PC philosophy?

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Scotty Hendricks wonders at BigThink whether philosophy has gotten PC:

Name a few philosophers. I'll wait. You probably named a few Greeks, maybe a German or two. More frequent readers may have included an Arab or a Persian. But can you name many, or even any, thinkers from Africa? How about South Asia? Can you name a non-white philosopher from the last century at all?

"Many people will say no," he continues, "and a group of students at a University of London college thinks that is a problem:"

The student union of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) is requesting that a majority of philosophers studied at the college be of an Asian or African background at the expense of more commonly studied European philosophers.[...] Its desire to reduce the focus given to the mainstays of European philosophy has earned it the ire of many online news sources. However, the union raises a fair point. If students in a globalized world are going to understand the world they live in, should they not be armed with the ideas and philosophies of that world? Even at the cost of the traditional curriculum?

One needn't disparage Plato and Aristotle to recognize the value of Confucius and Lao Tzu, for example--merely recognize that texts written in non-Roman alphabets also have much to teach us.

Ted Rall's 3 rules for resisting Trump uses the example of France in 1940, and essentially asks if we want to be collaborators--or members of the Resistance:

Though it's premature to draw a direct comparison between Nazi Europe and Trump's America, it's never too early to start thinking about the ethics of resistance in a United States whose government whose repressiveness is likely to feel unacceptably severe to a significant portion of the population.

What is the correct way to behave after January 20th? Should one Keep Calm and Carry On?

"Like the French during World War II," he continues, "most Americans opposed to/afraid of Trump will muddle through some murky middle ground." Rall then suggests some rules:

Rule 1: Anything for survival.

"You're not required to starve to death over a principle."

Rule 2: Nothing for Trump.

"The one thing Trumpism offers is ideological clarity; at times like this, everyone has a dog in the fight, ostriching not allowed."

Rule 3: Ignorance is no excuse.

Rall states bluntly that:

You must hide the undocumented immigrant on the run. You cannot submit a bid to construct the Wall. You must, if you work for an insurance company, try to avoid enforcing rules that deny healthcare.

One of the things people overseas tell me they like about Americans is that we're happy-go-lucky. That has to change.

It's time to get serious.


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Whether it's adding President Obama to Mount Rushmore or giving free cars to welfare recipients, notes MediaMatters, Facebook's fake news problem means that biased BS is pushed to nearly five million followers:

"The Facebook page for Proud To Be Conservative, with more than 1.5 million followers," notes MediaMatters, "also exclusively shares content from the AmericanNews.com website:"

American News posts -- whether sharing fake news or pushing highly partisan and heavily spun content -- have several traits that are common to the content pushed by fake news purveyors: They use classic clickbait headlines, actively seek to confirm far-right ideology, and exploit bigotry and biases.

MediaMatters continues by noting that "the distinct problem of fake news has several unique symptoms, including a startling level of opacity, which is exemplified by American News:"

Hyperpartisan pages that push fake news stories [....] like American News, often make it nearly impossible to find any information about the people contributing to their pages or the entities operating them -- even as they rake in tens of thousands of dollars in advertising revenue. This secrecy allows them to remain unaccountable for the content they share, which often includes copied or plagiarized content from other such sites, shared to further spread patently false information.

In summary, "the social media giant clearly has more work to do in addressing its fake news problem; without action, it remains complicit in American News' deceptive fake news tactics."

AlterNet's 5 ways to resist Trump before the inauguration by Ilana Novick lists the old standards:

1. Call your representatives.

2. Start your own organizing group, focusing on lobbying elected officials.

3. Join an existing group.

4. Attend a January 15th Day of Action rally to protect health care.

5. Support journalists and freedom of the press.

There is plenty that we can do to spread light in these rapidly-darkening times; let's roll up our sleeves and get to work!

James Kwak's look at Econ 101 and the minimum wage [an excerpt from his book Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality] points out that "The minimum wage has been a hobgoblin of economism since its origins," from Henry Hazlitt to Milton Friedman to Ronald Reagan:

Think tanks including Cato, Heritage, and the Manhattan Institute have reliably attacked the minimum wage for decades, all the while emphasizing the key lesson from Economics 101: Higher wages cause employers to cut jobs.

Kwak cites two recent meta-studies suggesting that "increasing the minimum wage does not have a significant impact on employment." One study is "The New Minimum Wage Research;" the other, "Publication Selection Bias in Minimum-Wage Research? A Meta-Regression Analysis," agrees that minimum-wage increases can drive up labor costs overall, but with this caveat:

But many companies can recoup cost increases in the form of higher prices; because most of their customers are not poor, the net effect is to transfer money from higher-income to lower-income families.

"Raising the minimum wage," this study observes, "would also reduce inequality by narrowing the pay gap between low-income and higher-income workers:"

This conviction that the minimum wage hurts the poor is an example of economism in action. Economists have many different opinions on the subject, based on different theories and research studies, but when it comes to public debate, one particular result of one particular model is presented as an unassailable economic theorem.


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In These Times issues a warning about a constitutional convention, arguing that right-wing activists "are dangerously close to convening the first state constitutional convention in U.S. history:"

They have already passed resolutions in 28 states, and after November's elections, Republicans will hold control of both chambers in 32 states, up from 30 before the election. Conservatives also dominate in Nebraska's officially nonpartisan, single-chamber legislature, giving them 33. This puts them "just one state shy of the 34 needed to propose an Article V convention and permanently take back our government," Daniel Horowitz wrote in the Conservative Review one week after the election.

"This is no fringe, unrealistic movement," writes Simon Davis-Cohen, "They came close to calling a convention in the 1980s, and in the 1990s Congress came one senate vote away from passing a balanced budget amendment:"

This would hamstring the federal government and prevent it from stimulating the economy and undertaking robust public programs--effectively institutionalizing austerity. [...]

Increased local democracy, in principle, should be a good thing. Millions of Americans of all stripes are fighting for local self-determination over education, corporate projects, employment laws and basic protections for health, safety and welfare. But the movement for a convention of states twists this demand into a gift for the rich.

Bloomberg's Noah Smith takes aim at Milton Friedman's cherished theory, noting that "Friedman was wrong about the permanent income hypothesis:"

But unlike with the first two examples [Einstein on quantum mechanics and Linus Pauling on DNA], where scientists quickly realized the mistake, economists haven't yet come to grips with the reality.

"This idea is important," Smith continues, "because it meant that we shouldn't expect fiscal stimulus to have much of an effect"--which it clearly does. Smith cites this study (PDF) by Peter Ganong and Pascal Noel showing that "consumer behavior is more short term than almost any mainstream model predicts." His conclusion is that "it's likely that decades of believing in Friedman's idea have caused us to underrate the potential power of fiscal stimulus and other policies that boost short-term income:"

Even the greatest scientists can be wrong. The measure of a science is how quickly it comes to grips with the mistakes its heroes make.

I suspect that, particularly on the conservative side, economics will fail that measure.


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Tim Dickinson introduces Rolling Stone readers to the leaders of the Trump resistance:

Donald Trump is riding into office on a make-believe mandate: Despite a possible assist from Vladimir Putin, Trump lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes, and he's taking command of the Oval Office with the lowest favorability rating in modern memory: 37 percent.

"But even as the 45th president takes the oath of office," notes Dickinson, "a fierce resistance is rising to confront and constrain the Trump presidency:"

From the ACLU to the Sierra Club to Everytown for Gun Safety, civil society is girding for battle - reinforced by an unprecedented upwelling of activist support and donations.

Protectors of women's rights, gun-control advocates, LGBTQ activists, conservative splinter groups, defenders of civil liberties, and more are ready to resist--let's all join in!

We must fight so Republicans don't let us die, writes Mara Keisling at The Advocate. She refers to many potential avenues for eviscerating the ACA:

Excluding preexisting conditions. Excluding transition-related care. Lifetime limits for HIV care. Denying routine cancer screenings because you're the "wrong gender." Refusing care at a clinic or hospital because you're LGBT. Being poor but still ineligible for Medicaid.

"While the ACA will definitely be in effect in 2017," she continues, "its future beyond that is in doubt:"

Lawmakers could vote as soon as next week to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act, stripping away many of these gains. Congressional Republicans say they want to "repeal and replace" -- but what they're actually proposing is a repeal with no replacement in sight. [...]

This repeal could strip 30 million Americans -- mostly working families -- of health insurance. It would cause premiums to spike dramatically for millions more. Ordinary LGBT Americans would lose tax credits, Medicaid, or health care through their job, while insurance and drug companies and the wealthy would get huge tax breaks.

Plus, the GOP would also get to destroy one of Obama's accomplishments--and that's far more important to them than LGBT lives. Their voters, however, are worried about another type of pride. Karoli Kuns at Crooks and Liars explains some of the anti-ACA spite, writing that PA Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA) "told a story of a couple who lives in Mount Joy, PA and currently benefit under the ACA:"

Tim Hollinger is on Medicare. His wife, Phyllis, is not yet eligible and is self-employed. Phyllis obtained coverage through the marketplace, and her premium is over $1,000 per month with a $2,700 deductible, which is over 23 percent of her net income.

Here's the thing: Phyllis gets a subsidy that covers 35 percent of that cost, helping to make it affordable. Because that is how the ACA works. The subsidy reduces the monthly cost to Phyllis so she isn't going broke trying to pay for health insurance.

Rep. Smucker went on to explain why he thinks it's a great idea to repeal the ACA for Tim and Phyllis.

"Phyllis receives a federal subsidy that covers 35% of that monthly cost. To Phyllis, that's not right," he explained. "To Phyllis, this is about her pride. and she's not asking for a lot."

C&L then drops the hammer:

No, Phyllis, you really are asking for a lot. If you don't want the subsidy, don't take it. That's an option, too. But because of your pride, you'd like for 30 million others who are able to have access to healthcare to lose it.

"Here's what I worry will happen to Phyllis Hollinger if the ACA is repealed," the piece concludes:

She will not be able to afford her health insurance and will be hoping against all hope that she doesn't get sick before she's eligible for Medicare. If she does get sick, she and her husband will be forced into medical bankruptcy because she will not have any safety net over her head. I do not want this to happen to her, but it's more or less inevitable if the ACA is repealed.

At least her pride will remain intact.

The Atlantic wonders if conservative politicians are more attractive:

Prior research indicates that good-looking political candidates win more votes, just one of the many ways attractive individuals seem to have it better in life. There is evidence to suggest that beautiful people are viewed by others as more likable, trustworthy and competent, and may be more likely to land job interviews and earn more money than less attractive people to name just a few advantages.

The study "The right look: Conservative politicians look better and voters reward it" gets into more detail, observing that "politicians on the right look more beautiful in Europe, the United States and Australia:"

Our explanation is that beautiful people earn more, which makes them less inclined to support redistribution. Our model of within-party competition predicts that voters use beauty as a cue for conservatism when they do not know much about candidates and that politicians on the right benefit ore from beauty in low-information elections. Evidence from real and experimental elections confirms both predictions.

The paper cites another study [Lenz, G.S., Lawson, C., 2011. Looking the part: television leads less informed citizens to vote based on candidates' appearance. Am. J. Polit. Sci. 55, 574-589) which "showed that the positive relationship between votes and an appealing appearance is most pronounced among voters with low political knowledge who also watch a lot of TV." That sounds a lot like the Fox audience!)

We study beauty premia in municipal and parliamentary elections. The former can be regarded as low-information and the latter as high information elections, where voters know little and reasonably much, respectively, about candidates. We show that in municipal elections, a beauty increase of one standard deviation attracts about 20% more votes for the average non-incumbent candidate on the right and about 8% more votes for the average non-incumbent candidate on the left. In the parliamentary election, the corresponding figure is about 14% for non-incumbent candidates on the left and right alike. This makes clear that voters both on the left and on the right respond to beauty in both types of elections, but that voters on the right are more responsive in a low-information setting.

Here's an interesting causal chain:

A simple economic explanation of the appearance gap in favor of the right is that beautiful people earn more money (Hamermesh and Biddle, 1994; Mobius and Rosenblat, 2006; Scholz and Sicinski, 2015), and the more people earn, the more they are inclined to oppose redistribution (Alesina and Giuliano, 2011) and, arguably, to support, get active in and represent parties to the right. A more general psychological explanation could be that good-looking people are more likely to perceive the world as a just place, since they are treated better than others (Langlois et al. 2000), achieve higher status (Anderson et al. 2001) and are happier (Hamermesh and Abrevaya, 2013) - and a frequent reason for people to sympathize with the left is a perception of the world as unfair. In line with this, it has been found that greater self-reported attractiveness is negatively related to a preference for egalitarianism, typically associated with the left: The more beautiful people consider themselves, the less they are in favor of redistribution (Price et al. 2011; Belmi and Neale, 2014).

Trump's fake news

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AlterNet's Kali Holloway writes about Trump's history with fake news, noting that "Fake news is the one thing Trump hasn't claimed to have invented that he actually deserves at least partial credit for inventing:"

He has been spreading fake news since it was just called "lies," and he's shown that winning the presidency will only increase his fake news output. Trump puts out so much misinformation he is a fake news factory unto himself, an artisan of lies, a curator of untruths. Real estate may be his job, but lying is his career, hobby and passion project.

Trump has put thousands of fake news stories out there, some enormous and others so small you wonder why he bothers.

Holloway lists 14 fake news stories that Trump has "created or promoted:" Lying about anti-Obama birtherism and anti-Hillary health scares, spreading rumors about JFK's assassination, demanding the death penalty for the (innocent) Central Park 5, inventing thousands of New Jersey Muslims cheering 9/11, proposing that Scalia was murdered, spreading "completely fabricated numbers for black murder rates," alleging millions of illegal voters, claiming that climate change is a Chinese hoax, promoting the nonexistent vaccine/autism link, suggesting that Cruz and Rubio weren't eligible to run, and blaming "professional protesters, incited by the media" for the demonstrations against him.

All that, and he hasn't even been sworn in yet!

The ACLU provides a hopeful note that dissent is a powerful antidote to propaganda:

Fifty-five years ago this January, the ACLU of Northern California was busy filling orders from across the country for copies of its recently produced film, "Operation Correction." The film was a response to a piece of Red Scare propaganda, "Operation Abolition," which was produced by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and depicted civil liberties activists in San Francisco as violent "communist agents" bent on destroying the fabric of America.

"College students from UC Berkeley and Stanford mobilized to protest the hearings and take a stand for freedom of speech and freedom of association," the piece continues,

Through manipulative editing and voiceover narration, HUAC's "Operation Abolition" used real news footage to portray the student activists as violent and dangerous "hardcore Communist agents" and "indoctrinated and trained dupes." [...]

While "Operation Abolition" was being viewed by millions of Americans at town halls and colleges across the country, the ACLU produced "Operation Correction." Our executive director at the time, Ernest Besig, narrated the exact same footage and explained the propagandistic tactics being used to mislead the public.

"People flocked to see it," the piece continues, and "Historians credit HUAC's 'Operation Abolition' with backfiring spectacularly:"

Young people across the country were shown the film at school, saw right through it, and decided they should make their way to Berkeley -- after all, that's where all the action was. Four years later, the UC Berkeley Free Speech Movement began.

Let's remember this moment in history as a lesson in the power of free speech and free thought. And let's remember it as proof that if we remain vigilant, lies can wither in the face of truth.

That worked against HUAC's lies, and it will work against Trump's as well.

Paine's heirs

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Let them call us rebels, writes Harvey Kaye--because we are the heirs of Thomas Paine. "As yet, we do not have our own pamphleteer for these soul-trying times," he writes, "But we still have Thomas Paine's ever-timely words:"

We do not yet have a writer who can as magnificently express our outrage that a man whose character Paine would deplore is about to become president after losing the popular ballot by nearly 3 million votes. We do not yet have a writer to encourage us to not only resist the ambitions of both the man who would be king and his Tory allies in Congress, but also to turn our outrage into a sustained struggle that will fulfill the promise of democracy. Nonetheless, we have the words that burned like fire in the breast of a man who believed that to be an American in his time meant being a radical.

Kaye suggests that we "Pick up Paine's writings and prepare for Inauguration Day by immersing yourself in them:"

Carry his works with you. Give copies to friends and family. Read them aloud just as yeomen and farmers and artisans and merchants did in the fields, workshops and taverns of 1776. Drink deeply from his Common Sense. Relish his attacks on kings and would-be monarchs. Delight in his belief that working people can govern themselves. Listen as he embraces America's ethnic and religious diversity. And note well his plans for establishing an inclusive, prosperous and expansive American democracy.

Until I find a better option--a doubtful proposition--I'm sticking with the Library of America edition of Paine's Collected Writings.

O'Keefe owned

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James O'Keefe got owned, and it's delightful:

Here's a stinging quotation from narrator Lauren Windsor:

Convicted criminal and right-wing con artist James O'Keefe and his cohorts in the Trump Foundation-funded Project Veritas are at it again; this time, infiltrating progressive groups in an attempt to create a storyline smearing progressives by promising to fund money for violent schemes to unsuspecting advocates. But this time the tables were turned. We received a tip on suspicious behavior and immediately recognized O'Keefe's malicious handiwork. We partnered with Ryan Clayton of Americans Take Action and launched a counter-sting.

The question, "is James O'Keefe still conducting political hit jobs on the president-elect's behalf?" is all too pertinent.

The whole picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words cliché is sometimes true, but here it's worth a thousand shaking heads:


H/t to Daily Kos for both the hilarious meal above, and the dessert below:



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Vox's team bluntly states that Comey cost Clinton the presidency:

Donald Trump has called his election a historic landslide, but it was anything but. Only two other presidents have been elected with smaller popular vote margins since records began in 1824. His edge in the Electoral College, while decisive, depends on less than 80,000 votes across three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) out of more than 135 million cast nationwide. It was a very close election.

Despite this, conservatives "have scoffed at the claim that the [Comey] letter changed the outcome of the election, suggesting that it's a convenient excuse for a weak candidate who made some questionable strategic decisions:"

But the Comey effect was real, it was big, and it probably cost Clinton the election. Below, we present four pieces of evidence demonstrating that this is the case.

After detailing the historical uniqueness of Comey's letter, Vox notes that "Clinton's margin over Trump falls dramatically in national polls directly after the Comey letter and never recovers:"

It's worth noting that Comey also made headlines in July [...] every time Comey and emails were driving the news cycle, Clinton's national polling numbers took a significant hit."

"Democrats," writes Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, "didn't lose because their message was unpopular or because they're out of touch or because they're insufficiently centrist or insufficiently leftist:"

That just wasn't the problem. The Democratic message was fine; Democrats are perfectly well in touch with their constituencies; and they weren't perceived as too unwilling to shake things up. Even with eight years of Democratic rule acting as a headwind, Hillary Clinton's default performance was a substantial win.

The only reason it didn't happen is because James Comey basically decided to call her a liar and a crook--based on absolutely no new evidence and with everyone in the world advising him not to--with 12 days left in the election. That was something she couldn't overcome, and it has nothing to do with the basic Democratic message.


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The Advocate reminds us that Ellen taught us how to fight Trump 20 years ago:

When Ellen DeGeneres came out in 1997 -- on the cover of Time magazine, in an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and then in an episode of her ABC sitcom Ellen -- it was a watershed moment in culture. In "The Puppy Episode," she (and her character) were among the first to come out on a television show, an event that attracted a record number of viewers upon its airing. [...]

Her network, ABC, not having a playbook for what to do with a lesbian actor playing a lesbian character, placed a parental advisory on Ellen episodes. In 1998 the series was cancelled after ratings dipped.

"Since DeGeneres's coming-out," the piece continues, "other media figures -- many inspired by her courage and success -- have also left the closet:"

DeGeneres's bravery in coming out and being vocal is undeniable. But as they say, it takes a village. Her success also required the support of Hollywood power players behind the scenes who were willing to take a risk. Over two decades ago, the network ABC was not obliged to approve and air DeGeneres's coming-out story. But it did so anyway. While the show was canceled a year later due to a drop in ratings, the courage of producers and executives to stand by and promote their lesbian star changed what was possible for storylines on television.

The takeaway lesson is simply that "Hollywood, LGBT people, and their allies -- in addition to being gayer -- must be louder in demanding rights in the face of adversity."

Nat Hentoff, RIP

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Eulogized all over for his passionate advocacy (of jazz and free speech, among other necessities), Nat Hentoff is missed deeply by The Nation:

In well over a half-century of writing and advocacy, Hentoff passionately defended the importance of freedom in the most capacious sense--as the unqualified right of expression, whether that meant a riff from John Coltrane's sax or an unpopular, even offensive idea.

One of his early "Indigenous Music" columns [which ran from 1976 to 1980], Hentoff reminisced about Billie Holiday, "whose music he was reportedly listening to in his last moments alive:"

In 1957, less than two years before she died, Robert Herridge, Whitney Balliett and I put together The Sound of Jazz for CBS-TV, and the section of that hour which has been replayed most often has Billie, sitting on a high stool, singing Fine and Mellow to her once and former very good friend, Lester Young. They had not spoken for a long time, but that afternoon they connected in and through the blues, looking directly into each other's eyes, their music softly overwhelming everything else around and beneath them. And in the control room, the engineers, the director, the producer, all of us had tears in our eyes. None of us was the least embarrassed either. We were grateful.

It doesn't get any better than that.

"If there's one thing we can learn from his life," writes Hemant Mehta at Patheos, "it's that there's power in forging your own path and following the evidence, as you see it, even if it may not sit well with those in your circles:"

Hentoff didn't hold certain positions just because they were expected of him. He came to his own conclusions and fought for them passionately. That's never easy to do when some of your opinions are bound to create friction. It's also why people are mourning the loss of the kind of voice we rarely hear these days.

The Federalist mentions that Hentoff wrote "more than 30 books" and was prolific in periodicals as well:

Hentoff's columns appeared regularly in such far-flung and incongruous places as the Washington Post, the Village Voice, the New Republic, the New Yorker, and at conservative and libertarian outlets like Jewish World Review, the Washington Times and the Cato Institute, where he was a fellow.

In the early 1980s, his vocal championing of the pro-life cause was such a rejection of the liberal orthodoxy that it perplexed and infuriated his colleagues at the Village Voice, the iconic New York broadsheet he did so much to establish in the 1950s. For conservatives, of course, his heterodox, civil libertarian views (especially on the War on Terror) could be equally incensing. While he loved smashing expectations and arguing, it was never a put-on; Hentoff's sincerity and intellectual rigor won him the respect of those with whom he differed on any one of these issues.

"Hentoff's greatest desire was his success in presenting jazz," continues the piece, "this country's signature artistic innovation--and his lifelong love--as a serious intellectual pursuit:"

For him, that meant respecting the craft and the artistic ambitions of the musicians themselves, and the sacrifices these musicians made to attain mastery and success.

He disdained the caricature of the primitive, emotion-driven African American musician who seemed to spontaneously create without study and practice. As a later book very much in the tradition of Hentoff's work would exclaim in its title, this music was "as serious as your life."

Like The Nation, The Federalist also cites the Holiday/Young recording:

Holiday singing "Fine and Mellow" stands out, 50 years on, as one of the most beloved performances in jazz history, due largely for the empathy evident between the pair during Young's solo (at 1:25), which is the perfect example of the tenor giant's vibrato-less, years-behind-the-beat artistry. [...] "Fine and Mellow" is all the more poignant knowing that the performance was the last time Young and Holiday would see each other before their deaths in spring and summer of 1959. In 2000, NPR interviewed Hentoff about the take:
The song she sang that, to most people (including me), was the climax of the show was one of the few songs that she herself ever wrote: 'Fine and Mellow.' It's a basic 12-bar blues. It may be the only blues song she ever wrote, although the language of the blues, the texture of the blues, the cry of the blues was always part of what she did.

What made this the climax of the show was this: She and Lester Young -- she had given him his nickname, Pres, and he was the guy who called her Lady Day, which other people came to call her. They had been very close for a long time, but then they stopped being close. They paid very little attention to each other while we were rehearsing the show.

Lester was not feeling well... When it came to his solo, in the middle of 'Fine and Mellow,' Lester stood up and he blew the purest blues I have ever heard.

Watching Billie and Lester interact, she was watching him with her eyes with a slight smile, and it looked as if she and Lester were remembering other times, better times. And this is true -- it sounds corny -- in the control room, [Robert] Herridge, the producer, had tears in his eyes. So did the engineer. So did I. It was just extraordinarily moving. I think for all the times she sang this song, on records and in night clubs, this was the performance that I think meant the most to her, and it came through on 'The Sound of Jazz.'

After it was all over, she was so pleased with how it went--it was live, by the way--she came over and kissed me. And that's worth more to me than the Congressional Medal of Honor.

There are worse ways to spend your time today than listening to the Hentoff-produced jazz tracks that the article so thoughtfully includes. Bravo!

The US has a billion-dollar deficit on research about gun deaths, according to San Francisco's Dr. David Stark. He first cites "the Dickey Amendment, the annual rider first inserted into the 1996 federal congressional appropriations bill prohibiting the use of CDC funds 'to advocate or promote gun control.' Though not an outright ban, the measure has had a chilling effect on research." The article notes that "Stark wanted to measure the effects of the congressional restrictions on gun violence research in statistical terms:"

To do that, he built statistical models to predict how much funding and how many published articles would be expected based on the number of people who died from 30 top causes of death. Data came from the Compressed Mortality File on a database known as CDC Wonder (Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research), the Federal RePORTER funding database, and the MEDLINE publications database.

Stark's model assumed that the more Americans are killed by a given cause of death, the more the government will study that subject. Between 2004 and 2014, the United States saw about 350,000 deaths because of firearms, with a mortality rate of 10.4 deaths per 100,000 people. Based on how often people were dying from gunshots, Stark's formula predicted nearly $1.4 billion in gun violence research funding and 38,897 publications.

In reality, gun violence research received only $22.1 million in federal funding and generated just 1,738 scientific articles during the decade in question. That shortfall became the centerpiece of widely covered analysis that Stark published last week in the the Journal of the American Medical Association.


"Gun violence killed about as many individuals as sepsis," says the study, but "funding for gun violence research was about 0.7 percent of that for sepsis and publication volume about 4 percent."

voter suppression

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According to American Prospect, voter suppression works too well, as "Republican state lawmakers across the country have moved to suppress the franchise to maintain GOP political dominance" via simple strategies:

Turn voting into a bureaucratic nightmare by eliminating popular timesavers such as same-day registration and early voting. Require photo identification to vote, using IDs that many people don't have or cannot pay for. The harder it is to vote, especially for people juggling some combination of work, classes, and child or elder care, the fewer people will.

"Many of those new election laws," the piece continues, "were promulgated after the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that invalidated provisions of the Voting Rights Act," including fourteen state restrictions since November:

The high court's Shelby County decision eviscerated the landmark law's "preclearance" provision, which required nine states and specific counties or townships in six other states to submit election law changes to the Justice Department for review. The preclearance process gave the federal government a tool to prevent blatantly discriminatory regulations from going into effect. (Now challenges to election laws must be fought as rearguard actions through state and federal courts.) The remaining teeth of the VRA rest on another provision that mandates that voting laws do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or certain languages. [...]

Voting rights are under siege in a way that hasn't been seen in more than a generation. But these coordinated attacks follow a historic pattern: Laws that expanded the franchise during Reconstruction and after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act have typically been followed by state-level repression and federal indifference.

"The tactics used to ferret out alleged fraud almost exclusively affect minority groups, the young, and the elderly," the piece continues:

Regulations like photo identification are supposedly designed to prevent people from impersonating other voters, despite the fact that practically no one impersonates another person with the intent to vote in the United States. The misuse of alternatives to in-person voting, such as the fraudulent use of absentee ballots, is also rare. Other tactics, like consolidating polling places, are explained away by noting that these moves save money, despite long lines and other headaches such closures produce in the remaining polling stations.

"With the 2018 midterm elections on the horizon," the article intones ominously, "the next two years will be a crucial test for voting rights." The piece cites both the 1993 National Voter Registration Act and the 2002 Help America Vote Act as likely targets:

Only 37 percent of eligible voters made it to the polls in 2014, the lowest midterm turnout in 70 years. The average voter who sits out a midterm election does not make the connection between a party's control of the state legislature and the governor's office, and how those partisan officeholders will have the ability to craft new election laws and carve out state and federal legislative districts after the 2020 census. Yet in 2014, a Center for American Progress/NAACP-LDF/Southern Elections Foundation report found that the numbers of voters in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia that were affected by changes in early-voting and photo-ID laws far outstripped the margin of victory in those states' U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races.

"Republicans' determination to dismantle voting rights that were once presumed settled," the piece concludes, "will necessitate a response worthy of a new civil-rights movement."

unethical panel

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Well, it appears that GOP House members secretly gutted their ethics panel after all:

Remember how the House Republicans tried to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, only to back down under a torrent of criticism? Well, it turns out that Paul Ryan and friends actually succeeded in their mission to neuter the ethics panel after all. A little-noticed change to the House rules allows members to hide their records from any sort of scrutiny-even from someone conducting an ethics or criminal investigation.

The Center for Responsive Politics is all over this sleazy sleight-of-hand:

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is but the latest example of how the GOP wants to overflow the swamp. For all intents and purposes, this has the same effect as what the GOP initially tried to do in the open before seemingly being forced to back down. After all, if a lawmaker is suspected of taking shady donations (read: bribes), how can you know for sure if you can't review his or her records? And if you can't review records, how can you conduct a credible investigation?

"The Democrats won control of the House in 2006," the piece exclaims, "in part due to tying the GOP to the seemingly endless scandals surrounding Tom DeLay and others:"

In a clever move, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee declared that DeLay had turned the House into a "House of Scandal." Well, DCCC chairman Ben Lujan and his team may want to take a cue from their 2006 counterparts. After all, it's now clear that under Ryan, the 115th Congress is going to be a House of Corruption.


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There's some news on the three-slit experiment front:

Physicists have performed a variation of the famous 200-year-old double-slit experiment that, for the first time, involves "exotic looped trajectories" of photons. These photons travel forward through one slit, then loop around and travel back through another slit, and then sometimes loop around again and travel forward through a third slit.

Will a diagram help to clarify this loopy trajectory?


Perhaps not.

The Intercept's expose on the crimes of Seal Team 6 by Matthew Cole begins with a bang:

Officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, SEAL Team 6 is today the most celebrated of the U.S. military's special mission units. But hidden behind the heroic narratives is a darker, more troubling story of "revenge ops," unjustified killings, mutilations, and other atrocities -- a pattern of criminal violence that emerged soon after the Afghan war began and was tolerated and covered up by the command's leadership.

Incidents such as mutilating the body of an unarmed man "by stomping in his already damaged skull" and other "episodes of criminal brutality" disgusted some SEALs, and "Senior members of SEAL Team 6 felt the pattern of brutality was not only illegal but rose to the level of war crimes." One retired SEAL claims that "Mutilation isn't part of the game," but Britt Slabinski, "a second-generation SEAL who joined Team 6 in 1993," happily described "the funny stuff we do:"

After I shot this dude in the head, there was a guy who had his feet, just his feet, sticking out of some little rut or something over here. I mean, he was dead, but people have got nerves. I shot him about 20 times in the legs, and every time you'd kick him, er, shoot him, he would kick up, you could see his body twitching and all that. It was like a game. Like, 'hey look at this dude,' and the guy would just twitch again. It was just good therapy. It was really good therapy for everybody who was there."

"Slabinkski and others in the squadron had fallen under the influence of an obscure war novel, Devil's Guard," writes Cole, "published in 1971 by George Robert Elford:"

The book purported to be a true account of an S.S. officer who with dozens of other soldiers escaped Germany after World War II, joined the French Foreign Legion, and spent years in Vietnam brutalizing the insurgency. The novel, which glorifies Nazi military practices, describes counterinsurgency tactics such as mass slaughter and desecration and other forms of wanton violence as a means of waging psychological warfare against the "savage" Vietnamese.

"These fucking morons read the book 'The Devil's Guard' and believed it," said one of the former SEAL Team 6 leaders who investigated Slabinski and Blue Squadron. "It's a work of fiction billed as the Bible, as the truth. In reality, it's bullshit. But we all see what we want to see."

Cole discussed photographs that "show deceased enemy combatants with their skulls split open by a rifle or pistol round at the upper forehead, exposing their brain matter:"

The foreign fighters who suffered these V-shaped wounds were either killed in battle and later shot at close range. Among members of SEAL Team 6, this practice of desecrating enemy casualties was called "canoeing."

Thankfully, this barbaric practice "virtually ceased to appear in after-action reports" once military directives mandated better reporting requirements on combat deaths. Cole's summary is brutal:

The falsehoods, both significant and slight, demonstrate that even when conducting the most important missions, SEAL Team 6 was unable to rise above the culture of deceit, personal enrichment, and self-aggrandizement that has corrupted a fighting unit legendary for its discipline and code of honor.

The Nation's Julia Mead explains why Millennials aren't afraid of the S word. She reveals that "I'm 22. I was born in 1994" and talks about "The erasure of socialist ideas from serious political discourse throughout most of my life" where "communism was killed, and along with it went any discussion of socialism and Marxism:"

This was the world of my childhood and adolescence, full of establishment progressives who were aggressively centrist and just as willing as conservatives to privilege the interests of capital over those of labor: think of the reckless expansion of so-called free trade, or the brutal military-industrial complex. For most of my life, I would have been hard-pressed to define capitalism, because in the news and in my textbooks, no other ways of organizing an economy were even acknowledged. I didn't know that there could be an alternative.

She notes that "while Trump has dominated the headlines, there is still plenty of momentum around the socialist ideas that Bernie used to inspire America:"

Our Revolution is working hard to take the fight to the states; there it will be joined by groups like the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America, whose membership has grown by more than 50 percent since November 8. That's more than 4,000 new members.

"Maybe socialism isn't a lost cause after all," she concludes. "Maybe it's our best hope."

WaPo reminds us of Donald Trump Jr's 2008 remarks at a real estate conference:

Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.

According to several Financial Times articles, Trump was bailed out by Russian crime bosses. Human rights lawyer Scott Horton "examined the structure and history of several major Trump real estate projects from the last decade--the period after his seventh bankruptcy and the cancellation of all his bank lines of credit:"

The money to build these projects flowed almost entirely from Russian sources. In other words, after his business crashed, Trump was floated and made to appear to operate a successful business enterprise through the infusion of hundreds in millions of cash from dark Russian sources.

He was their man.

WaPo continues:

The second Financial Times article puts Trump at the middle of a money laundering scheme, in which his real estate deals were used to hide not just an infusion of capital from Russia and former Soviet states, but to launder hundreds of millions looted by oligarchs. All Trump had to do was close his eyes to the source of the money, and suddenly empty apartments were going for top dollar.

Why would Trump's organization make such a good means of laundering funds? Because real estate has an arbitrary value. Is that apartment worth $1 million? Two million? Why not $3 million for a buyer who really wants it? When the whole transaction is just one LLC with undisclosed ownership paying another LLC with undisclosed ownership, it's even neater than hiding the money in an offshore account. And while some businesses require due diligence in looking at the source of funds, real estate is a bit more ... flexible.

The piece concludes by observing that "The Trump Organization was a hollow shell and Trump was bankrupt, but Donald Trump the public figure was a "successful businessman," a screen behind which criminal activity could be carried out on a massive scale:"

To inflate the value of his portfolio, Trump had to do nothing other than look away as the dirty money poured in from one LLC to the next. Citizens in Russia, Kazakhstan, and other former Soviet states lost hundreds of millions, but Trump got a cut as looted funds flowed through offices and apartments in buildings that carried those critical gold letters.

Yale News notes that "Gun violence is often described as an epidemic or a public health concern, due to its alarmingly high levels in certain populations in the United States:"

It most often occurs within socially and economically disadvantaged minority urban communities, where rates of gun violence far exceed the national average. A new Yale study has established a model to predict how "contagious" the epidemic really is.

The study, "Modeling Contagion Through Social Networks to Explain and Predict Gunshot Violence in Chicago, 2006 to 2014," conducted "an epidemiological analysis of a social network of individuals who were arrested during an 8-year period in Chicago, Illinois, with connections between people who were arrested together for the same offense:"

Modeling of the spread of gunshot violence over the network was assessed using a probabilistic contagion model that assumed individuals were subject to risks associated with being arrested together, in addition to demographic factors, such as age, sex, and neighborhood residence.

"Social contagion accounted for 63.1% of the 11 123 gunshot violence episodes," the study continues:

...subjects of gun violence were shot on average 125 days after their infector (the person most responsible for exposing the subject to gunshot violence). Some subjects of gun violence were shot more than once. [...]

Gunshot violence follows an epidemic-like process of social contagion that is transmitted through networks of people by social interactions. [...] Contagion via social ties, then, may be a critical mechanism in explaining why neighborhoods matter when modeling the diffusion of crime and, perhaps more important, why certain individuals become subjects of gun violence while others exposed to the same high-risk environments do not.

"We postulated that a person becomes exposed to gun violence through social interactions with previous subjects of gun violence," write the authors:

Therefore, associating with subjects of gun violence, and specifically co-engaging in risky behaviors with them, may expose individuals to these same behaviors, situations, and people that in turn increase the probability of becoming a subject of gun violence. [...]

By identifying high-risk individuals and transmission pathways that might not be detected by other means, a contagion-based approach could detect strategic points of intervention that would enable measures to proactively reduce the trauma associated with gun violence rather than just react to past incidents.

Specifically, the study observed that "more than 70% of all subjects of gun violence could be located in networks containing less than 5%of the city's population."

Grow this, Mitch!

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Mitch McConnell made some obnoxious remarks on Face the Nation:

"Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. [...] I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that."

Salon responded that we're not going to "get past it"--we're going to resist it:

McConnell's "grow up" remark is one we've heard quite often in social media and elsewhere from Trump Republicans and pundits alike who have completely failed to grasp why, specifically, Americans of many political dispositions are terrified right now.

We're not breaking any news when we observe that Donald Trump might be the most erratic, unpredictable, unqualified, misinformed politician ever to step into national politics, much less to be thrust into the highest office in the world. The threat here isn't necessarily Trump's policy agenda, though his promises on that front are harrowing: border walls, deportations of American citizens, blacklists, registries, abortion bans, prosecution of journalists, a nefarious alliance with Vladimir Putin and so forth. The fear and loathing with regard to Trump's publicly known agenda only covers a small fraction of the problem.

The piece then wonders "what sort of madness will burst forth when we least expect it:"

Sixty-two million Americans, through their poorly-considered, nihilistic votes, have stupidly chosen to shut down the containment grid, Ghostbusters-style, releasing untold horrors into the atmosphere. I challenge anyone to predict what those things will be. But knowing Trump's vindictiveness, his ignorance and his lack of core values, none of it can be good.

In his piece "Welcome to the Vortex," Todd Gitlin decries "the sheer breakdown of the truth-telling imperative" and observes that "the mainstream media are only part -- a significant part, but only a part -- of an interlocking ecology of falsification that has driven the country around the bend:"

I've decided to devote myself this coming year to an effort to take seriously the far-flung warp-world, the force-field of distortion and derangement that generates and circulates propaganda, fabrications, sloppy thinking and straight-out nihilism which dominates the beliefs, if we can use that word, of the Republican Party, and which large numbers of Americans have come to accept as a baseline for what they call reality. What bent world do the purveyors live in? What's the method to their legacy? Can we say anything to clarify what they're on about? [...]

Over recent decades, a poison cloud of right-wing propaganda has been pumped into living rooms. The poisoners have been called an "echo chamber," a "vast right-wing conspiracy," Fox and Friends, "barking heads" or, most anodyne, "conservative media" [and] This propaganda enterprise owns a major political party which has floated crazy, fruitless, indictmentless investigations and insinuations with apparently permanent standing in the Congress of the United States and all over the airwaves for a quarter century now. Whitewater! Vince Foster! Benghazi! Emails! Emails!

"I am going to call the totality of this enterprise The Vortex," he writes, "which stands for: VOices of RT-wing Extremism." He then excoriates the lot of them:

Breitbart "News" and its fellow travelers do not belong to news organizations. [...] business is to circulate propaganda. And in this benighted age of low-cost internet access, they have a business model that works. By keeping their base in a state of simple frenzy, they win back, and back, and back their core of customers.

"The Joneses, the Bannons, the Hannitys are not lovers of freedom, democracy, justice or truth," he continues:

Their cynicism is breathtaking. They believe in nothing but raw power, above all the power of their own braying. They believe in nothing else. Nothing. They are hatred incarnate in suits on the payrolls of billionaires. [...] We may not be interested in right-wing lunacy, but it's interested in us, our republic and our capacity to know the truth. So we must know it to someday, somehow, set ourselves free.

"Somebody to Love"

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Open Culture looks at a track I listened to a few times over Christmas weekend: George Michael's performance of "Somebody to Love" at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992. Open Culture's assessment is that "while he lacked Mercury's range, he nearly matched the former Queen singer in power and charisma:"

Immediately after Michael's death, this rehearsal video began making the rounds on social media, and people highlighted not only his mastery of a very challenging vocal melody, but the appreciation of fellow Mercury tribute performer David Bowie, whom we see nodding along in the wings at around 3:00. It's a very poignant moment, in hindsight, that underlines some of the significant similarities between the two stars. Not only were they both sexually adventurous chameleons and riveting performers, but--as we learned in story after story shared in their many posthumous tributes--both men used their status to help others, often anonymously.

Here is the rehearsal:

Here is the concert:

It's worth remembering both Mercury and Michael as exemplifying the best of pop-music artistry.

The Nation has supplied us with a lesson in surviving Trumpism from the McCarthy era. Ellen Schrecker reminds us that "political repression does require an enemy, otherwise the authorities will be unable to frighten the nation into accepting massive violations of people's rights:"

During the McCarthy era, the supposed threat to the USA was the international communist conspiracy; now it's Islamic extremists, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and left-wing professors. And they may be dealt with using methods J. Edgar Hoover embraced.

Newt Gingrich, for instance, has called for Congress to revive a World War II-style Un-American Activities Committee. Our president-to-be--who, it's worth noting, took advice from Joe McCarthy's sleazy amanuensis, Roy Cohn--has suggested depriving flag-burners of their citizenship. And, just last month, Turning Point USA, a right-wing student organization, posted a "Professor Watchlist" [see here] of one or two hundred (the numbers, like McCarthy's, keep changing) academics who "advance a radical agenda in lecture halls" and make life hard for the conservatives in their classes. Their abuses: criticizing the Republican party, the NRA, and the current Israeli regime.

McCarthyism, she reminds us, "silenced just about all serious criticism of the status quo" in "a two-stage procedure:"

First, the alleged subversives were identified--either by the media or by an official agency like the FBI or a congressional committee--and then they were punished, usually by being fired.

Although a few hundred people went to prison and two--Julius and Ethel Rosenberg -were executed, the main sanctions were economic. People lost their jobs and could rarely find new ones. That blacklisting was remarkably effective--and not just in the entertainment industry. Professors, steel workers, writers, attorneys, longshoremen, school teachers, and anyone else who got caught up in the anticommunist furor could end up out of work and unemployable.

"There was no need for violence," she continues, because "The threat of joblessness sufficed to stifle most dissent." Liberals, therefore, must be "prepared to fight back," and "we cannot drop our guard:"

To do so will allow the creation of an authoritarian regime that will stamp out dissent and create a far more repressive society than either Joe McCarthy or J. Edgar Hoover ever dreamed of.

Perennial agitator Michael Moore calls for 100 Days of Resistance to Trump: "Trump gets upset if there's 10 people outside Trump Tower," he reminds us, so "What's he going to think if there's 100,000 or 500,000 (at his inauguration)?"

"It's important that everybody go there. This will have an effect. We have to throw everything at this. This man is slightly unhinged, if I can say that, and he's a malignant narcissist. He's going to be very upset if there's a lot of people there."

Lest anyone doubt Moore, here's what he wrote last July:

"Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin," Moore wrote in July. "It's 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he's expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that'll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn't need Florida. He doesn't need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November."

Robert Reich identifies "two lines of resistance to Trump:" resistance to Trump's regressiveness, and resistance to Trump's tyranny. "Both resistances are critical," he concludes:

But the second has nothing to do with partisanship or the age-old fight between Republicans and Democrats over the reach or role of government.

Resistance to tyranny must not be seen in partisan terms. We need Republicans to join in resistance to Trump's tyranny. Conservative Republicans have traditionally been vigilant against tyranny, and they must be invited to the cause and become part of the coalition.

Matt Bruenig writes that UBI already exists for the 1%:

The universal basic income -- a cash payment made to every individual in the country -- has been critiqued recently by some commentators. Among other things, these writers dislike the fact that a UBI would deliver individuals income in a way that is divorced from working. Such an income arrangement would, it is argued, lead to meaninglessness, social dysfunction, and resentment.

He points out the flaw in this argument:

One obvious problem with this analysis is that passive income -- income divorced from work -- already exists. It is called capital income. It flows out to various individuals in society in the form of interest, rents, and dividends.

Currently, "around 30% of all the income produced in the nation is paid out as capital income," which prompts Bruenig to snark that "If passive income is so destructive, then you would think that centuries of dedicating one-third of national income to it would have burned society to the ground by now:"

In 2015, according to PSZ, the richest 1% of people in America received 20.2% of all the income in the nation. Ten points of that 20.2% came from equity income, net interest, housing rents, and the capital component of mixed income. Which is to say, 10% of all national income is paid out to the 1% as capital income. Let me reiterate: 1 in 10 dollars of income produced in this country is paid out to the richest 1% without them having to work for it.

This leads to an improved defense of UBI:

The UBI does not invent passive income. It merely doles it out evenly to everyone in society, rather than in very concentrated amounts to the richest people in society.

Meanwhile, the indignity of not-work should be examined:

As I see it, there's nothing necessarily dignified about most people being forced to have the freedom to sell their ability to work to a tiny group of employers. The idea may be intrinsic to capitalism--but that doesn't mean it contributes to the dignity of people who work for a living, especially when they have no control over how they work or what they produce when they work.

"So, when critics of a universal basic income rely on the 'dignity of work' argument," the piece continues, "what they're really doing is reinforcing the idea that most people can and should derive dignity from working for a small group of employers:"

At the same time, critics are presuming there's no loss of dignity for the tiny group at the top, those who have managed to capture most of their income from sources related not to their own work, but the work of everyone else.

Where's the dignity in that?

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