I’ve been trying to follow recent developments in the deliciously-named* Whitefish, Montana. Of course, I am concerned for the health and well-being of my co-religionists and other wonderful people who have been targeted there. But also — given that the town is less than a nine-hour drive from Seattle — it has occurred to me that the same skinheads bussing themselves in from as far away as the Bay Area** could probably also find their way here. Which is why I find it so frustrating when the esteemed journalists of the New York Times are derelict in their duty to, you know, journalize.
Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell got most of the blame for the way this year’s Super Bowl ended, but since he was the one who actually threw the game-ending interception, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson also managed to disappoint more than a few of his “fans”:
Late last week, the Seattle Times published the results of a survey it conducted regarding various Seattle Seahawks. In order to complete the survey, it asked eleven of them a series of questions. I’m not going to devote any space to criticizing the underlying methodology, because this exercise was intrinsically dumb. But one question was dumber than the rest, and it is the subject of this post.
Unless you’re a Western cattle rancher or ardent conservationist, you probably haven’t been following the fight over delisting the wolf. I’m one of those two things, so I’ve been receiving emails about the issue on an almost daily basis, and will happily catch you up with some good news and some bad news.
The good news: after being driven to extinction across the continental United States, wolves were reintroduced to the Rocky Mountains during the 1990s under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. They increased in number and helped restore some of semblance of a balanced ecosystem in Yellowstone National Park and across the Mountain West.
The bad news: Before the keystone predators could recolonize their historic range — the level of recovery mandated by the Act — two senators from Idaho and Montana (Tester and Simpson) managed to delist the wolf and return wolf management to the states.
Without even closely examining the issue from a scientific perspective — for instance, by noting the critical role played by wolves in maintaining healthy ecosystems — you can tell this was a horrible idea for three reasons:
One, Tester and Simpson only managed to get their proposal through Congress by attaching a rider to the 2011 federal budget. This method puts it in good company with other exemplars of good governance like this year’s Monsanto Protection Act, which conveniently granted the biotechnology giant a six-month period of immunity just before a farmer in Oregon announced he had discovered genetically-modified wheat illegally growing on his farm.
Two, you may recall from earlier in this post what happened last time wolves were not listed as an endangered species: we killed every. last. one. living in the United States, threw ecosystems out of whack, and had to undertake an expensive and still only partially-successful reintroduction program. I’m sure that if we remove that federal protection everything will go back to being perfectly fine.
Three, delisting devolved the responsibility of creating wolf management plans to the states. Here’s, for instance, what Montana came up with [click to embiggen if you have trouble reading it]:
Continue reading One questionable policy straight out of Parks & Rec
The summer of 2001 was a magical time – and not just because it was the last period of my life living in a pre-9/11 world. It kicked off with my eighth grade trip to Israel; the Mariners did not lose a single game the entire time I was out of the country (true story). Starbucks CEO, local hero, and Sonics owner Howard Schultz delivered the commencement speech at my eighth grade graduation. My dad sent regular box score dispatches to me at camp in New York as the Mariners completed the Greatest Regular season Of All Time (GROAT) – and for once, I had something to say to those incorrigible Yankee fans.
But the final month of the summer of 2001 – the August I spent traveling the American West with Camp Lech Lecha – was the most memorable experience of them all. Lecha Lecha was a roughly three-week bus tour that traveled from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula, swung through Idaho and Montana, down to Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, and ended with a train ride to Los Angeles, a visit to Disneyland, and a flight home — sorry, Oregon — just in time for the start of high school.
A lot has changed in the dozen years since. As you know, we now live in a post-9/11 world. Once baseball resumed, the Mariners lost to the Yankees in the playoffs (the one time I do not begrudge that team its success) and haven’t seen the postseason since. Howie sold the Sonics to Oklahoma Shitty, so yeah, I don’t think he’ll be invited back to SHA graduation. And the financial model for Lech Lecha turned out to be sadly unsustainable – after a couple more summers in operation, the camp ceased to exist.
But even with all that’s changed for the worse, those memories of that magical summer can never be taken away from me. Or from the internet. And that’s what this post is all about.
Election day has come and gone, and while we — thankfully — already know the outcome, I can still write about it because votes continue to be counted over two weeks later. You may have heard that Barack Obama pulled out a victory in the Presidential race, earning just over 50% of the popular vote. And in a fun bit of irony, it’s looking increasingly likely that Mitt Romney will end up with roughly 47% of the popular vote.
But as you know, the popular vote doesn’t actually count for much. In case you have trouble hearkening back to 2000, a number of pre-election articles speculated that Romney might win the popular vote but lose the electoral college. A few even explored the dreaded electoral college tie (tl;dr – President Romney, Vice President Biden). And while neither of these nightmare scenarios came to fruition, that we could even conceive of such a thing underscores the extent to which our national offices need not reflect public opinion, as reflected — for the sake of argument — in the popular vote.
And the Presidency isn’t the only race in which the results need not align with the will of the collective people.
In the Senate, that much is obvious: every state, regardless of size, gets two Senators. But this year, when the Democrats expanded their slim majority to 53-47, the margin roughly mirrored the popular vote. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, was a clear outlier — Republicans comfortably held onto their majority.
What happened? Did that many people vote for Obama and for a Democratic Senator — and also for a GOP representative?
As you probably guessed: No.
Like in the Presidency and the Senate, House Democrats received more votes overall, but still managed to lose the chamber. If you prefer a graphical representation, here’s what that looks like, courtesy of Wikipedia:
I just finished The Good Rain, Tim Egan‘s 1990 exploration of the Pacific Northwest. I enjoyed the book tremendously, but that alone would not move me to write about it here. Instead, I wanted to share a particular passage about Mt. St. Helens I thought so worthwhile I typed it all up, just for you:
“Within a few minutes, the mountain went through three transformations. First, more than a cubic mile of rock, snow and ice – the entire surface of the mountain’s north face – avalanched at speeds of two hundred miles an hour. Spirit Lake, surrounded by an ancient forest and lodges to house the summer hordes, was raised by two hundred feet; in other spots, the debris piled eight hundred feet. The Toutle River, which flows from this lake that the Cowlitz Indians believed to be a home for the dead, was blocked by a mile-wide dam of debris. Blue went to grey, green went to black, all life was smothered.
A lateral blast followed the avalanche. This explosion carried pulverized pieces of rock, organic material and hot gases at speeds of up to hour hundred miles an hour. Imagine a hurricane, blowing at twice the speed of the highest winds ever recorded, with a temperature just under 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and you have some idea of the blast that carried the north side of St. Helens with it. All trees, including firs which had clung to the ground for three centuries, all shrubs, meadows and grass, all deer (more than 5,000), elk (1,500), mountain goats (15), black bears (200), birds and small game (several million), snakes, fish, bees and anything that might later have contributed to new life were wiped out within 150 square miles.