Archives for: February 2012
Earlier this month, the Washington Post ran a story called "The trick to D.C. police force's 94% closure rate for 2011 homicides"
But an examination of District homicides found that the department’s closure rate is a statistical mishmash that makes things seem much better than they are.
Metropolitan Police Chief Kathy Lanier took exception to the premise of the story. Her letter was published on Friday.
On Feb. 19, The Post published a front-page article headlined “The trick to D.C.’s homicide closure rate,” suggesting that the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was somehow tricking the public by announcing that it had a 94 percent homicide closure rate. To support its slanted claims, the article used misleading and inflammatory quotes from ill-informed sources. Furthermore, the writer left out information supplied by my department that would have invalidated the assertions contained in the story.
As chief of police, it is my duty to respond, to explain the truth and to defend the tireless work of the members of the MPD.
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By late Saturday, the web edition of the article had been prepended with a pretty long note walking back the fundamental assertion of the article.
Awkward! The Washington Post walks back the premise of its big homicide-closure rate story.
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For Your Consideration is a regular contributor at this site. We are grateful for her participation.
In reply to Burr Deming's How My Friend Proves the GOP Will Endure
John presents his reasoning, but I fail to detect his logic. With effort, I see a glimmer or two on the periphery, but my poor mind does not follow more than primordial flashes. They shine ever briefly in the distance like a lightning storm on the horizon.
Georgia had not had a Republican governor since 1871. In 2003, well over a century later, it turned red, and has stayed red.
Texas had not had a Republican governor since 1873. In 1979, a century later, it turned red and mostly stayed red, which a few blips in between.
Even when conservatives appointed 7 of 9 of the Supreme Court justices, it remained a liberal leaning institution until 2005. In 2005 it turned red, and even after two appointments from President Obama, it remains red.
The U.S. Senate was controlled by Democrats from 1955 through 1980. In 1981 it turned red and has been a tug of war since that time.
The House of Representatives was lost to Democrats in 1949. It remained under Democratic control until half a century later in 1995, when it turned red and has remained red a majority of the time.
The Conservative Revolution began in the 80’s. Since that time, conservatives have been growing more conservative and amassing more influence. FOX News is a larger voice than MSNBC will ever be. Rush Limbaugh is a larger voice than (sorry, cannot think of anyone who comes close enough to compare).
I understand the rationale of your predictions. The Conservative Party is becoming more fanatic and less tolerant of more reasonable moderates. This will surely kill them. The problem is, most people in real life are not moderates. Much of the nation is fundamentalist in Christianity, and therefore, fundamentalist in politics. Most conservatives are passionate conservatives, not moderates. Most liberals are passionate liberals, not moderates. They must remain passionate to offset conservatism. Easy access to overly aggressive pundits on both sides is blowing away the moderate center. One has but to lean to the left or the right and confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance will take them the rest of the way to his fanatic destination.
Moderates are not getting cast out of the GOP alone. They are getting cast out of existence. The pendulum will swing. Eventually moderate sanity will become the catchphrase of the day. Moderation will be the talking point that makes people feel intellectual. When this happens, moderation will flourish for a while, until the pendulum swings too far and everyone feels unprincipled. It will be time for it to swing back toward fanaticism.
This does not foretell the death of the GOP or any other group. It predicts a continuing evolution and devolution in public thinking: a pendulum of bias. It has been happening for a long time. It will continue to happen long after Burr Deming’s predictions of doom are silenced and his disciples marvel that the world survived. 2012 will have swooped in, engines roaring, earth’s final year. And then it’s gone and the next demise is forecast. Some other passionate fellow will rise with his own crystal ball, accompanied with a failing memory, and prophesy predicting the death of the GOP, with a bitter smug in one hand and desperate prayer in the other.
When queried about these events, our Republican president will say “Burr who?” It is a sad irony: by the time these events occur, Burr Deming’s work will have been completed long ago. Tortured no longer, he will be another tired prophet resting beneath the flowers.
Rest in Peace.
John Myste also writes for his own site, where crystal ball predictions must be accompanied by facts.
Please visit John Myste Responds
In reply to John Myste's GOP Unscathed By Your Wishful Thinking
Burr Deming’s resentment will never win an election or exterminate a party.
- John Myste, February 25, 2012
At age 74, Woody Allen comments on the aging process:
I’m against it. I think it has nothing to recommend it. You don’t gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you’d trade all of that for being 35 again.
Boy, he's on the mark there. One of the worst things is the decreasing reliance I can place on my aging memory. If I vary my routine even slightly, lost car keys, missing television remotes, and misplaced cell phones come to dominate my time.
I'm not alone, and even the vibrant and beautiful fall victim to mental lapses. My love once left her cell phone behind as she went off on some mission. I tried to call her and, to my surprise, I answered. But mostly the lose-my-mind episodes fall in my own domain.
I take a host of medications that my physician claims are keeping me alive. If I don't keep them in daily pill boxes with days of the week clearly marked, I retire to a Goldilocks world. I have no way of knowing for sure whether I am doubling a dose, missing a dose, or getting it just right.
So you can imagine my chagrin at a superbly written recent piece by my friend John Myste. John writes with a wit and erudition that never fails to entertain me, even when I am the target of his well honed points.
A while back, I began predicting the demise of the Republican Party as a national influence. I believe it will happen before this decade is over. It is a prediction others have made, without the time frame, and usually with some caveat. The GOP will die unless they change direction. The GOP will face extinction unless they move to less extremist issues. Soul searching will be needed to avoid a very bad end. That sort of thing. Voices from the thoughtful right talk of dangerous moves toward the frayed, nutty edges of the American political fabric. Some point with alarm to the increasing isolation of conservatives, as they vigorously reinforce the views of each other.
Those cautionary voices all have a part of the picture, as I see it. But only a part. I think the party is a captive of a sociological phenomenon that is inescapable, fueled as it is by technology. They will not change direction because they cannot. Here is the reasoning I have proposed.
If GOP candidates get few enough votes in enough elections, the party will disappear.
If the GOP grows extreme enough, it will attract fewer voters, thus fulfilling Number 1.
If less conservative members continue to leave the party, the party will become increasingly extreme. Thus fulfilling number 2, which makes number 1 a certainty.
If more conservative members of the party continue to believe ideological purity is the key to victory, they will continue to make the GOP a less and less hospitable home for mainstream conservatives. Thus fulfilling number 3, thus making numbers 2 and 1 a certainty.
If extreme conservatives listen to what they are being told by conservative media, they will become increasingly certain that any setbacks are caused by a lack of ideological purity. Thus fulfilling number 4, making number 3, 2, and 1 a certainty.
- If conservative media stop telling extremists they are right, extreme conservatives now have the easy ability to find other more conservative media alternatives. Thus making it all come together in a very happy, yellow-brick-road ending.
John Myste's rejoinder is brilliantly scornful. As always, his scorn is enlightening and incisive. His objection is to my wishful thinking. His references to my naive visionary hopes are scattered through his argument like pollen on a spring day.
Prayers. "I have heard your prayers," he says.
Faith. "As you know, my faith is not as strong as yours"
Resentment. "Burr Deming’s resentment will never win an election or exterminate a party."
Fantasy. "In your fantasy world the conservatives are gasping for air"
OH. Fantasies. "In your fantasy world, the GOP is dying."
Lofty notion. "your lofty notion of their demise"
It is humiliating. Not the scorn or the skewering. That part is entertaining, as John's intellect shines through as always. The point of personal embarrassment goes back to the aging process.
With wit and skill that would be unmatched by any poor efforts on my part, John skewers, slices, dices, dissects, and vivisects an argument that I simply do not recall making.
I consult my memory but in vain. I do not remember saying that the GOP will disappear because I want that group to disappear. I do not recall making reference to any arc of the moral universe as a focal point of this prediction. Even my search engine betrays me, revealing nothing in my past writings to jog loose a flashback. I keep drawing a blank.
My lapses, sadly, do not end there. John presents his reasoning, but I fail to detect his logic. With effort, I see a glimmer or two on the periphery, but my poor mind does not follow more than primordial flashes. They shine ever briefly in the distance like a lightning storm on the horizon.
I did once say of the GOP demise: "Considering the smashing success of conservatives in the last election, it is a bold prediction." John does capture some of that in pointing out how "they rule the Supreme Court and take the nation in the direction it is going." Could he be projecting recent success onto the future? It could be a point worth examining if he made it explicitly.
He does produce this: "I consider recent historical evidence that the big business of Republicanism with its deep pockets will not fail, to be evidence enough..." Could this be the extent of his reasoning? Does he believe the wealth of conservative benefactors will prevent point 1 from happening despite point 2, as the American electorate is pushed way to the right by well-financed advertising? Or does he think the logic will be interrupted at point 5, as the party base is force-fed a moderating view they do not wish to hear in massive media campaigns?
This last may be what he considers the point of departure, reinforced by his belief in money as the powering force. "A party peopled with fanatics will thrive so long as the fanatics have funding, and it will switch gears when the funding slows, and then thrive on."
Hard to say. In fact, I still cannot determine if his view is a premise or a conclusion. If it is a premise, his extensive writing ability will serve only to reinforce what is already impervious to logic or evidence. A premise is not to be trifled with.
If it is a conclusion, he may have revealed the reasoning that leads to it, but I do not grasp it. Like many Biblical scholars, I await the Revelation of John.
One lesson is learned. I will never again predict that the GOP will vanish solely because I closed my eyes and wished hard enough for it to be so. Or, if I do, I will remember it this time and await a punishing reply.
Unless, of course, my poor memory fails me and I slip again.
Introduction, Traditional Service, February 26, 2012
St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Florissant, MO
When you do not see the value of God’s children,
when you treat others as less than what they are,
you are forgiven.
When you are blind to the value within yourself,
when you feel lost,
when you have turned from God,
God never turns you away,
and never turns away from you.
When you know not what you do,
a mighty hand reaches out,
and you are forgiven.
When you know not where you go,
Jesus walks with you,
and you are forgiven.
When you know not what you are,
a Savior says you are worth his life.
Almighty God says you are worth a son.
Found on Line:
"Were You There"
The temptation is not specifically Christian. It is an inherent danger that comes with almost any spiritual belief, with any vision that transcends one's own being. It isn't so much that God is on my side. Rather, I am on His.
At its most deadly, lives are taken. Planes fly into buildings. Crusades are launched by defenders of the Lord. Souls are saved through coercive inquisition.
We see it often in its most harmless forms. We mask it in humility. I am but a lowly servant of my Lord. Like Uriah Heep who abides in a numble abode, I am a numble supplicant for righteousness. I am yr obt svt, Lord.
The commonality is certainty. We speak for God, with the blessed assurance of true believers. We know God. We define God. We even measure God. We search the scriptures and find a wealth of Holy verse to justify our lowliest inclinations. God loves us and hates the enemy. And we get to help define just who the enemy might be.
We all have met the unctuous representative of the divine in Fellowship Hall. We back away when we recognize the oily holiness of speaking for the Almighty, when piety becomes smarmy. Nobody likes meeting that person. We like even less discovering that person in ourselves.
I experienced a glimmer of uncomfortable recognition while reading of a recent interview. Glenn Beck was talking with Karen Santorum about the experience of having a spouse running for President.
I did always feel in my heart that God had big plans for Rick. Eventually it was there, tugging at my heart. When Obamacare passed, that was it. That put the fire in my belly.
She seems a fitting partner for candidate who, despite his affection for Arlen Specter, is politically resolute and morally certain. Liberal Christians do not exist. Mainline Protestants are, unwittingly or not, agents of Satan. Colleges are instruments of ungodly indoctrination, and education itself is suspect. Forget abortion, contraception leads to underage pregnancy. Homosexuality is evil, an act against nature, an offense against virtue.
Extremism in the defense of God is no vice.
Rick Santorum strikes me as a sincere and honest young fellow, a willing captive of his certainties. I recognize in him what I try very hard not to embrace within my own faith: a professed knowledge of God that seeks to define the indefinable. Here is God explained at last.
As a cautionary warning, as well as a prayer, I carry with me always a meditation written by a famed Trappist monk, Thomas Merton.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Faith in the intrinsic value of each human, and the experience of a loving Creator have been enough certainty for me so far in life.
I back away from those who know for sure much more than that. Especially during lightning storms.
Original "Everlong" Recorded in 1997 by Foo Fighters
Piano Cover created recently by an anonymous artist known only as TalkWithYourFingers
There was a time when subway announcements sounded like this: “Gxxrschhh krrtzzz … Borough Hall … pbbbftttz qmmm … suspended … haargggrm.” It was hard to tell whose voice that was. Or even if it was human.
Now subway announcements sound like this: “There is … an uptown … local … 1 … train … to Van Cortlandt Park-242nd Street.” The voice is instantly recognizable on any numbered line but the No. 7. It is a chipper, crisp, slightly plummy tenor belonging to . . .
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In Reply to Burr Deming's
Virginia's Intruder Alert - the GOP Trans-Vaginal Bill
When the Republican Party dies as a national entity, it will not be the result of a Democratic strategy. Technology will be the culprit.
Parties have always fallen in and out of favor, and the other side always prays for their demise when they do. We no longer live in a word-of-mouth Whig world. The Whig party, by the way, never had the success that the GOP has. It is not really comparable, in case you intend to try to compare it.
I consider recent historical evidence that the big business of Republicanism with its deep pockets will not fail, to be evidence enough until your hypothesis that deep pockets will not be enough to keep the GOP alive is shown. Thus far, I have heard your prayers, but I have not seen evidence reach beyond them. As you know, my faith is not as strong as yours.
American elections are decided mostly by money. Those without the funds, who cannot raise the funds, cannot typically win elections. Super PACS sometimes can. FOX sometimes can. Burr Deming’s resentment will never win an election or exterminate a party.
A party peopled with fanatics will thrive so long as the fanatics have funding, and it will switch gears when the funding slows, and then thrive on.
In your fantasy world the conservatives are gasping for air, even as they rule the Supreme Court and take the nation in the direction it is going. In your fantasy world, the GOP is dying.
For some reason you remind me of a poem I read as a child, called Long Feud. I just looked it up:
Where, without bloodshed, can there be
A more relentless enmity
Than the long feud fought silently
Between man and the growin grass.
Man's the aggressor, for he has
Weapons to humble and harass
The impudent spears that charge upon
His sacred privacy of lawn.
He mows them down, and they are gone
Only to lie in wait, although
He builds above and digs below
Where never a root would dare to go.
His are the triumphs till the day
There's no more grass to cut away
And, weary of labor, weary of play,
Having exhausted every whim,
He stretches out each conquering limb.
And then the small grass covers him.
Long after you and your predictions are permanently buried and long forgotten, the GOP will live on, unscathed by your ancient historical predictions, as they unknowingly trample your lofty notion of their demise under their boot heels; and without so much as a whisper to remind them that any disservice to you is done.
John Myste also writes for his own site, where he is unscathed by ancient historical predictions.
Please visit John Myste Responds
Ned Williams at Wisdom Is Vindicated worries that folks like ...well... me "will attempt to say that GM's profit somehow vindicates the government bail out of GM". It is predictable enough. Wisdom, in this case, is indeed vindicated. But Ned does go on to argue that the books were cooked, which makes the post interesting. Worth the read, and the link Ned provides.
The Heathen Republican poses a series of hypothetical laws that are foolish and asks if they are unconstitutional. It is a pleasant enough exercise if done informatively. Not every good idea is constitutional. Not every bad idea is unconstitutional. Unless I missed something, Heathen lets that opportunity sail past in order to swim after another: if Democrats don't declare what he doesn't like to be against the Constitution, they are not willing to draw the line anywhere.
James Wigderson asks skeptical questions about government sponsorship of giant guitars and encounters obstructionism. Weird. I hope he finds answers and shares them with the rest of us. Ought to be unconstitutional.
Michael J. Scott of Mad Mike's America joins Jon Stewart in wonder at how women are being treated as Popsicles in Virginia. Our nation turns its lonely eyes to heathen and considerations of constitutionality.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame nails a very good interview with former Republican chair Michael Steele. Several incisive articles result. One centers on Steele's objection to the comparison of gay marriage and interracial marriage. My own reaction to similar arguments is here.
Papamoca at Papamoka Straight Talk continues a dialogue/debate with our own John Myste, and wonders about the value of voting for the lesser of who cares. I dunno. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" makes better music than politics, I think. Does anyone today think President Bush has no effect on our individual lives? A good discussion, worth a visit.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, offers a definition of atheism and agnosticism that overlap. He goes on to explain why religion has no place in science. Has to do with testable evidence. As a practicing Christian, I find myself in agreement. Here is why. Science, wisely, is self-limiting in that respect.
Why do we have to do this, Sir? goes contrapuntally between teen conversation and scripture, using absurdity to illuminate profound truth, as he considers the meaning of Jesus in the wilderness as a precursor for loneliness and violence.
It isn't simply a women's issue. The proposed Virginia law, the one which would mandate a vaginal probe of any woman seeking an abortion for any reason before such abortion will be authorized by the state, is of concern to women, of course.
It is also a concern for a certain group of men: those men who have wives, women friends, daughters, or mothers. Or men who know others who have such contacts.
It is also a concern for those, regardless of gender, who see it as symptomatic of a more general tendency of the Republican party to dash madly toward an authoritarian cliff. The party of deregulation sees cause for ... what to call it ... intrusion into what women have historically decided for themselves.
Those who aim such at women are not necessarily caught in a contradiction. The debate on abortion provides no position for any position that does not become, at some point, absurd. Draw the line anywhere, or draw no line at all, and you find yourself taking a stand that is not easy to defend.
Practicality, not theory will drive the issue. As a practical matter, the horrific nature of the Virginia bill, the reaching by the state into the most private of concerns, would be minor if any level of government enforced the view that personhood legally begins at conception.
You would think that, politically, Republican office holders would be horrified by the public reaction to the proposed law. And some of them have backed off. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is trying to get the Virginia state Senate to moderate the law into something milder, gentler, less invasive.
The anger has produced rhetoric, the level of which does provide a sort of window of opportunity. Some folks have likened the invasive procedure to rape. Many of us agree with the aptness of the analogy, but it does leave conservatives a debating point or two.
William F. Buckley once chided the Jesuit teachers of his youth for taking advantage of the rhetoric of their opponents. He quoted with approval George Tyrell: "Accuse them of killing three men and a dog, they will triumphantly produce the dog alive."
Most conservatives, at least those in office, are not truly out to score debating points. Republican politicians, for the most part, have recently taken to adopting the understandable public position of hiding under their office desks.
But not all public figures hold office. And some have not been so reticent. Consider CNN's very conservative Dana Loesch:
Uh, there were individuals saying, 'Oh what about the Virginia rape? The rapes that, the forced rapes of women who are pregnant?' What?
"Wait a minute, they had no problem having similar to a trans-vaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy."
Well. That was certainly bracing. So much for the Bill Buckley approach.
She is joined by actual occupants of public office. The conservative backers of the proposed law in Virginia have been resolute. Legislators refuse the Governor's request to back away from voter fury.
In fact, the ideological isolation of the Republican right has been brewing for a long time. It has been accelerated by the individual cocoon-like enclosure that technology provides. Conservative voters no longer are forced by circumstance to participate in general public debate. Republicans have increasingly taken to talking and listening exclusively to each other.
Talk radio is abetted by cable news choices and alternative internet outlets. It is now possible for Republicans to remain only in contact with those who share their opinions. When those opinions turn to fantasies of widespread public support, there is no reality test that can intrude, probe-like, to give an accurate ultra-sound picture of reality. It is a mega-trend that will implode the GOP into what physicists call a singularity.
One nagging mystery is why the same fate does not seem to befall the Democratic Party. The intuitive view is that simple symmetry must force Democrats to the same self-destruction. It does not seem to be happening. No sign of it appears on the Democratic event horizon.
When the Republican Party dies as a national entity, it will not be the result of a Democratic strategy. Technology will be the culprit.
Gov. Martin O'Malley's bill to legalize same-sex marriage quickly won approval in the Maryland Senate Thursday night. The measure now needs the governor's signature.
Cheers erupted in the Senate chambers after the 25-22 vote was read out loud and the group of seven gay and lesbian lawmakers from the House of Delegates rushed to the middle of the floor to embrace supportive senators.
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The two sides in Maryland's fight over same-sex marriage agree on this: It won't be over until November.
With the state Senate's approval Thursday night of the governor's bill to legalize civil marriage for same-sex couples, opponents are expected to mobilize quickly to gather the signatures to petition the legislation to referendum.
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In response to Burr Deming's
Rick Santorum Fights Against Weather Reports
But lives have been saved. Property has been protected. Rescue efforts have been coordinated in advance. Life has been more convenient. Sometimes they get it real right.
If that is not enough, you can take comfort in knowing that we may soon have a Republican President who will kill such federal intrusions. We can still pay for our satellite photos and five day forecasts. As my tea party friends might point out, free weather is like critical medical care. It is not mentioned in the Constitution.
- Burr Deming, February 22, 2012
I am going to have to reluctantly agree with Santorum on this one:
If it is not in the Constitution, it is not allowed, plain and simple.
There is plenty of precedent:
Right to bear arms. We have arms. The Constitution cannot deprive us of our arms. We may need to kill something at any minute, as the Founders knew, blessed be He.
Right to free federal healthcare. It is unconstitutional. Protecting citizenry in this way is not a Constitutional principle, no!
Forcing someone to purchase a service, uh, no. We can force people to purchase one or more ID's, but not a service. We can require someone to purchase an ID to vote, but that is not making them buy something. The government recently forced me to purchase enough arms to demolish Iraq because if they had weapons of mass destruction it would be horrible, even though I did not want the service; but that is OK because the Constitution allows it. The Government recently forced me to pay Santorum for his services, campaigning against contraception and against personal liberty for all non-hetero males, even though I am completely against it. That is OK, however, because the Constitution allows it. The Constitution forced me to pay the salary for the services of the Supreme Court justices as they rule against my wishes. What the Constitution does not allow is forcing someone to purchase a service.
Forcing someone to save money in the form of SSA, ummm, nope. That is like forcing someone to purchase for a service.
Forcing someone to choose whether or not to have an abortion. I don't think so. The Constitution does not speak of abortion. Allowing abortions is clearly not allowed, as shown by the lack of enumerated permission.
Allowing homosexuals to have sex with men. Um, no, the Constitution does not authorize the authorization of that, so the Federal government should not allow it.
- Allowing gays to marry. Nowhere in the constitution are Gays acknowledged as having any fundamental rights, period. They are not even mentioned and I and Santorum don’t think this is an oversight.
So you see, interpreting the will of the Founding Fathers, Glorified be His name, is not a difficult task. Just read your Constitution, thump it, and stop trying to interpret it. It is only complicated when we make it so. If you are still confused about Constitutional law, just ask Santorum and he will tell you what it means.
John Myste also writes for his own site, where Constitutional questions are unraveled without complication.
Please visit John Myste Responds