All things weird and wonderful, 48

19 11 2014

Drunk tanks for birds.

Okay, so this might be a little sad—soused waxwings binge on fermented berries, then die of “ruptured livers or ‘flying under the influence of ethanol’ “—but sometimes the wonderfully weird is a little sad.

And it’s not just avian alcoholism that makes this story wonderfully weird, but that humans have created “holding tanks” in a (yes!) rehab facility in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Already, drunken flying accidents have sent four birds to the Whitehorse headquarters for rehabilitation in a series of specially equipped “holding tanks”: Small cages with water and bedding, that are kept quiet and dark “so that [the waxwings] can have a good recovery.” One of the birds, notably, arrived still smeared with the residue of alcoholic berries.

One of the birds, notably, arrived still smeared with the residue of alcoholic berries: of course she did.

In any case, the facility is prepared for

“a couple big flocks, and you can see them flying a bit erratically, trying to avoid things,” said Meghan Larivee with the territory’s Animal Health Unit. . . .

“We expect there will be more,” said Ms. Larivee.

h/t Raw Story





Bless the beasts and the children

18 11 2014

Why one law for all?

Yes, I have and will continue to bang on about principle and theory, but sometimes concrete examples work best.

Such as dead children.

Jeez louise, you might be thinking, do you really have to get all extreme about this? I mean, aren’t you exaggerating just a wee?

Nope.

Despite the deaths of least 12 children from “faith healing” Christian families in their state, lawmakers and public officials in Idaho have refused to challenge a state law providing a religious exemption from manslaughter and murder charges, Vocativ reported.

There is little push to change the laws.

“This is about religious beliefs, the belief God is in charge of whether they live, and God is in charge of whether they die,” state Rep. Christy Perry (R) said. “This is about where they go for eternity.”

The move from doctor-centered to patient-centered decision-making has, on the whole, been good for patients, and one of the most important powers which has migrated to patients has been the right to refuse treatment.

I am foursquare in favor of such a right—for an adult, for herself, for any reason.

When making decisions on another’s behalf, however—especially a child whose care the state has charged one with providing—the exercise of such power ought to be scrutinized.

Or, to put it less abstractly, parents ought not be able to refuse life-saving care for their kids, especially when such care is routine and effective, because God said so.

Parental custody is conditional, not absolute.

This shouldn’t be a controversial statement: parents who starve or beat or neglect—including medically neglect—their children may be charged with crimes and have the kids taken away from them.

But throw a veneer of religiosity over such neglect, and well, whatcha gonna do?

Jackson Scott Porter, a newborn girl. . . lived for just 20 minutes before dying in her grandfather’s home. The girl’s mother did not receive any pre-natal care. Her cause of death was listed as untreated pneumonia.

“That’s the way we believe,” the grandfather, Mark Jerome, told KATU at the time. “We believe in God and the way God handles the situation, the way we do things.”

KATU also reported that local officials believe that another minor, 14-year-old Rockwell Sevy, had undiagnosed Down’s syndrome before he also died from pneumonia, in 2011.

Sevy’s father, Dan Sevy, refused to discuss his son’s death with KATU last year, citing his right to freedom of religion.

“I would like to say, I picture freedom as a full object. It’s not like you take ‘a’ freedom away,” Dan Sevy said. “It’s that you chip at the entire thing. Freedom is freedom. Whenever you try to restrict any one person, then you’re chipping away at freedom. Yours and mine.”

This is the dumbest goddamned argument about freedom this side of Galt’s Gulch, which dumbness would make it pathetic were it not pernicious—which is to say, had it not resulted in a boy’s death.

This religious exemption necessarily removes the children in these homes from protections of the law, specifically, of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment: in allowing parents to neglect their children for religious reasons, the children in these religious households are given fewer protections of the law than children in other households.

I had thought such exemptions were narrow (confined to vaccinations, say), but they are, dismayingly, widespread.

The right of the parent to inflict her religious beliefs on the child, even if it kills him, apparently matters more than the child himself.





Everybody knows the deal is rotten, 14

16 11 2014

The Greek state is caging children:

Nine-year-old Jenny stands and rocks backwards and forwards, staring through the bars of a wooden cage.

When the door is unlocked she jumps down on to the stone floor and wraps her arms tightly around the nurse. But a few minutes later she allows herself to be locked back in again without a fuss.

She is used to her cage. It’s been her home since she was two years old.

Jenny, who has been diagnosed with autism, lives in a state-run institution for disabled children in Lechaina, a small town in the south of Greece, along with more than 60 others, many of whom are locked in cells or cages.

Fotis, who is in his twenties and has Down’s syndrome, sleeps in a small cell separated from the other residents by ceiling-high wooden bars and a locked gate. His cell is furnished only with a single bed. There are no personal possessions in sight anywhere in the centre.

“Are we going on a trip?” is this wiry young man’s hopeful refrain whenever he sees anyone new. But with barely six members of staff caring for more than 65 residents there is rarely an opportunity to leave the centre.

They have no money to care; they cannot care without money.

Efi Bekou, who looks after the institutions in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, states that

the economic crisis means that the Greek state is bound to rules set by its lenders in the EU and IMF, including a moratorium on hiring new staff – as a result, she says, it would be impossible to employ the number of staff needed at the centre.

Is this the fault of the Greek state? It is a poor, and poorly-run state, so probably yes.

But not only the state’s fault: the Greek crisis was set in motion by the global recession in the fall of 2008—the same global recession which saw Americans lose their jobs and their homes and blamed by financial analysts for their lax fiscal morals.

And so, too, have the Greeks been blamed by the European Union for its lax fiscal morals, from which they, the EU, must sighingly rescue them yet again.

No word on any rescue for children in cages.

h/t Filipa Ioannou, Slate





Everybody knows the dice is loaded, 13

12 11 2014

Yet more dispatches from the long dissolve:

1. You  there, with the $15/hour janitorial job—what makes you think you’re free to leave to take an $18/hour janitorial job?

Don’t you know “free labor” is about the freedom to hire labor, not of the laborers themselves?

The workers at Jimmy John’s know the score.

2. Yet more wisdom from a mineworker—or, in this case, Mary Middleton, widowed by a mine:

“You get a speeding ticket … and you don’t pay and they’ll want to put you in jail,” Middleton added. “But this man — it’s people’s lives and injuries, and then they just keep letting him keep doing it and doing it.”

Her husband was one of five men killed in an explosion at Kentucky Darby Mine in Harlan County, Ky in 2006. The co-owner of the company, Ralph Napier, Jr., “still owes $500,000 in penalties for the Kentucky Darby disaster. Napier also controls eight other mines that have $2.4 million in delinquent fines.”

3. And tank the world economy, and you get a chance to pay a fine for corrupting the currency.

No jail for anyone, of course.

4. Any halfway-decent Marxist (or Marxisch, as it were), could tell you of the state’s centrality in the development and protection of capitalism; any disputes have centered on to what extent the state retains some autonomy from the relations of production.

The welfare state, which has improved the lives of tens—hundreds—of million of people, nonetheless serves to blunt attacks on the state, and thus on capital itself, by insulating workers from the remorseless machinery of capitalism.

There is a logic for both labor and capital to sign on to this agreement: the state will skim off some of the profit it insures for capital and redistributes it to labor, leaving capitalists their profits and laborers some level of decent living.

This agreement has worked more (Scandinavia) and less (US, UK) well for decades, but the pact has long been unraveling.

And what should no longer astonish me, but nonetheless still does, some people like it that way.

(h/t: Erik Loomis, Lawyers, Guns & Money)





We’re fools to make war

12 11 2014

010





What’s going on?

6 11 2014

Another wailing? Why oh why oh why oh why?!

No, that won’t do.

A stream-of-consciousness blather of all of the possible variables involved in electoral politics? Bad candidates, bad campaigns, tribalism, voter turnout, voter suppression, running from liberal accomplishments, the president’s party tends to lose midterms, . . .

I considered this, but then realized that would be more indulgent than enlightening—and while I’m all about the indulgent and have my own issues with the enlightening, it does seem that some thoughts from the folks who study American politics for a livin’ are in order:

First up, Hans Noel:

Commentators:

Nov. 5, 2014: “Republicans win! Democrats are doomed! Obama failed! It’s Red America!”
Nov. 7, 2012: “Democrats win! Republicans are doomed! Romney’s 47 percent misstep! Latino voters!”
Nov. 3, 2010: “Republicans win! Democrats are doomed! Obama overreached! Tea Party!”
Nov. 5, 2008: “Democrats win! Republicans are doomed! Palin was a joke! Realignment!”
Nov. 8, 2006: “Democrats win! Republicans are doomed! Bush finally pays for failure in Iraq!”
Nov. 3, 2004: “Republicans win! Democrats are doomed! Kerry never should have let himself be videotaped windsurfing! Values voters!”
Nov. 6, 2002: “Republicans win! Democrats are doomed! Voters back Bush’s tough stand on Iraq!”

Political scientists: 

Presidents tend to win re-election (2004, 2012), but they are more likely to lose the longer their party has been in power (1992, 1952, 1948). Presidents’ parties tend to lose seats in midterm elections (2006, 2010, 2014).

Seth Masket:

Here are some very tentative election results compared with their averages in midterm elections between 1950 and 2010:

  • The president’s party lost roughly 12 House seats. The average is 25.
  • The president’s party lost roughly 8 Senate seats. The average is 3.
  • The president’s party lost roughly 8 state legislative chambers. The average is 10.

How do we interpret, say, the Republican gain of a dozen House seats? Obviously, that’s good for Republicans, giving them the largest majority they’ve had in almost a century, but it’s also a pretty paltry gain by midterm election standards. Between 1950 and 2010, the president’s party has lost an average of 25 seats in midterms. Now, given that Republicans already had a healthy majority in the House, it was harder for them to win that many more, so surely this is an impressive gain. But how impressive?

He goes on to offer some very nice charts & diagrams for comparative perspective.

Matthew Dickinson considers the midterms, then makes the turn toward 2016:

So, what are we to make of these results? To begin, it’s important to resist the inevitable tendency for pundits to overreach in their effort to discern “the message” the voters send yesterday. Already I am reading that the results indicate 1) a rejection of Obama,  2) a rejection of Democrats’ “war on women”  3) a rejection of Democratic liberal governance or maybe some combination of all of these. Some Democrats, not surprisingly, are suggesting that Republicans “bought” the elections due to backing from Superpacs.

The reality is that while this was a good night for Republicans, the results were driven by midterm election dynamics that political scientists have long documented. In this respect last night’s results were not unusual – nor were they even unexpected, at least based on fundamentals-driven forecasts. The most important point to remember is that the electorate in a midterm is different than what we see in a presidential election year, a point I made repeatedly last night. I haven’t seen turnout figures, but I’m guessing turnout was about 40%, down about 18% from 2012’s presidential election. More important than the size of the turnout, however, is its composition: yesterday it skewed older, whiter and more affluent than the electorate of 2012, and these are all attributes associated with a greater propensity to vote Republican.

He gives credit to the Republicans for their solid performance, noting they did well in building on an already-large majority in the House, but also that the gains themselves were not outside of historical norms.

And Jonathan Ladd looks ahead to 2016 as well, arguing that:

1) These results tell us essentially nothing about how the 2016 election will turn out. If any analyst tries to explain the significance of this for 2016, you can stop reading/listing right there. The president’s party almost always does poorly in the midterms in the sixth year of a presidency. The 2016 election will be determined by economic performance in 2016, how long the Democrats have held the presidency, and whether Obama gets involved in a costly overseas war. The only possible effect this could have is if newly elected Republicans in some way affect economic performance in 2016.

Ladd, Masket, and Noel all blog at Mischiefs of Faction, while Dickinson has his own thing going on at Presidential Powe.

Anyway, these are among the folks you should be reading if want to get beyond the wailing (or dancing, as is your wont) and actually make sense—or begin to make sense—of what’s goin’ on in these united states.





That’s really super, supergirl

5 11 2014

Did you vote today?

I did not.

I theoretically feel bad about this—civic duty and all that—but as a practical matter, I do not. I live in a blue blue district in a blue blue city in a state that is certain to re-elect its jerk governor. There was not even the tiniest chance that my vote would matter more than my not-vote.

That’s not a great reason not to vote, actually, given that I’ve voted for president in states where my vote/not-vote also wouldn’t matter, but, I dunno, it seemed like it might matter in a larger, non-Electoral-College kind of way.

But these mid-terms, in my district in New York? And in an election season which was damned-near certain to go to the Republicans overall? Not only did it seem like my vote wouldn’t matter, but that voting would be futile.

Futile is worse, somehow, than not-mattering, as if instead of feeling numb, I would be actively inflicting pain on myself. Why go out of my way to do that to myself?

I don’t know. It could be laziness.

But, really, I wanted all of this over with, wanted all of the bad—which I could do nothing to prevent (see: blue blue district in a blue blue. . .)—to just crash down already, so I could get used to the next couple of years of suckage.

Because it is gonna suck, even more than usual. It’s gonna, as I texted a friend, super-suck.

~~~

Piss & moan, piss & moan. Win some, lose some is what I ought to be telling myself, what anyone who cares about politics ought to tell themselves, regardless of outcome.

Tomorrow, maybe, or next week. But do give me tonight to sulk, won’t you?








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