Monday, December 31, 2012

End of 2012

It's the end of the year and I should have done better. I really should have.

I didn't write every day. I didn't work out every day. Hell I didn't even give myself a minute to meditate every day. I just...I lost.

It was a tough year, and rolling over to 2013 doesn't make the year less hard. Nor does it make any of the myriad insecurities I have fade.

This year—2013—I will make the same resolutions that everyone makes. I will spend more time with friends and family, I will try to be kinder, I will try to be sane, I will get in shape.

I guess the most important resolution I will make for the following year is to write daily. I'm dropping the 365 requirement because I can't hold it. It became a task too big to handle and I subsequently wrote nothing.

This year I will try to follow through on my actions. This year I will try to actually do.

Or in the words of a famous Northwest shoe company, just do it.

But I know that I might not. And that's the hardest part about making promises to oneself—they are easy to break because we are forgiving.

I didn't meet my goals for last year, I dropped the ball—I never focused on my goals and I certainly didn't execute well. I feel ashamed that the few people who read this blog did not get to see something every day. That I failed them.

Sorry guys.

I resolve to try harder. To do what hurts sometimes.

Yogi Berra once said, “if you come to a fork in the road, take it.” I think he was right. I could explain how that works but suffice it to say he wasn't completely off his rocker. It does work.

This last year was about stasis. Finding stability and discovering that it's not impossible to be an adult. I thought it would be about growth. It was—but in a controlled manner. I never sprinted to the finish, I never overcame extraordinary obstacles. I was myself the entire year in a boring way—yeah, boring. But I think I grew in ways that I won't see the impacts of until many years from now. My freshman year as a post-grad is a foundation for some structure whose form has yet to be decided.

At least I hope.

Happy new year everyone.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Gun Debate Reading List

I want to open with disappointment. I'm disappointed in the defensive, unproductive, misleading, and ultimately uncontributive statement put out by the National Rifle Association's Wayne LaPierre.

And you can read a concise compendium of why more guns is empirically problematic as a solution here:

And a (weak) but very true synopsis of the second amendment here:

That said there is plenty that can be done to really address issues of gun violence, safety, mental health, and the rights of gun owners without excluding any of those things.

It is instructive to remember that the NRA has been obstructionist by and large in helping create meaningful gun laws. The 300ish laws that stand on the books have been passed in spite of one of the most powerful lobbies in the country and not with its help. I want there to be no ambiguity about that.

But often these laws are passed and are deemed ineffective either due to loopholes, funding shortfalls, or other difficulties with enforcement. Sometimes they are just poorly written. But make no mistake about it gun control measures work. Read about that here:

Why would the NRA be so belligerent? The factually untrue (mostly) assertion that the NRA speaks for gun manufacturers is debunked here:

So why? Attitude. Hopefully you read the full NRA statement. From my perspective LaPierre believes two things: his rights are on the verge of being taken away, and he is the last bastion of hope for protecting them.

And, well, that's wrong. Americans by and large are well aware of the 2nd amendment and are pretty rational about it. And a reasonable American can also say that there are limits to bearing arms. We don't allow automatic weapons, and we also put limits on our other amendments (no fire in a crowded theater). So, his position obscures the debate because there are many actions that can be taken that reduce gun crime—such as the COPS bill, closing the gun-show loophole, and better enforcement of background checks. Because overall, we don't want more gun crimes.

What we want is responsible gun ownership and reasoned debate. Here's a comedy website that gives a great analysis of the gun debate:

That's my reading list of late, and basically I want to end on a note of hope, but I've seen little that encourages me thus far.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Discussion About Guns

**I spoke with a libertarian minded old school conservative. An “I want my freedom and guns” conservative. Not, as he describes, a “the government is coming for us conservative.” He is an expert shooter, well-trained and a military man—concerned citizen. The subject of our conversation was about guns, the values underlying gun ownership, and various other related issues. Given the recent events in Connecticut we avoided hypotheticals and tried honestly to be respectful of the memory of the many lost to gun violence each year. We also, of course were conscious of the constitutional right to bear arms and the limits that imposes.  Both of us have discussed in detail the recent events and have been deeply affected--nothing herein should be construed to denigrate the pain and suffering of those lost.**

I always learned you gotta ride hard, shoot straight, and speak the truth. I feel that people—especially politicians—that doesn't happen.

I feel that Bush had our backs. I mean, he's a well known-idiot, but I felt like he had our backs.

I value self-reliance. Self-reliance means you have the means and the ability to make a good life and protect a good life for you and your family. It means there will be jobs available, and money for the middle class. I'm not an economist- if that means tax and regulate the 1%, go for it. I just don't want the Government breathing down my neck, telling me what standards I have to hit. Take NCLB, it was a perfect example of the Federal government forcing you to adhere to their standards. My feelings go beyond party lines. NCLB was a GOP law, pushed on us from a Federal level. By and large, the Federal Government doesn't value our ability to make decisions for our own communities.

Talking about guns—there's an old saying that the response time of police is measured in minutes and the response time of a gun is measured in fps. I want to be able to defend myself and feel safe. I don't want to have to rely on anybody, at any time, for my safety, if I can help it.

We as a nation have to realize that we are facing an enemy—there is an enemy out there—there are people out there actively plotting to do us harm. The sooner you accept no amount of wishing and hoping can stop that, the sooner you can respond to that threat.

No amount of, “they've got it covered” can create individual preparedness. Not through taking away our civil liberties. Not through DHS. Inherently we the people are the first responders. If there is an attack the first people on the scene will be citizens—police and fire are second responders. Look at United 93—that's a perfect.

**I don't want to carry a gun. I want to live in a society where that's not required. Now, given that, I don't believe we currently live in a society where we can say that 100% of the time. How do we get there?**

I don't have an answer to that. I'm concerned with the short term solution but if you want to plan for ten years then here are a few things we've already discussed.

Requiring FFL transfers and closing the gun show loophole, coordinating databases between agencies. Those are some good immediate solutions.

We as a nation were born with a gun in our hands, we expanded with guns. Guns are an integral part of our life.

Lt. Colonel Grossman—his big thing is that we need to be more prepared to meet threats. Zero kids have died in school fires in the last 50 years. No one thinks firemen are paranoid for having sprinkler systems.

There are deranged gunmen out there ready to hurt our children.

**When you go out in public do you feel safe?**

Depends on where I am. In Seattle I do not. Where I go to school I do. At least where I'm from there are a lot of people who I feel share my values and frankly, carry guns. What if someone were to go into Westlake mall and shoot the place up? The unarmed security guard is useless. It's a soft target.

This house, I don't feel particularly safe sleeping in your house. To me it's about how I can feel safe without having to rely on the police for help.

It's not just about owning a gun though, it's about being safe and trained in using a gun. It's about being prepared. And that doesn't just apply to guns. It's about being prepared for a natural disaster, I have a 72 hour bag. People call being prepared a sort of paranoia, but we don't say that for the fire department.

**Is there a world where you don't need to be as prepared as you are?**

I don't think so, because there is the day that you need it and you have it and you are thankful but if the event never comes then you never think, “gosh it sucks that I was prepared.” No one thinks that.

**Is there a world where you would feel safe without some of those things?**

I feel safe because I am prepared. The world we live in is one rife with uncertainty.

I'd like to though. But some people take it to the extreme, in gun circles, they call it tactical residential architecture and defense. I think that people need to look at it from a big perspective. How do you stay safe from people who would actively do you harm?

A healthy level of awareness is something I think our country could do with.

**What about prevention?**

Short of a complete ban and the prevention of imports, there is little we can do beyond response, as far as legislating guns is concerned. I can't tell you anything about the mental health stuff. The number one step is preparedness. You are never going to prevent 100% of crime. All I know is, if you take away my guns, that doesn't mean the threat is gone—it means I, a law abiding citizen, can now no longer effectively respond to threats to my person. The Supreme Court ruled we have a right to self defense.

People want to treat the symptom rather than the cause. What causes crime? Perfect example, look at drunk driving, we've seen a precipitous decline in drunk driving and we didn't take away guns and we didn't take away cars.

Just because other countries do something doesn't mean we should. This is the United States of America—we roll hard. We have our freedoms. A freedom we inherently have is gun ownership, so any sort of federal legislation on gun ownership is not the answer. Our Constitution guarantees us rights that come from our creator—they are privileges to be legislated. Gun control is not an answer.

Monday, December 17, 2012


This is a placeholder for the things I want to write about but haven't had the courage to.

I recently lost my friend Christopher Weigl. He was 23. I wish I had known him better.

I recently lost someone from childhood, Brigette Cooley. She was caring and always knew things about me I did not.

The nation lost 27 people in a massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

The nation lost 3 people in a massacre in Clackamas County, Oregon.

I'm not as strong as I think and I don't have the courage that I want. Life has been sad for me lately and I don't know what to do.

I promise to write here. When I have the strength.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I built a server

Old CPU is running Ubuntu 12.04.  I back-up, stream and download automatically!  What!
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Ciera and I refinished a dresser

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Ballpark Scrabble

When Ciera and I don't care about the accuracy of our words.
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Christmas Cat

We spent about a half hour putting decorations on the cat.  She didn't seem to mind...too much.
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Thursday, December 6, 2012


Short story

I didn't think you'd be here tonight. I thought we'd moved beyond the subtle touch.

But I found you sitting next to me at the bar laughing at my friends' jokes and touching my shoulders just so.

And for a moment I, I thought I heard you say that you wanted to be next to me. For a moment I thought I heard you ask to come on home with me.

That might have been the music, it might have been the booze, and I'm pretty sure all you want from me is your toothbrush and your high heel shoes.

I've been meaning to hand them back but it's always an awkward time, I put all of your things away in a box behind a shelf. I asked you to come get them but you never say you will.

And tonight's the night I think I know why. You don't want to see me again because we'd end up where we were; believing our pathological fallacy, our contiguous lie.

This town ain't big enough for the both of us but I hardly feel the need to leave with you pressed so close to me. I can smell your favorite perfume behind that rum and coke; and I'm sure my bitter ale can't hide me.

I thought I'd drift out to the bars with my friends to forget you. An opportunity to do something I regret. I thought I'd leave your body's ghost in my bed. Wake up on a couch in some burnout's basement and be unaccounted for. I thought I'd sleep you off and shake off your airs, but when you leaned to get the check I couldn't help but feel your heartbeat through the bass and the static.

It was as rapid as mine. My smartest friends are putting up smiles but dreading the moment when—tonight or tomorrow—I break down again. You torture me with your party dress and all I can do is watch as we find ourselves a cab.

And when I try to sneak out of my own room and forget you in the morning it's not because I don't love you. It's because I do—too much. I'll lie to you then I'll lie to myself because as good as it feels when we touch—it's all temporal. The passage of a moment, and we are in it, the moment when what we had drags us down like an anchor while last night parts the seas and the future is the pharaoh's men coming to drag us to our slavery.

But I'm not Moses and neither are you. Yet we've wandered through a desert for forty years and will never reach the land of milk and honey.

I sneak out of my own house, quiet as a mouse, because your ghost still haunts me and I must be true to her. You can't be real and alive, your flesh is covered in spikes. Each tiny hair on your body when they brush against me lightly I am sliced open—a death—a thousand tiny cuts. My heart stops and you kill me for a moment. For a moment I die at your arm's caress.

When I lock the door and face the winter cold headed off in a direction I don't know, I hope you don't hear me and I hope you sleep in. But I hope that when I return you are gone and my life without you can begin.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Get Married High

Two things are happening at midnight. Two things that are big, small, touchstones, and nearly irrelevant—all at the same time.

The two things happening at midnight—marijuana possession in Washington state officially becomes legal and gay couples will be allowed to marry. Personally I believe both of these things rock. Like, some of the most awesome crap to happen in a while.

I'll shed few words to describe the elation I feel that the people of this great state have decided it is in this country's best interest to legitimize the relationships of all consenting adults. There is no litmus test for marriage for the most screwed up straight people and there should be no discrimination for any gays that want to marry. Period. So now that they are allowed to marry they no longer have to pretend that 'traditional' marriage is some sacrosanct institution. Rather it was the transfer of chattel from one male to another which happened to transfer many legal properties to the modern incarnation of marriage as we know it. Marriage as we know it is an imperfect structure, meant to bind two people together as a way of strengthening their will and commitment to a prosperous society. In reality there is often divorce, abuse, neglect, and broken dreams.

So why am I happy that gay people can now partake in this ceremony? Because we are all on equal ground now. Despite the certain dangers and drawbacks to marriage there are many benefits as well. The exclusion of any group based purely on prejudice and archaic principles is no excuse to hold them back.

They get the good, the bad, the sickness, and the health. Welcome to marriage community. Let's hope you can strengthen each other and forge a stronger bond through the institution rather than become jaded by the hateful and depraved farce us straights have made it.

So that's y'know, the newly bestowed right about love and stuff. The next one is about war. The war on drugs. Washington is officially altering how it handles the war on drugs. Not in a major way—a way that would cause substantial impacts to federal policy or starve the Mexican Drug Cartels, but in a way that signals we are ready for a different approach and a more expansive policy framework.

All that mumbo jumbo means that people can get high now. Legally.

I now live in a state that is concerned with regulating, taxing, and controlling a substance with wide-ranging medical implications and well-known positive recreational effects. And there's a market. So we're fixing the economy while much of the rest of the country is spending billions on non-violent drug offenders (many of them small time possession convictions with mandatory minimum sentences) and fighting a war on drugs that is estimated to stop less than 1% of the country's drug traffic.

And that's why today is big.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

And Christmas decorations

We decorated and promptly found out that Christmas tree really means tree full of cat toys.
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Refinished dresser

Ciera and I tried to refinish a dresser.  Still needs some work but it looks great.  Especially because it was in really poor condition when we got it.
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Don't feed the wildlife

I fed the wildlife
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Fiery Sunset

From when Roger visited and we took him to the beach house.
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Delta Value Zero

Delta Airlines.

I keep saying I'll never fly with them. I mean it this time. They piss me off.

Imagine RyanAir, but all the crappy things with none of the redeeming low-low prices. And it's funny because their infractions are minor—at least this last time they were. But the infractions prove to me that they don't care about their customers or their employees.

Every flight I was on they changed my seat—or Ciera's. So we weren't sitting next to each other. Yt I know it wasn't an error on our end because we booked with our computers right next to each other. And Ciera made me neurotically triple check. And they never notified us. Never. We were able to change our seats by asking the attendant at the kiosk to see if they could move around seats (on a full flight) to get us to stand next to each other. The attendant was very nice but also swamped with work. Asking him to do fix a problem that should not have existed was a problem for both me and him.

Only when we printed our confirmation did we find that our seats had changed.

Oh, and they changed our flight times in both directions. The changes were 10 minutes—negligible but indicative of an inability to manage their flights—or bother to give a shit about their customers. At least this time I wasn't stuck on the runway for 2 hours like the last time I flew with them. Again with the changes no notification until 24 hours prior to take-off.

Oh, but their boarding procedure was crap. They would call up their zones but couldn't actually get anyone to line up. When that happened it was like watching a bunch of Italians try to form a line. It didn't happen. And the attendants couldn't scan my freakin' ticket because they had gotten so confused.

They said I was “eligible” for a voucher if I wanted to change my flight. But at 24 hours out, if the change were significant, there is a disproportionate burden on the consumer with little ability on my end to make alternate plans. Also, just a dick move on Thanksgiving. Thank god that the changes were insignificant.

No leg room. That happens though.

Their awesome tvs on the backs of the seats. Not awesome. Seriously not awesome. I couldn't turn it off for ads they played that I didn't want to hear that were blasting through the PA system. This happened on the tarmac and halfway through the flight. Let me take a nap dammit. I don't care about Delta's gold card where you get 1 bag free on every flight. I don't care that you can get work out gear from the front desk at Westin Hotels. And I really don't care for your crappy safety video. I will read the informational card and take a flight attendant demonstration any day. I can at least tune them out.

And believe me they made it impossible to tune out their soft rock boarding playlist. During boarding I had to endure the likes of Taylor Swift as well as other softies so bad I'm sure they all record in some golden field in the middle of suburban America. Instead of calming me down, the music disturbed my attempt to nap in a manner so irritating I really almost started trying to claw my way out of the plane. I rarely find air travel “relaxing” but this was abrasive. Sitting there listening to Tay Swift talk about running out on her abusive boyfriend caused me to clench my jaw so tight it was sore for thanksgiving dinner. Delta actually managed to decrease my enjoyment of thanksgiving dinner.

Delta's gold card. Perks? 1 free bag on every flight with Delta. That is not a perk. For no annual fee or crappy gold card that stuffs your wallet and piles up debt with interest, you can fly Southwest. 2 free bags on every flight. No ad for a credit card halfway through your flight that's main perk is to offer 50% of a competitor airline's standard operating procedure.

Delta will have to do a lot to ever ingratiate itself to me ever again. I will never fly with them or offer a recommendation for anyone I know to ever fly with them.


We hear it all the time. Treat the cause not the symptoms.

Dated 2009 and specifically asking about the relationship with the recession, some aspects of the article are unhelpful. But PBS is actually pretty damn good at giving numbers.

So let's start there.

Some figures quoted below:
What are the greatest causes of homelessness?

For persons in families, the three most commonly cited causes, according to a 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors study (pdf) are:
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Poverty
  • Unemployment
For singles, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness are:
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Mental illness
Are veterans more likely than other populations to be homeless?

Yes. About 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34 percent of the general adult male population, according to research on veterans by the National Coalition for Homeless. On any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless.

People who are homeless frequently report health problems.
  • 38% report alcohol use problems
  • 26% report other drug use problems
  • 39% report some form of mental health problems (20-25% meet criteria for serious mental illness)
  • 66% report either substance use and/or mental health problems
  • 3% report having HIV/AIDS
  • 26% report acute health problems other than HIV/AIDS such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, or sexually transmitted diseases
  • 46% report chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or cancer
Note: The above figures are based on 1996 data from Samhsha's National Mental Health Information Center.”
Take a close look at that. What does it say to you? To me it says that the guy asking me for change is a product of a confluence of problems we as a society have failed to address. I'll take on a couple of the numbers. How about this one, let's eliminate 40% of all male homeless. I bet a robust VA jobs bill would do something to help alleviate that.

The gist of it is that we have had a few put on the table, but they've been filibustered because it was not economically responsible. I don't want to pick too many bones about this suffice it to say that we used some accounting tricks to defer (read hide) the costs of two wars that created a huge population of veterans and cost hundreds of billions of dollars (possibly trillions), and we won't spend a meager sum (fraction of 1%) of that cost to clean up the mess we made. You buy the booze for the party and you pay for the maid to clean up the place the next morning. Or you get on your hands and knees and do it yourself.

Let me be clear, the people that vote for war should take just as much responsibility with our survivors of war. There is no excuse for leaving them out in the cold if you can at least attempt to rectify the sin of sending children to kill other children. Make no mistake—we are all children.

Ok, now, what about adequate mental health services? In a nation with 40 million uninsured and costs that are through the roof on unregulated state-by-state markets with only a few vendors, there is no such thing as competition. Health providers in a given state, due to lack of competition and dubious pricing schemes are able to keep only the healthiest patients while raising costs for procedures that are ultimately foisted back onto the customers. So, how about opening up the state markets so that companies can work across state borders? How about forcing costs to be standardized by tethering them to a tangible price schedule? How about adding 40 million Americans to the pool of insured, bringing down the cost burden on hospitals which lowers the cost of procedures overall? How about requiring this insurance on a national level? How about as part of this coverage, comprehensive mental healthcare with a focus on creating productive members of society?

Instead of say, homeless people without coverage left in the rain without the resources to deal with their mental health issues.

I wish that could happen. Too bad it's been labeled a socialist agenda that creates free loaders somehow. Oh wait, Obamacare wasn't repealed and won't be. Hmmm...maybe it will help with homelessness. Just a pipe dream perhaps, yet.

So—I don't think there's much I can say that is conclusive. What I can say is that by addressing HOW people become homeless instead of focusing on the otherness of the homeless we will be far more receptive to how the canaries in our American coal mine are really faring. Make no mistake, those most vulnerable to the woes of this country are those that are most vulnerable period. And if we do not protect them, we risk sacrificing ourselves.

Why I Hate the Holidays--Or Christmas

Why I hate the holidays...

I don't actually hate the holidays. I love the holidays. But I have a lot of problems with the consumer culture. And the holidays sort of become the time when corporations give up any pretense of being noble and just try to sell people shit.

Here's one:

Notice how the white people with the gadgets do amazing things, and the minorities in the blue shirts help white people do white people things. It's so cute.

And then there is this commercial:

Observe the bad music, the flashing lights, and the farcical announcer voice. Is this a spoof of a Nintendo product? I mean, the controller looks like you are carrying around an original gameboy—only bigger.

Don't get me wrong here but everything about this commercial realizes what I predict; that Wii U is rife with more jokes than the original Wii. Yeah, like this, what happens when I add U to my Wii? Bad pick-up lines abound.

Re-watch that commercial and pretend it's an SNL skit. Too bad the announcer is totally serious.

Here's another gem:

The gifter? Who the hell thinks this shit is funny? BTW catch the only black guy—in an unassuming sweater and with thick-framed glasses at 0:20.

The gifter is some sexually repressed MILF who spends her time buying and wrapping presents for the holidays. She makes half as much as the worn out plastic MILF down the street with the Porsche but you would never know because she shops at TJ Maxx, Home Goods (never heard of that one), and Marshalls. Buy shit, people will love you and black people will stop being threatening—maybe.

Moving on:

This...this...I want those thirty seconds of my life back. Some ass just made himself a skate-a-thon poster on his phone. Because it rocks and short shorts on guys are back in fashion. And guess what? There's an app that tracks your data usage because Verizon doesn't have an affordable data plan. So they had to hire a bunch of programmers to help you manage the data that you shouldn't have to manage in the first place. What a great company huh? These guys suck.

And this:

This poor girl is very attractive but she can't do a damn thing. They need a stunt girl on the bike. They have to auto-tune her talk-singing more than Ke$ha (don't even get me started on her). They can't even have her look at the camera anymore. It's weird, she's just—sigh.

Just watch this video above to see what I mean. I feel really bad for her.

And about now you are probably asking why I've seen so many commercials. I don't even have a television. No. I have Hulu. Which has now deemed 126 seconds a reasonable amount of time for a commercial break. It is not. Hulu. You are on my shit list.

Let's get back to the commercials shall we?

You know everything that is making people fat, causing skyrocketing healthcare costs, and crippling the nation's children with diabeetus? We're associating our over the counter wild berry flavor heart burn medication with it! So you can be the fat f*** everyone knows you are. Mmmm...I've already got my kids hooked on it so they can eat all the deep fried butter they want penalty free.

And I hate to break this to you but the voice of Mater is not your friend. Watch the commercial over and over again and you get the sense of how many god awful takes he had to endure while shilling a product that will never make America truly great.

And then there's Hallmark. I'm running out of steam but make your own easy analysis of why this makes me despise the holidays.

Not that I actually hate the holidays—or Christmas.

Seriously where's your Christmas cheer if all you are worried about is grinching companies about neglect to use a Christian greeting. Bill, how would you feel if you were a Jew?

Here's a list of Jews who owned, founded, or significantly contributed to retail stores. Isn't it a bit disrespectful to say they are waging War on Christmas when they are actually just adhering to their own religion?

From “Haym Solomon and Isaac Moses are responsible for creating the first modern-banking institutions.
Jews created the first department stores: The Altmans, Gimbels, Kaufmanns, Lazaruses, Magnins, Mays, and Strausses became leaders of major department stores.
Julius Rosenwald revolutionized the way Americans purchased goods by improving Sears Roebuck's mail order merchandising.
Hart, Schaffner, Marx, Kuppenheimer and Levi Strauss became household names in mens' clothing.
Isadore & Nathan Straus - "Abraham & Straus," eventually became sole owners of Macy's, the world's largest department store, in 1896.
The fortunes of English-Jewish financiers such as Isaac Goldsmid, Nathan Rothschild, David Salomons, and Moses Montefiore helped England become an empire.
Armand Hammer (Arm & Hammer) was a physician and businessman who originated the largest trade between the U.S. and Russia.
Louis Santanel was the financier who provided the funds for Columbus' voyage to America.
Levi Strauss invented durable pants first used by Forty-niners during the Gold Rush. These "wonderful pants of Levi's" were made of a heavy blue denim material called "genes" in France. The pants he created, called levis or jeans, have become an emblem of the American West and an emissary of the Western lifestyle -- egalitarian, utilitarian, independent -- around the world.”

The point I'm making is that there are a lot of jerks out there trying to exploit us. This time is for piety, reflection, family, and real love yet often we are shilled gluttony, excess, outrage, and the promise of happiness through material wealth. Lest we forget that Jesus took a vow of poverty and preached openness to all people, we are lost as consumers—sheep without a shepherd preyed, upon by selfish wolves.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post Electioneering

Okey, so the election is over. Guess what? Obama won. And Republicans were stunned.

So there are a few important things to take away. First, it's not the message and people don't need a better brand. It's actually the approach. Conservatives share plenty of values with the rest of America, but that is obscured by approaches that seem (are) at times exclusionary, radical, oppressive, insensitive, divisive, and unscientific.

Second, America as we know it has not disappeared or even remotely faded. It is alive and well. That the clean-cut privileged guy lost is more testament to the illusion of 'traditional' America that has been conjured up by conservatives and less the real loss of a 'Leave it to Beaver' America. America was never like that—get over it.

Third, seceding from America is not American—it's inherently anti-American. Dissent may be the highest form of patriotism but it ain't won in a democracy through violence. The best and most America loving approach to governance is one of cooperation, tolerance, and vigorous discourse. Anything else is settling for the petty and insubstantial.

Fourth, there are a ton of problems in America right now. Enough to really get the population feeling deflated and lost. And I don't think for one second that Obama is going to fix them. I think he'll make some substantive progress. But he's not a dictator and I would never want him to be. Which brings me to the Mitt supporters out there. Hedging bets on a candidate sympathetic to one's cause is irrational without a contingency for working with the other guy. Mitt was never going to actually help you out as much as you think—no politician ever does—and drawing lines in the sand because you are butt-hurt your guy lost is childish.

Fifth, it's time to get to work. Guess what, elections are inconsequential to the majority of the workings of the country. We get our shit done when people aren't spewing platitudes and shaking hands with mouths full of empty promises. It's time to move on. And we need to work. We have post-hurricane Sandy clean-up, we have a tepid economic climate tenuously placed on the edge by a fiscal cliff and the European debt crisis, we have the highest poverty rate in ages, we have the widest class gap and smallest middle class in several generations, and we have a failing education system that needs mending. Not to mention all of our military engagements plus global warming. There's a lot and even the losers in the election have a ton to contribute. So start helping.

Sixth. Whatever, I'm done. Bronco Bama won. The pundits have lost relevance when they separate from reality. America needs collaboration not yelling knuckleheads. And it's time to get something done. Please.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kitty Fetch

Yeah, it's a cat video.  But can your cat do this?

Jasper Fforde

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This guy--Jasper Fforde--just wrote a pretty bomb book called The Woman Who Died a Lot. Get it.

Bro-ing out with my evil cat

Bro-ing out with my evil cat.  Didn't you read the title?
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Thursday, November 1, 2012


Welcome to November.

No trick or treaters. I suppose it's a result of being in an alley. And it was raining and everything was normal in Seattle. But I heard that the East Coast shut down because of hurricane Sandy.

And it's not proof positive of global warming—no single point of data can represent a trend. It is proof positive that regardless of the existence of global warming, we are ill-prepared for extreme weather events. We have no ability to defend ourselves from that which we cannot control.

And the military is great for saving us from a known and identified enemy, but really the world has been at peace. We live in an unprecedented time where there are no large scale wars, and all of the world powers—despite their tensions—trade openly and speak cordially to each other. This is a time where more than any other we have the potential to create a peaceful future.

Really. Isn't that weird? Argue with me on that one, but the belligerents in the world right now are disorganized, poor, or otherwise lacking in substantive power. World tragedies are generally addressed with concerted actions to help. Look at 9/11. It started the War on Terror, but there was no single government behind it. A diverse international coalition formed to provide aid and address extremism in the world. Of course we did go to war, but the overall thrust is not to fight and defeat in any traditional sense. Our greatest successes have actually been political. Reducing extremism by encouraging political discourse.

And obviously this could all change. But like it or not, we are on the cusp of peace with the right moves in this chess game. And it could all go to hell.

But the point is that disasters now hinge largely on the natural. We provide international aid in events such as the 2005 tsunami or the Japan earthquake. Even in the face of tensions with China, we are able to put aside our differences to help the afflicted.

The whole point of this is that our biggest existential threats to this country are going to be the demons we create or the ones we choose to ignore. They won't be the Hitlers or the Stalins. They will be internal terror, indifference to our fellow man, and poor preparation for the future.

What is the number one thing that everyone seems to remember in a disaster? That we are all Americans and we will prevail. How do we forget that in an election season? How do we forget that when we try to formulate policy? How do we forget that when we launch insulting missiles across the aisle at each other?

We are absurd to make many of the claims we do and to be so unself-conscious when we hurt each other with our hubris.

The problem is that my government adviser was right, “it's all politics.” And the solution is the same, “it's all politics.” Just act like winning in the long-run is more important for a hot second. And the only way you can win in the long-term is to bring your detractors with you.

Or kill them. And that's dumb, because most of the time that's half the country. And half of all Americans can't be hell-bent on the destruction of the country. If you really believe that, then you missed it. You missed the fundamental civics lesson. Dissent is not evil or wrong—it's the core of a functioning government. And you aren't perfect or righteous.

So, I'll try to leave this issue. It's hard not to dive into the fight and defend those I believe to be on the right side. But I can't be a referee when the issues mean so much. How do we all speak to each other in a civil manner and really work together to get things done? I'm not objective, nor can I be the voice of reason more than a miniscule portion of the time. We need each other to weather the storm.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Adeline almost didn't notice the paper in the muddy road.

It was the 60th year since the world had been saved and the girl was rushing to the Parade of Life. She hoped to be a miracle child. Every year the Leader bestowed a miracle on a child. And because it was the 60th year, 60 miracles were to be distributed throughout the provinces. Each miracle would be different. Every miracle fulfilled the dreams of the individual child.

She remembered the girl the year before. Verite. She was the most beautiful girl, 14 years old and poor. Poorer even than Adeline. Verite's father had been crippled saving the Leader's portrait from a fire. And he had been crippled when a beam had crushed him.

Verite's miracle was a sight. Adeline watched on television as the leader kissed Verite's forehead and motioned to her father. Verite burst into tears and hugged the Leader closely. He hugged her back with the warmth and personality that the greatest leaders have. And Verite's father cried out. The camera panned to him and he rose, shaky at first, and then he stood. Tears poured down the man's face and Verite ran to her father, no longer weak, no longer crippled.

That was last year. This year, the leader would travel to each province and perform 5 miracles. Five wonderful, amazing, magnificent miracles.

Adeline thought only of this as she ran to the Parade of Life. Maybe the Leader would choose her and give her a miracle. Maybe the Leader could bring her mother back. No. She wouldn't come back. She had to remember what the quiet man had said.

The quiet man worked for the Leader. Adeline's mother was needed for the country, to keep the world safe. The quiet man explained that Adeline's mother was special—an untouchable. When Adeline heard that her sadness had overcome her. The untouchables protected the country but they never came back. The untouchables had some of the same magic that the leader did. They were needed to keep the country safe. It was said that with meditation and coordination the untouchables could bring the rains and save dying crops. They kept the country safe, but they could never be with their families.

The quiet man gave her a silk handkerchief and guided her to the orphanage—he let her keep the handkerchief. Silk was rare; the quiet man must have been very important to have the handkerchief—let alone to give it to a little girl.

Her mother. Adeline said her mother's name quietly to herself as she walked toward the parade, repeating it under her breath to keep her safe. It was said that the untouchables could hear the slightest whisper of their closest loved ones. Adeline whispered this and smiled.

And that was when she noticed the paper in the muddy road. Cold fear ran down her spine as she saw the blue logo of the demons. The demons conjured the deadly papers and laid traps for the peaceful. The Leader's father, the Founder, had saved the world from the demons, carved out the peaceful land Adeline lived in. But they still lurked on the edges. Only the untouchables, with the help of the Leader, kept the demons from entering the land.

The papers were a common demon trap. People who touched the papers were said to burst into flames. Adeline shuddered at the thought. She should get an officer, they would clear the area and eradicate the demon papers. She stepped carefully around it, but then a gust of wind blew it over and there was a picture of her mother.

The demons were tricking her. Adeline knew it. They were trying to kill her. But Adeline couldn't pull her eyes away. Her mother, there, printed so perfectly. She looked older, but she looked relieved and happy. Adeline wondered if the demons had heard her whispering, had heard her wish. And they were tempting her.

She wanted to touch it. To hold it. But she couldn't, she would burn. She would burst into flames and die. Adeline loved life; did not want to fall prey to the demons.

But she didn't have to touch it to read it. Didn't have to burst into flames to see what it said. She tilted her head and took a careful step toward the demon paper. Under her mother's picture was a title—Escaping the Death Camps of the Untouchables.

Adeline was perplexed. What did that mean? Whose death camps? Why wasn't her mother in the borderlands protecting the country? How had she appeared on a demon paper?

It was a trick. It was a trick and the demons had bored into her soul to trick her. Adeline ran toward the Parade of Life.

I must find someone to help me, Adeline thought, to destroy the demon paper. She bumped her way through the crowd, the noise swelled and she got lost in the push of men in coarse wool coats and women wearing store bought dresses. The Parade was an occasion to dress up, to celebrate the Leader and the grand achievement of a land safe from the demons.

Short Story: what happens when the culture of personality hides the truth?

Adeline found herself at the front of the crowd. A large missile on a wagon pulled by twenty beautiful horses slowly walked past. The coats of the horses shimmered.

And then she heard it. The rumble of a car engine. It must be the Leader, she thought with unadulterated excitement. She squealed with joy and realized that she was cheering with the crowd. He was magical. He was the Leader, and he would kept the land safe.

His car was shiny and ran without pops or starts. Even the tires looked new. Adeline had never seen a car so beautiful. The headlights were on too, both working. It was rare to see a car in such fine condition—even if there was one, it was even rarer to see the headlights on. Every drop of gas counted.

But the Leader could celebrate for a day. Could put on the headlights and show his people that they were safe—that he was their guiding light. As he passed, Adeline screamed for him, she cried and hoped he would look her way. He hoped he would grant her a miracle. Hoped that he would protect her.

As he passed he turned and smiled at her. Then the moment was over. And Adeline was left with the same hole in her stomach—the miracle hadn't happened for her.

She stood in that spot for hours. The parade subsided and the crowds dispersed. The day turned to dusk and she turned back toward the orphanage.

Adeline felt alone as she watched her shadow extend past her feet in a long arrow guiding her back. One foot in front of the other. The road had dried, and the footprints of the morning crowds were pressed into the road.

She nearly stepped on the demon paper. It was buried into the mud by a footprint.

There were no signs of fire. Just paper in the mud in the middle of the road.

She stole a match from the kitchen that night and creeped out of the orphanage under the light of an almost full moon. She had little trouble finding the paper in the road. The moment was so stark in her mind, she knew she would never forget it.

She knelt down, lit the match and set the paper on fire. There was no such thing as magic, and there was no such thing as demons.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Neutral Milk Hotel

I just started listening to Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. I was warned it would be a good album.

I wasn't prepared for this. I'm on the first song and I'm...feeling?

“Music is like no other art.” It is communication but it isn't, it is representational, it is figurative. I believe that music is potent because it taps into our gut. The animal brain activates; elicits an order we didn't know existed.

Somehow it fires on the other senses. I smell things, taste things, crave things, and see colors I can only imagine.

And it makes the body move.

Good music taps into the emotional core; create a physical space without doing anything.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. There are very few perfect albums out there. Abbey Road is a perfect album. This year Regina Spektor gave me a perfect album—What We Saw From the Cheap Seats. The Flaming Lips had a perfect album in Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

Perfect albums are the albums that you listen to and hear something new each time—the surprises for the repeat listener.

But a perfect album is not everything. Some of my favorite artists have never had a perfect album in my opinion. But they have plenty of perfect songs. And just good songs. And songs that suck.

This album isn't perfect. Graceland is a perfect album.

This album is good though. It screws with my sense of space and time. It sounds like the 90s that I want to remember in a grunge folk nostalgia. A hot summer's day, a dusty living room, a stuffy car. It is the music that was somehow a soundtrack. A background noise that quietly entered the spaces I occupied. And just as quietly played.

I never heard it, but it was there.

And that's what makes this album good.

And the album is short. Eleven songs make the album only 39:55.

This album is the unrestrained tension and anger, the disenfranchisement, the disaffection of gen x when they realized that they had everything but none of it belonged to them. Mom's car, dad's job connections, and a changing professional world. Too young to be behind the curve, too old to be ahead.

The album does what they did, it lashes out at the world; a fuzz noise that deters those who refuse to understand and conspiratorially pulls in the attentive listener. It's telling a secret to the lost teenagers of the 90s.

And as a young adult of the 10s I can hear the message, without the same sense of loss, but certainly the same sense of being lost.

I stepped back two decades and heard the ghost of a generation. I wonder how this album resonates with them now?

The album just ended. The room is empty. I didn't know I would miss it this much.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pub Mix

Why has writing become so foreign?

What about settling into my life has made writing so hard?

I sat with Ciera at the pub. We had been there so many times. The alternate times, the ones in the summer, the ones in the fall, the ones with friends, and the ones where it was just us two.

We were in our pub.

But it could have been any pub. Two bodies in chairs at a table, looking at a serif text. The seasonal beer, the pub food, the din of adults, the flash of tvs.

This time it was cold and the air was damp. The fall leaves hung heavy under the harsh street lights. And one block and a half seemed like a trek through a slick blackness—a dark humor that had exited the body and settled on the cobblestone crosswalk.

The pub smelled a deep rich brown. The color of whiskey, the tang of mustard, the sound of coats shuffling and settling.

We spoke of our futures. Where we were going. How to make what we wanted real. And we planned. In doing so we learned about each other. The warm yellow incandescence lit the London themed interior. The easiest relationship is the one where the familiar mixes seamlessly with the novel.

It's the same with all art. Something reminiscent, something jarring. The senses never rest—the raw nerve is not damaged from exceptional contact, rather it is brushed or grazed lightly; as if accidental.

Yet fully intentional. And in our conversations, she wakes me up and I learn something new. And she learns something new from me. As we spoke together, our words drifted effortlessly across the table; two conspirators against the world. Young and lost, but happy in each other's company.

I drifted to the Saturday previous. I drifted to the opening night of Domesticity. After a successful performance we had made our way to a bar full of beers. Binders full of beer.

We had gone with friends and filled a table while we conversed with new people. The night passed.

I reflected on what it meant to be part of our generation. A generation that was on the cutting edge of a paradigm shift. We would be revolutionaries in a Huxleyan world. Instead we had become gluttons ignorant of our ignorance and drifting slowly away from the generation before us. Rapidly evolving into a dependent lifestyle—unaware of our shift. What we gained technologically we lost in depth of contact. Hundreds of friends allowed ourselves to compartmentalize our needs.

A little digital universe in which we could be who we wanted, but only one fragment at a time.

The internet generation was in danger of melting away like fat on bone, feeding a fire which we couldn't control.

But for the moment we were just iphone loving money bags enjoying a beer. Uncertain of the future. And very interested by it.

Letter to the president's cabinet of Skidmore

The letter below was written in response to a proposal by the President's Cabinet at Skidmore to extend permanent funding for mediation training to students.

Dear Members of the President’s Cabinet,

Mediation training at Skidmore is an invaluable skill worth far more than the sum required to continue annual or twice-yearly training. As a 2011 graduate and former president of Skidmore’s Conflict Resolution Group (Fight Club) I cannot emphasize enough the impact the training has had on me.

The training has been an integral part of alternative dispute resolution on the campus. Turning out classes of about 60 trained mediators a year, students are given the tools to reduce conflict on their own. In Fight Club we worked hard to not only cultivate these skills but to give every student access to them at all times. There are several “crash courses” of alternative dispute resolution training on campus every year for many student leaders—residential life, inter-group relations, and club trainings. Mediation training, however, remains unique in its comprehensiveness as well as the official state certification that it bestows on trainees at the end of the training.

The training is just the beginning though. With a robust campus community of ADR enthusiasts as well as the support of the local mediation program—Mediation Matters—students are given a unique opportunity to cultivate, hone, and refine their skills for the real world. By the time I left Skidmore I had been mediating for 3 years—a first-year could have 4 years of experience by graduation. These are directly transferable skills. When many jobs require 3-5 years’ experience in a field, this gives graduates a substantial leg-up and competitive with graduates several years their senior.

That was the case for me. I started at Triangle Associates in the Fall of 2011, gaining employment almost immediately in this down economy. Triangle Associates is a Seattle-based facilitation and public involvement firm that uses the principles of ADR and applies them to questions of policy. At Triangle Associates we act as neutral third parties that help diverse interest groups come to consensus. It is not an easy job, and it would be even more difficult if I had not been versed in the principles of ADR.

Every day we work with clients on high conflict, high stakes issues. Recently we facilitated the Bristol Bay Draft Environmental Assessment public hearings. These hearings assessed the possible environmental impacts to the Bristol Bay watershed if an open pit mine were constructed. Subsistence tribes, salmon fishers, congressmen, senators, local politicians, mine representatives, and many more commented on the importance of the area. Their comments were all taken and the hearings run in a fair and open manner by our staff. If we had not been trained in ADR and experienced neutrals we could have faced enormous consequences—not least of which would have been the dissolution or de-legitimization of these important comment sessions.

This last spring Triangle Associates also facilitated the King County School Siting Task Force. At the end of the process there was 100% consensus on the recommendations for school siting compliance with the Growth Management Act. This is something that will have a tangible impact on how the Seattle and King County regions will grow and develop for the next 50 years—policies that will impact over 3.5 million people today and millions more in the future. Without mediation training or ADR, the group could have easily strayed and lost their focus. During initial stakeholder interviews, many potential sources of conflict and misunderstanding were present. Through our commitment to open dialogue we were able to help the Task Force reach their goals.

Internally, we spend much of our time looking at how we can craft an environment conducive to effective conflict resolution for our clients and ourselves. In our many and varied dialogues I have found my opinions are valuable contributions to how Triangle conducts business.

My training in mediation was supported by the commitment of Mediation Matters and the school to my professional development. With the downturned economy, those funds came into jeopardy, and by the time I graduated, the next training appeared to be the last. It wasn’t—barely.

While at Skidmore, one of the single greatest stresses for the fledgling Fight Club was the uncertainty of funding for the following school year. It consumed many hours of my—and the e-board’s—time. This effectively reduced the quality of services and depth of conflict resolution skills that any one student at Skidmore could achieve or provide.

While I have successfully gotten my foot in the door at Triangle Associates, Skidmore’s conflict resolution program is still in its infancy and can do much more for the student body. By guaranteeing funding for basic mediation training at Skidmore, the President’s Cabinet has the opportunity to give Fight Club a place to expand. The majority of Fight Club’s annual budget has been dedicated to this basic training with subsequent means of professional development truncated into one hour lectures or recommended reading lists.

If Skidmore were to have the funds guaranteed, then each subsequent class will have the opportunity to drastically increase the quality and depth of their conflict resolution education. This will translate into students positioned to make direct impacts in the world that advance Skidmore’s strategic goals. People willing to actively listen to the nature of conflict and dedicated to its resolution at all scales.

Mediation training afforded me something that very few academic programs offer: the opportunity to descend from the Ivory Tower and apply the philosophy in real world settings. I was a volunteer mediator at Mediation Matters. I helped facilitate—if incompletely—the dialogues at Skidmore after the Compton’s incident. If building community and preparing students for the real world is Skidmore’s destination, then mediation training has—for me—been the light on my path. And I venture to guess that there are few alumni of the program that did not find a valuable and applicable skill from this training.

I urge the President’s Cabinet to approve of this proposal. The opportunities afforded to me should be afforded all students, and by giving the program this funding, the President’s Cabinet is laying the ground work for an extraordinary and meaningful program.

Thank you,

Nick Hara
Class of 2011

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Grandma Talks about Arranged Marriage

Yone and arranging marriage

Inuzuka Reunion 2012 Day Two

Here's the rest of the reunion!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's (the) Objective

Something that has struck me as odd—although it really shouldn't—is the lack of objective standards in this election.

It is a basic tenet of conflict resolution. After all the emotions and values and touchy feely stuff is done we build. And we build together. Y'know, touchy feely build together as a collective community stuff.

But it's not just touchy feely. The best mediators, the best resolutions to conflict, are ones where there is an objective standard that is measurable and achievable. If the job of the mediator is to level the playing field, an objective standard is the giant steamroller that makes it happen.

And so the basic premise—if my metaphors aren't too confusing—is that achieving goals is a measurable way of knowing something. And we do this all the time in politics. Somehow though, the spin nullifies the measurements.

I think this is the most striking thing here—if the numbers don't jive with the narrative, then the numbers are wrong. Obviously both sides are culpable for this one. And I'm not here to be a referee. I'm here to lay out a disturbing trend.

Three weeks ago O was up in the polls and the GOP fired a line of thinking that the numbers were somehow skewed. Post-debate Mitt made a push and the GOP critics fell silent while Dems started making their foray into the spin zone.

When the jobs numbers came out showing unemployment at 7.8%; Jack Welch—former GE CEO—got up in arms and started a line of thought that the numbers had been trumped up. The cold hard truth is that the numbers have been collected using the same methodology every month for years. Years. If the numbers are inconsistent they are consistently so. Because of that, a fundamental flaw in the methodology is feasible, and would reflect on every report going back to the time that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been using that methodology. In simple terms, levying an attack on a jobs report without a scientifically rigorous counter-argument is absurd. If anything were a blatantly political maneuver it would be less that the jobs numbers reflect a marginal growth in employment for the month of September (one data point among hundreds) and more that the critics are suddenly unhappy because it doesn't reflect a trend they like.

And believe me, it's a trend. Unemployment in this country has been slowly reflecting a decrease over time. While not politically great for the Republican cause there is little reason to doubt that the numbers are wrong. Further, being “right” on this issue doesn't even have an integral role in the Republican narrative. Overall, their narrative is that they can do better if they were in power, a claim that all sides take when not in power.

Let's take a moment to dissect that message. The easiest way to look at this is through goals. Goals are sometimes not in alignment (pro-life and pro-choice) but very often they are and easily so. Republicans and Democrats both want more people employed and the economy to thrive. Simple enough. Of course, the techniques for achieving this vary greatly—basically, how do you improve the economy?

So, given this divergence, many people are left wondering a basic question, “which is better?” And while the answer varies as the numbers do—should we measure GNP, GDP, employment, inflation, the value of the dollar—the numbers are measurable. And, like it or not, economists (read scientists well-versed in the language and methodology of scientific rigor) largely agree on these numbers. These are the way “points” are scored. Obviously economics is a social science and the human condition—its uncertainty, its irrationality, its passion that so many poets romanticize—makes its way into the numbers. But not in a wildly unpredictable way. As long as variables remain largely constant, large sets of numbers can mostly negate the irrational behavior of a single person. And boy do they have large sets of data!

So, politicians can reliably find numbers that give us a ballpark view of the nation's economic state. The same is true for many other matters of policy. How does the teen pregnancy and STI rate compare in abstinence only education and safer sex education? How are violent crime rates affected by the number of police officers in a given area?

Of course, there is the classic correlation is not causation argument. It is certainly absurd to believe that because ice cream sales and crime both increase during the summer months that they are causal. Committing crime does not make one scream for ice cream or the reverse. But they are good hints that there is a causal relationship somewhere—perhaps heat, open doors, summer break and juveniles unattended, or even the dastardly presence of a high pollen count?

The point is that by making political accusations against scientifically rigorous datasets that have been shown time and time again to reflect observations in the real world we are degrading the integrity of debate. If there are conflicting views or approaches that is one thing. If the data can be shown to be flawed using a similarly robust set of data, there is room for debate. But blind indictment of things that are hard to hear and sometimes contradictory to a position is ignorance of the highest order.

It makes stupid and childish a legitimate debate, it insults the intelligence of the public, and it stalls any collaborative progress that may be had. No political office, no ad hominem attack, is worth the detriment it causes to our international reputation, our collective attitudes toward science, or our future as a whole. Because, when the election ends and only the numbers you want are viable, then only your views will matter, and America will have shed itself of democracy. Not to be dramatic about it, but think about it a bit.