Sometimes a newsreport reveals more about the news outlet.
This morning's episode of SportsCenter briefly checked in with reporter Josina Anderson, who is on the scene at Rams training camp. She was asked to talk about how Michael Sam is fitting in with his new teammates, and Anderson went ahead and told us about how Sam's showering habits.
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...because of the condition of the border, from the standpoint of it not being secure and us not knowing who is penetrating across, that individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states could be, and I think I think it’s a very real possibility, that they may have already used that. We have no clear evidence of that, but your common sense tells you...
- Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), August 21, 2014
Paralysis of Analysis was a phrase that came into vogue when I was in my early adulthood. It was over-thinking decisions to the point where decisions were never made, or at least never made in time to be useful.
In politics I tended to misapply it to Adlai Stevenson. He was the governor of Illinois and was twice the Democratic nominee for President. He would have made a pretty good President, I think. But he faced Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was widely credited with winning the war against the Nazis.
Who would you have voted for in the 1950s: an excellent governor of a very large state, or the military hero who had saved the entire world from pure evil?
Stevenson was often accused of over-thinking issues. But the problem was not an inability to make decisions. It was communicating ideas.
It wasn't the words he used or the concepts. He didn't leave people confused. It wasn't that he talked down to people. It was the depth of his thoughts. It was as if he wanted to demonstrate that there were no simple answers. To. Anything.
The lack of simple answers was a legitimate point. It didn't come across. Instead, most voters saw an egghead, highly intelligent, incapable of decision.
Paralysis of Analysis goes against human evolution. We are descended from those who lived closest to nature. This meant they lived among predators. Fast decisions with little information, without thinking for more than a fraction of a moment, may have kept our most vulnerable ancestors alive. Our modern term for the process is "common sense."
The ability to think things through took us beyond immediate survival to a greater measure of security. Every major advance in human development, from technology to military defense to law, came from analysis. So did much of spirituality. Our relationship to each other could finally transcend personal survival.
If paralysis is one danger of analysis, prejudice and unintended consequence is the downside of its absence.
Analysis when things don't yet matter is what prevents paralysis when they do. It allows for rapid response that is thought out. It often allows for intelligent, realistic, compassion.
I have never thought of Paralysis of Analysis as applying much to government. Policy is the practice of thinking things through ahead of time, attempting to reduce unintended consequence. The best decisions in government are backed by more analysis than even the deciders are aware of.
Rick Perry's "no clear evidence but your common sense" brings to mind the dynamic tension between common sense and strategy.
...no clear evidence of that, but your common sense tells you...
When common sense leads to suspicion, fear, and unfounded accusation, it can bring us to the invasion of wrong countries with loss of life and tragic unanticipated danger. When it diminishes compassion, even for frightened children, it endangers the national soul.
...individuals from ISIS or other terrorist states...
The demonizing of terrified kids simply because they are strangers, refugees from distant countries, takes us back to the times of the ancients, to our most primitive ancestors.
Many thousands of years of human history tell us to go beyond that.
From The New York Times:
Held for nearly two years in a prison run by an affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria, an American freelance writer was unexpectedly freed on Sunday, following extensive mediation by Qatar, the tiny Gulf emirate and United States ally that has successfully negotiated the release of numerous Western hostages in exchange for multimillion-dollar ransoms.
The family of the freed hostage, Peter Theo Curtis, 45, said that no ransom had been paid.
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From Huffington Post:
Scientists at Michigan State University announced this week the creation of a “transparent luminescent solar concentrator” that could turn windows and even cellphone screens into solar-power generators.
This technology could mean that one day entire skyscrapers might be able to generate solar power without blocking out light or ruining tenants' views.
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From The daily Beast:
Dinesh D'Souza has a book to sell.
It was certainly with that in mind that in an interview with the conservative Newsmax TV, D'Souza offered his opinion on the unrest in Ferguson, following the killing by police of an unarmed, black teenager. D'Souza's smart take? Protesters in Ferguson are like ISIS in Iraq.
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Conservative reaction to a Secretary of State from more than sixty years ago provides lessons about today's terrorism.
Public Servants Representing Ordinary People (5:36) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
One detail of Washington life can explain why those we elect forget that we are here - - Why they can't help it.
Justice is needed. We need to think through what is needed for justice.
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News Corpse watches Fox News so you don't have to. In reaction to the murder of Jim Foley, President Obama addresses the nation with compassion, anger, and forceful resolve. Fox News offers the usual set of responses from the usual suspects.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, traces the rapid journey of a Fox News discussion from the killing of a journalist to Islamophobia in the form of violent fantasy. Death to all Muslims? Really? Well, look at the Fox transcript.
Jon Perr at Perrspectives responds to conservative demands that President Obama react to ISIS with harsh, decisive action. Jon looks at the actual Reagan record in hostage crises. My own thoughts on conservatives anger can be found here.
Norman Rampart at Mad Mike's America suggests that British police have been forced to conduct police protection with crazed restrictions.
At The Intersection of Madness and Reality, Mike Caccioppoli suggests the evidence is conclusive. The officer who fired the shots killing Michael Brown should be arrested now. My own thoughts differ. I don't think enough evidence is in for that judgment or any other.
Kevin Sorbo is best known as the star of some Hercules movie remake. He recently opined in what read like a liquor fueled internet post about Ferguson. Tommy Christopher finds the deleted post. It really is pretty bad.
Jonathan Bernstein, writing for Bloomberg, considers how one aspect of the Ferguson aftermath looks. How does it look? Ferguson protestors are told by community leaders to forget about protesting local government and police performance if they can't be bothered to vote. State Republicans react with rage suggestions that black people should vote. Bernstein suggests that is GOP dumb.
Last Of The Millenniums presents in brief graphic form the practical disconnect between conservative positions on gun safety and reproductive choice. Question: can a similar, not identical, contradiction be found on our side of that divide?
James Wigderson has attended many public meetings with angry fellow conservatives. These folks are, without exception, models of polite decorum. Gosh, I want to be like them when I grow up. Liberals on the other hand, sing at protest rallies. And their singing? They make hideous vocal sounds. I hope James one day journeys to St. Louis to join us at worship some Sunday. I will pray his judgment of my participation in our praise band is not so harsh. James is a wonderful writer. He really is. And he really did try to make this musing go somewhere.
Rumproast uses a Florida county as a case study in government endorsement of religion under the guise of freedom of religion. The county is carefully neutral until a non-Christian group applies for equal treatment.
Vincent at A wayfarer's Notes continues his spiritual/philosophical journey. He now travels beyond his interest in disinterest and explores making the most of what we have in building Jacob's ladder to heaven. Or something like that. I can't do him justice. You'll have to read this master of the written word (small w).
tengrain at Mock Paper Scissors posts the title of a devotional attempt to answer the central problem with the Christian faith. However, he seems to regard with a certain lack of reverence. Okay, I'm an active Christian and it made me laugh.
Infidel 753 decides to give up on polite and respectful disagreement when an intolerant bigot expresses hatred in the name of Christ Jesus. Although Infidel does not say so explicitly, there seems an implicit recognition that, just as the hatred is wrong, so is the bigot's claim to represent our faith.
- Ask Michael J.W. Stickings about Pink Floyd and you just might get a wild burst of enthusiasm. Ask him about Pink Floyd covers? Not so much.
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President Truman's Secretary of State, as the Cold War began in the middle of the century, was Dean Acheson. Like everyone, Acheson was surprised at the tactics of the Soviet Union after World War II ended. Expanding into buffer countries, taking them over, was out of the norm, at least what had been normal up to that point.
Acheson presided over a debate within the State Department. The prevailing sentiment following the war was, in a couple of words, never again. Never again to genocide. Never again to appeasement. Those lessons were pressed into American consciousness.
But so was the possibility of nuclear war. The issue among policy makers became one of alternatives. How could we escape war that could come from confrontation. How could we prevent war that could come from a lack of response?
Acheson's group came up with a plausible answer. Strength was to be used to threaten, but also to lift up. Strong arming the Soviet menace while pulling up allies required different expressions of the same resolve.
Acheson's group called it containment. The combination of cautious brinkmanship and economic aid followed a strategic theory. If the Soviet Union could be constrained, kept within boundaries, the entire empire would eventually fall victim to its own contradictions.
Conservatives were outraged at the moral ambiguity. That rage mingled with opportunism as a Senator from California attacked Dean Acheson in personal terms. Senator Richard Nixon went after Democrats running for an assortment of offices using the same alliteration. Each was a quisling, "holding a Ph.D. from Dean Acheson's Cowardly College of Communist Containment."
The cowardly containment rhetoric was more than bluster. It was the clarion call of true believers. We were at war, and there ought to be no limits. Conservatives were angry beyond words at the rejection of emotional impulse. The substitution of thoughtful strategy was infuriating.
Turning away from intellect during crisis is a predictable emotional response. But acting on rage can have unintended results.
As was the case back then, Conservatives today have much to be angry about.
The United States insists that substantial continuation of aid to Iraq depends on changes in Iraq's treatment of its people. Otherwise, weapons will continue to fall into the hands of murderous ISIS militants.
Military aid to rebels in Syria is restricted to weapons that cannot be later used against the United States or our allies, until a clear division develops between those fighting an oppressive regime and terrorist militants who join them.
I was thinking of the days of Nixon's cowardly containment verbiage as I read a joint statement from Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Their demand for massive arms to Iraq and to the Syrian resistance contained some of the same desperate fist clenching anger.
A policy of containment will not work against ISIS.
We need to get beyond a policy of half measures.
... none of this should be contingent on the formation of a new government in Baghdad.
The tone is familiar. We need to do something decisive, massive, and we need to do it now.
In fact, we don't need to do something. We need to do the right thing. We don't need to make a move, we need to make the smart move. We don't need to act now, unless now is the right moment.
The visceral reaction often expressed is, at its heart, emotional. We should recognize and understand that. But we should also understand, and we should reject, the true nature of that central demand.
Just as their forefathers did two thirds of a century ago, true believers reject thought itself.
From the Atlantic:
A little more than a decade ago, a company called Stanley Works was considering moving to Bermuda in order to save some money. Stanley, a tool-manufacturing company, had done some calculations, and figured out that it could save about $30 million per year in U.S. taxes by ditching its Connecticut headquarters. The decision seemed fairly clear-cut, as they’d be lowering their costs.
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I suppose it was kind of gimmicky. The Democratic challenger to an incumbent Republican Congressional Representative pledged, if elected, to give back a tenth of his paycheck. Brad Ashford, the Nebraska Democrat, would keep doing that until members of Congress cut their own paychecks by 10 percent.
There are lots of good reasons to reject a proposal to cut Congressional salaries. Corruption is a lot more tempting when you kind of need the money. Junkets to foreign lands, lavish free dinners, implied future career opportunities, none are really illegal. Sometimes officials who have developed a part-time business of raking it in can cross ethical lines into outright criminality.
At some point, attacking the pay of politicians, however emotionally satisfying - and truly, truly, it does provide a buzz - might not be good public policy.
The incumbent Republican, Lee Terry, did not disagree with cutting the pay of Congress because it's bad policy. His indignation was more personal. It seems Congress has already gone too long without a raise, and enough is enough.
What he's not telling you is that Congress hasn't had a cost of living increase since 2006, when I led the charge for a freeze.
- Representative Lee Terry (R-NE), Comments on KMTV, Omaha, August 11, 2014
Those bringing home considerably less than the $174,000 a year paid to their representatives in Congress might not be completely sympathetic.
Why would anyone in elective office say such a thing?
One possibility is a mere slip of the tongue. The pressure of live debate, the relentless presence of news outlets, can capture momentary lapses.
The problem with that theory is Representative Lee Terry has a bit of a history. It is not the first time he has complained about the financial hardship associated with public service. He was forced to apologize for similar comments during the Republican shutdown of government last year.
Federal workers and those working for companies doing business with the government were going without paychecks. Shouldn't members of Congress give up their pay during the time they were forcing other families to live without?
...you know what? I've got a nice house and a kid in college, and I'll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That's just not going to fly.
Similar stories surface from time to time. It is usually taken as evidence that some politicians are clueless, out of touch with the economic suffering endured by those they ought to be representing. In the case of Representative Terry, the seeming lack of concern is aggravated by his tireless opposition to any increase in the minimum wage.
Such incidents do illustrate a disconnect from life as it is experienced by those living with a significant level of financial anxiety. Comments like those for which Lee Terry is becoming known also illustrate an important part of human nature, a part most of us share.
I close my eyes and try to picture ordinary people. I find myself thinking of friends, co-workers, neighbors, worshipers at Sunday service, shoppers I meet in line at the pharmacy. And I find I'm thinking of people I meet and associate with. Ordinary people.
That is who most of us think of as ordinary, everyday people. Those we see and talk with. They are part of our daily routine. That's human nature, and that's part of the problem. What we see and who we see every day define what we know as ordinary.
As a young student studying government several decades ago, I participated for a few months in a special program that put me in Washington, DC.
I was impressed by one detail that I do not recall ever being reported. Senators and members of Congress do not open doors. Unless they deliberately look for doors, they probably never notice them. It's part of a larger pattern.
As they walk the corridors, even walking the sidewalks near the Capitol Building, they are continuously surrounded by a circle of staff. Papers are passed and glanced at. Conversations continue. Schedules are changed. Decisions are made. It is all done without missing a step. Each elected official is surrounded by a moving, busy office.
The circle is sometimes broken by other office holders and by ever present money flashing lobbyists. Away from the traveling office, officials live near wealth. They shop and worship with the rich and powerful. It affects, it has to affect, what they think of as normal, daily routine, and who they regard as average, everyday folks.
In Congress, most work very hard, doing what they came to the nation's capital to do.
They represent ordinary people.
As another long night in Ferguson begins, the National Guard is on the scene, but so too are the local police, who continue to demonstrate great judgment and a keen grasp on how they're coming across to the outside world. A few minutes ago, police tried to shut down CNN anchor Don Lemon's live broadcast as he stood on a sidewalk in the middle of a group of protesters.
"I think we're about to be arrested because we're standing on a sidewalk," Lemon told a studio anchor in New York, sounding quizzical.
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Police in Ferguson were caught on camera Sunday night threatening to mace one reporter and shoot another. At least two other journalists also claim they were arrested while following police orders.
Shortly after 10 pm Sunday night, police began launching tear gas at protesters and demanded that reporters turn their cameras off.
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