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Member since: Wed Jul 24, 2013, 01:10 PM
Number of posts: 2,288

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There's a silly image in my head, and it won't leave.

I don't really mind that it's there, though I would prefer some neocortical variety.

Many years ago, I gave my mother a calendar showing scenes from Shakespeare's plays, but with cats instead of humans. These were painted images - not photos - and the cats were all dressed in period costume (for a human - though without the clothes, appropriate period dress for a cat as well) and emoting the text of their scene.

One such cat was dressed more or less like a king and standing defiantly, fists raised in the air, eyes squinting with rage. It was Act III, Scene 2 of King Lear, and the quote was "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow!"

That cat is now stuck in my mind, because I think of it whenever I think of Trump.

For one thing, I think the cat was an orange tabby. Its fur was the same color as the organism living on top of Trump's head.

But I also remember the image for its comical absurdity. Here was a character crying out in fury as his world crumbles around him, grasping for power he believes he deserves, defying a force he cannot control - but it's a cat. A cat with a face filled with such human melodrama, it flew way over the line from dramatic to really funny, even though we know there's pathos in the words. But still, one doesn't want to think it's THAT funny, because even though at the end of the day it's a cat, it's also at the end of the day Shakespeare.

Same thing here. Trump is raging against reality, and reality doesn't care about his defiance. At a certain level, it's both pathetic and funny. But we temper our sense of comedy because even though at the end of the day it's an arrogant, immature, functionally illiterate bigot, it's also at the end of the day the presidency of the USA.

Anyone see Gigot's response to the blowback on the WSJ display of ignorant sexism?

It's not much better than Epstein's editorial itself.

When I think of "provocative," I don't think "bigoted."

When I think of opening someone to "commentary," I don't think "belittle someone and, in the process, insult a great many other people."

The editor obviously won't be doing anything, and I don't actually have time to look for the WSJ's advertisers, but if someone knows of a list, I'd like to let them know that any business I might give them will depend on whether they want to continue their relationship with a bunch of pigs.


vaccines, race, and our response to them.

I recently had an exchange that prompted an internal dialogue, and I’d like to solicit thoughts from y’all on it.

I’m a faculty member at a public university. One of the administrative groups on which I serve was recently given a seminar by several med school faculty on COVID vaccines. The discussion covered how the vaccines are being developed, how their safety is being assessed, their effectiveness, and their distribution. It was very enlightening.

It also addressed the basic problem that many won’t want to be vaccinated. Many people think vaccines are inherently unsafe or a scam for Big Pharma to make money. Others think COVID isn’t a thing, or maybe it is, but it isn’t serious. Still others might have no problem with vaccines in general, and might understand the situation we’re in, but might fear that this vaccine has not been sufficiently tested.

This last part generated some discussion. Some called for a very sympathetic and cautious tone – we should encourage people to get the vaccine, but we must be sensitive to concerns others may have.

I read Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World right after it came out in 1996 – I was in grad school at the time – and it changed the way I teach. Science is awesome. Not only does it reveal some breathtaking stuff, it works. This became central to my large-enrollment general ed courses; whether they remember the differences between two randomly-selected dinosaurs won't help my students live better lives, but being able to discern real science from pseudoscience absolutely will. Surely, concerted efforts can lead us away from the kind of future Sagan feared – one of widespread ignorance of science and acceptance of charlatans who promote dangerous pseudoscience.

Which is, unfortunately, where we are now.

My tolerance for people who deny physical reality has thus dropped sharply. This is especially true when one person’s denial might harm others. You don’t worry about getting whooping cough? Whatever – but if you get it, someone else might get it from you. Think climate change is a Marxist hoax? We all have to live with the consequences of the inaction your denial promotes.

Indeed, with vaccines, I’ve personally encountered people who have been harmed by science denialism. In some cases, they’re people who weren’t vaccinated and ended up sick with a preventable disease. Either that, or it happened to someone they love. I also once encountered someone who’d been vaccinated as an infant, only to be moved into specialized classes and programs for autism spectrum children when this person’s parents were told vaccines cause autism. But this person was never autistic in the first place – a fact that didn’t emerge until many years later, when someone finally had the good sense to screen this person for it.

So at this point in the discussion, I spoke up. (“Spoke” is metaphorical; the exchange took place over email.). I know full well that trying to argue with a denialist does no good, and can actually backfire – those with denialist beliefs actually dig in and hold their beliefs more firmly than before. I always prefer to encourage rather than punish. Carrots are better than sticks in most cases. But if came down to whether unvaccinated students should be allowed in our classes, we might have to wield more sticks. If such a student wants to enter my classroom, they’d better have a good medical reason for not having been vaccinated. Otherwise, they’re not coming in.

Harsh? Perhaps. The reflection of an arrogant scientist? I’d like to think not, but others may see it differently. But this is a health emergency. We can’t just shrug our shoulders when understanding and sympathy fail. It’s no different from no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.

But then a colleague raised a point I hadn’t considered. There’s a long history of the medical community taking advantage of people of color. To this day, parts of the African American and Native American communities are wary of modern medicine – not out of skepticism or denialism, but because there’s a serious legacy of institutional racism that is still manifest in the way health care is delivered. Go to a hospital, get treated like dirt, and you’re not likely to come back.

She had a good point, and I said so. This, I stated, would definitely be a carrot-over-stick situation. I never said (nor do I believe) that people should be forced to get the vaccine, especially if it isn’t available nearby for free. Nevertheless, herd immunity only occurs if a high proportion of people in a community are immune. Below that threshold, those who can’t be vaccinated (newborns, people with compromised immune systems, people with allergies to the vaccine’s ingredients) are left vulnerable to infection. This is the sort of situation where physical reality has to be granted some authority.

But still, it got me thinking – are there acceptable reasons beyond a frail immune system or allergy to not get a vaccine, knowing that a high vaccination rate is needed to protect the community as a whole?

Would I really want to look a student of color in the eye and say, “yes, your community has been systematically victimized by medical science for a very long time. I understand your reluctance to trust it. But you really do need to be vaccinated.”? Students of color have problems enough on most college campuses, especially here in the upper Midwest. Do I want to compound it by acknowledging the historical underpinning of these problems, only to insist they disregard it?”

I don’t know. Just something I’m thinking about. It’s abstract for now I suppose, but if the vaccine becomes available in the next few months, I might have to confront the issue directly.

about those lawsuits I mentioned...

I just self-deleted a comment I made about actions by individual members of the military who don't think the current president is, in fact, legally holding the office.

I indicated that some people in the military had sued to have orders overturned during the Obama Administraton. They'd swallowed the birther line and didn't think Obama was qualified for office.

Turns out I was dealing with two lapses of memory.

First - I was remembering things that actually happened, but misremembered the details. A handful of people in the military did, indeed, go to federal court regarding their orders, but their efforts were intended more to force Obama to release his birth certificate than to have the orders themselves overturned. Some of these people subsequently disobeyed orders and were court-martialed.

One of them, Terry Lakin, later wrote a book all about his highfalutin' ideals - the ones that shared a Leavenworth cell with him. There are efforts afoot to have him pardoned by Trump.

Second - that I saw lots of news articles at the time led me to misremember the magnitude of the phenomenon. I never thought it was widespread, but I thought it was around a dozen or so. It was probably fewer than that.

All that said - I think things may be different this time around. The notion that Trump actually won is, arguably, more mainstream in the political right than birtherism ever was. (Which should scare the shit out of everyone, because way too many people bought into birtherism.). I do NOT expect a massive mutiny, but the number of servicemen and servicewomen who try to weasel out of responsibilities on the bullshit theory that Biden shouldn't be president may be more than a dozen.

So - apologies for the lapses of memory, but I still think we should keep our eyes on the news for this.

Is it too soon

to start calling him One-Term Donnie?

We're stuck with him being called "president" pretty much forever, and it's definitely too early for "inmate," so we gotta come up with something appropriate.

so...what happens on Inauguration Day?

Assuming Biden is declared the winner and Trump refuses to concede, what would actually happen in the White House?

Trump would no longer be president. He would no longer be CIC of the armed forces. He would no longer have access to the nuclear codes. He wouldn't be able to act as president, and I'm not really worried that half of Congress would try to pretend otherwise.

But Trump would still have Secret Service protection. Would they be obliged to prevent his forced removal from the White House if he decides he's not leaving? Could they stop someone from literally dragging his ass out the door if he decides not to cooperate?

What agency would actually remove him? Secret Service? Federal marshalls? DC police? Military? Biden and Harris themselves? I'd be in favor of a bunch of half-starved wolverines, but that's just me.

I assume Biden could set up somewhere while Trump's filth is washed from the White House, but how long could that take?

just curious.

Edited to add - My concern is not whether there will be confusion over who the president is. If Biden wins, he'll be the president at noon on January 20. Trump's concession is a nonissue. I'm not worried that Congress or the military, or parts of either, would try to act as though Trump is still preident - I'm confident they won't. But I don't really see him slinking away. My worry is that his removal from the Oval Office would be under less than orderly conditions.

I'm about to give up.

A few points added on edit:

- I live in a fairly progressive community. Being surrounded by red hatters isn't an issue to me - the great majority of people where I live, and in my profession, would rather eat a live tarantula than vote for Trump.

- I'm increasingly confident that Biden will win the presidency. But it's not going to make a difference as long as McConnell is in charge of the Senate. There won't be real accountability for those who committed crimes in the Trump administration. Biden can probably reverse some of Trump's executive orders, but he'll never get to appoint someone to the Supreme Court. His agenda will die of starvation in Senate committees. And because nothing will get done, Americans will vote for a Republican in 2024.

- Even worse, we can't claim that Trump is being thrown out in disgrace. He may have lost the popular vote, but the margin is a lot narrower than it should have been. This means we don't just have to worry about his rabid core of dead enders - it's almost half of the country's population.


I'm serious.

This election should have been a blowout. That it wasn't tells me that too many people looked at someone with a long history of moderate politics in government, someone who accepts physical reality, and decided that a lying bigoted loudmouth with artificial skin color and a lengthy record of denying what everyone can plainly see would be a better president. Even after four years of demonstrable failure and national embarrassment.

I'm tired to death of being told that I don't understand rural America, or coal miners, or evangelicals, or any other class of people who voted for Trump. I grew up in a working class family, I used to be a very serious Roman Catholic, I have a degree in geology, and I live in the upper midwest. And way beyond that, I've listened to people who voted for Trump ad nauseam. I think I've got a perfectly good understanding of such people.

The problem is that these people don't understand us. And because we're told to respect all sides (as if there's more than one legitimate side), and because there's an intricate media infrastructure that both feeds and gets fed by a market dedicated to membership in a group of people who know "the truth" and hold the key to being a "real American," getting them to even be willing to understand us is a lost cause.

This is why I'm repeatedly told that I want to take everyone's guns, shove socialized medicine down everyone's throats, and take everyone's hard-earned money. Which I don't. Which no Democrat does.

Solving a problem doesn't work if half of the people needed to find a solution don't think there's a problem in the first place.

It's not going to get better.

Next opportunity to get a job outside the US, I'm taking it.

how Republicans can re-gain my trust

I realize precisely none of what I suggest is actually going to happen in the very near future, but it has to be said.

The Republican Party can actually regain my trust. In spite of all the damage caused by runaway selection for nativism and nationalism, disproven trickle-down theories, and a desire to make the other side suffer rather than actually help people, I do want some balance in government, and a Republican Party operated by people who at least know how to read and write, and who realize we're as American as they are, can be a part of that.

But they have to earn it.

They have to acknowledge Trump’s loss, which we all hope will happen by a landslide next Tuesday.

They have to make sure their party is de-Trumpified. Trump’s main enablers in Congress should be stripped of all committee assignments. The RNC can back candidates in the next election who challenge the incumbents who promoted Trumpism. (That would be most of them.). It can make sure campaign dollars don’t go to anyone who parrots conspiracy snailshit. If McConnell is re-elected, Republicans can make sure he is never again given a leadership position.

They can get behind real reform – constitutional amendments to abolish gerrymandering, shitcan the Electoral College, and limit the president’s power to pardon people who committed crimes within his or her own administration; advance the ERA; allow expansion of the SCOTUS and federal courts to restore balance; and reverse efforts to ignore physical reality and marginalize scientific expertise from an advisory role in policymaking.

They can help bring real accountability to the Trump administration. I take great exception to those who say Gerald Ford “healed the nation” by pardoning Nixon. In fact, Ford enabled Iran-Contra, which I think was even worse than Watergate. (He didn’t stop payback for Watergate becoming a primary focus of Republican leadership, as shown by the insane amount of time spent investigating the Clintons.). I haven’t forgiven Obama for deciding to “look forward” and not bring accountability to those who started an unnecessary war on false pretenses and encouraged our troops to torture prisoners. I might never be able to.

The cycle has to end. We can’t just let the past four years of maggots crawling through our democracy to go unpunished, as though it can just be set aside as an aberration. It was the direct result of decades of runaway right-wing selection and tacit permission given by repeated failure to punish. Republicans must acknowledge this.

Republicans can disavow the practice of setting policy not to help people, but to punish the opposition. They must admit that their whole approach was polluted by the politics of personal destruction and the desire for power over an interest in governance. They can acknowledge that the US doesn’t live in a bubble and has to cooperate with the rest of the world.

Do these, and I’ll encourage bipartisanship on Capitol Hill.

The chances of any of this coming to pass are slim at best. We're going to see anger and rage before some of these people accept reality. I hope, though, that a couple of election cycles in the political wilderness will help bring those who want to govern rather than rule to the forefront.

I couldn't sleep last night. What if.....

I get bothered by bad political news all the time, but rarely does it actually keep me from sleeping.

It did last night.

Specifically, my concern that the Supreme Court might try some sort of shenanigans to give whatever hairy organism lives on Donald Trump's head a second term has gone way up. (And it was never minimal to begin with.)

Which led me to a what-if discussion in my own head -

My biggest fear is that the Supreme Court will rule that ballots not counted on or before Election Day should be tossed. Not just those delivered after that day - they've already said those don't count, which is outrageous and a good reason to impeach several of the justices - but any ballot that hadn't been added to the total by midnight on November 3.

Am I way off base here? (I very much could be.)

I'm still hopeful it'll be a blowout and that such antics won't come into play, but I'm really beginning to worry a lot more about it.

what I increasingly think is going to happen - serious sore loserism

It is entirely possible that the presidential election will be close, that we won't know for sure who won for several days, and that the result will be disputed. It's also very possible that if Trump is defeated, he'll pretend he won and pull all kinds of shit to stay in office. He'll claim the results were rigged, that a lot of mail-in ballots were fraudulent, that undocumented immigrants voted in large numbers, or whatever.

But although my optimism is best described as highly cautious, I'm really beginning to think that the result won't be all that close, and that a Biden victory will be clear by the morning after the election. He'll win enough electoral votes that no office-holding Republican other than Trump himself will be unable to spin some other result out of the numbers.

If that's the case, we're going to see Trump be the worst loser in human history.

He'll never concede the election to Biden. He'll never admit he lost, even if he only tangentially alludes to voter fraud and doesn't actually claim victory. He'll be the first president in the modern era, other than those who died in office, to not congratulate his successor.

He'll also be the first president in the modern era who won't attend his successor's inauguration. Other than VPs who replace a president who died (T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, LBJ) or resigned (Ford), the outgoing president has always attended the inauguration of the incoming president. This has been true when the outgoing and incoming presidents are of different parties (e.g. Truman and Eisenhower, Eisenhower and Kennedy, LBJ and Nixon, GW Bush and Obama), and it's even been true of presidents voted out after only one term - Hoover, Ford, Carter, and GHW Bush all attended the inaugurations of their successors.

Trump will be a no show. He lacks the grace and decency to be magnanimous. Indeed, he doesn't even have the self-control to act like such a person, even for a little while. He'll slink off somewhere and not be seen. Republicans won't want him campaigning on their behalf, news channels won't seek his thoughts or opinions on political issues, and he won't be able to go on the lecture circuit. He'll exist only as a cranky voice on Twitter.

His portrait should never be displayed in the White House or the National Portrait Gallery. It would besmirch these places.

I'm sure his handlers will make sure he feels important and relevant, but it'll be Sunset Avenue.

Again, there are a lot of what-ifs that have to happen for any of this to come to pass. But that's what I'm really beginning to think will happen.

My unrequested tuppence, anyway.
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