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December 14, 2012

not afraid of the national rifle association

First, stop reading this and go read this from Adam Gopnik.  I'm not exactly a fan of Gopnik, but he's punching well outside his weight-class, and well:
The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children. They have made a clear moral choice: that the comfort and emotional reassurance they take from the possession of guns, placed in the balance even against the routine murder of innocent children, is of supreme value. Whatever satisfaction gun owners take from their guns—we know for certain that there is no prudential value in them—is more important than children’s lives. Give them credit: life is making moral choices, and that’s a moral choice, clearly made.

I think that mirrors my thoughts pretty well, though my thoughts have extra profanity.

We will be talking an awful lot about gun control.  "That's what they all say," you say.  True.  Whatevs.  We will be talking about gun control, because we will not stop talking about gun control.

And "gun control" can be a lot of things.  I for one certainly don't know for sure what it should look like.  That's why we'll talk about it.  Let's start with this: There is some level of lethality of firearm that should not be available to the general public, any more than tactical nukes should available.  This will alienate many gun rights advocates.  Good.

Why good?  Well, while we are talking about gun control, we will also be talking about the ways that the National Rifle Association has gone rogue and bought itself influence disproportionate to the importance of its mission.  I'm not saying that gun rights advocates should not lobby.  Free country, etc.  I'm saying that the rights of hunters and gun hobbyists have nothing to do with concealed carry permits in bars and schools, and nothing to do with fifty round magazines.  They are a bad organization (see the Gopnik pullquote above).  We need to make the label stick, and encourage reasonable gun rights advocates to take the NRA's place.  We need to shine daylight on their decision-making, and the mechanisms by which they've cowed the entire U.S. government.

Someone very close to me, after a night and then a morning of coverage of the Newtown massacre, has lost hope.  Nothing's going to change, she says, we're in an end-times world where people just shoot at each other for no reason.

I understand her frustration.  We need to prove her wrong.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:54 AM

anil dash and the web we lost

Not to throw a bucket of cold water on anyone during the thick of Holiday Party season, but you should give a read to this post by Anil Dash, sort of a state of the union of the Internet in 2012.  No backs are slapped; nary an attaboy — this one is titled "The Web We Lost":
When you see interesting data mash-ups today, they are often still using Flickr photos because Instagram's feeble metadata sucks, and the app is only reluctantly on the web at all. We get excuses about why we can't search for old tweets or our own relevant Facebook content, though we got more comprehensive results from a Technorati search that was cobbled together on the feeble software platforms of its era. We get bullshit turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.

The ubiquity of Big Data, especially in the field of social media, is not something that I give much of a thought to.  (Though FWIW every time I look around and wonder if I am the only person "blogging" on a creaky old engine on a self-owned bit of digital real estate, I remind myself that, even though Tumblr and Twitter are nifty, over here at least I own the means of my own distraction.)

But maybe it's something worthy of thought.  Maybe you're one of those Apple people, with all your gizmos fully synched.  Or maybe you're a recent Google convert, with your new ChromeBook and your slice of the cloud.  Problem is, those two people, they can't talk to each other, as the two platforms are deliberately non-cooperative.

I don't know if I ever fully bought into the idea that the Internet was going to be the most perfectly realized arena for self-expression in history, or however the futurists would phrase it.  Obviously information access was going to change forever (raise your hand if you remember what a dictionary is, or even an encyclopedia), and distribution was going to be cheapened to the point of ridiculousness.

But whatever it was going to be, I wasn't expecting it to be so commodified.  Or dull.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:22 AM

December 13, 2012

rick snyder still a scumbag

Further to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder being a despicable person, the estimable radio program Marketplace put him in front of a mike and allowed him to find his own petard and start hoisting:
HOBSON: Are you saying then that companies decided to go to [newly right-to-work state] Indiana, for example, because there’s less union membership in Indiana?

SNYDER: No, and I don’t want to speak for the companies but it is very clear that companies are looking at Indiana that previously did not. [...]

HOBSON: Well, make that connection though. You’re saying that, by not requiring workers to pay union dues, that therefore companies are going to be more attracted to the state. Why would that be?

SNYDER: Well, that’s a question for the companies but there is a strong sense, and companies do look at that. That’s something we’ve suffered here.[...]

HOBSON: Union membership has fallen dramatically in Michigan and across the country and it’s not as though that has translated into some boom in employment. I see the point you’re making, but it hasn’t been borne out in the evidence, has it?

SNYDER: Well, it’s been borne out in the Indiana case.

Snyder is too much of a scumbag to come out and say that his avowed reasoning for trying to kill unions is factually untethered and a bald-faced lie.

I get it that certain American unions have shown themselves to be corrupt, and that's a problem.  But what you have with Snyder, and the institutions like Americans for Prosperity that give Snyder money/talking points, is an ideological campaign to deny workers the right to collectively bargain for wages and working conditions.

It's just wrong, and it's why we're staring into the barrel of a New Gilded Age.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:01 PM

December 12, 2012

rick snyder can go eat a bag of dicks in space

The shitty thing about Michigan is that there's not really any kind of commensurate response.  Democrats haven't exactly been prancing across the country, passing lame-duck dead-of-night legislation forcing people to join unions.  There will be forced equivalency, some version of "he said/she said," but there is none.  Republicans are hell-bent to squeeze legislative restrictions of rights of the people, be it the right to vote, the right to marry, and now the right to fucking collectively bargain.

Don't skip too quickly over that thought — what are some of the other nation-states that engage in that sort of feckless repression?  Well, there's Russia, especially recently.  And there's, let's see, oh right!  North Korea and Iran.

And of course there's the personal rage I have directed at the dupes in the electorate that for some reason think this is a good thing, which I am swallowing down, because they're either terminally stupid or just bad, small-minded people, trying to tear down the benefits of the only marginally better off.  Either way, too depressing to contemplate.

But Gov. Rick Snyder, that's a different case.  I'm not now nor have I been from Michigan, so whether or not he baited-and-switched his way into the state house, that's for someone else to decide.  But he did say this, yesterday, after signing the anti-union laws into law, secretly, like a coward:

Mr. Snyder said, insisting that the moves were not “anti-union.” “Because this isn’t about us versus them. This is about us being Michiganders and trying to work together.”

That's a deliberate mistruth insulting even to habitual liars everywhere.  As is invoked on other websites, Rick Snyder can go eat a bag of dicks in space.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:36 AM

December 11, 2012

argosy collegiate charter school is disturbing

Here's a terrible thing!
Meet Carolina. This college-bound fifth grader is fortunate enough to attend a charter school where expectations are high and innovation and excellence abound. There’s just one wee catch. In order to realize her goal of opportunity and the promise of independence, Carolina must spend the next SEVEN YEARS in near silence. Sweet Carolina is not a novice in a convent or an inmate in a children’s prison but a resident of a horrifying place called “no excuses” land that, while often lauded by education rephormers, is rarely seen from within.

That's a couple shades of yellow journalism, right?  A little bit breathless, surely an exaggeration?  Nope!  In fact, the body of the piece is not even journalism.

Argosy Collegiate Charter School, of Fall River, MA, included a description of a day in the life of one of the students in its application to the state Board of Education.  I guess it's supposed to vouch for some of its high-tech charter school kung fu, but what it actually is is freaking harrowing.

Total mindless behavior control of the student body, team-oriented inspirational activities like chants that seem more in place in something like the Glorious Revolution, and a creepy fun house built entirely of a forced lexicon: students are "scholars," questionable use of the verbs "transition" and "track," etc.  I'm not over-selling this.  It will set your hair on fire.

And I'm not indicting the entire charter school industry — I'm sure that in some cases use of public school money to line the pockets of some entrepreneur who cherry-picks students and underpays teachers is a smart and useful thing to do, and maybe the sort of intensified obedience training that evinces itself at Argosy is useful in specific situations somewhere outside of North Korea.  But if Argosy is what the industry has in mind, ka-yikes, for real.

[Via BB.]

Posted by mrbrent at 9:25 AM

December 10, 2012

the coming "resurgence"

Remember back in late over, the presidential conventions were over and the election looked like it was going to end much in the way that it did?  And yet, there were whispers (I know by me, and it surely wasn't a thought I dreamed up all by myself) that the campaign would drift back into a "tight race," maybe not intentionally, but because if the race were not tight then what the hell would there be fun to write about.

Now, in the lame duck days, the consensus has hardened into agreement that the results of the election were terrible for the Republican Party, torn between old realists who want to tack to the center and the Tea Party firebrands that blame the defeat on the lack of big-C conservative bona fides of the presidential nominee.  The GOP is not exactly rudderless, but there's a very tense conversation in the wheelhouse that might come to blows.  And between you and me, there's not an awful lot of options in the near term, as the problem wasn't messaging as some would have us believe — "if only we could better reach out to constituencies that did not support us!" — but an actual message problem.  It's a dilemma unsolvable by lipstick.

So what happens next?  Regression to the mean!  Keep an eye out for thinkers and trend pieces on the Republican Party Resurgent.  Not because they will be, of course (though it's possible), but because it's a low-hanging narrative for a certain sort of journalist.

Let's double-check with David Brooks to see if this is plausible.  It is!  Watch for more.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:49 PM