Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

November 19, 2014

Earth shattering news of the world!

Filed under: Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:07 am

Well the mid-term elections are over and the news media can go back to covering other stuff.

Some of that other stuff is about naked ladies.

Actress Keira Knightley went topless to protest sexist photoshopping. Evening show host Chelsea Handler went topless to mock Vladimir Putin for being a sexist. Reality star Kim Kardashian went full-frontal and rear for reasons best known to herself.

Other stuff is about ladies protesting guys who wear shirts showing shapely ladies.

Matt Taylor, Rosetta Project Scientist at the European Space Agency, announced to everybody in the world who cares about science that ESA had landed a probe on a comet. That probe was launched about 10 years ago and performed flawlessly after the long journey to match the comet’s trajectory.

Rose Eveleth of The Atlantic however, was more concerned about his shirt. Taylor wore a shirt, reportedly made for him by a lady friend, which featured hand-painted lingerie-clad ladies.

“No no women are toooootally welcome in our community, just ask the dude in this shirt,” Eveleth said.

Astrophysicist Katie Mack thought the sight of the sexist shirt would cause female students to shun STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math).

“I don’t care what scientists wear. But a shirt featuring women in lingerie isn’t appropriate for a broadcast if you care about women in science.”

So they hauled Taylor before the Inquisition – I mean the media, and made him cry real tears of apology.

A quick Google search resulted in reactions about half-and-half condemning Taylor for tastelessness or condemning the outraged ladies, both accusing the other of “ruining” a really cool
event.

Oh puh-lease, this event is so momentous nothing is going to “ruin” it. Except maybe the maddening happenstance that the probe landed on a part of the comet that is shaded by the surrounding heights for all but about three-and-a-half hours a day, limiting the probe’s ability to recharge its batteries from the solar panels.

I don’t know about the scientists at ESA but I’ll cry bitter tears if the probe has to shut down at the end of that inspiring effort.

Folks, Dr. Matt Taylor is a science geek. Which means the chances are great that he is socially inept and has no fashion sense. It might be that a mind that can contain the knowledge and skills necessary to accomplish this kind of thing doesn’t have a lot of room left in it for trivialities.

The fact that nobody at the facility thought to say, “Gee Matt, you’re going to do a media interview, perhaps you should change your shirt,” likely means he’s not the only one there.

The hi-tech industry has hired lots of these kind of people for years and knows enough to, 1) humor their eccentricities, and 2) keep them in the back room where they can think deep thoughts away from contact with the public.

I do not for one minute believe Taylor or anybody there meant to be offensive. If I had to guess, by wearing a hand-painted shirt made by a lady friend he might have been trying to say, “Hey look, this geek’s got game!”

But some people just love to be offended whether the intent was there or not, and it’s quite plain a number of them enjoyed Taylor’s public and unmanly humiliation.

Nor can I take seriously the claim this is going to discourage young women from the STEM fields. May I suggest that if a shirt decorated like a Victoria’s Secret catalog causes someone to give up a dream, one might suspect their commitment is somewhat lacking.

Oh and by the way, in case you missed it while some are agonizing over a shirt, Vladimir Putin is pouring men and heavy equipment into Ukraine, making bomber sorties into the Gulf of Mexico, and openly defying the President of the United States to do something about it.

November 12, 2014

Post-election musings

Filed under: Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:11 am

Well the results were more-or-less as expected, Republicans keeping the House and gaining a clear majority in the Senate. But there were still a lot of surprises.

Races that were supposed to be close, weren’t. They were massacres.

Of the seats the Democrats were able to keep, a number of them were very near run things after all.

Polls in Virginia, Georgia and Illinois were seriously wrong, putting their methodology or objectivity, or both into question.

Republicans gained on the state level as well. Obama’s home state elected a Republican governor.

Senatorial candidate Wendy Davis started out as the bright hope of turning Texas blue. Then as we watched in either horrified or gleeful fascination, she made gaffe after gaffe, revealing herself to be a liar, an opportunist and a thoroughly unpleasant person.

(Note to Wendy: insulting a man in a wheelchair with an interracial marriage as a racist out of touch with people’s problems probably won’t fly.)

Democrat Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu made it into a runoff, but didn’t seem to realize that calling your constituents racists and sexists probably isn’t a vote getter either. The Democratic Party cut off her funds, not wanting to throw good money after bad.

Democratic candidates treated the president like an Ebola patient. Kentucky senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes actually refused to answer whether she had voted for him! Let that sink in for a moment.

Bill and Hillary Clinton actually did get in the trenches and stump for candidates, many of whom are now wishing they hadn’t.

What the heck just happened? And why?

For one, Obamacare is hugely unpopular and growing more so. There are winners who came out ahead, but even the winners know a lot of people who didn’t.
Of those that didn’t come out ahead, the reasons were capricious enough to be frightening. Such as a friend of mine with no children and past childbearing age whose “substandard” policy was cancelled because it didn’t cover pediatric dentistry.

To say the least, this does not reassure those hoping for a government more responsive to people’s needs.

Foreign policy may have been an even greater factor than the economy, and Obama has repeatedly shown he is out of his depth. Foreign heads of state from Chavez to Putin to the mad mullahs of
Iran have shown open contempt for him. Lines drawn in the sand have blown away with the first strong wind.

This was the year of the rise of black conservatives. Daughter of Haitian immigrants Mia Love was elected to the senate from a state that is 97 percent white. Tim Scot was elected from South Carolina, the state that started the Civil War!

There are more of them than anyone suspected and they are nobody’s tokens, but a significant influence in the conservative brain trust. It’s getting much, much harder to play the race card these days.

The libertarian presence in the Republican Party is stronger. However grudgingly they admit it, many libertarians have come to the conclusion third-party attempts are expensive exercises in futility.

The libertarian live-and-let-live image sells well with a lot of moderate independent voters.

The left on the other hand, looks increasingly intolerant. In particular to expressions of Christian faith in the public sphere.

(Note to the mayor of Houston: when you subpoena texts of pastors’ sermons, you don’t look like a fearless champion of liberty and tolerance, you look like the Gestapo.)

It’s become increasingly evident that for all their talk of “right-wing extremists” the Democratic Party is controlled at the national level by the extreme left – and we are starting to see signs it’s making Democrats at the state level nervous. Because the truth is, most Democrats are not hard leftists.

Obama recently made a casual remark that choosing to be a stay-at-home mom, “is not a choice we want them to make.”

Pick up your jaw from the floor and consider that for a moment. The President of the United States thinks he has a right to step into the most intimately personal choices a woman can make. And
he doesn’t even realize how totalitarian that sounds.

I see lessons for both Democrats and Republicans here.

For Republicans, the last time they capture both houses they elbowed their way to the trough and stuck their snouts in as enthusiastically as any Democrat. They might do it again, and if they do they’ll lose again – and people are watching this time.

For Democrats, the ideological leadership of their party is seriously out of touch with that part of America outside the D.C. cocktail circuit. Their ability to be competitive on a state level will be seriously compromised as long as the national leadership is Hard Left.

November 3, 2014

Vote Early! Vote Often!

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:08 am

Like Chesterton’s realistic Irishman I prefer to prophesy after the event. Unfortunately this column will go to press after the results of the election are known, so I am forced into the uncomfortable position of making a prediction under circumstances that leave no wiggle room.

So OK, here goes. On Wednesday a great many people are going to be unhappy, and a great many people aren’t.

“Well duh!” I hear you say. “So what’s new about that?”

Nothing. But there are some things about this election that are kind of interesting.

One is the reports from Illinois and Maryland that people trying to vote Republican noticed their votes flipping to Democrat on the machines.

It was evidently a “calibration error.”

If it were anyplace else than Cook County, Illinois…

If it were anyplace else than Democrat-controlled Maryland…

The other thing is the North Carolina State Board of Elections has opened an investigation into allegations that Democratic campaign workers were assisting non-citizens to vote.

The investigation was opened after conservative gadfly James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas got a campaign worker on video appearing to counsel a “Brazilian immigrant” on how to vote. Doubtless taken out of context.

The fact that elections are not always honest is not news.

I remember some years back in Oklahoma a libertarian candidate ran against a notoriously corrupt sheriff. Due to claimed irregularities the ballot boxes were seized and taken into custody by… three guesses. First two don’t count.

Lyndon Johnson stole his first election to the senate, according to biographer Robert Caro.

And how do we know that? Because Johnson boasted about it! He even kept a photographic record of it so he could brag to his friends about it.

I have a friend who likes to brag he helped elect John F. Kennedy.

Well sort of. He was living in Chicago at the time and was called by a friend who asked his help moving some heavy objects. Which turned out to be ballots for Nixon, and they were moved into the river.

That sorry excuse for a statesman Nixon probably did the one noble thing in his life by not demanding a recount or investigation. But one wonders whether the feeling of having been cheated out of the presidency once led to the messy business of Watergate and his subsequent resignation.

By and large we tend to have faith that the system if not foolproof, works well enough most of the time.

But that faith seems to be eroding, and that worries me.

Republicans are pushing for voter ID, standard in many countries including Mexico.

Democrats claim voter ID is a ploy to keep minorities from voting, important to them because the Democratic Party is largely a coalition of minorities.

Republicans see their objections as a blatant attempt to open the door to election rigging.

And of course among many Democrats it is an article of faith that George W. Bush stole the election in the infamous Florida recount.

And now in an election where Republicans see the tantalizing possibility of retaking the senate, fears of stolen elections are running high.

So what happens if one or both sides becomes convinced that the system is broken and electoral fraud is widespread?

Whether you personally think this is true or not, maybe it doesn’t matter if enough people believe it.

Banana republic, here we come.

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