We need more questions like these asked of Trump

The person who asked the question says that he had been waiting a long time to be called upon so that he could ask it.

I have also been wondering when a reporter might reprise Joseph Welch’s famous words to senator Joe McCarthy that are now seen as signaling the beginning of the end of that demagogue’s career: “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” This shocking public rebuke to a US Senator, delivered by Welch in his sad and gentle voice, was a pivotal event that exposed McCarthy to the whole nation as an overbearing, reckless, and lying bully and started his rapid decline.

A good time to pose that question would be now in response to Trump’s attempts to stir up birtherism against Kamala Harris.

Trump is plumb obsessed

With the US and the world reeling from the pandemic, the economy staggering, large numbers of people unemployed and finding it hard to make ends meet, losing their health insurance, and getting evicted, what is Trump obsessing about? Plumbing. No, really. He seems to have a fixation that water does not come out fast enough from the showers to make his hair ‘perfect’ and he wants the regulations changed.

I don’t know what he is talking about. Why would taking a longer shower affect how your hair looks after it dries? Does he think that hair keeps absorbing water and that the more it absorbs the less ‘perfect’ it is, whatever that means? How self-absorbed with your looks can you get? This is in addition to his earlier complaints that new water saving devices were adversely affecting the performance of toilets, dishwashers, and washing machines.
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Ed Brayton

Via fellow FtB blogger The Bolingbrook Babbler, I was sad to learn that Ed Brayton had died. I first got to know him when he reached out to me in 2012 to say that the FtB community wanted to invite me to join the group. At that time, I had been blogging since 2005 on the blogging platform set up by my university to encourage faculty, staff, and students to take up this practice.
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A victory for a Republican QAnon devotee

While on the Democratic side we have seen a steady increase in the numbers and popularity of candidates with progressive views, it is the opposite on the Republican side, with candidates with extreme right wing views doing well. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Georgia where a follower of the conspiracy cult QAnon who has in addition made racist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic comments, has won the Republican nomination for a congressional seat. Given that district’s strong Republican leanings, she will very likely win the November election and be in Congress starting next year. (Watch out, Louie Gohmert! You are in danger of losing your title for being the stupidest member of Congress.)
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Stephen Colbert has a funny, incisive analysis of yesterday’s developments

He made fun of the Biden-Harris appearance in an empty gymnasium where they kept socially distanced. US presidential campaigns, especially party conventions have, in my opinion, far too much pomp and pageantry, with large crowds cheering on cue and balloons and confetti and the like. I find those things utterly boring and never watch such events and I must say that I much prefer the current scaled-down, low-key format. I hope that even after the pandemic ends, we keep things the way they are now.

If we get rid of the glitz, then we will get to see more of the substance.

The expected attacks on Harris begin

As expected, the attacks on Kamala Harris started immediately. What is surprising is that she has long been the favorite to be selected by Joe Biden and one would have expected any competent campaign to have carefully prepared a coherent and consistent line of attack. But the statements by Trump, his surrogates, and the Republican party have been scattershot.

Standing in the White House briefing room on Tuesday, Mr. Trump read from some prepared notes, assailing Ms. Harris for being against fracking and “very big into raising taxes.” At another point, Mr. Trump appeared unfamiliar with his own campaign’s line of attack. When a reporter with The New York Post asked the president about his own campaign ad calling Ms. Harris a “phony,” the president asked for clarification.

“She was a what?” Mr. Trump said.

And hours after the campaign and the Republican National Committee called Ms. Harris the “most liberal” member of the Senate, the R.N.C. sent out an email blast saying that progressives hated her because she was not progressive enough.

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The Squad remains undefeated and even grows

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been some notable results. The four female progressive Democratic congresswomen (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortx, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley, known collectively as ‘the Squad’) who came into office in 2018 by overthrowing well-entrenched establishment candidates and caused consternation within the party hierarchy, all faced well-funded opposition in their primaries. The people who funded the opposition no doubt hoped to blunt the growing narrative that the party needed to adopt more progressive policies and not, as it usually does, kowtow to the finance, business, and military sectors. The good news is that all four won re-election easily. The upset win by Cori Bush in Missouri may mean that the Squad now actually increases to five.
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Review of my book

Chris, a long time reader of this blog, took up my request to readers to write a review of my book after reading it and because he captured so well some of the things that I was trying to say, I am reproducing it here.

I enjoyed this book. It provided a useful framework for thinking about and discussing science as it affects our daily lives. The later chapters added a philosophical perspective I had not anticipated.

I liked the Tree of Science metaphor and selected quotes from the Bible scattered throughout the book. At one time religion had a more active interest in the answers to scientific questions. When along the Tree of Science would you propose that the Last Common Universal Ancestor of science and religion existed?

The case study on the age of the earth was very interesting, and perhaps my favorite part of the book. I had no idea that the accepted value varied so widely over time and that the eventual convergence at 4.54 billion years was the result of a multidisciplinary approach that gradually filled in a complete picture from seemingly disparate data points. This networked approach made me think of a spider web where each link is interconnected and dependent on the links around it. At the same time, weak portions of the web can be rebuilt in situ without the entire web collapsing.

It also was interesting to read about the life cycles of various theories and in particular how they can still be useful even when superseded by something better, as in the case of Newton’s laws of motion.

The parts of the book that dealt with science deniers and misinformation seem acutely relevant during the pandemic crisis. I noticed many of the types of bad-faith arguments used to try to discredit science that were discussed are being brandished about in the media almost constantly. I am hopeful that now I will be in a better position to argue that the conclusions of experts can be trusted because they are the result of a robust system that is constantly revising itself from within.

I hope other blog readers will buy the book and then write their own reviews and post them here and on the many websites that allow for readers to post reviews.

Thanks, Chris!

Biden’s pick of Harris makes life difficult for Trump

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced yesterday that California senator Kamala Harris would be his running mate. It was something I had been expecting all along. Harris breaks a barrier by being the first woman of color to be nominated to be vice-president of one of the major political parties but in almost every other respect she is not a trailblazer. Her politics are very much Democratic party establishment. She is not a progressive and her past performance as a prosecutor leaves plenty to be desired as she vigorously used all the powers at her disposal to wage the infamous ‘war on crime’ that resulted in large numbers of people being sent to prison for long terms out of proportion to the nature of their crimes. This is one reason that her choice makes life difficult for Trump. He will try to portray her as someone who is the ideological love child of Lenin and Fidel Castro but that is highly unlikely to stick.
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