States Rights

Have you seen how strongly Republicans are supporting States rights with regard to sanctuary cities?

I posted elsewhere a few weeks ago that people should be consistent on their position about States rights, but I’ve moderated my position. Think of the power hierarchy as:

UN > Country > State > County > City > Borough > Family > Person.

It doesn’t matter which level you choose to have the controlling say; if it takes an unethical position, it has no moral justification for it. In other words, we must judge policies not by who issues them, but by whether they are ethical. (I don’t need to get into how that is judged here!)

Posted in Law, Politics, Society

5 Reasons to Enjoy the Trump Regime

The blows are relentless. Our news feeds deliver multiple shocks each day. The barrage slows time down — surely it can’t be only 24 days since the inauguration?

And yet there is joy to be found in all this.

1. The Explosion of Satire

Late-night comedy has accepted the challenge. Not only does it make us laugh, its caustic humor strips away the lies and dissimulations and shows us the attempts to distort reality.

2. Knowing that Trump watches TV

Watching SNL has the added pleasure of knowing that Trump is watching, too. Before the election, he lived in a bubble of private jets and adoring crowds. Now, late at night, alone in his bathrobe, abandoned by his wife, every skit is a denial of the love he needs to feed his narcissism.

3. The Awakening of the Left

Nothing like this has happened in nearly half a century. People are marching for the first time in their lives. Congressman are besieged at Town Halls. Phone systems are flooded. This is not a knee-jerk paroxysm of disappointment at the election results; it is an immune response to the invasion of the body politic.

4. Finding Community

This huge reaction to Trump is making people feel connected to each other, not just for the political crisis of the moment, but by the human desire for fairness for all, whether refugees, LGBTQ, minimum wage workers, immigrants or the sick.

5. Living in a Movie

We’ve all seen and been swept up in countless dramas, whether spy thriller, alien invasion or bank heist. Now we’re in one. It’s real, it’s 3-dimensional, it has plot twists and turns, it has a cast of thousands. You’re one of them. Pick your role — helpless victim, crowd extra, martyr or revolutionary leader. Enjoy it! The opportunity may never come again. Act so you will be proud to tell your grand-children when they ask “What did you do in the Trump Regime?”

Posted in Politics, Society Tagged with: , ,

A Frenzied Legislative Crackdown on Civil Rights

LA Womens’ March

I’m seeing a flurry of bills that limit protest:

These are all State measures, but I suspect that Republicans are worried about the recent protests and will propose similar legislation, cloaked of course in Newspeak as The National Peace and Harmony Act. (Speaking of Newspeak, “1984”, the #1 Amazon best-seller, is currently out of stock and Penguin is rushing to print more.)

But authorities don’t even need to act legally; they can suppress protest by any means necessary, as happened to Occupy Wall Street encampments around the country. A law school report concluded that “there now is a systematic effort by authorities to suppress protests, even when these are lawful and pose no threat to the public.” Even though such suppression was subsequently found illegal:

eventual justice counts for nothing years later when the goal is to disband the protests.

Posted in Law, Politics, Society Tagged with: , ,

The Press Versus Trump

The NYTimes just published a fascinating article, not for its content, but for its tone. Starting with the headline “With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift“, the message is that the Trump administration lies, and those lies are being unequivocally called out. I have been a subscriber for 30 years and have never seen such a clear denunciation. It starts with the opening paragraph:

President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.

and continues:

“Mr. Trump ignored his own repeated public statements criticizing the intelligence community, a group he compared to Nazis just over a week ago.”
“It was a striking display of invective and grievance”
“On Saturday, he said journalists were responsible for any suggestion that he was not fully supportive of intelligence agencies’ work…. Mr. Trump said nothing during the visit about how he had mocked the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies”
“[His press secretary] incorrectly claimed that ridership on Washington’s subway system was higher than on Inauguration Day in 2013.”

Along with this, CNN declined to air the press conference live, deciding to see what was said and then play relevant parts as deemed necessary. It looks like the start of an all-out war between Trump and the press.

Posted in Media, Politics

A Supreme Court Strategy for Democrats

Democratic Senators should refuse to approve any Supreme Court nominee until Merrick Garland is renominated. This would be a principled stand that

  • allows Republicans to make amends for their recalcitrance,
  • offers a centrist appointment to a divided country, and
  • is less radical than Republican calls to leave the seat vacant for 4 years.

A divided country deserves centrist appointments.

Posted in Law, Politics Tagged with: ,

Tackling the Problem of Fake News

Stopping fake newsSlate is launching an attempt to mark fake news. They will “rely on crowdsourcing and human moderation by Slate staffers and contributors.” There will probably be sabotage attempts by bad actors, and the results will be criticized for liberal bias just the way Snopes was attacked, but it’s still heartening to see organisations rising to the challenge.

Posted in Media, Society Tagged with: ,

Only Conservatives Fall For Fake News Stories

NYT correctionThere has been much coverage of fake news stories and how they might have affected the election. Interestingly, the news site owners said that the only stories that went viral were pro-conservative ones.

He was amazed at how quickly fake news could spread and how easily people believe it…. “We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out.” Source.

He set up a website, posted gushing stories about Hillary Clinton and waited for ad sales to soar. “I don’t know why, but it did not work,” said the student, Beqa Latsabidze, 22, who was savvy enough to change course when he realized what did drive traffic: laudatory stories about Donald J. Trump that mixed real — and completely fake — news in a stew of anti-Clinton fervor. Source.

This agrees with Buzzfeed’s analysis of Facebook stories:

Of the 20 top-performing false election stories identified in the analysis, all but three were overtly pro-Donald Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton. (Source)

Another way to look at this is to say that conservatives are very attached to ideology, and will dismiss facts that don’t fit the theory. For example, I got into a long online discussion about supplying birth control to low-income people. My opponent was outraged at people getting something for nothing, despite the considerable social savings. This ideological bias explains conservatives’ narrower selection of news sources — eliminating information that contradicts their worldview is necessary to maintaining a coherent model.

Ideology is a form of morality, and Glen Greenwald makes the point that pragmatism is not always enough:

If, on a pragmatic level, the consequences of attacking Iraq had been different than what they were — if we had been able to invade and occupy relatively quickly and derive substantial material gain from doing so, including somehow making ourselves marginally “safer” — would that have made the Iraq War a just and desirable action?  Isn’t more than pragmatic calculation necessary to inform foreign policy decisions? (Source)

but ideology should be constructed from observations about how the world works, and when it is elevated to an axiom, it loses its authority.


Posted in Media, Politics, Society Tagged with:

What Went Wrong

Here’s what went wrong. There were establishment and populist candidates on both sides. Thirty years of tax cuts, trade agreements and computerization gave all the productivity gains to the top, and the average person suffered. Republicans chose the populist candidate, the DNC chose the establishment candidate, and the populist candidate won.

So I blame the DNC

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , ,

The Demise of the GOP

Trumpty dumped the GOP call;
Trumpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the right rednecks and all the right men
Couldn’t stand being together again.

The Republican party sustained its uneasy coalition of social and fiscal(*) conservatives for years, but this latest split, presaged by the Tea Party, is so open and so extreme that I cannot see how a coalition can be assembled. The right-wing tendency to tribalism (see Haidt) will forestall any compromise.

* They never were when you look at the numbers; that was just political marketing.

Posted in Politics

The Environmental Impact of Food

SheepOne of the reasons I reverted to vegetarianism was the environmental impact of meat, so I was taken aback to read that cheese is the 3rd-highest in terms of CO2 production, ahead of pork, salmon, turkey and chicken. Detailed figures are on p.6 of the full report. I have to think about this for a while.

The closing paragraphs also say that locally-grown and organic foods reduce the impact. That’s interesting, as I have long assumed that environmental impact is roughly proportional to cost. My thinking is that $2 organic broccoli requires more labor than $1 regular broccoli, and the extra workers drive, eat, etc., all of which adds to the final environmental impact. (Yes, there is a trade-off of the benefit of not using pesticides vs. other impacts.)

Posted in The environment