November 2015 Archives


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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)


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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."

Addicting Info's Randa Morris provides 20 facts about Muslims for the Right, commenting that "Since bigotry and hate ferment with ignorance, one of the most important ways we can combat anti-Muslim hysteria is by using facts to dispel right-wing myths, fantasies and lies."

The anti-Muslim hysteria routinely promoted by the right-wing goes beyond your run-of-the-mill republican stupidity. Their ignorance in the areas of Math, Science and American History doesn't compare to their lack of knowledge on the subject of the Islamic faith.

My favorite from her list is this one:

9. The most common name in the world is not Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. It's Muhammad.

The Right's attempt to link the Paris terrorists to Syrian refugees would also benefit from some facts, such as the observation that "It would be extremely challenging for an individual with a fake Syrian passport [to] be able to enter the United States:"

That's why of the 784,000 refugees who have come to the United States in the 14 years since 9/11, none have committed an act of domestic terrorism and only three have been charged with any terrorism-related crime.

CNN reports that "[t]he refugee program is simply the toughest way for any foreigner to enter the U.S. legally."

Moreover, the individuals like those who conducted the Paris attacks -- French and Belgian nationals -- have absolutely no reason to subject themselves to such scrutiny with fake documents. These individuals could simply use their EU passport to enter the United States without a visa. Belgum and France are part of the United State's visa waiver program. The only thing you need to do to enter the country is "answer a few questions on a form on the Internet, and have a passport with a digital photograph."

It makes no logical sense that individuals like the Paris attacks would seek to use the Syrian refugee program to enter the U.S. when far easier methods are available.

Salon provides a secret history of terrorism in Europe:

It's time for the world to stop circumventing the unequivocal truth that much of what has happened in Europe with the rising terror threat level and the bloody massacres in Paris -- labeled soft target attacks -- is rooted in European colonialism of the Middle East. We are not doing anyone justice by pretending these planned coordinated attacks transpired in a vacuum or are just isolated incidents with no basis in past histories.

The piece points out that "the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire [into] Turkey, Syria, and Iraq" was a significant factor:

In an article for the Middle East Policy Council journal published in the Winter 2011 issue with the headline "The Troubles in Syria: Spawned by French Divide and Rule," Dr. Ayse Tekdal Fildis makes an excellent argument that highlights the seed-planting role of European imperialist regimes:

Great Britain and France transformed what had been relatively quiet provinces of the Ottoman Empire into some of the least stable and internationally explosive states in the world.

NPR asks, how did France become a target?

Muslim extremists in Africa harboring anti-Western views are more likely to have some sort of connection - and grievance -- with France than any other Western country. In addition, France has at times backed authoritarian leaders facing Islamist insurgencies. France currently has several thousand soldiers assisting governments in five former colonies in Africa -- Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

The simmering conflicts in this region often escape attention in the U.S., which has been more focused on wars further east in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. [...] France's colonial history explains why it has the largest Muslim population in Europe, numbering an estimated 5 million, or about 8 percent of the population.

France has successfully absorbed immigrants from all corners of the globe, but North Africans have struggled more than most, and several recent attacks in France have been carried out by French citizens of North African descent.

In contrast to the German response to the Syrian crisis ["Germany has taken in some 800,000 Syrian refugees while France has only greeted 10,000 to 20,000 Syrians -- and Syria is its former colony"], France is reacting with "laws that prohibit headscarves in public schools and government buildings and a nationwide ban on burkas [are] an ongoing source of friction in Muslim communities that feel displays of their faith are being restricted."

First Things' "revenge of the coddled" interview with Jonathan Haidt suggests that:

The only people who support the "coddling culture," as far as I can tell, are under 35, on the Left, and on a college campus. There also seems to be a sex difference--women are more attracted to this view than men, perhaps because many of these ideas grew out of feminist theory in the 1990s.

"Children," asserts Haidt, "are anti-fragile." He notes that "They have to have many, many experiences of failure, fear, and being challenge:"

Then they have to figure out ways to get themselves through it. If you deprive children of those experiences for eighteen years and then send them to college, they cannot cope. They don't know what to do. The first time a romantic relationship fails or they get a low grade, they are not prepared because they have been rendered fragile by their childhoods. So until we can change childhood in America, we won't be able to roll this back and make room of open debate.

My biggest prescription is that in every hospital delivery room, along with that first set of free diapers, should come the book: Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy. If everyone in America read the book Free-Range Kids the problem would be over in 21 years, when the first set of tougher kids filled our universities.

"It's going to get much, much worse over the next couple years," he concludes.

Ferguson Effect

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Matt Ford debunks the Ferguson Effect...again:

The Brennan Center for Justice released a report on Thursday that explores crime trends in 30 cities in 2015. In it, the report's authors sought to test a hypothesis put forth by some scholars and journalists about a purported crime wave this year.


"From all of this," he writes, "two things stand out:"

First, the fears of a "a new nationwide crime wave" are premature at best and wildly misleading at worst. The numbers make clear that violent crime is up in some major U.S. cities and down in others. [...]

Second, and perhaps most importantly, this debate may have been avoided if the United States had a better nationwide system for reporting crime data and provided monthly city, state, and national updates instead of annual ones.

under pressure

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Rebecca J. Rosen discusses the pressure of affluent parents, referencing "Hanna Rosin's recent Atlantic cover story on the high rate of suicide among high-school students in Palo Alto, California," and her observation that "On the surface, the rich kids seem to be thriving:"

They have cars, nice clothes, good grades, easy access to health care, and, on paper, excellent prospects. But many of them are not navigating adolescence successfully.

The rich middle- and high-school kids [Yale professor Suniya] Luthar and her collaborators have studied show higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse on average than poor kids, and much higher rates than the national norm. They report clinically significant depression or anxiety or delinquent behaviors at a rate two to three times the national average [and] higher levels of lying, cheating, and theft.

Rosen asks, "Why is this?"

As Rosin reports, a major factor is "pressure"--from parents, teachers, themselves, whoever--to excel not just in school but in a host of other activities as well. All of that pressure and the resulting hyper-activity seem to leave kids feeling very tired, very inadequate, and very alone. No wonder they are miserable.

"It's because the competition for a place among the country's well-off is so vicious," Rosen concludes:

It's for this reason that the most educated parents spend the most hours parenting, even though they are giving up the most in wages by doing so.

Even for those who fear the consequences of the pressure on their kids, they may figure it's worth getting through a few tough years for a lifetime of economic security. [...] The pressure on kids may come from parents, but it's the result of systemic forces so much bigger and so much more powerful than anything any household has control over


Sanders' ads

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Bernie Sanders' campaign has "two new political ads that will begin running in New Hampshire and Iowa."

The first ad is "Works For Us All:"

The second ad is titled "This Is How It Works:"

"My plan," summarizes Sanders, is "Make Wall Street banks and the ultra-rich pay their fair share of taxes."

Conservatives have done an about-face from a decade ago, when they renamed French fries "freedom fries" during their temper tantrum over France's disdain for our disastrous invasion of Iraq--they now express solidarity with our oldest ally, France. "Inchoate revulsion toward the U.S. and its allies and the perception they are waging war against Islam," the piece observes, "has crystallized into a jihadist movement capable of killing scores of people inside a city that stands as a monument to liberal Western traditions:"

And just as France contends with the brunt of the militants' fury, many American conservatives now depict the country as a courageous and honorable vanguard in the face of that terrorist onslaught.

Since the Paris attacks, which killed 129 people and wounded 352, pro-French statements of solidarity have flooded in from American politicians across the political spectrum, including Republican presidential candidates.

Although "The rhetorical shift toward France" may only indicate "the GOP's efforts to focus the 2016 debate on national security," it's still a welcome development; their people deserve no less.

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