Anonymous candidates: An electoral thought experiment

Imagine, for a moment, that the rules of the game were different.

No, I’m not talking about the Electoral College, although there is good reason to bemoan their continued role in the American electoral process. I’m not even talking about changing to a single transferable voting system, which is an electoral reform I wholeheartedly support. I’m talking about a more fundamental change.

What if, in future elections, we didn’t know anything about the candidate for whom we were voting?

Wait, what?

It’s a crazy and unworkable idea, but hear me out. Imagine if, in the next election, you were handed a ballot. However, instead of listing the candidates names, imagine that your ballot simply listed “Person A” and “Person B” and so on as your candidates for President. At the ballot box, you would choose your nameless candidate, turn your ballot in, and wait for the results. On election day, in addition to discovering which candidate won, consider what it would feel like to also finally discover the identity of “Person A” or “Person B.” What consequences would this have on our electoral process?

No matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, I think most people would agree that this was an exhausting election. Perhaps more than any other, this particular election seemed to drag on forever. There were twelve Republican primary debates, nine Democratic primary debates, and three general election debates, which adds up to a grand total of twenty-four debates overall. Additionally, there were thirteen Democratic primary forums and nine Republican primary forums, totaling up to twenty-two forums between the two major parties. The grand total of debates and forums is forty-six, which still doesn’t account for the Vice Presidential debate or any third party debates or forums. This also doesn’t account for the twenty-four hour news cycle or any candidate’s forays into the Twitterverse.

We live in an age of unprecedented access to news coverage from both mainstream and independent media sources. Yet, my gut feeling is that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of news coverage we have access to and the quality of that coverage. A consequence of having access to so many sources of news, or “news” (depending on your view of the source), is that one must decide which sources one has time to pay attention to and which to ignore. The intense competition among media outlets for our eyeballs inevitably results in an emphasis on aspects of campaigns that have little to do with the nuts and bolts of running the country.

Let’s come back to our thought experiment. Imagine if we could strip away all this nonsense. If our choices were merely “Person A” or “Person B” and so on, we would have no preconceived notions about the people who are running for office. Does Person A like to wear pantsuits? It wouldn’t matter. Does Person B have an affinity for gold plated bathroom fixtures and for plastering his last name on everything he owns? That, too, wouldn’t matter.

Instead, imagine if all we knew were each respective candidate’s policy positions. Perhaps we’d get a list showing us that Person A wants to increase the federal minimum wage and Person B wants to build a wall on our southern border with Mexico. In this thought experiment, the candidates are not allowed to reveal anything about themselves personally. They can only anonymously inform the public of their policy positions and their rationale for those positions. How might an election look if all we could do was examine the plans of those people who are seeking office? Would our priorities change if we didn’t know who, but only what we were voting for?

I’m willing to grant that there are perfectly valid reasons for wanting to know the identity of the person seeking the highest office in the country. Among those reasons is the simple fact that a person’s history and their current entanglements do matter. Examining how a candidate has performed in her or his other roles, public or private, is a worthwhile endeavor. But, it is also true that much of that examination tends to focus on details that distract us from the bigger picture. Additionally, all people are drawn to particular candidates for biased reasons, including attractiveness, personality characteristics, etc. The pull of these variables is often far stronger than any of us are willing to admit. In fact, we probably aren’t even aware of how they influence us.

Maybe a solution is to scrap what we know about the person so we can focus on the what instead of who is running for office. As I said, it’s a radical — even batshit crazy — idea that implicates a whole host of other potential problems. But, perhaps, if there are even just a few good qualities that we can derive from this electoral thought experiment, we can think creatively about real-world reforms for future elections.

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Beyond the check mark: Tracking meaningful travel experiences

From time to time, various travel maps make the rounds on social media platforms. Many of these travel maps allow users to select which states the user has visited. One such example, which frequently surfaces in my Facebook feed, is MapLoco; another was made by amCharts. As a map enthusiast, creating spatial depictions of my travels is a fun pastime for me. When links to these mapping sites re-emerge, I am inevitably drawn in to constructing my own map, yet again. It doesn’t matter that I’ve done this exercise countless times before. For me, a sort of nostalgia for the fun times of the past surfaces every time I create a new map. It brings the best parts of past travels back to life again.

But, what does it mean to check a state off your list? A CNN article published in 2014 examines this issue from multiple perspectives. Below, I’ll share my own thoughts.

When I was in high school, my brother and I traveled throughout New England in search of my future college. While on the road, we played a game where we would see how many license plates from different states we came across during our commute from Ohio to Maine. There was a thrill to the chase, so to speak. We remained alert for any new states that came into view. A license plate from a new state could’ve been coming around the bend at any moment. There was also an element of competition to the game; my brother and I would rush to be the first to speak up when a new plate suddenly appeared. But, above all else, it was just a fun way to pass time on a long drive. It was a game. No more, no less.

It occurs to me that many people approach domestic travel in much the same way. There is, in all of our minds, that ubiquitous list of all fifty states. The singular mission often becomes one where we check each state off the list, one by one, until we’ve conquered the country. For many, the quality of the visit doesn’t even enter consciousness. Merely passing through a state is sufficient for the purposes of the game we play when we construct our map via the websites linked above. But, what if we’re concerned with more than playing a game? In other words, how might we use these lists or maps to track more than the raw number of states we’ve visited?

By creating lists or maps that merely check off the number of states we’ve visited, we’re compiling a quantitative set of data about our travel experiences. But, in choosing to measure travel in this way, we are shortchanging ourselves by failing to examine the richness of our travel experiences. While travel maps like the ones linked above are useful, I hope to convince you to add a qualitative element to tracking your travel experiences. Instead of collecting the raw numbers alone, you should try to capture the quality of your travel.

Now, when I complete those map widgets in my Facebook feed, I’m a little more conservative about when I allow myself to check a state off of my list. I exclude certain states that don’t meet my personal travel criteria. One principle guides my current thinking about the role of travel in my life: a visit to a state must constitute a meaningful travel experience in order for me to check it off of my list. If my visit isn’t meaningful, it doesn’t make the list.

What exactly is a meaningful travel experience? My thinking on this issue is still evolving. However, here are some exclusionary rules I use to filter non-meaningful experiences from my list.

  1. Visits to airports, including layovers, do not count.
  2. Traversing roadways do not count unless the roadway is a well-known scenic drive.
  3. Stops at gas stations, rest areas, tourist information centers, and chain dining establishments do not count.
  4. Overnight stays at chain hotels do not count.

One might wonder why I choose to exclude visits to places like airports and chain restaurants. In short, I exclude those places to avoid gaming the system. My reasoning: Those experiences are not unique or meaningful. Do airports vary in size and in the number and types of amenities they offer travelers? Sure, they do. But, in general, airports exist as a means to an end; they exist to get you from Point A to Point B quickly and efficiently. Roadways, including interstate highways, serve the same purpose. Similarly, although my mind does wander at the pump, I can’t say that I’ve had any particularly meaningful experiences at a gas station. My interaction with gas stations is purely functional; they are places to refuel, restock, and empty my bladder.

Are there exceptions? Probably. For example, if an out-of-town visitor to the Akron area wanted to count a pit stop at Swensons as a meaningful visit to our state, I’d allow it. Although Swensons is a chain restaurant, it is a distinctly local chain. Similarly, if there is something unique about a place that normally would not count, I would allow it. For example, a visit to a McDonald’s in any state would normally not qualify. However, a visit to the McDonald’s in Roswell, New Mexico, which is the only McDonald’s in the world that is shaped like a flying saucer, would qualify.

Of course, your travel criteria may differ substantially from my criteria. No single set of correct criteria to follow exists. The purpose of this post is not to promote one set of criteria as correct above all others; it is to encourage you to think through your travel experiences in a way that enhances the meaning you derive from travel. If this post has caused you to re-examine your experiences as a traveler, my work here is done. If not, then I suppose you can go back to playing with your travel map widgets undisturbed

How to succeed in college: Some suggestions for students

When I first began my collegiate life as an undergraduate in a quaint little Ohio village, my faith in higher education was dwindling. Hiram College, my first alma mater, extolled the virtues of the liberal arts: a broad education, an intimate learning environment, a close-knit campus community, and other, similarly noble characteristics. The overall notion of education as more than a mere credentialing exercise was highly appealing to me. I was hungry for a comprehensive learning experience, but practical concerns soon interfered with my otherwise abstract intellectual ambitions. I didn’t know it back then, but two things were working against me. First, I wasn’t ready for Hiram. Second, Hiram wasn’t ready for me.

I knew, early on, that college was going to be expensive and that I would need to fund my own way. Before I even set foot on Hiram’s campus for my first day, I had a job lined up. Later on, I moved on to a different job, which offered more hours, and added a second job to boot. Eventually, I was a full-time college student working a nearly full-time work schedule, often at all hours of the day and night. Needless to say, I quickly burned myself out. By burning the candle at both ends, I made myself virtually useless in the classroom and I went on to fail nearly all of my classes during my sophomore year at Hiram. Academically, I hit rock bottom.

About six years after I began my journey as a perpetual college student, I finally found my groove at a new school. Earning my spot on the dean’s list for part-time students five consecutive times, I ended my undergraduate education on a high note and finally graduated with my bachelor’s degree in December 2012. The very next semester, I started working on my master’s degree.

When it comes to balancing work life and a college education, there are no easy answers for working students. It can be far too simple for people to write “how to” articles with a smug sense of pride, perhaps assuming that what worked for the author should work for others too. I make no such claim in this post. Every person is different, every situation is different, and the intersection between individuals and their respective situations creates unique challenges that others may not fully comprehend.

With all that in mind, this post explores the topic of being successful as a working college student. These are some strategies that have worked for me. Hopefully, they will work for you too. If they don’t work for you, modify them until they fit your circumstances. If these strategies won’t work for you at all, scrap them and come up with your own strategies. The primary goal of this post is to get you to think consciously about the strategies that will work best for you. The rest is just gravy.

Start everything early

When I first started college, I found it rather easy to start off strong — especially during the first 1-2 weeks. There was something about the hustle and bustle of a new semester that energized me. Soon, however, that energy faded to black. For the rest of the semester, any desire to read, write papers, and complete assignments was almost completely absent. I could sometimes muster up just enough energy to complete the bare minimum, but nothing more.

It never hurts to get started as early as you can. Whether it means reading an assigned chapter a couple weeks before it will be discussed in class or writing a few pages of that ten page paper now, starting these tasks early can give you breathing room when it’s crunch time. Don’t believe that bullshit about working better under pressure; it’s almost certainly a self-serving excuse you’ve been using to justify procrastination. Stop making excuses and start working now.

The benefits of starting early are numerous. For example, if you’ve read some material well before it will be covered in the classroom, the professor’s presentation will reinforce what you’ve already learned. Additionally, hearing your professor describe the material in a slightly different way may help clarify concepts you initially found confusing or add depth to what was covered in the book.

Starting early can also help you manage those inevitable life events that are bound to throw you off track. One spring, for example, I unexpectedly needed to take time off of work and school to care for a critically ill family member. Fortunately, however, I had already written all but one of my papers in an effort to clear my schedule for a much-needed vacation. While the family illness was certainly a setback, the initiative I took to ease my workload for one reason ended up helping me adapt in the face of adversity.

Change the way you view papers

There are at least two ways to think about those pesky papers professors ask you to write. Popular opinion is that papers are a chore and that one has to bullshit through them to pass any given class. An alternative way to think of papers is to view them as opportunities to expand your expertise in a subject. Before you dismiss this suggestion, first consider how you might feel about writing a paper on a topic you actually care about. Then, align your current assignment with your interests as much as possible.

Writing papers will be a chore if you don’t care about the topic you are writing about. That’s why topic selection is so important; a topic you enjoy will provide you with the motivation to do the necessary research and, ultimately, to become invested in your written work. Once you care about the paper you are writing, it ceases to be an obligation and transforms the paper writing process into an intellectual journey that is worthy of your time.

If you’re writing a paper for a class you have no interest in whatsoever, try to frame your topic as one that seeks to refute the discipline you loathe. For example, if you’re in a philosophy class (assuming you hate philosophy) and you’ve been assigned a paper on a philosophical subject, try as best you can to argue against the views espoused by the philosophers covered in your class. In other words, caring for your topic doesn’t necessarily have to be an exercise filled with positive emotions. To care about something merely means that you must devote serious attention to it; it doesn’t imply that the object of your attention evokes your deepest passions. It is possible to direct your hatred of a subject into a constructive form of caring in the sense that you can devote serious attention to refuting a topic for which you otherwise have no good use. It isn’t an optimal approach, but it’ll get you through the assignment.

Of course, if you choose to write about what you hate, you’ll have to be extra careful to ensure that you’ve followed the directions provided by your professor. Incoherent rants do not make great papers. But, as long as you fulfill your professor’s expectations in terms of what questions to answer, what content to discuss, etc, there is no reason why you can’t make your grievances with a subject area known to your professor. If nothing else, it may motivate some interesting classroom dialogue.

Test yourself

I don’t mean this in the abstract sense, as in “test your limits” or some other nonsense. I mean actually test yourself, as in write up a multiple choice test just for you, set it aside for a while, and take it after you’ve forgotten most of the questions you wrote. While there are a number of good reasons to bemoan the existence of multiple choice tests, there is a point to this exercise — and it isn’t just about learning the answers to your test questions.

The process of writing a test will be more valuable to you than the experience of taking the test at a later time. In order to write the test, you’ll have to review the material you want the test to cover. Reading can sometimes become a passive exercise, but reading for the purpose of writing your own test questions forces you to interact with the material in a different way. Thus, while taking your own test may prove useless in the end, actually writing the test may help you engage with the course content in way that helps you remember what you’ve learned and facilitates your ability to differentiate between similar concepts.

These are just a few strategies that have helped me achieve success as a working college student. There are certainly an abundance of other strategies that may also help. For example, actually attending class, taking notes, and not taking tests while hung over are probably sound suggestions. But, if you’re the type of person who reads essays like this, you’re probably not in need of such basic instructions. Or maybe you do need to hear those things. What do I know?

Best of luck to you on your educational endeavors.

Changing therapists: Highlighting one of Jaclyn Glenn’s points on depression

First things first: I’ve been a fan of Jaclyn Glenn for a little while now.  She’s an intelligent person with a good sense of humor.  She has a knack for discussing issues in a way that both entertains and educates; she often finds a good balance between depth and wit.  This, of course, has made her pretty popular, at least among those in the atheist/secular and skeptical communities.

I wanted to draw attention to the above video for a few reasons.  First, as a marriage and family therapy student, I naturally find discussions about mental health interesting.  I’m particularly interested in understanding how the general public perceives mental health professionals and how lay advice can either hurt or help those who are suffering.  Jaclyn’s above video is a pretty good example of how to give helpful advice to those who are suffering from depression.  For that, I applaud her.  Among her suggestions are the following: consult with a psychiatrist and a therapist, avoid isolation by talking to friends and family, engage in activities that interest you, etc.  It’s all pretty standard advice, but it’s good advice and she did a good job of delivering it to her viewers.

One of Jaclyn’s points deserves greater emphasis.  In the above video, Jaclyn mentioned that sometimes, things don’t work out with one therapist and that this may be due to a lack of connection.  In such cases, she suggested that these potentially disappointed clients try a new therapist.  I wanted to single out this piece of advice because it seems, to me, like most people don’t explicitly think of this as an option.  However, as a client, you owe it to yourself to get the best therapy you can get.  A critical component of successful therapy involves the relationship you develop with your therapist.  Therefore, if you think you and your current therapist aren’t connecting, Jaclyn’s advice might be your best bet.

Personally, I would add one caveat: Give your current therapist the benefit of the doubt in the beginning unless there is an obvious problem between you two.  Depression, particularly when it is severe, can make it difficult to have fulfilling relationships with everyone, including your therapist.  If you’re having a difficult time connecting with a therapist, a good first step might be to explicitly mention that this is the case to the therapist.  The process of working out problems between you and your therapist may help you identify issues that may be affecting your relationships with other people.  Also, it can take time for trust to develop between a therapist and a client.  But, if in the end you feel like things still aren’t working out between the two of you, trying another therapist could do the trick.  In other words, changing your therapist is an option and it could be the right move for you.  Don’t dismiss therapy entirely if you’ve a bad experience with one therapist.  Try another and see if that helps.

A related suggestion for secular clients: Changing therapists might be beneficial if your therapist is attempting to convert you or otherwise pressure you into accepting certain religious beliefs or participating in religious practices.  Therapists have several ethical responsibilities, which include: avoiding harm, avoiding an imposition of their personal values, and delivering services that have a theoretical or scientific foundation.  Of course, some therapists may not adhere to these ethical responsibilities, particularly if they infuse religiously-based ideas into their practice.  In such cases, it may be worthwhile to try to find a secular therapist or, at minimum, a therapist that respects your identity as a secular person.  The Secular Therapist Project, founded by Dr. Darrel Ray, is a good resource to use if this is a concern for you.

Jaclyn deserves much praise for answering her viewers’ questions about depression and for working to eliminate the stigma associated with pursuing mental health treatment.  Kudos to her!

Editorial: Pope Benedict’s charisma masks his church’s inability to adapt

I wanted to take a brief moment to highlight an editorial published by Haaretz, which is an Israeli newspaper of record. Anshel Pfeffer recently wrote an article that beautifully illustrates why Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s election as Pope of the Roman Catholic Church has not inspired the same awe or respect in me as it has for other people around the world.

The last paragraph of the article is, I think, the best:

“The cardinals are well aware that there’s no chance in the present generation to solve all the theological problems that the Church faces, and that it will take years until the reverberations of the sexual and financial scandals die down. They chose Bergoglio this time not because he is a revolutionary – they don’t want a pope like that. They crowned him to serve as their flak jacket; as Francis, the user-friendly face of a church that is still unable to adapt itself to modern times.”

Click here to read the full editorial.

Is organized atheism hostile to conservatives and libertarians?

Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, got himself into some hot water with secular, liberal ideologues recently.  He made some remarks to Roy Edroso, who authored a Raw Story article about Silverman’s attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Silverman’s remarks to Edroso were as follows:

“I came with the message that Christianity and conservatism are not inextricably linked,” he told me, “and that social conservatives are holding down the real conservatives — social conservatism isn’t real conservatism, it’s actually big government, it’s theocracy. I’m talking about gay rights, right to die, abortion rights –”

Then, Edroso writes:

“Hold on, I said, I think the Right to Life guys who have a booth here, and have had every year since CPAC started, would disagree that they’re not real conservatives.”

To which Silverman replied:

“I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion,” said Silverman. “You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”

Such a reply, in my mind, was relatively uncontroversial.  To simply admit that there are secular arguments against abortion doesn’t, as far as I can tell, amount to an endorsement of those arguments.  As J.T. Eberhard has pointed out, Silverman has explicitly said that he is “vehemently pro-choice.”  Some, however, have criticized Silverman for making the remarks.  Consider the following from a post by Steve Ahlquist:

“Silverman did not have to say it outright. By floating the inane concept that there may be reasonable secular arguments against abortion rights, he was offering a space to compromise on the issue.”

Read this quote carefully.  The mere suggestion that he was “offering a space to compromise” to a conservative is the offensive action for which Silverman is being asked to answer to critics. On what is he compromising?  Simply put, Silverman is making the following compromises: 1.) a secular argument against abortion exists and 2.) secular support for abortion rights may not be as “clean cut” as is the case for other issues, like school prayer.  Essentially, the idea Silverman was expressing was merely that secular people who oppose abortion may have a place at the atheist debate table.  That’s it.

Some are criticizing him for such innocuous statements.  For example, PZ Myers recently authored a post asking, “Who is Dave Silverman representing?”  In his post, Myers admits that organized atheism has a “decidedly liberal bias” and he laments that Silverman tried to “appease the 0.0% of atheists who think abortion should be illegal” by allegedly pandering to potential secular conservatives in attendance at CPAC.  How inviting conservative atheists to the table amounts to pandering is something I’m still trying to understand.  But let’s return to that question Myers asks: Who is Dave Silverman representing?

American Atheists bills itself as “a nonprofit, nonpolitical, educational organization dedicated to the complete and absolute separation of state and church” with aims and purposes that include stimulating and promoting freedom of thought and inquiry.  In describing itself as a nonpolitical organization, it seems to me as though Silverman’s attempts to represent American Atheists at CPAC are consistent with the organization’s goals.  In fact, since organized atheism is predominantly filled with liberals and Democrats, it is actually exceptionally courageous of Silverman to appeal to secular conservatives.  The fact that Silverman is using the gravitas of his position to appeal to a woefully underrepresented political minority within the ranks of organized atheism demonstrates his commitment to broadening the appeal of American Atheists, which I believe is a step in the right direction.

American Atheists is an organization with a very specific purpose.  Thus, while it may not please some liberal members, the goals of the organization are advanced when it works to appeal to as broad an audience as possible while remaining consistent with the goal of advocating for the separation of church and state.  Silverman recognizes that there is a key constituency within traditionally conservative circles that may be receptive to church-state separation.  He should be commended for this politically astute observation, not condemned for it.

With that in mind, I’ll pose this question: Is organized atheism hostile to non-liberals?  I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and I think there may be something to it.  I’ve attended atheist and skeptic events both locally and nationally and, without fail, complaints about conservatives and libertarians are inevitably aired openly and aggressively at many of these gatherings.  Of course, I’m not saying that the ideas many conservatives or libertarians express don’t deserve criticism.  Many of them do.  But, I get the general sense that the distaste runs deeper; it seems as though the mere notion that an atheist or skeptic may identify as a conservative or a libertarian is what evokes the animosity.

Microaggressions are often brought up in the context of gender and race.  For those who are unfamiliar, Wikipedia offers a pretty decent, general description of the phenomenon.  Essentially, what microaggressions amount to are brief, non-physical acts of aggression aimed at a minority group.  The notion of microaggressions seems to resonate for those who endure acts of racism and sexism that fly under the radar because they are not as prolonged or overt.  I wonder if, perhaps, microaggressions can occur at multiple levels of society and if they can be aimed at members of dominant groups when those members are in certain contexts.  For instance, while one may be a white, straight, cisgender male in society at large, could identifying with a particular political group make one a prime target for microaggressions when that person is among atheists and skeptics?

I’m one of those socially liberal, fiscally conservative types that PZ Myers complains about.  While I do enjoy the privileges afforded to me as a white, straight, cisgender male, I’ve sometimes felt the pressure to keep my mouth shut about my political views in atheist and skeptical circles.  During some of my more courageous moments, when I’ve hinted that I’m not a textbook liberal, I’ve been met both with welcome curiosity and with uncomfortable silence.  The recent hype over Silverman’s remarks has only served to illustrate that my suspicions may be true: conservative or libertarian atheists and skeptics may not be welcome in these movements, or, maybe they’re only welcome if they conceal their political affiliations from others.  It isn’t unusual to see atheist or skeptic content sprinkled with remarks like this:

“On the other hand, Silverman was being true to the spirit of Libertarianism, which is, “I’ve got mine, fuck you.” – Steve Alquist

Or this:

“You know, I’m getting really tired of the schtick of so many people that they are “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative.” – PZ Myers

At the heart of these remarks is not criticism of particular conservative or libertarian ideas, but attacks on people who identify with these political positions.  Has Steve Alquist considered the possibility that the so-called “spirit of Libertarianism” may not be the same from person to person?  Has PZ Myers thought about the fact that, for many people, libertarianism isn’t some sort of schtick?  Are these microaggressions?  I don’t know.  But I’m bringing the issue up to facilitate debate on the matter.  I think it may be worthwhile to think of the ways microaggressions against non-liberals within the skeptic and atheist movements may create a hostile atmosphere toward secular conservatives and libertarians.

Firefighter detained by CHP officer during southern California traffic crash

This incident genuinely puzzles me.  Here’s what happened, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“A California Highway Patrol officer handcuffed and detained a Chula Vista firefighter for refusing to move his engine out of traffic at a crash scene Tuesday night, prompting a nationwide storm of online commentaries on Wednesday.

The firefighter had parked the engine behind an ambulance in the fast lane of Interstate 805 near East Naples Drive, where a sedan had flipped over a concrete guard rail and two people were reported injured.

Chula Vista Fire Chief Dave Hanneman said fire crews are trained to position their rigs to block oncoming traffic.”

From what has been publicized so far, it seems unlikely that the CHP officer had a legitimate reason for the detention of firefighter Jacob Gregoire.  If fire department personnel can articulate a prudent rationale for blocking traffic at the scene of a traffic crash, I think it is probably wise for law enforcement to allow the fire department to act accordingly.  It is unclear, to me, where the CHP officer expected the engine to be parked, if not behind the ambulance that was also on scene.

Clearly, incidents like this are not in the best interests of either department or the general public.  It is my hope that officials from both departments do use this incident as an opportunity to discuss best practices for responding to such incidents and to train together.  However, I’m also hopeful that the CHP will publicly discuss the officer’s justification for detaining Gregoire.