How stupid are Americans, anyway? And how much worse are our leaders?
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) explains climate change
Numerous events and curious beliefs – large and small – caught the eye, even before the election of 2008 and certainly beyond. Consider:
a CNN discussion on October 10, 2005, featuring the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, addressed the subject of whether recent climate events – the Christmas 2004 tsunami in Asia, hurricane Katrina in the late summer of 2005, an earthquake in Asia – actually presaged the end times, the Rapture and the second coming of Christ; Continue reading →
The vascular surgeon who removed my gangrenous gall bladder last month received his early medical training in Lahore, Pakistan. He’s been a member of the medical community in my rural valley for more than three decades.
My primary-care physician for the past 20 years received his medical training in Taiwan. My urologist for a decade was an Iranian-American. The surgeon who removed a subcutaneous growth from my right elbow is a Pakistani-American. So is the internist who treated a pulmonary issue. He’s been here more than two decades.
Those who live in rural areas likely know, or have, doctors with surnames they might think uncommon. Yet all my foreign-born physicians are American citizens with deep ties to the community in which I live. They’ve taken good care of me.
But why have these wonderful doctors settled here, in rural America?
We live in a moment of hyper-consumerism, uber-war and insidious surveillance by a vast security apparatus. But what might it look like if Orwell and Huxley were both wrong.
“The age of maturity that past authors were hoping would come seems not to be the destiny of humankind… Humanity is condemned to seek truth rather than possess it… This would be the vocation of our species: to pick up the task of enlightenment with each new day, knowing that it is interminable.”- Tzvetan Todorov, “In Defence of the Enlightenment.”
In The Empire Strikes Back, young Luke Skywalker asks his Jedi master, Yoda, whether the dark side is stronger than the good? “No,” Yoda replies, “easier, quicker, more seductive.”
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh…” Philip Larkin, The Trees
This essay is, in the first instance, impelled by a deep sense of disappointment at the immense gulf between the grand promise of this country, the United States, and its objective contemporary condition, the sense one has looking out across the landscape with squinted eyes that there is, as Milton writes in Paradise Lost, “Demoniac frenzy, moping melancholy, / And moon-struck madness.” Continue reading →
The FBI has information that indicatesassociates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possiblycoordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.
Huh? Could this lede be any more vague? This lede is all may have — which leaves open the possibility of may not have.
The story, reported by Pamela Brown, Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto, and Shimon Prokupecz, contains unnamed sources in 10 of the story’s 18 paragraphs. The FBI director is named, but only in reference to stories reported earlier. White House spokesman Sean Spicer and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov are named, but only in chiding the findings of the story. Two paragraphs near the end of the story contain no sources and appear to be the conclusions of the reporters.
“I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.” – Jane Austen
Various news sources, both here in America and elsewhere, are claiming that Jane Austen, doyenne of English respectability, has become a heroine to the despicable group called by the all-too-euphemistic moniker the alt-right.
Jane Austen (image courtesy biography.com)
For any rational person (and my beloved Miss Austen was nothing if not rational) her embrace by such loathsome characters is both horrifying and bizarre. Conservative as she was (Austen found her contemporary Byron’s behavior wild and reprehensible, for example, violating as it did the established social mores of Regency England), Austen undoubtedly would have found the behavior of a number of the more well known figures of the alt-right movement equally reprehensible. One has a difficult time, indeed, imagining Miss Austen feeling able to tolerate being on the same planet, much less in the same room with creatures such as Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos.
The alt-right loves them some Jane, though – for reasons that mystify anyone capable of reading Austen’s work intelligently. Continue reading →
Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention.
This is the America First budget. In fact, we wrote it using the president’s own words. We went through his speeches. We went through articles that have been written about his policies … and we turned those policies into numbers. (from NPR)
That’s what Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said while briefing reporters on Donald’s proposed budget.
How does eliminating funding for the Independent Chemical Safety Board, which investigates industrial chemical accidents and ensures the safety of the public, put America first?
How does eliminating funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which ensures universal access and helps fund non-profit, community television and radio stations around the country, put America first?
TrumpCare’s first draft was written in secret. Obamacare was written largely in the public view.
TrumpCare was written over the course of a few weeks. Obamacare was written over the course of four months.
When drafting Trumpcare, Republicans didn’t get public input from doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, or patients’ advocacy groups. Democrats held public hearings with doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and advocacy groups to get their input on early drafts.
The grades are in. The nation’s infrastructure is close to failing.
The 2017 report card of the American Society of Civil Engineers, posted today, gives the infrastructure on which America depends for commerce, defense, recreation, flight, food, water, waste — almost everything — an overall grade of D+.
The 2017 grades range from a B for Rail to a D- for Transit, illustrating the clear impact of investment – or lack thereof – on the grades. Three categories – Parks, Solid Waste, and Transit – received a decline in grade this year, while seven – Hazardous Waste, Inland Waterways, Levees, Ports, Rail, Schools, and Wastewater – saw slight improvements. Six categories’ grades remain unchanged from 2013 – Aviation, Bridges, Dams, Drinking Water, Energy, and Roads.
The areas of infrastructure that improved benefited from vocal leadership, thoughtful policymaking, and investments that garnered results.
Scholars & Rogues has long considered addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs essential for the nation’s economic, cultural, resource, and domestic security (see here, here, here, and here). Continue reading →
Donald’s proposed deep cuts to NOAA satellite operations will make weather forecasting less reliable and run counter to Donald’s goal of “rebuilding” the military.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
According to the Washington Post, Donald is considering deep cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as part of his proposed budget. The anonymous sources upon which the Post based their article cautioned that the exact details of which programs would get cut and by how much would likely change, but the relative magnitudes of the reported cuts provide some insight into Donald’s thinking:
Based on these numbers, we can surmise that Donald doesn’t want to impact weather forecasting (which is important to literally everyone), wants to maintain the fishing industry, but wants to cut most climate science and government-funded research out of NOAA. The problem is that it’s not going to work. Continue reading →
President Donald wants his lapdog Congress to investigate Obama for Watergating him. Is the former president guilty?
It could be true. Obama and the NSA eavesdropped on everyone – you included – so why should Donald be immune. It’s perfectly likely that there are recordings and transcripts of everything Der Orangeführer has said for the past decade.
But. Did Obama and Co. tap Donald more than they did other people and did they do so for political reasons? Who knows. Maybe. Is it as bad as Watergate? Who knows. Continue reading →
The Attorney General should resign – whether he’s guilty or not. Here’s why.
By now you have probably read a good bit about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and whether or not he unlawfully met with the Russian ambassador to discuss the 2016 Presidential election. There is a great deal of lawyering on the horizon, but for the moment here’s what we need to understand.
In his confirmation hearing Sessions was asked directly about contact with the Russians by himself or the Trump campaign. At that moment, there were a couple of ways to answer.
I wouldn’t have asked for single-party Republican rule, but now we’ve got it, I hope they overreach badly and get tossed out on their asses for it in two years.
Over the years, I’ve occasionally wondered whether it would be a good idea to let the Republicans take control of both houses of Congress and the Presidency. My logic went like this: once they’re in power, they’ll overreach so badly that the next midterm and Presidential elections will go overwhelmingly to the Democrats. It’s not that the Democrats wouldn’t necessarily overreach, but rather that Democrats’ sense of fairness and general willingness to follow data to wherever it leads makes them less likely to overreach as badly. That and the fact that it’s past time for the pendulum to swing back toward the left (not just the center-right, as it did under Obama).
But I’ve always concluded that, while the Republicans taking over might sound good in theory, practically speaking it was a very bad idea for a variety of reasons. The Republicans might install a right-wing conservative onto the Supreme Court. They would probably cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare. They likely lower taxes on the rich and raise them on the poor and middle class. They might cut unemployment insurance, food stamps, and housing credits for the poor. They would be more likely to get the US into even more wars and spend even more on an already massively military-industrial complex.
So even though I’ve thought about voting Republican in an attempt to force the country back to the left in the following election cycle, my values wouldn’t let me.
Which brings me to 2017. Donald, who claims to be a Republican, is President. Republicans control the House of Representatives. Republicans also control the Senate. And while I certainly wouldn’t have wished for this to happen, it has. Continue reading →
It engenders anger to know the president of the United States says that what I did for a living for 20 years — and what I’ve spent 25 years teaching — represents the acts of “an enemy of the American People.”
President Donald, titularly “the most powerful man in the world,” will eventually learn not to pick fights with people who buy ink in 55-gallon drums — and have plenty of digital and video ink to spare.
He’s awakened a slumbering watchdog. Recall journalism’s reactions to President Nixon’s overt and covert deceits. The nation’s best newspapers rose to challenge the president — and Nixon lost. Trust in the executive branch withered. Remember, too, the swell of entrants to the nation’s journalism programs (well, after “All the President’s Men” hit the big screen). Will that happen again in President Donald’s first term?
President Donald’s fortunate in the timing of his presidency. The last 20 years have left journalism in a weakened, altered state. Reasons are many — management reacting too late to the challenge of the internet, a decline in interest in the field among the young, and massive losses of revenue prompting executives to pare the workforce of daily print journalists by 20,000 positions, about 39 percent.
Because of what they call “political correctness” (and the normal world calls decency) conservatives have long hidden their true selves. But now, they’re emboldened by the election and thanks to tools like Facebook, we get to see who they truly are.
In January of 1979, the Shah of Iran was deposed by Ayatollah Khomeini. Like all liberal types of the time, I thought that was a great thing. The Shah had been a brutal ruler, overseen an inefficient kleptocracy and been prone to ridiculous personal excess. I seem to remember photos of the Shah at the time always involved lots of gold—gold furniture, gold clothes, etc. I didn’t know much about the Ayatollah, but he had to be better than the Shah, right? Yay freedom!
One day, I found myself in the student lounge with Amir, a quiet exchange student from Iran. Continue reading →
Profiles in Courage: the Straight Talks a Lot of Shit Express is back in town.
Tough-talking Mavericky McMaverickstain is at it again, standing on his lawn and shaking his cane at Der Orangeführer like he just got caught cheating at Mah-Jong over at the home.
Senator John McCain, defending the media against the latest attack by President Donald Trump, warned that suppressing the free press was “how dictators get started”.
The Arizona Republican, a frequent critic of Trump, was responding to a tweet in which Trump accused the media of being “the enemy of the American people”.
“If you want to preserve – I’m very serious now – if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started,” he continued.
“They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power. When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press.
This methodological tour de force is a triumph in honesty, objectivity and good faith. Bigly. You should reply in kind.
I’ll keep this brief. Donald has a poll up asking for your honest opinion on a series of completely fair, unbiased and objective questions about “the media.” The Mainstream Media Accountability Survey asks questions like:
10: Do you believe that the mainstream media does not do their due diligence fact-checking before publishing stories on the Trump administration?
13: Do you believe that political correctness has created biased news coverage on both illegal immigration and radical Islamic terrorism?
Donald doesn’t lose well. I doubt he’ll ignore the role of the media and FBI leaks in Flynn’s resignation
Michael Flynn (image credit: Politico)
Michael Flynn, Donald’s now former National Security Advisor, resigned from his position this evening. In a statement, Flynn said he “misled” Vice-President Pence about a phone call Flynn had with the Russian Ambassador to the United States in which the two discussed having Donald lift sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion and annexation of Crimea.
Flynn’s contacts with Russia had been under investigation by the Justice Department since Donald took office, if not before then, and the fact that Flynn was being investigated had been widely reported in the media. In fact, the Washington Post reported just tonight that the FBI considered Flynn a blackmail risk due to his lying to Pence.