AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld writes that some Trump Electors were illegitimately seated in the Electoral College:

More than 50 Electoral College members who voted for Donald Trump were ineligible to serve as presidential electors because they did not live in the congressional districts they represented or held elective office in states legally barring dual officeholders.

That stunning finding is among the conclusions of an extensive 1,000-plus page legal briefing prepared by a bipartisan nationwide legal team for members of Congress who are being urged to object to certifying the 2016 Electoral College results on Friday.

Americans Take Action's Ryan Clayton says that "Trump's ascension to the presidency is completely illegitimate:"

"It's not just Russians hacking our democracy. It's not just voter suppression at unprecedented levels. It is also [that] there are Republicans illegally casting ballots in the Electoral College, and in a sufficient number that the results of the Electoral College proceedings are illegitimate as well."

It smacks of desperation with only two weeks until Inauguration Day, but he seems undeterred:

"We have a list of 50 illegal electors," Clayton said. "That puts Donald Trump below the threshold that he needs to be elected president. Let's debate it in an open session. According to the Constitution, the Congress, if nobody wins on the first round of balloting, picks from the top three candidates. That will be Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Colin Powell."

Senate Dems won't challenge the EC, though:

The activists said several House members were willing to sponsor a formal challenge--as Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, D-OH, did in 2005, then opposing ratification of Ohio's 2004 Electoral College votes. [...]

Notwithstanding any last minute changes of heart or courageous impulses, it's not likely Democrats will make a parallel high-profile stance protesting Trump's election.

BigThink recommends that you get off Facebook:

The big issue with Facebook use is that it offers endless opportunities for social comparison. It turns out that seeing countless exotic vacation photos and reading about the career accomplishments of your friends and acquaintances may make you feel worse about your current status.

Additionally, "The average American Facebook user spends around 50 minutes a day on Facebook:"

That's a significant amount of time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person spends 4 minutes a day on social events, 17 minutes exercising, and 19 minutes reading.

JFC, what a time sink! 300 hours a year?! That's nearly two months of 40-hour work weeks!

The study ("The Facebook Experiment: Quitting Facebook Leads to Higher Levels of Well-Being") points out that "provides causal evidence that Facebook use affects our well-being negatively " as well as the fact that "Most people use Facebook on a daily basis; few are aware of the consequences:"

By comparing the treatment group (participants who took a break from Facebook) with the control group (participants who kept using Facebook), it was demonstrated that taking a break from Facebook has positive effects on the two dimensions of well-being: our life satisfaction increases and our emotions become more positive. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that these effects were significantly greater for heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook.

The study noted that "two out of three 3 Danish Internet users had an account on Facebook in 2015," and summarized the sample as "86 percent women, geographically residing throughout the country, with an average age of 34 years (SD = 8.74), having an average of 350 Facebook friends and spending a bit over an hour on Facebook daily." The authors then consider the effects of "Millions of hours are spent on Facebook each day:"

We are surely better connected now than ever before, but is this new connectedness doing any good to our well-being? According to the present study, the answer is no. In fact, the predominant uses of Facebook--that is, as a means to communicate, gain information about others, and as habitual pastime--are affecting our well-being negatively on several dimensions. First, the present study provides causal evidence that quitting Facebook leads to higher levels of both cognitive and affective well-being.

The caveat is chilling:

The effects presented in this article were generated after just 1 week of absence from a single social network. Future studies should investigate the effects of quitting Facebook for longer periods of time to test if the effects are permanent.

H/t to Taegan Goddard for linking to Factbase's work in compiling Trump's tweets, speeches, and policies into a nearly 2.5-million-word searchable word salad. They have plans for the future, which should be interesting:

"We are testing this concept right now with the President-elect, though we plan to expand to cover other world leaders and people of note."

obstructionism

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MSNBC's Steve Benen looks at McConnell's obstructionism about-face:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Rachel on the show this week that he's "absolutely" prepared to hold open the Supreme Court's vacancy, agreeing that Republicans effectively "stole" a high-court seat with their partisan blockade last year. [...] The comments did not escape the attention of his Republican counterpart.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed a pledge from his Democratic counterpart to block President-elect Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, insisting "the American people simply will not tolerate" such a move. [...]

"Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all," McConnell said, adding: "I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate, and we'll be looking forward to receiving a Supreme Court nomination and moving forward on it."

Benen remarks that "if there's one thing the 2016 elections made abundantly clear, it's that most of the public couldn't care less about Supreme Court obstructionism:"

Senate Republicans, for 11 months, refused to even consider a moderate, compromise nominee - and GOP senators had little trouble keeping their majority.

His analysis is quite even-handed:

I've spent a fair amount of time looking for someone - in either party - who's been consistently principled on this, regardless of which party was in control at the time. I've never been able to find such an individual. There's plenty of hypocrisy to go around.

Queerty's look at conservative college students quotes Ben [a pseudonym], "a first-year student at Brandeis University:"

"I think it's a shame," he says. "A lot of people have negative preconceived notions about conservatives...we're intolerant, racist, homophobic."

"Gee, we can't imagine why," snarks Queerty:

After all, it's not like conservatives nominated (and elected) a man endorsed by the KKK and his stridently antigay running mate to the highest office in the land or anything. Oh, wait.

The observation that "Many conservatives on New England's campuses are feeling more marginalized and alienated than ever before" prompts this reaction:

Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the crap LGBTQ people and other minorities have had to put up with since, well, forever.

Ben comes from Chris Sweeney's Boston Magazine rant about how liberal professors are ruining college. "Exploring his conservative viewpoints," the piece notes, "is proving difficult to do on campus [which] makes Ben feel like an outsider:"

The way he sees it, coming out politically a step to the right is the fastest route to social isolation on campus and the surest way to invite ridicule from his professors. So he bites his tongue in class and retreats to his dorm room to read and listen to conservative commentary alone. "I think it's a shame," he tells me. "A lot of people have negative preconceived notions about conservatives...we're intolerant, racist, homophobic."

Sweeney writes that "Last spring, Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York, decided to run the numbers" on professorial political leanings:

From the start, he certainly expected liberal professors to outnumber conservatives, but his data--25 years' worth of statistics from the Higher Education Research Institute--told a far more startling tale: In the South and throughout the Great Plains, the ratio of liberal to conservative professors hovered around 3 to 1. On the liberal left coast, the ratio was 6 to 1. And then there was New England--which looked like William F. Buckley's worst nightmare--standing at 28 to 1. "It astonished me," says Abrams, whose research revealed that conservative professors weren't just rare; they were being pushed to the edge of extinction.

"At first," Sweeney writes, "even Abrams had a hard time believing the 28-to-1 ratio was accurate:"

He checked and rechecked his work, accounting for every variable he could think of--tenured versus untenured professors, age, income, type of college, the selectivity of the college, which departments the professors belonged to. Time and again, though, the results showed that geography was among the strongest determining factors when it came to the political diversity of professors. After Abrams took his findings public in the New York Times, academics were floored.

The NYT piece asks:

Why are New England professors so far left compared with the rest of the nation? That's a question for further research. My intuition is that inertia and history play a huge role here. Regions have traditions and cultures that can have powerful influences on thought.

"So how did our colleges and universities become such a liberal monoculture," one might ask, "and why is it so pronounced in New England?"

To this end, Abrams's research has fueled ample criticisms and theories. Nobel laureate and Times columnist Paul Krugman has argued that professors actually haven't become more liberal, but rather that the meaning of conservatism has changed and the Fox-ification and now Trump-ification of the Republican Party has pushed highly educated members of the right over to the left. Others contend that it's solely because conservatives don't go into academia. There is also the argument that political identities are social constructs that are far too complex and fickle to capture in a simple survey, as well as evidence indicating that the more highly educated a person is, the more liberal he or she tends to be.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

Chris Mooney analyzes NOAA and the global-warming "pause" by looking at what might be "the most controversial climate change study in years:"

...the 2015 paper, led by NOAA's Thomas Karl, employed an update to the agency's influential temperature dataset, and in particular to its record of the planet's ocean temperatures, to suggest that really, the recent period was perfectly consistent with the much longer warming trend.

This consistency has drawn fire by way of "a congressional subpoena from Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Committee on Science:"

That controversy is likely to be stirred anew in the wake of a new study, published Wednesday in Science Advances, that finds the NOAA scientists did the right thing in adjusting their dataset. In particular, the new research suggests that the NOAA scientists correctly adjusted their record of ocean temperatures in light of known biases in some observing systems -- and indeed, that keepers of other top global temperature datasets should do likewise.

"We pretty robustly showed that NOAA got it right," said study author Zeke Hausfather, a Ph.D. student at the University of California-Berkeley and a researcher with Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit consortium that has reanalyzed the Earth's temperatures. "There was no cooking of the books, there's no politically motivated twisting of the data."

In comparing data collected from ships versus that from buoys:

So to better patch together a long term temperature record necessarily reliant on both data sources, NOAA used a "bias correction" to take this into account, and more generally gave greater weight to the buoy data, in updating its dataset.

This highly technical switch, in turn, had the effect of increasing the overall warming of the oceans in the new dataset -- and helping to wipe out claims that there'd been any recent slowdown in the rate of climate change.

Aeon's look at existentialism and parenthood by philosophy professors Clancy Martin and John Kaag begins with the statement that "male philosophers are notoriously bad fathers:"

Of course, there are exceptions, but think of Socrates shooing his family away in his final moments so that he can have alone time with his philosophical buddies, or, even worse, Jean-Jacques Rousseau writing Emile (1762), a tract about raising kids, while abandoning his own. Instead of being bad parents, many of the titans of European existentialism - Friedrich Nietzsche, Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre - remained childless.

They suggest that we consider Sartre's comment that we are 'condemned to be free' and "pretend that an existentialist, after careful consideration or random accident, becomes a father:"

According to his essay Anti-Semite and Jew (1946), the core of existential freedom is what Sartre terms 'authenticity', the courage to have 'a true and lucid consciousness of the situation, in assuming the responsibilities and risks it involves, in accepting it in pride or humiliation, sometimes in horror and hate'.

Here is what a 'true and lucid consciousness of the situation' of fatherhood might resemble: you watch wide-eyed as your beloved pushes a stranger out of a bodily orifice that seems altogether too small for the labour; when the gore is cleaned up, the stranger becomes your most intimate companion and life-long dependent; existence, from that day forward, is structured around this dependency; and then, if everything goes well, the child will grow up to no longer need you. At the end of the existential day, your tenure as a father will end in one of two ways: either your child will die or you will. As Kierkegaard writes in Either/Or (1843): 'You will regret both.'

"Most parents," they continue, "will want to gloss over the difficulties of parenting and concentrate on its many joys:"

Existentialists, however, suggest that such optimism is often a form of 'bad faith': it is a way of masking the freedom that underpins parenting and being a child. When a parent emphasises only what 'fits' into his conception of being a father, or being a child, rather than attending to the specific nuances of day-to-day interaction, existentialists, such as Sartre, would sound the alarm. Life with children is chaos at best. Things slip through the cracks. Daughters fall off jungle gyms. Sons run away. It happens, and not always to someone else's children. If a man presumes that fatherhood is going to go perfectly smoothly, he is either going to be upset or self-deceived.

"In the words of Albert Camus," they conclude, "our efforts in life, pitted against the indifference of the world, often resemble the frustrations of Sisyphus, who is fated to push his boulder up an endless mountain."

Siddhartha Mukherjee explains at Nautilus why sex is binary, but gender is a spectrum:

In 1955, Gerald Swyer, an English endocrinologist investigating female infertility, had discovered a rare syndrome that made humans biologically female but chromosomally male. "Women" born with "Swyer syndrome" were anatomically and physiologically female throughout childhood, but did not achieve female sexual maturity in early adulthood. [...]

In 2005, a team of researchers at Columbia University validated these case reports in a longitudinal study of "genetic males"--i.e., children born with XY chromosomes--who had been assigned to female gender at birth, typically because of the inadequate anatomical development of their genitals. Some of the cases were not as anguished as David Reimer's or C's--but an overwhelming number of males assigned to female gender roles reported experiencing moderate to severe gender dysphoria during childhood. Many had suffered anxiety, depression, and confusion. Many had voluntarily changed genders back to male upon adolescence and adulthood. Most notably, when "genetic males" born with ambiguous genitals were brought up as boys, not girls, not a single case of gender dysphoria or gender change in adulthood was reported.

"The hierarchical organization of this genetic cascade," Mukherjee writes, "illustrates a crucial principle about the link between genes and environments in general:"

At the bottom of the network, in contrast, a purely genetic view fails to perform; it does not provide a particularly sophisticated understanding of gender or its identity. Here, in the estuarine plains of crisscrossing information, history, society, and culture collide and intersect with genetics, like tides. Some waves cancel each other, while others reinforce each other. No force is particularly strong--but their combined effect produces the unique and rippled landscape that we call an individual's identity.

Based on this excerpt, Mukherjee's book The Gene: An Intimate History sounds intriguing.

Trump's lies about Obamacare have largely gotten a free pass from the media, writes Politicus USA:

Media Matters for America provided 10 facts reporters should mention when they cover Obamacare, and none of them will be mentioned by Donald Trump or congressional Republicans, or indeed, by the mainstream media:

1. Passage Of The ACA Has Resulted In The Lowest Uninsured Rate In Recent History 2. The ACA Medicaid Expansion Provided Health Care Access For Millions Of The Most Vulnerable Americans 3. The ACA Tangibly Improved Women's Health Care Coverage 4. The ACA Helped America Take Huge Steps Toward LGBTQ Equality 5. Contrary To Popular Belief, The ACA Extended The Solvency Of Medicare By Over 10 Years 6. The ACA Reduced The Budget Deficit, Reined In Medical Costs, And Reduced Economic Inequality 7. The ACA Improved Health Care Access For Minority Communities. 8. The ACA Banned Discrimination Against Those With Pre-Existing Conditions 9. The ACA Provided Crucial Insurance To Young Adults 10. The ACA Resulted In The Biggest Expansion Of Mental Health Care Services In Decades

"These are just plain facts," Politicus writes, "and they are beyond dispute:"

Donald Trump made opposition to Obamacare central to his campaign, but as usual, his attacks are lacking a factual basis. When Donald Trump speaks of "poor coverage," it needs to be remembered that we're talking about an additional 20 million + who have coverage and didn't have it before.

Additionally, the media "overwhelmingly failed to ask any substantive questions about Trump's health care policies or the consequences of repealing the ACA," and "virtually ignored Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's resurrection of his Medicare privatization scheme:"

While cable and broadcast news tended to avoid robust discussions of the impact of health care policy, right-wing media filled the void with rampant misinformation. Since the ACA passed in 2010, conservative news outlets have consistently attacked the health law with complete fictions, claiming it will explode the budget, create death panels, bankrupt Medicare, end in a "death spiral," and facilitate a government takeover of the health care system.

Today, media outlets regularly provide Trump surrogates with free airtime to push misinformation and avoid substantive discussion.

five major shifts

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Tom Engelhardt discusses exceptionalism and writes that, on election night, "I simply couldn't accept that Donald Trump had won. Not him. Not in this country. Not possible. Not in a million years."

Mind you, during the campaign I had written about Trump repeatedly, always leaving open the possibility that, in the disturbed (and disturbing) America of 2016, he could indeed beat Hillary Clinton. That was a conclusion I lost when, in the final few weeks of the campaign, like so many others, I got hooked on the polls and the pundits who went with them. (Doh!)

In the wake of the election, however, it wasn't shock based on pollsters' errors that got to me. It was something else that only slowly dawned on me. Somewhere deep inside, I simply didn't believe that, of all countries on this planet, the United States could elect a narcissistic, celeb billionaire who was also, in the style of Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, a right-wing "populist" and incipient autocrat.

"So how did it happen here?" he asks. His answer identifies "at least five major shifts in American life and politics [that] helped lay the groundwork for the rise of Trumpism:"

* The Coming of a 1% Economy and the 1% Politics That Goes With It,

Without the arrival of casino capitalism on a massive scale (at which The Donald himself proved something of a bust), Trumpism would have been inconceivable. And if, in its Citizens United decision of 2010, the Supreme Court hadn't thrown open the political doors quite so welcomingly to that 1% crew, how likely was it that a billionaire celebrity would have run for president or become a favorite among the white working class?

* The Coming of Permanent War and an Ever More Militarized State and Society,

It's no coincidence that Trump and his generals are eager to pump up a supposedly "depleted" U.S. military with yet more funds or, given the history of these years, that he appointed so many retired generals from our losing wars to key "civilian" positions atop that military and the national security state. As with his billionaires, in a decisive fashion, Trump is stamping the real face of twenty-first-century America on Washington.

* The Rise of the National Security State,

* The Coming of the One-Party State, and

After all, the Republicans already control the House of Representatives (in more or less perpetuity, thanks to gerrymandering), the Senate, the White House, and assumedly in the years to come the Supreme Court. They also control a record 33 out of 50 governorships, have tied a record by taking 68 out of the 98 state legislative chambers, and have broken another by gaining control of 33 out of 50 full legislatures. [...] In many ways, the incipient collapse of the two-party system in a flood of 1% money cleared the path for Trump's victory.

* The Coming of the New Media Moment:

It may have seemed that Trump inaugurated our new media moment by becoming the first meister-elect of tweet and the shout-out master of that universe, but in reality he merely grasped the nature of our new, chaotic media moment and ran with it.

"Let's add a final point to the other five," he concludes:

Donald Trump will inherit a country that has been hollowed out by the new realities that made him a success and allowed him to sweep to what, to many experts, looked like an improbable victory.

Trump and tax cuts

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Steven Rattner's 2016 in charts piece notes "the strong economy that President Obama will be leaving him:"

Unemployment is down to 4.6 percent, the lowest since August 2007 and a stunning decline from the 7.8 percent when Mr. Obama took office. The economy has expanded by nearly 15 percent (adjusted for inflation), the stock market has nearly tripled, auto sales have notched records, the federal deficit has been cut by more than half and house prices nationally are above past peaks. Even real median incomes ended marginally higher.

20170104-obamahighnote.jpg

Rattner says this of Trump's tax-cut plan:

It includes a $6 trillion tax reduction over the next decade, vastly tilted toward business and the wealthy. An estimated 83 percent of the benefits would go to the top 20 percent of Americans and 51 percent to the top 1 percent by 2025. A middle-class taxpayer would receive an average tax benefit of $1,090; a typical member of the top 1 percent would get $317,100.

These huge tax giveaways -- along with Mr. Trump's promises to increase infrastructure spending and not touch Social Security and Medicare -- would blow up the deficit and add $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years over and above current projections. That's made particularly ironic by Mr. Trump's claim in a Washington Post interview that he would eliminate our current $19 trillion of debt over eight years through better trade deals and economic growth. [emphasis added]

Here's another chart, an indication of the fiscal damage that Trump intends to wreak:

20170104-trumptaxcuts.jpg

motion to impeach

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Digby asks, does impeachment begin now?

After a huge public outcry this week, even Trump questioned the timing of the new Congress' first initiative, which was to roll back certain ethics procedures. (He wasn't actually against the rollback, just thought it was premature.) There are also some encouraging signs that repealing the Affordable Care Act may not be quite as easy as Republicans had hoped, which could tangle them up with their followers all over again. If they can be similarly stopped or slowed from enacting the rest of their agenda, we might just get through this thing.

She also observes that "As long as congressional Republicans let him strut around taking credit for 'getting things done,' he'll be happy to sign anything they put in front of him:"

So what are Democrats to do with this? It's already going to be an overwhelming task to fight off Trump's worst nominees, battle back legislation that's coming from 20 different directions and expose the mountain of scandals that are quickly piling up. The Trump train wreck is already creating a chain reaction of one explosion after an other.

"Robert Kuttner wrote this provocative piece for the Huffington Post," notes digby, "advocating for a group of experts, preferably bipartisan, to begin seriously putting together the case for impeachment:"

Some people are reflexively opposed to making such a strong statement so early in the administration. But Trump is already committing impeachable offenses, and dealing with someone like this requires being well prepared to take advantage of any openings to stop him.

Along those lines, Doug Rossinow examines leftists and liberals in the political heartland and discusses "left-liberal relations in American politics:"

The World War II and Baby Boomer generations came to see these political entities as inherently discordant. Yet many today lament that, in theory, liberals and leftists ought to work for broad, common goals; otherwise no one would think that Ralph Nader's voters in 2000, or Jill Stein's in 2016, should have voted for the Democrat. We seem caught between obsolete models of progressive politics and a yearning for a progressive solidarity that is closer to fulfillment than we may realize.

"The left," Rossinow says, "has returned to prominence after an era in the wilderness of American politics:"

Today, opposition to war, capitalist exploitation, and white supremacy cut across both liberalism and the left. Now the left is often called progressivism, a notoriously ambiguous term. Much of it has reappeared inside the Democratic Party--a development overlooked by those who equate the left with minor parties or anti-systemic organizing. We have Bush and Sanders to thank for this reinvigoration of leftist politics inside the party system. [...]

Now President Trump looms. The coming years will offer plenty of fronts on which liberals and leftists may collaborate if they can manage it. Both groups may call themselves progressives, and for many--especially millennials--the old, rigid, Cold War-era distinction between liberal and left politics may fade. Leftist elements certainly won't pledge undying loyalty to the Democratic Party, but the basic political fact is that today's progressive politics, whether it succeeds or fails in securing its objectives, is already taking shape in that party and around its edges.

Mike LaBossiere's Trump and the return of Sophism looks at Trump mouthpiece Scottie Nell Hughes' take on truth from The Diane Rehm Show:

And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch, is that people that say facts are facts--they're not really facts. Everybody has a way--it's kind of like looking at ratings, or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth, or not truth. There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.

"Since the idea that there are no facts seems so ridiculously absurd," LaBossiere comments, "the principle of charity demands that some alternative explanation be provided for Hughes' claim:"

If Hughes takes the truth to be relative to the groups (divided by their feelings towards Trump), then she is a relativist. In this case, each group has its own truth that is made true by the belief of the group. If she holds truth to be dependent on the individual, then she would be a subjectivist. In this case, each person has her own truth, but she might happen to have a truth that others also accept.

This is something that "Trump showed with great effect. He simply accuses those who disagree with him of being liars and many believe him:"

I have no idea whether Trump has a theory of truth or not, but his approach is utterly consistent with sophism and the view expressed by Hughes. It would also explain why Trump does not bother with research or evidence--these assume there is a truth that can be found and supported. But if there is no objective truth and only success matters, then there is no reason not to say anything that leads to success.

538 says that fact-checking won't save us from fake news, and Brooke Borel (author of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking) notes the following:

Fact-checking politicians' statements or articles after they've published -- a close relative of the type of fact-checking that goes on behind the scenes in journalism -- has been instrumental in holding politicians accountable. I know what fact-checking can do, and how important it is. But to combat fake news, it's simply not enough.

I'm as distressed as any journalist is to watch fake news spread, even as available facts can disprove it. But if facts don't matter, what does? The history of news -- and the power structures that control its spread and consumption -- may offer clues on how to wrangle fake news in a way that fact-checking alone can't.

Step one is to consider that fake news may be a fight not over truth, but power, according to Mike Ananny, a media scholar at the University of Southern California.

She asks, "So how can we strip power from fake news? How do we prevent the next Pizzagate?" Andrew Pettegree, a history professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland suggests that media outlets' efforts "to debunk fake news [...] won't work, particularly for readers who have already decided that the traditional press is fake news -- and, fair or not, partisan." He suggests that "the news should stop trying so hard to entertain:"

Political reporting could improve by refusing to force false balance -- an attempt at impartiality and objectivity that can backfire. Science reporters have known this for a long time: Stories about vaccines or climate change shouldn't give equal space to deniers who think that vaccines cause autism or that climate change is a hoax.

Eliminating their false equivalency and bothsiderism would indeed be a substantial improvement.

Rachel M. Cohen looks at Trump's war on public schools and observes that "The next few years may well bring about radical change to education:"

During a March primary debate, Trump said charters were "terrific" and affirmed they "work and they work very well." A few months later he traveled to a low-performing for-profit charter school in Cleveland to say he'd invest $20 billion in federal money to expand charters and private-school vouchers as president. His campaign has not outlined where the money would come from, but suggests it will be accomplished by "reprioritizing existing federal dollars."

Mike Pence, notes Cohen, "worked vigorously to expand charter schools and vouchers while serving as Indiana's governor."

Today, more than 30,000 Indiana students--including middle-class students--attend private and parochial schools with public funds, making it the largest single voucher program in the country. Pence also helped double the number of charter schools in his state; he increased their funding and gave charter operators access to low-interest state loans for facilities.

"The new backlash from conservatives against testing and the Common Core should not be interpreted as a rejection of a federal role," she continues, "The right loves it when Washington intervenes--if it serves the right's purposes:"

While there are limits to what Trump and DeVos could do to end the Common Core standards (they are state standards, after all), Trump's executive bully pulpit could certainly help embolden Common Core opponents on the local level.

Also notable is the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association effort to "overturn a 40-year-old ruling that required public employees represented by a union to pay fees to cover the union's bargaining and representation costs:"

Now that the Republican Senate has refused to hold a vote on Obama's appointment of Judge Merrick Garland, Trump will nominate a conservative Scalia successor to the Court. With a number of Friedrichs look-alike cases headed to the Supreme Court, it's a near certainty that a reconstituted majority of five conservative justices will strike down agency fees, which could considerably reduce the resources available to the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association--two of the nation's largest unions. Were that not trouble enough, the massive support that the AFT and NEA gave to Hillary Clinton's campaign is not likely to endear them to a president with a well-known penchant for revenge.
That's not all the damage he could do, though:
Conservatives have also proposed rolling back Obama administration reforms that federalized all new student loans and applied stricter regulations, particularly to for-profit institutions. If President Trump does ultimately re-privatize student loans, consumer protections would likely disappear, and the cost of borrowing would rise.

University leaders are also worrying about what a Trump administration could mean for research funding. The government is likely to cut back on investments on budgetary grounds, but also on ideological grounds, since universities tend to be seen as liberal enclaves.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, says bluntly that "If Donald Trump opts for privatization, destabilization, and austerity over supporting public education and the will of the people," she says, "well, there will be a huge fight."

The Advocate's report on straight men and gay porn by Brenden Shucart discusses a new study ("Sexually Explicit Media Use by Sexual Identity: A Comparative Analysis of Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men in the United States" in Archives of Sexual Behavior) showing that "55 percent of gay men watch straight porn, and 21 percent of straight men watch gay porn:"

So what gives? It's no giant leap to hypothesize why gay men might enjoy watching straight porn: to watch straight guys. But when one out of five self-identified straight men reports watching gay porn, it prompts the further question: Are these men really straight, or are they down-low/straight-identified bisexual men?

Dr. Martin J. Downing, the study's lead researcher, "sees this 'identity discrepant viewing' as 'some level of evidence' of fluidity in sexual attraction, at least in terms of what people are watching." Interestingly, the piece continues, "bisexual men displayed porn-viewing habits that were quite distinct from those of their homo and hetero peers:"

Bi men reported watching guy-on-guy porn just as much as gay men do, and they consumed heterosexual porn (one male/one female) almost as much as heterosexual men. They also reported watching a significant amount of "bisexual porn" that has either two men and one woman or two women and one man. According to Downing, bisexual men aren't "watered down gays or heterosexuals."

"[Bisexual men] are more like heterosexual men in some things, and more like gay men in other things, but that's a reflection of their own unique attractions. They're not identical to either group in terms of their porn viewing, which I think is really interesting for understanding bisexuality."

Indeed. Shucart summarizes the study as follows:

There are a few takeaways from this study: Our porn consumption is more eclectic than previously suspected, and bisexual men are distinct from their straight and gay brothers in their pornographic habits and inclinations. Though not the study's focus, this further suggests that bisexuality isn't simply a way station on the road to being gay; bisexuals are bisexual.

This study is further proof of bisexuals' validity within the LGBT community--as if more were actually needed.

Derek Parfit

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Vox eulogizes philosopher Derek Parfit:

Derek Parfit, who died at age 74 on Sunday evening, was not the most famous philosopher in the world. But he was among the most brilliant, and his papers and books have had a profound, incalculably vast impact on the study of moral philosophy over the past half century.

"Parfit was not a prolific author," the piece observes:

...he tended to write his books over the course of decades, refining them repeatedly after discussions with colleagues and students. In the end, he wrote only two: 1984's Reasons and Persons, and 2011's On What Matters, a two-volume, 1,440 page tome whose third volume is still yet to be published.

[The first two volumes of Parfit's opus On What Matters are available here, with a third volume due in March.]

As befits its title, Parfit's last and longest book On What Matters sprawled across a great variety of topics. It's broadly interested in what reasons people have to act in certain ways, or hold certain beliefs, or desire certain things. A lot of those questions have to do with morality, but some don't. Perhaps the greatest joy of reading it is spotting the occasional diversions, the odd moments here and there where he makes an aside from the main narrative, often concisely expressing what would take others of us pages and pages to articulate.

Trump's propaganda effort against Obamacare includes misrepresenting Bill Clinton's remarks:

People must remember that ObamaCare just doesn't work, and it is not affordable - 116% increases (Arizona). Bill Clinton called it "CRAZY"

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017

What Clinton said, though, was drastically different:

The current system ... But the people that are getting killed in this deal are small businesspeople and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies.

So you've got this crazy system where all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care and then the people that are out there busting it ― sometimes 60 hours a week ― wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It's the craziest thing in the world.

So here's the simplest thing....let people buy into Medicare or Medicaid.

It's clear, the piece writes, that "Clinton was arguing for expanding health care access. He never called the ACA crazy."

Speaking of repealing Obamacare, digby wonders:

When Trump's own voters lose their health insurance will they be happy to sacrifice their own lives in order that their enemies will lose theirs? And by enemies, I mean me. And maybe you. Because that's what they're trying to do. They care more about cutting taxes for rich people than middle class people who don't get their insurance at work. [...]

Oh, and by the way, they don't think employers should be required to offer health insurance either. So, if they decide it's too expensive, it's really it's all about begging from your neighbors. After all, if you get sick when you aren't rich, it's really your fault right?

This is immoral. But then so are they.

In describing pushback on the delayed oversight killing, Kevin Drum quotes from the Washington Post:

The House GOP moved to withdraw changes made the day before to official rules that would rein in the Office of congressional Ethics. Instead, the House will study changes to the office with an August deadline.

"Oh please," he comments:

Trump didn't object to Republicans gutting the ethics office. He just thought they should do it later, when fewer people might notice. And that's what they're doing. They'll "study changes" and then gut the office in August, when everyone is on vacation.

Meanwhile, media outlets are falsely giving Trump credit for the reversal:

According to CNN, "President-elect Donald Trump dramatically strong-armed House Republicans into line Tuesday in his first Washington power play."

While it is true that Donald Trump criticized congressional Republicans, so did many other people.

And it is not true that he opposed gutting the OCE. His response this morning was only to say that while the OCE's existence was "unfair" to Republicans, that there were more important priorities to focus on.

We need to keep hammering on his unparalleled unpopularity, writes Eric Boehlert, who observes that "Trump's contrast with Obama in late 2008 is stunning:"

Obama entered 2009 with a 68 percent favorable rating. Today, Trump's favorable rating stands at an anemic 43 percent. And if history is any indication, that rating is almost certain to go down once the new president takes office.

Given the plurality of Americans who expect Trump to be a "poor" or "terrible" president, he wonders "what explains the press's passive, often genuflecting coverage of Trump since November?"

If Trump had just posted a 49-state, Reagan-esque landslide victory, I could more readily understand why the press would be acquiescing so regularly. But Trump just made history by losing the popular tally by nearly three million votes and remains, without question, the least popular president-elect since modern-day polling was invented.

Yet members of the press seem unduly intimidated by his presence, and have even rewarded him with chatter of an invisible "mandate." (He has none.)

Then he asks the big question:

Does anyone think that if Hillary Clinton had won in November while badly losing the popular vote to Trump, and then posted historically awful approval ratings during her transition, that story would not dominate Beltway coverage day after day, week after week?

And don't forget the press's entrenched fascination with Obama's public approval during his presidency, particularly the desire to depict "collapsing" support when, in fact, Obama's approval rating remained stubbornly stable for years.

There's a glaring Trump transition story hiding in plain sight: He's historically unpopular. The press ought to start telling that tale on a daily basis.

Conor Lynch suggests that 2017 could be even worse than 2016. As he writes, "there is little reason to celebrate the year's end this weekend, or to be hopeful for 2017:"

And when "deplorable Don" arrives in Washington, he will have a Republican-controlled Congress full of partisan lackeys, unscrupulous sycophants and empty-suit pontificators to lick his boots and kiss his ring -- as long as they can slash taxes for their wealthy donors, privatize Social Security and Medicare and, of course, repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In no time at all people will be feeling nostalgic for 2016 -- longing for the days when Donald J. Trump was just a billionaire demagogue running for president, without any real power. Before he became the most powerful toddler in the world.

Trump, Lynch continues, "did more than any other individual in recent American history to normalize public racism, sexism and xenophobia, as well as political violence:"

His provocative campaign emboldened bigots and misogynists and rejuvenated white-supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups, while poisoning political discourse and accelerating the country's descent into a post-truth reality. If Trump had lost the election to Hillary Clinton, he would still have left the country hopelessly divided and more vulnerable than ever before to the forces of extremism and bigotry. But at least he would have left the country breathing.

Lynch writes that "this lunatic will have real and terrifying powers," leading to a "great potential for catastrophe:"

There is no telling what Trump will do once he is in the Oval Office, or how much of his campaign rhetoric was empty talk. But his erratic behavior since the election and the far-right cabinet he has assembled over the past month indicates that he will be every bit as reactionary, demagogic and impulsive as he was on the campaign trail.

He concludes with no small amount of resignation that "it is all but certain that 2017 will make 2016 look like the good old days, regardless of which beloved celebrities drop dead." Amanda Marcotte looks at political resolutions, noting that "2016 was a vile, no-good year that can go suck eggs:"

Unfortunately, there is every reason to believe that 2017 will be treating us no better. In fact it is quite likely, with President Donald Trump in the White House, to be a waking nightmare from which there is no escape.

She offers "three resolutions I'm undertaking to preserve my sanity:"

1. No more attention given to dudes who want to relitigate the Democratic primary.

2. A strict outrage diet for Donald Trump's culture war antics.

But it's become clear that Trump's provocations -- from the Mike Pence "Hamilton" fiasco to whatever asinine thing he's saying on Twitter this week -- are rooted in his reality-TV background and his understanding that glib provocation is a great way to sow chaos that both distracts from and helps dismantle our democracy. So my goal is, every time Trump is spouting distracting culture war nonsense, to start looking for whatever, usually more serious, story he's trying to distract the public from.

3. Having a life outside politics.

But with Trump ripping through our democracy like a tornado, it's doubly important to remember that there are things in this world that aren't terrible. So it's important to take the time to read a novel or go to a museum or listen to a record the whole way through.

Similarly, AlterNet's Les Leopold explains why resisting Trump is not enough:

While resistance is critically important, we will fail unless resistance is contained within a long term strategy to reverse runaway inequality and upend neoliberalism (defined as systematic tax breaks for the rich, cuts in social programs, anti-union legislation, financial deregulation and corporate-managed trade.) If we don't build an alternative movement, our defensive struggles could enhance Trump's popularity rather than to diminish it.

He then lists the risks of a "resistance only" response:

1. It makes our politics Trump-centric or even Trump-dependent.

"Of course, resistance is badly needed," he says, while also stressing "a pro-active positive agenda:"

The key items include a financial transaction tax on Wall Street, free higher education, single-payer health care, massive infrastructure spending, a halt to the off-shoring of jobs, criminal justice reform, taking money out of politics, and reducing global warming. That's our agenda, not Trump's.

The fact that few if any of these issues are being discussed today shows the weakness of a Trump-centric approach.

2. Trump resistance can slide into defending the status quo:

3. Resisting Trump by itself will not win back swing states

Key swing states may remain in Trump's column if all we do is resist. A marginal voter could view progressive resist actions as simply disruptive if we don't put forth a positive agenda that frames our resistance and expands the debate. [...] The future goes to whichever camp develops the most compelling vision for America. A negation of Trump is not a vision.

4. Resisting Trump on trade and the off-shoring of jobs is a big mistake.

5. Betting on Trump's failure is reckless:

"it is not a forgone conclusion," he writes, "that Trump's economic policies will fail:"

So waiting for Trump's collapse or just pushing for it, seems like an irresponsible political strategy. Instead, we actually have to do the hard work of building something new that is independent both of Trump and the neo-liberal establishment.

5. Resisting Trump could turn into an excuse to stay within our issue silos:

This could cause "extreme fragmentation among progressive organizations:"

There is no common agenda, no common strategy, no common structure. We have enormous experience in promoting our specific agenda silos and very little practice in working together around a hard hitting common program that transcends all of our silos.

"We need a tangible organizing effort that brings together our many issue groups," he writes, which "entails four tasks:"

• We need a common agenda and common analysis.
• We need a national educational campaign that explains the agenda and analysis all around the country, as the Populists did in the 1880s.
• We need a new national organization that we can all join as dues paying members.
• Finally, we need to expand our own perceptions of the possible.

The Advocate's list of 6 things we must do the survive Trump's America, penned by Mark Joseph Stern, calls the spectre of Trump's presidency "a disaster for LGBT people throughout the nation:"

There can be no doubt that the Trump administration, together with a Republican-dominated Congress, will roll back hard-fought victories and stall the push for ever greater equality. [...]

Trump will take office at a moment when LGBT people enjoy historically high tolerance and support from the American public. His presidency will not change that, at least not immediately. The supermajority of Americans will still support marriage equality; trans people will continue to gain greater visibility, and thus acceptance; and despite distractions about "religious liberty" and discrimination, most people will still believe that nobody should be fired because they're LGBT. "Don't ask, don't tell" will not be revived. The Supreme Court, even one stacked by Trump, will feel immense institutional pressure to respect the precedent of marriage equality. We will elect more openly LGBT people to statehouses across the country. [...]

If Hillary Clinton were assuming office after Obama, the path forward would be clear and manageable. It will now be tortuous and grueling.

He offers "six suggestions as to how the movement can protect and even expand its rights over the next four years:"

1. Remember: Trump may not be a virulent homophobe, but he is a threat.

In order to shore up evangelical votes, Trump has already declared that the Supreme Court's marriage-equality decision should be overturned, that states should be allowed to deny transgender people access to public bathrooms, and that President Obama's executive orders protecting LGBT people should be rescinded. As president, he will surely continue to throw LGBT people under the bus when Bannon -- who has stated his desire to "turn on the hate" -- thinks it's convenient.

2. Keep the focus on Pence.

Dangerous as Trump may be, his vice president is significantly more threatening to LGBT people's safety and well-being. [...] It is too early to surmise the extent to which Pence's unrepentant, unrelenting homophobia will influence the Trump administration.

3. Watch out for cabinet cronies and "religious liberty."

Obama's appointees have interpreted bans on "sex discrimination" in existing civil rights law to include sexual orientation and gender identity; as a result, they have granted LGBT people new protections in housing, credit, education, and employment. Trump's appointees will quietly reverse these interpretations, stripping LGBTs of vital federal protections.

These reversals should be met with public protests.

LGBT advocates should also prepare for a drawn-out brawl over bills designed to legalize discrimination in the guise of "religious liberty." Pence's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" allowed "religious belief" to supercede nondiscrimination ordinances in certain circumstances; congressional Republicans appear poised to offer Trump an even more extreme variation on this genre. Their "First Amendment Defense Act" would broadly legalize any anti-LGBT discrimination ostensibly required by one's "religious belief or moral conviction."

4. Focus on state politics and the community.

"Instead of wasting energy on the federal level," he writes, "LGBT advocates should find room for improvement in the states:"

These [pro-LGBT] governors can work to expand LGBT protections -- and veto gerrymanders that would permanently entrench an anti-LGBT Republican majority in the statehouse.

Meanwhile, every supporter of LGBT rights should get involved with their communities to protect the most vulnerable among us. Young queer people will soon face a barrage of hate, which starts at the top and trickles down into the classroom and home.

5. Change the legal strategy.

Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who toppled the federal Defense of Marriage Act as well as Mississippi's same-sex-adoption ban, thinks activists should shift their focus to blatantly hateful and extreme laws that explicitly license religious-based discrimination.

6. Don't lose hope, and don't back down.

The past eight years have marked a new era of openness in the United States. [...] Marriage equality marked a point of no return, and we are still just beginning to experience the benefits that will flow from that decision. We will not retreat; we will not become invisible; we will not stop demanding the full array of rights that are owed to us under the law.

Fareed Zakaria worries about the US becoming an illiberal democracy, which he believes is "something that should concern anyone, Republican or Democrat, Donald Trump supporter or critic:"

It turns out that what sustains democracy is not simply legal safeguards and rules, but norms and practices -- democratic behavior. This culture of liberal democracy is waning in the United States today. [...][

But we are now getting to see what American democracy looks like without any real buffers in the way of sheer populism and demagoguery. The parties have collapsed, Congress has caved, professional groups are largely toothless, the media have been rendered irrelevant.

He wonders, "who and what remain to nourish and preserve the common good, civic life and liberal democracy?"

In reference to National Geographic's Gender Revolution issue, The Federalist's Walt Heyer writes that "Transgenderism is today's popular social delusion." For once, it's not completely clueless pontificating from the right-wing site. Heyer writes that "like Avery Jackson, I was a cross-dressing boy at the age of nine:"

Eventually, I did become a female transgender. I was approved and underwent the full range of hormone therapy and surgeries and legally changed my identity. I lived life as a female, Laura Jensen, for eight years. All too late I realized transgenderism was all "B.S."--a surgical masquerade to superficially project a change of gender. Like others who elect to live the transgender life, I painfully discovered it was only a temporary fix to deeper pain.

A cover photo is visually exciting and can persuade young people that male and female gender models are not fixed, when they are. Photos like the one on the cover of National Geographic can encourage a child to question his or her gender and sex and act out accordingly.

Well, that didn't take long to go off the rails. "The activists' theory of gender fluidity, or gender spectrum," he writes, "suggests that God-designated genders of male and female indicated by biology is too limiting."

No, the scientific theories of biology indicate the spectrum.

Heyer also argues that "changing gender is encouraged, nurtured, and celebrated seemingly everywhere."

Really?!

When he claims that "Young people are told transgender feelings are permanent, immutable, physically deep-seated in the brain, and can never change," I can only respond [citation needed]. Heyer continues by accusing NatGeo editor of "recklessly using the magazine and this child to promote gender questioning and the theory of gender as a spectrum:"

The magazine cover is designed to change minds and influence gender transition. [...] It completely abandons any pretense of covering male-female gender inequality. Like the special issue of the magazine, the "documentary" [a two-hour feature of trans kids and their parents] is an indoctrination for the activist transgender point of view. It endorses cross-gender affirmation and transition for children to the exclusion of any other less-invasive treatment.

This Is Child Abuse

Studies have shown that childhood gender dysphoria does not inevitably continue into adulthood. An overwhelming 77 to 94 percent of gender dysphoric children do not become adults with gender dysphoria. Given this, it's social, medical, and psychological malpractice to push young children to lop off or sew on body parts and take highly charged cross-sex hormones that can further destabilize their prepubescent bodies and minds, especially when they are highly likely to regret what grown adults pushed them into before they were able to sort through such life-altering decisions.

The study, "Ethical issues raised by the treatment of gender-variant prepubescent children," explains this more realistically:

Gender dysphoria in childhood does not inevitably continue into adulthood, and only 6 to 23 percent of boys and 12 to 27 percent of girls treated in gender clinics showed persistence of their gender dysphoria into adulthood. Further, most of the boys' gender dysphoria desisted, and in adulthood, they identified as gay rather than as transgender.

The study also describes treatment at a California clinic "where a child is supported in socially transitioning to a cross-gendered role without medical or surgical intervention:"

As in the other two clinics, only at the onset of puberty are medications administered to suppress development of unwanted secondary sex characteristics. This approach presumes that an adult transgender outcome is to be expected, that these children can be identified, and that children who transition but then desist can revert to their natal gender if necessary with no ill effects.

This cautious but compassionate approach is nowhere near the "child abuse" alleged by Heyer:

Given that how any gender identity develops is an unknown, is it not possible that opposing a wish to explore cross-gender expression is harmful to some children? Whether they persist or desist in their transgender behavior or identity, children may internalize disapproving attitudes toward atypical gender behavior and expression (transphobia), with possible negative consequences for adult development.

20170103-genderrevolution.jpg

Returning to NatGeo, their Gender Revolution issue (above) features an editor's note from Susan Goldberg that discusses nine-year-old Avery, the subject of the left-hand cover photo:

She has lived as an openly transgender girl since age five, and she captured the complexity of the conversation around gender. Today, we're not only talking about gender roles for boys and girls--we're talking about our evolving understanding of people on the gender spectrum. [...]

We hope these stories about gender will spark thoughtful conversations about how far we have come on this topic--and how far we have left to go.

Yep, that sounds like indoctrination all right.

The issue also examines how science is helping us understand gender, describing a 14-year-old, identified only as "E," who, the author writes, "searched for the right label for her gender identity:"

"Transgender" didn't quite fit, she told me. For one thing she was still using her birth name and still preferred being referred to as "she." And while other trans kids often talk about how they've always known they were born in the "wrong" body, she said, "I just think I need to make alterations in the body I have, to make it feel like the body I need it to be." By which she meant a body that doesn't menstruate and has no breasts, with more defined facial contours and "a ginger beard." Does that make E a trans guy? A girl who is, as she put it, "insanely androgynous"? Or just someone who rejects the trappings of traditional gender roles altogether?

Superseding high school biology, the piece points out that "on occasion, XX and XY don't tell the whole story:"

Today we know that the various elements of what we consider "male" and "female" don't always line up neatly, with all the XXs--complete with ovaries, vagina, estrogen, female gender identity, and feminine behavior--on one side and all the XYs--testes, penis, testosterone, male gender identity, and masculine behavior--on the other. It's possible to be XX and mostly male in terms of anatomy, physiology, and psychology, just as it's possible to be XY and mostly female.

The actions of the SRY gene or conditions such as complete androgen insensitivity syndrome (CAIS) may mean, for example that:

The baby looks female, with a clitoris and vagina, and in most cases will grow up feeling herself to be a girl.

Which is this baby, then? Is she the girl she believes herself to be? Or, because of her XY chromosomes--not to mention the testes in her abdomen--is she "really" male?

Those gray-area questions lead to the observation that "Gender is an amalgamation of several elements:"

...chromosomes (those X's and Y's), anatomy (internal sex organs and external genitals), hormones (relative levels of testosterone and estrogen), psychology (self-defined gender identity), and culture (socially defined gender behaviors). And sometimes people who are born with the chromosomes and genitals of one sex realize that they are transgender, meaning they have an internal gender identity that aligns with the opposite sex--or even, occasionally, with neither gender or with no gender at all.

20170103-identitysexexpression.jpg

The article also points out that "one finding in transgender research has been robust: a connection between gender nonconformity and autism spectrum disorder (ASD):"

According to John Strang, a pediatric neuropsychologist with the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders and the Gender and Sexuality Development Program at Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C., children and adolescents on the autism spectrum are seven times more likely than other young people to be gender nonconforming. And, conversely, children and adolescents at gender clinics are six to 15 times more likely than other young people to have ASD.

Far from the aggressive push toward "malpractice" that Heyer sees, the medical consensus is cautious one, that "biology can be put on hold for a while with puberty-blocking drugs that can buy time for gender-questioning children:"

If the child reaches age 16 and decides he or she is not transgender after all, the effects of puberty suppression are thought to be reversible: The child stops taking the blockers and matures in the birth sex. But for children who do want to transition at 16, having been on blockers might make it easier. They can start taking cross-sex hormones and go through puberty in the preferred gender--without having developed the secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts, body hair, or deep voices, that can be difficult to undo.

The Endocrine Society recommends blockers for adolescents diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Nonetheless, the blockers' long-term impact on psychological development, brain growth, and bone mineral density are unknown--leading to some lively disagreement about using them on physically healthy teens.

Politico comments on Republicans gutting Congressional oversight:

In one of their first moves of the new Congress, House Republicans have voted to gut their own independent ethics watchdog -- a huge blow to cheerleaders of congressional oversight and one that dismantles major reforms adopted after the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Monday's effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years.

"President-elect Donald Trump ran on a platform of draining the swamp of an often all-too-cozy Washington D.C.," writes Politico, "Monday night's moves go in the opposite direction, severely loosening oversight of lawmakers' potential conflicts of interest, use of campaign money and other ethical matters:"

Democrats created the Office of Congressional Ethics in March 2008 after the Abramoff scandal, in which the well-connected GOP lobbyist plead guilty to conspiring to bribe public officials. Abramoff and his clients had used campaign donations and favors to sway members, including former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who served 30 months in prison, and a number of staffers.

Their idea was that an outside agency of sorts could take up a more robust oversight of members. Republicans, however, have claimed the group has been too aggressive in making referrals.

"The proposed change will be included in a package of new House Rules governing the 115th Congress," the piece concludes, "which will be voted on Tuesday afternoon." That doesn't leave much time for public reaction, does it?

David Neiwert makes a great observation about GOP obtuseness:

So I see that amnesiac Republicans are very, very confused about why Democrats and other sane human beings are already standing up to voice their opposition to Donald Trump's presidency even before he is sworn in. [...]

Well, here's a little cure for their amnesia: An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (June 2017, Verso Press). This section is from Chapter Five, discussing the rise of the Tea Parties and how the Birther conspiracy theories helped fuel them.

"Conservatives did not consider Barack Obama to be a legitimate president," he points out, "a fact underscored by the growing 'Birther' campaign." [Rush Limbaugh's hope that Obama would fail--as seen here--is another example.] "Open political warfare," Neiwert continues, "a defiance of the new president's every objective, was to be the right-wing political project for the ensuing eight years," as Teabaggers disrupted healthcare townhalls:

And the behavior fit the blueprint for action laid out early on: Disrupt, distract, and destroy any chance for an actual civil and informed conversation. In other words, demolish the entire purpose of a town-hall forum as the means to bring health-care reform to a halt. [...]

But town halls were never designed to be vehicles for protest. They have always been about enabling real democratic discourse in a civil setting. When someone's entire purpose in coming out to a town-hall forum is to chant and shout and protest and disrupt, they aren't just expressing their opinions -- they are actively shutting down democracy.

In an announcement that we should prepare to be ungovernable, Sarah Lazare issues "A call for civil servants to resist:"

"A core component of resistance is to get the class of civil servants, particularly on the federal but also the state level, to not comply with arbitrary laws and policies that are going to be created," said [Kali] Akuno [organizer with Cooperation Jackson and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement]. "To not recognize the laws we know are coming that will discriminate against Black people, Latinos, immigrants and queer people. There is no need for anyone to comply. Let's not give it legitimacy just because it's the law. We need to be prepared to disobey and engage in civil disobedience. We need to get ready for that now."

In words reminiscent of Gunter Eich's exhortation to "be sand, not oil, in the gears of the world," Akuno envisions resistance as "just one prong of a broader strategy," including:

"not going to work, not participating in your run-of-the-mill economic activities, with the hope and aim that we can build prolonged acts of civil disobedience that lead to a general strike." While such plans are not fully fleshed out, he noted organizations across the country are actively discussing such a possibility.

"The orientation we're taking is not just about surviving Trump, but drawing attention to the fact that the system was already heading towards more severe types of repression, surveillance and austerity," he said. "We're also looking at the global dynamics as to why right-wing populism and fascism is spreading internationally."

What is clear, says Akuno, is that the right-wing populism of the Trump administration will not be defeated by civil discourse and liberal democracy. He emphasized, "If we are serious and steadfast, we can create a clear and comprehensive message around being ungovernable."

Similarly, John Scalzi looks at the arc of justice:

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

In the main I agree with that quote. There are things about it, however, that I think many of us elide.

The first is the word "long." I think both Parker and King understood that moral endeavors can be measured in years, decades and sometimes centuries.

Also, he notes, "The arc is not a natural feature of the universe:"

It does not magically appear; it is not ordained; it is not inevitable. It exists because people of moral character seek justice, not only for themselves but for every person. Nor is the arc smooth. It's rough and jagged, punctuated in areas by great strides, halting collapses, terrible reverses and forcible wrenching actions.

Crooks & Liars snarks that WSJ editor Gerard Baker won't report Trump's lies as "lies" because...reasons:

When Donald Trump says things that are undoubtedly lies, not even just hyperbole, Mr. Baker is of the opinion that calling a lie a lie will alienate readers, as if "readers" are also Trump supporters. You are also forbidden to have any controversial opinions, no matter how factual you are, because certain people don't like the truth. Being honest in a way they perceive as derogatory will cause them not to 'trust' you.

Here is Baker's statement:

GERARD BAKER: I'd be careful about using the word, "lie." "Lie" implies much more than just saying something that's false. It implies a deliberate intent to mislead.

As long as these returning champions come back every Sunday, it's okay to sugar coat lies as something the consumer decides is true or false, because you gotta get those advertising dollars. [...]

Thanks to this failure to call a lie exactly what it is, Trump's supporters believe the most outlandish fallacies to be true and by golly, no one will convince them of the facts without being labeled something awful, like 'educated' or 'intellectual elitist' or a 'thinker.'

Daily Kos's 9 craziest things that Trump voters believe refers to an Economist/YouGov survey (PDF); here are some of the lowlights, beginning with the question "Is the country better off now than it was eight years ago?"

Most Americans recall that eight years ago the nation was descending into an economic abyss. The stock market dropped 46 percent. Unemployment shot up to 10.1 percent. Home foreclosures hit record figures. And total household wealth declined by more than $19 trillion.

Yet somehow a whopping 60 percent of Trump voters responded to this question saying that the country was better off eight years ago than today. Another 19 percent say there is no difference. That's after stocks climbed back from about 7,000 to nearly 20,000. And unemployment dropped to 4.9 percent. The auto industry that was on the brink of collapse is reporting record profits. And the delusions of the Trumpsters are unique to their breed. Only 21 percent of Democrats thought 2009 was a better year.

That's not the only example, either. Only 36 percent of them realize that climate change is real, "only 26 percent of Trump voters correctly said that [the number of] persons without insurance decreased," and "68 percent of them said that it was definitely/probably true that Saddam had WMDs." Also, Obama's birth certificate is fake ("52 percent continue to say that Obama is definitely/probably a native Kenyan") and Pizzagate is real("46 percent of Trump voters said that this ludicrous fiction was definitely/probably true").

As Daily Kos reminds us, "this epidemic of ignorance was not accidental:"

It was a deliberate act of disinformation by Trump and the Republican Party. And the media bears its share of responsibility for putting ratings and profit before journalistic ethics.

Salon's Erin Coulehan calls work stress "the saddest American status symbol:"

It's no secret that our culture today prides itself on the amount of work we put into our jobs. We work to an excessive degree as if there's a competition to impress people by our willingness to take our work everywhere.

But why?

A new study sheds light on what seems to be an American obsession with being overworked and stressed out.

A Harvard Business Review report shows that a busy person is "perceived by participants to have higher status than the one with free time," indicating that "Americans seem to be obsessed with overworking ourselves in an effort to gain social esteem:"

The research suggests part of Americans' obsession with being overworked is an effort to seem important and gain social influence, which makes sense given the hyper-competitive system with which we're socialized. [...]

It's foolish to think we must unnecessarily burden ourselves in order to be effective, important, or relevant. Our time management skills should be adapted to include time for work and leisure, although doing so in the digital age seems nearly impossible.

"In today's America," the study points out, "complaining about being busy and working all the time is so commonplace most of us do it without thinking:"

If someone asks "How are you?" we no longer say "Fine" or "I'm well, thank you." We often simply reply "Busy!"

This is more than just a subjective impression. An analysis of holiday letters indicates that references to "crazy schedules" have dramatically increased since the 1960s.

"What has changed so dramatically in one century?" the study asks:

We think that the shift from leisure-as-status to busyness-as-status may be linked to the development of knowledge-intensive economies. In such economies, individuals who possess the human capital characteristics that employers or clients value (e.g., competence and ambition) are expected to be in high demand and short supply on the job market. Thus, by telling others that we are busy and working all the time, we are implicitly suggesting that we are sought after, which enhances our perceived status.

Veblen's theory that "leisure is a mark of higher status" is thus inverted, to the detriment of (nearly) all of us, as we become a leisure-less class of worker bees, consumed by busyness.

John Tirman speculates that Trump's rise portends the end of the commonwealth:

Amid the many controversies attending the election of Donald Trump is one easy to overlook: the mounting assault on "public goods" -- public education, public lands, public information and public health, among them. The worldview of Trump and those he's bringing into government is one in which seeking private interest is paramount, not only as a business aspiration but as a governing ideology. Of all the attitudes of the new administration, this may be the most threatening to democratic practice.

"The scales have been tipping toward private interest rather than public good since the years of President Ronald Reagan," he continues, "and the coming of Trump promises an even stronger swing to private over public:"

It would be difficult to imagine more significant public goods than clean air, the avoidance of catastrophic climate change or the legacy of the nation's protected parks, forests and wildlife.

Yet all of these are in jeopardy. Turning over public lands to the states would in many cases result in "development" -- commercial enterprise, resource extraction, grazing, roads and sell-offs of land -- far beyond what is already granted on federal lands.

"What is particularly disturbing in 2016," he writes, I"s the attempt to limit participation and to limit the quality of discourse:"

The limits on participation are not gauged by expertise -- that is, how knowledgeable you are -- but by race or religion. A number of the white supremacists now ascendant have insisted that blacks, Jews and Muslims be treated differently, submissively, even denied the vote and other standard civil rights. So the very definition of who constitutes "the public" is under attack.

He concludes the piece by positing that "If the trajectory of 2016 continues through Trump's presidency, the 'commons,' the public sphere and the values of shared responsibility, will be tested as never before."

haiku, too

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I penned a few more Rude haikus:

"Vote for Trump!" they cried,
and they did, just because they
hate Clinton so much.
The airwaves were full of
Benghazi, "crooked," emails:
worst news job ever.
"librul media"
they're called, for doing the work
of conservatives.
Benghazi, emails...
weapons of mass distraction
unleashed on US.
Trump voters proclaim:
"We voted against Clinton"
but that's just bullshit.

changing minds

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Vox's Brian Resnick discusses a study on changing minds, which he describes as "the hardest challenge in politics right now:"

Psychologists have been circling around a possible reason political beliefs are so stubborn: Partisan identities get tied up in our personal identities. Which would mean that an attack on our strongly held beliefs is an attack on the self. And the brain is built to protect the self.

When we're attacked, we evade or defend -- as if we have an immune system for uncomfortable thoughts, one you can see working in real time.

"The brain's primary responsibility is to take care of the body, to protect the body," Jonas Kaplan, a psychologist at the University of Southern California, tells me. "The psychological self is the brain's extension of that. When our self feels attacked, our [brain is] going to bring to bear the same defenses that it has for protecting the body."

20161229-beliefchange.jpg

Thanks to decades of right-wing paranoia and propaganda, even the science of fluoride isn't safe from ideological blindness--remember Jack D. Ripper?

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