An occasion when this excuse may actually be true

When a person says they are leaving a prominent position in government or business to ‘spend more time with their family’, that is often an indication that they have been pressured to leave or that there is a scandal looming that they want to get ahead of. So when Kellyanne Conway suddenly announced yesterday that she was leaving her position as White House counselor at the end of this month and giving that exact reason, my first reaction was wondering what the other show was and when it would drop. This is because Conway has been close to Trump from during the 2016 campaign and has been one of his most loyal aides, ever willing to go on TV and defends his actions and lies, however outrageous. Through all the turnovers in the Trump administration, she has been a fixture.
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Viewing the evolution of language positively

Geoff Nunberg, a linguist who gave frequent commentaries on NPR’s Fresh Air radio program died recently at the age of 75. I enjoyed listening to his views because, although not a linguist myself, I enjoy exploring the nuances and quirks of the English language and Nunberg’s opinions were always interesting and informative. He was not a scold, trying to police people’s speech. Instead he explored how and why language evolves and what its use tells us about ourselves and the state of society.

Consider his take on the ‘singular they’, something that I too wrote about recently. Nunberg writes about his mystification to the opposition to its adoption.
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Even Trump’s sister despises him

Mary Trump, Donald Trump’s niece who has come out with a bombshell book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man that slams him, seems to have decided to burn all her bridges with her family. While Trump’s late brother who died recently defended him and criticized Mary for writing her book, Trump’s sister Maryanne Trump Barry, a former federal judge, has been silent, at least in public. But she has not been as reticent in private and Mary has released secret recordings in which Maryanne slams her brother.
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How Republicans became the White Grievance Party

As Trump’s ghastly performance as president continues and his fortunes slide, more and more Republicans are willing to openly discuss the phenomenon of how Trumpism took over the Republican party.

Stuart Stevens, a veteran political consultant for the Republican party who worked on the campaigns of Bob Dole, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, is the latest in that long line. In his case, at least he did not support Trump in 2016 and did criticize him then, for which he was attacked by Republicans in turn. He has published a new book It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump where he argues that Trump is the end result of a long process in which the party abandoned its policies of fiscal restraint, personal responsibility and family values. He argues that he now thinks that the party never really believed in those values, and he acknowledges that he too was partly responsible for taking part in that charade
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Stop making these types of apologies – they only make things worse

A sportscaster during a baseball game used a homophobic slur when he thought it was during a break, not realizing that he was back on the air. Some time later during the broadcast, when he was made aware that his remarks had been broadcast, he issued an apology and later left the booth to be replaced by someone else. His apology included the following evasive statements that are commonly found is such mea culpas:
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This does not seem like a good idea

It is true that China has managed to curb the spread of covid-19 by taking draconian measures such as completely shutting down regions of the country, especially the city of Wuhan where the first major outbreak occurred. As a result, reports say that life has gone back to pretty much normal, something that I have personally heard vouched for by people I know who live there.

But I was still startled to see these photographs, one of which is reproduced below, taken in Wuhan over the weekend, one of many showing a large number of people crammed together at a water park.

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John Oliver on how black jurors get excluded

He shows that thanks to a mixture of incompetence and outright racism, people of color are much more likely to not make it into the pool of potential jurors and even if they do get there, are less likely to be actually allowed to serve as jurors. Prosecutors especially find ingenious ways to circumvent the prohibition that people cannot be excluded on the basis of race by finding other reasons, even though studies suggest that diverse juries are more thorough, thoughtful, and arrive at more just verdicts.

I am giving a talk on my book this Sunday

This coming Sunday, August 23 at 8:00pm (US Eastern Time), I will be giving a talk on the topic of my latest book The Great Paradox of Science: Why Its Conclusions Can Be Relied Upon Even Though They Cannot Be Proven.

The talk is being sponsored by the Freethinkers group in Cleveland. It will be on Zoom and those readers of this blog who wish to join in can find the necessary information here.

See Yale and die?

Colleges and Universities are beginning their new academic year. When I was still teaching, I used to enjoy the week before classes began when you saw new students excitedly arriving on campus with their families to move into the dorms. It was a feeling of new beginnings and possibilities. My university had a whole slew of programs during orientation week for new students that were a mixture of information providing and socializing. At the end of it just before classes began, we had a big culminating event for all the new students in the huge Severance Hall, home of the famed Cleveland Orchestra. I would be one of the speakers at this event and each year, I would try to get students excited about what I felt was the chief attraction of being at a university.
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