Month: November 2019

A President Openly Susceptible to Blackmail Cannot Serve

13991448146 7c43be22ea kDavid Atkins:

’Our capacity for shock in response to events surrounding Trump has died the death of a thousand cuts. But we should still be shaken to the core that the President of the United States is currently being blackmailed by his personal lawyer to avoid being thrown under the bus in a conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion against a domestic political opponent and on behalf a hostile power. Giuliani’s scheme so closely resembles a mafia movie that he has even threatened the release of a dead man’s drop “if anything happens to him.”

This has now moved beyond partisan politics, rule of law or the guardrails of democracy. It’s a clear and grave matter of national security.

Even if you’re a conservative who believes that Trump should be defended for opportunistic political reasons; even if you wrongly believe that the President should have the legal authority to push a foreign government to dig up dirt on a domestic political opponent; even if you are disengaged from reality enough to believe in conspiracy theories about Crowdstrike, the Bidens and the origins of the Russia investigation; even beyond all of that, the implications of Giuliani’s behavior are such that the President is too hopelessly compromised in his position to serve in office.

If Rudy Giuliani believes he has damaging enough information on the president to make it impossible for the president to push off blame for the Ukraine extortion conspiracy onto him, then functionally the entire Executive Branch of the American Government is subject to Giuliani’s whims. If the Republican Senate majority is so terrified of Donald Trump that they refuse to convict him despite the airtight case against him and despite the fact that his own personal lawyer at the center of the case feels he has enough dirt on Trump in the affair to blackmail him, then the blackmailer also has extraordinary power over the Senate as well.…’

Via Washington Monthly

Not Watching… Much Worse

Chuck Palahniuk:

’“Big Brother isn’t watching. He’s singing and dancing. He’s pulling rabbits out of a hat. Big Brother’s busy holding your attention every moment you’re awake. He’s making sure you’re always distracted. He’s making sure you’re fully absorbed. He’s making sure your imagination withers. Until it’s as useful as your appendix. He’s making sure your attention is always filled. And this being fed, it’s worse than being watched. With the world always filling you, no one has to worry about what’s in your mind. With everyone’s imagination atrophied, no one will ever be a threat to the world.”…’

Via NITCH

“Keeve”

Listening to the impeachment hearings: when did it begin being pronounced “Keeve” rather than “Key-ev”?

Today

846fd7c9a41dd1b76ba7ea1aadb1667cNo one appears to have noticed. I’ve barely noticed myself — FmH is twenty years old today. At one point, I had been pondering marking the occasion with some observance — should I make some 20th anniversary merchandise available? maybe offer an anthology of posts as a self-published book? I thought about soliciting your opinions about an appropriate commemoration. Or… I thought about using this as the occasion to retire FmH. At some point it felt like it would be a heroic achievement to make it to 20. But FmH just chugs along as a part of the fabric of my life, not an extraordinary effort at all. You’ve probably noticed that I put less effort into this these days, in the sense of excerpting more, commenting less often and more tersely, fewer and fewer expository essays. It’s less and less important to tell you what I think than to suggest what you might think about, I guess. So, unextraordinarily, we can just keep going on as we are, shall we? And maybe I’ll make some kind of fuss when FmH turns 21. After all, it’ll then attain its majority…

Apple Research App

UnknownContribute to groundbreaking research studies simply by using your iPhone:

’Until now, conducting large-scale health studies has been time-consuming and expensive. Devices like Apple Watch and iPhone are changing this dynamic. They capture meaningful health information, including signals from your heart, your level of motion and activity, and your sound exposure levels throughout the day. With the Research app, volunteering to help advance medical understanding has been greatly simplified.1 You can sign up for a study (or studies) right from your iPhone. If you meet the criteria for a given study, you’re in. It’s that easy.…’

Via Apple

How America Ends

A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?:

’Democracy depends on the consent of the losers. For most of the 20th century, parties and candidates in the United States have competed in elections with the understanding that electoral defeats are neither permanent nor intolerable. The losers could accept the result, adjust their ideas and coalitions, and move on to fight in the next election. Ideas and policies would be contested, sometimes viciously, but however heated the rhetoric got, defeat was not generally equated with political annihilation. The stakes could feel high, but rarely existential. In recent years, however, beginning before the election of Donald Trump and accelerating since, that has changed.

“Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage,” Trump told the crowd at his reelection kickoff event in Orlando in June. “They want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as we know it.” This is the core of the president’s pitch to his supporters: He is all that stands between them and the abyss.

In October, with the specter of impeachment looming, he fumed on Twitter, “What is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!” For good measure, he also quoted a supporter’s dark prediction that impeachment “will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”

Trump’s apocalyptic rhetoric matches the tenor of the times. The body politic is more fractious than at any time in recent memory. Over the past 25 years, both red and blue areas have become more deeply hued, with Democrats clustering in cities and suburbs and Republicans filling in rural areas and exurbs. In Congress, where the two caucuses once overlapped ideologically, the dividing aisle has turned into a chasm.

As partisans have drifted apart geographically and ideologically, they’ve become more hostile toward each other. In 1960, less than 5 percent of Democrats and Republicans said they’d be unhappy if their children married someone from the other party; today, 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats would be, according to a recent Public Religion Research Institute/Atlantic poll—far higher than the percentages that object to marriages crossing the boundaries of race and religion. As hostility rises, Americans’ trust in political institutions, and in one another, is declining. A study released by the Pew Research Center in July found that only about half of respondents believed their fellow citizens would accept election results no matter who won. At the fringes, distrust has become centrifugal: Right-wing activists in Texas and left-wing activists in California have revived talk of secession.…’

Yoni Appelbaum in The Atlantic

Trump has a Mike Pence insurance policy: The sanctimonious veep is implicated too

Unknown’…Trump can wear out even the notoriously sturdy ability to lie that defines the modern Republican politician. It can’t feel great, constantly debasing themselves for a man who never shows gratitude but only keeps upping the ante, seeing how many more crimes he can commit that they’ll cover up.

The typical answer most pundits look to is this idea that Trump’s wild popularity with the almighty base protects him. Other elected Republicans are afraid that loyalty to Trump exceeds loyalty to the party, and they would lose any conflict between the two.

There’s reason to be skeptical of this view. As the blogger Atrios pointed out, Sarah Palin was once “treated as the most important voice in politics and now she is a trivia question,” and therefore “the GOP could drop their latest messiah and 5 minutes later no one would remember.” Truthfully, the same would happen if the Republicans decided, en masse, to kick Trump to the curb — their base would go along and many of them would probably also be quietly relieved to quit pretending that Trump is a voice worthy of respect.

But there’s a strong alternative explanation: Republicans have good reason to fear that if Trump goes down, he’s taking Vice President Mike Pence with him. If that happens, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who is third in line under the Constitution, would become president. Republicans may be genuinely worried that they can’t toss Trump to the curb without losing the White House entirely.…’

Via Salon.com

The world finally has an approved vaccine against Ebola

Unknown’Regulators in Europe have granted the world’s first approval of a vaccine against Ebola—and health officials are wasting no time in rolling it out.

The European Commission announced at the start of the week that it had granted a landmark marketing authorization of Merck’s Ebola vaccine Ervebo. The vaccine has been in the works since the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak. It is now being used in the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo based on a “compassionate use” protocol.

The current outbreak in the DRC has killed nearly 2,200 since August 2018, causing nearly 3,300 cases. The outbreak is the second-largest recorded, surpassed only by the 2014 West African outbreak that caused more than 11,000 deaths and 28,000 cases.

Preliminary vaccine data from the current DRC outbreak suggested that Ervebo is 97.5% effective at preventing the devastating viral disease. It protected well over 90,000 people in the outbreak.…’

Via Ars Technica

Art lessons from our cave-dwelling ancestors

ImagesBarbara Ehrenreich:

’I found myself exhilarated by our comparatively ego-free ancestors who went to great lengths, and depths, to create some of the world’s most breathtaking art—and didn’t even bother to sign their names.…’

Via The Baffler

Stop Trying to Raise Successful Kids…And start raising kind ones

105834026 1554409106250r1e7a5 t20 1jz4xn’If you survey American parents about what they want for their kids, more than 90 percent say one of their top priorities is that their children be caring. This makes sense: Kindness and concern for others are held as moral virtues in nearly every society and every major religion. But when you ask children what their parents want for them, 81 percent say their parents value achievement and happiness over caring. Kids learn what’s important to adults not by listening to what we say, but by noticing what gets our attention. And in many developed societies, parents now pay more attention to individual achievement and happiness than anything else. However much we praise kindness and caring, we’re not actually showing our kids that we value these traits. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, then, that kindness appears to be in decline.…’

Via 3 Quarks Daily

In Trump’s Twitter Feed: Conspiracy-Mongers, Racists and Spies

Mike Mcintire, Karen Yourish And Larry Buchanan write:

‘The New York Times examined Mr. Trump’s interactions with Twitter since he took office, reviewing each of his more than 11,000 tweets and the hundreds of accounts he has retweeted, tracking the ways he is exposed to information and replicating what he is likely to see on the platform. The result, including new data analysis and previously unreported details, offers the most comprehensive view yet of a virtual world in which the president spends significant time mingling with extremists, impostors and spies….’

Via New York Times

Trump Pokes Fun at Himself. Why Do Only Some People See It?

President Donald Trump smiles as he signs an autograph during a reception for Italian President Sergio Mattarella in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in Washington.

Joanna Weiss writes:

‘…It’s no surprise that many find Trump to be no laughing matter, or have trouble finding lighthearted spots in an ongoing stream of hyperbole and bile. One _New York Times _column called his “A Presidency Without Humor.” Comedy writer Nell Scovell, who has written jokes for David Letterman and Barack Obama, once declared that if Trump does have a sense of humor, it’s confined to the instances when he “clearly chuckles at the misfortune of others.”

But Trump’s winking stance, jarring and inconsonant though it may be with the rest of liberals’ conception of him, is one of the essential, even primal ways the president keeps his base on board, laughing along. For Trump and his defenders, a little gentle self-mocking does more than just warm up a room. It can neutralize his opponents’ attacks. And it can let Trump off the hook even when he probably isn’t joking, as when Marco Rubio argued last month that Trump was only kidding when he declared that China should investigate Hunter Biden.

But it’s most powerful when it makes his supporters feel that they’re in on Trump’s jokes in a way the establishment isn’t…’

Via Politico

Melting Arctic ice may be causing a deadly virus to spread in marine mammals

Gettyimages 508144575’Phocine distemper virus (PDV) has been a known pathogen in certain seal populations for decades, resulting in several mass mortality events involving tens of thousands of animals since 1988. Similarities in the outbreaks lead scientists to question how the virus was circulating in seal species all over the globe.…

In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists have found a link between the disease and melting sea ice due to climate change…’

Via CBS News

‘Anonymous’ Trump book: most explosive claims, according to reports

80c3f778 f3ce 4abb a3fc d9983aa89ca5 AP TrumpThe ‘Anonymous’ author purporting to be at the top of the Trump administration is soon releasing a book titled “A Warning,” a behind the scenes look into the president of Donald Trump.

The author, identified as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” according to news reports, first came to prominence with an anonymous op-ed published in September 2018 in The New York Times that described efforts by the author and other senior officials to protect the country from Trump….

Here are some of the most explosive claims so far from the book:

…The author’s September 2018 op-ed in the Times claimed there were White House officials standing between Trump and his worst impulses, and that they could keep the president in check. The Post reports the author admitted to being wrong on this point. 

“Many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” the author wrote last year. 

“I was wrong about the ‘quiet resistance’ inside the Trump administration,” the author writes now. “Unelected bureaucrats and cabinet appointees were never going to steer Donald Trump the right direction in the long run, or refine his malignant management style. He is who he is.”

…According to the Post, the author also plans to criticize Trump’s character and whether he’s fit for office.

The author describes Trump as “like a twelve-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport” in an excerpt provided to the outlet.   

In another excerpt, the author writes, “I am not qualified to diagnose the president’s mental acuity” but adds:

“All I can tell you is that normal people who spend any time with Donald Trump are uncomfortable by what they witness. He stumbles, slurs, gets confused, is easily irritated, and has trouble synthesizing information, not occasionally but with regularity. Those who would claim otherwise are lying to themselves or to the country.”…’

Via USAToday

Why Donald Trump Hates Your Dog

05bruni2 superJumboFrank Bruni:

’Reaching for verbs to describe Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s final moments, President Trump grabbed hold of “crying,” “screaming” and “whimpering.”

Reaching for nouns, he said that al-Baghdadi died “like a dog.”

I wasn’t aware that canines expired in a signature fashion, but Trump knows best, even if he doesn’t know so very many words. About a week later, when he took characteristically nasty note of Beto O’Rourke’s decision to abandon the presidential race, he said that O’Rourke quit “like a dog.”

Some similes demand repetition.

This wasn’t one of them.

But a lack of verbal ingenuity never stopped Trump. And an animus toward a certain animal has long, well, hounded him.
In his boundless unoriginality, he has likened women he dislikes to dogs. In his infinite incoherence, he has repeatedly tweeted of people being fired like dogs. I personally haven’t met all that many gainfully employed pooches, unless digging holes in the backyard is a profession, and when those excavators received orders to desist, none of them got a pink slip and a referral to career counseling.…’

Via New York Times

Is Empathy Tearing Us Apart?

Image result for Empathy Is Tearing Us Apart
’There are people who believe that the political polarization now afflicting the United States might finally start to subside if Americans of both parties could somehow become more empathetic. If you’re one of these people, the American Political Science Review has sobering news for you.

Last week APSR—one of the alpha journals in political science—published a study which found that “empathic concern does not reduce partisan animosity in the electorate and in some respects even exacerbates it.”

The study had two parts. In the first part, Americans who scored high on an empathy scale showed higher levels of “affective polarization”—defined as the difference between the favorability rating they gave their political party and the rating they gave the opposing party. In the second part, undergraduates were shown a news story about a controversial speaker from the opposing party visiting a college campus. Students who had scored higher on the empathy scale were more likely to applaud efforts to deny the speaker a platform.

It gets worse. These high-empathy students were also more likely to be amused by reports that students protesting the speech had injured a bystander sympathetic to the speaker. That’s right: according to this study, people prone to empathy are prone to schadenfreude.…’

Via WIRED

Who Will Betray Trump?

Gettyimages 626524674It’s only a matter of time.

’Donald Trump knows there are potential traitors in his midst. His presidency could depend on keeping them at bay…

The latest impeachment resolution was starkly divided along partisan lines, but whether the Republican caucus will remain steadfast may depend on how some members weigh their support or distaste for the president against their own electoral futures, or lack thereof…

Trump can be impeached in the House with Democratic votes alone. But whether or not he’s convicted in the Senate will be determined by Republican votes.

What if Lamar Alexander, the retiring statesman from Tennessee who has struggled to mask his disillusionment with Trump’s destruction of norms, decides to go out with a bang?

What if Cory Gardner, whose reelection in Colorado seems destined to be doomed by the top of the ticket, thinks his next act in politics depends on establishing distance from Trump?

What if Ben Sasse or Pat Toomey or Rob Portman, all thoughtful conservatives in the Burkean tradition, reach a point where they feel compelled to meet a moment on behalf of their party and their country and perhaps even their constituents, as upset as many of them might be?…’

Via POLITICO Magazine

a cluster of silver radio telescopes in a desert‘Scientists have tried contacting extraterrestrials with a number of bespoke linguistic systems. But we might be better off using our own languages…’

via WIRED

Happy Blade Runner month…

Unknown…mashed up with actual November 2019 Los Angeles:

’I noticed that it was that time of the century and made a mashup up the film’s legendary intro, complete with Vangelis’s soundtrack, with real contemporary footage of LA. The main difference is, of course, what’s on fire. LA, November 2019: smoking hot, yes, flying cars, no.…’

Via Boing Boing

Zombie flu: How the 1919 influenza pandemic fueled the rise of the living dead


Unknown‘One hundred years ago, 1919 saw the end of one of the worst plagues in human history: the deadly 1918–1919 influenza pandemic. The pandemic was a true horror show, with 50–100 million people dying and millions more infected. The United States alone lost more people in the pandemic than it lost in all the 20th- and 21st-century wars, combined.

This was no ordinary flu virus: It killed young adults in high numbers, and it came with grisly side effects, like massive bleeding from the nose, mouth and ears. It could damage the nervous and respiratory systems and could cause violent derangement, delirium and – in its aftermath – profound lethargy and suicidal depression.

The pandemic turned communities into haunted landscapes. Coffins ran out as bodies piled up everywhere. Stores, theaters and schools were closed, and wagons were pulled through the streets to collect corpses. Funerals were often impossible to organize, and across the country, mass graves were dug to accommodate the many dead.

A literature professor, I have written about the flu’s surprising connection to zombies, spiritualism and poems like T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” in my new book, “Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature.”…’

Via The Conversation