Monday, November 12, 2018

This is my lane

The American College of Physicians created a position paper in which they outline their public health approach to reducing deaths and injuries from firearms. The shooting at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh made the news as did the shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks. They were about ten days apart. What didn’t get much coverage was the mass shootings – four or more deaths – averaging one a day in between (and probably since).

But the NRA didn’t like the recommendations from the ACP. They tweeted:
Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.
That definitely stirred up the doctors, who tweeted a flurry of rebuttals that, alas, are rather graphic (the link above includes them). Some of what they wrote:

Dr. Esther Choo: “We are not anti-gun: we are anti-bullet holes in our patients. We consult with everyone but extremists.”

Dr. Jeannie Moorjani: “I would like to graciously extend the invitation to the author of this tweet and anyone else from the NRA to join me at the hospital the next time I care for a child who has been hurt or killed by a gun that wasn't safely stored or was an innocent bystander.”

Dr. Judy Melinek: “Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn't just my lane. It's my f****** highway.”

Dr. Stephanie Bonne: “Wanna see my lane? Here’s the chair I sit in when I tell parents their kids are dead. How dare you tell me I can’t research evidence based solutions.”

The NRA, always persistent, complained that the studies in their paper don’t really have “evidence.”

The ACP responded where evidence is limited, we say so. All our recommendations were reviewed and approved by our health policy committee, which includes gun owners.

In addition, the NRA is the reason why there isn’t much evidence. A 1996 law prevents the CDC from advocating or promoting gun control. Dr. Melinek says, “What we are against is not researching…”

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Rock v. rifle

The nasty guy tweeted that when refugees in the caravan throw rocks at the military on the border, “consider it a rifle.” He says the refugees are already “viciously” throwing those rocks, though I don’t think anyone has an arm that can blast a rock over several hundred miles. Melissa McEwan of Shakesville responds:
He wants a clash at the border. He's doing everything he can to try to ensure that it happens. Because malice is the agenda.

Joe Kassabian, a veteran of Afghanistan, says:
We had rocks thrown at us all the time in Afghanistan. Responding with lethal force is a fucking war crime.

Meteor Blades of Daily Kos says yeah, those refugees are fleeing poverty, violence, and highly dysfunctional governments. They are also fleeing climate change. Changing weather patterns have ruined crops for a couple years now. Guatemala is consistently listed in the 10 most vulnerable nations to climate change. This caravan of refugees may be a few thousand. The flow could swell to millions.

Lies are lies

A few people have used Twitter to explain how the media fails us.

Lois Beckett is a West Coast reporter for The Guardian, though the views in her Twitter feed are her own. She is sick of the media proclaiming hopelessness and stalemate after each mass shooting. There are ways to prevent such shootings, things that are already law. The fixes are not simple and don’t work all the time. Even so they should be tried. But these solutions are not well known, even by government officials. And media is good at making things well known. So, media, switch from hopelessness to action.

Michael Stuchberry reviews the rise of Hitler. The Munich Beer Hall Putch was a disaster. But during his trial Hitler was allowed to speak for hours and to cross-examine his witnesses. It was all nonsense but sounded great to a weary, scared German population. He was imprisoned under light guard, which meant he had the time and resources to focus his ideas into *Mein Kampf*.

Stuchberry concludes:
Basically, the German Weimar state, as it were, give Hitler all the time, resources and media training he'd possibly ever need to become a popular demagogue, during his trial and incarceration. It focused him, it gave him something to work for.

When presented with fascists, don't play by their rules. Don't concede ground to them. Don't give them the oxygen to spread their ideas. Repudiate them loudly, and forcefully. Stop them before they can grow into something more deathly persuasive.

We are making the same mistakes that plunged the world into darkness just under 75 years ago. In our attempt to ensure that all our voices are heard, we're giving a pulpit those who'd have all voices silenced. Do not ever think it can't happen again.

Chelsea Peretti wants more people to call things what they are. Why are we resigned when the nasty guy calls journalists the enemy of the people? Why are we calm in discussing how elections are being stolen? Why is there debate about whether the nasty guy is an autocrat? She concludes:
Lies are lies. Cruel is cruel. Racist is racist. Cheating is cheating. Votes are votes.

Though not through Twitter, Melissa McEwan of Shakesville has a few things to say to the media:

1. Both sides are not the same.
To downplay the eliminationism of the right under the auspices of maintaining "objectivity" is not objective at all — it has been and continues to be a profoundly dishonest misrepresentation of reality.
2. The nasty guy is serious about his vile nativist agenda. Stop pretending he isn’t.

3. This is not a normal presidency. Stop pretending “it’s not legal” matters to the nasty guy and his backers in Congress.
The whole reason that Mitch McConnell held open 100+ federal court seats plus a SCOTUS seat for the next GOP president is so the laws won't have to matter for Republicans anymore.

Power for me, not you

A couple more election stories:

We heard a lot about the Senate race in Texas which, alas, Beto O’Rourke lost. What didn’t get a lot of coverage was the 19 black women who ran for judgeships. All 19 won! Of those, 17 were in Harris County (Houston).

When GOP Scott Walker was governor of Wisconsin the GOP controlled Legislature ceded a great deal of power to Walker and his efforts to break unions. But now that Democrat Tony Evers has won the job of governor Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said:
If there are areas where we could look and say, 'Geez — have we made mistakes where we granted too much power to the executive,' I'd be open to taking a look to say what can we do to change that to try to re-balance it.
Yeah, a GOP governor can have lots of power, but a Democrat governor can’t. And we’re going to make sure he doesn’t. They have until January 7 to jam it through.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

It’s autumn in Michigan

My front yard.


The tree they came from (last week).

Why vote when it doesn’t count?

I occasionally listen to an online episode of Radiolab. This 70 minute episode this week was, of course, about voting. The story starts by noting the rise conservative autocrats in various countries around the world, leaders who claim allegiance to democracy, but actually want to destroy it. When they get into power it is usually through a democratic vote. Don’t the citizens know what they are doing? A researcher worked through data from the World Values Survey which talked to many people around the world.

Three questions in the survey dealt with democracy: What do you think of a strong ruler who doesn’t have to bother with Parliament or elections? In 1995 24% of respondents thought this was a very good or fairly good thing. Recently that grew to 33% around the world. In France and Britain that has grown to about 50%.

How important is it for you to live in a democracy? About two-thirds of Americans born in the 1930s and 1940s put a great deal of importance to living in a democracy, saying it is really essential. For those born since 1980 it is less than one-third.

Do you think rule by the military is a good system of government? Twenty years ago about 6% of Americans thought that was a good idea. A couple years ago that had grown to about 16%. And among young, affluent Americans 35% thing military rule is a good thing.

This shows there is not a deep attachment to democracy. People are saying let’s try something new. How bad could it get? It can’t be worse. Can it?

But dictators are permanent. Democracy admits up front that we won’t get it right, things will always change, and that’s a good thing. In a couple years we can vote in new people.

So if people think democracy is broken, let’s fix it. Yeah, that means tackling corporate money, lobbyists, gerrymandering, voter suppression, Electoral College, and even the two-party system.

Yeah, that’s a lot to deal with, especially in an hour-long program. Perhaps we can deal with one – voting, or at least the idea that a person’s vote doesn’t count.

What we have now is similar to a 1980s computer. We need to update the operating system.

The last 50 minutes of the program worked through three examples of rank choice voting. The voter doesn’t just vote for a favorite, he or she also votes for a second choice, and third, etc. perhaps for as many candidates as there are. The voter could also refuse to put a candidate in his ranking.

When the ballot counting starts votes are all awarded according to the first choice on each ballot. If one candidate gets over 50%, we’re done. This process deals with majority, not plurality. If no candidate gets over 50% the candidate (if lots of candidates, maybe more than one) with the fewest votes is eliminated. The ballots listing that candidate as first choice are examined and redistributed according to the second choice. The process – eliminating the bottom and redistributing according to the next choice – is repeated until one candidate gets over 50%.

In places where this has been used, such as Ireland, San Francisco, and Maine, the debate has become more civil. Candidates want to be seen in a positive light to get the second choice.

A few years ago there were four candidates for San Francisco mayor. The bottom two teamed up – vote for me and vote for my partner candidate for second choice. It almost worked. One was eliminated immediately. The other got enough votes to eliminate the second highest and almost squeezed into first place.

This method of voting could have made a big difference in the 2016 election. There were enough Never Trump voters that as the bottom candidates were eliminated the second and third choices would have given another candidate the win over the nasty guy. And in the general election as the Libertarian and Green party candidates were eliminated, votes transferred to Hillary Clinton would have made a difference in the three close states.

Rank choice voting sounds good to me.

Here’s another case of a really good idea that won’t get implemented because the people currently in power don’t like democracy and benefit from the way things are done now. Sigh.

The news is supposed to be all about me

Drat, the post election euphoria didn’t last nearly long enough.

In the midst of the election results news yesterday the nasty guy fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He must have been annoyed that the news wasn’t about him, so did something vile to make sure he was the focus of attention again. The temporary AG, until a new one can be confirmed, isn’t Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, it is Chief of Staff Matthew Whitaker. A sensible question is why him? Whitaker and the nasty guy appear to agree on one thing: Whitaker’s role at the Justice Department is to shield the nasty guy from justice.

And, of course, that means threatening to shut down Robert Mueller’s investigation of the nasty guy and Russia. Though by now, a day later, he may have already done it.

The group Nobody Is Above the Law asked people to sign up several months ago, when the nasty guy needed some sort of distraction and threatened to fire Rosenstein. This group said that if the investigation was under threat they would call for protests the next day. So yesterday I got a notice a protest was set for this afternoon at 5:00. I had originally signed up for a protest in Ann Arbor, but when the notice actually came I found a protest in my own little suburb, one of 28 around Michigan and hundreds across the country. So I went to the local one.

I counted 80 people who braved the late afternoon cold. I’m sure a few more showed up while we were there. The organizer brought extra signs. I met a few people I had worked with on the gerrymandering campaign. We walked in an oval and chanted for about an hour.


Our little protest was along a busy street and next to the police station. Nearby is the district court and the street back to the court has an appropriate name. We had been marching for a while, chanting “No justice, no peace” when I noticed how appropriate that street’s name was.


Here’s another way the nasty guy inserted himself back into the news cycle. Jim Acosta is White House reporter for CNN and a regular target of the nasty guy’s ire. Yesterday Acosta asked a question about the nasty guy’s incendiary language. The nasty guy tried to shut down the question, Acosta persisted. A female WH intern tried to take the microphone from Acosta. Acosta fended off her grab.

The WH suspended Acosta’s press pass. He was accused of assaulting the female intern. Quite quickly the WH issued a video saying it “proved” the assault. Those familiar with video work just as quickly said the film had been doctored.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville noted:
This was clearly a set-up. And it should terrify and enrage all of us that the White House is engaging in this sort of manipulation, propaganda, and personal attacks on journalists as the president's war on the free press continues to escalate.

And fuck everyone who is calling this "a distraction." This isn't a distraction. This is what life looks like under an authoritarian regime, and we had better damn well be paying attention.

Andrea Mitchell reports the confrontation was planned in advance to distract the media from the Democratic victory. A woman was chosen to attempt to grab the mic so the WH could flip the narrative that had been used against Brett Kavanaugh.

McEwan added:
The time between when I say, "This administration is doing X" and people call me a hysterical conspiracy theorist, and then I'm proven right, keeps getting shorter and shorter. #Cassandra
For those who don’t remember their Greek mythology, Cassandra was a woman who always told the truth but was never believed. That led to nasty consequences during the Trojan War.