Where Have All the Grown-Ups Gone?

So by now it’s probably safe to assume you’ve heard of Senator Cotton’s letter to Iran, signed by 46 other senators, and the ongoing flap over it.

I’m not going to get in to the politics involved with it; that’s been done to death by better writers than I.

What I would like to know is if anyone in the Senate or on his staff took Sen. Cotton aside as he was circulating the letter and asked him something along the lines of “Is this really a good idea?”

The letter opens with a statement of utter condescension, stating flat out that the Iranian government may not be familiar with the way the American government works in regards to treaties. Did anyone realize that it’s part of the job description of ANY government’s Foreign Office or State Department (or their equivalent) to be aware of the basic operating procedures of every government that they deal with? Didn’t anyone realize how insulting this statement is?

Didn’t anyone realize that the United States and Iran aren’t the only parties involved in the negotiations? Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China are also involved. Didn’t anyone stop and ask what sort of message the letter gives to one of our greatest friends, two important allies, and two rival nations that we are and will always be negotiating with?

It should be noted (as it has been in many comments on the many news articles covering this matter) that individuals in the government have gotten themselves involved in negotiations, unasked and uninvited, for various international agreements. However, those were individuals. In this case, it’s an unprecedentedly large group who have made their interference public.

The term “senator” is derived from the Latin “senex”, meaning “old man”. The implication in the derivation is that with age comes wisdom. A “senator” is a person who has gained great wisdom with the experience of age, and can be expected to provide well-considered advice and judgment.

When the legislative branch of our government was split into two “houses” – senators and representatives – it was decided that the larger House of Representatives would have the shorter term of office – two years. Senators were fewer in number, and given six-year terms. The theoretical intent was that while the representatives would respond to short-term passions in the “body politic”, the senators would be able to consider issues in the long term (since they’d be around much longer). They are intended to be the “adults in the room”. Also, those six-year terms are staggered – only a third of the Senate deals with an election every two years. And it’s never both from the same state at the same time. For the junior senators, there’s supposed to be someone there with more wisdom who can guide them around while they learn what being a senator entails.

Senator Cotton is a first-time senator. I can almost forgive him for his childish rashness with this letter. But certainly someone else should have stopped him. And if he didn’t come up with the idea on his own, I’d love to know who put him up to it. They should have known better. Heck, all the senators involved should have known better.

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On the 2014 Baseball All-Star Game

Once again, in the voting before the game, we have seen the eternal conflict between fans who want the absolute best players at each position (based on some unspecified criteria) selected to start and the fans who think it should be the players that fans in general want to see (i.e. the most popular). In most cases, the two are the same. People usually want to see the best players. The discussion gets most wordy when it comes to the reserves and bench players. Who has been snubbed? Who doesn’t really deserve to be there? Why must each team have a representative? Meanwhile, they overlook the fact that a lot of these reserves aren’t going to get into the game until the late innings, might never come to bat, and probably won’t even be mentioned in the broadcast unless and until they are involved in a play. So it doesn’t really matter that much – at least not to the level of debate on the matter.

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The NRA vs. The CDC

While strolling through the local library on my lunch break today, I couldn’t help but see the cover story on the New York Daily News. “Killed by the NRA”, it screamed. In their typical sensational tabloid fashion, this referred to the fact that while the Centers for Disease Control spend millions of dollars annually studying how to reduce deaths from things like Lyme disease (22,000 deaths in 2012, CDC budget for prevention programs: $10.6M), they are forbidden by law to spend any significant amount of money studying anything that could even remotely be connected to “gun control”.

Back in 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study led by Arthur Kellerman and funded by the CDC that found a strong link between having a gun in the home and an increased risk of homicide. The NRA, through its lobbyists, screamed bloody murder. They wanted to completely wipe out the division of the CDC that funded the study, but instead wound up having an amendment inserted into a 1997 budget package which stated that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” While it didn’t specifically ban research on gun control, the intent was made very clear when that same budget took the exact amount that the CDC spent on firearm safety research the previous year and earmarked it specifically for brain trauma research.

With the writing on the wall, the CDC has not funded any real gun safety research since then.

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Pitching, Pine Tar, and Philosophy

The big fuss in baseball this week is not Albert Pujols’ milestone 500th home run, nor the Cubs celebrating the 100th birthday of their stadium by losing. It’s a blatant smear of pine tar on the neck of Yankees’ pitcher Michael Pineda.

There’s a whole lot of discussion about the use of pine tar and other substances, about the logic of having a rule in place that practically no one follows, and about such “cheating” in general. It’s rather a fun discussion, especially since it seems that most commenters are being civil about it. But also because it touches on some important philosophical issues.
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European Idol

Right now, we’re in the thirteenth season of American Idol. A few weeks from now, the 58th annual Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Copenhagen.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Contest started out as a way to promote television across Europe. Member nations of the European Broadcasting Union send one musical act each to the competition, and the winner is chosen by a combination of a panel of judges and viewer votes. It’s different from American Idol in that it’s open to groups as well as individual artists, and the artists are already professionals. It’s something like an international “Battle of the Bands”. Also, it’s the song that’s being judged, not the artist.

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Not Another Crimean War

A recent article in The Onion, that pillar of journalistic excellence, described how Americans are bitterly divided over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine between the grossly misinformed and the wholly apathetic. While there is some justification for being apathetic, being misinformed – especially if you want to have some influence in the matter – cannot easily be forgiven.

As the situation continues to develop, it might behoove us to reflect on the history of the area. Because if the United States is going to get drawn in to the conflict, we had better know what we are getting ourselves into.

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Understanding Global Warming

Last week (1/21/14), NASA and NOAA released their analysis of the overall global temperatures for the year 2013. It was one of the ten hottest years on record. But as we sit here in the middle of another Polar Vortex “event”, there are still people who refuse to accept that the earth is getting warmer. I can understand this – a little bit. It’s not easy to spot gradual, long-term trends in the face of localized, short-term “noise”.

Perhaps I can give an analogy.

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