Archive for January 2011
WC had the pleasure of flying on LAN from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires, Argentina and back on a trip to Antarctica. If there was a battle for competitively-priced, quality air travel, the American carriers have lost.
WC has flown to South America on Continental Airlines, American Airlines and now LAN. WC would compare Continental and American to, say, Greyhound Bus Lines, but lacking Greyhound’s class and creature comforts. LAN is more like Pan American Airlines was 30 years ago. Except better.
- Leg room? American Airlines has the seats so close together WC’s legs cramp. Continental has them so close together that, if the person ahead reclines their seat, WC’s legs are broken. LAN provides both leg room and foot support. In Coach class.
- Service? LAN’s flight crews are friendly, actually ask you if they can get you anything, and courteous. Continental’s cabin crews treat you like something the cat dragged in; American’s are actively hostile, and seem to assume WC is there to hijack the aircraft.
- Price? LAN is much less expensive. For WC’s trip, Business Class was only US$20 more than Coach on American.
- Maintenance? LAN flew a Boeing 757. The aircraft was sparkling clean inside and out. Much cleaner than American. Continental has sunken to Continental Trailways standards.
- Food? Elegantly prepared, healthy and tasty meals on LAN. American not so much. Continental, for $10 you can buy a meal in a cardboard box and, frankly, the box is probably tastier than the meal.
- Creature Comforts? Personal television screens, foot rests, power supplies for electronics, seats that really recline, headrests, blankets, pillows. American and Continental? None of the above.
- Timeliness? All four of WC’s flights departed and arrived on schedule. American and Continental, maybe 50% of the time.
- Luggage? None of the stupid fees. The luggage arrived at the carousel both ways in less than ten minutes. American? Luggage fees and a 30 minute wait; Continental has lost WC’s luggage – twice – so it’s difficult to even see how to measure.
WC thinks that if LAN could lawfully fly U.S. domestic routes, the U.S. carriers would be filing Chapter 11 the next day.
Based upon what WC has seen, U.S. domestic carriers simply do not compete. WC wants to be as supportive as the next citizen of American industry, but he draws the line at being knee-capped if the guy in the next row ahead reclines his seat. Or finding a moldy, half-eaten taco in the seat pocket in front of him.
U.S. domestic carriers claim to be barely making expenses, file Chapter 11 far too often, and tag WC for money at every possible opportunity (although the coin-operated toilets are not yet installed). There was a time when the U.S. was the model. That day seems to be long past. A country like Chile, LAN’s home, runs a much classier operation, at a lower price, than the U.S. does.
WC, after too many years as a lawyer, shamelessly quizzed both Alaska Airlines and LAN flight crews as to their wages. They were essentially the same. It’s not wages. And don’t try to tell WC that a third world country like Chile is subsidizing LAN.
WC doesn’t think it has to be this way. WC thinks the president of Alaska, American and Continental Airlines needs to take a flight in Coach on LAN. And then Coach on their own line. Anonymously.
I watched your appearance on Fox News “On the Record.” I’m sorry to say you ended up with your foot in your mouth, way past your ankle. It’s that ignorance thingy again. But once again, WC is here to help.
You mocked President Obama’s reference to a “Sputnik” moment in his State of the Union speech earlier this week. As best WC can decipher your statement, you said
That was another one of those WTF moments that when he has so often repeated the Sputnik moment that he would aspire Americans to celebrate. He needs to remember that what happened back then with the former communist USSR and their victory in that race to space. Yeah, they won, but they also incurred so much debt at the time, that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union, so I listen to that Sputnik talk over and over again, and I think we don’t need one of those.
WTF moments, indeed. Once again, WC is going to have to use words with more than two syllables, and long sentences, but try to follow along.
Your country – the United States – was astounded when the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite into orbit back in 1957. It was called “Sputnik,” which is Russian for “companion.” The United States, which thought itself the world leader in all things science, was embarrassed. Particularly because the two earlier attempts by the U.S. to launch satellites had failed. In response, the U.S. started a major space research program. The U.S. also launched the Advanced Research Projects Agency (renamed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1972): DARPA, and NASA, and an increase in U.S. government spending on scientific research and education. Oh, and the event inspired a generation of young people to take up science as a career.
That, Sarah Darling, is what a “sputnik moment” means. Something that shakes the United States out of its complacency and inspires us to do better. It’s a good thing. A very good thing. Er, thingy.
The next thingy is that the Soviet Union lost the space race. The culmination of the space race was in 1969, when the U.S. put two men on the moon, and brought them back safely. The Soviet Union never did that. Neat fact: President John Kennedy, in his inaugural address in 1961, called for the U.S. to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. We did that. It was a part of that “Sputnik moment.” The space race, such as it was, ended in 1969, some 22 years before the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Now fans of Ronald Reagan – and WC knows you are a fan – think that he brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union by making them spend so darn much money on national defense that the whole country collapsed. Historians argue about that, and as a matter of fact the collapse happened in 1991, about three years after Reagan had left office. There’s that darn ignorance thingy again. Most historians think,
By the time Gorbachev ushered in the process that would lead to the dismantling of the Soviet administrative command economy through his programs of glasnost (political openness), uskoreniye (speed-up of economic development) and perestroika (political and economic restructuring) announced in 1986, the Soviet economy suffered from both hidden inflation and pervasive supply shortages aggravated by an increasingly open black market that undermined the official economy. Additionally, the costs of superpower status—the military, space program, subsidies to client states—were out of proportion to the Soviet economy.
(Most of the military expenses involved the Soviet War in Afghanistan, by the way. WC would ask you to think about the implications of that and, you know, the U.S. being in a war in Afghanistan. But it might make your head explode.)
So, you see, Madam Ex-Governor, Sputnik had nothing – zip, nada, zero, zilch – to do with the collapse of the Soviet Union 34 years later.
The term for what you did is conflation. That’s the business of confusing two unrelated ideas. You conflated the early days of the space race with the collapse of the Soviet Union 34 years later. But your mistakes were much worse than mere conflation: you don’t understand either the space race or the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Union.
You need to be more careful, Sarah Honey. Some folks might think that someone so confused about so many thingys shouldn’t be a candidate for President. You wouldn’t want that, now wouldja?
WC does. But hey, WC is just trying to help.
PS. Just four more days to the month-long Palin blackout. Hang in there, readers.
PPS. And Sarah, darling, that Spudnut shop you talked about in Richland, Washington? Didja know it’s supported almost completely by federal dollars? Did you have a Spudnut Moment here?
WC blames Shane. The guy with the fast gun who saves the day. The movie captures perfectly our collective imagined history. Our mythology.
WC believes that mythology is a primary part of the Second Amendment gun nuts’ world view. It’s why Arizona state representative Jack Harper can say with a straight face, “When everyone is carrying a firearm, nobody is going to be a victim.” Of course, Rep. Harper went on to say, ”The socialists of today are only one gun confiscation away from being the communists of tomorrow,” so he may be just a few beans short of a beanbag.
But he illustrates WC’s point: the Second Amendment obsessives see themselves as Shane. Ready to save the day. The truth is very different. Mythology is, well, mythology. A good story, but a lie. Joseph Zamudio had a 9 mm pistol on him as he ran to help at the scene of the Tucson shootings. He said he almost shot the wrong guy, another bystander also trying to help. His pistol did no good at all.
There’s some pretty good science on this question. Epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in a 2009 study found that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun. WC wants to emphasize this:
The study estimated that people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.
Life is not Hollywood. Shane is a work of fiction. The science – as opposed to the myth – makes it clear it is vastly more dangerous to be packing heat than not. Can you imagine how much worse it would be if Rep. Harper had his way, and everyone was locked and loaded?
Or try this: there is a direct relationship between the level of firearm ownership in a state and the level of firearm homicides: the more weapons per capita, the more firearms per capital. If firearms protected people, of course, there would be an inverse relationship. It’s hardly news; in an article in the February 2007 issue of Social Science & Medicine, the researchers found
Multivariate analyses found that states with higher rates of household firearm ownership had significantly higher homicide victimization rates of men, women and children. The association between firearm prevalence and homicide victimization in our study was driven by gun-related homicide victimization rates; non-gun-related victimization rates were not significantly associated with rates of firearm ownership.
Let’s think this through: Behavior A can get you hurt one time in ten. Behavior B can get you hurt four or five times in ten. It would seem to be an easy choice. And yet the NRA has almost 4 million members. Americans are notoriously bad at evaluating risk, and the paranoid streak in American politics hasn’t been this strong since Joe McCarthy lost.
And the mythology. John Wayne. All those cowboy movies. As Terry Pratchett would say, “It doesn’t have to make sense; it just has to make a good story.”
WC is trying to force himself to read all of The Quitter’s latest book. Don’t worry readers; it’s checked out from the Noel Wien Library. When WC got to the part where Palin criticized President Kennedy’s speech in Houston in 1960, where Kennedy addressed his Catholicism and voters’ concerns about a Catholic president; well, WC didn’t damage a library book, but only because it was a library book.
Palin objects to Jack Kennedy’s speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, where he challenged the ministers and his country to judge him by his views rather than his faith. “Contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president,” Kennedy said. “I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic.”
There had been earlier Catholic candidates for President and, to the country’s shame, Protestants had whipped up a frenzy of anti-Catholicism, claiming that electing a Catholic president would make the Pope the ruler of the country. Kennedy addressed the issue squarely, forthrightly and – this is the most important part – consistently with the U.S. Constitution.
Palin, who claims to adore the Constitution, seems to have overlooked Article VI, Clause 3, which unequivocally states, “No religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Her astonishing ignorance of what the Constitution says isn’t limited to this specific matter. Palin goes on at length about how our country was founded on the idea that “all humans have the God-given right to be free.” She’s overlooking Article I, Section 2, Clause 3, where slaves are set as counting at 3/5ths of a person, and Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, where free states are compelled to surrender up fugitive slaves to slave states. Our country, which WC loves like life itself, was founded on the principle that persons with the wrong-colored skin had absolutely no right to be free. It took a lot of blood and tears to get us beyond that. It’s ignorant and deceitful to say we were founded that way, not to mention disrespectful of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and citizens who gave their lives to make it happen.
But WC digresses. This is about Kennedy’s speech in 1960 in Houston, not Palin’s broader ignorance of what the Constitution says. Palin and her ilk wants to set themselves up as the judge of whose religious beliefs entitle them to public office. She praises Mitt Romney’s half-embarrassed defense of the Church of Latter Day Saints while condemning Kennedy’s more forthright respect for the Constitution. Who made her the judge? And how does she get to ignore the prohibition on religious tests for public office?
As for her criticism of Thomas Jefferson; well, she’s not fit to polish his boots. It was President Kennedy, speaking to a White House dinner for Nobel laureates, who said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”
WC will not presume to add anything to that.
WC is joining Washington, D.C. columnist Dana Milbank in taking the Pledge:
Never mind that any post involving the Queen of Darkness is by far more popular than any other topic.
I, Wickersham’s Conscience, pledge to not write about Sarah Palin for a month. Will you pledge to not read or watch coverage of her? Join me in taking the Palin Pledge.
Wickersham’s Conscience will be a Palin-free area for the month of February.
Until February 1, of course, anything goes.
In a very real sense, WC is tempted to declare a permanent ban on All Things Palin here at the Conscience. Alaska’s Shame is such a narcissist that she craves any attention anyone gives her, even unfavorable attention. Criticizing her, demonstrating the silliness or hypocrisy of her arguments, even calling out her lies; it all feeds her narcissistic craving for attention. WC’s blog posts included. A better solution might be to shun her.
But it’s so very hard to let her idiocies pass without comment. WC will examine a few from her appearance on Sean Hannity’s show last night to illustrate the challenge:
Caribou Barbie, in her infamous post in response to the tragedy in Tucson, AZ, called the claims that violent comments could induce violent behavior in others a “blood libel.” She told Hannity the term referred to those “falsely accused of having blood on their hands.” Um. No, that’s not what it means. WC recognizes that the subtlety of connotative meaning is also wasted on this woman, but still. As WC and others have pointed out, the term has been used for about 2,000 years as a justification to commit despicable crimes against a religious minority.
Still, it might have been nice if The Quitter had apologized to anyone she had accidentally offended by her choice of words. But being Sarah Palin apparently means never having to say you are sorry.
Crosshairs and Playground Arguments
Palin said her political action committee’s use of crosshairs to identify targeted congressional districts for Republican pickups was not original and has been used by Democrats. As she spoke, the 2004 Democratic Leadership Council map was shown on the screen with circular targets of districts Democrats wanted to win. WC has already weighed in on this one. It’s not the same as crosshairs, or telling readers to “reload,” but it is still wrong.
WC is fairly confident that, while growing up in Wasilla, someone suggested once or twice to the future beauty pageant contestant that two wrongs didn’t make a right. “Tommy did it first” is a playground argument, a lame excuse unworthy of, say, a presidential aspirant. It’s also an implied admission of an error. Now the former VP candidate might have said that under the circumstances it was the wrong way to convey the message, but that would have sounded like an apology, and being Sarah Palin means never having to apologize.
Criticism of Violence
Palin has insisted that she “repeated over and over my condemnation of violence.” Palin also said she was frustrated that conservatives who defended against accusations they were to blame for the shootings have become part of the story.
WC isn’t aware of your claim of repeated condemnations of violence. WC knows of two. That would be a lame “over and over.”
But it’s not enough to claim to condemn violence, especially if you use words that carry violent themes. “Don’t retreat, reload.” “Mama Grizzly.” “First salvo in a fight.” As WC has pointed out before, not all of the citizens who follow you understand you are using metaphors. it’s one hazard of violent speech. Another is that it makes it terribly difficult to have a useful discussion. “Hot” speech, the kind of words that are loaded with with very strong associated meanings, seriously impair critical thinking. They get in the way of reaching a decision.
A criticism of violence that doesn’t include criticism of violent speech isn’t helpful in addressing the problem. But, again, that would also sound like an apology.
Palin said she supported calls for civility in politics but added, “we should not use an event like that in Arizona to stifle debate.” This is pure spin. If it could be bagged it could be sold as garden fertilizer. No one has called for “stifling debate.” The Republicans, aware of the political risks associated with their earlier violent speech, have adopted this phrase as a non-response. No one has suggested “stifling debate.” It’s an illustration of the straw man fallacy.
It’s entirely possible that Palin might be “stifled” by a requirement of civility. Her appeal is mostly feeding raw meat to her supporters. Being civil would distinctly cramp that appeal. WC doubts that she is capable of it. That narcissism, that craving for approval from her fanboys and fangirls, will compel her to continue with her use of violent metaphors and calls to metaphoric or literal arms.
Those of you who comment on WC’s posts: what’s your view? Do posts on Palin help, or are they more fuel on the fire? WC is unsure.
But WC is sure that Palin still hasn’t offered what is needed most: an apology. Several apologies. And WC isn’t holding his breath.
Sometimes it is interesting to follow up on old blog posts to see what, if anything has happened or changed. Understand, WC would take absolutely no credit for effecting change if there was a shred of evidence his efforts had been noticed, but as a semi-responsible blogger, checking out what happened later can be instructive to WC’s shrinking pool of readers.
Truth and All That
WC wrote a long screed back in October 2009 on Cook County politics and the efforts by the Cook County D.A. to intimidate the Center for Wrongful Convictions at my old law school and the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern’s School of Journalism. Confronted with evidence of yet another wrongful conviction, the Cook County District Attorney subpoenaed the college kids’ records, all the way down to their class grades. The subpoena was eventually quashed by an annoyed Cook County judge.
But the backlash from the clumsy intimidation effort contributed to the Illinois Legislature’s decision to repeal the death penalty in Illinois. The proposed law has been passed by both the state senate and state house, and awaits action by the Ill. Governor Pat Quinn. WC is slightly hopeful.
Grand Jury Secrecy Stood on Its Head
Back in November 2010, WC posted on Siobhan Reynolds and her battles with Tanya J. Treadway, an Ass’t U.S. Attorney. Treadway, in WC’s view, had abused the grand jury subpoena power to intimidate and harass Reynolds and her Pain Relief Network. What made the process particularly frightening was that because the subpoena came from a grand jury, the whole proceeding was shrouded in secrecy. The briefing, the decisions; everything was secret. After Reynolds lost in the 10th Circuit, she appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Picking on Nonprofits
Back in September 2010, WC noted that there seemed to be some kind of orchestrated campaign against nonprofit – more specifically, charitable – corporations. Even gasbag Rush Limbaugh had noticed nonprofits. WC defends charities as highly regulated, generally under-paid organizations that did the scummy work that made our society work. Their business records were largely public.
WC is cautiously pleased to report that the hubbub has died down. Perhaps cooler heads have prevailed.
The Big Lie and the Big Deficit
WC has railed several times about the lies and distortions that Republicans tell about the causes and cures of the deficit. The claim is that the Bush and Obama economic relief measures have bankrupted the government. The evidence is completely different. The Bush tax cuts and two land wars in Asia are the principle culprits.
Yet Congress passed and the President signed a two year extension of the tax cuts, and the Department of Defense budget continues to explode. It’s enough to discourage even the most optimistic blogger.
WC will continue to tilt at windmills. But WC had few illusions when he started and even fewer now that tilting at them would change anything.
[WordPress ate WC's first post of this entry; WC apologizes for the inconvenience.]
Sometimes in order to understand current events, it’s necessary to view them through the prism of history.
Specifically, WC thinks the best way to approach the saga of Alaska House of Representatives members Kyle Johansen and Charisse Millett is through William Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 116.
Some carping critics think a liberal arts education is passé, and has no relevance in today’s world. WC will parse the great poem for the benefit of his readers, and demonstrate just how relevant Shakespeare’s sonnets are to something like Alaska’s politics:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
Johansen and Millett lost a power play back in November. The two are, as they say, an “item.” Johansen was reelected by the mostly republican House caucus to the reasonably powerful post of House Majority Leader. But Rep. Millett, who wanted to be chair or the House Finance Committee, lost to Rep. Mike Hawker. Rep. Millett quit the caucus in a huff and, when his effort on behalf of his squeeze failed, Rep. Johansen quit the caucus, too.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Rep. Johansen’s Ketchikan constituents were not amused and were not particularly romantic. While they stopped short of tar and feathers, the word “recall” was mentioned. More than once. WC’s readers can see that the bark was seriously wandering. Johansen and Millett both sought to be readmitted to the majority caucus.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
Well, the edge of doom came and went. The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that the House Majority Caucus voted – behind closed doors – to deny the request. So now they are a caucus of two. (WC grants permission for smirking at this point.) And will be, absent recall, for the balance of the legislative session.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
WC takes Shakespeare’s closing couplet as a vindication. WC’s likely not the first literary deconstructionist to take that liberty. Reps. Johansen and Millett? Not so much.
The citizens of Utah recently elected someone named Mike Lee to the U.S. Senate. Senator Lee has posted a series of You Tube videos this year, espousing his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. WC can sum Senator Lee’s view up in a single sentence: none of the Supreme Court decisions since 1925 have happened.
To illustrate WC’s point, let’s re-visit the opinion of Alaska’s most famous Tenther, Joe Miller, on the subject of child labor laws: they are unconstitutional. Miller also seized on child labor laws as a power preserved to the individual states by the Tenth Amendment. Miller was wrong. Lee is wrong.
In that case, the Supreme Court acknowledged something very interesting — that, as reprehensible as child labor is, and as much as it ought to be abandoned — that’s something that has to be done by state legislators, not by Members of Congress.
Senator Lee ignores the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 1941 in United States v. Darby, where the court upheld the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In Darby, unlike Dagenhart, federal regulation of child labor was upheld under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. The Darby court noted the problems that would be created if some states permitted 12-year olds to work in sweat shops, and some state didn’t. And concluded that the Constitution sought to avoid those problems by giving the federal government – Members of Congress, in Lee’s phrase – the authority to broadly regulate. Note there was no effort to defend child labor laws in 1918; the issue of interstate commerce wasn’t brought to the court’s attention.
As much Senator Lee may want to turn the world back to pre-New Deal, it’s not going to happen. The interstate commerce clause is real. Absent further amendment to the Constitution, there’s no more chance the Tenth Amendment will trump the interstate commerce clause than the U.S. Air Force – also not addressed in the Constitution – will be deemed illegal.
Senator Lee should turn his attention to more pressing issues.
The late, great Issac Asimov wrote many years ago, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” WC quotes Asimov because he received an email from an anonymous source pointing WC to the web site of one Tammy Bruce. You don’t need to know much more about Ms. Bruce than (a) she’s apparently a fan of holding a firearm incorrectly, (b) she strongly supports Alaska’s Shame, and (c) she intensely dislikes President Obama and the First Lady.
This is the banner photo from her web site:
Most folks who use firearms are taught to rest their finger on the trigger guard, not the trigger, to avoid accidents. It’s kind of fundamental. So either Ms. Bruce missed her firearm safety lessons, or she is making some kind of statement. WC doesn’t care.
Because her message projects violence. The unspoken subtext is that she is ready to shoot someone, presumably anyone who disagrees with her. Why else hold a pistol on the home page of your blog?
And violence, as Asimov says, is the last refuge of the incompetent. Anyone who has ready the first volume of Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy knows where the use of violence ends.
For a sampling of how Ms. Bruce thinks – for a given definition of the word “think” – read Gryphen’s summary over at Immoral Minority of Ms. Bruce’s tweets made during President Obama’s eulogy in Tucson last night.
Is this person really representative of the views held by Palin’s supporters?
And just out of curiosity, is “Urkel” supposed to be a slam at President Obama? Using a sitcom that’s been off the air for what, 13 years? Is that the best Ms. Bruce has got?
And what’s with this right wing fascination with pistols? Glenn Beck recently scrubbed the photo of himself doing a kind of pudgy James Bond with a pistol. Is this all some secret code WC hasn’t been told about? Is there a Freudian in the house?
It’s all well and good to talk about compromise, to talk about “meeting someone half way.” But, to borrow a baseball metaphor, if you meet someone from far right field half way, you’re still in the outfield, instead of home scoring the run. And is a person packing a pistol signaling they are interested in compromise?
Nine year old Christina Green was buried today, the first of the victims of the Tucson murders to be buried. Her death troubles WC the most: what kind of society cannot protect its children? What kind of work might she have done? All cut off. Such a waste.
Christina Green is also a part of the extended Cubs family. Her grandfather was Dallas Green, former manager of the Chicago Cubs. The man who brought Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs. The man who got the Cubs to the playoffs back in 1984.
For those who may be so inclined: The Green family has asked that anyone wishing to make a donation in Christina’s memory do so by logging on to the website of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and clicking the link to the Christina Taylor Green Memorial Fund.
Or you can contact the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 520-545-0313.
Or you can send a check to the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, In Memory of Christina Taylor Green, 2250 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson, Ariz. 85719.
WC’s only equipment failure in Antarctica was his tripod; not a small problem because with a big telephoto lens and low light, you can’t get a sharp photo with a handheld shot. Fortunately, the failure came fairly late in the trip.
The tripod failed at Neko Bay landing, when WC was standing five feet away. There was a loud crack, the tripod fell over, one leg broken completely loose and rolling down the hill.
Happily, the tripod was set pretty low, and the camera and lens landed in a soft patch of snow. Unhappily, the snow was covered in Gentoo Penguin guano, which it turns out is the very devil to clean off a big lens.
The tripod was made by Gitzo and has high-tech carbon fiber legs. Lightweight but amazingly strong, it was the metal hinge mount that had failed, and it simply could not be repaired in the field. It was a BDTP – a Beyond Duct Tape Problem.
So on WC’s return home, WC contacted Manfrotto, which performs service on Gitzo, and arranged for repairs, and shipped the tripod off via UPS Second Day on December 12.
Time passed. More time passed. The UPS tracking number said the tripod had been delivered to Manfrotto on December 15, but no one there would contact WC. Still more time passed. Finally, on January 5, WC reached a Real Human on the telephone. Yes, Manfrotto had the tripod. Yes, they’d be looking at it tomorrow.
Time passed. More time passed. WC emailed his contact. The tripod was repaired and had shipped January 7. Under warranty, so no charge.
Sure enough, the tripod arrived – not at the address WC had requested – on January 11. Repaired using new parts, it is its old self again, ready to be lugged around this weekend for some wintering duck shots.
The final score for Manfrotto:
Customer Responsiveness = C-
Customer Service = A+
President Obama had a tough speech last night in Tucson. He needed to find a way to honor the dead, to start to pull the country back together, and not be too overtly political. WC thinks he did a fine job. Yes, some of the applause from the crowd was a little inappropriate, but that’s not the President’s fault. And his comments on Christina Green were so obviously and completely heartfelt that he made the First Lady cry. The transcript is here; the video is here (scroll down a bit; it’s on the left).
Contrast that with the videotaped message from the failed Republican vice presidential candidate.
There’s a decent chance you’ll get to choose between these two in 2012. Watch both videos and decide which one is a leader. Decide which one is really Christian. Decide which one deserves your vote.
Sister Sarah, who seems to communicate now only through tweets and Facebook posts, has a new video up on her Facebook site. WC freely admits he has a very difficult time watching The Quitter’s videos. Her voice provokes a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard reaction in WC. It’s not just the Mickey-Mouse-on-helium voice or the fake upper midwest accent; it’s the whole package. The non sequiturs, the appeals to ignorance, the word salad. It takes WC back to his teaching days, when he had to listen to and grade high school students in public speaking classes.
WC watched the whole sordid effort. As a result, WC’s lingering nausea may be coloring this post. But its seems to WC that, in the best case, Caribou Barbie has acquired a pernicious case of foot in mouth disease; in the worst case, she is guilty of a shocking attack on Jews in general and the gravely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in particular.
Alaska’s Shame said, in part:
But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.
At least that’s the best that WC can transcribe her statement. Sister Sarah certainly said “manufacture a blood libel.” Now maybe Palin is simply off refudiating again, but the phrase “blood libel” has any number of horrible meanings, none of which is even slightly appropriate in this context.
“Blood libel,” in one sense, is the evil, deliberate lie that Jews use the blood of Christian children in Jewish religious rituals. So Palin, a famously, arrogantly fundamentalist Christian, is dredging up anti-Semite fabrications, when talking about an attack on a Jewish Congresswoman?
The broader meaning is even worse. It traces to Matthew 27:24-25.
24. When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”
25. And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”
(King James version, via Passage Lookup)
That passage has been taken by Christians for centuries to mean that the Jewish people collectively and for perpetuity bear direct responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ and were therefore fair game for persecution and extermination. It has been used to justify pogroms, expulsions and discrimination. It has fed horrible Christian myths, such as those circulating in the middle ages, that Jews kidnapped and sacrificed Christian children to use their blood during Passover commemorations.
Again, Rep. Giffords is Jewish. Sarah Palin has the unmitigated gall to refer to “blood libel” in this situation and then call anyone else “reprehensible”?
As for “incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn,” WC thinks that those “pundits” may have touched one of Sarah’s nerves. WC certainly hasn’t called for hatred or violence. Paul Krugman hasn’t called for hatred or violence. It’s exactly the opposite: most commentators have called for political debate that avoids violent metaphors, that doesn’t involve rifle crosshairs on elections districts, that doesn’t involve references to “Second Amendment Solutions,” that doesn’t involve firing automatic weapons at election rallies. Caribou Barbie has taken calls for reason and turned them into calls for “hatred and violence.”
WC suspects that, like Rush Limbaugh, she sees calls for less violent, less incendiary campaigning as personal attacks on her inflammatory rhetoric. And that there may even be a twinge of a guilty conscience operating. After all, the infamous Sarahpac crosshairs advert came down very quickly after the shootings.
And then there’s The Quitter’s reference to dueling. If Sarah had paid any attention in American History classes, she’d know that the most famous duel in American history occurred on July 11, 1804, when Vice President Aaron Burr shot and fatally wounded former Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton. That incident, and the public reaction to it, contributed greatly to the anti-dueling movement, and the eventual criminalization of the conduct.
Why not do the same here? Can we use this tragedy as a good reason to ratchet down the obscenely high violence of American political rhetoric? Can we learn from this awful tragedy?
Two personal notes to Ms. “Reload”:
(1) Please read this. Do you have the courage to answer?
(2) You don’t have to answer. In fact, why not just shut up? You’ve got foot in mouth disease, and each time you open your mouth you just make things worse.
On Monday, while Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was struggling for her life, Rush Limbaugh said:
And the first thought, the desperate hope that the losers in November of 2010 had, was that they could revitalize their political fortunes because of this unfortunate shooting of a congresswoman in Arizona. That was the most important thing to them — and that, to me, is sick.
Actually, that didn’t happen. What Limbaugh is doing is projecting his values, his techniques, his approaches to a tragedy, onto others. Not everyone is capable of swimming that far down in the cesspool. And he is simply lying. Even if he is not capable of feeling genuine grief and compassion, others are.
Limbaugh went on to claim,
Their first objective and first priority was to try to make an association between this nut and Sarah Palin. What? That’s absolutely… You talk about insane? This guy doesn’t know Sarah Palin. She doesn’t know him. The really weak, flimsy, balsawood-type attempts to link this guy to Sarah Palin?
This is a nice example of the fallacy of misdirection, sometimes called the “straw man” argument. Combined with a couple of non-sequiturs. It’s utterly irrelevant whether they know each other. Nor are the links to Palin; the links are to the attitudes, the violent metaphors, that Palin and Limbaugh espouse. Clearly, those links troubled Palin or she wouldn’t have been taking down her cross-hair target map just hours after the shootings. Limbaugh probably isn’t as smart as he thinks he is, but he’s smart enough to know what he is doing here: raising a straw man argument.
Speaking on his radio show Tuesday, Limbaugh said that Loughner was getting coddled by those damn liberals:
What Mr. Loughner knows is that he has the full support of a major political party in this country. He’s sitting there in jail. He knows what’s going on, he knows that…the Democrat party is attempting to find anybody but him to blame. He knows if he plays his cards right, he’s just a victim. He’s the latest in a never-ending parade of victims brought about by the unfairness of America…this guy clearly understands he’s getting all the attention and he understands he’s got a political party doing everything it can, plus a local sheriff doing everything that they can to make sure he’s not convicted of murder – but something lesser.
Limbaugh has a slightly subtler form of fallacy going here. Any thinking American would be appalled looking at the smirking skinhead in Loughner’s mug shot. But by definition, you can’t know what a mentally ill person is thinking. Even so, Limbaugh has taken his view of the world and projected it onto a madman. In Limbaugh’s view of the world, the bad guys – the Democrats – want every criminal to go scot-free. The world view is absurd, but that doesn’t stop Limbaugh from seeing it in a madman’s smirk.
It’s a fairly canny law and order pitch. But it’s premise is that Loughner is thinking rationally. That’s unlikely. Anyway, WC has a prediction for Mr. Limbaugh: Loughner won’t be out of prison or a prison hospital again in this lifetime. Loughner may or may not get the death penalty. WC would prefer Loughner be cured of his mental illness, and then spend his life rotting in prison.
Limbaugh, never one to avoid a passing cheap shot, also flails at Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff responsible for dealing with the Arizona shootings. Sheriff Dupnik said, it’s “the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business.” Limbaugh understands that Sheriff Dupnik is criticizing Limbaugh and his noisy colleagues. So Limbaugh, without a shred of evidence. accuses Sheriff Dupnik of being soft on crime. An obvious ad hominem fallacy. Standard fare for Limbaugh.
Why anyone listens to this windbag is beyond WC. He exudes a cloud of lies, hate, distortions and slander. He’s purely incapable of recognizing, let alone admitting, that Sheriff Dupnik as exactly right. He’s the problem; not a solution.
One of WC’s readers pointed to a post from a site called Global Grind that had an interview with Fox News president Roger Ailes in which he claimed “We looked at the Internet and the first thing we found in 2007, the Democrat Party had a targeted map with targets on it for the Palin district.”
Like most of what comes out of Fox News, that’s partially true and partially untrue.
Something called the Democratic Leadership Council posted a map in an article called Heartland Strategy on December 13, 2004. The article featured a map with what may very well be targets. Here’s the map, you decide:
Unlike Palin’s map, the marks appear to be shooting target, not cross-hairs. More importantly, the map targets states, not individual candidates. The article and the map are about moving states to the Democratic side, not targeting individual elected officials. And the article is from 2004, not 2007. And its written by a guy named Will Marshall from the Progressive Policy Institute, not by a former candidate for Vice President of the United States. Nor does the article speak of reloading, or invoke other shooting metaphors.
And there’s no target on the “Palin district.” If Ailes had read the article, rather than glancing at the map, he’d even understand why.
But you know what? WC thinks it is still wrong. The article could have been written in a way less patently violent. “Enemy lines” and “targeted” are less egregiously over the top, but still over the top.
But the fact that a liberal think tank invoked the same metaphor doesn’t excuse its use. Palin shouldn’t be permitted to escape criticism by saying, “Some liberal did it first.” Speaking only for himself, WC holds candidates for nationwide office to a higher standard, anyway.
Neither can Fox News, whose various mouthpieces are among the very worst offenders, escape criticism by pointing to the sins of others to excuse its own. WC takes it as a sign of the times that they try.
Towards the end of December, WC opened a contest to see who among his readers could find the wackiest conspiracy theory.
The contest is cancelled. The psychotic meanderings of Rep. Giffords’ would-be assassin and murderer of six innocent souls have taken any humor out of the challenge. WC’s apologies to all who entered.
What would have happened in Tucson on Saturday if the lunatic thug had been armed with a knife and not a semi-automatic Glock 9mm pistol with a 33-round clip? Would six people be dead? Would Rep. Gabby Giffords be in a coma, fighting for her life? Not a chance. Why have we allowed the Second Amendment – specifically, the Supreme Court’s new interpretation of the Second Amendment – to trump all other rights and responsibilities?
The First Amendment protects freedom of speech but, famously, it does not protect your right to scream “Fire” in a crowded theater.
Despite the late Justice Hugo Black’s efforts, there are restrictions and limits on the First Amendment. There have to be for a society to function.
The Fourth Amendment prohibition on searches without a warrant has exceptions for persons in automobiles, exceptions to allow a “stop and frisk” to protect police officers and others.
All of the other rights defined in the Bill of Rights have limitations.
Why not the Second Amendment?
When the mentally ill, when convicted felons, when anyone with the money has an absolute right to buy a semi-automatic pistol, capable of firing 33 shots as quickly as the killer can pull the trigger, have we fairly balanced the Second Amendment with society’s protection? When we allow those persons, without any screening or permit, to conceal on their persons tools whose only purpose is to deal death as quickly as possible, have we balanced the Second Amendment against protection of the public at all?
As soon as you are done explaining that balance to WC, do you want to explain it to the parents of Christina Green? To Dallas Green, Christina’s grandparent? If society can’t protect 9-year old children, do you seriously we have struck the right balance? WC is absolutely certain we have not.
POLITICO contacted the NRA. When asked about the role that the Brady Bill repeal had played in the shooting. the National Rifle Association’s spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told POLITICO “Anything other than prayers for the victims and their families at this time would be inappropriate.”
You can bag that, Mr. Arulanandam, and sell it as fertilizer. WC has seen this movie too many times. The NRA, in its monomaniacal tunnel vision, wants enough time to pass for the next crisis to come along, and distract the public’s limited attention from the shootings and their consequences. We don’t have to let that happen. We shouldn’t let that happen.
H. Rap Brown was widely condemned for saying, “Violence is as American as cherry pie,” but he was obviously right. The rest of Western civilization stares at America’s obsession with firearms with horror. And we don’t have to looked further than the Mexican border to see where this path leads.
In a speech in Washington to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, former President Bill Clinton warned, “The words we use really do matter. … They go across space, and they fall on the serious and the delirious, alike.” When you combine those kinds of words with the easy access to unlimited firearms, you have the recipe for multiple Tucsons.
WC has already called on politicians, and especially the worst Alaska offender, to rein in her language, and apologize for her rhetoric of violence.
WC also calls for re-imposition of the Brady Bill, and for more careful and thorough regulation of the arsenals of firearms that obsess our culture. Not later. Now. And consider whether the monomaniacs from the NRA should be excluded from that discussion.
Can we at least try to get some benefit, something of value, from this tragedy?
WC’s spouse gave him a gigantic, lap-crushing compendium of Doonesbury cartoons for Christmas. Allegedly, it holds only 14% of Trudeau’s 40-years of production. WC suspects that a volume of all of them would require a forklift to move about. Or collapse into a black hole.
Anyway, Trudeau included some introductory notes and some comments on some of his long-term characters. Writing about reporter Roland Hedley, he says,
I’ve always believed that cluelessness evolved as an adaptation to allow the truly appalling to live with themselves. Imagine, for example, looking into the mirror one day and seeing Geraldo Rivera staring back at you. Only Geraldo Rivera could stand the shock.
- G. B. Trudeau, A Doonesbury Retrospective, p. 385.
What struck WC was that you could substitute the name “Sarah Palin” or “Joe Miller” into that little put-down and it would explain a great deal. Thanks to Trudeau’s insight, WC understands that Palin’s utter cluelessness, her willful ignorance and general obliviousness to societal norms is a behavioral adaption that lets her get through the day.
That’s different than the stark cynicism or Rush Limbaugh, who knows most of what he says is utter garbage, but doesn’t care. Or Glenn Beck, who is simply in it for the money. Palin has developed her armor of obliviousness to cope with the terror of looking in the mirror each day.
Ordinarily, WC wouldn’t look for wisdom in the comics, but this just rings true.