When it matters to locals…

Many years ago, Bob Packwood represented Oregon in the US Senate despite a veritable career of sexual assault, often carried out in the US Capitol Building. Although the Oregonian, the largest newspaper in the state and one which likes to bill itself as the paper of record for Oregon, had the story, they declined to take it to press. IIRC, one reason for that decision was that they didn’t want to influence Packwood’s reelection bid by printing the story too close to November.

The Oregonian’s slogan at the time was, “If it matters to Oregonians, it’s in the Oregonian.” Naturally enough then, when the Washington Post printed the story of Packwood’s serial predations one immediately began to see bumper stickers around Portland stating, “If it matters to Oregonians, it’s in the Washington Post.”

This phenomenon isn’t unique to the Oregonian, however. There’s an old expression, “Don’t shit where you eat.” The message of the metaphor is that you don’t want to make a mess of the place where you live, because you’ll hurt yourself in the process. Though journalism writ broadly does like to hold powerful figures to account, it doesn’t like to do so if that’s going to make a mess of the places where journalists have to make a living.

As a result, it can sometimes be easier to get good, honest analysis of how fucked up your local situation might be when reading a news source based far away. The problem here is that the honest assessment and willingness to tell the truth even if it makes a local mess is combined with a lack of access to local facts. It’s simply harder to get all the details necessary for the analysis, even if it’s easier to do the analysis honestly once the facts are in place.

But every once in a while you’ll get good writing about your local situation in a foreign source that also managed to get access to all the most important facts, and when that happens it’s often the best reporting you can read.

Today, courtesy of Wonkette.com, I found my way to reporting in The Guardian on police violence in Los Angeles. The whole piece is worth reading, but the conclusion takes one’s breath away:

Lopez knew she wanted to get in engaged in local activism after watching George Floyd’s death. In June, she wrote to the mayor of Ontario, the southern California city where she lives, and outlined her own experiences with police over the years and the ways officers mistreat Black families like hers. She called on city leaders to stand up to systemic racism: “I tell you about us so that you are convinced that we matter.”

On 10 June, a police official responded to her email, thanking her for her words, but suggesting the George Floyd tragedy was unique and did not represent officers’ behavior.

The following day, police killed her father.

California god damn.

A mysterious case of data blindness, maybe?

We’re teaching students how to plot data and analyze trends and do statistics in lab this week. Here’s an exercise for you. Does this curve look like it’s flattening? Or declining?

That’s us, the Stevens county frequency of COVID-19 cases. Classes are still ongoing. No changes in our plans. I guess that means the incidence must be stable or getting better?

Road Trip: Field Museum in Chicago

I just wanted to share some cute pictures.

My daughter is really into dinosaurs right now, so we decided to go to the Field Museum in Chicago this past weekend. I was a little nervous to go with the pandemic, but the museum wasn’t crowded at all. They limited ticket sales and it was actually really nice.

I love having a four-year-old. She’s so curious about everything and always asks a million questions. I hope that never fades.

The deadly consequences of Trump’s magical thinking

From the very beginning of this pandemic, Donald Trump has downplayed the seriousness of it and avoided taking the tough actions required to curb it. Tim Dickinson has compiled a list of the 22 times that Trump has indulged in magical thinking, claiming that the virus would just go away all by itself, because of warmer weather or by some kind of ‘miracle’ or that it was not dangerous or some such nonsense, ignoring the warnings of public health experts that we needed concerted national action, and praising himself relentlessly for his non-action.
[Read more…]

New podcast episode: Hurricane, disaster relief, and rebuilding society


Climate disasters present us with an opportunity to rebuild in a manner that will prepare us for the coming changes to our climate, but without a deliberate policy of doing so, it won’t happen by itself.

If you want a transcript from this episode, you can check out the blog posts on which it’s based:


If you want to support my work, any help at all is more than welcome at https://www.patreon.com/Oceanoxia

Thank you for listening, and take care of yourselves.

A metaphor for the Trump campaign becomes real

The Republicans now disowning themselves from Trump and the Republicans after helping to create the very climate he has exploited to create the current chaos have been described using the well-worn metaphor of rats deserting a sinking ship. In Austin, Texas, that metaphor came to life.

A spokesperson for the Travis County sheriff’s office in Texas says “several” boats sank Saturday while taking part in a parade in support of President Donald Trump.

“We responded to multiple calls of boats in distress, several of them sank,” but there are no reports of fatalities or injuries and investigators have not determined how many boats sank on the lake near Austin, according to sheriff’s spokesperson Kristen Dark.

“We have no reason to suspect foul play in any of these,” sinkings, Dark said.

Dark said weather conditions were generally calm and meteorologist Paul Yura with the National Weather Service in Austin/San Antonio said there were were no storms in the area at the time and winds were generally 10 mph or less.

“The lake should be fairly navigable, without issue at those wind speeds,” according to Yura.

It is not clear how many rats escaped.

Isolated Case: The murder of Daniel Prude proves it isn’t.

By now those paying attention all know about the murder of Daniel Prude last March and the similarity to the murder of George Floyd.

Floyd was murdered by strangulation in Minneapolis.  Prude was murdered the eaxct same way in Rochester, 1600km away and eight weeks apart.

That tell me these murders weren’t perpetrated by “lone wolves” or “bad apples”.  It tells me this form of torture and murder has become “standard training”, and cops are being encouraged to use it.

You have to wonder where US cops learnt this.

How many other similar murders have gone unreported and mislabelled as “accidents” or “self-inflicted”?  It’s reminiscent of murders during South Africa’s apartheid era that were labelled “natural causes” and “heart attacks”.