Monday, April 25, 2016

World Malaria Day 2016

Per the CDC we saw a 40 year high in new malaria cases in the United States in 2013; this is in spite of malaria being supposedly eliminated from within our borders. Part of the problem with malaria and other insect borne disease is of course the creep northward of previously unseen species that are disease vectors for malaria and other illnesses, due to global warming.

It would be nice to believe that we are approaching the eradication of malaria, except that we aren't.

It is true that we have made, world-wide, tremendous strides in reducing the disease, but we are now on the third wave of medication resistant versions of the disease, and we have begun to lose ground again. The best coverage of the problem, along with potential solutions and funding, can be found here at the very excellent site, Project Syndicate's coverage here.

So please stop for a moment and take note of this old, long-standing plague on mankind, and consider that we have the means and the opportunity to do something about it now, while it is relatively small and slow, but we have to have the awareness and the political will to do so.

Friday, April 15, 2016

If you don't support the Constitution for everyone, you don't support the Constitution

image courtesy of Imagine magazine
NOT an actual photo of
TN State Rep. Jeremy Durham
It has long been my contention that conservatives give lip service to the Constitution, but do not in practice support the content in that Constitution.

The continuing hypocritical efforts of conservatives, particularly those who are southern evangelicals, demonstrate equally a desperate desire to regulate the lives of others, demanding conformity to their own beliefs, while not themselves behaving consistently with those beliefs.  We have the interference in the lives of other people, while not managing one's own very well, in the example of Tennessee's own state representative Jeremy Durham, pervert for Jesus.

Evangelical Tennessee State Rep Jeremy Durham Is 'Banished' From Capitol Complex After THIRTY FOUR Women Accuse Him Of Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

Lawmakers in Tennessee have 'banished' a state representative by moving his office at the state Capitol complex after more than three dozen women have accused him of inappropriate behavior. Rep. Jeremy Durham's office is being moved to the ground floor of a building across the street from the Capitol, House Speaker Beth Harwell announced Thursday. According to Attorney General Herbert Slatery's memorandum to Harwell, he is investigating Durham's 'pattern of conduct' toward women after 34 current and former lawmakers, lobbyists, staffers and interns allege that he made sexual comments, used his position to obtain personal contact information from women, try to meet women alone, involve alcohol in his interactions with women and inappropriate physical contact with them while working at Legislative Plaza, CBS News reported.
I have to wonder if Jeremy Durham will have any office when the next election cycle comes around in Tennessee, not even one across the street.  But then again, by promoting the anti-LGBT bathroom harassment bill, he might get in good with those other pervy and ignorant conservative Evangelicals again.  They go in for a lot of forgiveness so long as one conforms and grovels sufficiently, as we have seen in the past.
The establishment clause of the Constitution requires no preferential treatment of religion. That is simple enough, yet conservatives tend as a group, over and over, to attempt to replace democracy with theocracy.

We see it in the mediocre legislators of Tennessee who are persisting in trying to give preferential treatment to the Bible.  Thurs. (April 14th) Gov. Haslam vetoed an attempt to make the Bible the official book of the frankly mediocre at best state of Tennessee.

But the conservative religious extremists in government are hell-bent on pushing this through anyway, and don't give a tinker's damn about the provisions of religious freedom in the Constitution.

From the Raw Story:
The lawmakers who sponsored the measure vowed to hold a vote that would overrule Haslam’s veto. A simple majority in each legislative chamber would overrule his decision.
“According to polling, 62 percent of all Tennesseans favor making the Holy Bible the state book in order to recognize its significance from a historical, economic and cultural standpoint,” the House sponsor, Representative Jerry Sexton, said.
“Senator (Steve) Southerland and I are prepared to move forward with a veto override and we plan to do exactly that.”
Because Tennessee is, apparently, not dumb enough or second rate enough without that next step?  Seriously, this is a state legislature which has far more important and far more legitimate issues with which to properly concern itself than forcing their religion on people.

It made an interesting cab ride recently where my driver, whom we'll call Tom, knowing I do research especially fact checking, asked me if it were true, as he had heard on right wing talk radio (an occupational hazard of cab driving apparently) that four out of the five first presidents had been either ordained as clergy or held a degree in religion of some kind, and therefore that was the reason we have "In God We Trust" on our money and "under God" in the pledge of allegiance.  And no, none of those first five presidents were particularly religious; in fact George Washington is on record as never having taken communion and rarely attended church, and the other four were Deists.

We have been stuck (for the moment) with "In God We Trust" and "under God" because President Eisenhower (I DO like Ike, as Republican presidents go) made a deal with a group in politics known as 'the family', the same bunch of people who started the National Prayer Breakfast.  They are the same group who tried to get the death penalty for being LGBT in Uganda with pseudo-science.  So, we have the family influence continuing in politics, pushing an extreme form of religion, after their early success; but we also got the Interstate Highway Program which dramatically contributed to our success post WW II. 

I'd call that a barely fair tradeoff of good (the highway system) for evil (crackpot religious conservatism).


Monday, April 11, 2016

Why would Muslims be antagonistic? Why AREN'T they?

Several stories have caught my attention in the past few days. 

One was the news that between 2000 and 2014, hate crimes against Muslims had increased 800%, even as hate crimes overall - at least, those that were reported - were declining.

Another story was the news from the WaPo that the perpetrator and planner of the terrorist attacks in Paris had been arrested, through the direct action and cooperation of a Muslim woman cooperating with authorities (and her husband).  Without this help, it is not certain that the lead Paris terrorist or the related Belgian terrorists, who targeted Brussels in lieu of further attacks on Paris.  As noted in the WaPo piece, one woman helped authorities, while another woman, one alienated by her surrounding culture, helped the terrorists, if only marginally.
“It’s important the world knows that I am Muslim myself,” the woman said, citing that as a reason for being willing to speak to The Post. “It’s important to me that people know what Abaaoud and the others did is not what Islam is teaching.”
And then there were the assorted stories where conservative candidates for President, and their assorted official advisers, advocate EXACTLY the kind of thinking that ENCOURAGES hate crime attacks on Muslims, and DISCOURAGES the very essential cooperation of Muslims to combat terrorism.  That ranges from fear peddling false stories about sharia law in cities like Minneapolis, to banning Muslims (except a few rich personal friends of Drumpf) from entering the country.

We have Ted Cruz wanting to turn Muslim neighborhoods into heavily patrolled police states, not unlike the Nazis did with Jews. Cruz claims when pressed that he would work with Muslim community leaders, but his tone and intent give no basis for those communities or their leaders to work with him.   And we have Donny Drumpf advocating that along with torture for Muslim prisoners, and the killing of their families, which would be a human rights violation.

I doubt law enforcement would be willing to cooperate.  As noted by anti-terrorism expert in the city of New York, site of the 9/11 attack (among others) :
Both de Blasio and Bratton pointed out that the NYPD has more than 900 active Muslim officers.
“I have over 900 very dedicated officers in this department, many of whom do double duty,” Bratton said. “They serve as active duty members of the U.S. Military in combat, something the senator [Cruz] has never seen.” [or Trump/Drumpf either -DG].

I don't know about you, but that certainly would not motivate me to cooperate with authorities, and that kind of antagonistic proposals would certainly provoke the opposite response.   This is an insult to all of the Muslims, and there are many, who have put their lives in danger to defend this country against all threats, including terrorism.  This is an insult to the many Muslim members of law enforcement as well, who protect this country, as noted by authorities in cities like New York, scene of the 9/11 attacks. 

As noted by alternet:
Of course, the claim that Muslims pose a greater threat is patently false. There is a long and disturbing history of domestic terrorism committed by people of Christian backgrounds, from the Oklahoma City bombing to the Charleston church massacre. A report released last year by the New America research group found that, since September 11, 2001, non-Muslim domestic terrorists posed the greatest security threat.

We have insanely false statements made by the Cruz campaign advisers and supporters. One example would be Clare Lopez, who made inflammatory false claims on St. Cloud radio, unchecked by a crackpot right wing radio host and hate monger.

From the City Pages:
Clare Lopez told her lie on something called "Ox in the Afternoon," a St. Cloud-based radio show, where she implied that Minneapolis was setting itself up for a Brussels-style terrorist attack by giving over control of the streets to religious law. "In Minneapolis, for example," Lopez said, "places where police don't go, because they know they'll be attacked, have been attacked in the past, and places where police know Shariah is being practiced." Once Clare had established the underlying lie, she expanded. "Now, Americans might not know this, but, under Shariah, honor killing, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, underage and polygamous marriage, are all part of Shariah. Those are all part of Shariah." Lopez went on to imply that Minneapolis was, by allowing the made-up stuff she just talked about, making itself vulnerable to a homegrown terrorist attack. "Because we have, like Europe, like Western Europe, allowed in, and invited in, populations of Muslim migrants and refugees, who do not have the same worldview — the same principles, the democratic, constitutional principles that we live by in this country — their worldview is completely different than all of that. Because we've invited them in and allowed them not to assimilate, we are inviting the same kind of problems here that we're seeing in places like Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France."
This reminds me of the shallow and simplistic thinking we saw from the right to protect the US from an epidemic of Ebola, recommendations which the science and medical communities argues were the worst possible responses (like banning travel from Africa) combined with unconstitutional actions against Americans. These are people, whatever level of education they have attained, who respond with emotions, with feelings, not with rational thought, reason or logic. These right wingers endanger us all, both inside and outside our borders.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The last gasp of the Leith NoDak takeover attempt by Craig Cobb, Trump supporter

In the 2016 election cycle, no surprise, given the pandering to white supremacists by Donald Drumpf and his family, Craig Cobb is a supporter.  Last October Nightline did an interview with Cobb.

Cobb is delusional if he thinks the problems people have with him are in any way discriminatory or contrary to his first amendment rights.  It is a sadly conservative phenomenon when those who attempt to victimize others then claim THEY are the victims when it doesn't go well.  It is endemic among conservatives.

Trump-Loving Racist Craig Cobb Repeatedly Calls Nightline Anchor Byron Pitts N-Word During Interview

While recently doing a story about known White Supremacist Craig Cobb, ABC producer Jasmine Brown and anchor Byron Pitts were subject to hateful tirades and now the story has been brought to life through a produced video by timesXtwo.

 “He is very much in love with Donald Trump,” adds Brown. She continues to describe a line of Cobb’s saying, “I would almost rather talk to a Jew, because then at least they would be intelligent.”



The final closing of the book on the attempted white supremacist takeover by Craig Cobb in the tiny town of Leith, North Dakota took place last week, just as TPT was running the documentary of the takeover on public television. 

It is worth watching the independent documentary Welcome to Leith here.

From KVRR:

North Dakota Officials Close Craig Cobb Investigation

BISMARCK, N.D. - State officials have closed their investigation into ten human rights complaints filed by white supremacist Craig Cobb.

Cobb alleged discrimination because of his white supremacy religious views.
The Department of Labor and Human Rights rejected all of the complaints, including one Cobb filed against Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, who's running for governor.
Cobb and one of his crazy side-kicks, an Ichabod Crane lookalike named Kynan Dutton, were arrested and spent some time in jail for terrorizing the town of Leith before making a plea deal.

Had Cobb and his confederates been smarter and had more money, they might have pulled off their town takeover.  This kind of neo-Nazi intimidation is not a smart way to try to take over a town; you can count on push back.  Meet your not-so-friendly neighborly Trump supporters, and those with whom they choose to associate under the 1A..

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The GOP primary in Wisconsin by the numbers, conservatives dislike their candidates

In spite of the high voter turnout there is a lack of enthusiasm for both of the leading GOP candidates that was on show in the primary in next-door Wisconsin.  A lack of enthusiasm was responsible for the failure of Mitt Romney in 2012.  A different way of saying essentially the same thing is that Trump - and Cruz - have high unfavorability ratings in polls.

Once again we are being treated to unsubstantiated accusations that Cruz 'stole' Trump's election. Trump never had a likely win in Wisconsin.  I will be the first to acknowledge that Cruz has used dirty tricks, but it's not like Trump is any more honest in his campaigning than Cruz either.  Both have a record of playing dirty.

To be fair, Hillary Clinton has a higher unfavorability level than is healthy for her success in either the primary or the general election too, but they are nowhere near as high as Trump's.  And typically a higher turnout benefits Dems in ways that don't have appear to hold true for Republicans.

It is true, at this point, Trump has more delegates than Cruz and Kasich combined; Kasich isn't going to get out of the race ahead of the Ohio convention.  Because he has so many more delegates, he believes, he FEELS, the nomination is his -- another example of faulty right wing entitlement he has persuaded his supporters to share with him. 

The WaPo has an excellent map here of the voting distribution by candidates; Kasich did not win a single county.

However many of Trump's supporters who are aggrieved, it won't make a significant difference to those who disapprove of him.  And the level of enthusiasm won't give him a guaranteed win - Trump appears to demand a so-called coronation that he is not likely to get.

Even before the Wisconsin primary, Trump has been making some false statements that his supporters were turning out record numbers of voters; NEW voters.  No surprise, that doesn't appear to be the case if you look at the findings of Factcheck.org.  Factcheck.org correctly analyzed the numbers, while Trump was misrepresenting those figures.

Trump Touts GOP Turnout

In making the case for his electability in the general election, Donald Trump said that when it comes to primary voter turnout so far “the Democrats are down 35 percent, whereas the Republicans are up over 70 percent.”
Actually, both Republicans and Democrats are seeing higher primary voter turnouts compared with 2012.
But in fairness to Trump, a comparison with 2008 makes more sense, given it was the last time both parties had contested primaries at this stage. And by that measure, Trump is nearly accurate, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center of primary voter turnout for each party going back to 1980.
But 2008 was an outlier for Democrats, far outpacing primary voter turnout over the last several decades. With the exception of 2008, Democratic turnout this year is higher than any year since 1992. Meanwhile, Republican primary turnout is the highest it has been going back to at least 1980, when Pew began tracking primary voter turnout.
As for Trump’s larger point, experts warn there is no evidence that high primary turnout leads to general election success.
Trump made his claim about primary voter turnout on ABC’s “This Week,” in response to a question about the possibility of a brokered convention and whether the Republican Party ought to give Trump the nod even if he falls short of the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination on a first ballot.
...The analysis also found that in four of five elections, the party with the larger raw increase in primary voter turnout from the previous election lost the popular vote in the general election. And in terms of percentage change, the party whose primary turnout improved the most won the popular vote in the general election only two out of five times.
There are examples that back up Trump’s point, such as in 2008, when very high Democratic turnout preceded a Democratic victory in the November general election. But there are as many instances when the reverse happened. In 1988, for example, Democrats had a much higher primary turnout than Republicans, but the Republican, George H.W. Bush handily defeated the Democratic nominee, Michael Dukakis, in the general election.
In other words, Burden said, “There’s no relationship at all.”
Sometimes, high primary turnout is driven by enthusiasm for opposing candidates in a tight race. That was the case in 2008 when voters were choosing between the potential for the first woman president or the first African American, Burden said. Other times, though, it can be a sign of party turmoil, which can spell trouble in a general election, he said.
Republicans are setting records now for primary turnout, Burden said, and some of that is enthusiasm for the candidates. But some of it, he said, is being driven by a desire among some to stop Trump from getting the nomination.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Proving the point, Conservatives have a completely failed set of priorities and fears, and badly failed values as well

Not to mention an utter failure to grasp cause and effect.





It's science, stupid!

The gun-obsessed insist on a faulty reasoning, that if you restrict guns, only criminals will have guns.  That is not true, in nations where guns are much more restricted than in the USA, there is lower rates of crimes with guns and lower rates of gun violence.  Gun restrictions keeps firearms OUT OF THE HANDS OF CRIMINALS.

I have yet to see a solid, reasoned or valid peer review (one which is supported by other experts in an appropriate related field) which validates the claims of the gun obsessed.  The Journal of the American Medical Association is no lightweight organization/publication.

From ScienceNews.orgMagazine issue:

Vol. 189, No. 7, April 2, 2016, p. 5

Guns, drugs, cars. Sounds like a formula for an action movie, but the list may explain why American men don’t live as long as men in other high-income countries.

In the United States, average life expectancy among men is 76.4 years — about two years shorter than men who live in Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and nine other countries. Deaths due to injuries are the reason for much of the gap, researchers report in the Feb. 9 JAMA.

An analysis of U.S. and World Health Organization data revealed that deaths from injuries due to firearms, drug poisonings and auto crashes account for 48 percent of the difference in men’s life expectancies. These causes of death are less of a problem for American women, the researchers found.

   Life expectancy graph

Monday, April 4, 2016

Conservatives either Don't KNOW the basics of biology, or they are eager to DENY IT - and to make denial LAW

I have long contended that conservatives generally, and Minnesota conservatives specifically, do not have a good grasp of basic biology - the stuff you should be able to pass in K-12. They don't do too well on other science subjects either, like seismology (earthquake science) or evolution, geology, and archeology.  (It is worth noting the latter legislator is nominally a democrat, but in fact another conservative. He likes to focus on....sigh..Bible principles and the United States Constitution; in other words, another know-nothing-and-proud-of-it.)

We are lucky if a conservative doesn't believe God plants babies in cabbage patches, to avoid the fact that babies result from SEX. 

Sadly, conservatives also seek to dumb-down others.

So long as conservatives don't understand basic anatomy, or reproductive biology, sex, gender, sexuality or sexual orientation, they have no legitimate business passing any kind of legislation relating to those topics.

That I am correct in my contention has been widely demonstrated, most recently in the state legislature with the proposed anti-trans bathroom bill, legislation which is not only badly misinformed but likely unconstitutional.  And it is demonstrated again with the recent research cited in the Minnesota Daily (h/t to my colleague at MN PP for alerting me to this story).

Conservatives lie about abortion; they try to force states to promote their lies to women as if they were factual.  They are not.

Here is, via the MN Daily, a list of the many things about which these conservatives have lied, including here in MN.  It's worse in states with a greater proportion of conservatives in power.  I have to disagree with the headline however, while Minnesota is one of the states reviewed, Minnesota was not targeted per se, and all state identifying information was removed for the review.

Study targets Minnesota abortion information

Twenty percent of content in state literature is inaccurate or misleading, the study said.

A fifth of the information in Minnesota state-produced pamphlets given to women seeking abortions has been deemed medically inaccurate by new academic research.
The study examined pamphlets produced by states that have “Woman’s Right to Know”  laws. Under this law, Minnesota requires that before moving forward with an abortion, women must receive a Minnesota Department of Health pamphlet on risks associated with abortion and fetal development, as well as information on resources if she decides to carry to term.
Rutgers University researchers looked at 23 of the 29 states with the law for the study, which will be published in print next month in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. Researchers later added information on three more states to their study online.
Minnesota was among the states with the least amount of inaccuracies, with 51 out of 250 statements deemed incorrect by professional anatomists. 
After stripping the statements of state identifiers, the panel of fetal development experts used two scales to assess the accuracy or misleading nature of each statement.  
Study co-author and Rutgers University Ph.D. Candidate Grace Howard said that in all 26 state handbooks studied, there were inaccuracies — usually descriptions of a fetus as more developed than it would be at that stage or unrealistic size and weight measurements. 
“We saw in fetal development information a tendency to describe the fetus as more advanced developmentally than it was,” she said. “You can often see that in statements about viability, size and potentiality of a fetus.”
The last few pages of the MDH pamphlet describe abortion methods, medical risks and long-term side effects, including the “emotional side of abortion” and “fetal pain” — both contentious national issues.
“We have better research on the effects of abortion, like breast cancer, fertility and mental health problems,” Howard said. “The science has been clear that abortion doesn’t actually affect these things. There is new research that very much confirms that abortion does not cause mental health problems.” 
Of all the pamphlets from the 26 states studied, the study found the most complete inaccuracies in the statements about the first trimester, during which many women get an abortion. 
For example, the panel unanimously ranked “arm and leg buds present” during the second week of pregnancy as entirely medically inaccurate, according to the study.
“A fetus doesn’t actually have fingers, toes, legs [early in the pregnancy],” Howard said. “But a statement in the brochure might say this part is forming or will form.”
Across all states, one-third of all the statements were found to be inaccurate, the study said. 
The research didn’t assess the lasting impact medical inaccuracies and misleading information has on women, but similar studies — examining women’s responses in states that offer ultrasounds or the chance to hear a fetal heartbeat before abortion — show that the vast majority of women still move forward with the procedure. 
For some women, a lack of knowledge of how abortions affect women’s health and well-being leads them to agree with statements that aren’t backed up by science, Roberts said.
We need to fix this, and conservatives will fight accurate information every step of the way. Better yet, we need to leave medical education of patients entirely up to their doctors, and butt out of this kind of informational requirement entirely. But it will take a clear majority of Democrats, and a Democratic governor for that to happen.

John Oliver correctly identifies what is wrong with Trump on Nukes Use

The right consistently goes with emotion over reason.

The right is belligerently anti-intellectual; they are at best antagonistic to knowledge and to people who have knowledge.  They call them elites and intellectuals, they distrust these people who know more than they do, and they resent any need on their part to acquire knowledge and skill in critical thinking.

This is why they like simplistic answers, no matter how wrong they are.  Remember the Ebola scare, where the right wing nuts were running around like a character out of Chicken Little claiming the sky was falling? The simplistic - but WRONG - solution they demanded was to ban travel from Africa.  This was widely popular among the base on the right, and it was broadly articulated by prominent right wing populist leaders.  While it was a solution that medical experts insisted would not KEEP people safer from an epidemic, it made the right FEEL better that they would be safe.

The right consistently goes with emotion over facts and reason.

Obama did not do that, and as a result we had a couple of cases of Ebola, that were well managed, except for that one case in Texas.  Swaggering, inept, cheapskate Texas - enough said.

And conservatives were persuaded that if we did not ban that travel, we were all going to die, en masse, with blood gushing from every orifice in an apocalyptic nightmare.

It did not happen.  It did not happen because the person in power - President Obama - made his decisions based on knowledge and reason and the advice of medical science experts.

The anti-Muslim and anti-Europe positions of the right, as articulated by right wing leaders and propagandists,  FEElS good to emotion driven conservatives.  They don't want no stinking information, they don't want to have to think critically, and most of all they don't want the advice of thoughtful and informed experts on the subject.

Which is why Trump and Cruz and the rest can say stupid, irresponsible things on foreign policy and military strategies, and they will be embraced by the right wing nut base. 

John Oliver calls it wonderfully.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Sack Nails IT

Hooray for the Green Nineteen + 1

There are real problems for our own state from climate change.

There is a real problem with fraud from the well funded oil interests and other fossil fuel energy interests.

ASSLaw, so aptly named, although Greedy ASSLaw would have more truth in advertizing

Conservatives promote their own alternate economics schools to promote wealth and income inequality policies

ASSLAW.

 I did not make this up.

I swear, I did not make this up. It appears to be a real name change, bought and paid for with conservative cash.  ASSLaw is the abbreviation for Antonin Scalia School of Law, formerly known as George Mason Law.

George Mason was a founding father of some distinction.

Other than being propped up by Koch bucks, I would venture the opinion that over time Antonin Scalia's SCOTUS legacy will be very poor, and not at all distinguished.

It is a toss up as to which is worse, the timing of the announcement, the aptness of the acronym, or yet another example of the Koch brothers buying ideological educational entities where they can cheat honest education.

The right has contrived their own echo chamber world, with fake professional organizations like the bogus American COLLEGE of Pediatrics, media that promotes a less factual worldview and which encourages conspiracy theories and other nuttery, and of course their own skewed world view in educational institutions. 

This is how you grow an ideology that embraces Trump.  You literally contrive an alternate, ignorant, misinformed and disinformed world. Like this.
From 'Above the Law'
George Mason was a founding father. He was one of the men who was responsible for the Bill of Rights — he wouldn’t sign the constitution without it (or at all, ultimately). Now, the law school at the university that bears his name is changing its name to the Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University. Amazingly, this is not an April Fool’s joke. Richard Kelsey, Director of the Mason Law Community, tweeted out the news.
Good lord. You are deemphasizing the name of a founding father to honor a man who fetishisized the beliefs held at the founding? A guy who didn’t go there, or have any connection to the school, who wouldn’t have hired a George Mason law student as a bathroom attendant, much less a Supreme Court clerk? That’s the guy you are renaming your law school after? Your Twitter hashtag is now #ASSLaw (Antonin Scalia School of Law).
Who was in second place, Donald Trump? Is there any reason for this? (followed by this tweet from Ian Milhiser)
 It's good that they will stop pretending to be anything other than a conservative policy shop with students.12:08 PM - 31 Mar 2016
If George Mason just wanted to appeal to conservative students, they could have called themselves the Chick-Fil-A School Of Lawsauce, and still pocketed the money.

Money, of course, is the other factor in this change.
From the WSJ:
The school expected to unveil the name change Thursday afternoon, along with an announcement that it has received two donations totaling $30 million, including a $10 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.

LOL… the Koch brothers, man. They want so desperately to spread the gospel of conservative values that they’re willing to shove aside a founding father to make their point. I hope all of you soon-to-be “Scalia Alums” enjoy having that follow you around for the rest of your life.
And from the actual George Mason official announcement, by way of Above the Law:
The gift includes $20 million that came to George Mason through a donor who approached Leonard A. Leo of the Federalist Society, a personal friend of the late Justice Scalia and his family. The anonymous donor asked that the university name the law school in honor of the Justice. “The Scalia family is pleased to see George Mason name its law school after the Justice, helping to memorialize his commitment to a legal education that is grounded in academic freedom and a recognition of the practice of law as an honorable and intellectually rigorous craft,” said Leo. The gift also includes a $10 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, which supports hundreds of colleges and universities across the country that pursue scholarship related to societal well-being and free societies.
 [Also from the official announcement, here is one of the scholarships:]
F.A. Hayek Law, Legislation, and Liberty Scholarship – Named in honor of the 1974 Nobel Prize winner in economics, this scholarship will be awarded to students who have a demonstrated interest in studying the application of economic principles to the law.
Scalia must be grinning in his grave, while many others above the ground are spinning, or at least their heads are.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Audacity of Privelege

In school I generally detested writing and in high school I struggled with writing..   I still sometimes struggle to translate the thoughts I see so clearly in my mind into words on a page.    It is maddening.  My solution has too often been to throw more words at the idea in a "Dennis Leary" style stream of consciousness.  Too rarely is the synthesis concise, too rarely is it clear to the point of easy understanding.  Would that it were.

By contrast, sometimes we all engage in conversation which is unclear on purpose, in writing or in person.  Sometimes we  dissemble.  We say things which are opaque and so can be construed to mean one thing or another.  I think most will admit that dissembling isn't something we admire nor is it something to which we should aspire to engage in.  It's kissing cousins to sophistry, it's lying in a subtle way, but it is lying.

In our society today we have few candidates for President who didn't come from a privileged background or who, like President Obama, didn't attend a top tier school.  They were steeped in an education which carried a requirement to speak and write well, to speak and write with purpose.  To be successful in business I can speak with some authority that clear communication is an absolute requirement.  Lack of clarity, especially by a leader, leads only to chaos and uncertainty.   It leads to inefficiency and it leads to failure.  Many articles by CEOs name clear communication and integrity as the two greatest keys to their own success, so if you don't want to take my word for it, take theirs.  My education was comparatively pedestrian, yet I learned that stating things with clear purpose and intent was essential in school, and I learned later that it was essential in life.  My education wasn't at Oxford, I didn't learn to be so eloquent and clear in my expression that my words are going to go down in history as profound, in fact maybe only children and theirs will remember any of them.

But how should we evaluate a presidential candidate?  How should we judge someone seeking to be the top executive of our government?  Should we think of someone who has made a habit of speaking only in generalities, in making no detailed or substantive policy statements as ready? What would the world think of such a person?  Would they find him/her trustworthy.  In a world where every word the President says is examined and scrutinized, what would be the reaction to someone who says one thing one moment and quite often something very different the next, be?  What would they think of someone who said he or she would not honor prior promises and would casually violate treaties which had been struck?  Could they trust them, would they trust us, as a nation, ever again?  Even more, how do we evaluate a candidate whose words are such a jumble of incoherent incomplete sentences that it's difficult to know what he or she meant to say or would do?

Donald J Trump attended some of the top schools in the United States.  He attended the New York Military School, a private preparatory boarding school (not West Point, let's be clear).  He then started at Fordham University but transferred to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, an ivy league school, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in  Economics. Wharton, is considered one of the 3 best institutions for Economics in the country.  When someone says they wen to Wharton, everyone understands what was meant.  Mr. Trump had to express himself in complete sentences, probably even eloquently, to perform his college coursework and receive his degree from Wharton.

Over the past couple of decades Mr. Trump has weighed in on various political topics despite recently claiming he was "not a politician prior to 6 months ago."  That statement is false of course since he ran for President in 2012 and made similar overtures before that.  When expressing his opinion he has done so using language which was so vague as to be virtually meaningless.  If you read a transcript rather than heard him speak, seriously, you would struggle to know what he was trying to say.  He also has made comments which so extreme that they were immediately divisive and  unbelievably offensive.  He wanted to sound like he stood for something extreme, seemingly because it attracted followers and made him "look strong." Yet, nearly every time he spoke, he then would make a statement which allowed him to claim he didn't mean it or didn't say it.  Such as when he sarcastically called John McCain "a hero" but then said he wasn't really one because he'd "only been a hero because he was a prisoner."  When he was called out on it he said, "But I said he was a hero."  Sure he did, in a mocking questioning tone.

Mr. Trump is clearly a clever and bright man.  He has to know this is dissembling, he has to know it's lying.  Is this conduct some sort of reflection of the arrogance the privileged sometimes show toward those they see as their lessers or simply the arrogance of Trump himself?  If you think that's an unfair statement, please read on.  Mr. Trump's audacity is incredible, just in this one story, but that's my opinion, judge for yourself.  That the man capable of being clear but now opts to speak as if he were a third grader, lacking clarity, consistency or structure, seems prima fascia evidence that he knows better but respects his supporters so little that he feels he can lie to them bald-faced and won't get caught or at least won't be held accountable.  They claim he's "a straight shooter" but when told he lied seem not to care.

So, for them I offer one example, of Mr. Trump's fatuous self-aggrandizing pomposity. It speaks volumes about this man's unreadiness to be our commander-in-chief.  If you don't like Trump because he's made openly bigoted statements, good; you shouldn't.  But if you like Trump because you think he "tells it like it is" and sticks to his guns, read the following and then try to reconcile rationally this example against your emotions in response to Trump.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/in-2002-donald-trump-said-he-supported-invading-iraq-on-the#.iwwG3M3qA

The gist of this story is simply this.  Trump said three things about Iraq.  The first, before we invaded he said in 2002 when he said we should invade Iraq.  The second, again before we invaded was said in early 2003 where he said if wee were going to do so we should go in and stop equivocating.  He was less committal but did say Bush was doing a "great job", a statement he later contradicted by saying the administration did a terrible job.  The last was said months after the invasion and war had started, not before, in the early fall of 2003.  He didn't tell Bush "not to go" or "don't go", he said after the fact, that it was a mistake.  It was typical Trump hindsight, claiming to be brilliant after the fact.  He said it was a mistake only after it turned out it wasn't going to be the cake-walk others predicted, presumably including Trump himself by saying we should go in 2002.  Now he says he said we shouldn't have gone in, he "slips" and says he said "Don't go" implying he said it before the war started when he didn't, when he really means to be saying is that he said "you shouldn't have gone in" after it had started to fail.  He was an early Republican of those saying this, but hardly the only one saying that in the late summer of 2003 as there were MANY Democrats saying the same and many others were questioning our actions when our forces failed to find any active WMD programs and/or large caches of usable WMD munitions. 

But the truth was that Trump was convinced, like Bush, that we should invade in 2002.  He didn't say "Don't go", he said "invade" and then he said "invade or not, but stop wasting time." When that became an inconvenient truth Trump did what he always does.  He spoke out of both sides of his mouth, trying to have it both ways.  That is dishonest, that is deliberate deception too.   He wasn't "right" about Iraq any more than he was "right" about President Obama having been born in Kenya.  He may have been "right" after the fact but  he wasn't right when it mattered, he wasn't right at the time. 

He wants to re-write his own history, he wants to rewrite our national history.  He flip-flopped on one of the most important foreign policy actions of the modern age.  He's no great military mind, he's no strong leader, and worst of all, he speaks in lies and confusion to delude his supporters.

This is not unique to the topic of Iraq, this is the modus operandi of Trump on every issue.  Trump makes dangerous statements about nukes, about our allies, about our treaties, about abortion and religion.  And then as he finds it convenient, he pretends otherwise.

Trump has made many such claims over the years from his birtherisms which he walked back and said "I don't know" once the evidence showed him to be a fool, to claiming incorrectly that an American General shot a prisoner with bullets coated in pig dung (which would have been an illegal act).  He made that claim as part of claiming it was a successful tactic to deter Muslim fighters. Not only was it NOT, as proven in India when done by the Brits, it proved to be wildly inflammatory making the situation worse.  No matter, to one Donald J. Trump, if it sounds good and tough, that's all that matters.  If it fails or you get caught and called out, well point to something else you said and say it wasn't true that you hadn't said it in the first place.  This is not a man the world will trust, it is certainly not a man the world will respect and absolutely not a man the world will agree to "make deals" with or sign treaties with.  He's untrustworthy to his core, what he says one moment he'll deny the next.  He talks about tearing up treaties others have made, why not his own if inconvenient, but most disturbing of all, his grasp of the world and of the military realities within it is equally immature and fluid.  One day he'll support an ally, the next seeming, he'll abandon them.  If you want to know the kind of President he'll be seen as, there is one word, utterly and supremely dishonest.

Children have little patience for lies.  They have a rudimentary but very black and white sense of justice, it's why they so often utter the obvious truth even when doing so is embarrassing.  They don't like sophistry or dissembling because they don't understand it.  I think children would call Trump a big fat liar, the question for his supporters is this.  If a child can see his dishonesty, why can't you?

No foolin'

A little bit of Friday Fun for April Fool's Day 2016

Even while being entertained, one should beware manipulation and continue to think critically.

The video, while charming, is a rear projection. It is not affected by anything in the front side of the box.

The 'industrial light' provided is dark, not lit, and even if it were lit, those are not the kind of shadows it would create.  People making the light swing are not making any difference to the projection whatsoever, yet people continue to move the light as if they were causing some kind of change.  It appears as if their participation in this art increased their emotional enjoyment, gave them a sense of creativity and even joy, as well.

Not precisely April Fool, but perhaps a pleasant but cautionary tale against being fooled.

I found that a thoughtful outcome of this art. I hope you do as well.