Commonplace Book – 03.07.2015

Saturday Afternoon, Seattle, 50 degrees and Sunny.

What I’ve Been Reading: I love public opinion surveys, and THIS ONE  from The Economist/YouGov is no exception. There’s tons of great questions and the results are broken down across a number of categories, which means I could pore over it for weeks. The part of this that I’ve been mulling over is on page 41:


93% of senior citizens say they do not receive gov’t subsidies for medical care. The correct answer is 10%. So, according to the survey, approximately 83% percent of Americans over 65 believe that they don’t receive subsidies when they in fact do receive those subsidies. There’s 44 million people aged 65+ in the US. Doing a little math, (73% of those 65+ vote ), and that 83% represents about 27 million votes. That’s a lot of people.

What I’ve Been Listening To:
Natalie Prass

Viet Cong



Racial Justice at University of Washington School of Law

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dear University of Washington School of Law:

I.  “Leaders for the Global Common Good”. This is the motto that attracted so many of us to this institution. However, the school’s limited response to the ongoing civil and racial injustices involving use of police force demonstrate that we are out of touch, and falling short of this noble and ambitious accolade. With respect and hope we, as law students, write to you today to right the ship; to demand urgent action and set a course for a more inclusive, diverse and aware learning environment.

II.  Our nation is at a pivotal moment in understanding and addressing oppression and structural racism. Social justice advocates must refocus their efforts to affirmatively advance…

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#Mouthsounds is the future.

So Neil Cicierega has put out Mouthsounds, and I’m at a total loss to describe it, but I really feel the need to talk about it. Neil has been a source of grade A internet weirdness for a long time, but I feel like this really puts him up into a new level. This feels, more than anything I’ve seen in a long time, to be a product of the internet. It reminds me of William Gibson talking about one of his novels “Pattern Recognition”:

“Well, I thought that writing about the world today as I perceive it would probably be more challenging, in the real sense of science fiction, than continuing just to make things up. And I found that to absolutely be the case. If I’m going to write fiction set in an imaginary future now, I’m going to need a yardstick that gives me some accurate sense of how weird things are now. ‘Cause I’m going to have to go beyond that. And I think over the course of these last two books–I don’t think I’m done yet–I’ve been getting a yardstick together. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it again. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make up an imaginary future in the same way. In the ’80s and ’90s–as strange as it may seem to say this–we had such luxury of stability. Things weren’t changing quite so quickly in the ’80s and ’90s. And when things are changing too quickly, as one of the characters in Pattern Recognition says, you don’t have any place to stand from which to imagine a very elaborate future. 

This weeks polling: Udall/Gardner

There’s some new polls on our senate race, and the news leans towards Gardner, but only a little. Quinnipac has Udall up by only a point, and a Politico story has a Chamber of Commerce poll putting Gardner up by a point. Obama’s approval fell, with 59% “disapproving”, a continuation of the trend. Because senate races like this tend to be pretty tied to presidential approval ratings, that might be the most significant number in these polls. This is especially true in CO, where the economy was the #1 issue on respondents minds, and Obama’s approval numbers are even lower. With Obama at an all time low in Colorado, Gardner is neck-and-neck. If President Obama’s approval numbers start turning back the other way (as many DEMs hope/expect), then expect things to get worse for Gardner- but if Obama’s approval keeps falling, then there’s nothing Udall can do to save himself.


previously. previously-er.

Another Legal System Recognizes Animals

So the French National Assembly has upgraded pet’s legal status from “property” to “living beings capable of feeling”. Jonathan Turley’s writeup is quite good. India, last year, promoted dolphins to “non-human persons“, and started considering their welfare in legislation and regulation- including shutting down a number of Sea World type dolphin performance parks. It’s kind of mind boggling to me that (in many cases) animals are still only given the same legal consideration as inanimate objects. I’m glad more legal systems worldwide are recognizing that the binary distinction between “people” and “things” is inadequate, and I hope these ideas gain traction and spread worldwide.



EDIT: and here’s a little more, popping up from The Dish today- “the recent successes of the animal personhood movement have medical researchers worried:

What worries them is how lawyers, like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, could use some of these cases to expand rights for animals crucial to research. If a cat or a dog becomes closer to a legal person, it has a say in what you do to it. A lawyer could argue that a lab rat would not consent to being injected or cut open.”

which strikes me as pretty shitty. That argument doesn’t have anything to say about the actual personhood or experience of the animals, rather it’s simply appealing to the threat of undesirable (for some) consequences. If your main argument for why a creature should not be considered as a conscious being is that “if I was required to think about their wellbeing,  I wouldn’t be allowed to treat them so badly”, you need to go back to school.

Udall/Gardner – new polls!

Of course, a couple days after I gripe about no new info. So Karl Rove’s Super Pac did some polling in Colorado on Udall/Gardner. And, pretty much nothing’s changed. 45% said they’d vote Udall, and Gardner was just a whisker behind at 43%. Considering the margin of error in this poll is 4.35%, and I’d call that neck and neck. The interesting part is that the poll also asked about generic vote, where 47% said GOP, and only 43% said DEM. So Udall’s a little ahead of a generic DEM candidate, and Gardner’s a little back. Once again, this is all super close, and the margin of error makes reading too much into numbers this close just a waste of time.


Udall/Gardner: Everything’s Changed! Nothing’s Changed!

There’s been some news and events in our senate race here, but the facts are still harder to come by than opinions. I’m gonna be a bit sad if CO moves out of the “swing state” national spotlight that we’ve held for quite a while, I really am. Anyhow, Gardner and Udall locked down their party’s nominations, and the news people started talking about the 2013 Dem overreach in the state gov’t.  NPR has a big story on us today, saying “Backlash Over State Party’s Progressive Agenda May Hobble Udall”- but I don’t think the evidence supports their claim. The real problem with the story is that we currently don’t have much in the way of evidence. There’s some anecdotal evidence that people are excited by Gardner, and that it’s gonna be a tight race, but anecdotal evidence had Romney doing well, too. In the generic congressional ballot (a ballot of just GOP/DEM, not actual personalities), the Democrats still hold a slight lead nationwide, and in local polling, Udall still has about the same lead he did before Gardner was in the race. The most interesting claim of the NPR article was made by Floyd Ciruli, the pollster from Denver. He

predicts that voter turnout this fall will be about 30 percent less than it was two years ago, when Obama won the state and Democrats took over the Legislature. 

I couldn’t find any evidence on the Ciruli website for this claim, so I don’t really know where he’s coming up with that guess. If voter turnout dropped by 30% from the 2012 election, that would be a drop from 2.495 million voters to 1.746 million. That’s pretty large. By comparison, 1.82 million voters came out in 2010, the last non-presidential election cycle. If Ciruli is right, that would be the smallest turnout since 2006 (which seems really unlikely). I wrote down my estimates of demographic/voting patterns in the upcoming senate election, and I’d still say they’re fairly good guesses (for being guesses). I’d like to see some new polling numbers statewide, but until that comes, we’re just have to tolerate more factless opinionating. Oh well, worse things have happened.


TL;DR: no news is no news.


Does anyone else have some baseless speculation to throw in? C’mon, you have as much info as the talking heads on the TeeVee.

What do people want?

from ben heine on deviantart


For a while now we’ve heard stories like this one which indicate that some percent of Obamacare opponents wish it was *more* liberal (single payer, etc), and I’ve believed it. Heck, that’s probably the category I’d put myself in. 538 looks at the numbers around Obamacare, and concludes that the “people who dislike Obamacare because it isn’t liberal enough” group is much smaller than supposed. According to the data, the biggest group of people who say Obamacare isn’t liberal enough is…republicans. And the people who say Obamacare isn’t liberal enough don’t necessarily want it to be more liberal. WTF?


Basically, there’s a group of people in this country, large enough to show up in national polling data for years on end, who both think Obamacare isn’t liberal enough, and that it’s too liberal. This chunk of the population is large enough to put either the pro- or anti- Obamacare side in the majority, depending on how you divvy em up, and we’ve been misinterpreting them. This is just the latest seeming paradox in ACA polling- for years now (years!) Obamacare has polled worse than the Affordable Care Act (even though they are synonyms), and Obamacare is less popular than all of its individual provisions.


Fanette Guilloud

it just doesn’t make sense


I honestly don’t know what conclusions to draw from all this. It all feels a bit like Poe’s Law, which is the idea that satire is impossible to distinguish from actual extremism unless you know the authors intent. I’m not saying that anyone is being disingenuous in the way they respond to pollsters, rather that simply seeing respondents say they want Obamacare to be “more liberal” in no way actually means they want it “more liberal”. In other words, a desire for “more liberal” Obamacare might come from a person at any point on the political spectrum, and might reflect a desire for healthcare policy to move more to the left, or more to the right. Without prior knowledge, that statement can be interpreted in myriad ways.


To me, this almost feels like one of those “political discourse is dead and impossible” kinda moments. We’ve been arguing about Obamacare for years now, and we still can’t even find common ground on what basic terms mean in the discussion. That’s depressing.


Does anyone have any thoughts about this? Is political conversation dead?

So Colbert is going to CBS

Stephen Colbert is taking over for Letterman.


Hooray for Colbert, I guess. I’m glad he’s going where he wants to go, and I’m glad he’s going to have a network that seems pretty ok with getting weird on late night. I’m glad Craig Ferguson is keeping his spot- he didn’t want to take over for Letterman anyway, from what I’ve read.

It’s sad that yet another middle aged white guy is getting a late night desk, and it’s sad that the character of Stephen Colbert from “The Colbert Report” will be no more. Colbert’s blend of humor, irony, and honesty has been fun as hell to watch, and anyone that can get Bill O’Reilly this confused will always be a hero in my book.

look how perplexed that face is.

He’s been a great voice in the news/comedy landscape, and I’ll miss him. I hope CBS is a good home.