A Dog’s Life

Canadian commenter NorthLeft12, freshly returned from vacation, wondered this morning at the dearth of posts here on the migrant crisis in Europe. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you why I haven’t addressed it: I don’t know what to say.

I wish there was something I could do besides making donations to relief organizations, an activity that feels like attempting to bail an ocean with a Dixie cup, and supporting politicians with comparatively sane and humane views on this and other issues.

Let me clarify: There is much the United States could and should do. And President Obama, as one of the saner and more humane politicians we’ve got, will probably do as much as he can within the constraints of our political system. But those constraints are straitjacket-proportioned on this issue, so I don’t expect much at all, maybe a relative handful of resettlements and a few large bales of cash. This country doesn’t have the appetite for anything else.

Today’s NYT reports that Iraqis are taking note of the mass migration from Syria and leaving in droves as well, hoping a European country will take them in along with refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and various war-torn African countries. Who can blame them? I’d sure as hell try to get out if I were them. The Times interviewed one refugee who wants to use Europe as a stepping stone to America:

One of them, Hattam Jabbar, 28, pulled from his shoulder bag an identification card issued in 2008 by the United States Army that said he was a fighter for the “Sons of Iraq,” the United States-backed program that brought Sunni fighters into the government fold to fight what was then Al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to the Islamic State.

“There is nothing to make me sad about leaving,” he said. “There is no humanity here.”

Mr. Hattam said he hoped his journey ends not in Europe but in the United States, where, he said, “even the dogs live well.”

He explained what he meant by telling a story an Iraqi friend living in the United States had recently told him. The friend, he said, had gone to the supermarket and left his dog in his car with the windows up on a hot day. A police officer, seeing this, scolded him, and told him he was putting the dog at risk.

“That means they even respect the dogs,” he said. “Even the dogs have rights in America.”

What Hattam Jabbar fails to understand is that many of us — maybe even most of us — care more about dogs than people. I’m guilty of that myself. People are horrible much of the time. Dogs aren’t. And it feels like we can sometimes save dogs, but there’s fuck-all we can do to save humans.

In America, we don’t give a shit about our own poor and brutalized native-born countrymen, so we’re sure as hell not going to volunteer to take in hundreds of thousands of refugees, particularly brown ones with a religion that millions of us regard as suspect.

Can you imagine what would happen if President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, etc., suggested that we need to resettle the same number of refugees that Germany, a much smaller country by area and population, is taking in?

Forget that the U.S. is more culpable in the regional instability that is driving the migration crisis than any other nation — as far as most of our fellow citizens are concerned, we’ve done our bit by pouring a trillion or so dollars down the rat-hole over there. If some of those planeloads of cash resurfaced here in the form of Halliburton dividend checks, it seems relatively few people give a shit.

So yeah, no. Not gonna happen. Half of our fellow citizens are already in full freak-out mode over the largely Christian undocumented immigrants whom U.S. employers hire to pick their tomatoes and landscape their office parks. If Democrats try to do the right thing about the migrant crisis in Europe, hello, President Trump.

There’s no humanity here either, Hattam Jabbar. Good luck to you, brother.

Problems of a certain subset

I saw this New York Times column by Frank Bruni on the overscheduling of kids and it struck a chord with me:

Scelfo wrote about six suicides in a 13-month period at the University of Pennsylvania; about the prevalence of anxiety and depression on college campuses; about many star students’ inability to cope with even minor setbacks, which are foreign and impermissible.

Those students almost certainly need more sleep. In a study in the medical journal Pediatrics this year, about 55 percent of American teenagers from the ages of 14 to 17 reported that they were getting less than seven hours a night, though the National Sleep Foundation counsels 8 to 10.

I went to a school for undergrad where the unofficial motto was “Choose two: sleep, friends, work”

The cultural expectation was people were expected to run themselves into the ground even past the point of negative returns on work.  People were in the computer labs at two in the morning on Saturday night trying to do homework that was not due until Wednesday as they created more errors than they solved.  If you weren’t zombie-eyed and involuntarily celibate, you were slacking.

I happened to be able to choose all three plus Paris plus a few other amazing adventures while graduating with honors and getting into a top graduate program in my chosen field.  I quickly realized that my best work did not happen at 11:00 at night. Quality went downhill dramatically by 1:00AM.  The one exception was a repeated science experiment which involved filling unused condoms with cheap beer and chucking them off the roof to see if drunk people liked beer from heaven.  Three years worth of data showed most people appreciated it although the campus cops weren’t cool with the non-IRB approved experiment.

There was also a spate of suicides on campus in my freshman and sophomore years.  The underlying cause was most of the people I went to school with were not able to cope with being normal within their immediate peer group.  They never were normal before then.  Not being locally exceptional (while still being globally excellent) was a massive shock to people’s self-conceptualization of worth.

I was lucky in that my neighborhood Irish Catholic parish school had a crazed nun running it.   She made sure 10% to 15% of her graduating classes every year went to Ivy equivilents.  My classmates were like me, the kids of the skilled blue collar tradesmen. The 80 kids who graduated with me plus or minus a year sent three to Harvard, another four to other Ivies, a pair to MIT, me to where I went, one each to Amherst, Stanford and Duke.  Most of us went on near half rides or better.  When we talked in our early twenties, we all agreed 8th grade English was probably the hardest class we had until senior thesis or master level synthesis projects.

I don’t know how to fix this problem, as I was lucky enough to be able to side step it personally but I saw too many of my peers, classmates and friends during undergrad be burned out, lose themselves and lose their passion and potential because they were exhausted eighteen years olds.


Monty Python’s Holy Grail…

…was a documentary:

ku-xlarge-3 And hell, you think that’s bad, check this out:


Holiday brain sploosh has already begun chez Levenson (first relatives show up in minutes), so killer rabbits somehow seem…


BTW: there are a bunch more medieval psychoses on display at Tom Kane’s site, who, it seems, has come up with a socially useful application of writer’s procrastination syndrome.  My awareness of all this comes via @PZMyers, who got it from @SirWilliamD.

And with the honors thus done, you may consider this a “how weird will your holiday get” open thread.

Images:  Axe-rabbit comes from the Gorleston Psalter, England, 14th century.

Rabbit murderers lurk in the Smithfield Decretals, c. 1300

“I am a data fiend,” she told me. “Measure everything. Don’t do anything you can’t measure.”

In 2011 USA Today did an independent analysis of DC test scores under Michelle Rhee. They concluded there was cheating. A couple of months ago, Frontline did a piece on Michelle Rhee. After the piece aired, the reporter received a memo he had been seeking:

I first got wind of the Sanford memo while working on a documentary about Rhee for the PBS series “Frontline.” I spoke with Sanford, who confirmed that he had indeed written a memo but could not turn it over to me because it was “a work for hire.” Producer Michael Joseloff and I filed Freedom of Information Act requests with DCPS, which denied its existence, and with two Inspectors General, who acknowledged that they had it in their possession but refused to turn it over on grounds that the memo was part of the “deliberative process” within the D.C. government and thus not available to the public.
Not long after I blogged about “The Missing Memo” on January 15, 2013,it arrived in a plain white envelope. A second copy–perhaps from the same leaker–arrived in late March.
The original leaker of the memo added a note: “You’ve made some folks here nervous, but Rhee, Henderson and Kamras will all deny knowing anything about what Erin worked on.”

Michelle A. Rhee, America’s most famous school reformer, was fully aware of the extent of the problem when she glossed over what appeared to be widespread cheating during her first year as Schools Chancellor in Washington, DC. A long-buried confidential memo from her outside data consultant suggests that the problem was far more serious than kids copying off other kids’ answer sheets. (“191 teachers representing 70 schools”). A reliable source has confirmed that Rhee and Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson discussed the memo in staff gatherings.
In response to my request for comment, Rhee issued the following careful statement: “As chancellor I received countless reports, memoranda and presentations. I don’t recall receiving a report from Sandy Sanford regarding erasure data from the DC CAS, but I’m pleased, as has been previously reported, that both inspectors general (DOE and DCPS) reviewed the memo and confirmed my belief that there was no wide spread cheating.” After receiving this statement, I sent her the memo; her spokesman responded by saying that she stood by her earlier statement.
Chancellor Henderson did not respond to my request for a response.
“I am a data fiend,” she told me. “Measure everything. Don’t do anything you can’t measure.”
Because of aggressive reporting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and strong political leadership from two Republican Governors, the situation in Atlanta was investigated from top to bottom. An investigative team led by former Attorney General Mike Bowers and former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert Wilson interviewed more than 2,000 people and reviewed more than 800,000 documents. Because Wilson and Bowers were working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, they were able to put people under oath when they questioned them.
In an interview in February 2013, Wilson said that he had been following the DCPS story closely. “There’s not a shred of doubt in my mind that adults cheated in Washington,” he said. “The big difference is that nobody in DC wanted to know the truth.”
At least 25 states have adopted her ‘produce or else’ test-score based system of evaluating teachers.But politicians (and citizens) in those 25 states might want to take a closer look at what she actually accomplished. Sadly, DC’s schools are worse by almost every conceivable measure.

Michelle Rhee came to Ohio and lobbied my state legislature on her last national tour. She was treated like a celebrity. No one questioned any of her claims, which is unsurprising if you actually live in this state because all of her reforms involve union busting, pension looting and shifting public money to private operators. She’s a Right wing ideologue’s dream come true. They bought it because they believed it before she walked onto the floor that day.

The school reform industry response to the Atlanta cheating scandal was to call for better test security. As usual, the reform industry spokespeople are missing the larger point, the bigger picture. The truth is they based their reforms on high profile “turn arounds” in Atlanta and (especially) DC. If the scores in these places where they ran their experiments were bullshit, they “reformed” the US education system based on bullshit. They’re supposedly “data-driven” and most of them are billionaires. I shouldn’t have to point this out.

Hire an independent prosecutor like they did in Atlanta. Let’s find out. In the meantime, get a different opinion on “school reform.” Stop relying on the billionaires who backed this, the politicians who swallowed it without question, the hundreds of lobby shops who now exist because of it and the celebrities who promote it to evaluate it. They’re biased, they’re all in, they believe they are the “best and the brightest” and the top-tier analysts and executives are making a lot of money. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Big win for gun nuts, as long as everything goes according to plan

Gun nuts are claiming a big win in their plan to get more guns into schools:

Despite being mercilessly mocked by the MSM for suggesting armed police officers be put in schools — a program the NRA dubbed the National School Shield program — the idea has quickly taken hold all around the country. From Texas to Virginia to Staten Island to Sandy Hook Elementary itself, parents are demanding that their children be afforded armed protection rather than trust their luck to gun-free zone designations that determined murderers tend not to comply with.

No one will ever accuse these folks of humility, that’s for sure. Let’s see how their effort to defeat gun-free school zones and put more guns into schools is going in the real world, shall we? Let’s check rural Ohio:

The school board voted unanimously on Wednesday to allow four janitors to carry their own guns inside the school. Four janitors, all men, have volunteered to take part and are to undergo a two-day training course in March that will be paid for by the school district.

This is an (edited) comment I saw in John’s gun post (thank you, Oregon guy)

I’ve had the pleasure of living in the one place in the world where it is positively required to carry a weapon on your person at all times – an Army FOB in Iraq… On the FOB, we were required to carry our weapons as described above at ALL TIMES. Also, weapons on the FOB were unloaded. You kept a magazine on your person ready to insert, lock and load as needed but unless you were on perimeter patrol or tower watch you did not have a loaded weapon on the FOB. Why? Because negligent discharges happen, and people get hurt or killed.
When leaving the FOB on a mission everyone would “go red,” which means we would insert magazines, lock and load a round into the chamber of our weapons. When we returned from missions, immediately inside the FOB there were clearing barrels, basically 40 gallon oil drums half filled with sand, and with a circular opening cut into the top.
We would dismount our vehicles., walk to a clearing barrel under the supervision of another soldier, drop our mags, eject the round from the chamber, and lock the bolt back so the weapon could be verified as “clear.” Then, and only then, could we proceed into the FOB which was filled with unarmored people.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what a “well regulated militia” does.

Negligent discharge. Hmmm. Maybe gun nuts aren’t familiar with this risk to children? Oh, they know about it, all right. They spend a lot of time in emergency rooms. Here is a site where they share stories of negligent discharge. This is one story. There are many.

I came across your story and just wanted to say thanks for having the guts to tell it. About a year ago, I was cleaning my 1911 in the kitchen, wife wasn’t home, she had our oldest with her and our baby was upstairs taking a nap, he was about a 16 months old then. I, for some reason, thought I had it emptied out, but never the less I aimed it at the floor, in a direction where I knew that even if I was wrong the penetration of the floor would only lead to the basement and a concrete floor I pulled the trigger, and it went off. I was sitting at a weird angle to where I was aiming and realized it had actually ricocheted off the carpet, through the let of the high chair, and into a wall. Exactly the direction I did NOT want it to go. Then I realized that our baby didn’t cry upstairs, and went ice cold trying to figure out why the noise hadn’t woken him. I can’t even tell you the terror realizing that the wall the bullet had entered was right below his crib. I went upstairs, more scared than I had ever been in my life…he was sleeping soundly, little chest rising and falling as it should be, I even moved him a bit to hear him just start to wake to be sure, then let him settle back down to continue his nap. I told my wife when she got home, cried again and told her I would only clean and handle at the range from there on out (unless of course there is an intruder). Always thought of the folks who do this sort of thing as idiots who just arent thinking. Pride comes before the all I suppose, just as the bible says.

Our kids would be safer from an accident involving a gun on a FOB in Iraq than in their second grade classroom in rural Ohio. Big win for the gun nuts.They finally beat the gun-free school zones. I would suggest they stop crowing and start hoping that there aren’t any accidents, ever, when their unregulated and poorly-trained militia experiment arrives in public schools.

Another Crushing Disappointment In The Annals Of False Advertisement

What’s all this then?

Oh I can only hope. Exeunt the conveyance here, should you dare.

Anyway, you lie, madam.  You will never shut up about Romney.  Ever.  In what should be her last paragraph about this campaign:

Certainly time and ad money have not been used to maximize Romney’s advantages. But that’s water under the bridge. He now can do it, provided he spends his remaining time on the simple message: We can do better, we’re doing worse under Obama and here’s how we can do better. That should be the formula for every ad, stump speech, major speech and debate answer. If he does that, he most certainly can win the race.

That would involve him giving specifics.  Romney refuses to do that.  He’s been refusing to do that since the start of the campaign.  If he gave specifics, he would lose because the specifics are a massive tax burden on everyone who’s not Mitt Romney.  What about that do you not understand, Jen?

It’s really not that hard.  Sheesh.

Krugthulhu Versus The Dreaded Conventional Wisdom

The Beard Tentacles of Sanity reach and grasp on the conventional wisdom of the elections, and even steady K-Thug admits he was a bit off as the drama has turned into a farce.

The conventional wisdom — which I too bought into — was that Democrats were going to support Obama, but grudgingly and without much enthusiasm. There had been too many disappointments; the golden aura of 2008 was long gone. Meanwhile, Republicans would show their usual unity and discipline, and at best it would be Obama by a nose.

Instead, the Republicans appear to be in a shambles — while the Democrats seem incredibly united, and increasingly, dare I say it, enthusiastic. (Mark Blumenthal sees this in the polls, but it’s also just the impression you get.)

How did that happen? Partly it’s because this has become such an ideological election — much more so than 2008. The GOP has made it clear that it has a very different vision of what America should be than that of Democrats, and Democrats have rallied around their cause. Among other things, while we weren’t looking, social issues became a source of Democratic strength, not weakness — partly because the country has changed, partly because the Democrats have finally worked up the nerve to stand squarely for things like reproductive rights.

Gosh, you mean 2010 wasn’t the beginning of the new order at the hands of the Tea Party as American voters realized that yes, the GOP was wrecking the economy on purpose in order to try to win, and that their social derpwinism was really the last gasps of a clusterfrak of nimrods playing the white hetero male privilege game in disguise?  If only people had known!

And let me add a speculation: I suspect that in the end Obamacare is turning out to be a big plus, even though it has always had ambivalent polling. The fact is that Obama can point to a big achievement that will survive if he is reelected, perish if he isn’t; health insurance for 50 million or so Americans (30 million from the ACA, another 20 who would lose coverage if Romney/Ryan Medicaid cuts happen) is enough to cure people of the notion that it doesn’t matter who wins.

All of this in turn has an implication that Republicans won’t like — assuming that Rasmussen doesn’t have a special insight into the truth denied to all other pollsters, and that Obama does in fact win with a solid margin. The right is already set up to blame poor Mitt, claiming that he lost because he wasn’t conservative enough. But that’s not what we’re seeing; it looks as if voters are rejecting the right’s whole package, not just the messenger.

Now if we could only cure the Village of the stupid notion that mid-term elections always determine the Presidential ones.

Seriously, this is what I’ve been yelling about around here for a year now (along with the GOP campaign of voter suppression) that Republicans were just going to overreach and screw everything up, or at least Mitt Romney’s 47% exercise finally got through to the millions of folks who said “But Romney’s a moderate, he won’t take anything away from me, just those people.”  And of course, we found out that anyone making less than a quarter mil a year is very much “those people” to Mittens.  People don’t like finding out the odds are not ever in their favor.  It’s a new thing to a healthy chunk of the voting populace, and no sir, they do not like it.

Camera Bartender Guy, wherever you are, America salutes you.