” Hilary Clinton, who has heard this before, will brush it off, saying that she’s not her husband’s shadow and can stand on her own record. The other candidates will cower from it, since they know that Hilary will represent the party and they don’t want to step out of line. The most republicans won’t even touch it, lest they be blatant(er) hypocrites when the next Bush sibling wins their primary.

But maybe the press would give me my bully pulpit for a few days as a reward for my audacity. They’d say “Why do you think that we keep selecting candidates from the Bush/Clinton clan?” and they’d ask me if this is a bad thing.

Winning a presidential election requires two things: money and notoriety. Enough of the latter, and you’ll receive the former (ala Obama, circa 2008). The Clintons and the Bushes have both, in spades. Why does money matter so much? Because campaign finance is hopelessly broken. And why can only a select few achieve the required level of notoriety? Because the voting districts are so hopelessly gerrymandered that the party selects candidates that it knows can’t lose and breeds them to promulgate their political endgame.

Is it a bad thing that only rich and influential people are qualified to govern our country? Only indirectly. A lot of rich people are rich for a reason. They’re smarter, work harder, are savvier, are trickier, are more brutal. These are good qualities to have in a leader. There’s a reason why us listless youths aren’t in charge; we’re not particularly good at focusing on big picture plans. I’m fine with our leaders coming from a narrow aristocracy; say the top 0.5%. It’s how the founding father’s envisioned it, after all. If we pay enough lip service to the fact that we’re still a meritocracy, we’ll be OK despite this. That top 0.5% probably includes within it half of the qualified folks, and that’s a big enough sample size to have some choice. But when we elect on notoriety and money exclusively, we end up with bumbling Bushes election after election.

Surely we can do better than to select candidates from one family or another. Hilary Clinton, I’m sure she’s great. She’s nothing like her husband, none of the smooth charm, so she must have something else keeping her afloat. And Jeb Bush doesn’t seem quite as dunderheaded has his likable brother. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t elect them if for no other reason than the principle of the thing. That doesn’t mean we won’t; if you gave me even odds that either Jeb or Hilary would win, I’d take that bet in a heartbeat. But we shouldn’t. Chelsea’s not old enough to continue it after 8 years, so I feel like we’ll probably want to break that habit at some point. The Bush girls never really seemed serious enough to inherit the kingdom either.

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Get a Haircut

terroristAndStephen

Stephen apparently has long hair again. I’ve never particularly liked it (though I should talk – mine is mighty poofy at the moment), but it’s only really a problem when it makes him look like the most wanted person on the planet. This is a picture of Steve from about 7 years ago. He looks roughly the same now. I hope he at least shaves his ratty ‘stache.

See, this is why I don’t want lunatics with hero complexes carrying guns.

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I’ve done all the other debates, might as well do the last one. I like foreign policy. I’m sure there will be a lot of pointless rhetoric (as with everything) but at least the other people are the bad guys. I also think there’s a big distinction between the candidates, with Romney favoring a more traditional American Superpower worldview, with Obama taking a more subtle worldview which doesn’t project power so virulently.

Anyway, coverage to start when the debate does.

2058: I’m watching this on ABC again, and Broke Girls is on before the debate. I’d atrocious, and I’ve only seen 3 minutes of it.

2100: Bob Schieffer huh. Good, both Jen and I like the seated debates better. It’s harder to be an asshat to the moderator when he’s 2.5 feet in front of you.

2103: The Cuban Missile Crisis was pretty nutty. We did a great job on that one.

2104: I wish they’d just start the debate. Romney is sometimes funny not on purpose. I like his new, gentler approach. Apparently “mean” didn’t poll well. We can’t “kill our way out of this mess”. We’re currently trying to Drone our way out of it, and it’s not working very well. We kill some good people to kill, but every dead child destabilizes Pakistan a little more. Forget Iran, Pakistan HAS nukes.

2107: Obama now taking credit for Libya. And going after Romney.

2108: Romney to go after the bad guys. He’s going to interrupt them. He’s very skilled at that. Al Qaeda Interrupted.

2109: Ugh. I hate economic development in the Middle East, but it’s perhaps a necessity. Again, think of Pakistan. We give them so much money, and all they do is suck.

2110: Obama is picking at gaffes, not answering questions. He’s fixated on Romney’s flip-flopping, not on himself. I don’t like the tenor of his style tonight. Romney is conciliatory tonight, and Obama is coming out as a jerk. He’s doing it haltingly too.

2112: “Attacking me is not an agenda.” So far, Romney is winning, no question.

2114: Status of forces something something something. He said he said going on here.

2115: Ha! Obama got the Israel name drop in first! Vegas had Romney as a huge favorite on that. He’s got to be boiling.

2116: Let’s be clear, we’ve been ineffective in Syria. And it’s true, it’s a giant cluster. We can’t just arm whomever, ala Al Qaeda in the 80s.

2118: Romney and Obama just agreed. Let’s see if they argue about it anyway.

2121: For the record, killing Ghadfi WAS scope creep, when compared to the original UN resolution.

2124: Sorry, drifted off for a second. Obama namedropped Israel again. I thought he was anti-Israel.

2125: It’s hard to predict the future, and we liked Mubarak for long enough and he’s not a radical. This enlightened despot thing has always been a sticky subject for America.

2127: Yeah, Iran should be criticizing OUR economy. His opinion really matters…

2128: That’s awkward – Romney jumped the gun on the next question, and then had the first statement on that question. He has to say the same thing twice in a row.

2129: Man, I have another hour of this? By the way, I go in to work at 11:30 tonight and stay until 9 AM. That should be fun. Then repeat for the rest of the week.

2130: Romney just spoke for about 4 minutes in a row. I’d say our alliances are plenty strong in Asia, as Japan, S. Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, and sort of Taiwan are all terrified of China.

2132: We cut oil because of the great recession. Everyone cut oil when industrial output plummeted.

2133: Romney just ignored the question, and now we’re talking about the economy. He has a 5-point plan! Yeah, zap those unions! I can’t stand unions. Meh, we’re far from Greece. I bet he had that statement prepared, and his handlers said, “if you find a question boring, just throw in that 5 point plan.”

2137: Give the kids an iPad!

2138: Where is Romney gonna get the money for defense? Obamacare.

2140: Obama back to the economy again. Yes, but our engineers make more than China’s engineers. Different costs to execute the same program between countries.

2143: Good news, the sequestration will not happen. Phew. Hey! Horses and bayonets! Ever heard of an aircraft carrier Governor Romney?! Heheheh! That was great. And he doesn’t like Romney’s website! I like that section, it was funny.

2145: Is an attack on Israel an attack on the United States? Obama: it already sort of is and it will sort of continue to be. Iran’s economy is falling to pieces, true.

2147: Romney’s got Israel’s back. Romney wants MORE crippling sanctions. Well, what is Israel picks the fight with Iran, then what do we do? Cause once they hit Netanyahooooo’s cartoon bomb red line, they’re going to try to ineffectively bust their bunkers.

2152: Romney is accusing Obama of trying to engage in diplomacy with other countries. Shame on you, you filthy apologist.

2154: Whoppers. Did you know that Wendy’s is bigger than Burger King? I was confused when I heard that.

2156: We have not dictated to other nations, we have freed from dictators. That’s a packaged remark.

2157: Obama saw real things in Israel, Romney raised money.

2159: Glad you threw out that question, instead of just ignoring it. Which is OK, it was a semi-dumb question. But then he took the rest of the time to talk about other stuff. First rule of debating: Always use as much time as you possibly can.

2202: In Obama’s opinion, we should have killed Bin Laden. Controversial to no one.

2203: Schieffer points out that Romney rambled also. Glad Romney took it in stride. He’s not terrible. I liked Huntsman the best, but the Etch-A-Sketch Romney’s not terrible.

2207: Afghanistan and Iraq might both fall apart before the end of the next term, whoever is president.

2208: Did Schieffer just called him Obama Bin Laden? And what about that Dr that helped us get Bin Laden? What an injustice that was…we should have taken him with us when we got Bin Laden. I’d divorce Jen if she had 100 nuclear weapons. No offense honey, but that’s just irresponsible.

2211: The F-35 is the US’s last manned fighter aircraft. Drones to reign supreme, and we are going to need to make some real rules about that. What if Mexico started bombing drug figures in Arizona? Would we be cool with that?

2216: I don’t like protectionism. But I would have lived cheaper tires.

2217: Romney and Obama both make conciliatory statements toward China.

2219: Romney just made a good point about the trade war, and illustrated it well too. Good stuff from Romney.

2221: Obama is not doing well tonight. He’s trying to fixate on Romney and it’s not working.

2223: All the sudden Romney is trying to stay above the mud slinging. It’s a tactical move, not a life choice. But it’s still working for me at least. It makes Obama look childish. He antagonized him for two debates, got him all stirred up, then backed off. A clever plan.

2226: I wonder who was wrong about that whole bankruptcy business.

2227: Both Obama and Romney are tweeting while they’re debating. Are they doing it directly from their minds? Don’t tell me those tweets aren’t really from them. Appleton, WI! I think he used that last time.

2228: Closing statements. BTW, Lynn University? Never heard of it. Obama in the middle of a good closing statement. Unless Romney really botches his closing, he won this debate, however.

2231: I do get the sense that Romney is winging this closing statement. Bad idea. Obama was muddled throughout, but left everyone with a good taste in their mouth. Romney is now going to work across the aisle. He would NEVER have made it out of the primary if he said that then.

2233: Romney won this, 65-35. America’s not the hope of the earth though, but whatever. Mormon might not understand that.

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Live blogging on the crazy, town hall style debate with Bess.

2102: When do we get one of those hot Fox News anchors to moderate one of these. I love what they do with the English language.

2103: Jeremy’s question can be ignored by the opening statement. He wants a job, Mitt is gonna give him a scholarship.

2105: I’m going to have more fun with the questioners than the candidates I think. He knows how to make jobs, but doesn’t mention how.

2106: The president didn’t ask him if he had a liberal arts degree before saying that his future was bright. It’s the attention to detail that the president lacks. Now he’s offering him a job in a factory. The man’s got a Interdisciplinary Studies degree, he doesn’t want to work in a factory!

2107: Now he’s giving him a windmill. An energy efficient car. And no war. So, a job I guess. To summarize, Mitt mentions that he can make a job, gives no detail how. The president mentions several things unrelated to Jeremy’s job. Good answers.

2108: Good point by Romney on people dropping out of the workforce. We keep not mentioning that.

2110: Obama coming out swinging. Rich people have different rules, he says.

2111: Phillip is from Long Island. He wants to know if the president can change gas prices, despite the fact that it’s nearly impossible since it’s a global commodity. Romney will say he’ll get it to $2.00 a gallon, and no one will offer me a bet against him.

2114: Policies instead of rhetoric says Romney. Romney is whacking him. Now, as it turns out, I agree with Obama’s environmental policy. But the court of public opinion is against him.

2116: Candy is going after the president with this “new normal” business.

2118: I think I see a block of Mormons just to the left of Romney.

2118: They might actually fight. Wow. The fact checkers are going to tell us whether his claim is true.

2120: This is awkwardly contentious.

2121: Obama got a laugh from the audience at Romney’s expense.

2122: Romney just forced himself in, Candy, Candy, Candy. BTW, Candy?

2126: I can’t imagine how Romney’s math adds up.

2128: I can’t imagine how Obama’s math adds up.

2130: A little big of mathematical slight of hand here. He says the top-5% will continue to pay 60%. So, if you reduce the total tax income by giving a break to the middle class, you’ll have to cut it at the top too to keep it balanced. In fact, they’ll get 60% of the break.

2133: Loved Obama’s math lesson. It was just addition, even Long Islanders could follow. Great points here, this is the president’s best diatribe yet.

2136: Yes, trust me, the numbers add up, says Romney.

2137: Romney did definitely get less time there.

2138: Obama has women in his life. Romney’s a Mormon though, so he has MORE women in his life.

2139: Romney threw a bone or two to some poor women when governor. It is true that women have lost more good jobs in the last 4 years.

2142: Why don’t I get paternity leave?

2143: That’s a pocketbook issue? Come on Obama, that’s clearly a sexist phrase. Makeup is a pocketbook issue too.

2145: Pile on Uncle George! And Mitt is talking about something else.

2147: Poor Uncle George. He was like a sleeper Liberal in the White House, but the liberal’s hated him anyway because they’re such a bunch of intellectual elitists.

2148: Not that anyone is reading this, but Bess is putting some funny stuff up over there.

2150: I do like Bush’s immigration policy.

2151: Like the black guy’s gonna vote for Mitt Romney. Speaking of Al Qaeda, I’m not positive that this administration’s drone policies have been appropriate/legal.

2154: Obama is getting a huge percentage of the time.

2155: And, what about Guantanamo Bay?

2156: Not too hard to take shots at Obama’s record. Reagan, schmeagan. Romney knows that not all recessions are created equal.

2158: The immigrant just called Romney Mr. President. And she told him her name was GilLorraine and he believed her. Wow, that was classic.

2159: Agreed! Green cards to educated immigrants! It’s so obvious – steal the talented people from other countries. And he has a good point that illegal immigrants take the spots of legal immigrants. But legal immigrants don’t pick oranges, and neither do Americans. Illegal immigration is the bastard child of capitalism. We don’t want to be $7 a lb for oranges. We don’t want to earn $7 an hour to pick them either.

2202: The flow of illegal immigrants is because the economy is in the tank. Come on Barack, don’t even bring that up. Obama did make the economy so bad that the immigrants self-deported.

2204: Romney does point out that it wasn’t HIS fault 4 years ago. He was drinking Shirley Temples in a dark closet.

2206: Hip hip-hipp hipp hippity hippity hop. Obama’s pension not as big as Romney’s. Good point.

2208: A boy named Sue. Obama confused by looking for a girl named Kerry.

2210: Obama didn’t answer Sue’s question.

2215: Crowds can be terrifying too. Romney just felt chastised, I think.

2217: I can never remember anyone’s name when they tell it to me. Nor can I pronounce my own name. We actually sent assault rifles to Mexico!

2218: I think guns are dumb. We need to get rid of almost all of those.

2219: Yes, we don’t need assault rifles.

2220: Why is it “of course not automatic weapons”, but “of course yes semi-automatic weapons”?

2221: Get married before your kid. Also, get a haircut and get a real job.

2222: Fast and Furious – killed AN American, points out Jen.

2223: I don’t hunt, but if I could hunt with a bazooka, I might try it.

2224: I wonder if Candy knew she’d only get like 7 questions in. I wanted more questions.

2225: The president wants to talk about something else.

2226: Manufacturing leaves because it’s cheaper there. Let’s get rid of unions. Seriously though folks, rapid prototyping is what is going to put America back on top.

2228: Yuck on the currency manipulator business. I doubt he’ll introduce tariffs…because Americans will impeach him if iPhones get even more expensive.

2229: Interestingly, Canada has universal health care. They call it HoserCare.

2230: I was hoping to go to bed at 10:30 guys. Blah blah, OK, time to move on.

2232: The IP stuff is real. Den of thieves over there.

2234: Barry Green loves him some Barry Green. And what a softball!

2235: Massachusetts under Romney sounds like nirvana. And with all those Kennedys!

2236: Most common misconception about Romney? “I will get America working again.”

2237: Most common misconception about Obama? “The next generation has the same opportunities.”

2238: Thanks for answering the questions fellas.

2241: Meh, I don’t know who won. Obama was better than last time. Romney wasn’t any better, and the expectations were higher. We’ll split it.

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Vice Presidential Debate

I’m late because of Bible Study, but here we go.

2108: Biden blibbering and blabbering, uhh, umm, well, uhh, let me tell you, bleh, blah.

2111: Good for Paul Ryan pointing out we should apologize for Taliban urination.

2113: Wife home, hang on. OK, she’s taken care of.

2115: I like this debate better. These guys are less polished.

2116: Biden not going to disclose classified information. Good for you Joe. Good citizen there.

2117: What’s the deal with the little triangle of hair in the middle of Ryan’s forehead.

2118: Biden looks ridiculous. He’s going to explode. I can’t wait until he does.

2119: Ryan charming there, calling Biden Irish. They had to taser Biden for a week of intensive training to keep him from just saying “shit” outright.

2120: Biden is right – nuclear fission is not an easy process. It requires an awful lot of engineering prowess that not a lot of people have.

2122: Biden is patronizing and seething. I love this. He’s a loose cannon. They need to get him off the ticket. Zing! Romney’s a flip-flopper! Just like John Kerry!

2123: Jen notices that the VPs are sitting. Good observation. They should always do that. They seem more comfortable.

2124: Jen confused about Joe Biden’s age, thinks it’s implausible that his parents are still alive.

2125: Biden’s a bulldog. If I remember right, I liked him best in the democratic debates in 2008. Here’s the post from that debate.

2126: Here’s a nice story. Mitt Romney’s a good guy. Ryan zings Biden for his gaffes! Funny! Hahah!

2129: Biden’s family died. Did not know that. That’s a sad story. Biden just knocked out his speech, until the moderator cut him off. She’s got a ton more authority than Lehrer. She should be the democratic vice president.

2132: Martha, Martha, Martha.

2133: The stimulus was a good idea. Sorry Republicans. We’re in a really bad state if that doesn’t happen.

2134: Biden is being something of a condescending ass though.

2135: Ryan gave a nice little speech. Yes, you need to entitlement reform too. See this is easy.

2136: No, Ryan didn’t talk about death panels Joe. Yes, Sarah Palin is a clown. We need to merge these people and together they might be sensible.

2138: Ryan hasn’t been obnoxious. But Biden is twice as aggressive as Romney. Ryan annoyed at interruptions.

2139: O’s tied 1-1.

2140: Yes, Joe, quite interrupting.

2141: Yes, we need to raise the retirement age. People live longer now.

2144: Joe, hush! Ryan just zapped him, and he got obnoxious.

2145: Biden arguing with Raddatz now too.

2145: 800 million billion dollars! I think we call that quadrillion.

2147: You guys interpret numbers differently. You have your own statisticians and your own think tanks supporting you. You’re throwing numbers at each other that are meaningless.

2148: From former college teammate:
“…We need to be careful about raising the retirement age not bc its wrong but because life expectancy is different for different groups of people. Don’t call it retirement if parts of the population wont live that long.” Nice point. Maybe if those different groups had health care, their life expectancy would change too.

2150: This is is an obnoxious back and forth. Biden interrupts to ask if he can interrupt.

2153: I wonder what it means to “demagogue” them?

2153: Ryan has been very patient. He should snap.

2154: Wow, it’s hard to get anything out of this.

2156: Biden is right on one point – we don’t need more tanks and our military agrees with that premise.

2157: OK, not for nothing, but we have a decade long war and lost 2000 men? Vietnam was like 60,000 wasn’t it?

2158: The Afghans just mow through superpowers.

2200: Jeter just struck out. Yeah boy!

2202: Let me tell you what will happen in Afghanistan in 2014. We’ll still have 10s of thousands of troops there. The “combat” mission will end, but we will still be there. Our troops will still die. Biden is going to deal in semantics.

2203: They say Martha’s name a lot more than they were saying Jim’s name last week. Maybe they should say “Martha, Sweetheart”.

2205: Both of these guys are less polished in their English than the presidential debate.

2206: The calendar works the same every year. They agree on that. Sort of.

2207: Biden is correct – a lot easier to fight a war in Libya than Syria. I think he answered that Syria question properly.

2209: Never fight a ground war in Asia.

2210: Ryan right too. Though I think it’s irresponsible to completely bypass the UN. Good point on Biden – you say you don’t go through the UN – but what DO you do?

2213: This debate IS historic. Historically obnoxious and contentious.

2214: Statements of faith. And now abortion. By the way, the baby is alive at 7 weeks. That heart was pounding away. The baby was squirming and moving.

2216: You can hear Biden huffing in the background when he’s off the screen.

2217: Biden’s religion makes him interrupt, because that’s who he is, an interrupter. Now, here he goes on abortion.

2218: Interestingly, there are people out there that are trying to outlaw circumcision, but they’re cool with abortion. Silly, I know.

2220: Come on, the Dems would pick someone equally radical for the Supreme Court – just the opposite sort of radical.

2222: Wow, the moderator asked Biden if he was embarrassed about the tone of the campaign. Let’s see if it answers the question. About the campaign. Here’s a 47% comment. Are you going to answer the question? There we go, finally. For about 4 seconds he talked about SuperPACs which I hate because I think we need major campaign finance reform.

2224: Let’s see if Ryan gets to the part about the campaign attack ads. He, ironically, goes on the attack in answer to the question. OK, he’s not answering that question very well either, as he can’t criticize the SuperPACs.

2226: Ryan’s character is about 12 million jobs. Glad we did that.

2228: Biden’s character is the middle class.

2229: Biden’s closing, he calls his inheritance godawful. Yup, true.

2230: Top of the 9th. Thome up. How about a home run. Put poor Jim Johnson out there again with a one run lead.

2230: Paul Ryan thanks Joe Biden. I like these token statements.

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First Presidential Debate

I’m on ABC today – time for the Presidential Debate. I’ll be blogging live alongside Bess, a raging feminist liberal who is apparently currently drunk. Me, I’m tearing up my house for the baby.

I don’t know if ABC is a liberal news establishment, but I do know that they have a PBS guy moderating. He doesn’t want boos and hisses, that won’t be fun.

2103: They meet in the middle – I wish I could read lips. Fraudulent smiles all around.

2105: Obama gets us off on the right foot – he’s asked a question, he talks about things other than the question. That’s my main metric for tonight, number of times the candidates answer something other than the question.
BO: 1, MR: –

2106: Mitt has a “tender” moment with Barack. Mitt’s finding Joe the Plumber in Dayton and Denver. Mitt is answering the question. Independence, free trade, skills, small business, and something in the middle. He did answer the question. He’s falling behind. “Tickle down government”. Zing!

2108: BO, please respond directly to Mitt’s statement. BO: Let me tell you something about job training.
BO: 2, MR: 0

2111: Romney makes a good point – the rich will live richly regardless of the president. Good point. Uhh, no gas hasn’t doubled. Bess also makes a good point. Mitt’s hair is plasticine.

2112: I do like lists. Romney keeps making lists. I don’t want permits on government land. But it’s consistent with his view.

2114: Obama pointing out that Romney is making promises that are impossible. I do like the differences in body language. Romney looks excited while Obama is talking, possibly even coked up. Obama looks bored, possibly asleep.

2118: Obama oversells the amount of extra money the government will be able to extract from the wealthy. That said, I’m cool with them paying a higher tax rate. He just oversells its economic impact.

2120: Romney does seem to be enjoying himself. He’s not a train wreck.

2122: Not for nothing, but I have tons and tons of deductions and exemptions. I can see why people would like to get rid of them…but I like them. BTW, reducing deductions and loopholes is probably regressive against the middle class, what with their mortgages and whatever.

2125: Don’t bully Jim Lehrer, Mitt. Bullies never win and winners never bully!

2126: Deficit is immoral. How do you cut it? Taxes, cut spending, grow economy. How about all three? Why do we have to throw out one entirely?

2127: Mitt hit a home run with the borrow to China thing, with the Big Bird thing, and with the liking Jim thing. That said, I rather like PBS, except for when they call me CONSTANTLY as they are now. They’re almost as bad as the Red Cross.

2129: Mitt’s patronizing smirk is bothering me. Not gonna lie.

2130: Good for Obama, both revenue and spending cuts.

2131: Mitt’s trillion and “hey, you had 4 years” business was good work. He’s totally wrong about the bi-partisan budget plan. Obama let that rot on the vine. That was bad. He had to grab that and work off of it.

2135: Yes, eliminate government subsidies. Start with biofuels.

2136: Just got bored. Zzzz…

2137: I think Mitt has allergies are something. He’s looking nostalgic.

2139: I kinda like states covering the poor. “States are the laboratories of democracy”. Good.

2143: Bess just had a good Pelosi joke.

2143: I grilled some cabbage tonight for dinner. It was tasty, as far as cabbage goes.

2145: Romney and Ryan have such a complicated relationship. They both want to keep the stick of the other off of them, but they need each other to maintain their internal, Republican power base.

2147: Romney’s blinking a lot too. He has eye problems, medical ones. I’m not sure I need to hold his glassiness against him. What do you think about the voucher system Mitt?

2148: Obama has made universal healthcare the standard. Now Romney needs a plan which includes some aspect of universal health care. In that sense, Obamacare is a success.

2152: Jim’s getting catty. I’m losing focus.

2153: We did a reasonable job on regulation. Dodd-Frank is too complicated. Was their too much oversight? Obviously not.

2155: Good point on clear regulations for Mitt. Nobody’s winning this debate. Jim wants to go to Health Care. I thought we were already talking about that.

2156: I hate personal stories. People from Wisconsin and small businesses blah blah blah. I hate it when they put a human face on things. I’m with Elliot – how about we get some real numbers, and look at those. If there’s anything that needs a good statistic, it’s government.

2158: We’re in an anecdotal evidence fight now. A family in Sheboygan, Michigan pitted against a small business in Duluth, Minnesota. Grudge match.

2159: Another personal tidbit, I was up at 4:45 this morning so that I could start a bench shift at 6 AM.

2159: Does anyone else think that kids should grow up sooner? Move off the parent’s health insurance?

2200: Obama just charmed his way out of the 2-minute warning. And that little point to the side was him motioning for the Navy Seals to be deployed to Jim Lehrer’s house. I see a neck snap in his future.

2202: What if they mandated that states guarantee insurance? Cut a bunch of federal aid if they don’t do it. Is that a terrible idea?

2204: Reduce health care costs = make medical school cost less + make liability less of an issue.

2205: Obama likes buying health care in bulk and trying to find efficient testing methodologies. What’s the downside there? By the way, my health insurance at work costs a whole lot more than it did 4 years ago. Just saying.

22:06: My eyeballs are tired.

2207: Something funny just happened off stage. Was there a streaker? I wish I could see what Barack was looking at.

2207: A while ago, Hanna “I” told me I could never run for political office. Now, I am pretty good with words. But I could never do a debate like this – these guys are so well drilled. In addition, I’d be fidgeting like crazy. Would people find it endearing? Probably not. Bess would make fun of me.

2210: This has been a good debate. Maybe not particularly exciting, but Mitt is doing well, and Obama is his normal eloquent self. He’s becoming more sacrastic and ironic though.

2211: Jen wants to punch Mitt in the face for pushing Jim around. Obama did it 10 minutes ago, but was charming about it.

2214: Even when Obama bumbles, he does it well. Everything he says sounds halfway epic.

2217: Mitt is doing a decent job answering the role of gov’t question. He really is doing quite well.

2218: Romney just called “low income” kids “poor” kids. Who does he think he is, a normal person? A president can’t call people poor.

2219: Budgets reflect principles says Obama, good point. Non-detailed Republican trend, says Obama, good point.

2220: I am getting bored. Jim really is giving Obama more leeway with the time thing.

2222: He’s still going. Cut him off. President not entitled to his own facts, says Romney. Romney is doing a good job hammering the green job thing – by the way, government subsidies in new technologies is not bad.

2224: Jim just used 1 of those last 3 minutes warning about the lack of minutes left.

2225: Bess keep hammering Mormons, and I’m cool with that, since they made up their religion less than 200 years ago and use a bastardized version of Christianity as their basis. But Obama is nominally protestant, and we’re not a whole lot less evangelical in our worldview.

2227:53: Obama starts his “two minute” closing statement. Here’s more “people”. Woman in NC, company in Minnesota. Auto workers in Toledo and Detroit. How many conceptual names can he drop? I wonder if those people or businesses actually exist. No one could call him on it, as they are too vague to be verifiable. 2230:07 – not bad.

2230:10: Romney’s up. Boy, he’s been pretty good. His campaign’s decision to make him into the underdog was a good idea – he was not overmatched here. He hasn’t fake name dropped yet. 2:01 for Mitt! Wow.Good timing.

Man. I’m going to bed.

2233: Look at all those robot children Romney has! That was a nice moment, those families milling about.

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It is impossible to deal with universal health care and the individual mandate debate without getting sucked into a bizarre menagerie of misinformation, twisted truths and politicized contradictions. On one hand, the democrats want to stifle your freedoms while pandering to huddled masses of lazy society-sucking leeches. On the other hand, the republicans, who play king of the hill on the moral high ground, feel that it is the American way to deprive the poor of a decent quality of life because of whatever inborn moral failings rendered them poor from birth. Battle lines are drawn, as each prepares for war against fictitious straw men of their own creations. Everyone argues past everyone else, no one is ever able to find common ground to start a real, civil discussion. I don’t get why people see this as so cut and dry, but I believe that humans are conflict-driven. We don’t find our identity until we oppose something, and as such compromise becomes an existential threat to our core. I don’t see this as a black and white issue. Here’s the way that I view the health care problem.

The Individual Mandate
Many see this as a wanton attack on their personal freedoms. Why, after all, should you be forced to purchase health insurance? I see several reasons – we’ll start with the most basic and move to the more subtle.

Because you can avoid driving, but can’t avoid dying
You should be forced to have health insurance for the same reason you’re forced to purchase car insurance. You are a drain on society at large when you show up to a hospital with some expensive condition, but no way to pay for it. You see, despite how the republicans would probably like it to function, when someone shows up at a hospital bleeding, they treat first, ask questions later. In fact, they’ll willingly treat patients that they know don’t have insurance. It a strange sort of ethics, helping those in need. Whether or not you’re prepared for sickness or injury, it will happen anyway.

But, you aren’t forced to by car insurance, you might say. That’s very true – you are free to not drive a car. But you’re not free to not live. The only way one can avoid the possibility of ever needing medical attention is to cease to exist, and the dead rarely vote in enough numbers to have their views properly represented.

Because medical expenses are ridiculously expensive
But why is medical treatment so expensive? Partly because doctors have to go to school for like a decade before they can practice. As with basically every field in a free market, the more difficult and time consuming your skill is to acquire, the more money you make to practice it. There are other principle drivers in health care cost beyond this obvious and necessary one, as only the very ignorant begrudge the skilled of their just payment. One is overhead, something the government is very good at (in the “they are so inefficient that there is a lot of overhead” sort of way). Another is liability. If a doctor can be sued for $4 million dollars, that money has to be made up somewhere. You don’t show up for your physical and see a $4 million dollar tab because the last guy sued, but 4 million people see an extra dollar, and you’re paying for hundreds of such egregiously overboard lawsuits whenever you see a doctor. It’s a fine line, as lawsuits are a good way to enforce good policy (don’t let your doctors work 36 hours in a row) and dissuade careless mistakes. But I believe reform is needed.

By the way, an aside here. Last year, it cost Medicare $55 billion to cover the last two months of patient’s lives, 30% of which was completely meaningless expense (a source, if that’s allowed). If a treatment doesn’t have any scientific usefulness, why should we pay for it? It’s not like the patient is paying for it – the patient’s insurance and my premiums are paying for it. It sounds reasonable to me that evidence-based medicine, regulated by experts, researchers and doctors should be making decisions about what is and what is not a useful expenditure. We might, for lack of better term, call such a group of experts a Death Panel. You’ve got to give it to Sarah Palin, she’s got a way with the people. Terminology like that is what has gotten us into this political civil war.

Because insurance is supposed to win more bets than it loses
But none of this is why there’s an individual mandate. The reason why Romneycare and Obamacare entail an individual mandate is because there’s no way the insurance companies would take on the rest of the bill without it. When asked what they like about Obamacare, people respond by saying that they like things like a) keeping your dependents on your insurance until they’re 26, b) not having a lifetime max, and c) not being denied insurance for existing conditions. All of these things cost the insurance companies lots of money. If you were an insurance company, why in the world would you provide insurance to someone with a pre-existing condition??? The way you make money is by betting that people, as a whole, will pay more in premiums than they spend in expenses. It’s a guaranteed loss if you insure someone with an existing condition. So…why do people want the ability to get insurance with a pre-existing condition? Because they don’t like the idea of dying! Or they lose their job, and then get a new job, despite the fact that they have cancer. It’s not rocket science (though it might be brain surgery, which will set you back 6 figures). The individual mandate exists for the purpose of providing a guaranteed pool of good bets to counter-balance the bad bets that the insurance companies are forced to take on by the other provisions. Romney’s no economic dummy; that’s why he did it in MA.

Because something’s wrong with this picture
Here’s a survey of who doesn’t have health insurance. Let’s cover “who does have health insurance”:
1) Rich people
2) White people
3) Old people (from the government)
Who doesn’t? Minorities and the poor. Really, it’s the poor – and were you aware that minorities were disproportionately poor? They must lack the good, old, puritan work ethic, right? Or perhaps we’re not as much the land of the free that we think we are? Maybe there exist conditions that foster a tiny bit of injustice? I don’t want to sound too much like one of those bleeding heart liberals or anything, but, really, you’d rather just let people rot in a miserable existence and then die due to lack of care?

The current way doesn’t work!
This is almost too obvious. Here are some more facts. We are horribly inefficient RIGHT NOW, with no Obamacare, with no Romneycare, with our plain old busted up system. Somebody’s got to do something!

In conclusion
There are reasons for an individual mandate, and a whole different set of reasons for why some form of universal health care is a good idea in general. Perhaps this isn’t an issue for the federal government – I can buy that. Perhaps we’d be better off if the state governments set up exchanges, provided a subsidy system akin to food stamps for health care vouchers, then privatized the industry in a decade. There are ways that such a system could be implemented better. But this isn’t about freedom. No one is free to choose to screw over the rest of society. And society isn’t free to choose to screw over those whose voices are too weak to buy themselves the influence to represent their viewpoints either.

For further reading, see Jen K, who has my full support in all things she does, though I find her bolded quote to be an oversimplification, one seeped in conflict and one that would be hard pressed to compromise. Trench warfare with an impossible gap between.

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A couple days ago, North Carolina passed an amendment to their constitution defining marriage to be between a man and a woman.  I don’t agree with such an amendment, though I’m not as fired up (and frankly, as closed minded and vitriolic) as others who have been lambasting the vote.

A few things about the State here…

  1. I don’t see why the state should be involved in this question.
  2. That said, citizens in North Carolina have a right to define their laws via constitutional amendments…
  3. …which is an epically stupid way to run a state, as California can attest to.  Referendums are a horrid way to govern.  There’s a reason why we have a representative government.  The people are short sighted.  Mob rule has never and will never work.  My apologies to the communists and anarchists.  It’s against human nature for the individual to look out for the good of the community.

Despite the civic forum, however, this is primarily a religious question.  And the concept of gay marriage does fall into the religious arena.  Like it or not, the Bible is clear on the issue.  At risk of being burned at the stake as a heretic…that still doesn’t matter in this case.  The Bible Inc never trademarked any of its terminology.  Marriage, as recognized by Christian institutions, should adhere to the rules of the specific religious institutions.  Marriage, as a civil union between consenting individuals, is outside of the church’s scope.

The church (could use a capital C for the Church universal) is a body of believers.  Unbelievers get married every day.  Well, at least every weekend.  The church doesn’t seem to mind this – unbelievers mimicking the Christian institution of marriage.  In fact, I think that the church agrees with this idea.  As a God-ordained sacrament, marriage is an instrument of common grace.  It exposes sin, it roots out selfishness, it can act as an agent of sanctification.  So, if the church sees marriage as a useful tool for evangelism, why limit it through the creation of a legally binding glossary?

If I were to guess, however, legal marriage is only half of what the gay community wants here.  I’d guess that they not only want to be allowed to be married, they want people to agree that it’s not wrong for them to do so.  Can you imagine a state legislating “Gay marriage is both legal, and it is illegal for you to say that it’s wrong?”  I don’t think we’re particularly close to that happening.  Nor should we write a constitutional amendment condemning the wrongness of certain varieties of lifestyle.  We have a sort of constitution that already does that, and, while all men will one day be held accountable to its judgment, the state is not that court.  The Bible was never meant to be a basis for a Christian Sharia law.  We can’t be so aghast about Islam’s legislative morality if we’re so eager to pass our own brand.

So why did this pass so overwhelmingly?  Because people interpreted the amendment as a call to arms.  Because people thought that they were being asked “Please check YES for ‘Good’ and NO for ‘Evil'”.  Because this topic is a shibboleth, a representative issue used to prove your holiness against a tide of worldliness. But I don’t think this sort of legislation helps Christendom.

I’ve been wondering what I’d do if I lived in North Carolina.  I don’t like the question, so I would not provide an answer.  If this were put to a vote in my presbytery, I’d vote.  But in my state…it’s not a battle that I think needs to be fought.

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Backwoods

Too lazy to write this again:

Here’s the link.

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A copy of the letter I just sent to the US Postal Service:

Since moving into our neighborhood in Elkridge, MD, my wife and I have adored our normal letter carrier, Barbara. She always takes care of everyone’s packages, even wrapping them in plastic and tucking them into the door when it rains. She consistently has a kind word at the mail box, and is a bright spot in our days.

Lately she has been very rushed. I understand that the US Postal Service is in an awkward position – you’re an essential part of our infrastructure and are mandated to service locations far and wide, yet are expected to be profitable despite these onerous constraints. It’s a difficult task, and cutting back on workers or delivery days is a reasonable approach to it. I do not begrudge you the tough decisions that you must make.

But for the life of me, I can’t understand why you had a second mail car following Barbara through her route last Thursday. At first, I assumed that he was just switching out a bag or dropping off something – who knows – but as I got closer, I could tell that he wasn’t doing anything in particular. He was listening to Led Zeppelin (a good choice) and gazing off into space. I jokingly asked Barbara if they were sending managers to follow her around and make sure she was working fast enough. A consummate professional, she didn’t answer, though she was clearly upset. But I believe that he was doing just that.

This cannot possibly be efficient. Give the man a bag and let him help at least.

The USPS has a lot of factors working against it in a frugal economy. As a government agency, you are bloated and unwieldy – you will never be as nimble as your competitors. One thing that you do have is a lot of quality people like Barbara who have been serving the community for decades. If you lost that…I’d rather just send an email. Cut costs to stay alive, but remember not to lose your soul in the process.

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In days past, I’ve been prone to developing unrequited crushes. Eventually, you start thinking to yourself, “hmmm – see that look? I think she notices me too.” You have conversations in your head, you run simulations, you start planning for the next, blissful step – if only you can take the first step. And then one day, you run into this girl in the hallway. You introduce yourself, and she asks if you’re new – she hasn’t seen you around before. It was all in your head. Only your head.

Maybe that’s not the sort of thing that you think about in your head. Maybe you think you’re a hero – a protector of the people, someone who looks out for the little guy, someone who takes a stand. You join the neighborhood watch, a selfless thing to do, you think. You keep a vigilant eye on your friends and neighbors – a thin gray-ish line between your peaceful little community and the chaos constantly rapping at the gates.

One day, you see a kid, a black kid, head down and hidden in a hood, talking to himself, walking just a certain way. You know trouble when you see it. This is it, this is why they trusted you with this responsibility. You follow, calling the police so that they can get the right name in the paper when they haul this mope in on an outstanding warrant. He looks back – damnit, he sees you. He walks faster, he’s hiding something, what’s in his pocket? You keep following. He starts to run.

Are you a MAN or are you a coward, George? Are you a man? How many chances will you have to step it up, to put your foot down, to show the thugs and thieves that you’re watching, that the people won’t stand it. There comes a time in a man’s life when he has to decide.

You pursue, he scrambles. It’s a chase, it’s on. You’re gonna be a hero, you think, as you finger the pistol in your jacket pocket…but you ain’t no martyr.

Now let’s say you’re Trayvon Martin. You’re lost in a conversation with your girlfriend – you’ve been talking all day, about pointless things mostly. You get yourself some candy from the convenience store because you’re 17 years old and skittles never killed anybody. As you walk away, you gradually become aware of a man a few dozen paces back. Whenever you turn, he’s there. He’s staring straight at you, a wild look in his eyes. You tell your girlfriend he’s watching you, and her frenzied reaction doesn’t help. You make a left at the stop sign, so does he. You pick up the pace, so does he. You run. So does he. He’s catching you. Heart pounding, it’s fight or flight…and flight’s not working. You turn to face the wild-eyed man, terrified, and he lunges toward you. You fight. You die.

I don’t think George Zimmerman set out to shoot a black kid on February 26th. I’d guess he got lost in his own head, in the illusions of his own heroism. We’ve all be lost in a fantasy before. Maybe it’s about your crush, maybe you’re the boss at work now, and everyone listens to you. Maybe you’re thwarting terrorists, maybe you’re saving a lost soul. And maybe you kept your friends and neighbors safe, aww shucks, any real American would have done the same. And the accolades rain down.

A hero’s complex with a gun is a bad combination. Call me crazy, but I’d rather that those with hero complexes also had martyr complexes. You give your life to save others. There’s a cost, a dear one, and so your heroism and the resultant glory does not come lightly. Nature does it best in the honey bee. The stinger is only to be used for causes so noble that the bee must give up its life to use it.

If George Zimmerman didn’t have his ballistic bravery, he’d never have confronted Trayvon Martin. He would have been forced to snap out of his fantasy, consider the cost, and weigh the evidence. It was a case of the wrong kind of power in the hands of the wrong kind of man.

One man’s life is ruined for nothing, another’s was ended for nothing. Remember that when you get wound into a knot of pseudo-reality. Step back. Count the costs, and not just the cost to you.

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They are building an elementary school near my house. I’ve seen the design plans; it’s pretty spiffy looking, nice lighting, efficient energy usage and all that. They’re replacing a chunk of wetlands/woods with it. Overcrowding is an issue, as people continue to procreate.

Sounds pretty straightforward. But all is not well in sleepy (industrial) Elkridge. We went to a town hall type meeting on the topic with the Hannas tonight. There, we encountered people who were:
1) Angry
2) Ignorant
3) Outspoken

They were angry about a few different things – traffic, parking, a fence, construction noise, and life in general. Some of their consternation was justified – I, for one, agree that traffic will be an issue. But people have NO concept of how to communicate their concerns effectively. Shrill, repetitive, abrasive, abusive, selfish, over-the-top, and occasionally incoherent – 80% of the comments exhibited one of more of those characteristics. One comment found a way to use the phrase “unmitigated nightmare” twice in one compound sentence (though the second time was referring to her grammar). All and all, there were some decent points – but horrid tone throughout, and completely ineffective.

While there were about 75 people there, most of the comments came from 8ish particularly obnoxious individuals. I get the feeling that these people travel from meeting to meeting, rousing ramble spewing venom to anyone who is held hostage in the forum. It was almost not worth it to try to keep order, no one left happy, and nothing was solved.

While the politicians spoke a lot of typical politician jargon, it was all that the people deserved. We are not fit, as a nation, to govern ourselves. We require representatives who are somewhat less ignorant to make our decisions for us. We would never decide anything, and we’d argue a lot while not deciding it. In that way, our politicians are perfect archetypes for us – they represent the barely repressed hatred of the mob toward civility and compromise.

It was definitely a little depressing to see us in action. But at least it was funny.

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Republican Debate

I’m not going to live blog this debate. I don’t want to watch the whole thing. But this is too fantastic.

9:10 PM: Romney just hammered Gingrich. Hammered him. Obama could use those exact words against him. Wow. And Gingrich is horrid.

9:13 PM: Santorum sounding sensible here, comparatively at least.

9:15 PM: Paul whacks Gingrich again – says Congress was chaos when he was in charge.

9:18 PM: Why exactly is gold useful as a currency? It’s sort of arbitrary, isn’t it?

9:21 PM: Romney won’t pay more taxes than he owes. But he should owe more.

9:23 PM: Brian Williams doing a good job here. Jen points out that he looks good too.

9:24 PM: Bet Romney’s not bragging about Staples in 5 years. Hashtag ExpectExtinction.

9:25 PM: So, are we looking at Romney and Santorum vs Gingrich and Paul? By the way, I’m thinking that Wall Street’s failure would have been a good thing.

9:27 PM: So all this about lobbyists being bad, does that mean we’re going to get rid of it? Maybe we should make laws against lobbyists?

9:30 PM: Both Romney and Gingrich started off being very civil. Not any more.

9:32 PM: Gingrich just made sense on the insensibility of government medicare policies.

9:38 PM: I am looking forward to when Obama debates whoever comes out of this. I’d like to hear something different. Everybody sounds smart when they’re the only ones presenting an argument.

9:43 PM: Romney sounds like he knows something about money.

9:44 PM: Wait, Fidel Castro isn’t dead?

9:44 PM: OK, fine, Fidel Castro is going to hell. Glad you guys have that figured out.

9:45 PM: We didn’t generate the Arab Spring.

9:46 PM: I like Paul talking about Cuba. Wow, great answer from Ron Paul. Too bad he’s an anarchist.

9:48 PM: Santorum! Axis of Evil! Al Qaeda’s going to nuke us from Cuba! Hehehehe!

9:49 PM: Love the two hawkish young white guys sitting behind Williams.

9:50 PM: I agree, navy ships are going to be around forever. We should make sure they have bayonets too.

9:51 PM: I’m about ready to leave this.

9:53 PM: Ron Paul just pointed out we committed the first act of war against Iran. Holy cow. Ron Paul on foreign policy!

OK, that’s all for me. Going to bed.

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Mad As Hell, Not Sure Why

Going into an election year, you’ll see a lot of people that are really mad. Remember how mad everyone was at George Bush? They’re that mad a Barack Obama too – not the same people, mostly, but with roughly the same fervor.

Rage should scale with knowledge. If you’re well-informed (by at least one source in addition to Fox News, the Huffington Post, or the Drudge Report) you are allowed to be enraged. If you’re not well-informed, you’re welcome to be mildly annoyed. What really irks me is the people who are ignorant, yet still enraged. If you care so much to whip yourself into a froth over something, at least make sure you have your facts straight. Or at least acknowledge that there are facts, somewhere. Many people could care less about the truth or the opposite perspective in political (or religious or cultural) matters – they believe what they believe and blindly hate whatever isn’t what they believe. I have a hard time supporting such people’s continued existence.

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Death Penalty

The following countries allow the death penalty:
Afghanistan
Antigua and Barbuda
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belarus
Belize
Botswana
Chad
China (People’s Republic)
Comoros
Congo (Democratic Republic)
Cuba
Dominica
Egypt
Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia
Guinea
Guyana
India
Indonesia
Iran
Iraq
Jamaica
Japan
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Lesotho
Libya
Malaysia
Mongolia
Nigeria
North Korea
Oman
Pakistan
Palestinian Authority
Qatar
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Saudi Arabia
Sierra Leone
Singapore
Somalia
Sudan
Syria
Taiwan
Thailand
Trinidad and Tobago
Uganda
United Arab Emirates
United States
Vietnam
Yemen
Zimbabwe

Either the civilized world has lost its mind…
source

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Make believe that I repeat this after every paragraph: if the allegations against Jerry Sandusky are true, he is a criminal and should go to jail. If the allegations against the AD, Tim Curley and the whatever he was, Gary Schultz, are accurate, then they too are criminals and should probably go to jail. If Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a boy and didn’t go to the police, then he too should be in jail – it doesn’t matter if he reported it to Joe Paterno. Paterno? Let’s take a second’s pause.

As far as I can come up with, there are two culturally untouchable topics in American society. Two wrongs that are so toxic in our culture that the mere implication is ruinous. One is racism. The other is child abuse, particularly child sexual abuse. In these cases, no one is allowed to stand up for the accused, without himself being called a racist or an enabler/pervert/whatever. All involved are immediately condemned, no questions asked, no explanation accepted.

The alleged (and let’s face it, likely true) crimes were committed over the past decade. The alleged incident witnessed by McQueary and reported to Paterno took place 9 years ago. The allegations were revisited this spring. The news broke three days ago…and the mob has enacted a swift justice. Once the media catches wind of something, due process be damned, NOW is the time to prosecute the judgments against all involved. Commentators were tripping over themselves trying to ascend to the pulpit in condemnation of all involved. No one stopped to look at facts, no one waited until people had a chance to explain their side of the story, and 60 years of Joe Paterno’s otherwise sterling reputation was thrown away haphazardly in 3 days. Why such a rush to judgment?

While they might claim otherwise, the media’s assault did not save any victims – the process had already taken care of that (albeit about 12 years too late) before they jumped on board. The media serves the appetites of the American people – we love to be outraged. It’s our national past time. Look at politics, looks at sports, look at abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, whatever. We love being outraged. We invent things to be outraged about if we can find nothing else. And when we’re outraged we beat up Muslims and bomb the hell out of third world countries. We circumvent our constitution and basic civil rights. And, this week, we hold a trial in the court of public opinion instead of in a court of law.

Now, I’m not saying Joe Paterno isn’t wrong (how could I, I don’t know either!). A lot of people are wrong here. The prosecutor was wrong for not pressing charges against Sandusky for an unrelated incident in the late 90s. McQueary, who witnessed the act, was wrong to go to a football coach instead of a police officer – I’m very confused as to why he’s not being publicly crucified too, makes me wonder if maybe I don’t know that whole story with him either. That’s what little we know. One thing we don’t know is what McQueary told Paterno.

Consider these completely hypothetical scenarios:
Scenario 1
McC: Coach…I think I just I saw Sandusky being physical with one of the kids from the youth program in the locker room.
JoePa: That’s disturbing Mike. I’ll go to the AD right away and they’ll investigate. I remember some chatter of this before, we should take this up the ladder, I think the school knows what happened with this last time. I’ve known Jerry for 40 years though, I just…it’s just unbelievable – but I’ll pass it along.

Scenario 2
McC: Coach, I’m freaking out. I just saw Sandusky having sex with a boy in the shower.
JoePa: Are you sure?
McC: Positive.
JoePa: Listen, this will ruin everything we’ve built here. If you ever want to work in this industry again, you better shut your mouth or I will ruin you. I’ll pass it on to Curley, let him take care of it and you keep your mouth shut.

Do you see how those scenarios are very different? Which one happened?

We don’t know.

One is an oversight, a miscommunication, an unfortunate but ALMOST understandable travesty. The other is a despicable crime committed by a selfish, power-drunk tyrant. The truth could literally be anywhere in between. That’s why we have courts, lawyers, juries, and judges – to winnow through the stories and come out with something resembling the truth. The media and the mob are not very good at this.

Remember when we played Pile on Richard Jewell? He was an oafish security guard who spotted a pipe bomb at the Atlanta Olympics and saved many lives. The media, using untruths and assumptions, decided that he was really the bomber and dragged his name through the dirt for days. But…he wasn’t.

These situations are why the court of public opinion should not have the sort of power over people that it does. How many times does the media have to be right about something to make up for the time that it’s wrong? This is why I cannot support the death penalty – if Texas executes 100 guilty men and 1 innocent man, then the blood of the one outweighs justice on the others. This case smoldered and festered for a decade. It broke 3 days ago, and now Paterno is flushed without being given the dignity of even defending himself. Couldn’t they have waited a week to get the facts together? Hadn’t he earned the right to a fair trial, or at least an opportunity to share his side of the story?

People will jump at any opportunity to feel superior to other people. They will search for any excuse to tear down a hero. Maybe they were justified this time, but frankly, the mob, in all of its manifestations, terrifies me. When mobs make mistakes, they cannot be unmade. I don’t know what will come of this investigation, I just know that witch trials are not a good thing, even if they occasionally burn real witches.

Addendum
Since I wondered about Mike McQueary’s free pass, extra details have come out. So, how does it change things for McQueary if he did, in fact, go to police? This is why you need to wait until details come out – now, if this is true, you have to wonder why the police didn’t do anything. Pressure from an almighty football program perhaps? Where’d the pressure come from? Paterno? Curley? The president? Did McQueary tell the police and Paterno, but sugar coat the description to the point that neither took it seriously? Questions remain.

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Occupied Territory

I tried to ignore the whole Occupy Wall Street thing for as long as I could. At first, it seemed like any normal obnoxious protest – the sort that the Tea Party people have patented in the last few years. But longevity has proven to be the protesters biggest advantage. It allows them to leverage the fact that they’re unemployed and have no where else to be. Which is, incidentally, part of what they’re protesting about. It’s a perfect storm.

It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what they want – there is no unified theme other than general discontent, mostly centered on economic matters. By the way, correct me if I’m wrong here. If, for instance, they were to produce a modern day Magna Carta, limiting the rights of the Wall Street oligarchy, what would it say? I think if you asked, you’d get a smattering of suggestions, some contradictory, some absurd, but some reasonable if impossible to implement.

I happen to find it ridiculous that any employee of a company would be paid more than a million dollars a year. It’s different for the owner of a business – if he’s successful, he can’t help it. It’s different for an artist, author or athlete – they rightfully collect royalties for their goods or services. But to have a board of directors conspiring to sequester $200 million dollars of profit within their little holy huddle is sketchy. It’s not a free market, remember. Once you take a federal bail out, once you know that you’re “too big to fail”, you no longer need to invest in a way that ensures your future existence. You can toss around money carelessly. In addition, you can use your money as power, further insulating you for “fair” market pressures. There’s not much free market about voting for your own raises.

But the unions don’t really have it right either. This chart is an egregious example of manipulating statistics. Check out the time scale – instead of witnessing a precipitous drop in pay (which might make people think, “good, we’re fixing it”), you see a slow decline, which instead manipulates people’s opinion toward their point of view. Then, you create a chart like this, the number of workers who can be supported on a CEOs salary. There’s a big problem with the logic that if you paid a CEO less, you’d hire more workers. The quantity of work hasn’t changed when you pay a CEO less. You see, I happen to believe that you are supposed to pay people when they do work. Giving a CEO generate no additional work, so why pay someone to do nothing? That’s why I hate unions, at least one of the many reasons, but that’s a different topic.

So, if you cut CEO pay, where should the money go? Personally, I don’t think that’s the most effective way to spread that money toward more civic duties that gold plated crappers (get it, “duties”?). Let the CEOs make $20 million a year. Just don’t let them get off on $3 million in taxes. Get rid of their loop holes, and raise their income tax. And/Or…never pay another bail out again. Make it a constitutional amendment. It would force the companies to re-invest some of the money they throw away on rich people into making the company more liquid and better able to handle the shocks to the economy that they help to create. It’d make them more cautious so as to prevent such shocks from occurring in the first place, and more ready in case it did happen.

So, you want a Magna Carta?
1) Cap tax deductions for individuals at $100,000 a year. That’s a ton. It hurts people who bring in more than $300,000.
2) Increase the income tax rate to, say, 43% on those earning more than $300,000 a year. By the way, my little family makes a friggin ton of money a year, and we should be paying more taxes on it. So, change the rate for the upper middle class too. Whenever the politicians talk about tax cuts for me, I think “geez guys, shouldn’t you be helping someone who actually needs help?”
3) Write an amendment preventing the government bailout of private corporations.

Perhaps it’s a start. Republicans will never do it – most politicians won’t, given how rich you have to be to get in in the first place. Don’t get me started on that – campaign finance reform is one of the most critical things that needs to happen if we’re ever going to set this straight.

One more note: I feel bad for people who have invested time and money in a college education, and yet can’t get a job. I’m sure many of them had more than 12 hours of frat party infested classes a week, and I’m sorry that those people picked a field that makes them unemployable. When the economy turns, they’ll get snapped up. If you spent your teenage years blowing off responsibility and dodging sage advice, and if you never really caught on that hard work is the way to earn your stripes, I’m pretty sure it’d be unfair to give you handouts. You’re like a poor man’s Freddie Mac. All that to say, I think blind, unjustified entitlement is something that impacts the rich and poor indiscriminately. I find it hard to believe that the protesters are made up of any different moral fiber than those they are protesting against. But whatever, it’s at least going to put the Tea Party on its heels, and that’s a good thing.

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I have no republican representative (since I live in Maryland), so I found a nearby one. I’ve sent this to him, my Rep (Sarbanes, a dem), and to Paul Ryan. Here’s the letter:

Rep Bartlett,
As a Maryland resident, it is difficult to find a Republican ear – though you represent a neighboring district, you’re the closest thing I’ve got. It is a difficult time to be a member of the Republican party in general – I would know, I am one. A hardline group of radicals have ridden a surge of populist support into the House. These supposed “Tea Party” members tell people what they want to hear – does anyone, after all, want to pay MORE taxes? Of course not. They have drafted a plan to pigeon hole other Republicans into an inflexible “I will never raise taxes” statement, questioning your very legitimacy as a red-blooded American should you back away from this pledge.

I admit that I do not know your personal record. All I have to say to you is that it is your job to do the right thing for this country, not to win a marketing battle or prove that you’re a “real republican”. People have used such pressure to force all varieties of political and religious leaders into all sorts of reprehensible activities over the course of human history. Tea party members represent a modern day McCarthyism, and are running a budgetary witch trial.

Your job is not to fit in with this mob – though a year ago it looked like this was the only way to win an election. Your job is to do the right thing. I am not a politician. As a reasonable human being, I understand that there is an exception to every rule, that reasonable people can have reasonable disagreements without either side being evil, and that compromise if impossible if one side has adopted a stance that is inflexible in every scenario.

There’s an exception to every rule. Now is the time for BOTH sides to compromise. Now is the time to listen to the voices of reason. The Tea Party members have been the most vocal in the past year or two, but remember that the mob is fickle and those same people that swept them into office will turn against them when their very way of life is threatened by our politicians actions. In the process, you will have alienated another group – the educated and reasonable Americans whose country is being hijacked by the outer fringe.

Good luck, do the right thing, be brave,
Eric Furst

For Paul Ryan’s, I apologized up front for lying to his email pre-screen:

I apologize for lying about my home state. If you were in the Wisconsin state legislature, and not pulling puppet strings for the rest of the country, I would not be contacting you. The truth is, your actions from your corner of Wisconsin impact the rest of us, across the country. Me, I don’t have any Republican representation – I’m from Maryland, between Baltimore and DC – the bluest of the blue.

Then pasted most of the same letter, and ended:

Good luck, do the right thing, be brave – remember that you’ll be running for president some day, and then you really will have to answer to all of us.

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Born in the USA

I know we don’t like CNN. I know Anderson Cooper – bad guy, liberal conspirator. Still, I don’t see too many holes in this investigation of Obama’s birth. I’m not the sort of person that enjoys playing the race card – it’s not really mean to play, generally speaking. Still, when it comes to Obama, when it comes to the litany of laws being written to prevent future Manchurian candidates, it really wreaks of racism. The birther controversy is one of the most obnoxious in recent memory. Ignorance is bliss. I always found it amusing how John McCain actually was born outside of the country, but no one dug into that…

Meanwhile, be on the lookout for some severe weather Wednesday-Thursday around Maryland way (and elsewhere). We’re in line for some nasty storms. At least, the potential exists.

Addendum
I woke up this morning (Thursday) halfway through one of the first legitimate uses of the emergency broadcast system that I’ve ever heard. I’m pretty sure it was for York County, PA, but I’d say that we’re in for an interesting day – if not exactly where I live, nearby. Team Hanna was here for dinner last night, and we identified a tornado on radar near Marriotsville – then had it confirmed by the NWS. Hoping to find another example to show Michael, we went to Alabama and saw the monster that tore through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham on radar. Nothing like having and EF4 tornado handy when trying to show an example of a hook echo and the tornadic doppler signature.

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Modernizing

I have modernized. I have a twitter account; would you believe no one took EFurstie? I have a facebook email address. I finally started using bit.ly for making little tiny links. I’m sending emails to people’s phones, sending emails FROM my phone, and updating twitter via texts. My wife even has an iPod touch.

Why have I all the sudden entered the 21st century, you may ask? While ostensibly researching mass communication (with young, modern people) over multiple mediums for my church’s youth pastor, I am really more concerned with falling behind. I led the charge on internet relationship-i-neering. I was all aboard with the blog, even before it was cool to have a blog – as I enter year 11 of blogging (though only about year 5 of acknowledging that this is, in fact, a blog). I was late to cell phones, didn’t get one till 2003. Didn’t start texting until maybe 2005 – long after the young people. I have the sort of tendencies that most old people have, “Bah! I don’t need twitter! What good is facebook, use your phone, talk to someone, go for a walk in the park!”

I really don’t need anything of these things. Once you reach a certain age, you find that there’s a sort of economy of stuff in your life. You don’t waste your energy on fluffy things that you survived just fine without for decades, thank you very much. You have too many other things to focus on than to waste several hours poking at dumb things on the computer all evening – after all, that’s what you do at work, only they pay you for it there. Meanwhile, the world changes beneath your feet. The modern social interaction is different than the one that existed even 10 years ago. I was very early to IRC, ICQ, AIM – I was on internet relay chat as early as 1995-1996 (Valiant was the original handle). When I was 15 (telling people I was 16 of course. a/s/l, anyone?), people older than me didn’t understand how people could have meaningful, sustained, long-term interactions over such a remote interface. Heck, I fell in love, sight unseen, over the internet 12 tumultuous years ago. Such concepts were flabbergasting to people 10 years older than me.

As for me, why should I care about 140 character strings? What meaningful information could possibly be conveyed in 140 characters or less? I’ll cross 500 words in this post shortly – 140 characters? And yet Twitter has toppled regimes more than once now. What makes it so potent, why is this type of communication taking hold? I can’t see it, but all the young people understand this new, strange sort of economy. They text in 160 character chunks, tweet 140 at a time, and still convey meaningful information. They parse disparate sources from hundreds of directions at the same time, all while listening to Justin Bieber on their iPods, expressionless, with glassy eyes.

I don’t particularly like the future. People are conservative by nature as they grow old – conservative in that they hang on to what they once had, unable to let go, unable to move on. The world passes them by. It’ll pass me by eventually too. For today, I shall tweet. I haven’t given up quite yet.

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Keep in mind how short-sighted and conservative people are when it comes to prognosticating technology. We have an exceptionally difficult time visualizing things outside of our prior experience. We neglect the formation of new business models and novel markets, instead applying all of our myopic assumptions and experiences outward. Most often, people locked into the past get swept away when the future comes.

We’re not always wrong by being overly conservative in our guesses either. I bet they could come up with an equally interesting list of 25 highly touted inventions that fell flat. Does anyone remember someone marketing a new type of soda/juice drink that had the viscosity of spit? I remember that. Never caught on.

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