Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Wrecker

I was reading an article on Politico about political pundits' speculation on Donald Trump, and a couple of things stood out for me.

Paul Begala notes:

When it comes to Mr. Trump, I know this: he reflects the views of today’s Republican Party. Here’s proof: 64 percent of Republicans agree with the broader statement that, “President Obama is hiding important information about his background and early life.” And 34 percent of Republicans go full-on birther: saying of Republicans think it’s likely that president Obama is not a US citizen; that he was not born in America (Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. poll, Dec., 2014). This, of course, is an issue Mr. Trump has highlighted.

68 percent of Republicans say Mr. Trump is right on immigration. (Fox News poll, July 17, 2015). This was after he said those rather, umm, controversial things about Mexican immigrants. 22 percent of Republicans even agree with his hateful attack on John McCain—saying McCain was not a war hero (PPP Poll 7/22/15).
And Mary Matalin says this:
[Common Sense] America is, and has been for some time been, so over the incompetent, posturing national politicians as well as their irrelevant agenda issues and their counterproductive policies. They are aching for candidates with authenticity who will address their everyday concerns. AND do not presume a preference for their common sense world makes them redneck philistines.
Taken together, the message is clear - that Trump speaks to a significant portion of the traditional Republican base - those that Mr. Begala describes as "angry, white and male" and Ms. Matalin refers to as Common Sense America. And, assuming that these two are correct, that could present a problem for the GOP.

The biggest danger for the modern Republican party from its reputation of being the party of White male grievance (grievance that a lot of people feel is undeserved) comes from the chance that it energizes the people who fear that they would be the targets of that selfsame angry, white and male demographic. The wave that President Obama rode into the White House turned out for him to check what they felt was a Republican agenda that lead the nation into ruin. Despite calls for a more positive and optimistic political discourse, the fact of the matter remains that the best way to get people to the polls is to play on their fears of, and aversion to, losing what they already have. A Republican agenda that appears to have the rollback of gains by (liberal) women and minorities as its goal will drive those voters to the polls in droves to protect themselves. And while conservative Whites may be angry about their relative loss of status, people tend to be less motivated by potential gain (or, in this care, re-gain) than they are by potential loss. Therefore, the more the GOP seems to focus on punishing non-Republican voters by taking things from them, the more they're likely to prompt a new wave of Democratic votes as those people rush to defend themselves. (I also think that this will manifest itself in fewer votes for left-of-center third-party candidates, especially longshots such as, for example, Jill Stein. To vote for someone who is widely considered to have no realistic hope of winning, one has to either be a True Believer or uninvested/confident in the final outcome, and the latter are likely to be scarcer than normal as fears of Republican base grow.) And in this way, Donald Trump does potentially serious damage to the "Republican Brand," which has already been taking it on the chin. Democrats are already preaching their choir that Mr. Trump accurately represents the GOP, and as his inflammatory rhetoric continues to elevate him in the polls, more and more people are likely coming to that conclusion on their own.

In the end, it's likely a new win situation for the Republican Party. As they become more and more centered around a demographic that's losing ground to faster-growing groups, they'll enter a state, if they haven't already where they can't win with them, but can't win without them. The Republican Party will founder at a national level, as the state and local enclaves that it controls grow smaller and smaller. Aggressive gerrymandering may allow the GOP to hold on to the legislature past the point where their a minority party in a given state, but that won't save them forever, and they'll wind up banished to the political wilderness while they attempt to forge a new core demographic out of the very people their candidates (embraced or not) railed against.


Once upon a time, I was in a business meeting. While there were enough chairs to go around, space at the actual table was limited – most of the chairs were lined up along two walls of the room. It was a long meeting, and as time passed, people would leave the meeting, and other people would enter. After a few rounds of people coming and going (including myself), an interesting situation presented itself - all of the seats around the table were taken by white men. All of the women and minorities in the room were seated in the overflow chairs around the edge of the room.

Watching the process unfold, it made sense - when someone seated at the table excused themselves, someone from one of the other chairs would move into that seat, and whenever someone entered the room, they first thing they would do would be to scan the table for an available seat. So eventually, you hit a particular point in time when the shuffle resulted in all the seats at the table being filled with White men. And it didn't last for the remainder of the meeting. But a look around the room for in that moment seemed to speak to everything that people say is wrong with the technology industry.

But what I realized was that almost all of the people who were seated at table had been in the room when I had first arrived, and didn't appear to have ever left. And there are times when I think that informs a large part of the way industries shuffle themselves. While I'm in technology now, I'm a relative latecomer to it as a career - I started out in social services. And, as a result, I find myself working with people ten years my junior, who, nevertheless have more experience in my career path than I do - simply by virtue of having started out there.

When I talk to people I worked with back then, they're quick to tell me that we were all woefully underpaid. But had you asked me at the time, I would have told you that I was making a phenomenal amount of money - after all, I'd doubled my take-home pay in a job that, that I had no education and little experience for, and was less physically and emotionally demanding than what I'd been doing.

The easy lesson, perhaps, from that conference room is to alter the seating arrangements - set aside a certain number of seats for certain people. But I think that a better lesson might be to add more or larger tables, so that there are enough seats to go around. I was fortunate in that I stumbled into the technology sector during a time of rapid expansion - when employers couldn't afford to be terribly picky about who they hired. When I describe it to people I tell them that the standard wasn't whether or not you knew the work, it was whether or not you could be educated to do it in a reasonable time. And that situation created thousands of opportunities for people - including latecomers and people who needed to step away for a while - which prevented the shuffle from homogenizing things based on experience.

Of course, it's easier to add tables to a conference room than it is to add businesses to an economy. But we've done harder things...

Sunday, July 26, 2015


About a dozen links to a column on opinions landed in my social media feed today. So I read it. and the following line caught my attention:

There’s nothing wrong with an opinion on those things. The problem comes from people whose opinions are actually misconceptions. If you think vaccines cause autism you are expressing something factually wrong, not an opinion.
There's a problem with that. That's not the definition of opinion.
noun opin·ion \ə-ˈpin-yən\

1  a:  a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter
    b:  approval, esteem
2  a:  belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge
    b:  a generally held view
3  a:  a formal expression of judgment or advice by an expert
    b:  the formal expression (as by a judge, court, or referee) of the legal reasons and principles upon which a legal decision is based
The author goes on to say: "Nor does the fact that many other share this opinion give it any more validity."

Under this logic, the fact that many people draw a bright-line distinction between facts (correct or incorrect) and opinions does not mean that they have an accurate understanding of any difference, given the dictionary definition of the word "opinion." There is nothing in the dictionary definition of opinion that prevents a misconception - or a correct conception, for that matter - from being a person's opinion. Okay. So allow me to let Mr. Rouner (who, incidentally, gives no reason why he should be regarded as an authority on what constitutes a valid opinion) off the hook for the dictionary definition of the word opinion, and concern ourselves with the connotation of the word.

For many of us, opinions are different from facts. "That cell phone is black," is a fact, while "Black is the best color for cell phones" is an opinion. This jives with Mr. Rouner's statement that opinions are those things that cannot be verified outside of the fact that the holder of the opinion believes them. And that's fine. But it's not the only valid connotation of an opinion. In a culture that seems to have raised arguing (or bickering, if you prefer) into an art form, sometimes you don't want to have the mount a thesis defense of everything you say. And that has given rise to a use of the word "opinion" to mean: "something that I believe to be true, yet I am unwilling, unable and/or unready to mount an in-depth defense of at this time." Or, and this comports with the definition given by Merriam-Webster: "something that I believe, but do not know with certainty."

One of the points that Mr. Rouner makes in his column is that opinions have no bearing on the reality of a situation. Whether someone is of the opinion that the Holocaust is a historical fraud or that the ancient Egyptians were displaced sub-Saharan Africans, these understandings of history don't actually alter history. In fact, they don't alter much of anything. So why bother caring? I noted the opinions called out in the column as things that are actually simply incorrect:
  • "Vaccines cause autism"
  • "Slavery was not the driving cause of the Civil War"
  • "The Holocaust was fake"
  • "Whites face as much discrimination as people of color"
  • "Planned Parenthood is chopping up dead babies and selling them"
It seems to me that the whole point behind this column is to allow people on the Left to feel comfortable attacking wrongthink under the guise of separating out opinions, which are not subject to tests of proof, from facts, which are. Okay. But what useful purpose is served by attacking wrongthink? What is served by browbeating people into either claiming to believe what you believe or admitting that they're foolish or uninformed, other than ego inflation for those doing the browbeating? For a person to whom the Flag of the Arny of Northern Virginia is a symbol of their Southern heritage no amount of telling them "no, that's not an opinion - it's a misconception" is going to convince them that their grandfather or great-grandfather was essentially a proto-Nazi. And being unable to argue that point directly, "it's just an opinion" becomes an attempt to disengage from the debate.

As obnoxious as it may seem to allow people to persist in wrong thoughts, perhaps it's also the wisest course of action.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Time for a New Anthem?

The last lines of the first verse of "Defence of Fort McHenry," now known as "The Star-Spangled Banner" are fairly well-known.

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Referring to the United States as "the land of the free and the home of the brave" likely became popular about 30 minutes after the song itself did, if not before. Which is fine - people like to find virtues to attach to themselves. But it's important that we stop short of believing our own hype, because it often blinds us to instances where our reality and our rhetoric don't match up. In a way, describing the whole of the United States as "the land of the free and the home of the brave" has always been bogus. "Defence of Fort McHenry" was written in 1814 - the end of legalized slavery was still some 50 years in the future and it's difficult to see any particular bravery in laws like the Sedition Act of 1798.

Freedom and bravery are not, regardless of how we may have become accustomed to viewing them, unambiguously Good Things. You can do a complete SWOT analysis of them, and identify inherent Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. But, understandably, we tend not to, usually limiting ourselves to extolling our own perceived Strengths and the Opportunities we understand that they bring us. But whether or not we understand the Weaknesses and Threats in our society, they are there, and given long enough, they will assert themselves.

Retired General Wesley Clark, one-time candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States and Franklin Graham, son of the famous (or notorious, depending on one's opinion) Evangelical preacher Billy Graham have become strange bedfellows in illustrating this. Note President George W. Bush's remarks about the War on Terror that began after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in September of 2001.
We're taking action against evil people. Because this great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against faith practiced by the Muslim people. Our war is a war against evil. This is clearly a case of good versus evil, and make no mistake about it -- good will prevail.
President George W. Bush. Ontario Convention Center, Ontario, California. January 5, 2002
And President Obama has followed up on this theme, telling the United Nations that "At the same time, we have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam." Clark and Graham, however, have concluded that we ARE at war with Islam, and, therefore need to return to the sorts of practices that were employed against citizens of the Axis nations - and American citizens whose families hailed from same - during the Second World War - only this time, we need to treat members of a religion as potential enemy agents.
We have got to identify the people who are most likely to be radicalized. We've got to cut this off at the beginning. There are always a certain number of young people who are alienated. They don't get a job, they lost a girlfriend, their family doesn't feel happy here and we can watch the signs of that. And there are members of the community who can reach out to those people and bring them back in and encourage them to look at their blessings here.

But I do think on a national policy level we need to look at what self-radicalization means because we are at war with this group of terrorists. They do have an ideology. In World War II if someone supported Nazi Germany at the expense of the United States, we didn't say that was freedom of speech, we put him in a camp, they were prisoners of war.

So, if these people are radicalized and they don't support the United States and they are disloyal to the United States as a matter of principle, fine. It's their right. And it's our right and obligation to segregate them from the normal community for the duration of the conflict. And I think we're going to have to increasingly get tough on this, not only in the United States but our allied nations like Britain, Germany and France are going to have to look at their domestic law procedures.
General Wesley Clark, interviewed by Thomas Roberts on MSNBC Live
Graham goes somewhat further than Clark, effectively saying that we shouldn't wait for signs of radicalization.
We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized--and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn't allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now?
Not exactly what comes to mind when I think of a commitment to courage and freedom. And of course, Moslems are not the only threat that people are sounding alarms about - Donald Trump is making waves with his implications (to put it mildly) that the government of Mexico is slyly undermining the United States by exporting its undesirables (along with a few good people) north of the border.

On the one hand, I get it - the Constitution is not a suicide pact. Or, as Thomas Jefferson put it: "[S]trict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means."

On the other hand, necessity, self-preservation and saving our country when in danger are all very subjective considerations (especially when they aren't contained in the written law), and history has shown us that we haven't been as good at understanding what actually constitutes and existential threat as we may have thought that we did - after all, Jefferson made his statement in defense of purchasing the Louisiana Territory from France - which hardly seems like the desperate act of a threatened nation. Likewise, Clark's, Graham's and Trump's visions of necessity, self-preservation and saving our country look suspiciously like things that confirm the fears of conservative, older, White Christians who feel that the changing demographics of the world risk doing unto them what their parents, grandparents and earlier generations did unto others. Which is understandable. Payback is a bitch, and I don't blame people for wanting to avoid it being visited upon them, especially when the actual perpetrators of the crimes for which payback is being sought are long dead.

But there is a difference between a perceived threat to one's own interests, and an actual threat to the enduring safety of a nation. It's helpful to keep that in mind. We can't be "the land of the free and the home of the brave" if we allow people to be locked up every time something convinces a segment of the mainstream that they have something to be afraid of.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Won't Someone Please Think of the Foolish?

I stumbled into another conversation about how mass shootings are, at least in part, a result of "the Media" giving shooters wall-to-wall coverage, and making them "famous." As is always the way with such discussions, the solution that was floated was that somehow "the Media" should limit their coverage to sympathetic portrayals of the dead and injured, and this would remove the incentive for people to shoot people.

While I understand the argument, the idea of a broadly-based embargo on information about murderers seems unrealistic. But it also seems based on wonky data (well, anecdotes, to be precise). As I do every time I'm in a discussion like this face-to-face, I asked if anyone there could name one of these mass shooters - this time, I chose the gunman from Aurora, Colorado, considering the fact that he's just been convicted. No-one could. That doesn't seem very famous to me. Now, I don't contest that there are people out there who are VERY interested in the guy. I'd be unsurprised to find that he's already on a trading card or something. But I find it strange that people who feel that the 24-hour news cycle makes random crooks into celebrities can never seem to name the people themselves. Now, one of the people I was speaking to immediately sought to draw a distinction, claiming that he wasn't a good example. And so I asked him who was.

What I usually wind up taking away from the "15 minutes of fame" argument is the idea that there are a bunch of people who will blindly attach celebrity to anyone "the Media" places in front of them - just never the people making the argument. And so it seems like, to borrow a phrase, "the smart man's burden." Smart people have to alter social policy to protect dumb people - who tend to be people that the smart person has never actually met - from themselves by shielding them from information that they aren't smart enough to handle appropriately, because their poor reactions trigger would-be fame seekers to do bad things.

Yes, various facets of the news and opinion media can blanket the airwaves with someone's name and crime, and more detail about that person than any one human being would ever want to know. But that's different than being famous. And I think that to the degree that a lot of would-be shooters don't realize that, mental illness and/or self-fulfilling prophecies have to factor into the picture. Once someone has been out of the news cycle for 24 hours, the Earth may as well have swallowed them whole. It doesn't take a particularly astute observer to understand that only a small handful of people become household names for anything for very long. Anyone looking for enduring fame as a result of shooting up a place is bound to be disappointed - despite what people might have to say about it. Although there is a part of me that suspects that the constant hand-wringing over how people are being made famous for killing people is part of what gives people the impression that they'll achieve lasting fame by killing people.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

One From Column A...

Back in the day, my skip-level boss was a man who really enjoyed handing out restaurant gift certificates for a job well done. Upon earning just such an "attaboy," I found myself in possession of enough credit to buy way more food than I could eat at one sitting. Being of the opinion that gift certificates were always intended to be used in their entirety, I invited one of my housemates to share a (mostly) free meal with me. She accepted, so we drove up to the restaurant one Friday evening after work to shoot the breeze and try out some new foods.

It was fairly conventional restaurant experience. After a brief wait, the fairly conventional hostess seated us at a nice table and left menus, the fairly conventional server appeared and introduced themselves and rattled off the fairly conventional specials for that evening, we ordered fairly conventional stuff, yadda, yadda, yadda. Nothing out the ordinary happened. Until my housemate excused herself to go to the bathroom.

While she was away from the table, I busied myself with examining the room around me, and I noticed a middle-aged Black couple seated a couple of booths away. He was sitting with his back to me, but his companion was facing me, and, as we used to say, she was looking me dead in my face. And her expression said it all, loudly and clearly.

"What are you doing here with that White woman?"

Now, I fancy myself to be a fairly literate person, but I've never been able to read minds, so in my thoughtful moments, I avoid making attributions of thought or intent unless someone has specifically told me what they were thinking or intending. But this was an expression that I had seen before, and one that had been explained to me, so I have a fair amount of confidence in my reading of it.

I tell this story, because recently, Houstonia magazine ran an advertisement featuring a mixed-race couple and their children, and a couple of their readers started giving them flack for it. Houstonia rather publicly (without actually naming them) called them out on it, and cancelled one of their subscriptions, to the applause of most of their readership.

Good for them. I don't have a problem with people (grand)standing up for what they believe in. But it's also important to understand that when we consider the set of people who take exception to interracial couples, especially when he's Black and she's White, we're not just dealing with the stereotypical (if somewhat stuffed with straw) older White male who lives deep in a Red state, limits their media intake to nothing other than Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, thinks that we should deport all the illegals (except those that clean the Wal-Mart) and is somehow convinced that the most scrutinized man on the planet is also the world's most successful Undercover Moslem. Because when we forget that, it's easy to become smug and secure in our own moral and ethical superiority.

Granted, the Black people I have met who have issues with mixed couples don't view the problem in the same light as some White people who do. The ideas of racial superiority, and therefore necessary racial purity, are absent. In the conversations that I have had with people (and I've had more than I've ever wanted to) among the overall concerns raised were ones of "fraternizing with the enemy," buying into a narrative that other Black people were unattractive and/or lower status and therefore less desirable as partners, that dating White women was needlessly risking the dangerous wrath of White men or simply the difficulty (or impossibility) of forging a lasting intimate relationship with someone effectively socially predisposed to hate you. In my experience, however, as a Black male, the most common reason given for why I should have limited my assumed romantic life exclusively to Black women was the idea that so many "Sisters" were having trouble finding a Good Man. As someone with a college education and a job and without a criminal record of any sort, I qualified, and so, in the minds of many, if I were seeing ANYONE (which, ironically, I never was during one of these conversations) it should be one of the myriad Black women who were having trouble marrying at or above their own level of achievement. There were times when I seriously considered buying a t-shirt with "Property of the African-American Community" on it, just out of the sheer absurdity of it all.

This isn't to say that the people with whom I had such conversations harbored the sort of open desire for racial and ethic cleanliness that might, for instance, lead someone to refer to the magazine ad as "disgusting" or the willfully sanitized understanding of American history required to think that there is something actually wrong if "children [...] see the ad and 'get it into their heads that this is okay'." But it is to say that a sense of propriety that is conservative enough that it seeks to control whom other people associate with (or sees existential threats in the violation of what appear to be bizarre sexual property rights) is not limited to open bigots, and so while it might be emotionally satisfying to cast any disagreement as the rantings of an extremist, it's more accurate to see them as the expressions of the merely insecure. And mere insecurity is not limited by race, color or creed.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Comparative America

One of the things that I was reminded of today in a conversation with a co-worker is that people often have difficulty understanding how other people believe things that they themselves do not. And how this leads to difficulties in social discourse. But rather than belabor that point, which I believe that I have made before, it occurred to me to speculate on how to solve it.

And so I wonder if there isn't room in academia for what one might call "comparative society," a course in which one takes the United States, slices it into some of it various constituencies, and teaches the students about how this or that group sees the world, and what this means for how they interact with the rest of the nation, and what lessons might be learned for interacting with them.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Trump Card

Careful... Sometimes, the court jester is the guy who has the last laugh.
This picture was part of an e-mail that I received that sought to tie the Republican Party as a whole to the comments that Donald Trump made about migrants from Mexico. The body of the e-mail implied that Republicans were a) quietly racist/anti-immigrant, b) vocally racist/anti-immigrant and/or c) eager to vote Donald Trump, or someone like him, into the office of President of the United States of America. It was a reminder of how the world was going to end if a Republican won the race for the White House next year, and all predicated on the question of: "Does Donald Trump accurately represents the Republican Party?"

To which the answer is simple: "Of course he does." Not because the Republican Party is wall to wall anti-immigrant, racist nativists, but because any political movement as large as the Grand Old Party is going to have some loathsome people in it. The picture of the GOP painted by Donald Trump is, in that sense, accurate, but it neither complete nor nuanced. While openly racist and anti-immigrant sentiment likely isn't anything approaching a majority position within the modern Republican party, the "Pale, stale and male" demographic is a real one. And Donald Trump is reaching those people because he is giving them license to express (and perhaps vote) their fears about a future that they're convinced isn't shaping up to be kind to them. While crusaders for Social Justice my be convinced that the people who have been on top for most of American history should step aside with good grace, the fact remains that they have the most to lose, and few things motivate people like loss aversion.

Lost in the posturing and finger-pointing over Trump's original comments is perhaps the most important part of what he said.
When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. They're sending people that have lots of problems...they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
"When Mexico sends its people."

That right there was pretty much guaranteed to win Trump some support among people who fear for their future and for the future of what they imagine the United States to be. Because it hints at a conspiracy.
But the problem we have is that their leaders are much sharper, smarter and more cunning than our leaders, and they’re killing us at the border. They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us.
It's an explanation for what's going on that people on the losing end of history have grasped at for ages - the changes that are coming for them are not the result of bad luck, or resting too long on one's laurels - they're the result of schemes and plots to deprive people of their just deserts.

The picture that was chosen of Mr. Trump to accompany the e-mail was chosen, I expect, because it makes him out to look clownish and unserious. But the fears of an aging White male demographic are, as we used to say, serious like a heart attack. Laughing at the messenger won't change that.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

More Where They Came From

So I was talking with a co-worker about how businesses behave when they lay people off (generally speaking) and we came to the conclusion that a) as far as most businesses are concerned, they will never be in a position where their past behavior makes future recruitment more difficult and b) they are likely correct in this assessment.

Which creates a problem for the workforce, as if businesses have no incentive to treat people well, they can shift many of the risks of doing business onto those people - which my observations have borne out, mainly when it comes to the secrecy that many businesses engage in when they let people go. And many people know this. And so I wonder what effect this has on public confidence. Granted, the Consumer Confidence Index has been rising; on June 30th, the Conference Board noted that: "Overall, consumers are in considerably better spirits and their renewed optimism could lead to a greater willingness to spend in the near-term." But if you understand that you suddenly may not have a job if the prospects for your company dim, you may decide that it's wiser to convert disposable income into savings, rather than goods and services.

And so I wonder to what degree business confidence that they'll always be able to find the workers they need acts as a drag on the overall economic picture. It is an interesting thing to study, and since I'm going to have some free time this summer (although not due to being laid off), I may take some time to look deeper into it.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


"We have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows," Mr Bush told the editors of the New Hampshire Union Leader in an interview that was broadcast online. "It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That's the only way we're going to get out of this rut that we're in."
Jeb Bush: Americans 'need to work longer hours'
Yesterday, I received an e-mail, asking me: "Do you think forcing workers to put in more hours is the best way to grow the economy?"

This, for me, is the problem with politics. Sure, you can take Governor Bush's words and see them as calling out the American worker as a slacker who has too much leisure time on their hands. Or, you can rub a pair of spare brain cells together and suspect that he was referring to that percentage of people who are under-employed, and for whom the ability to actually get 40 hours a week of paid work would mean more income.

It's certainly possible to make the point that there number of unemployed and under-employed people in the country is low, and the wages that they would be able to command are insufficient to drive a higher level of production, and thus increase the demand for labor (which would, in turn, put upward pressure on wages). But that's a question of whether Jeb Bush's command of economics is correct. And simple questions of accuracy or inaccuracy in academic disciplines don't drive "outrage" - or political donations.

Casting the opposition as "out of touch," or simply evil, as they run for the White House apparently does.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Red Sun

I'm told that forest fires have put enough smoke into the air that it's partially obscuring the Sun. Which is having the interesting side effect of making things cooler - and not just outside. As the Sun dips in the evening, by the time it's shining directly in West-facing windows, the light doesn't carry enough energy to heat the insides of the rooms as much as it did before.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Changing the World

One of the unjust things about the world is that reaching a state of greater Justice often requires significant sacrifices on the part of the very people who suffer the most greatly from the current state of injustice, due to the uncompensated sacrifices that it extracts from them. This is an unfortunate, but inescapable side effect of a mantra that I heard over and over again when I was in high school: "If it doesn't matter to you, it doesn't matter to me." Or, as it is perhaps better put: "One has to be the change one wants to see in the world." Despite what we often want to believe, Injustice is rarely the result of a certain group of people acting with coordinated malice or stupidity. Rather, it is the simple result of them pursuing what they understand to be their best interests. Accordingly, I am always skeptical of claims that people enact unjust policies or social mores to their own direct detriment.

Demonstrating to others that the world that we wish to see it better for them, as well as us, takes work. And while I understand begrudging that work on the basis of what we are owed for the work already done that remains uncompensated, the only alternative tends to become a helpless anger with a world that has its own interests to pursue.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Words That We Wouldn't Say

There is nothing like a death in the family to bring out all of the things that have for years gone unsaid. Of course, such an emotional time is not always when they should be said, but it's also the time that some people really need to hear them. The fact that these are often things that they want to, but now never can, hear from the deceased themselves complicates matters.