Where did these people go to college?

These remarks by Betsy DeVos at CPAC are revealing. It sounds like she, and the cheering crowds, have no idea what college is actually like.

The fight against the education establishment extends to you too. The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.

Those are lies. What we want, at real universities, is for our students to question everything intelligently. I just gave my class an assignment to critically analyze a paper — to read it specifically with a mind to finding flaws and developing arguments and tests to evaluate its validity. That’s standard practice.

DeVos attended Calvin College. I’d really like to know what classes she took that failed to give her an education.

Welcome to the American Police State

This is bad. This is really bad. American customs is now taking it upon themselves to make moral judgments on visitors to this country.

André says he was planning to visit his boyfriend, who was working in New Orleans. But when he was going through Customs preclearance at Vancouver airport last October, he was selected for secondary inspection, where an officer took his phone, computer and other possessions, and demanded the passwords for his devices.

“I didn’t know what to do. I was scared, so I gave them the password and then I sat there for at least an hour or two. I missed my flight,” André says. “He came back and just started grilling me. ‘Is this your email?’ and it was an email attached to a Craigslist account for sex ads. He asked me, ‘Is this your account on Scruff? Is this you on BBRT?’ I was like, ‘Yes, this is me.’”

Holy crap. They’re demanding passwords and browsing through the contents of your phone now? What ever happened to any right to privacy? I’m flying to DC in a few weeks. I think. I’m not giving them access to anything, so maybe I won’t be.

André made it through on that flight, after being humiliated and grilled and missing one connection, but on a second trip, he thought he’d be clever and delete those ‘incriminating’ apps from his phone. Two lessons here: they had recorded his passwords and had them ready to use next time he showed up, and nope, deleting stuff from your phone doesn’t work.

“They went through my computer. They were looking through Word documents,” André says. “I had nude photos of myself on my phone, and they were questioning who this person was. It was really humiliating and embarrassing.”

“They said, ‘Next time you come through, don’t have a cleared phone,’ and that was it. I wasn’t let through. He said I’m a suspected escort. You can’t really argue with them because you’re trapped,” he says.

“Don’t have a cleared phone.” Jesus fucking christ. I despised the TSA already, but this is criminal, fascist, and simply vile.

There’s one thing that will get me to turn on Fox News

Sunsara Taylor will appear on the Tucker Carlson show in about an hour, at 9ish ET.

I wonder if Carlson will do that insipid, uncomprehending face he always puts on when someone says something that doesn’t fit his world view?

Your purge is clumsy and obvious

Iowa:

The party affiliation on your voter registration card could block you from employment at Iowa’s state universities were a newly proposed bill by Senator Mark Chelgren to become law. Senate File 288, proposed by the Ottumwa legislator, could bring about a Soviet-style purge of liberal-leaning college staff in Iowa. Chelgren wants to impose an ideological litmus test in order to create a “partisan balance,” based on how Iowa has voted in past elections.

The legislation proposes that a “person shall not be hired as a professor or instructor member of the faculty at such an institution if the person’s political party affiliation on the date of hire would cause the percentage of faculty belonging to one political party to exceed by ten percent the percentage of faculty belonging to the other political party.”

I’ve been through a few job searches. We are not allowed to ask about personal matters: no conversations about family, sexual preference, religion, or political affiliation. We are supposed to judge the ability of the person to do the job entirely on their ability to do the job. It will sometimes come up if the job candidate brings it up, but we do not get to use that information at all in our evaluation. If I even tried to make a comment in our recommendation like “We should hire because they are a nice liberal atheist lesbian who hates Trump almost as much as I do!”, or “We should not hire because they voted against my interests”, I would probably get hauled up in front of a review committee and chastised, not to mention that if that comment were revealed to any of the other candidates who did not get the job, I’d get my butt sued.

Chelgren doesn’t have a clue about how university hiring works. He’s a Republican, of course.

We understand the tantrums already, can we stop reinforcing them now?

grownops

Ann O’Connell is sad. She voted for Trump, and now people are judging her.

I love Meryl Streep, but you know, she robbed me of that wonderful feeling when I go to the movies to be entertained, she said. I told my husband, I said, ‘Ed, we have to be a little more flexible, or we’re going to run out of movies!’

I know your pain, Mrs. O’Connell. I can no longer enjoy Rob Schneider movies, myself. But look on the bright side: we can still hate Susan Sarandon together!

We also have the tiresome Jonathan Haidt, professional apologist for conservatives, who is very concerned about how we “react” to the actions of right-wing craptastic nincompoops.

We are in a trust spiral, said Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University. My fear is that we have reached escape velocity where the actions of each side can produce such strong reactions on the other that things will continue to escalate.

The whole article has this tone, that gosh, it’s awful how people are horrified at what the current administration is doing, and we should all just stop being upset and be nice to the Mrs. O’Connell’s of America. Conservatives are wrecking the educational system, they plan to demolish the EPA, they’ve made a goddamn racist the Attorney General, but those rude liberals are making people uncomfortable at Meryl Streep movies. The New York Times, and lots of media outlets, love these stupid little stories that let them be all charitable towards cranky old racist people who elected a cranky old incompetent racist, while at the same time chastising those horrible liberals and practicing a little veiled extortion. You better tell Mrs. O’Connell how sweet she is, or else!

Protests and righteous indignation on social media and in Hollywood may seem to liberals to be about policy and persuasion. But moderate conservatives say they are having the opposite effect, chipping away at their middle ground and pushing them closer to Mr. Trump.

Oh, fuck that noise. If ‘moderate’ conservatives think they have to vote for a bumbling buffoon who is taking a wrecking ball to our country because a hippie called them a mean name, then they weren’t so moderate to begin with, and they are making bad decisions on invalid grounds. I will not have sympathy for that, and it doesn’t matter how sternly Jonathan Haidt wags his finger at me.

These pieces are annoyingly common: we need to understand these awful people. We need to empathize with them, or they’ll keep doing the same stupid things. Unfortunately for these myths, the strategy doesn’t work. The people in the NYT story are unrepentant, would do it again, and all they’ve got is so-called moderates threatening to do it some more if they don’t get their way! I don’t believe it. This is what the regressives always do: “give me a cookie and maybe I’ll stop doing this.” Then, a minute later, “Ha ha, suckers!”

As for understanding, here’s what these stories always miss: yes, we already understand these people. We understand them all too well. Why are you whining at us? We’re not interested in trying to understand them even more, but in getting them to stop wrecking everything. That’s all.

Here’s a case in point: a very long, very thorough explainer about 4chan, lulz, Pepe the frog, anonymous, gamergate, and the rise of Trump, etc., etc., etc. We know it all already. There’s this subculture of young adults who are resentful of their circumstances (I can even sympathize with some of that resentment — they can have valid reasons for their unhappiness with those circumstances). Some may be single and living in their parent’s basement, for instance, and I know it’s tough getting a job, getting a job with prospects for advancement, finding a partner, finding a partner who actually respects you as a person, and so forth — but that does not justify erupting into ranting anti-feminism, just as the unemployment rate does not explain lashing out and electing a billionaire (reputedly) who isn’t going to do a thing to help those circumstances…but might cause others to suffer, too. We’re told over and over again about how miserable these shitlords are, and I understand, but I’m done with understanding. I want to know what to do next.

So that extremely thorough article ends with this:

However, as we have seen, the right’s anti-feminist message is one that only provides a momentary sense of relief (“you are acting powerful by retreating into video games and the internet!”) but like scratching a mosquito bite, it ultimately causes more dissatisfaction. That is to say, they only solution they can offer is, “keep retreating!” Likewise, Trump and the mocking cruel anguish he represents is not a genuine solution to the electorate’s powerlessness, but rather, simply the one closest at hand.

An adult does not freeze in mute horror when a child throws a tantrum. Nor do we generally regard such emotional outbursts as meaningless. Likewise, the left should not be paralyzed with horror by the deplorables, but rather view them of as a symptom of a larger problem, one which only the left can truly solve.

Fine. They’re spoiled children. My wife and I are familiar with kids: we raised three. And yes, when they were very young, they would occasionally have tantrums, and we would patiently (or impatiently) reprove them, and remove them from the circumstances that triggered the problem, and we gave them time and opportunity to learn and grow up, and they got better, much better, and became responsible, thoughtful, intelligent adults. Parents are familiar with these behaviors, and responsible parents can deal, and lead children to more mature responses.

The 4channers are in their 20s and 30s. Mr Medford, the guy who complains about being ‘pushed’ to vote for Trump, is a 46-year-old business owner. Mrs McConnell is 72. Or look at PewDiePie, the 27-year-old who gets paid $15 million a year to shriek on YouTube for the gratification of alt-right wanna-bes. What are we supposed to do? Give them a time-out? Tell them no, they don’t get to buy that cheap plastic toy at the supermarket check-out stand? Be patient and wait for them to grow out of this phase?

The answer so far seems to be that we’re supposed to reassure them that the mean liberals will be clucked at if we call them out, they’ll get a fawning interview with Bill Maher, and the NYT will run a reassuring feature on their sad plight. Even after they put a blundering, bush-league, racist, sexist in the most powerful position in the country.

Yeah, there’s a larger problem. The responsible Left is not going to solve it by continuing to coddle and reward stupidity, even if it is perpetrated by privileged 72 year olds having a tantrum and demanding special treatment.

Take the Mainstream Media Accountability Survey!

The Republicans have put out an online poll to find out what you think of the media coverage of the Trump administration. It’s a trap! Watch what you say on it, because it’s trying to put you in a bind: you either think the mainstream media sucks and is biased against Trump, or you think it’s doing a wonderful job. There is no provision for “Mainstream media sucks because they’ve been far too kind and wishy-washy about the Asshole-In-Chief”. Go ahead and take it though, and let one factor decide how you answer: will it make Donald Trump unhappy, and go against the result the poll is engineered to generate?

Someone needs to start a foundation to help victims of Physicist Syndrome

William Happer is a distinguished emeritus professor of physics. His specialty is optics and spectroscopy, but he’s got Physicist Syndrome bad — he thinks he’s an expert in everything to the point that he can disagree with distinguished professors in other fields, on their specialty. Yes, he’s that kind of idiot.

And he’s being considered for the position of Science Advisor to Donald Trump. Are you surprised? Trump’s chief skill seems to be in ferreting out the worst people and elevating them to positions where they can do the most damage. If you’re wondering why Trump is at all interested in this crank professor, it’s because he’s already been bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry.

William Happer has accepted funding from the fossil fuel industry in the past. In a Minnesota state hearing on the impacts of carbon dioxide, Peabody Energy paid him $8,000 which was routed through the CO2 Coalition.

In 2015 undercover investigation by Greenpeace, Happer told Greenpeace reporters that he would be willing to produce research promoting the benefits of carbon dioxide for $250 per hour, while the funding sources could be similarly concealed by routing them through the CO2 Coalition.

But make up your own mind. Here’s an interview with the sublimely confident Dr Happer. Let’s start with something I can agree with.

Well, I guess where I see the big problem in our country is science illiteracy in the general population. If I were King, I would figure out some way to get better science teaching into the schools, you know, K through 12, and especially middle school and high school. It’s a disgrace that people get out with high school degrees knowing as little as they do. And I think it’s getting worse. I think it was much better in the ‘30s than it is today. And teaching makes a difference.

I often tell the people this anecdote — I once asked Edward Teller [a key architect of the hydrogen bomb] how it was possible that there were all these Hungarians, you know, there was him and Eugene Wigner and Szilard, von Neumann — a real constellation. They were all about the same age, and made enormous contributions to science. It was easy, he said. We all had the same high school teacher in the Fasori Gimnázium in Budapest. So there’s an example. Whoever this teacher was deserves a medal, you know. Nobody pays any attention to him. But at least in Hungarian society, teaching was an honorable profession, so that this really good guy — probably better than most university professors — produced this galaxy of stars. So I think we should seriously think about improving general education.

Oh man, yes. There was one teacher I’d name as extremely influential in getting me to pursue a career in science — thanks, Mr Thompson, and that chemistry class my junior year in high school. I think we all know of strong teachers who confirmed our commitment to do this thing…we here at the college level are mainly dealing with young men and women who’ve already made up their minds. We should pay public school teachers more, don’t you think?

But then he mounts his high horse.

I don’t know. First of all, just the term denier to someone like me is extremely offensive because it’s carefully chosen to make me look like a Nazi sympathizer. And you know, I dodged Nazi submarines when I was a kid [on a ship carrying immigrants to the United States] and my father fought against them and my mother worked on the Manhattan Project, and I found it profoundly offensive, you know, and many other people feel the same.

I think toning down the rhetoric would help a lot. And it has been very uneven — for example under the previous eight years the President and secretary of state kept talking about the deniers, you know, about the baskets of deplorables, the knuckle draggers, the Neanderthals. That was me they’re talking about.

I don’t think it was the anti-Nazi science kook they are talking about. It’s the, you know, Nazis. Literal Nazis. The people who do Nazi salutes, talk about white supremacy, and voted for Trump — the guy considering you for science advisor. I’m more than a little tired of indignant people who profess their contempt for Nazis while embracing the political party that counts on Nazi/racist support to get elected.

But also it’s impossible to take his concerns about toning down the rhetoric seriously when he just said this:

“There’s a whole area of climate so-called science that is really more like a cult,” Happer told the Guardian. “It’s like Hare Krishna or something like that. They’re glassy-eyed and they chant. It will potentially harm the image of all science.”

But even worse is the simplistic crackpot science he is peddling.

I see the CO2 as good, you know. Let me be clear. I don’t think it’s a problem at all, I think it’s a good thing. It’s just incredible when people keep talking about carbon pollution when you and I are sitting here breathing out, you know, 40,000 parts per million of CO2 with every exhalation. So I mean it’s shameful to do all of this propaganda on what’s a beneficial natural part of the atmosphere that has never been stable but most of the time much higher than now.

You know what else I’m pumping out as I sit here? Water. It’s just oozing out of my pores, evaporating out of my breath. Water is good, right? So more of it would be better. Let’s dump Happer in a big vat of water and let him paddle there, bathing in the life-giving fluid.

Another natural product of my metabolism is urea. I’m going to be even more generous and suggest that he be immersed in a vat of urine. More is better, always, right? So water plus urine has to be an improvement. Also, plants love water, and they love nitrogen. Therefore, it’s even more beneficial and natural.

OK, I forgot. He also likes gasses. We’ll top off the vat with pure, natural, healthful CO2. It’s a win:win!

I would like to remind Dr Happer of an old familiar (and true) phrase: the dose makes the poison. No one is going to deny that CO2 (and water, and nitrogen) are necessary components of a healthy atmosphere for life as it exists on earth. But we need balance in all things: just the right amount of carbon and nitrogen and water, balanced dynamically in cycles of renewal and reuse. That’s how we maximize growth in a sustainable way. Happer thinks throwing the balance out of wack is just as good as a balanced cycle. That ain’t gonna work.

Furthermore, he denies all the chaos and disruption as we roll our atmosphere back to the state it was in during the Carboniferous — which was admittedly a very nice environment for the plants and animals adapted to the Carboniferous, but probably isn’t as favorable to a species that evolved out of the ice ages.

He also ignores the possibility that we have no check on a runaway greenhouse effect — there is no guarantee climate change will stop at a swampy, hot, carbon-rich Carboniferous. I don’t think we’re predicting a roll-back to the Hadean, but it doesn’t take much change to make human life uncomfortable and possibly untenable.

Ultimately, though, his problem is that he’s not as bright as he thinks he is, and that he has a limited, one-dimensional view of geophysics, ecology, biology, and climate…yet, as a victim of Physicist Syndrome, he still thinks his narrow perspective trumps that of geophysicists, ecologists, biologists, and climatologists. That makes him a perfect Trump advisor, although it may chafe when he discovers that Trump thinks he’s even smarter than physicists.

How do we clean up this administration?

General Wackjob Flynn has resigned overnight, and now new old untrustworty people are being considered for the job of national security advisor; David Petraeus among them. Hey, didn’t he resign under a cloud, for sharing classified material with his mistress? He sounds perfect for the job.

We have a crisis here. The president is manifestly incompetent, he is surrounded by malevolently incompetent advisors, and we don’t seem to have a way to extract him from office. The Electoral College was supposed to be a mechanism to block unsuitable candidates before they took office, but that was exposed as a sham. There is supposed to be a way to trigger impeachment proceedings, but the other branch of our government, congress, is packed with cowards, lackeys, and lickspittles who are going to block any action on that front…and even if they chopped off the head of this monster, there’s a line of succession packed with incompetents.

We’re under the clock. A noted historian says we have maybe one year to fix this predicament.

The marches were very encouraging. These were quite possibly the largest demonstrations in the history of the US, just in sheer numbers on one single day. That sort of initiative has to continue. The constitution is worth saving, the rule of law is worth saving, democracy is worth saving, but these things can and will be lost if everyone waits around for someone else. If we want encouragement out of the Oval Office, we will not get it. We are not getting encouragement thus far from Republicans. They have good reasons to defend the republic but thus far they are not doing so, with a few exceptions. You want to end on a positive note, I know; but I think things have tightened up very fast, we have at most a year to defend the Republic, perhaps less. What happens in the next few weeks is very important.

To stop an onrushing tyranny, we need to check presidential power. How? At this point, we shouldn’t be intimidated by the ugly line of succession, because I think it’s more important to send a message that presidents don’t get to be dictators…and that they ought to be competent at doing their job. (That last requirement ought to send a chill down the spines of every Republican, which may be why they aren’t doing something about the rogue gossamer-haired sphincter running amuck in the White House.)

So what are we going to do?