The Chinese Menu

We are seduced into thinking that the right to choose from a menu is the essence of liberty, but … the powerful are those who set the agenda, not those who choose from the alternatives it offers.

— Benjamin R. Barber, Consumed

This week everybody was talking about Hong Kong

Protests continue in Hong Kong, but they seem to be shrinking. The basic issue is simple: Rather than allow Hong Kong to choose its own leaders through elections (under what has been known as the “One Country, Two Systems” policy), the Chinese government wants limit voters to the choices it nominates. I’m reminded of a couplet from a song by Cake:

Some people drink Pepsi, some people drink Coke.
The wacky morning DJ says democracy’s a joke.

I’m rooting for the protesters, but it’s going to be embarrassing if China does the Occupy thing better than America. Here’s something else that I expect to embarrass me: If the government puts the hammer down, I’m sure they’ll justify themselves by pointing to how our cops dealt with our Occupy protesters.

Remember this guy?

and Ebola

The U.S. has its first case of Ebola, a man who flew here from Liberia. But as it says on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: “Don’t Panic.”

Let’s start with the basics: Ebola is not something you catch easily, like the flu. You can’t get it through the air; you have to be in physical contact with an infected person or his/her bodily fluids. You typically don’t catch it from people who aren’t showing symptoms yet, the way you might catch a cold.

If you get it, it’s nasty. It kills about 60% of the people infected. It’s a virus, so antibiotics don’t work. Some people have been cured, but there’s no well-established magic bullet. But it’s also not like the Black Death or the Spanish Flu. It’s not going to sweep the country overnight and kill us all.

There have been a number of outbreaks over the years in Africa, because it lives there in bats, apes, and a few other wild species, and humans can catch it from handling an animal corpse or eating the undercooked meat of an infected animal. (Have you eaten any raw bats lately? Good. Stay away from Ozzy Osborne.) Outbreaks among humans normally get contained — even in densely populated parts of Africa that have inadequate medical systems — by good hygiene protocols.

Ebola can completely disappear from humans for years at a time. For example, there were zero recorded cases of Ebola in 2005 or 2006.

So as I was saying, the odds of a pandemic in the U.S. are pretty small.

But the idea of Ebola is scary, so opportunists are using it as an excuse to do what they want to do anyway: keep foreigners out of the country. As a representative from the anti-immigration scare group the Center for Immigration Studies wrote:

Our government must simply deny admission to any non-U.S. citizen who has been in the afflicted countries in the recent past, until the crisis is over. The most fundamental purpose of immigration controls is to protect our homeland, and our leaders must end their chronic reluctance to use them.

Shame on the NYT for giving CIS a platform. As the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out:

[CIS’s] studies have hardly been neutral. One of them concludes that because foreign women (“Third World gold-diggers”) can obtain work permits by marrying American citizens, it’s obvious that fraudulent marriage applications are “prevalent among terrorists.” Another claims that because many immigrants have worked in Georgia since 2000, it’s clear that unemployment among less educated native workers is up. A third says that because immigration levels have been high recently, immigrants make up a growing share of those drawing welfare.

But every one these claims, each of them at the heart of a different recent report from CIS, are either false or virtually without any supporting evidence. That came to fore again last September, when CIS organized a panel to accompany the release of yet another new report, this one claiming that municipalities in substantial numbers were permitting non-citizens to vote. When challenged, the panelists could only come up with a single possible example of the purported trend.

“CIS’ attempts to blame immigrants for all of the U.S.’s problems have been laughable,” said Angela Kelley of the Immigration Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.

and Eric Holder’s successor

A Huffington Post article suggests a number of qualified people. But one nutty idea making the rounds is that President Obama should name a Republican.

naming an attorney general from the opposite party would tend to make the administration of justice bipartisan, and would provide considerable reassurance, as Holder’s tenure in office emphatically did not, that the powers of law enforcement were not being abused in service of partisan ends.

The model here is what FDR did during the lead-up to World War II: name Republican Harry Stimson as Secretary of War. By doing this, Roosevelt was pointing out that defending the country was really not a partisan issue.

But the administration of justice is a partisan issue, because Republicans do not want to enforce civil right or voting rights laws. (Neither party has the audacity to enforce antitrust laws against our corporate masters, but that’s a different article.) Find me a Republican who will stand up for the right of Texas Hispanics to vote, or who wants to do something about the racial injustice that makes our prisons overwhelmingly black, and then we can talk.

and the Secret Service

Like Ebola, you might think the Secret Service would be beyond partisanship, because we all agree that our president and his family should be kept safe. Guess again. Speaker of the North Carolina House and Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis:

It’s just another example of failures in this administration. They need to start getting serious about homeland security and national security.

Yep. President Obama is not “serious” about protecting himself or his family against assassination.

but not enough people are talking about jobs

If they were, President Obama would be more popular. The latest job report was good, and the unemployment rate fell below 6% for the first time since the housing bubble collapsed at the end of the Bush administration.

A month out from the fall elections, the headlines have turned away from pocketbook issues like the success of ObamaCare, the economy’s improvement, or proposals to raise the minimum wage. The federal deficit has fallen from $1.4 trillion in FY 2009 to a projected $500 billion in FY2014. But who’s paying attention? Instead, we’re focused on fear issues like ISIS and Ebola. This can’t be good for Democrats.

and you also might be interested in …

Can’t anybody spell these days? If there’s a coven of these people, I really worry about what they might inadvertently conjure up. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was bad enough.


So: It is possible to convict a white man of murdering a black teen in Florida. William Dunn is guilty and faces life in prison, even though Jordan Davis was 17, black, and in an SUV with other young black men. The jury determined that playing music too loud in a gas station parking lot was not a sufficient provocation. A previous jury had deadlocked.


The Daily Mail explains in one map how children’s freedom to roam has collapsed in recent generations. If this continues, the next generation of kids will never leave their homes without adult supervision.


So in the future we’re going to be competing with a major economic power in which all universities are tuition-free.

“Tuition fees are socially unjust,” said Dorothee Stapelfeldt, senator for science in Hamburg, which scrapped charges in 2012.

“They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

In particular, young Americans of the 99%, your German rivals are not starting their careers in debt slavery. States here in America used to do something similar, back before the Reagan Revolution. If your parents went to a state university, ask them how much it cost.


You have until Halloween to submit your entry to National Geographic’s annual photo contest. The Atlantic provides 32 examples of what you’ll be up against.

 

and let’s close with something incredible

When wolves returned to Yellowstone after a 70-year absence, they didn’t just change the bio-system, they changed the geography.

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Comments

  • Don Lloyd  On October 6, 2014 at 2:09 pm

    Hi Doug –
    Found in the “not enough people are talking about jobs” section:
    The federal deficit has fallen from $1.4 billion in FY 2009 to a projected $500 billion in FY2014. But who’s paying attention?
    – your friendly proofreader
    – Don

    • weeklysift  On October 7, 2014 at 7:20 am

      Thanks. Fixed it. Obviously, it was $1.4 trillion before it fell.

  • Kim Cooper  On October 6, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    As usual, I love your writing. The one that really got me today was how our childhood roaming areas have shrunk. I had noticed it, because I had a lot more freedom to roam when I was a kid than the kids I know today. What is causing the change? Is it the increasing density of population, or the scare news that we are all subjected to everyday?

  • Alan  On October 7, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Last year I was struck by this article from the Seattle Times, claiming that back in 1981 a summer job at minimum wage would pay for a year of college. (http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021250505_westneat23xml.html )

    Curious, I got the historic tuition rates for my school and historic minimum wage and compared. Yup. Until 1985, a summer job would cover 150% of a year’s tution at the University of Wisconsin; you could pay tution and have left over money to pay for books, supplies, and maybe cover housing and food. Today it’s less than 50%. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Am0Q_H66Sjr3dG1KemNNaGVTTzRxb2FJeGRCbjZRanc&usp=sharing

  • Benjamin Goodger  On October 7, 2014 at 7:12 am

    Please, please, please do not prop up the Daily Mail. It’s the Fox News of English newspapers.

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