Wednesday, June 26, 2013

DOMA Decision: Best Tweets Of The Day

James K. A. Smith, a professor of philosophy at Calvin College, sent out a historical reminder:

John Fugelsang calls out a bit of hypocrisy:

Good News: Hickey To Introduce Bill To Repeal Death Penalty In South Dakota

After my week in the South, I'm catching up on South Dakota blog reading. The best reading to date is South Dakota legislator Representative/Reverend Steve Hickey's announcement he will introduce a bill to repeal the death penalty in South Dakota.

I've long opposed the death penalty because humans are fallible. If a jury convicts an innocent person who is sent to prison, there are ways to compensate that person for time, pain, and suffering. There's no way to return someone to life.

Additionally, I have yet to see a consistent explanation of why giving the state the power to kill doesn't convey upon it the power to take away every other natural right at a whim. Further, there's little evidence of a deterrence.

I doubt the bill will pass this session, but I hope that it will begin a debate that will end the death penalty  in South Dakota within a decade.

Quotations Of The Day: Common Core History Edition

First, there's this history lesson from Valerie Strauss who responds to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:
The Core initiative was started in 2007 by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, a bipartisan effort to come up with a common set of K-12 standards in English language arts and math across states that would better prepare students for colleges and careers than in the past.
The standards were written by school reformer and entrepreneur David Coleman, who now heads the College Board, and Susan Pimental of Achieve Inc., an organization created to advance “standards-based” education.  Starting in 2009, the Obama administration, in its main education initiative, required states that wanted to compete for Race to the Top reform dollars to adopt the standards. It also gave some $360 million to two consortia of states developing standardized tests aligned to the Core, exams whose results would be used to evaluate teachers, another controversial part of the Obama reform agenda.
Later she writes,
Duncan, in his speech to the newspaper editors, said the federal government didn't start or write the standards, and that is true. He said that it wasn't mandated either, though critics argue that it was coerced. He was also right when he said the Core is not a curriculum (even though the Core authors released a book of criteria to education publishers about what should be in Core curriculum).
But he didn't mention the rushed implementation, nor the hundreds of millions of dollars the federal government has plowed into the testing creation effort. He has said for years that the Core-aligned tests would be “game changers” and be able to assess students much more broadly,  but he didn't say Tuesday that that isn't true. It turns out there wasn't enough time or money to create those kinds of tests.
Diane Ravitch quotes Strauss and then sums up the Core's history:
Another angle: the Gates Foundation plowed more than $100 million into every aspect of the Common Core: the development, the evaluation, the implementation, the advocacy, on and on.
It seems that most of the nation’s grassroots are growing in Seattle, then watered inside the Beltway.

The Ties That Divide

Will Wilkinson provides a quotation of the day,
The energetic ideological base of the Republican Party is a nationalist, identity-politics movement for relatively well-to-do older white Americans known as the "tea party". The tea party is interested in bald eagles, American flags, the founding fathers, Jesus Christ, fighter jets, empty libertarian rhetoric, and other markers of "authentic" American identity and supremacy.
A similar list could be made for the Democrats' ideological base. Off the the top of my head, there's a list of "D" words that interest Democrats: discourse, diversity, the downtrodden.

Of course, there are two important caveats. First, Democrats are also interested in the founding fathers and Jesus, and Republicans are interested in the downtrodden. More importantly, these interests aren't really about the diversity or fighter jets; they're about the respective base's ideas about what each of these things are and what each represents.

That latter caveat helps explain the country's political stalemates and cultural divides. Empty libertarian rhetoric combined with discourse about discourse produces nothing but empty discourse. It's difficult to use religion to find agreement on basic principles when one side sees Jesus as a moral philosopher who loved the poor while the other sees Jesus as a Rambo who destroys sinners. The founders are equally malleable figures.

It's worrisome that these divides will continue to perpetuate current stalemates. It's nearly impossible to work on immigration, taxes, health care, education, or, more importantly, be an "indivisible" nation, if no one can agrees on the basics.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Plains Pops: The More Things Stay The Same Edition

I spent last week in Birmingham, Alabama judging some congressional debate and eating some good barbecue at a place called Moe's. The food was so good that I didn't even think about a Homer Simpson joke until two days later.

I came back to lots of humidity that I would have liked to have left behind and what seems to be the same news cycle I left.

1. Rick Weiland is still running an ineffective campaign.

2. South Dakota's conservatives are still looking for an alternative to Mike Rounds in the U.S. Senate race.

3. Congress is still unable to function. The young folks I judged are better speakers and legislators than the folks elected to Congress. They are able to debate and dispose of legislation far more quickly and logically than the folks in DC.

4. One quick prediction, the South Dakota conservatives will frame the effort to replace Tony Post as a struggle for the soul of the party.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Reading Literature Helps One Deal With Ambiguity Edition

From this Tom Jacobs piece at Salon:
Are you uncomfortable with ambiguity? It’s a common condition, but a highly problematic one. The compulsion to quell that unease can inspire snap judgments, rigid thinking, and bad decision-making. 
Fortunately, new research suggests a simple anecdote for this affliction: Read more literary fiction.
A trio of University of Toronto scholars, led by psychologist Maja Djikic, report that people who have just read a short story have less need for what psychologists call “cognitive closure.” Compared with peers who have just read an essay, they expressed more comfort with disorder and uncertainty—attitudes that allow for both sophisticated thinking and greater creativity.
Researchers offer the following reasons why fiction has this effect on readers but non-fiction does not.
“The thinking a person engages in while reading fiction does not necessarily lead him or her to a decision,” they note. This, they observe, decreases the reader’s need to come to a definitive conclusion.
“Furthermore,” they add, “while reading, the reader can stimulate the thinking styles even of people he or she might personally dislike. One can think along and even feel along with Humbert Humbert in Lolita, no matter how offensive one finds this character. This double release—of thinking through events without concerns for urgency and permanence, and thinking in ways that are different than one’s own—may produce effects of opening the mind.” 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Plains Pops: Travel Edition

I am traveling to Birmingham, Alabama with one of my debaters who qualified in congressional debate, so posting will be light and erratic. Also, I am trying a new phone ap, so I don't know if the font will match. If necessary I'll try to fix things when I return. It may also take me a day or two to respond to comments

I'll offer a few observations about what I have seen today as we passed through areas south of Kansas City.

First, South Dakota cattle look healthier than most of the cattle we passed.

Second, I'm sure the folk who live in the towns we have driven through love Jesus, but their churches look like warehouses. I'm not sure what I think about warehousing Jesus. (I know He doesn't live in the buildings, but.  . . )

Third, I am travelling with another coach and his students. We need to get the young'uns travelling with us to eat grits in a Waffle House. Their education will be incomplete if we don't.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rape Culture Not Limited To Military

People have ignored  prison rape for decades. Rape in the military has become a front page issue and garnered Congressional attention. Now, it appears college campuses are home to serial rapists:
At least one-quarter of women are sexually assaulted during their college years, according to studies published as recently as 2000 by the U.S. Justice Department and crime researchers. About 27 percent of college women are raped or suffer attempted rape, according to researchers at Wayne State University.
A relatively small minority of men are responsible for most of these attacks, according to David Lisak, a former University of Massachusetts clinical psychologist who consults to the U.S. military and colleges on sexual assault.
In Lisak’s study of 1,882 college men, 120 admitted committing rape or attempted rape. They admitted to 483, or an average of 4 assaults each.
I've got a step-daughter in college now. Every year I write recommendations to help young women get admitted to college or to get scholarships to pay for college. These numbers frighten me. A lot.

Have Guns Become a Religion?

I ask because actress Katee Sackhoff lost 100,000 followers for the following tweet:
Sackhoff has a bit of cult following because she played Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica and plays Vic Moretti on Longmire.* Her timeline has tweets about filming Longmire, hockey, and her Harley. None seem overtly political.

It seems odd that an admission that the U.S. has a strong gun culture and an admonition to practice gun safety is offensive to 100,000 people. It wasn't a call for political action to ban assault weapons, toughen background checks, create database of gun owners.

Twitter may not be conducive to rational, reasoned debate, but this reaction smacks of zealotry that one finds in true believers not an actress's casual fans who have been disappointed by scandal.

*For what it's worth, Craig Johnson's Longmire books are great reads.

Quotation Of The Day: Man Doesn't Use His Man's Mind

From this Steve Benen post about Maine legislator Ken Fredette who boasts about his "man's mind":
"As I listen to the debate today and earlier debate on this bill, I can't help but think of a title of a book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And it's a book about the fact that men sort of think one way in their own brain, in their own world. And women think another way in their brain and in their own world. And it really talks about the way that men and women can do a better job at communicating.
"Because if you listen to the debate today, in my mind -- a man's mind -- I hear really two fundamental issues. From the other side of the aisle, I hear the conversation being about 'free. This is free, we need to take it, and it's free. And we need to do it now.' And that's the fundamental message that my brain receives. Now, my brain, being a man's brain, sort of thinks differently, because I say, 'Well, it's not -- if it's free, is it really free? Because I say, in my brain, there's a cost to this.'"
Sometimes, the brain should tell one not to say anything at all.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Senator Lindsey Graham Thinks He Should Be Able To Read Your Mail

Kevin Woster thought Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was correct to assert that bloggers have less right to expect First Amendment protections than traditional reporters. I wonder if he agrees with Graham about censoring snail mail.
Sen. Lindsey Graham would propose censoring Americans' "snail" mail if he thought it would help protect national security, the South Carolina Republican said Tuesday. But for now, he says he doesn't think it's necessary.
Faced with questions about the disclosure that the National Security Agency has been collecting phone and email records of citizens, Graham pointed to a World War II-era program in which the federal government censored mail. He said it was appropriate at the time and that he would support reinstating the program if it aided security efforts.
"In World War II, the mentality of the public was that our whole way of life was at risk, we're all in. We censored the mail. When you wrote a letter overseas, it got censored. When a letter was written back from the battlefield to home, they looked at what was in the letter to make sure they were not tipping off the enemy," Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill. "If I thought censoring the mail was necessary, I would suggest it, but I don't think it is."
Graham says, "The First Amendment right to speak is sacrosanct, but it has limits," I would guess nearly everything conceived by humans has limits. The only thing that seems limitless is Graham's desire to limit civil liberties.

Because Someone Had To Go There: A Song Dedication For John Thune And James Clapper

After reading this tweet,

I had no choice but to think of this song:

Quotation Of The Day: The NSA, The Convergence Of Strange Political Bedfellows, And Literature Edition

From this Alan Jacobs post explaining why those of the political left and political right can come together on NSA's surveillance:
This convergence is not new: consider, for instance, the astonishing overlap between the views expressed by the socialist George Orwell in 1984 and those expressed by the Christian conservative C. S. Lewis in That Hideous Strength, right down to the brilliant parodies in both of foully obfuscatory bureaucratic language. Both writers see the rhetorical subtlety by which the pink police state entrenches itself before ultimately revealing its true character. (Orwell didn’t seem to know quite what to make of Lewis’s novel when he reviewed it — he strongly disliked its supernaturalism — but it ended up having a significant influence on the development of 1984. Lewis for his part didn’t especially care for 1984 but thought Animal Farm was “a work of genius.”)

Common Core Done Properly Weakens Ability To Read Literature

I just finished The Sherlockian, an enjoyable novel that combines historical fiction with a contemporary detective story. The historical fiction features Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes novels and short stores, and Bram Stoker the author of Dracula.

The fictionalized Doyle and Stoker have the following  exchange.
"My stories,"said Arthur. "The science of deduction. The reasoning detective. The solution delivered partly in a satisfying denouement. They're all horseshit."
Bram smiled. "I know," he said. "That's why we need them."
Arthur considered this. "I've moved on," he offered after a long pause. "I've been working on realism. History."
"Realism," Bram repeated. "Realism, I think, is fleeting. It's the romance that will live forever."
Earlier, the character Stoker had taken the long view:
Because in a hundred years, no one will care about me. Or you. Or Oscar [Wilde]. We stopped caring about Oscar years ago and we were his bloody friends. No, what they'll remember are the stories. They'll remember Holmes. And Watson. And Dorian Gray."
To test Stoker's theory, let's do a little quiz. Does anyone remember Philander C. Knox or Robert C. Vessey? They were kind of big deals in 1913. The former was the American Secretary of State and the latter South Dakota's governor in 1913. On the other hand, early everyone knows about Pollyanna, the character brought to life in 1913.

I could pass off the novel's dialogue as an author's Romantic musing about famous authors and characters, but this Robert B. Shepherd post on Diane Ravitch's blog sums up why reading the "horseshit" is important and why the Common Core will harm the reading of literature:
Amusingly, the new Common [sic] Core [sic] State [sic] Standards [sic] are totally schizoid on this issue of abstraction and generalization in education and social engineering. On the one hand, the supporting materials around those standards [sic] call for a great RETURN TO THE TEXT—for having our students read substantive works with higher Lexile levels and having them do close reading of those texts. The supporting materials around the new standards also call for subordinating skills and strategies instruction, for making these incidental to emphasis on the text. Well and good. But the standards themselves are more of the same. They are lists of abstract, general skills and strategies, and they encourage the continuation of a kind of schooling that focuses on form rather than on content (knowledge of the world and knowledge of procedures). And so the new [sic] standards [sic] are, sadly, more of the same. However, lists of abstractions have appeal to those who think that they can confidently implement their social engineering based upon their own abstract principles like “you get what you measure,” so it’s not surprising that the social engineers would LOVE the new CCSS in ELA.
We need to return to reading “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”—to focusing on this poem, this essay, this novel, and what it communicates, and we need to retreat from having our students read to practice their inferencing skills or their identifying the main idea or context clues skills. We read because we are interested in Hedda Gabler or Madame Bovery and the plights they are in, not because we wish to hone our understanding of the structure of the novel IN GENERAL. That will come, but it can come ONLY as a result of first READING the novels. In our rush to make ELA education scientific, in our emphasis on abstract form over content, we’ve forgotten why we read. We don’t read to hone our inferencing skills. We don’t read because we are fascinated by where, in this essay, the author has placed the main idea. Our purpose in reading is not to find out how the author organized her story in order to create suspense. We read because we are interested in what the text has to say, and the metacognitive abstraction about the text is incidental. It grows out of and relates to what this particular text does and takes meaning from that. The Common Core State Standards in ELA is just another set of blithering, poorly thought out abstractions. And starting from there, instead of starting with the text and its content, is a mistake.
Beware the social engineer and his or her abstractions.”
In short, the Common Core, when implemented properly, reduces Sherlock Holmes to the status of Philander C. Knox. Shepherd concludes,
“One could implement the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts perfectly and have students entirely miss what reading literature is about. They would not come away from their literature classes with the understanding that when they read a literary work well, they enter into an imaginative world and have an experience there, in all its concreteness and specificity, and it is then THAT experience that has significance, that matters, that has “meaning.”
You can’t skip the experience and go directly to the meaning, and that’s what students are encouraged to do if their lessons concentrate on abstract, formal notions from some list of standards rather than upon reading as experiencing. Now, when I say that reading literature is experiencing, I do not mean that all readings are therefore equally good. Literature makes use of conventions and inventions designed to give people particular imaginative experiences that will be common to readers, with, of course, some variation, experiences that will mean something, not mean anything at all that the reader takes away from it. Literature counts on the fact that when people have an experience like this, they will take away common learnings. Like Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner, a person tells a story because there is something that he or she wishes to communicate. The Vietnam vets used to say, “You wouldn’t know because you weren’t there, man.” Well, reading literature well is about going THERE. It’s about having that experience, carefully arranged so that you will come from it with certain learnings, often with wisdom.
Find THAT in the Common Core State Standards for literature.
Good luck.” 
I've written  before about the Core's misplaced emphasis on non-fiction. Shepherd's analysis points out something that may be more important. The Core will not only decrease the amount of fiction students read. It will also weaken their ability to read, understand, and learn from the fiction they are assigned.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

South Dakota Conservatives' Lamentations

One of the biggest names in South Dakota Republican politics has decided not to run for U.S. Senate, heading off what could have been a fierce intra-party battle.
After months of consideration, Rep. Kristi Noem announced Tuesday that she won’t run for Senate against former Gov. Mike Rounds. Instead, she’ll seek a third term in the House of Representatives.
Those calling for a "true conservative" to challenge Mike Rounds for the Republican nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat must, therefore, continue their search and lamentations.

Is Annette Bosworth The Newest Blues Brother?

I believe that religion belongs in the public square. I've never been able to figure out how one can remove one's belief or lack of belief in God from their moral or political worldviews.

That being said, does God tell only Republicans to run for office? It certainly seems to be the case. Dr. Annette Bosworth claims she's seeking God's calling. Her assertion that God has been preparing her for something but she still doesn't have God's vision reminds me of the scenes chronicled in this YouTube clip.

I suppose I should applaud Bosworth for seeking a vision because I truly believe Proverbs 29:18: "Where there is no vision, the people perish"

America The Hypocritical

The Washington Post has published a poll that shows that most Americans support NSA surveillance of private communication.

Steve Benen puts together this chart that compares Republican and Democratic attitudes now and in 2006.

In short, Republicans trusted Bush and Democrats trust Obama.

Benen puts a bit of a partisan spin on the numbers. The Democrats were opposing something when it was illegal but now it's legal.
So, much of the country is guilty of shameless hypocrisy? There's certainly something to this, though there's one caveat to keep in mind.
Clearly, Democrats are more comfortable with NSA surveillance under a Democratic administration, and Republicans are more comfortable with NSA surveillance under a Republican administration. There is, however, one small catch -- it's not an apples to apples comparison.
In 2006, the poll question dealt with a warrantless surveillance program in which the Bush administration exceeded its legal authority with no judicial check or congressional approval. In 2013, the Obama administration, at least given what we know now, appears to be acting within its legal authority, relying in part on the courts, and acting within a law approved by bipartisan majorities. 
For critics of government snooping, that's cold comfort, but when it comes to gauging public attitudes, the bipartisan hypocrisy comes with an asterisk.
The asterisk is, of course, an allusion to the asterisk that accompanied Roger Maris's record breaking 61 home runs because he played a 162 game season while Babe Ruth played only 154 season. That asterisk was unwarranted in 1961. Benen's is unwarranted now.

Republicans claim to be the party of small government. It's difficult to understand how an alleged party of small government and strict interpretation of the Constitution can support the security state. I fail to understand Democrats supporting something merely because it's legal. There have plenty of legal but terrible laws.

Benen is correct when he writes "with results like these, the political appetite for changing the law will likely be non-existent."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: An Archie Movie? Edition

From this I Watch Stuff Post:
Eager to take advantage of how it's now 1950, Warner Bros. is reportedly adapting Archie Comics into a feature film to be directed by Pitch Perfect director Jason Moore. Carrie remake writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is handling the screenplay, having previously delved into the world of Archie with comics runs on Afterlife with Archie and Archie Meets Glee, both of which are modern things people apparently purchased. Aguirre-Sacasa's hiring and prior résumé led some to quickly hypothesize that the films would include Afterlife's zombies (though not Glee characters, for some reason), but Variety has since clarified that the film will see Archie in a "teenage midlife crisis" that sees him trying to find purpose before graduation, and assumedly deciding whether he wants his favored female face to have blonde hair or black hair. Hopefully they don't mess this up, because you love Archie.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Weirding Down The Rule Of Law Edition

From this Paul Rosenberg post at Crooks and Liars:
Instead of pulling back from the lawlessness we saw under Bush (which most of Obama's enthusiastic supporters must surely have expected in the 2008 campaign) Obama has simply legalized the vast majority of what Bush did--and then some, in some instances.
This is not your father's rule of law. It's not your rule of law. It's not Madison or Montesquieu's rule of law. It's George Orwell and Franz Kafka's rule of law . . .

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Jeremiah 5 Edition

Jeremiah 5
20 “Announce this to the descendants of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah:
21 Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear:
22 Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord. “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
23 But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;they have turned aside and gone away.
24 They do not say to themselves,‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’
25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.
26 “Among my people are the wicked who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch people.
27 Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit;they have become rich and powerful
28 and have grown fat and sleek.Their evil deeds have no limit;they do not seek justice.They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor.
29 Should I not punish them for this?” declares the Lord.“Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?
30 “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land:
31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Saturday Night Is A Good Night For A Geek Debate

That statement is especially true if it's been a rainy day in June.

Calling them the ultimate superheroes, IO9 is giving a little publicity to the following Eric Guzman Marvel/DC mash-ups.

Left to Right: Captain Krypton, Ms. Wonder, and The Amazing Spider-Bat
Combining a chemically enhanced guy with a shield to Superman seems rather unnecessary, and I don't think Ms. Marvel and Wonder Woman are a good fit. Spider-Bat seems like a great mix especially if there's a utility belt involved.

Ok, for all geek readers, what Marvel and DC heroes would you combine to create the ultimate superhero?

If you're not a comics person, which member of Star Wars and Star Trek universes would you combine? Before anyone suggests Chewbacca and Spock, remember that the NSA may be reading your comments.

For those who limit their geekdom to politics, combine a nationally known Republican and Democrat.

None of you really want people to think you have lives do you?

Quotation Of The Day: Democratic Surveillance State Is An Oxymoron Edition

From this Mike Konzcal post at Wonkblog
Having a “democratic surveillance” state sounds like an oxymoron, like having a cuddly hand grenade. Perhaps it would be better to just dismantle the surveillance state entirely and be done with it. And indeed removing the laws associated with the Global War on Terror would do much to remove the authoritarian elements of this state.

A Minor Musing About Political Party Purity

Andrew Sullivan points to the following Seth Masket maps based on state legislators' ideology. Based on data compiled by Boris Shaw and Nolan McCarty, the maps show the "location of the most ideologically extreme state parties." Masket writes a state generally has only one ideologically stubborn party; the other is usually moderate:
[T]he typical pattern is for one party to be pretty extreme while the other is pretty moderate. And that pattern shows up more or less where you'd expect it. For example, New York Democrats are very liberal because they can be, while New York Republicans are moderate because they have to be. Flip that around for Mississippi.
The maps use the requisite blue to illustrate Democrats' ideology and standard red for Republicans. The darker shades obviously show a more intensely ideological party membership in a state's legislature.

Granted the shading doesn't provide the most specific detail, but the data show a few surprises and confirm a few stereotypes. Minnesota's Democrats have the greatest ideological purity among the states' Democratic parties; that should surprise no one. I was, however, surprised to discover that Montana's Republican legislators exhibited more ideological fervor than South Dakota's Republican legislators.

The maps confirm another supposition I have had. The Republican and Democratic legislators in the Dakotas have a wider gap between them in terms of their ideological ardor than Republicans and Democrats in neighboring Wyoming, Montana, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska do. Those other states differ by only one shade, but the Dakotas show a two shade difference in ideological zeal.

The maps prompt the following conclusions. First, the charge that the South Dakota legislature is populated with RINOs is specious at best. It may be laughable. Second, the state's Democrats either don't have a left flank, or they have few members willing to run and carry water for the liberal cause. Finally, given the gap in ideological fervor between the parties' members in the legislature, South Dakotans can expect more of the same when the legislature convenes next January.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Yet More Musings About The Harms Of PRISM

Zack Beauchamp says what I have wanted to say about the NSA and PRISM in a far more clear and concise manner than I could have.
The reaction to the National Security Agency (NSA)’s secret online spying program, PRISM, has been polarized between seething outrage and some variant on “what did you expect?” Some have gone so far as to say this program helps open the door to fascism, while others have downplayed it as in line with the way that we already let corporations get ahold of our personal data.
That second reaction illustrates precisely why this program is so troubling. The more we accept perpetual government and corporate surveillance as the norm, the more we change our actions and behavior to fit that expectation — subtly but inexorably corrupting the liberal ideal that each person should be free to live life as they choose without fear of anyone else interfering with it.
Beauchamp's second paragraph seems so clear and blindingly obvious that I'm angry at myself for not being able to articulate that sentiment.

Beauchamp's point also makes me curious why Dr. Ken Blanchard, South Dakota's resident virtue ethicist, can "side with the Administration on this one." My simple understanding of virtue ethics is that one attempts to act as a virtuous person would act in each situation one confronts. Virtue is a habit and quality that one seeks to develop of one's own volition. A Nafsika Athanassoulis article in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains the point:
Aristotelian virtue is defined in Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics as a purposive disposition, lying in a mean and being determined by the right reason. As discussed above, virtue is a settled disposition. It is also a purposive disposition. A virtuous actor chooses virtuous action knowingly and for its own sake. It is not enough to act kindly by accident, unthinkingly, or because everyone else is doing so; you must act kindly because you recognize that this is the right way to behave. Note here that although habituation is a tool for character development it is not equivalent to virtue; virtue requires conscious choice and affirmation.
It's hard to understand how these programs allow individuals to to develop the habit and desire necessary for virtue. If Blanchard ever gets to this spot in the Interwebs' hinterlands, I'd appreciate hearing his view.

Further, Americans have been told that the programs have not been used to track American citizens. Color me skeptical about that claim, so I am also concerned about another result of PRISM. It seems to turn America's premises about justice on their head. At their most basic, these programs seem premised on the idea that someone will eventually do something to cause mayhem and harm; therefore, massive amounts of data must be collected for examination at a later date. It strikes me that this idea leads to a presumption of guilt until proven innocent not a presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Finally, it strikes me as odd that few have questioned the security of the servers housing the data. It was not that long ago that Chinese hackers were a threat to commerce and the Republic itself. It seems prudent to question not only the acquisition of these massive amounts of data but also the ability of any entity to store it safely.

I'm fairly certain the program is legal; I doubt that it's Constitutional, but I have little confidence the Supreme Court will share my doubts. Constitutional qualms aside, the data mining still seems dangerous and imprudent. Given that the news cycle seems to have moved on, it also seems obvious the Patriot Act and the perpetual war on terror have created subservient American citizens.

Do Montana Republicans Plagiarize Their Neighbors' Work?

Everyone should know that plagiarism is taking another's words or ideas without attribution. Some Montana Republicans are apparently paraphrasing Dakota War College comments without giving the authors credit.

For example, some Montana Republicans want Montana Republican candidates to take a "loyalty oath."

As a divided Montana Republican Party gathers Friday in Bozeman for its annual state convention, a former legislator for the GOP is suggesting the party should rate its candidates and officeholders on how they uphold party principles – and perhaps withhold support from those who don’t.
“How many times can you vote against (Republican principles) and still be a Republican?” asks Derek Skees, a one-term state representative from Whitefish who ran unsuccessfully for state auditor last year.
The Missoulian article continues:
Skees, an outspoken conservative, recently sent an email to fellow conservatives within the party, asking whether they’d support a party resolution to create “unity principles” that candidates must largely support if they expect help from the Montana GOP. 
He also said if a Republican legislator’s votes showed lack of support for the principles, he or she could be targeted for defeat in the next Republican primary election.
With all due respect to the Missoulian the proposal sounds more like a scorecard than a "loyalty oath":
Skees, a convention delegate, said he’s still refining his proposal, but the general idea is to choose perhaps 10 basic principles the define Republicans and use them to rate a Republican lawmaker’s votes or what a GOP candidate stands for.
If they vote or disagree more than 20 percent of the time, for example, then they wouldn’t get support from the party – and voters would be informed on the ratings as well, he said.
Skees said identifying the true conservatives will help the party win elections, because a majority of Montana voters are conservatives and want to vote for those who will represent them.
Republican legislators who voted with Democrats on key issues during the Legislature “severely damaged the credibility of the Republican Party in the state of Montana,” he said.
Recent DWC comments have many comments filled with scorecard love like the following:
And as far as what Kristi has said or promised, it really doesn’t mean much. While I listen to the words, it is the ACTIONS that matter and the SCORECARDS DON’T LIE. When you have a legislator with a voting record of around 60% when measured against conservative principles, they are not a strong conservative.
There have also been comments excoriating Republicans who vote with Democrats:
Imagine that, seems House [Minority] Leader Bernie Hunhoff, and EVERYONE of the Democrats in the South Dakota Legislature, agree with Rep Hoffman & former Senator Schoenbeck and want MORE government & MORE taxes:
Let the words sink in, “Republicans” advocating for MORE taxes even though there is no identified imperative need for the monies to be taken away from South Dakotans. “Republicans” advocating that MORE government is good, and that we need MORE government involvement in our lives.
DWC commenters also love the Republican platform. There's this comment:
The platform is also what we Republicans say is how we are going to fix the problems that are affecting South Dakotans. If you think raising taxes, increasing government spending, and expanding government is the answer.. then you are working against what Republicans believe is the answer and that is to reduce taxes, spending, and government.
Can’t have your cake and eat it too. You want to claim to be a Republican to get elected? Then vote like one when elected.
If you can’t support the party platform, then run as an Independent.
And this one:
If they promote liberal policies and oppose conservative ones, they are the ones I was talking about. You can read the GOP platform to find out what conservative principles are, in case you are clueless about that. Once you understand what conservative principles are, it’s easy to know who I was talking about.
I think you owe Republicans who believe in Republican values, and are being betrayed by these frauds, an apology–as do those who are betraying those values.
The South Dakota folk even talk about the party making sure that candidates are pure:
Republicans in elected leadership positions governing and legislating like liberals. However, I think we need to be judicious in culling these RINOs from the herd. We cannot just wave a magic wand and have them all immediately disappear.
Some of this has been going on for so long I am not even sure if all Republicans really truly understand what conservative principles and values are. Perhaps if they took some time to study these issues, they may think a little differently when they look in the mirror? Maybe it would even help them govern and legislate a little more like true conservatives?
The most distressing thing is how many in the party treat the far right conservatives. They are driving a wedge between them and the Republican Party that is only pushing them further away. Yes, these conservatives are passionate about their beliefs, but they are not wrong. They may be overly aggressive in their efforts to cull RINOs from the herd, but they are not wrong. And yes they may be misguided in some of the ways they try to accomplish their mission, but they are not wrong. The Republican Party is being taken over by progressive liberals.
Perhaps if the Republican Party was to exert a little “quality control” over who wears the big red “R”, that just might solve all of the problems? But no, I see none of that occurring. Their energy is spent on trying to marginalize the conservatives who are passionate about the conservative values and principles that should be the foundation of the Republican Party. That is what I see as WRONG. 
One would think the Montana Republicans could be more original. If I were a DWC commenter, I'd be angry they were taking ideas without giving credit.

HT: Montana Cowgirl

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Quotation Of The Day: Verizon Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg Edition

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. . .
The technology companies, which participate knowingly in PRISM operations, include most of the dominant global players of Silicon Valley. They are listed on a roster that bears their logos in order of entry into the program: “Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” PalTalk, although much smaller, has hosted significant traffic during the Arab Spring and in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
Dropbox , the cloud storage and synchronization service, is described as “coming soon.”
These eight seconds from HBO's Treme are unsafe for work and anyone offended by concentrated profanity, but they sum up my response to these revelations and those about data mining Verizon's records.

After Repeated Errors, A Minor Musing Comes

I'm sure Emily Dickinson is spinning in her grave

I hate making mistakes. I especially hate repeating mistakes. I should, therefore, take a little time to examine what the heck I'm doing when I make and repeat the same blogging error.

A few years ago, I did a little navel gazing and wrote a post titled "What I'm Doing Wrong." I remembered that the conclusion was an Alan Jacobs tweet: "Sometimes I write blog posts not because I have anything original or even distinctive to say, but just to find out what I think." I still believe that sentiment to be true. I still try to practice it.

Until I re-read the post, I didn't remember I had opined that I have lousy keyboard skills, frequently don't proofread carefully, and don't have a consistent writing style. I believe I've admitted those failings elsewhere. I'll have to add that I may not always read posts or follow links as carefully as I should.

I had published fewer than 150 posts in August 2010. I've published over 1500 now. so I'll try to summarize a few principles my mistakes indicate I should practice.

First, John Wooden was correct: Be quick but don't hurry. Nearly every factual error I've made has occurred because I've been in a hurry to hit publish. The only deadline I have is self-imposed, so there's no need to hurry.

Second, exploration is better than confirmation. In other words, write blog posts "just to find out what I think." The posts I like best have been the ones that let me think out loud. As an aside, it seems every blogger who has ever written a post about the act of blogging has said he or she doesn't know which posts readers will generate reader responses. I know I'm surprised at the responses some posts generate.

Third, don't publish a post just to publish a post. I had stopped regular blogging during debate season. When I restarted, I was determined to use this Seinfeld productivity tip: "Don't break the chain." Once one has started a daily habit, one should view daily completion of the task as chain of red Xs on a calendar. One should try to avoid breaking the chain. I don't have a blogging calendar, but I do have the dashboard that lists the dates posts are published. I have tried hard to keep a two posts per day chain going. In retrospect, I probably should have been more concerned about being thorough than breaking the chain.

Fourth, blogging always takes more time than I think it will. That fact makes Wooden's maxim even more necessary.

Fifth, there some things I will never figure out. In the 2010 post, I mused about lack of niche. I'm still not sure I have one. I opine about politics, philosophy, education, pop culture, and whatever strikes my fancy at the moment. I'm not sure I'll change that part of this blog.

Finally, walk away at least once before hitting publish. Most of the grammar and mechanical errors on this blog were published because I didn't walk away for 5 minutes before reading the post for a final time.

Herein endth this moment of introspection.

Common Core Tests May Take Up To 10 Hours (Updated)

From this Diane Ravitch post:
Catherine Gewertz reports in Education Week that the new Common Core tests created by the PARCC consortium of states will require up to ten hours, depending on grade level.Here is the projection:
“The amount of time students will have to complete both the performance-based and end-of-year components in math and English/language arts:
Grade 3: 8 hoursGrades 4-5: 9 hours, 20 minutesGrades 6-8: 9 hours, 25 minutes 
Grades 9-10: 9 hours, 45 minutesGrades 
11-12: 9 hours, 55 minutes”
I do remember my previous discussion with Josh Verges, so I know that South Dakota is part of the Smarter Balance consortium not the PARCC consortium.  I also believe Emerson was correct when he asserts that bureaucracies prefer conformity to any other quality. I can confidently predict South Dakota's test will approximate these times.**

Locally, we allocated about 8 hours to finish the Dakota STEP test last year, but 2 hours were used for a science component. These tests will add 3 hours to the language arts and math tests plus whatever science and social science elements that will be added eventually.

**Update: I'm getting really sloppy about reading education articles. In the comments, Josh Verges points out the Education Week article Ravitch links to lists 7 to 8.5 hours for math and language arts. I missed it on first reading.

College Republicans Offer Advice South Dakota Democrats Should Heed

The College Republican National Committee issued a report examining why Republicans lost the 2012 youth vote so badly. The following paragraph has been getting quite a bit of coverage:
During the January 2013 focus group research, respondents in the Columbus group of young men who voted for Obama were asked to name who they viewed as leaders of the Democratic Party. They named prominent former or currently elected officials: Pelosi, the Clintons, Obama, Kennedy, Gore.When those same respondents were asked to name Republican leaders, they focused heavily on media personalities and commentators: Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck.
The report's subsequent paragraph may be as important:
Yet across all six groups, when the topic turned to future leaders of the parties, the GOP was clearly in a stronger position. Asked to name up-and-coming Republican stars, these young Obama voters could point to a number of examples. Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Bobby Jindal, and Rand Paul were all mentioned.
In short, people recognized as leaders should be likable and actually be leaders. Also, it's good to have young members ready to step up. The people the focus group identified as Republican leaders are an unlikable lot unless one is a true believer.

There may be two things worse than leaders outsiders despise: leaders true believers don't trust and leaders outsiders can't identify. South Dakota Democrats have few recognizable leaders, and they have fewer young leaders.

I doubt most South Dakotans can name ten in-state Democratic leaders. I'd even make a small wager that most voters** cannot add a single name to a list containing the names Tom Daschle, Tim Johnson, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Brendan Johnson, Rick Weiland, and Bernie Hunhoff. Daschle lost in 2004; Tim Johnson is retiring, and Brendan Johnson has never run for anything. The liberal wing of the party has a hard time saying anything good about Herseth Sandlin. Weiland has lost twice, and Hunoff seems satisfied with his current position. Only Herseth Sandlin and Brendan Johnson can be considered young.

South Dakota Democrats need to do a lot of ground work over the next few years to develop recognizable leaders whom both Democrats and Republicans respect. If they don't develop new leaders, the state will continue to operate as a single party oligarchy.

**I know Dakota War College has Angie Buhl in the blog's word cloud. Buhl is a young leader, but I doubt that "blog readers" and "most voters" are synonymous.

A Minor Rant About NSA Seizing All Of Verizon's Customers' Call Records

I didn't vote for Obama in 2012 because I believed his civil liberties record did not merit my vote. After yesterday's revelation about the NSA getting a FISA warrant for all Verizon phone records, I have to rank that protest vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson as the best vote I have ever cast.

For those of you wondering about why I didn't vote for Mitt Romney, I give you Lindsey Graham:
Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday that he is “glad” that the National Security Agency is collecting millions of telephone records — including his own — from one of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies in an attempt to combat terrorism.
Mr. Graham said that he is a Verizon customer and has no problem with the company turning over records to the government if it helps it do its job. The South Carolina Republican said that people who have done nothing wrong have nothing to worry about because the NSA is mining the phone records for people with suspected ties to terrorism.
If I have done nothing wrong, I suppose I have nothing to worry about if the police bring drug dogs into my house without a warrant. If I have done nothing wrong, I have nothing to worry about if the police stop me without probable cause while I'm walking around the park and take me to the police station to ask me questions about my associations with Al Qaeda or if I've ever been a member of the Communist Party.

In case the preceding paragraph didn't make it clear why I won't support Republicans because of their civil liberties views. let me be a bit more blunt. I didn't support Obama because he talked the talk in 2008 but walked a far different walk during the next four years. I can't support Republicans because for all their talk about respecting constitutional principles and small governement, they babble banalities like those Graham uttered on issues that matter.

Since this post is turning into a rant, let me go a step further to discuss which current issues really matter by using a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being "it just doesn't matter" and 10 "as urgent as avoiding a speeding bus without operable brakes."

  • Scheduling a 40th vote to repeal Obamacare rates a 1.
  • Benghazi is a 1.7
  • The IRS snooping should be seen as a  6.5
  • Stopping sexual abuse in the military is an 8
  • Subpoenaing journalists' records is a 5.5
  • The NSA getting a FISA warrant  for every call for every Verizon customer is a 12.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tweet Of The Day: Fox News Priorities Edition

Domino's Pizza Has A DomniCopter?

Holy thirty minutes or less, Batman. Please tell me this video has some semblance of truth.

Elite Republicans And Democrats Want To Be Different From You And Me

Jonathan Sides points out Republicans and Democrats make dramatically different choices about common activities.
Republicans and Democrats don’t seem to agree on very much these days. They’re divided on the kinds of television shows they watch, cars they drive and beers they drink. And now new research by political scientists at the University of Chicago adds one more thing to that list: baby names.
If the surveys are to be believed,  Republicans tend to watch golf or Survivor, drive a pickup, and drink Coors Light. Democrats lean towards watching NBA basketball or Family Guy, driving a hybrid, and drinking Heineken.

When it comes to names, Republicans tend to pick pick popular or traditional names to "signal economic capital" whereas Democrats tend to pick names that "signal cultural tastes and erudition."

Republicans and Democrats also pick names that sound different. Sides reports,
Oliver and colleagues found that, for both boy and girl babies, “softer” sounds were more prominent among educated whites living in more Democratic or liberal neighborhoods. That is, a boy’s name like “Julian” or “Liam” or a girl’s name like “Malia” would be more common in Democratic neighborhoods. A boy’s name like “Trig” or a girl’s name like “Bristol” would be more common in Republican neighborhoods.
In other words, Liam will likely be behind the well of the hybrid, and Trig will likely be behind the wheel of the 4x4.

The most provocative conclusion about baby names seems to apply to beer and vehicles as well. It's all about elites preening and so the rest of us notice the choices being made. Sides notes,
Oliver and colleagues also emphasize that these partisan or ideological differences were largely confined to better-educated whites. As other political science research shows, partisanship and ideology often operate most strongly within this group. Thus, it is a mistake simply to divide America into red and blue. This leads to the paper’s provocative conclusion:
As we see in patterns of baby names, liberal elites use esoteric cultural references to demonstrate their elevated social position just as conservatives invoke traditional signals of wealth and affluence. Instead of divides between “Red and Blue states,” it is more accurate to say that America is divided not just by “Red and Blue elites,” but also in the ways these elites seek to differentiate themselves from the largely “purple” masses.
After reading these article I expect someone  to re-write Romeo and Juliet as a story about a Democrat Julian who falls in love with a Republican Bristol. The two commit suicide by drowning in a vat of Dos Equis because they can't agree which vehicle to drive to the wedding of their non-partisan friend Joshua.

Quotation Of The Day: Lewis Versus Rand Edition

If there ever was any doubt, although none should have existed, C.S. Lewis was a first-rate thinker; Ayn Rand was not. From this Mark Kleiman post:
In general, Rand deserves her followers, while Lewis emphatically does not deserve his. (I can just imagine Lewis’s reaction had he lived to see Ollie North (!) living in a mansion called “Narnia.”) Lewis was a superb writer of persuasive prose (I’d put him in the Orwell class) and, on average, a far clearer and more original thinker than Rand, whose “philosophy” is mostly Nietzsche-and-water. You don’t have to be a Christian to admire the brilliance of Screwtape, or its insight into some aspects of moral psychology and of bureaucratic life.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Best Written Television Series Of All Time?

The Writers Guild of America has published a list of the 101 best television series. Writing for the Guild, Paul Brownfield praises character development:
Then, as now, it comes down to character—from Lucy Ricardo and Archie Bunker to Andy Griffith and Andy Sipowicz. There are kinships across generations—from The Honeymooners to Roseanne, say, or from The Twilight Zone to Lost. Regardless of the year, or genre, what emerges is a common dynamic between show and audience, the kind of lasting intimacy that writers telling episodic stories are uniquely able to achieve.
As a teacher, I agree with Brownfield's sentiments, but I'm not sure the programs were listed in order of the best character development. That quibble doesn't really matter. Lists like these aren't about the best series or the best characters. These lists exist for a single purpose: people like me get to argue about slights and irrational high ranks.

The Top Ten contains no real surprises.

  1. The Sopranos
  2. Seinfeld
  3. The Twilight Zone
  4. All in the Family
  5. M*A*S*H
  6. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  7. Mad Men
  8. Cheers
  9. The Wire
  10. The West Wing
I might want The Wire to be a little higher on the list, but that's a quibble. Some purists might want I Love Lucy in the top 10; it came in at 12. Those same folks might be apoplectic that Lucy lost out to The Simpsons at 11.

Let's go to my biggest complaints. Friday Night Lights was ranked 22; House was ranked 74. I'd switch those. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but 49 is pretty high. I'd put it somewhere in the 70s.  I also thought Friends and The Larry Sanders should have been in the bottom half not the top 25. Deadwood came in at 32. I would not have put it on the list at all. Twin Peaks came in at 35 but should have made the top 20.

The best part of the list is confirmation of one of my long held biases, so no one should argue about this placement. It's obvious and unarguable. The original Star Trek is superior to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Uhura were simply better characters than Picard, Riker, Troi, and Data. Star Trek came 33; TNG came was ranked 79.

Quotations Of The Day: Justice Scalia's Dissent In Maryland v King

From Justice Scalia's Maryland v King dissent:
So, to review: DNA testing does not even begin until after arraignment and bail decisions are already made. The samples sit in storage for months, and take weeks to test. When they are tested, they are checked against the Unsolved Crimes Collection—rather than the Convict and Arrestee Collection, which could be used to identify them.The Act forbids the Court’s purpose (identification), but prescribes as its purpose what our suspicionless-search cases forbid (“official investigation into a crime”). Against all of that, it is safe to say that if the Court’s identification theory is not wrong, there is no such thing as error. . .  
The Court disguises the vast (and scary) scope of its holding by promising a limitation it cannot deliver. The Court repeatedly says that DNA testing, and entry into a national DNA registry, will not befall thee and me, dear reader, but only those arrested for “serious offense[s].” Ante, at 28; see also ante, at 1, 9, 14, 17, 22, 23, 24 (repeatedly limiting the analysis to “serious offenses”). I cannot imagine what principle could possibly justify this limitation, and the Court does not attempt to suggest any. If one believes that DNA will “identify” someone arrested for assault, he must believe that it will “identify” someone arrested for a traffic offense. This Court does not base its judgments on senseless distinctions. At the end of the day, logic will out. When there comes before us the taking of DNA from an arrestee for a traffic violation, the Court will predictably (and quite rightly) say, “We can find no significant difference between this case and King.” Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason. . . .
Today’s judgment will, to be sure, have the beneficial effect of solving more crimes; then again, so would the taking of DNA samples from anyone who flies on an airplane (surely the Transportation Security Administration needs to know the “identity” of the flying public), applies for a driver’s license, or attends a public school. Perhaps the construction of such a genetic panopticon is wise. But I doubt that the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.
I therefore dissent, and hope that today’s incursion upon the Fourth Amendment, like an earlier one, will some day be repudiated. [Emphasis Mine]
Suffice it to say, this decision needs to be overturned as quickly as possible. I still marvel at the fact that people scream bloody murder at any perceived abridgment of Second Amendment protections but are silent at real abridgments of Fourth Amendment rights.

Monday, June 3, 2013

An Open Memo To Common Core Opponents

To: Common Core Opponents
From: The Displaced Plainsman
Subject: Anonymous Letters
Date: June 3, 2013

I too have serious misgivings about the Common Core and what its implementation might mean. Some of you are making it much harder for rest of us to be taken seriously.

Let me give you an example. Today, while I was sitting in a workshop that I'm taking so that I can keep my teacher certification, the professor told us that she and her husband, who is also an educator, had received a letter filled with cut and paste anti-Core rants. The letter also contained links to anti-Core sites.

As a teacher, I'm supposed to provide some positive feedback. In this case, those who sent this letter should be commended for not using letters physically cut from assorted newspapers and magazines. It's always good to avoid having one's anonymous letter resemble a kidnapper's ransom note.

Now for the negative but helpful criticism. I will to start gently as I can. HOW CAN YOU BE SO STUPID AND STILL BREATHE?

Tactics like this marginalize people who have practical reasons for opposing the Core. Any criticism is now waved off as the rantings of lunatics who fear black helicopters and believe the Core is going to usher in the mark of the Beast.

Perhaps you have been indoctrinated by Nike and its "Just Do It" campaign. Nike made a lot of money from that campaign, but sometimes it not enough to just do something. How one does something is frequently as important as what one does. In this case opposing the Core may well be the right thing to do. How you're doing it, however, is so wrong that it's actually hurting your cause.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

National Republican Senatorial Committee Weighs In On South Dakota Senate Race

From Politico, Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) has weighed in on the South Dakota Republican efforts to win the United States Senate seat currently held by Tim Johnson:
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), the chair of the NRSC, all but endorsed the GOP establishment favorites running for open Senate seats next year in West Virginia and South Dakota.
In an interview Sunday on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” Moran said he had “great confidence and faith” in Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) and former South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds, the Republican front-runners to capture seats held by a pair of retiring Democrats.
“She seems to be clearly on her way to being nominated as the Republican candidate in West Virginia,” the campaign committee chairman said of Capito, calling her “a great House member.” Moran was nearly as effusive in praising Rounds, describing the former two-term governor as an “outstanding candidate.”
Capito and Rounds have drawn criticism from conservatives, including the Club for Growth, for their fiscal records but have not yet been met with daunting primary challengers. Moran’s comments suggest Senate Republicans would prefer to keep it that way.
It will be interesting to see how the Republican right wing deals with this pseudo endorsement. I'm guessing loudly and unhappily. 

Scripture And Song Of The Week: Gospel Of John 9 Edition

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Racists Protest Cheerios Ad

I love Cheerios, so I never pay much attention to their ads. I'm going to buy the cereal anyway. Apparently others watch the ads more carefully than I do. I wonder if those who protested this Cheerios ad have full possession of the reasoning skills God gave them.

According to the New York Daily News, they may not:
An innocent ad for heart-healthy Cheerios has sparked an onslaught of disturbing racist backlash on the Internet.
The cereal brand was forced to pull comments from its YouTube page after a cereal commercial featuring an interracial family reportedly prompted a string of messages about Nazis, racial genocide and viewers so disgusted they “want to vomit.”
Adweek adds some perspective:
It's another one of those things that shouldn't be a story but is—an ad from a major U.S. brand featuring an interracial couple and their daughter. You'd think this new Cheerios ad from Saatchi & Saatchi in New York might go largely unnoticed, given the plethora of interracial couples on TV shows these days. (NBC's Parenthood is a notable example, though far from the only one.) But it's not going unnoticed—it hit Reddit's front page, a place largely reserved for life's great oddities, and the YouTube view count is rising fast. The problem is that TV ads have always lagged TV programming in this regard, as so many brands are clearly scared of being perceived as making a political statement with the casting of their commercials. Thus, the Cheerios ad, despite its characters being representative of tens of thousands of actual couples in America, sticks out like a sore thumb. And then you have the YouTube comments section, which predictably has devolved into an endless flame war, with references to Nazis, "troglodytes" and "racial genocide." At what point will an ad like this just seem normal?
When I got the link to put the YouTube clip in this post, I noticed that 1153 people disliked the ad. I wonder was Brad Ford one of them?

Update: Someone using the pseudonym Herman V stopped by to tell me and the world that nothing good comes from putting blacks and whites together. I was going to let the comment stand, but it also included a link I didn't trust, so I removed it. Suffice it to say, Herman and I disagree about his statements.