Here's a long excerpt from David Corn's look at Ted Cruz's "Satanic tones" and conservative victimhood:

I don't know about Brooks, but I was besieged on Twitter by conservatives who hurled angry how-dare-you tweets at me. Some accused me of committing a hate crime (the victims: Christians). But this was yet another exercise of false right-wing outrage, and a demonstration of rather poor reading comprehension on the right.

This phony brouhaha was triggered when Newshour host Judy Woodruff asked Brooks and me to evaluate recent developments in the GOP presidential primary. Brooks went first:

Ted Cruz is making headway. There's--you begin to see little signs of liftoff. Trump has sort of ceiling-ed out. Carson is collapsing. And Cruz is somehow beginning to get some momentum from Iowa and elsewhere. And so people are either mimicking him, which Rubio is doing a little by adopting some of the dark and satanic tones that Cruz has, and so--

Woodruff interrupted Brooks at this point to ask about his use of the word "satanic," and Brooks explained:

Well, if you go to a Cruz--if you watch a Cruz speech, it's like, we have got this enemy, we have got that enemy, we're going to stomp on this person, we're going to crush that person, we're going to destroy that person. It is an ugly world in Ted Cruz's world. And it's combative. And it's angry, and it's apocalyptic.

At that point, with this article in mind, I chimed in to point out that Cruz's father, an evangelical pastor who officially campaigns for Cruz, truly does believe and promote satanic conspiracies, claiming in a recent speech that Lucifer was responsible for the Supreme Court's gay-marriage decision:

Well, actually, if you go to a speech from his dad, who is a pastor, evangelical, Rafael Cruz, it actually is satanic. He--I watched a speech in which he said Satan was behind the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage.

"As you can see," explains Corn, "neither one of us called either Cruz 'satanic':'

Brooks did use the word "satanic" to describe Cruz's tone, but he meant that Cruz pitches an apocalyptic message of good versus evil, light versus dark. Which he does. And I then explained that his father, who has been recruiting religious leaders to support his son's campaign, does indeed see political and policy developments he opposes as the handiwork of Satan. That is, the elder Cruz, who routinely resorts to fiery fundamentalist rhetoric, often labels his (and his son's) foes as "satanic," noting that they're being manipulated by the Evil One. Neither Brooks nor I suggested that Ted or Rafael Cruz are serving the Dark Lord.

The points we made were not that hard to understand. Yet conservatives--perhaps driven by their antipathy to the RINO-ish Brooks--quickly tried to manufacture a fake controversy. I wonder if the devil made them do it.

Politico looks at Trump's economic plan:

Many economists say Donald Trump's proposals -- from big import tariffs to mass deportations -- would hurt the very demographic that supports him in the greatest numbers: less educated voters struggling in a tepid U.S. economy.

If Trump policies actually went into effect, these economists say, prices for goods lower-income Americans depend on could soar and a depleted low-end labor force could trigger a major downturn.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics and an adviser to McCain in 2008, bluntly states that "If you force 11 million undocumented immigrants to leave in a year, you would be looking at a depression:"

If 11 million immigrants were rounded up and removed from the country, many of the jobs they do -- including restaurant, hotel and low-end construction work -- could go largely unfilled, economists say. That would create a large and immediate hit to gross domestic product growth and the effects would ripple out to companies that supply goods and services to all those businesses. There would also be 11 million fewer people consuming goods and services, further driving down economic activity.

As far as tariffs go, "Trump is really harkening back to the outdated mercantilist positions of hundreds of years ago."

Judd Legum notes in ThinkProgress' look at Powerball and other lotteries that "The next Powerball drawing, scheduled for Wednesday, will be worth about $1.3 billion to the winner. This is projected to be the biggest lottery payout in the history of the world:"

The odds of winning any lotto jackpot are extremely low. And that means people spend a lot of money without getting much, if anything, back. Players lose an average of 47 cents on the dollar each time they buy a ticket.

And it's those who can least afford to lose any money who are most likely to be buying tickets.

The use of lottery receipts for socially-worthy state goals tends to fail, anyway:

Part of the problem is that lottery revenue tends to be unstable and hard to predict over the long term, while it can only rise so much given that residents can only buy so many tickets. It's also easy for lawmakers to move the money away from priorities like education to anything else, like plugging budget holes.

Lotteries promise the low-income people who make up the biggest portion of ticket buyers that they'll win either through a payout or increased services. But most of the time, neither is true. As one study put it, "lotteries set off a vicious cycle that not only exploits low-income individuals' desires to escape poverty but also directly prevents them from improving upon their financial situations."

culture and suicide

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Chris Hedges writes about the great forgetting, reminding us that "Ignorance and illiteracy come with a cost:"

The obsequious worship of technology, hedonism and power comes with a cost. The primacy of emotion and spectacle over wisdom and rational thought comes with a cost. And we are paying the bill.

The decades-long assault on the arts, the humanities, journalism and civic literacy is largely complete. All the disciplines that once helped us interpret who we were as a people and our place in the world--history, theater, the study of foreign languages, music, journalism, philosophy, literature, religion and the arts--have been corrupted or relegated to the margins. We have surrendered judgment for prejudice. We have created a binary universe of good and evil. And our colossal capacity for violence is unleashed around the globe, as well as on city streets in poor communities, with no more discernment than that of the blinded giant Polyphemus. The marriage of ignorance and force always generates unfathomable evil, an evil that is unseen by perpetrators who mistake their own stupidity and blindness for innocence.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump may be boorish, narcissistic, stupid, racist and elitist, but he does not have Hillary Clinton's carefully honed and chilling amoral artifice. It was she, and an ethically bankrupt liberal establishment, that created the fertile ground for Trump by fleecing the citizens on behalf of corporations and imposing the neoliberal project. If she is elected, Trump may disappear, but another Trump-like figure, probably even more frightening, will be vomited up from our cultural and political sewer.

"There was a time, a few decades ago, when the work and thought of intellectuals and artists mattered," he continues, but today "new independent, brilliant and creative minds...are locked out:"

And this has turned our artistic, cultural and intellectual terrain into a commercialized wasteland. I doubt that a young Bruce Springsteen or a young Patti Smith, or even a young Chomsky, all of whom exhibit the rare quality of never having sold out the marginalized, the working class and the poor, and who are not afraid of speaking truths about our nation that others will not utter, could today break into the corporatized music industry or the corporatized university. Sales, branding and marketing, even in academia, overpower content.

T.S. Eliot warned us in "What Is a Classic?" that, as Hedges paraphrases, "a civilization that did not engage with its greatest artists and intellectual traditions, that did not protect and nurture its artistic and intellectual patrimony, committed suicide." I apologize for the awkward segue, but Aaron Swartz's "Against School" at TNR (an excerpt from his book The Boy Who Could Change the World) dovetails into Eliot and Hedges:

Despite all the talk about educators and education priorities, the most important people in any school have always been businessmen. They constantly complain that our schools our failing, that they need to cut out modern fads and go "back to basics," that unless schools get tougher on students American business will be unable to compete.

As Richard Rothstein [of the Economic Policy Institute] has shown, such claims are hardly new. Because schools have never been about actual education, businessmen have been easily collecting studies about their failure at this task since the very beginning.

He rails against the "cover story" that "schools are about teaching people the things they need to know to survive in the world of business:"

It's not true, of course--there's no connection between the facts memorized in school and the skills needed on the job--but the story is convincing enough.

And so the spread of schools and factories destroys the American model of freedom. Instead of being independent farmers or self-employed manufacturers, Americans are herded into factories en masse, forced to work for someone else because they cannot earn a living any other way. But thanks to schools, this seems normal, even natural. After all, isn't that just the way the world works?

Why should one spend precious off-the-job time becoming educated when intellectualism is so devalued?

In discussing the Obama Boom, Paul Krugman asks, "What did Mr. Obama do that was supposed to kill jobs? Quite a lot, actually:"

He signed the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform, which critics claimed would crush employment by starving businesses of capital. He raised taxes on high incomes, especially at the very top, where average tax rates rose by about six and a half percentage points after 2012, a step that critics claimed would destroy incentives. And he enacted a health reform that went into full effect in 2014, amid claims that it would have catastrophic effects on employment.

Yet none of the dire predicted consequences of these policies have materialized. It's not just that overall job creation in the private sector -- which was what Mr. Obama was supposedly killing -- has been strong. More detailed examinations of labor markets also show no evidence of predicted ill effects. For example, there's no evidence that Obamacare led to a shift from full-time to part-time work, and no evidence that the expansion of Medicaid led to large reductions in labor supply.

So what do we learn from this impressive failure to fail? That the conservative economic orthodoxy dominating the Republican Party is very, very wrong.

His summation is golden:

From a conservative point of view, Mr. Obama did everything wrong, afflicting the comfortable (slightly) and comforting the afflicted (a lot), and nothing bad happened. We can, it turns out, make our society better after all.

lack of leisure

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Constant availability and the strain of always being on-call have negative effects, such as "decreased calmness, mood, and energy levels:"

By looking at industries from technical services to nursing, the study evaluated the effects of being on-call -- that is, not at work, but being expected to remain available by phone for questions or customer requests. Participants answered questions in the evening after an on-call day about how often they thought about work or how constrained their activities felt. The next morning, they were quizzed again to better understand how the previous day's mental requirements affected their mood.

Participants marked lower moods the morning after being on-call compared to mornings after days when they were not required to be available, which the researchers believe occurs because readiness to respond makes it harder to recover from work. The possibility alone impeded recovery from work, as the effects persisted even when no calls came.

"Specifically," the article continues, "this on-call study found the measurement that best accounted for a person's resilience was detachment:"

People who were able to detach from work even while on call were most likely to recoup their energies and avoid effects on mood and cortisol. In lieu of actually reducing work availability, practicing mental detachment from work might be the next best approach.

Today, employees (and employers) feel pressured into responding immediately to communications after hours. [...] Given the present knowledge of stress's long-term effects on our health, we have two options to consider. We can reduce job stress or maximize recovery afterwards. But so long as we are jumping to answer the phone when work calls, there is little chance of either happening.

The study, "Extended Work Availability and Its Relation with Start-of-Day Mood and Cortisol," makes an important point:

The results demonstrate that nonwork hours during which employees are required to remain available for work cannot be considered leisure time because employees' control over their activities is constrained and their recovery from work is restricted.

Glenn Greenwald purports to explain what causes terrorism against the West, and singles out "self-defending jingoistic Westerners who insist that their tribe in no way plays any causal role in what it calls terrorist violence:"

They insist that those who posit a causal link between endless Western violence in the Muslim world and return violence aimed at the West are "infantilizing the terrorists and treating them like children" by suggesting that terrorists lack autonomy and the capacity for choice, and are forced by the West to engage in terrorism. They bizarrely claim [...] that to recognize this causal link is to deny that terrorists have agency and to instead believe that their actions are controlled by the West. One hears this claim constantly.

The claim is absurd: a total reversal of reality and a deliberate distortion of the argument. That some Muslims attack the West in retaliation for Western violence (and external imposition of tyranny) aimed at Muslims is so well-established that it's barely debatable.

He points out that "There's a reason the U.S. and NATO countries are the targets of this type of violence but South Korea, Brazil, and Mexico are not." This is because "U.S. policies -- such as Guantanamo and torture -- were key factors in how Muslims become radicalized against the U.S.:"

Even in those cases where religious extremism rather than anger over Western violence seems to be the primary cause -- such as the Charlie Hebdo murders, done to avenge what the attackers regarded as blasphemous cartoons -- the evidence is clear that the attackers were radicalized by indignation over U.S. atrocities in Iraq, including at Abu Ghraib. Pointing out that Western violence is a key causal factor in anti-Western terrorism is not to say it is the only cause.

But whatever one's views are on that causal question, it's a total mischaracterization to claim that those who recognize a causal connection are denying that terrorists have autonomy or choice. To the contrary, the argument is that they are engaged in a decision-making process -- a very expected and predictable one -- whereby they conclude that violence against the West is justified as a result of Western violence against predominantly Muslim countries. To believe that is not to deny that terrorists possess agency; it's to attribute agency to them.

The whole point of the argument is that they are not forced or compelled or acting out of reflex; the point is that they have decided that the only valid and effective response to Western attacks on and interference in Muslim societies is to attack back.

He concludes by observing that "One can, needless to say, object to the validity of that reasoning. But one cannot deny that the decision to engage in this violence is the reasoning process in action."

"Ignorance is power," writes Tom Sullivan, who goes on to observer that "cultivated ignorance is not uniquely a product of the political right. It just seems to be a major export." [He mentions both Robert Proctor's Agnotology and Charlie Pierce's Idiot America, which I also found to be worthwhile.] He also points out that "Donald Trump is merely a symptom of that ethos and an industry dedicated to propagating doubt:"

It's not an accident that Fox News wants an audience that isn't preoccupied with carefully dissecting complex social, political, economic and religious issues. Critical thinking is perhaps our very best strategy for apprehending the true nature of reality, and as the great comedian Stephen Colbert once declared, "reality has a well-known liberal bias." In other words, critical thinking could lead to liberalism -- or worse, to that most dreaded form of liberal fanaticism called secular progressivism. [...]

It follows from such data that the divide between right and left isn't just about differing social, political, and economic philosophies. It's also about the the [sic] role of the intellect in determining our normative worldviews.

The BBC also mentions Proctor, and that he "create[d] a word for the study of deliberate propagation of ignorance: agnotology:"

It comes from agnosis, the neoclassical Greek word for ignorance or 'not knowing', and ontology, the branch of metaphysics which deals with the nature of being. Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour.

Cornell's David Dunning [of Dunning-Kruger Effect fame] writes that "Donald Trump is the obvious current example in the US, suggesting easy solutions to followers that are either unworkable or unconstitutional." If ignorance were truly bliss, Trump's followers should be ecstatic. Since they tend to be furious, the aphorism appears to be untrue in this case.

freelancers

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Freelance writer Michael Danielson writes that the Right won the Great Recession, using himself as an example. "I've done OK," he admits, "But I'm one of the exceptions"

But on behalf the rest of the freelancers, temps, hustlers, "contingent workers," or whatever ya'll decide to call us, I'd like to share something with those of you who are still in a cubicle farm, those of you who have retired and don't have to worry about a job, and those of you who are in the top X% and think that Americans are making less money because they're lazy. The reality is that the gig economy sucks balls. Big, sweaty Bantha nuts. And it sucks on every level, for every freelancer -- the only winner in the gig economy is Conservative America. Here's why:

1) Gigs Often Pay Less Than Minimum Wage

2) Freelancers Have To Work Their Asses Off Just To Find Their Next Job

"So if you spend half your time looking for a gig, and the time you do spend working, you barely make minimum wage, you have to spend twice as many hours as an entry-level high-school kid to make the same amount of money."

3) 1099 Workers Pay More in Taxes, But Get Less Benefits

4) The People Who Profit From The Gig Economy Are Already Rich

"In the end," he concludes, "being a freelancer means being exactly what the Libertarian/Tea Party/Extremist Republican crazies want you to be:"

"independent" so that they don't have to give you a goddamn thing, "hard-working" so that you'll contribute to the wealth of the owner class by producing value far, far beyond what you're getting paid for, and "responsible" enough to get up and do it again the next day because you know there are people counting on you. (It also means not being exactly what they don't want you to be, which is "valued," "socially connected," and "able to get up the energy to participate in the effort to turn this country around.")

The right wing won the economy when everything collapsed -- 40% of the American workforce working for peanuts while the almighty owner class pockets the extra dollars is, after all, exactly what every conservative economic policy ever is designed to accomplish. And conservatives have the unmitigated gall to keep bitching even though they got exactly what every single one of the ideas they support was aimed at achieving.

He also reminds us that "just by being fully employed, you're already in the top 60% of the American workforce."

Amanda Marcotte examines conservatives and cultural hegemony:

Conservatives love decrying liberals for "political correctness" and "oversensitivity," a particularly poignant form of hypocrisy since liberals could never reach the levels of whininess and hyper-sensitivity to perceived insults that the right wing coughs up daily. Doubly so when it comes to anything that a celebrity says.

Freaking out on celebrities allows conservatives to double down on their sense of victimhood -- not only do they get to feign offense, they also get to wallow in how supposedly unfair it is that the giant liberal media conspiracy is oppressing them by allowing celebrities to say progressive things in public.

"However wrong they may be on nearly everything else," she continues, "conservatives are right to understand that celebrities and entertainment culture go a long way in defining what is mainstream American culture:"

Clearly, conservatives are threatened when celebrities espouse progressive values -- or at least, toss an irreverent jab at conservatives who take themselves way too seriously. And they should be! The ability of conservatives to maintain cultural hegemony is, in fact, threatened when celebrities speak out against them. [...]

That sort of thing can open the door to more questioning and thinking, and give them a path out of their repressive culture. And that's why so many conservatives are dog piling, trying to silence celebrities who do something like this.

low-information loser

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Trump's status as the GOP's "low-information" candidate seems secure:

We have all heard about low-information voters. Well, Donald Trump is a low-information candidate -- as we have seen on a range of issues from his not understanding our military's nuclear triad to his earning Politifact's award for "lie of the year" based on his parade of inaccurate statements made during his campaign.

The latest episode comes in Trump's use of the word "sexism." Trump tweeted over the weekend that Bill Clinton has "demonstrated a penchant for sexism" after Hillary announced Bill would be helping her campaign.

Trump's various tweets alleging sexism versus Bill bring to mind the famous line from the movie "Princess Bride." In that classic comedy, Mandy Patinkin's character challenged another's incorrect use of a word with the statement: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

From his remark about Carly Fiorina: "Look at that face. Would anybody vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!") to his tweet that "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America," Trump embodies GOP sexism. (CNN notes that "Of course, no one is saying that Bill Clinton's past infidelities are off limits. But how are they Hillary's responsibility?") It's just another example of how Republicans are wrong about everything:

In fact, I'd apply that label to all the Republican candidates for 2016, those still in the race and those who have dropped out. This low-information issue is fed by Fox News, which not only doesn't actually present its viewers any "news" but doesn't present them with any facts.

Getting back to Trump, the article continues by pointing out that "he purposely appeals to low-information voters, who revel in ignorance, who celebrate emoting over thinking, hate over love, fear over understanding:"

So let's dispense right here with the idea that there are any moderate, what we would call "sane" Republican candidates. There aren't. They all want to bomb people into the stone age or until the sand glows, put troops on the ground everywhere we can get them, and pay for it by cutting taxes to billionaires and corporations. In other words, repeat the ruination wrought on us by George W. Bush in 2008.
The concluding exhortation is spot-on:
The Republican Party has made politics a celebration of literally knowing nothing about anything, but feeling very strongly about it. And they want to run the country.

America deserves, and must demand better than that.

The Guardian looks at Trump's flip-flop on wages being too high, and cites this recent Tweet:

"Wages in are [sic] country are too low, good jobs are too few, and people have lost faith in our leaders. We need smart and strong leadership now!"

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 28, 2015

Brad DeLong's take on Piketty vs. Piketty observes that "two lines of criticism suggest that Piketty may be wrong, both with respect to the normal characteristics of a capitalist economy and where we may be headed when it comes to inequality."

"The modern champion of the first line of attack," DeLong writes [as mentioned here and here], "is Matthew Rognlie:"

The standard bearer for the second line of criticism is none other than Piketty himself - not in anything he has written, but in how he has behaved since becoming a celebrity and a public intellectual.

Piketty's book encourages a passive response. It portrays the forces favoring the formation of a dominant plutocracy as being so strong that they can be countered only by world wars and global revolutions - and even then, the correction is only temporary.

But Piketty is not behaving like a passive chronicler of unavoidable destiny. He is acting as if he believes that the forces he describes in his book can be resisted. If we look at what Piketty does - rather than what he writes - it seems evident that he believes we can collectively make our own destiny, even if the circumstances are not what he, or we, would choose.

The wealthiest, meanwhile, make their own destiny by saving billions in a private tax system:

Operating largely out of public view -- in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service -- the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government's ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans.

"Two decades ago," the article continues, "the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes:"

By 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually, when payroll taxes are included for both groups.

The ultra-wealthy "literally pay millions of dollars for these services," said Jeffrey A. Winters, a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies economic elites, "and save in the tens or hundreds of millions in taxes."

Here is where the politics gets lopsided. "While Democrats like Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have pledged to raise taxes on these [wealthy] voters," the piece continues, "virtually every Republican has advanced policies that would vastly reduce their tax bills, sometimes to as little as 10 percent of their income:"

At the same time, most Republican candidates favor eliminating the inheritance tax, a move that would allow the new rich, and the old, to bequeath their fortunes intact, solidifyin [sic] the wealth gap far into the future. And several have proposed a substantial reduction -- or even elimination -- in the already deeply discounted tax rates on investment gains, a foundation of the most lucrative tax strategies.

"There's this notion that the wealthy use their money to buy politicians; more accurately, it's that they can buy policy, and specifically, tax policy," said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who served as chief economic adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. "That's why these egregious loopholes exist, and why it's so hard to close them." [...]

"We do have two different tax systems, one for normal wage-earners and another for those who can afford sophisticated tax advice," said Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of San Diego who studies the intersection of tax policy and inequality. "At the very top of the income distribution, the effective rate of tax goes down, contrary to the principles of a progressive income tax system."

20151230-toptaxrates.jpg

The Federalist's Samuel Gregg claims that Tocqueville opposes Sanders and socialism, writing that "perhaps it's time to be attentive to great nineteenth-century French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville's highly critical opinion of socialism." Gregg describes Sanders' socialism and suggests that "it's precisely such 'moderate' versions of socialism that were the primary object of Tocqueville's worries:"

Tocqueville's first reproach was that socialism--whatever its expression--has an inherently materialistic understanding of humans. "The first characteristic of all socialist ideologies is," Tocqueville insisted, "an incessant, vigorous and extreme appeal to the material passions of man." [...]

Second, Tocqueville observed that all forms of socialism are inherently hostile to private property: an institution he considered indispensable for civilization. After explicitly referencing Proudhon's outright anti-property stance, Tocqueville claimed that "all socialists, by more or less roundabout means, if they do not destroy the principle upon which it is based, transform it, diminish it, obstruct it, limit it, and mold it into something completely foreign to what we know and have been familiar with since the beginning of time as private property."

"Here it's worth quoting Tocqueville at length," writes Gregg:

A third and final trait, one which, in my eyes, best describes socialists of all schools and shades, is a profound opposition to personal liberty and scorn for individual reason, a complete contempt for the individual. They unceasingly attempt to mutilate, to curtail, to obstruct personal freedom in any and all ways.

"Tocqueville's assessment of socialism is surely dead-on," he continues:

Even its most sophisticated contemporary advocates believe that governments must assume perhaps indirect but undoubtedly more control of people's lives in the name of essentially materialist conceptions of what matters in life.

Looking through Sanders' speech, one can't help but think he believes that the vast majority of America's economic problems will disappear if more people have more stuff and are less economically unequal. There's very little recognition, for example, in his remarks that poverty has in many cases extra-economic causes, most notably family breakdown, single-parent households, and mental illness. Addressing these issues requires much more than just giving people more material things, and often has little to do with economic inequality. They often require moral, even spiritual solutions.

We all know that there is a hierarchy of needs, but what Gregg ignores is that material needs have primacy. If someone freezes to death in the streets, or starves, or loses a limb due to an untreated infection, those "spiritual solutions" will never get a chance to prove their value.

What, exactly, makes Tocqueville an expert in socialism is a question that Gregg never answers. Another intriguing question is why conservatives treat Tocqueville as an all-purpose wise man, while denigrating the insights of contemporary French writer Thomas Piketty.

Digby's piece on the terrifying fall of Ann Coulter starts with the 1998 to 2005 time period:

She was famous for her cleverness in hating and baiting liberals. And in those heady days of conservative apotheosis, with sex scandals, stolen elections, terrorist attacks, unnecessary wars and liberalism on the run as never before, Coulter was the most deliciously vicious of all the haters.

One example is Coulter's screeching about the "American Taliban:"

"When I said we should 'execute' John Walker Lindh, I mis-spoke. What I meant to say was 'We should burn John Walker Lindh alive and televise it on prime-time network TV'. My apologies for any misunderstanding that might have occurred."

(How the assassination of a conservative religious radical would intimidate liberals was never quite made clear...) Although Coulter's books Slander and Treason were "cited by numerous critics for their many inaccuracies," writes Digby:

She was riding high, perhaps the most famous polemicist of her day, the scourge of liberals everywhere and the fantasy of young conservative men's dreams. And then suddenly, she was nowhere.

After her recent failures--such as being excluded from CPAC in 2015--Digby writes that Coulter "seems to think she's being ignored because of her strong opposition to immigration:"

Her latest screed is called "Adios America: The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country into a Third World Hellhole," and it is predictably horrifying. She appears to have lifted many of her ideas from white nationalists and anti-immigrant extremists and has moved from being a right wing polemicist to openly proselytizing for white supremacy.

New York Magazine's Annie Lowrey "thinks Coulter is pretty much an act that's gone sour in the age of polarization and she may be right:"

But I think it's something else -- she just isn't all that shocking anymore. And the reason is that, after all these years -- through which she and her fellow right-wing bomb throwers have been poisoning the discourse and polluting our politics with the most egregious dehumanization of just about everyone on the planet who doesn't look and sound like them -- nobody is listening anymore.

Today, Ann Coulter is just political white noise. Sure, she'll sell her books to the small group of people who can't get enough of her bilious humor and hatred but her days of being a mainstream pop culture phenomenon are over. Everybody's heard it all before. There's almost a whiff of noxious nostalgia about it now.

H/t to Bisexual Books for quoting desiree-rodriguez:

Another conversation on bisexual representation cropped up today on Gail Simone's (Secret Six, Birds of Prey) twitter feed this morning. Namely that Midnighter...should be biphobic.

The argument was made that biphobia is a real issue many face within the queer community-which is completely true.

As an aside, isn't Midnighter canonically not biphobic? I may be wrong, but hasn't Swift and/or Jenny Sparks been shown as bisexual in their history without biphobic response from their teammate?

I don't know, but might have to investigate. [Note: I did look it up: Sparks and Swift are both bisexual, and had a brief relationship with each other. I didn't have time to research any responses from Midnighter, though.]

This Women Write about Comics piece on Gail Simone, Midnighter, and biphobia is also a worthwhile read:

There is a very obvious need and justified desire to see more prominent bisexual characters and better bisexual representation in our media. If there are those arguing against that, well, they're probably biphobic. But these stories shouldn't be shoehorned into a story simply because it's popular and handled messily within that story. If anything, such a story should be told from the perspective of a bisexual character.

Simone tweeted:

Biphobia and bi-erasure are legitimate topics for covering in a comic, absolutely. https://t.co/E1bRSDrC8j

-- GAIL SIMONE (@GailSimone) November 24, 2015

liars

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Trump critiqued Hillary's truthfulness:

"She lies like crazy about everything, whether it's trips where she was being gunned down in a helicopter or an airplane," Trump said. "She's a liar and everybody knows that."

Trump's remarks about Hillary refer to the Bosnian "sniper fire" incident that I mentioned a few years ago.

Perhaps Trump's memory is better than he gets credit for--though certainly not as good as he touts it as being.

Fox and fascism

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Jeffrey Tayler shows how American Atheists president David Silverman is taking the fight to the enemy--in this case, Bill O'Reilly. Tayler notes that "when the Fox News talk show host referred to him and American Atheists as a 'merry band of fascists,' Silverman came close to - but only close to - losing his cool:"

"Fascists? Fascists? You call me a fascist?"

"Absolutely!" replied O'Reilly, showing no regard for the definition of fascism.

"I am a patriot, sir," fired back Silverman, "who's taking the craziest notion that everybody in this country is equal and that the government has to treat everybody fairly. That's fascism?"

O'Reilly tried to talk over him and misstate Silverman's argument, but Silverman retained his sang-froid and actually out-bullied O'Reilly: "We demand equality from the government and it's our constitutional right and you should be demanding it along with me!"

Tayler makes an observation about Sanders:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, said Silverman, professes to be a non-religious Jew, but holds that his religion is really "'we're all in this together'" which sounds "pretty humanistic." According to Silverman, "He's clearly an atheist."

Trump

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Trump's video footage claim is examined by Mediaite's Tommy Christopher

For two days now, the media has been parsing Trump's claim, which he now supports with an unsourced paragraph in an old Washington Post article that describes "law enforcement authorities" questioning people who were "allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding tailgate-style parties on rooftops."

Christopher reminds is that "in the weeks following the attacks...People were scared shitless, and talking out of their asses:"

For some reason, though, none of the coverage of Trump's remarks has included the footage that Trump was probably talking about, footage that every American either saw or heard about that day and was deeply traumatized by.

"MSNBC also aired similar footage from the West Bank:"

To the Americans who matter to Trump, the resentful Republican base and low-information independents, Trump's conflation of this footage with that unsourced WaPo report will be seen as a forgivable transgression at worst, and at best, something that feels true. [...]

As outrageous as Trump's lies are, I find the media's treatment of them even more of an outrage, because Trump has no duty to serve the public. Apparently, the media doesn't think it does, either, or at least not that segment of the public.

David Badash looks at Trump's claim that he saw 9/11 jumpers from his apartment 4 miles away:

"I watched people jumping off the building" on 9/11, Trump told an Ohio audience Monday night.

"Many people jumped and I witnessed it, I watched that. I have a view - a view in my apartment that was specifically aimed at the World Trade Center."

"And I watched those people jumped and I watched the second plane hit ... I saw the second plane come in and I said, 'Wow that's unbelievable,'" Trump insisted.

Trump's campaign manager Corey Lewandowski claims that "reports of the (nonexistent) celebration do in fact exist and that the Trump campaign provided that material to media outlets which, according to Lewandowski, have refused to air it as part of a massive anti-Trump conspiracy." The allegation of media suppression is addressed by NBC News' Katy Tur:

This was a 20-minute conversation, me asking like a broken record, where did you see this video? Are you sure you didn't conflate video you might have seen in Gaza, Palestinians celebrating after the towers came down? He was adamant, no, he was not conflating the two. He said that he has, and I quote, "the world's best memory," and that everybody knows that.

Trump's braggadocio is far less offensive than his bellicosity. John Amato discusses Trump on waterboarding, and reveals that "Trump finally admitted the truth on why he wants to bring back torture:"

Addressing thousands of people in Columbus, Ohio, the Republican frontrunner praised waterboarding, an interrogation method that has been called torture. "I would approve more than that," he said.

Trump told supporters: "Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would. In a heartbeat. I would approve more than that. It works."

The Republican frontrunner then added "... and if it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway for what they do to us".

Amato concludes with dismay:

There you have it. The bloodlust of the modern GOP is palpable and Donald isn't afraid to preach about the most vile topics to them because the rabid right wing base hates everything and everyone and wants justice for their grievances.

Republican rancor

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Sean Illing's look at political ideology in the age of truthiness points out that "the modern Right, in all its forms, regards the state as the enemy," and notes that "This is arguably the deepest ideological fault line in American politics today."

While trust in government among Republicans has varied widely depending on whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House, Democrats' views have shown far less change.

"The immediate takeaway from this," Illing writes, "is that liberal Democrats are more ideologically coherent than conservative Republicans:"

That is to say, conservatives' view of the government has more to do with partisanship than fundamental principles. Although Democrats tend to trust the government more during Democratic administrations, the difference is negligible compared to Republicans, whose views vary sharply from administration to administration. [...] The following quote sums it up well:"
"In Barack Obama's six years as president, 13% of Republicans, on average, have said they trust the government always or most of the time - the lowest level of average trust among either party during any administration dating back 40 years. During George W. Bush's presidency, an average of 47% of Republicans said they could trust the government. By contrast, the share of Democrats saying they can trust the government has been virtually unchanged over the two administrations (28% percent Bush, 29% Obama)."

The shift in Republican views toward government from Bush to Obama is a reflection of rank partisanship, and nothing else. If Republicans were genuinely concerned about the size of the government or about encroachments upon individual liberty, there would be no reason to trust the Bush administration any more than the Obama administration. The Patriot Act, the massive and illegal global surveillance program, the Wall Street bailout, the torture program, the Iraq War propaganda - all of this occurred during Bush's tenure. On almost every front, Obama has either continued Bush's policies or tried desperately to clean up the mess he left behind.

And yet Republicans were mostly unconcerned about these things until Barack Obama entered the White House. Now they're worried about the size of the state; now they're suspicious of federal power; now they're troubled by the exploding budget; now they want to rein everything in.

The Pew findings confirm that the Republicans, on the whole, aren't animated by consistent principles. They're guided by false narratives and a conservative media invested in their anger. It doesn't matter what Obama does or doesn't do - conservatives will distrust him and virtually any other Democrat no matter what the results of their policies. The facts are largely irrelevant.

Pew's report "Beyond Distrust: How Americans View Their Government" notes that Republicans are not only angrier,

Republicans are nearly three times as likely as Democrats (12%) to say they are angry with the government. And among politically engaged Republicans and Democrats - those who vote frequently and follow politics on a regular basis - the gap is nearly four-to-one (42% to 11%).

but they're also much more partisan:

In Barack Obama's six years as president, 13% of Republicans, on average, have said they can trust the government always or most of the time - the lowest level of average trust among either party during any administration dating back 40 years. During George W. Bush's presidency, an average of 47% of Republicans said they could trust the government. By contrast, the share of Democrats saying they can trust the government has been virtually unchanged over the two administrations (28% Bush, 29% Obama).

stoic vs sophist

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Massimo Pigliucci's stoic versus sophist dinner conversation reminded me of my previous comments on imperviousness to reason. Pigliucci discusses his "invitation to the sophist -- we shall call him Hippias -- to come over and discuss a documentary on the 2008 financial collapse. [...] In terms of arguing, by the end of the evening I figured out what Hippias' modus operandi is, regardless of what the topic of conversation happened to be. It rotates around these points:"

1. Present yourself an an expert on whatever topic, possibly of world class stature 2. Whenever someone brings up facts or opinions from actual experts, deny their expertise and go postmodern: you can't trust anyone because it's all about powers and interests so everyone's lying (except, of course, the sophist himself) 3. In case your interlocutor manages to pin you down with a straightforward question or point, complexify: everything is more complicated than it seems, which somehow means nobody other than the sophist can possibly make a point worth making 4. If someone insists in getting an answer out of you no matter what, pretend you are addressing the point by shifting the discourse onto something that has little or nothing to do with the issue, but that sounds sufficiently close as to be plausible 5. Shift among points #1-4 above, possibly in random order, as the occasion demands

This line from Epictetus is my Quote of the Day:

"Avoid fraternizing with non-philosophers. If you must, though, be careful not to sink to their level; because, you know, if a companion is dirty, his friends cannot help but get a little dirty too, no matter how clean they started out." (Enchiridion 33.6)

Trump

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WaPo looks at Trump and the dancing Muslims:

VIDEO CLIP OF DONALD TRUMP, IN WHICH HE SAYS: "Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering."

TRUMP: "George, it did happen."

STEPHANOPOULOS: "Police say it didn't happen."

TRUMP: "There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. [...] It was well covered at the time, George.

"This exchange demonstrates the folly of trying to fact-check Donald Trump," continues WaPo, noting that "Trump has already earned more Four-Pinocchio ratings than any other candidate this year. He is about to earn another one."

On CNN, Sanders challenged Trump on his lies:

SANDERS: I don't know where Mr. Trump gets his evidence, what he has seen, but I don't think anybody else in America has seen it. And what I get concerned about, Brooke, is this growth of Islamophobia in this country, this desire to win votes by scapegoating a group of people, which is not what America is supposed to be about.

TPM provides more debunking, with one contemporaneous tale of "five young men [who] were stopped by FBI agents while crossing the George Washington Bridge:"

The group had been spotted snapping photos of the burning Twin Towers from the roof of their van by onlookers on the Jersey side of the bridge, who had contacted authorities.

As it turned out, the five men were Israeli Jews who [...] were held for 27 days at Brooklyn's Metropolitan Detention Center before being deported for overstaying their visas.

Once again, the Palestinian video is mentioned as an out for Trump:

Though there appears to be no video record of American Muslims reveling on Sept. 11, 2001, footage taken by Reuters journalists of Palestinians laughing and cheering in the streets of East Jerusalem was widely circulated at the time. Individual Palestinians cheered the attack because the US provides millions in military aid to Israel, which occupies territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Sanders' radicalism

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The radicalism of Bernie Sanders isn't what you think, writes In These Times, because "The brouhaha over Sanders' self-identification as a "democratic socialist" has largely missed what is truly radical about that identity. It's not the socialism:"

Sanders has never used the "S" word with precision--for him, it seems to be simply a shorthand for robust investment in public services and the common good.

That shorthand has proved remarkably useful, allowing him to distinguish himself from liberals and most Democrats, while pointing out that much of what he calls socialism is already deeply embedded in American society in a variety of popular programs and institutions, most notably in public libraries and parks, in the Social Security and Medicare programs, and in various aspects of the military.

"What makes Sanders a radical," the piece continues, is "his fierce commitment to democracy.

"Change never takes place from the top down," he told his audience at the University of Chicago. "It always takes place from the bottom up. It takes place when people by the millions, sometimes over decades and sometimes over centuries, determine that the status quo--the world that they see in front of them--is not the world that should be, and they come together. And sometimes they get arrested. ... And sometimes they die in the struggle. And what human history is about is passing that torch from generation to generation to generation."

In These Times continues:

To believe in democracy is to believe that a broadly engaged electorate, in which power is relatively equally distributed, fosters a society that works better. "If you don't believe in people," Alinsky once told Chicago radio personality and author Studs Terkel in an interview, "then what you have to believe in, of necessity, is a dictatorship, an elitist society, an aristocracy."

the meaning of life

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Atheists find meaning in a purposeless universe in many ways, writes Buzzfeed. Here are some selections from their interviewees:

"The way I find meaning is the way that most people find meaning, even religious ones, which is to get pleasure and significance from your job, from your loved ones, from your avocation, art, literature, music. People like me don't worry about what it's all about in a cosmic sense, because we know it isn't about anything. It's what we make of this transitory existence that matters. (Jerry Coyne)


"To assume there is meaning to the universe is to misunderstand our cosmic insignificance. It's just self-centred and arrogant to think that there might be something that might bestow its secrets upon us if we look hard enough. The universe is indifferent to our existence. [...]

"A meaningless universe does not mean we live our lives without purpose. I'm an atheist (inasmuch as that word means I don't see evidence or the need for supernature), but I try to live my life replete with purpose. Be kind; learn and discover as much as you can; share that knowledge; relieve suffering when you can; have tonnes of fun. That's why it's not pointless. We have the power to create life, and to show those lives wonder. Surely that's enough? It is for me." (Dr Adam Rutherford)


"There is meaning in the universe. My children mean something to me. My husband means something to me. The roses blooming in my garden mean something to me. So, there is meaning in the universe, but it is localised: It perhaps only exists here on Earth. (Gia Milinovich)


"I think there are two things about living in a godless universe that scare some people. First, there is no one watching over them, benevolently guiding their lives. Second, because there is no life after death, it all feels rather bleak.

"Instead of scaring me, I find these two things incredibly liberating. It means that I am free to do as I want; my choices are truly mine. Furthermore, I feel determined to make the most of the years I have left on this planet, and not squander it. The life I live now is not a dress rehearsal for something greater afterwards; it empowers me to focus on the here and now. That is how I find meaning and purpose in what might seem a meaningless and purposeless existence; by concentrating on what I can do, and the differences I can make in the lives of those around me, in the short time that we have." (Dr Buddhini Samarasinghe)


When I'm reading a good book, or eating a good meal, or taking a scenic walk, or enjoying an evening with friends, or having sex, I don't spend the whole time thinking, Oh no! This book won't last forever; this food will be gone soon; my walk will stop; my evening will end! I enjoy the experiences. Although it's stretched out over a (hopefully) much longer time, that's the same way I think about life. We are here, we are alive. We can either choose to end that, or to embrace it and to live for as long as we can, as fully and richly as possible. (Andrew Copson)


"When we reject the imagined supernatural meaning from our existence, what we're left with is far from a consolation prize. Sure, it'll be messy at times, sometimes joyous, sometimes miserable, but it's all we'll ever know. And it's ours. We invent comforting lies to distract us from one simple truth: Oblivion looms. So, what are you going to do about it? (Stephen Knight)


"Often people of faith assume that because atheists don't believe in a master plan or an afterlife we have no purpose in life, but I couldn't disagree more. I find the fact that there is no external force in charge of us all makes the life we do have much more interesting. We get to derive our meaning, and create our own purpose, and that makes it a much richer experience than playing out pre-written scripts for the amusement of an omniscient almighty. That we all just get one life to live means we don't have the safety net of a do-over, and it makes the time that we do have more meaningful to me. [...]

I find meaning in my relationships with friends; I find meaning in music, literature, art, and what they reveal of the minds, lives, and values of the people who created them. I find meaning in the ever-increasing understanding forged by scientists and philosophers. I find meaning in the actions of others, how people choose to interact with the world. (Michael Marshall)


"I find joy in the people I love. I love and I am loved. I find peace in the places I visit. Cry when I listen to music I love and find almost childlike joy in many things. This world is brilliant and full of fascinating things. I have to think carefully for myself. I don't have to believe what I'm told. I must ask questions and I try and use logic and reason to answer them. (Jan Doig)

Are we (conservatives) becoming barbarians?

I keep hearing from other conservatives who tell me that torture is actually the only correct method of interrogation. They claim that our only option is to use severe torture because we are fighting "barbarians." But what they really don't seem to understand is that now we are also the barbarians. So much for their boasts of "American exceptionalism."

The favorite Conservative talking point used to justify and praise torture is their claim that our horrific techniques are what ultimately led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The problem is that this is patently false. As last year's Torture Report shows, our brutal interrogation methods have proved completely ineffective and this favorite Conservative talking point is just an outright lie.

superbugs

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In discussing superbugs, Sarah Zielinski relays her personal experience with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), and tells us that "Experts have warned that we may be headed for a 'post-antibiotic era' in which the drugs no longer work:"

The drugs have been a literal lifesaver for millions of people, contributing to a dramatic increase in lifespan in the past century. A future without them is absolutely terrifying. A bout of strep throat, an ear infection, or even a cut on your finger could be deadly. Medical treatments that now save people--from chemotherapy to transplants to surgery to dialysis--would bring such a risk of infection that it might be too dangerous to perform them. [...]

Bacteria like S. aureus gain resistance to antibiotics because they have the capability to evolve quickly, and any bacteria that withstand the drugs outcompete those that can't. But we are not doomed to an antibiotic-free future, Robert Daum, head of the MRSA Research Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, told me. Staying ahead of evolution requires a three-pronged approach: developing new vaccines against bacteria like S. aureus, developing new antibiotics, and making better use of the ones we have.

Paul Rosenberg is confident that our politics are going to get worse, citing biologist Peter Turkin, who "argues that what we're seeing now represents an unraveling of what makes civilization possible:"

"Cooperation is unraveling at several multiple levels," he said. "First of all there is much less willingness to cooperate between the rulers, and the ruled, you can see that expressed in the declining measures of the public trust, for government, and similar things. But more critical is what's happening to our elites," what's known today as the 1 percent. "The 1 percent are not evil people at all, they're critical," Turkin said. "Complex societies cannot be governed without elites." But they can act in helpful or destructive ways. "When the elite are prosocial, when they're cooperative, the society is governed well; and when the elite eventually become less prosocial, that's when all kinds of troubles happen."

This is arguably the heart of Turkin's approach, what he calls "structural demographic theory," the recognition that inter-elite dynamics are crucial determinants of how well mass societies do, and that they are linked to the population dynamics of the broader society in multiple ways, all of which can be modeled and measured.

Competition is "the subject at the heart of his new book, Ultrasociety:"

"There are two kinds of competition. The internal competition destroys cooperation, but competition between groups, external competition, actually nourishes cooperation," driving it to ever-higher levels. "In that book I actually try and explain how humans evolved to be a highly cooperative species, and what role competition fits into, what role it plays," Turkin said. The book starts with the example of the International Space Station, an effort ultimately involving the cooperation of over a billion people on three continents. "That's at least three orders of magnitude greater than the population base of a Gothic cathedral. Quite a shift, isn't it?" Turkin writes.

nihilism

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Marty Kaplan reminds us that jihadism isn't nihilism:

"Extremist nihilism" is what Barack Obama has called ISIS's ideology. In the second Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton labeled it a "kind of barbarism and nihilism." John Kerry dismissed it as "nothing more than a form of criminal anarchy, nihilism which illegitimately claims an ideological and religious foundation."

This makes it sound like nihilism has nothing to do with religion. But it has everything to do with religion.

Nihilism is a consequence of losing faith. It's a trap door that opens when a divine sanction for morality loses authority. It's a repercussion of the Enlightenment, a cost of learning science, a risk of higher education. Whatever God you once believed in, whatever scripture you once obeyed, whatever story about a realm beyond this one that once bound you to your tribe, nihilism is the stomach-churning corollary of realizing - in the words of the philosopher most closely associated with it, Friedrich Nietzsche - "God is dead."

"Extremist jihadism," he writes, "is a consequence of faith, not a consequence of losing faith." He also points out the irony that "in their minds, we're the nihilists.:"

The sensual pleasure we take in life, they view as a sign of our decadence. Our modernity is a threat to moral order. We are infidels. It is bad enough that we do not believe in the One True God whose name is Allah. Our pluralism - our democratic refusal to embrace the notion that any God is the One True God - is to them evidence of our evil, proof we believe in no God, reason for holy warriors to have us in their sights.

Trump

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George HW "Poppy" Bush threw his shoe at the TV when Trump dissed Dubya's national-security record:

"Trump was saying something outlandish about his sons and George senior threw his shoe at the television," said "a source close to the Bush family:"
"It was when (Trump) was talking about George (W. Bush) not keeping the country safe," we're told.

Trump has been on a roll, including making up some statistics about the racial characteristics of murderers:

On Sunday, the Republican presidential candidate sent out a picture on Twitter that painted a false image of the murder rate in the United States. The figures do not even closely resemble the numbers released annually by the FBI in the Unfiorm Crime Reports (UCR), the most accurate data available.

ThinkProgress calls Trump's stats "racist and wildly inaccurate," and he's also still lying about thousands of New Jersey Muslims cheering on 9/11:

"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down," the Republican presidential candidate said at a Nov. 21 rally in Birmingham, Ala. "And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering." [...]

"It was on television. I saw it," Trump said. [...] I know they don't like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good."

We looked back at the record to see what we could find about American Muslim celebrations in New Jersey on 9/11. While we found widely broadcast video of people in Palestine celebrating, we found no evidence to back up Trump's description of events on American soil.

"We rate this statement Pants on Fire," PolitiFact concludes:

Trump said he "watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering" as the World Trade Center collapsed.

This defies basic logic. If thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence.

Instead, all we found were a couple of news articles that described rumors of celebrations that were either debunked or unproven.

American has never recovered from Reagan, writes Salon, and that's why Sanders is so important:

Of course, capitalists never come out and say that they want the government to get out of their way so that they can take advantage of workers or employ children or contaminate the water supply. They fear-monger about the threat of socialism and claim that as long as the government intervenes with their business, we can never have true freedom.

A young propagandist named Ronald Reagan [see also here] issued such a warning in the early sixties, in opposition to what is seen as the predecessor to Medicare. "Federal programs," Reagan warned, "will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until one day... we will wake to find that we have socialism."

"Sounds familiar," the piece continues:

The two political parties, who for decades have been neoliberal parties serving the interests of the capitalist class first and foremost, seem to be moving further apart. Since the ISIS attacks on Paris, some Republicans have started to sound increasingly like their fascist forbearers, while also talking about the importance of freedom. But the only candidate who offers the real freedom that so many great Americans have advocated in the past, it seems, is Bernie Sanders.

sarcasm's benefits

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Francesca Gino explains the surprising benefits of sarcasm, particularly "greater creativity:"

The use of sarcasm, in fact, promotes creativity for those on both the giving and receiving end of sarcastic exchanges. Instead of avoiding sarcasm completely in the office, the research suggests sarcasm, used with care and in moderation, can be effectively used and trigger some creative sparks.

Sarcasm involves constructing or exposing contradictions between intended meanings. The most common form of verbal irony, sarcasm is often used to humorously convey thinly veiled disapproval or scorn.

"Why might sarcasm enhance creativity?" she wonders:

Because the brain must think creatively to understand or convey a sarcastic comment, sarcasm may lead to clearer and more creative thinking. To either create or understand sarcasm, tone must overcome the contradiction between the literal and actual meanings of the sarcastic expressions. This is a process that activates, and is facilitated by, abstraction, which in turn promotes creative thinking. [...]

Given the risks and benefits of sarcasm, your best bet is to keep salty remarks limited to conversations with those you know well, lest you offend others--even as you potentially help them think more creatively.

As if I'm going to believe that!

The spread of drug-resistant bacteria is worsening:

Widespread E-coli bacteria that cannot be killed with the antiobiotic drug of last resort -- colistin -- have been found in samples taken from farm pigs, meat products, and a small number of patients in south China, including bacterial strains with epidemic potential...

Professor Timothy Walsh of the Cardiff University School of Medicine writes with alarm that "The rapid spread of similar antibiotic-resistant genes such as NDM-1 suggests that all antibiotics will soon be futile in the face of previously treatable gram-negative bacterial infections such as E.coli and salmonella:"

"We now have evidence to suggest that MCR-1-positive E.coli has spread beyond China, to Laos and Malaysia, which is deeply concerning. [...] MCR-1 is likely to spread to the rest of the world at an alarming rate unless we take a globally coordinated approach to combat it. In the absence of new antibiotics against resistant gram-negative pathogens, the effect on human health posed by this new gene cannot be underestimated."

The Guardian comments that MCR-1 "allows a range of common bacteria, including E coli, to become resistant to the last fully functional class of antibiotics, the polymyxins:"

David Paterson and Patrick Harris from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, writing a commentary in the journal, say the use of colistin in agriculture must be limited or stopped altogether. "This will require substantial political will and we call upon Chinese leaders to act rapidly and decisively. Failure to do so will create a public health problem of major dimensions," they write.

The piece quotes Professor Nigel Brown, president of the Microbiology Society:

"Now that it has been demonstrated that resistance can be transferred between bacteria and across bacterial species, another line of defence against infection is in danger of being breached. We need careful surveillance to track the potential global spread of this resistance, and investment in research to discover new drugs with different modes of action."

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