Category Archives: Elsewhere

For me it’s Johnson vs. Clinton. I know Johnson isn’t going to win and I believe Clinton will probably win.

The advantage with voting for Johnson is that the more votes he gets, the more some of the issues I like will be highlighted, like decriminalizing drugs, ratcheting down police militarization, promoting civil liberties more robustly, and evincing skepticism about policies that might lead the US into another land war in Asia. It will also remind Clinton (assuming she wins anyway) that she needs to fight for our votes.

The disadvantages. Aspects of Johnson’s message I don’t agree with might be highlighted even more. I’m not too keen on decreasing the size of the federal government in the way that he’d probably do it. I don’t know of any explicit statement he’s given on Obamacare this election cycle, but I assume he’s hostile to it and is likely to want something much different from me.

More important, this election requires me to take a stand against Trump in a way that I haven’t really had to take a stand against a major party presidential candidate before. While in general Johnson may take away more votes from Trump than from Clinton, in my case a vote for Johnson takes away a vote I would have cast for Clinton. A vote for Clinton is a repudiation of Mr. Trump in a way that a vote for Johnson isn’t.


Category: Elsewhere

Since this came on on account of Hillary Clinton’s comments about Trump supporters, I suppose I need to tackle my views on that first:

She shouldn’t have said “half.” That was at once specific and ambiguous. It was not good politics, as evidenced by everything that has happened since. Clinton supporters are blaming the reaction, but there was no memo that went out. This was a predictable reaction, and it turned a hard-to-deny statement – that Trump has a lot of supporters that are pretty bad – and turned it into something else. Some of the reaction would have been there regardless, but the margins matter here. And we’d be spending more time talking about Trump supporters – however many or however few – talking about African-Americans needing to go back to Africa. Instead we’re having a situation where even #NeverTrump conservatives shuffled in their seats.

That said, apart from the response, I wasn’t as alarmed or agitated as many people are. I believe Trump is uniquely troublesome and believed this back when BSDI-whiners Yglesias-Chait-Krugman were saying he was better than Rubio. So to a degree, all’s fair. But more than that, I saw past the words she used to the point she was making (which is something I do for Trump as well). Those who have signed on to Trump have signed on to a lot of ugliness. Clinton’s job is to make people want to be as far away from that as possible. By separating it into two groups, she was motioning that some of the light supporters can be differentiated from some of the heavy supporters. It was actually something of a generous point, that got lost with the word “half.”

In any event, my view of this is largely instrumental. The biggest question I have is not whether it was a fair or accurate approach, but whether it was an effective one. But it’s hard to separate the two, because the ambiguous inaccuracy helped the statement (apparently) backfire. And at least on Twitter, it’s putting Clinton supporters in a position where rather than uniting the anti-Trump right, center, and left, it’s dividing between those who hate Trump but not enough, and those who hate Trump sufficiently. It’s not a good dynamic.

Which is where things have been lately. I’m seeing more and more references to the notion that any criticism of Clinton should be taken as pro-Trump. That opposing Trump is not enough, but opposing Trump for the right reasons is key. Which reminds those of us in the anti-Trump center-right that the anti-Trump left are not really our friends. That, as the Trumpers say, the things used against Trump today will be used against us tomorrow. That makes me a little less enthusiastic.

By way of example, here is a tweet that caught my attention:

And it’s tweets like this which leave me in a place not of agreement, but of defending Trump supporters. Which is not my preferred thing to do. But if the weapon used against him today will be used against us tomorrow, it has to be confronted.

The argument of the tweet is that the “half” figure is correct because, hey, half of Trump supporters view black folks as more violent than whites. Now, for the sake of this discussion let’s stipulate that this is the bar by which we determine that people are deplorable and irredeemably racist. With that stipulated, BOOM!

But wait, what about a third of Hillary Clinton’s supporters? A quarter of Bernie Sanders’s supporters. All deplorable and irredeemable? Maybe they should be kicked out of the Democratic Party. No, wait, that’s not a good idea, because if they were the Democrats would never win a national election. Which would be silly.

Here’s the thing. There is no magic number wherein above that number demonstrates that a movement is half or fully racist in nature. We can’t look at Hillary Clinton’s supporters and say that the 31% proves nothing, but Trump’s 48% proves everything. That’s just not how it works. But it’s something I see again and again. The marginal differences statistically define the coalitions. I remember a while back a poll suggesting that something like 38% of Democrats wanted to live around other Democrats and 53% of Republicans wanted to live around other Republicans. People pointed this to proof that the Big Sorting was “A Republican” problem and that suggesting otherwise was “Both Sides Do It.”

Because the magical threshold just happens to be in the margins of those two numbers. As with that, with everything. In the case of racism and Trump support vs Clinton support, if you’re using that chart to delineate you’re essentially picking sides on basically 1-in-5 supporters. That’s not exactly overwhelming.

“But wait, they’re not just racist for answering this particular question this particular way! They’re different because Trump supporters are voting on their racism and Clinton supporters aren’t!”

Well, maybe, but that makes the chart useless as evidence. As does speculation that Actually The (52% of) Trump Supporters Are Lying. If they are, then the data is invalid. And there’s not much reason to believe that Trump supporters would more likely lie about this than Clinton supporters, and reason to believe that if we could read minds it would actually be closer. I mean, imagine a Clinton supporter and imagine a Trump supporter and imagine who is self-conscious about holding views widely considered to be racist?

And so here I am, offering marginal support to supporters of a candidate I loathe. In part because if I don’t, I’m buying into the validity of the chart. And after this election, the weapon used against Trump’s coalition will be used against mine.


Category: Elsewhere

borderfence

{Ed note: This is a precursor to a more complete – and nuanced – post on immigration that’s coming up} (more…)


Category: Elsewhere

Texas and Kansas both have fairy forests, and Michigan and Arkansas both have waterfall campgrounds.

The whole site is replete with various sites in nooks and crannies without our great, expansive country. I’ve never been to a fairy forest, but I bet Lain would have a blast.

I have been to waterfall campgrounds, and they are amazing. When I was younger we used to go on cruises. I remember my first one and how excited I was to be able to go snorkling. I’d never been. The cruises tended to involve the Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Cozumel. You’d do one thing on each island. I can’t remember which we did where, but on the first cruise we did the waterfall before the snorkling. Which turned out to be a bad thing, because the waterfall was way more fun. It was like a pool, but with water coming down.

That’s not too uncommon with elaborate pools having fake waterfalls, but with chlorinated water and all that. I’m not a naturalist and so that’s cool, too. I’d just never been to one of those places except at a water park. And at waterparks, there are so many other things to do you barely notice. In the real waterfalls, you’re kind of forced to appreciate The Thing instead of thinking about The Other Thing you could be doing.

The next island was the snorkling, and it was a real let down. I mean, you had to put on all of this equipment. You got to see some nice fish, but it was all (understandably) more controlled.

Photo by ChrisHaysPhotography


Category: Elsewhere

pigsflyA number of anti-Trump conservatives commented that at some point after the nomination was safely in Trump’s hands, they’d wonder why they have to try to be fair to him. And here we are…

This would have been an interesting experiment to run in 2012. Or 2008. Or 2004. In 2016… meh.

The American Economic Review releases a study suggesting that people do consider hospital quality and other market factors when pursuing healthcare.

Republicans need to cut this crap out.

Matthew Isbell wants to know why TV shows always come up with screwy election maps. I sort of figure it related to how on TV shows Republican politicians being conspicuously pro-choice is a regular thing. Different politics, different map.

nunsThe Internet Archive has 10,000 Amiga titles you can play right now.

This is not as cool to contemplate as supervillain origin stories.

Time’s list on “unfair taxes” presents a subjective viewpoint as objective, but replace it with “least progressive” and you’re making progress. Honestly, though, while I favor a progressive tax code in the overall, I don’t care as much about state and local in particular and favor a tax regime that’s somewhat favorable to high-income households at those levels (but not the federal).

Matthias Shapiro writes of the methodology of religious belief and disbelief.

This guy seems to be everything John Rosemond is arguing against. Elissa Strauss also seems skeptical.

americasurvivesYou guys are going to get tired about links about brutalism, but I’m not going to get tired of sharing them.

Follow the money, as the kids like to say.

So… what exactly is Mountain Dew?

Oooh, free photo editing software.

The weird world of Japanese house addresses.

This is probably a more productive speech than the “Men are dogs. Seriously. Trust none of them.”

The amazing science behind the disposable diaper.

"The right place for an infant is at the nursery, not in the tundra"

“The right place for an infant is at the nursery, not in the tundra”

At Harvard, George Orwell would apparently be a B- student.

David Lapp writes on the legacy of divorce.

Alysse Elhace explains why she’s not going to cohabitate. There may be reasons to cohabit, such as financial concerns, but Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades argue testing a relationship is not a good one.

“It isn’t really a question of whether African American babies were used as alligator bait, but the question is how frequent was the practice?”

For the sake of wildlife conservation, folks are burning ivory. Wolf Krug explains that might not be a good idea.

catfriendWhen consuming an audiobook, your brain does mostly the same things as when reading, depending on what you’re consuming. This tracks with my own experience, where the meatier something is the better it is in text. But the difference is overestimated by some.

Why do we believe the viral myths we believe? Because they have the right heroes and villains.

Experts are not so expert as we are lead to believe. So when should we believe them?

8-Man is pretty cool, made all the cooler by the fact that his powers came from smoking. One of the interesting things I’ve discovered reading.


Category: Elsewhere

On an upcoming Star Trek show, the character of Sulu will be openly gay. This was met with some resistance, as is often the case, but this time from an expected source: George Takei, the gay actor who previously played Sulu.

In his attack, Takei said he felt Pegg and the team had failed to pay due deference to creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision – especially galling given the film is released in Star Trek’s 50th anniversary year. {…}

But Pegg said that Roddenberry’s pioneering work exploring diversity in the series indicated he would have welcomed such a move.

“I don’t believe Gene Roddenberry’s decision to make the prime timeline’s Enterprise crew straight was an artistic one, more a necessity of the time. Trek rightly gets a lot of love for featuring the first interracial kiss on US television, but Plato’s Stepchildren was the lowest rated episode ever.

“The viewing audience weren’t open minded enough at the time and it must have forced Roddenberry to modulate his innovation. His mantra was always ‘infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. If he could have explored Sulu’s sexuality with George, he no doubt would have. Roddenberry was a visionary and a pioneer but we choose our battles carefully.”

Pegg concluded by urging that Sulu’s sexuality shows the multiplicity of human experience across the space-time continuum, showing that “we are all LGBT somewhere”.

There are a few things to unpack here. First, this is largely an artistic disagreement. While I’m sure Pegg was hoping to make a different type of critic, none of the individuals involved object to homosexuality. The crux of it is that Takei spent years playing this character, and as far as he was concerned this character was not gay. Pegg’s view is that it’s more fluid than that.

Which oddly gets a bit into a fundamental question of gayness. Are we all LGBT somewhere? That’s something many in the gay community have been fighting. It lends itself to the idea that their own sexuality is actually fluid, and with the right cultural environment or conversion therapy… you get the idea. We don’t know precisely where gayness comes from, whether it’s (a) something you are born with (genetic), (b) something you choose, or (c) something that happens to you. Or some combination between the three. Or different things for different people.

With the exception of bisexuals, options B and C have concerning implications for the gay community. Indeed, bisexuality itself was looked upon skeptically because it implied B. Whether it’s C or not perhaps shouldn’t matter, but if it’s something that happens to people the natural question for anti-gay activists is whether or not it can be prevented. In any event, apart from Takei’s concerns about changing the character he played, the notion that “We’re all LGBT somewhere” opens the door on B and C in rather direct ways. Sulu isn’t alone in this regard.

For those who haven’t seen Orphan Black, it’s about a series of clones. One of these clones is a Lesbian. How did that happen? Well, it’s possible that there were slight mutations from one clone to another (the lead character was able to bear children, for example, which the DNA was programmed against). But it’s a box I am nonetheless surprised that they opened.

Marvel Comics had a weird situation a few years back where a younger version of a character was gay (not bisexual – gay) and the older version was not. They resolved this by having the older version in the closet throughout. I’m not an X-Men guy, but I did see enough in the way of article references that people weren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Modern entertainment seems to have a gravitational pull towards bisexuality. This is especially true of dramas, where they are constantly needing to shake things up to keep things interesting. If Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t know what to do with the Callie character, well, let’s just have her swing a different way. There was too much invested in her heterosexuality (namely her relationship with a beloved, departed character), so they went with lesbian-leaning bisexual. But in the overall, bisexuality is a writer’s dream because it opens up more plot avenues. It just doesn’t make the same statement as a character being full-on gay (or lesbian).

In any event, I don’t claim to know where such things come from, whether A or B or C. It sure seems to me that it is A or C much of the time, and that’s good enough for me to believe that the government (and people) should generally not take a stand for and against. For those who believe that homosexuality is wrong, though, I can see why they might favor discrimination so that as many people with fluid sexuality go as hetero as possible. Bisexuality does indicate that it is at least sometimes B, and I have seen some testimony that if is at least sometimes C.

What this should mean for fiction, I don’t know. It seems to me like every case is different, though personally I would tend to stay away from “everybody is LGBT somewhere” for the same reason I am writing this post on Hit Coffee instead of Over There. Some people (like me!) overthink things, and want to turn everything into a political football.

But if you’re going to flip a character in honor of an actor, it’s probably not a bad idea to ask that actor what they think.


Category: Elsewhere

David Cameron announced his resignation today, to make room for Prime Minister Theresa May. He seemed really quite chipper about it:


(If you can’t listen, you can hear him whistling as he enters.)

As said in the title, tough, this is not a post about Brexit. This is a post about Cameron’s soon-to-be former residence, 10 Downing Street. It is one of my head of government houses ever. Why? Because of the standard picture:

10downing

This picture makes it look so… quaint. One of the leaders of the free world lives in what looks like a townhouse. You’ve got an entrance with a little lamp overhead. You have those windows where the Prime Minister of their spouse can peek through and see who is at the door. You have the 10 labeled, just to make sure the delivery guy doesn’t deliver the package to 8 or 12 Downing Street by mistake.

It’s really quite marvelous.

Of course, in reality 10 Downing Street is really quite expansive. And rather than being next to 8 and 12 Downing, it’s next to 9 (where the Chief Whip lives) and 11 (where the Chancellor lives).

And security there is a bigger deal than it first appears. There was an attack by the IRA in 1991, and since then they’ve done some safe-guarding.

Even so, I just love the idea of a prime minister living in a nice, snug townhome.


Category: Elsewhere


Category: Elsewhere

{This was submitted by someone who would prefer remain nameless.}

When the news came that young-adult website Vox had lost its leading thinker, noted Wikipedia connoisseur and hot-take artist Max Fisher, to the New York Times, it was late in arriving: final exams and the China expedition delayed receipt of this latest datum on the collapse of American civic institutions. Nevertheless there was a silver lining, which is that new and evermore stupefying “explainers” were en route, for readers who know nothing, by an author who knows nothing.

Therefore behold: the inevitable Brexit piece, in which the NYT’s new hire declares something rather remarkable about the United Kingdom — specifically that it “has been what the European Union always aspired to be but never accomplished: an honest-to-god political union that respects national identity while overcoming the complications of nationalism that helped make the 20th century the bloodiest in world history.” More: “What makes the United Kingdom so unusual is that it brought together four nationalities who see themselves as distinct yet have chosen to coexist.” What a pity and and irony, writes Fisher, that “the crisis-ridden, relatively young European Union may well outlast the 300-year-old United Kingdom, a prospect that speaks to both the underappreciated audacity of Britain’s multinational experiment.”

Well. Where to begin? Perhaps Scotland is a good place to start, as Fisher (correctly, yes!) identifies the 1706-1707 Acts of Union between the English and Scottish parliaments (not crowns) as the formal foundation of what we now call the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The problem is that he seems to believe — well, not seems, he pretty much explicitly argues — that what ensued was three centuries of remarkable national coexistence of four nations in the British Isles. How may we test this thesis? Well, if we have a basic grasp of the basic outline of British history, it’s fairly simple: you just have a look at what happens next. A synopsis for illustrative purposes:

  1. In 1707, Scotland loses its local parliament to a merger with the one in Westminster.
  2. From the 1720s through the 1746 Battle of Culloden, Scotland erupts in periodic revolt that is crushed by English arms and power. In and after 1746, the English-dominated Parliament passes a series of laws to effectively eradicate traditional Scottish culture, including the clan structure, down to outlawing Scottish dress and disarming the Scottish population. (Many of the Scots dispossessed thereby ended up in America, where they were understandably avid proponents of independence and also quite certain that possession of arms was indispensable to liberty.)
  3. Also in 1746, Parliament defines England as encompassing all of Wales. Wales does not regain formal separate status until 1967.
  4. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the forcible reordering of Scottish society is advanced along English lines through the infamous Highland Clearances.
  5. In 1800, Ireland is stripped of the vestiges of self-governance and its parliament absorbed fully into that at Westminster. Ireland will not experience self-governance again until it wins a war against the UK in 1922.
  6. After 1922, Northern Ireland receives self-governance, which is then taken away in 1972 and has been erratically in effect again since 1998.
  7. Only in 1998 did Wales and Scotland receive devolved legislatures.

There are a lot of gaps and details to be filled in on the above, but the major points should be clear: the United Kingdom persisted across the centuries as it did not because, as Fisher declares, it was “four nationalities who see themselves as distinct yet have chosen to coexist.” It persisted because until the past century, the English were wholly willing and able to invade, conquer, and kill as needed to dominate the archipelago. There is strategic imperative behind that behavior, so this is descriptive rather than judgmental. Nevertheless that — English force majeure, not friendly national toleration — is the real underlying mechanism that made Great Britain, well, great.

One may argue that the real breakup of the UK was set in motion only when that coercive model was definitively abandoned, especially in 1998 when New Labour put through a poorly defined quasi-federalist system of devolved assemblies that were, in retrospect, institutions tailor-made for separatist agitation. (Notably, England didn’t get one: which likely on some level explains outcomes now.) Turns out that the real guarantor of multinational-state cohesion is the backup of the mailed fist, and local autonomy if not properly circumscribed can be a powerful mechanism of its dissolution. That in turn might suggest an entirely different lesson from the UK experience about the European Union project, and where it likely heads next, than the one Max Fisher perceives. But to discern it one must understand it, and of that eventuality at NYT’s “The Interpreter,” we need have no fear.


Category: Elsewhere

Long-time readers can skip the first paragraph if they remember this story.

The longest Christmas Party I ever attended was with my ex-girlfriend Julia. She was my ex-girlfriend at the time, and had been for about a week-and-a-half. I had broken things off a couple weeks before Christmas, and that was going to make things difficult for her. So I agreed, without much hesitation, to go to the family Christmas party and she would let everyone know we broke up after. Her brother’s then-girlfriend (now wife) didn’t like me for some reason. She got wind of it, and told everybody. But she didn’t tell me, or Julia, that everybody knew. Nobody said a word, but it was three hours of exceptionally cold treatment.

Last week was the Residency Dinner for my wife’s work. That’s where they honor the residents and instructing physicians, like my wife, are expected to be there. Which, hey, it’s free food and a nice night on the town. There are worse things.

One of my wife’s colleagues is on her way out, and not by her choice. In the jobs where my wife has worked, doctors aren’t fired but rather have contracts that are not renewed. The result is that you are fired way in advance of your departure date. Sometimes months. This can be kind of awkward because your final couple months there, everybody knows that you’ve been fired. And so it was this this doc. Except this doc, by dint of the occasion, was actually given an award. By the director that fired her. In front of a room full of people that know exactly what happened.

The thing is, this isn’t even the first time this has happened. It’s the first time it’s happened at this job, but it happened twice under her previous one (which did the same contract thing) at the “Physician Appreciation Dinner”. One involved a doctor who wasn’t fired, but was pressured to resign due to health reasons. But she had the social obligation to go to the PAD, be a part of the slideshow, accept some certificate thing, and be thanked for the job that she was being told not to do anymore. The other one was even more complicated, with a physician that was fired and then was mysteriously unfired. All in the run-up to the PAD.

It’s all kind of a surreal experience.

One that kind of hits close to home. In Arapaho, Clancy really got the sense that the only reason they didn’t fire her was because they couldn’t replace her. It’s not that she was bad at her job – in fact, none of the three mentioned above were actually bad at their jobs – but some people (or at least one person) just didn’t like her. But there was always a feeling like if they could just find someone else to do the job, they wouldn’t renew. Well, it’s good to be needed and all, but it’s not fun to work in a place where you are merely tolerated. Attending a PAD by people who are just tolerating you isn’t as bad as doing so when they just fired you, but it’s vaguely familiar.

I am happy to report that none of this is an issue at her current job. Her contract was renewed last week without much fanfare.


Category: Elsewhere
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