Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Conservative Portland Students Outraged That They Can’t Retraumatize Combat Vets

So this tale of “liberal speech suppression” here in Portland, Oregon (at PSU) is currently pinging around the conservative blogosphere/echo chamber, and even made it to the Fox News network:

The story has now been retold at College Insurrection, Accuracy in Academia, The Libertarian Republic, this Oklahoma City Fox affiliate, this Las Vegas talk radio station,, on Reddit, at a mess of lesser-trafficked blogs, and even on some non-partisan & non-Fox-affiliated sites:, University Business and this Alabama ABC affiliate.

Best I can tell, the story hasn’t been picked up by any major talk radio hosts.  I suspect it’s only a matter of time.

The student, Christian Britschgi, and his fellow travelers are spinning the tale as a story of liberal academics suppressing conservative speech in order to shield fragile liberal students from the trauma of experiencing opinions they don’t like.  This is a common meme in conservative circles – if anyone points out that ad hominem attack and invective aren’t really intelligent methods of debate, they often get shouted down for being a wussy liberal crybaby. 

It seems pretty dang likely that the reality of what happened is far more nuanced than the story that Christian Britschgi is telling.  I'd like to see local media shed light on things.  Oregonian?  Willamette Week?  Anyone? 

I searched extensively for a more reliable, unbiased, LOCAL recounting of the story, but have come up empty-handed thus far.

As a former college political org leader on a MUCH smaller campus, one aspect of his story struck me as deserving greater examination.  Were Britschgi and his friend literally trying to arrange to table *now-ish* because they had a few spare hours?  Even at my undergrad campus of 1,200, 20-some years ago, you usually had to arrange for these things days ahead of time.

If the story is accurate as Britschgi tells it, and they weren't just shut down because they were trying to do something on the fly, this was a Portland State U FAIL.  Universities cannot sanitize students' speech in order to avoid triggering anybody, and really shouldn't be attempting to do so.  As someone who's experienced PTSD, when you're in it, anything and everything can be triggering.  JOYOUS FRIGGING SONGS WERE TRIGGERING sometimes.  It definitely sucks, but it's on those of us experiencing PTSD to do what we need to do to recover so we can function in society, not on society to become a grey, silent place so as to avoid triggering us.

There is a BUT coming, though.  It seems quite likely that the faculty & admin were NOT concerned about the message, but with graphic – if cartoonish – imagery on one of their posters – imagery that would be more likely to impact combat veterans with PTSD than others.   

Here's the poster. You be the judge.
                                                                      [MORE …]

Two Americas? I Count At Least TEN

Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post shared a chart today from Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman, purporting to highlight the existence of TWO AMERICAS:

This "dichotomy" isn't wearing any clothes.

The table only purports to show the difference in opinion between GOP primary voters and Democratic primary voters.  Those folks are a very small part of the American citizenry.

Cillizza, Mehlman, and others so enraptured with the “Two Americas” narrative that they’re cramming these polling figures into it are forgetting about 72.3% of our voting-age citizenry.

In the 2008 presidential nominating process, which was an unusually active nominating season, just a little over one quarter (27.7%) of voting age citizens participated.  About 
57 million voters participated in the nominating process (Harvard) - out of 206 million voting-age citizens (US Census Bureau, see p. 2.)

When it came to the November General Election, 
15 million registered voters didn’t vote (same, p. 14.)  Another 30 million weren’t registered to vote at all (same.)

I don't think that primary voters are representative of the (potential or actual) American electorate as a whole, nor does anyone who seriously studies these things.   [MORE ...]

But people - especially political consultants and the commentariat - love to parcel Americans out into demographic groups.  So in the interest of helping divvy Americans into semi-distinct ideological groupings identified as "Americas," here are ... 

Americas Three through Ten 
(as I currently conceive of them)

3. The 88.9% of GOP voters who DON'T participate in the presidential nominating process  (Harvard)

4. The 81% of Dem voters who DON'T participate in the presidential nominating process (

5. The unaffiliated GOP-leaning eligible voters who don't participate in nomination battles

6. The unaffiliated Dem-leaning eligible voters who don't participate in nomination battles

7. The folks firmly in the middle, who actually do tend to vote for BOTH Dem and GOP candidates

8. The folks somewhere in the middle, who are so turned off by politics that they either don't participate or participate rarely in elections:
> About 56% of the 30 million unregistered voting-age citizens said they weren't registered because they weren’t interested in politics or candidates/issues on the ballot, didn’t think their vote would make a difference, or didn’t know or refused to answer why they weren’t registered (Census Bureau, p. 14)
> About 33% of the 15 million who were registered but didn’t vote in the November election said it was because they weren’t interested, didn’t like the candidates or issues, or didn’t know or refused to answer why they didn’t vote (same source.)

9. Radical folks on the right who don't participate 
> Just 53.1% of voting age citizen Utahns and 56.1% of such Texans voted in the November 2008 General Election (Census Bureau, p. 8.)  I suspect these low numbers are due in part to radical right opting-out, but a majority of these states’ non-voting folks likely fall in groups 3 through 8.

10. Radical folks on the left who don't participate
> Just 51.8% of voting-age US citizens in Hawaii voted in November 2008 – perhaps this could be somewhat due to radical left opting-out? (same source)

Okay, Ten or More Americas isn’t as tidy a sorting system as Two Americas.  Nor does it create that fun, Hatfield vs. McCoys, us vs. them dichotomy that lends itself to dramatic pronouncements about further evidence of the polarization of America.  But it does provide a much richer – and MUCH more accurate – picture of the American people and our politics.

Gun Down Illegals - AND Get Paid For It!

I'm not loving this ad for US border patrol agents that I stumbled across yesterday.

While reading the Washington Post, this ad sprung up:

"Huh?"  I thought.  It would be strange if our government is recruiting folks for border control with an ad that seems to be saying, "Wanna gun down illegals tryin' to sneak across our borders?  You can - AND get paid for it! (PLUS Federal benefits!)"

Well, maybe, I thought, it's one of those ads that links to a for-profit company that promises to help users land a job with the federal government. Or maybe it's from a for-profit site that somehow makes money as little more than a portal to government job sites.  I've seen plenty of ads for outfits like that.

So I clicked on the ad.  And landed squarely at - our federal government's own job listing site.  

Interestingly, the application period for this announcement had ended nine days prior - so not only were we (since our government represents all of us) running an obnoxious and ill-considered ad, but - BONUS! - we were wasting taxpayer money while we were at it. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

I Got Offensive on Twitter

So I was denounced on Twitter last week for being “offensive” and “in your face.”  Here’s a screen grab of this epic take-down, with the poster’s name, current pic, and part of his handle obscured to discourage Twitter-style mob justice (Please, just DON'T.)  Part of the handle had to remain, for obvious reasons.

Maybe he had a point.  I dunno.  You be the judge – here’s the pic he complained about:

I KID, I KID.  The “biopic” he objected so heartily appears next to my response to his denunciation (below.)  It was just my long-time profile pic, rainbow-ified to celebrate the marriage equality decision with folks whose lives are more directly impacted by it. 

His denunciation didn’t have anything to do with anything I actually said.  Applying a rainbow filter to my pic was, itself, perceived as a hostile act.