Tuesday, October 21, 2014

George F. Will is Not an Expert on Things.

One of the amusing things about punditry is it convinces the accepted class of mainstream commenters that their opinions on any and all things are valid and probably pretty damn smart.

George Will is an ancient and accepted pundit--and he is so wrong about stuff that Chris Wallace has to drag his ass up.  He unbelievably tries to say ebola is quasi-airborne because...nothing, on the FOX News Sunday show, and literally cannot be told he is wrong. Even the doctors he thinks he is quoting will go on to say he is wrong.

This is of a piece with his shtick though. Like, regarding climate change, where I have raked him over, he trots out the same things even though better brains than mine have said "Stahp".

He's made a spectacle of himself over rape culture to his detriment, and now, he wants to make a brand new spectacle of himself about ebola?

He is an expert about being a pundit who was mildly relevant in the 1980's. Please, Old Media, stop pretending he's relevant about anything else. He's very uninformed. He's like some 1950's sex manual recommending a cola douche for birth control. It's like, that level of embarrassing.

Are Things Politicians Think Not Part of a Story?

So, a handful of blogs I respect led me to this National Journal piece regarding how, even if she is a really fascinating person and a darn good candidate, Joni Ernst might narrowly lose to Bruce Braley. I think Kilgore's commentary was what got me out of the boat.

I am going to agree with Goldmacher's narrative to an extent--she served our country, she's a mom, she's got a farming background, and the support of Vander Platts and the whole Iowa GOP thing--she's a "good candidate". But the point the folks I've been reading has to carry a little weight--it absolutely does with me, anyway, and is basically what my blog is about--she's a great candidate, but she believes batshit things. And at some point, if we're being honest, now, whether a person is susceptible to believing batshit things matters.

Thinking that zygotes are people (I always say--fine, give 'em the right to vote, but good luck getting them to the polls...) and that the UN is gonna steal our golfs and overthrow the US with clever use of bike lanes is troubling. It isn't a question of whether there is a decent knucklehead constituency out there that believes this nonsense. It's a question of whether it even makes sense to believe it, whether it flies as plausible policy, whether it is worth it to invest trust in people who, given the opportunity, will inject some degree of guanothink into anything they do. I understand why Democratic pols don't directly challenge the guanothink (they should give it the odd try though, even if they don't make a habit of it.)

But there isn't much of a good reason why what a politician stands for should be as much a consideration for a journalist looking at the big picture regarding a candidate, as their "narrative." I might agree with Peggy Noonan about very little, but when she witheringly reduced Sarah Palin's selection as McCain's running mate to narrative, she had a very valid point. Pandering to the base is dumb, and falling for life stories is dumb. There really is a case to be made for recognizing and maybe even trying to encourage competence. The article glancingly has a graph about how Ernst can be characterized as an extremist based on her positions--that she is one is sort of the big old elephant in the room. If Ernst loses because of a Democratic Machine--it was mobilized because, in part, she made moderate Dems' jaws drop. That jaw drop is real. It should be heard.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Climate Sunday: Diseases Like Ebola are an Environmental Issue

One of the things I sort of hate about writing about climate change and the environment (don't get me wrong--it's still my jawn) is that it pretty much seems like all the things I ever write about can be looped back to climate change, as if I were some kind of One-Note Nancy or something. But really, there's very good reason to give mankind's weird earth-domination habit the eye for probably unleashing ebola on all of us. And this isn't even the half of it.

West Nile used to be some kind of thing we never thought about in the contiguous 48--but then came climate changeMalaria, Dengue, Lyme--all things that go better with climate change. Basically, if you are a virus or bacillus that can totes pwn pretty well when things go pear-shaped (which is the thing that makes infectious diseases what they are--they are opportunistic) you will love some climate change. Diseases are migrating because conditions are becoming more favorable for them.  This isn't a problem of border-control--this is a problem of environment-control.

Now, this isn't to say that the spread of odd, dangerous, deadly diseases is the worst thing about climate change (although it's pretty bad). It's to point out that we are all pretty much at the whim of forces that are based in science and that we have some, but not great, control over. The science folks are calling our era right now the Anthropocene, because we have great ability to screw with our natural environment, rendering it--something else.

We also have a great ability to massively autodarwinate, as we should have understood since our mastery of the atom.

But even if we have great ability to disturb the planet we live on--we also are still prey to the littlest predators. And we should take that very seriously.  And we currently don't take it half seriously enough.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

You know, the idea that my current Governor, Tom Corbett (Space Cadet!) had to Photoshop people into a pleasant picture of him talking with constituents doesn't surprise me even a bit. There probably isn't a good pic of him in a diverse crowd, unless it's at a oil well opening or the like.

I think my mom nailed him in one great comment--she said "He ran on transparency in government, and it's true. He got into office and became invisible." My mom rocks. I don't know why she doesn't have the politics blog.

But I think there is a very real thing that needs to be taken into account for all of these elections--what do you think your elected representative should actually do for you? I know what I expect. I would like representatives who worked on jobs and respected things like the voting rights and reproductive rights of individuals. I'd like politicians who supported living wage and paid sick time for workers. I'd like politicians in office who thought their job was to make things better for their constituents, and not maintain an unsatisfying status quo.

I'm rereading Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies. He totally reads Plato for dirt. He is always aware that government is a tool of the people, and not a machine for elitists to run. This is why I root for Wendy Davis in Texas, and Allison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky and for Mary Burke in Wisconsin. I think government should be run by people who believe in it. People who want to make things work. People with ideas and ideals, not crony-ass paid-for tools.  I think shit like this is sad. (Totes real but sad.)

I would desperately love it if voters asked who benefits and who decides a bit more circumspectly. But "What have you done for me Lately?"  Seriously--what?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ebola is Serious Business 3: But it Would Make a Crappy Bioweapon

A long time ago, in a reality far, far away from my current internet persona, I spent a lot of time looking into the feasibility of bioweapons for, of all things, a fanfic I was working on. It involved a doomsday virus being used as a bioweapon, and I wanted to sound like I sort of knew what I was talking about. I decided viruses weren't even necessarily your best bet. Fuck it. I'd engineer a bioweapon that was bacterial--you just have more control with spirochetes or spores than getting all random with viruses. Ebola is pretty awful, but it's a piss-poor bioweapon.

See, a bacterium is generally anaerobic and you can keep it on hand, maybe distribute it in a targeted way. But let's say a terrorist had got hold of ebola the old-fashioned way--he caught it from someone. Since the incubation period is up to 21 days, he doesn't even know he's infectious until he has a fever and puts 2 and 2 together. Then he tries to travel. Let's say he's in a country known to have an ebola outbreak, and they are monitoring people for fevers--no trouble there: aspirin reduces fevers. So he takes a bunch of aspirin and an anti-emetic, and boards a flight to Europe.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

No Fans Allowed?

When I saw some business on Twitter about Florida Governor Rick Scott not taking the stage for his debate with former Gov. Charlie Crist, I kind of had it in my head that by "fan", an actual human supporter of the former governor was on the stage, which would kind of make sense--but no. It was a small appliance under the podium intended to, I suppose, keep the former governor suitably comfortable under the bright lights and all that.

I feel like a "no fans" clause would be really strange to put in a set of debate rules--like, how would that benefit a candidate, unless Gov. Scott thought, I dunno, the chilly breezes would escape from under the podium, cooling his blood and causing him to go into premature hibernation or something? If there was a "no fans" clause, it would be one thing if Scott pulled it out as a violation after, let's say, doing badly at the debate, but to make a big show of it beforehand just isn't very smooth.

State of Florida--you all do know your current governor is weird, right?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Denying Gravity the FRC Way

I just want to touch ever so lightly on something FRC President Tony Perkins said regarding marriage equality, because he seems to be a little bit a lot off, and I want to point out how:

Despite the recent string of court victories in favor of marriage equality, Perkins said “marriage will be an issue” on the campaign trail that “will not go away because it’s rooted in nature.”

“You can act like it’s not there, you can act like gravity doesn’t work, but I’m going to tell you it will catch up with you sooner or later and you are going to hit the ground and culturally we are going to hit the ground by ignoring the realities of marriage,” he said.
Gay marriages are here. They have been here--we just weren't recognizing them. Gay people are here.  Queer-identified people will be here long after Tony Perkins goes for his dirt-nap. He's denying gravity. But you know what? Religiously-oriented people once denied that the earth revolved around the sun. Then they didn't. Feelings change, because the gravity of some facts, like the necessity of recognizing the dignity of persons,  can't be ignored.

Maybe he needs to consider why he got double-teamed over gay marriage on Fox News.  Maybe he needs to consider a lot of things. But I see the validity and usefulness of his kind of group evaporating, because they don't really represent such a successful wedge issue anymore and may even do harm to the only party that really tolerated them.