Monday, October 21, 2013

Hired Guns To Terrify Kids: America's Hot New Educational Fad

Over at Anorak I discuss the completely non-insane educational technique of schools hiring gunmen to terrify their students; "guns in schools" are only bad when wielded by freelancers, I suppose. My favorite line:
For all the legitimate critiques one might make about the modern United States of America, any claims that we neglect mental illness are libelous bullshit. We do not neglect our mentally ill people over here; we pay them six-figure salaries and let them administer our schools.
You can read the rest of it here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rumors Of My Laziness Are Greatly Exaggerated

I've been neglecting my blog lately because (luckily) I'm working and writing full-time again. The good news is that collecting regular paychecks make poverty avoidance much easier; the bad news is that after pounding out a dozen or more articles per week, when I think "I really ought to update my blog" I discover my creativity well's run dry.

But I daresay I've been producing some decent bylined stuff, even if most of it is less political than what I'm used to writing. The most expressly political thing I wrote this week was for Anorak, when I told our British friends what the federal government does and does not consider "essential," based on what's operating during the shurdown.

At Consumer Affairs, I list some facepalmingly bad examples of excessive faith in GPS programming, deconstruct the stupidity of  women's beauty marketing research, discuss why I might be the consumer equivalent of a sociopath, express sympathy for the US post office, and sundry other topics.

In my offline life, I'm fast becoming waterlogged after four or five consecutive days of bleak, gray, chilling rain. Ordinarily I'd use that as a springboard for jumping into complaints about the dystopian overpriced yuppie hell that is northern Virginia, but then I remembered: this time of year, New England is no prize either. As a resident of North America, I must accept that mid-October is going to be miserable no matter where I am.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Shutdown Follies: Exactly Who Is Responsible?

Does anyone know the exact name of the idiot or idiots who got to decide which people are or are not “essential” for federal-government-shutdown purposes? This National Park Service mass closing, for instance—yes, obviously, if you’re shutting inessential things down, it makes perfect sense to send home the park rangers whose job is to let tourists into Yellowstone and run the ranger stations within.

But they also “closed” the Vietnam and World War Two memorials on Washington, DC’s National Mall, even though they’re nothing more than open-air monuments in the middle of a public walkway—“closing” those memorials via setting up and maintaining blockades around them required more actual manpower than simply leaving them “open” would have done.

It gets worse. Check out this story I found in today’s Daily Caller:

A Yellowstone tour guide accused the National Park Service of using “Gestapo tactics” while shutting down the park, after armed rangers locked a group of terrified senior citizens inside their hotel for many hours to prevent them from visiting nearby attractions.
The Lawrence, Massachusetts Eagle-Tribune reports that the rangers also prevented the group from taking pictures of wildlife and from stopping at a rest facility during their departure, forcing seniors to wait well over two hours before using the restroom.
“We’ve become a country of fear, guns and control,” said Pat Vaillancourt, a Massachusetts resident who was on the tour last week. “It was like they brought out the armed forces.”
When the government shutdown took effect on October 1, Vaillancourt’s group of about four dozen senior citizens had just arrived at Yellowstone. Although many tourists were already being shuttled out of the park, rangers allowed the tour a two-day extension due to their prepaid hotel reservations. What looked like a generous exception, however, soon turned into a nightmare.
As the bus made its way into the park, the group stopped to take pictures of a large bison herd passing nearby. Vaillancourt said that a ranger quickly appeared, ordering the tourists to stop “recreating” and return to the bus.
When the group’s tour guide protested, the ranger became angry. “She responded and said, ‘Sir, you are recreating,’ and her tone became very aggressive,” Vaillancourt said.
“We paid a lot to get in,” said tour guide Gordon Hodgson, who was interviewed by the local Livingston Enterprise. “All these people wanted to do was take some pictures.”
The seniors were sent to the Old Faithful Inn, a ritzy hotel located next to the famous Old Faithful geyser. Immediately upon their arrival, armed rangers locked the inn’s doors and stood guard outside to prevent the group from visiting the geyser, which was already barricaded.

“Stop recreating?” The hell of it is, I have zero difficulty imagining a contemporary employee of the US government saying this with complete lack of irony. But who, specifically, is responsible for this farce? Congressional Republicans arguably deserve blame for collectively playing chicken with America’s credit rating—but “Congressional Republicans” isn’t a specific person. Obama is, and perhaps he deserves part of the blame too—but I highly doubt he’s personally giving orders to any park rangers, either. Who exactly ordered park rangers to barricade out-in-the-open statues and expend manpower to make old people stop taking photographs or otherwise “recreating”?

These are your typical “essential” federal government duties, in addition to those of the DEA, TSA and NSA, all of whom continue to essentially violate their fellow Americans’ rights every day.

This is 2013 America, dammit, and a generation ago we won the Cold War; let freedom ring and all related platitudes. This isn’t what our country is supposed to be.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Surviving the Shutdown

Federal government shutdown! I was going to gather all my bottled water, canned goods and other emergency supplies and hunker down in the basement until I remembered: the rented townhouse where I'm living these days doesn't have a basement. Damn.

Happy Obamacare Day!

Despite the alleged federal government shutdown (read: the national parks are closed but the NSA sleazeballs are still reading your email, because park rangers are not considered "essential" federal employees but spies who use the constitution as toilet paper are), today is apparently the day Obamacare's insurance-marketplace exchange rule kicks in, so if you're not already making regular payouts to a private company with excellent political connections, you'd better start.

Of course, the rule about small employers being required to cover their employees has been delayed for at least a month. And the rule limiting how much money individuals with insurance are required to pay for out-of-pocket for care has also been delayed, until at least 2015. Looks like the only part of the law to kick in on schedule is the part where you can start paying premiums to a private health insurance company, whether you can afford to or not.

No fear, though. I'm sure that criminalizing the lack of health insurance will work out just as well and as humanely as criminalizing drug addiction has.
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