"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?

too many tabs

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Some people can multitask and others can't, writes Peggy Alexopoulou at The Conversation. "The internet may be the most comprehensive source of information ever created," she notes, "but it's also the biggest distraction:"

Set out to find an answer on the web and it's all too easy to find yourself flitting between multiple tabs, wondering how you ended up on a page so seemingly irrelevant to the topic you started on.

Past research has shown that we have a very limited capacity to perform two or more tasks at the same time and brainpower suffers when we try. But my new study suggests that some people are better at multitasking online than others. Being able to switch between multiple web pages and successfully find what you want all comes down to how good your working memory is.

Alexopoulou notes that "participants with high working memory switched between their information topics and web search results more often than those with low working memory:"

This seemed to enable them to test and retest different strategies for finding the answers they wanted. This means that they were able to divert more of their attention between different tasks [whereas] those with low working memory capacity thought the previously unfamiliar topics they were researching became more complex as they went on. They also reported that they could not generate more strategies to complete the task or evaluate and judge the content of the webpages they were looking at in the same way as they did for the topics they had prior knowledge.

"My research shows that these people will have to work harder when they search for information on the web," concludes Alexopoulou, "especially for topics that have no prior knowledge of."

The Economist looks at Florida's rise in homicides after "stand your ground" legislation passed, noting that Jeb Bush's 2005 law was a disaster for Floridians:

Citizens who "reasonably believed" their lives to be threatened were given the right to "meet force with force, including deadly force"-- even in public places and, critically, without the duty to try and retreat first. More than 20 states have passed similar laws since then. Critics warned that, rather than protecting self-defence rights as intended, the bill would result in unnecessary deaths. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association appears to vindicate those fears.

"Soon after the law took effect in Florida," The Economist summarizes, "there was a sudden and sustained 24% jump in the monthly homicide rate." The JAMA study continues with these details: "We found that the implementation of Florida's stand your ground law was associated with a 24.4% increase in homicide and a 31.6% increase in firearm-related homicide."

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Gun nuts were up in arms (I wish that were funny) over the study, but similar results were seen in a previous study by Texas A&M (PDF). The ill effects of their doctrines in the real world aren't aberrations--it's their ideology that is the aberration, if not an outright abomination.

American conservatives aren't conservative, writes P.M. Carpenter in his conversation with historian Mark Lilla of Columbia University. "Conservatives and reactionaries are adversaries," writes Carpenter:

The conservative believes that change should happen slowly, but that it is inevitable. He might regret what has happened in history, but he is under no illusion that the past can be recovered or recreated; neither does he believe that society should be reconstructed according to some rational plan inspired by the past. The conservative thinks that while societies differ, human nature stays pretty much the same over time and that the problems of politics are perennial. The reactionary thinks that history has changed human nature and that action in history can restore it to what it should be.

"I would venture that by now it is axiomatic that American conservatism, rather than being adversarial to reactionaryism, is utterly inseparable from it," he continues:

Today's reactionaries call themselves conservatives and have bamboozled most Americans, left and middle and right, into believing that what they stand for is in reality true conservatism. That's a farce, but an accepted farce.

Speaking of farces, Trump's incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus admitted that Russians hacked the RNC as well as the DNC:

The part of the story that Trump and Priebus keep leaving out is that the RNC was also hacked by Russia. The New York Times reported that Russia also hacked the RNC, but chose not to release the data. The Republican talking point that the RNC didn't get hacked is a lie. The RNC got hacked, but the Russians only released the DNC hack, because they wanted Trump to win.

Priebus's messy answer when pushed was a sign of an incoming administration that has a ticking time bomb of a scandal on its hands, and no clue how to defuse it.

"A new declassified report," writes TPM, "says Russian President Vladimir Putin 'ordered' an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election:"

U.S. intelligence officials released the 25-page public version of the report Friday, after they briefed President-elect Donald Trump and top lawmakers on Capitol Hill from a longer, classified version.

The report says Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow's long-standing desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order

Meanwhile, we're still waiting for financial disclosures from several of Trump's cabinet nominees:

The Office of Government Ethics is raising alarm over the pace of confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump's nominees, saying Saturday that they have yet to receive required financial disclosures for some picks set to come before Congress next week.

OGE Director Walter Shaub observes that "I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process" while Trump's transition team blithely claims that "the transition process is currently running smoothly:"

"In the midst of a historic election where Americans voted to drain the swamp, it is disappointing some have chosen to politicize the process in order to distract from important issues facing our country," the Trump statement read. "This is a disservice to the country and is exactly why voters chose Donald J. Trump as their next president."

[Uh, no--voters did not choose Trump--unless one counts the Russian ones.]

Priebus asserts that that "Change was voted for and change we will get," and says of the OGE that "They have to get moving:"

"I mean, they have to move faster. And they have all the information. These are people that have been highly successful in their lives. They need to move quicker."


update (2:23pm):
ThinkProgress explains how Putin is greasing the way for the Exxon/Rosneft deal, and calls Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson a "puzzling choice for Secretary of State:"

I say "puzzling" because the long-serving Exxon employee (from age 23!) has no qualifications to be secretary of state -- other than a history negotiating major oil deals with countries like Putin's Russia, which in any sane world would actually disqualify him or at least force a recusal from all State Department dealings with Russia.

"You can certainly make a plausible case," the piece continues, "that Putin had plenty of motivation to interfere:"

He wanted to undermine the legitimacy of U.S. elections and a Clinton Presidency, he blamed Secretary Clinton for "inciting mass protests against his regime," and he was angry with the U.S. for the Panama Papers leaks. Those leaks showed a $2 billion trail of offshore accounts and deals that traced back to Putin and his cabal of kleptocrats, who, among other things, were getting rich "trading shares in Rosneft," Russia's state-owned (i.e. Putin run) oil monopoly.

But a half trillion dollars to line their pockets and prop up the Russian economy offers a much more tangible motivation for team Putin to get Trump elected. And it was Tillerson who had made the $500 billion oil deal with Putin that got blocked by sanctions. [in 2014]

ThinkProgress also notes that "if Trump and Tillerson [...] end the sanctions that are blocking the Exxon-Rossneft deal, it is going to look suspiciously like a half trillion dollar quid pro quo for Putin's help getting elected."


update 2 (6:01pm):
TruthDig has more details from OGE's director Walter Shaub:

OGE "has not received even initial draft financial disclosure reports for some of the nominee scheduled for hearings," which seemed to be an unprecedented failure on the part of the nominees as well as the Trump transition team.

The letter, which was penned in response to an update request from Warren and Schumer, casts doubt on whether the nominees will received a proper vetting, which is particularly concerning because of the many potential conflicts they hold.

Kaveh Waddell writes about being tracked by your employer 24/7:

The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures, but it only constrains the government's actions. If local police or the FBI wants to track your car, they have to ask a judge for a warrant first. But if your boss wants to track your phone, it's likely within his or her rights.

"In fact, businesses track their employees' locations all the time," Waddell writes, but "The legal landscape around tracking employees is murky," because "There's no federal privacy law to keep businesses from tracking their employees with GPS, and only a handful of states impose restrictions on it:"

A survey released last month offered a few hints: Nearly a third of people who responded said their employer tracks them by GPS, and 15 percent said they were tracked 24 hours a day. More than 22 percent said they weren't told they would be tracked when they started their job.

Waddell talked to Lillian Chaves Moon, a lawyer who represents employers:

According to Moon, employers have a whole lot of leeway to track their employees, both on the clock and off, and most workers have a very high bar to clear if they want to challenge their employers for invading their privacy. "In most states, you have to show that it would be highly offensive to a reasonable person, and that's a pretty high standard," she said. "You have to show that it's so egregious and outrageous." [...]

At least 29 states and the District of Columbia have at least some discrimination laws that prevent companies from firing employees for their off-duty conduct. In states without those laws, a boss can fire an employee for his or her actions outside of work.

Drum on deficits

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Kevin Drum quotes this WaPo piece about GOP concern for deficits:

In a dramatic reversal, many members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus said Thursday they are prepared later this month to support a budget measure that would explode the deficit and increase the public debt to more than $29.1 trillion by 2026, figures contained in the budget resolution itself.

20170106-deficits.jpg

"As always," continues Drum, "Republicans only care about deficits when a Democrat is president:"

This time around they didn't waste even two days before they made that crystal clear. I wonder how many times they can pull this bait-and-switch before the public and the press stops taking them seriously on their alleged horror of the spiraling national debt?

Republicans want to cut spending on the poor and cut taxes on the rich. That's it.

Isn't it ironic?

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"Glenn Beck discussed the dangers of 'fake news' on his radio program yesterday," writes Right Wing Watch, but Beck was spreading false information in the process. Beck claimed that CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] "was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist trial," and the SPLC [Southern Poverty Law Center] "recently named David Barton a terrorist!"

The "unindicted co-conspirator" charge against CAIR is a bogus smear that anti-Muslim activists have been baselessly leveling for years, while the claim that the SPLC designated Barton a "terrorist" is entirely false and originated with Barton himself.

Right Wing Watch points out the irony of Beck's claims:

It is more than a little ironic that Beck decried the spread of "fake news" by unreliable sources by repeating false claims that are routinely spread by unreliable sources.

Robert Reich offers a resistance agenda for Trump's first 100 days:

Trump's First 100 Day agenda includes repealing environmental regulations, Obamacare, and the Dodd-Frank Act, giving the rich and big corporations a huge tax cut, and putting in place a cabinet that doesn't believe in the Voting Rights Act or public schools or Medicare or the Fair Housing Act.

Our 100 days of resistance begins a sustained and powerful opposition.

Reich suggests using "about an hour of your time each day" for activities ranging from writing letters to the editor and using social media to the following:

1. Get your senators and representatives to pledge to oppose Trump's agenda.

2. March and demonstrate.

8. Make the resistance visible with bumper stickers, lapel pins, wrist bands.

9. Push progressive causes at your state and local level

Here's the video:

Republicans are afraid of the Resistance, writes Lucas Grindley:

Conventional wisdom had said all that protesting in the streets these past two months wouldn't matter, because Donald Trump had won the presidency, and you all should just go home and "get on with your lives."

Now we have proof that protest matters. Tweeting and Facebooking matters. Calling your representative in Congress matters. All of it matters regarding whether Republicans are stopped from going on a spree of law-passing. Activism always did matter, no matter what the opposition tried to pretend.

"We complained," writes Grindley, "and Republicans got spooked and backed down Tuesday:"

Going into a negotiation, and that's what these first 100 days of Trump's administration will be, it's informative that one side backed down on its first effort. Republicans were tested by the faintest of protest, and they folded.

"What does this mean for repealing Obamacare?" wonders Grindley--or privatizing Medicare and the VA, or crippling Social Security?

The Resistance can protest in Republican districts, it can hold marches in Washington, it can flood the switchboards with calls, it can send letters or go to town hall meetings, and more.

Then the Republicans have to decide whether they're going to just keep right on driving, white knuckles on the wheel, pedal to the floor, no matter how many bodies they run over.

Yves Smith describes the American dream:

A third of Americans think they'll be rich someday. More than half of 18-29 year olds think they will be.

Less than 5% actually make it. And many of those do it the old-fashioned way: they inherit it.

That's quite a caveat. Smith then asks, "how do Americans accumulate wealth?"

And how does that vary across income and wealth classes? How do the bottom 50% accumulate wealth, for instance, compared to the top 1%?

A huge aid to answering that question arrived last month. Gabriel Zucman, Emmanuel Saez, and Thomas Piketty (PSZ) released one of the most important pieces of economic research in the last century. Their Distributional National Accounts (DINAs) reveal the distribution of national income to different income classes, wealth classes, age groups, and genders (and potentially different races, etc. etc.).

20170106-incomeshare.png

20170106-wealthaccumulation.png

"Concentration of total wealth accrual is almost always far higher," Smith notes, "and has been rising faster, than concentration of income alone:"

The rich are getting richer, faster. It's an inequality picture more dire even than that depicted in the DINAs. And because wealth begets more wealth, it's a self-perpetuating picture.

We pay people for doing things, and we pay people for owning things. Increasingly, the latter.

AlterNet's Steven Rosenfeld writes that some Trump Electors were illegitimately seated in the Electoral College:

More than 50 Electoral College members who voted for Donald Trump were ineligible to serve as presidential electors because they did not live in the congressional districts they represented or held elective office in states legally barring dual officeholders.

That stunning finding is among the conclusions of an extensive 1,000-plus page legal briefing prepared by a bipartisan nationwide legal team for members of Congress who are being urged to object to certifying the 2016 Electoral College results on Friday.

Americans Take Action's Ryan Clayton says that "Trump's ascension to the presidency is completely illegitimate:"

"It's not just Russians hacking our democracy. It's not just voter suppression at unprecedented levels. It is also [that] there are Republicans illegally casting ballots in the Electoral College, and in a sufficient number that the results of the Electoral College proceedings are illegitimate as well."

It smacks of desperation with only two weeks until Inauguration Day, but he seems undeterred:

"We have a list of 50 illegal electors," Clayton said. "That puts Donald Trump below the threshold that he needs to be elected president. Let's debate it in an open session. According to the Constitution, the Congress, if nobody wins on the first round of balloting, picks from the top three candidates. That will be Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Colin Powell."

Senate Dems won't challenge the EC, though:

The activists said several House members were willing to sponsor a formal challenge--as Rep. Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, D-OH, did in 2005, then opposing ratification of Ohio's 2004 Electoral College votes. [...]

Notwithstanding any last minute changes of heart or courageous impulses, it's not likely Democrats will make a parallel high-profile stance protesting Trump's election.

BigThink recommends that you get off Facebook:

The big issue with Facebook use is that it offers endless opportunities for social comparison. It turns out that seeing countless exotic vacation photos and reading about the career accomplishments of your friends and acquaintances may make you feel worse about your current status.

Additionally, "The average American Facebook user spends around 50 minutes a day on Facebook:"

That's a significant amount of time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person spends 4 minutes a day on social events, 17 minutes exercising, and 19 minutes reading.

JFC, what a time sink! 300 hours a year?! That's nearly two months of 40-hour work weeks!

The study ("The Facebook Experiment: Quitting Facebook Leads to Higher Levels of Well-Being") points out that "provides causal evidence that Facebook use affects our well-being negatively " as well as the fact that "Most people use Facebook on a daily basis; few are aware of the consequences:"

By comparing the treatment group (participants who took a break from Facebook) with the control group (participants who kept using Facebook), it was demonstrated that taking a break from Facebook has positive effects on the two dimensions of well-being: our life satisfaction increases and our emotions become more positive. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that these effects were significantly greater for heavy Facebook users, passive Facebook users, and users who tend to envy others on Facebook.

The study noted that "two out of three 3 Danish Internet users had an account on Facebook in 2015," and summarized the sample as "86 percent women, geographically residing throughout the country, with an average age of 34 years (SD = 8.74), having an average of 350 Facebook friends and spending a bit over an hour on Facebook daily." The authors then consider the effects of "Millions of hours are spent on Facebook each day:"

We are surely better connected now than ever before, but is this new connectedness doing any good to our well-being? According to the present study, the answer is no. In fact, the predominant uses of Facebook--that is, as a means to communicate, gain information about others, and as habitual pastime--are affecting our well-being negatively on several dimensions. First, the present study provides causal evidence that quitting Facebook leads to higher levels of both cognitive and affective well-being.

The caveat is chilling:

The effects presented in this article were generated after just 1 week of absence from a single social network. Future studies should investigate the effects of quitting Facebook for longer periods of time to test if the effects are permanent.

H/t to Taegan Goddard for linking to Factbase's work in compiling Trump's tweets, speeches, and policies into a nearly 2.5-million-word searchable word salad. They have plans for the future, which should be interesting:

"We are testing this concept right now with the President-elect, though we plan to expand to cover other world leaders and people of note."

obstructionism

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MSNBC's Steve Benen looks at McConnell's obstructionism about-face:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told Rachel on the show this week that he's "absolutely" prepared to hold open the Supreme Court's vacancy, agreeing that Republicans effectively "stole" a high-court seat with their partisan blockade last year. [...] The comments did not escape the attention of his Republican counterpart.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed a pledge from his Democratic counterpart to block President-elect Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, insisting "the American people simply will not tolerate" such a move. [...]

"Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is to not confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all," McConnell said, adding: "I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate, and we'll be looking forward to receiving a Supreme Court nomination and moving forward on it."

Benen remarks that "if there's one thing the 2016 elections made abundantly clear, it's that most of the public couldn't care less about Supreme Court obstructionism:"

Senate Republicans, for 11 months, refused to even consider a moderate, compromise nominee - and GOP senators had little trouble keeping their majority.

His analysis is quite even-handed:

I've spent a fair amount of time looking for someone - in either party - who's been consistently principled on this, regardless of which party was in control at the time. I've never been able to find such an individual. There's plenty of hypocrisy to go around.

Queerty's look at conservative college students quotes Ben [a pseudonym], "a first-year student at Brandeis University:"

"I think it's a shame," he says. "A lot of people have negative preconceived notions about conservatives...we're intolerant, racist, homophobic."

"Gee, we can't imagine why," snarks Queerty:

After all, it's not like conservatives nominated (and elected) a man endorsed by the KKK and his stridently antigay running mate to the highest office in the land or anything. Oh, wait.

The observation that "Many conservatives on New England's campuses are feeling more marginalized and alienated than ever before" prompts this reaction:

Hmmm. Sounds a lot like the crap LGBTQ people and other minorities have had to put up with since, well, forever.

Ben comes from Chris Sweeney's Boston Magazine rant about how liberal professors are ruining college. "Exploring his conservative viewpoints," the piece notes, "is proving difficult to do on campus [which] makes Ben feel like an outsider:"

The way he sees it, coming out politically a step to the right is the fastest route to social isolation on campus and the surest way to invite ridicule from his professors. So he bites his tongue in class and retreats to his dorm room to read and listen to conservative commentary alone. "I think it's a shame," he tells me. "A lot of people have negative preconceived notions about conservatives...we're intolerant, racist, homophobic."

Sweeney writes that "Last spring, Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, in New York, decided to run the numbers" on professorial political leanings:

From the start, he certainly expected liberal professors to outnumber conservatives, but his data--25 years' worth of statistics from the Higher Education Research Institute--told a far more startling tale: In the South and throughout the Great Plains, the ratio of liberal to conservative professors hovered around 3 to 1. On the liberal left coast, the ratio was 6 to 1. And then there was New England--which looked like William F. Buckley's worst nightmare--standing at 28 to 1. "It astonished me," says Abrams, whose research revealed that conservative professors weren't just rare; they were being pushed to the edge of extinction.

"At first," Sweeney writes, "even Abrams had a hard time believing the 28-to-1 ratio was accurate:"

He checked and rechecked his work, accounting for every variable he could think of--tenured versus untenured professors, age, income, type of college, the selectivity of the college, which departments the professors belonged to. Time and again, though, the results showed that geography was among the strongest determining factors when it came to the political diversity of professors. After Abrams took his findings public in the New York Times, academics were floored.

The NYT piece asks:

Why are New England professors so far left compared with the rest of the nation? That's a question for further research. My intuition is that inertia and history play a huge role here. Regions have traditions and cultures that can have powerful influences on thought.

"So how did our colleges and universities become such a liberal monoculture," one might ask, "and why is it so pronounced in New England?"

To this end, Abrams's research has fueled ample criticisms and theories. Nobel laureate and Times columnist Paul Krugman has argued that professors actually haven't become more liberal, but rather that the meaning of conservatism has changed and the Fox-ification and now Trump-ification of the Republican Party has pushed highly educated members of the right over to the left. Others contend that it's solely because conservatives don't go into academia. There is also the argument that political identities are social constructs that are far too complex and fickle to capture in a simple survey, as well as evidence indicating that the more highly educated a person is, the more liberal he or she tends to be.

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

Chris Mooney analyzes NOAA and the global-warming "pause" by looking at what might be "the most controversial climate change study in years:"

...the 2015 paper, led by NOAA's Thomas Karl, employed an update to the agency's influential temperature dataset, and in particular to its record of the planet's ocean temperatures, to suggest that really, the recent period was perfectly consistent with the much longer warming trend.

This consistency has drawn fire by way of "a congressional subpoena from Rep. Lamar Smith, chair of the House Committee on Science:"

That controversy is likely to be stirred anew in the wake of a new study, published Wednesday in Science Advances, that finds the NOAA scientists did the right thing in adjusting their dataset. In particular, the new research suggests that the NOAA scientists correctly adjusted their record of ocean temperatures in light of known biases in some observing systems -- and indeed, that keepers of other top global temperature datasets should do likewise.

"We pretty robustly showed that NOAA got it right," said study author Zeke Hausfather, a Ph.D. student at the University of California-Berkeley and a researcher with Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit consortium that has reanalyzed the Earth's temperatures. "There was no cooking of the books, there's no politically motivated twisting of the data."

In comparing data collected from ships versus that from buoys:

So to better patch together a long term temperature record necessarily reliant on both data sources, NOAA used a "bias correction" to take this into account, and more generally gave greater weight to the buoy data, in updating its dataset.

This highly technical switch, in turn, had the effect of increasing the overall warming of the oceans in the new dataset -- and helping to wipe out claims that there'd been any recent slowdown in the rate of climate change.

Aeon's look at existentialism and parenthood by philosophy professors Clancy Martin and John Kaag begins with the statement that "male philosophers are notoriously bad fathers:"

Of course, there are exceptions, but think of Socrates shooing his family away in his final moments so that he can have alone time with his philosophical buddies, or, even worse, Jean-Jacques Rousseau writing Emile (1762), a tract about raising kids, while abandoning his own. Instead of being bad parents, many of the titans of European existentialism - Friedrich Nietzsche, Søren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre - remained childless.

They suggest that we consider Sartre's comment that we are 'condemned to be free' and "pretend that an existentialist, after careful consideration or random accident, becomes a father:"

According to his essay Anti-Semite and Jew (1946), the core of existential freedom is what Sartre terms 'authenticity', the courage to have 'a true and lucid consciousness of the situation, in assuming the responsibilities and risks it involves, in accepting it in pride or humiliation, sometimes in horror and hate'.

Here is what a 'true and lucid consciousness of the situation' of fatherhood might resemble: you watch wide-eyed as your beloved pushes a stranger out of a bodily orifice that seems altogether too small for the labour; when the gore is cleaned up, the stranger becomes your most intimate companion and life-long dependent; existence, from that day forward, is structured around this dependency; and then, if everything goes well, the child will grow up to no longer need you. At the end of the existential day, your tenure as a father will end in one of two ways: either your child will die or you will. As Kierkegaard writes in Either/Or (1843): 'You will regret both.'

"Most parents," they continue, "will want to gloss over the difficulties of parenting and concentrate on its many joys:"

Existentialists, however, suggest that such optimism is often a form of 'bad faith': it is a way of masking the freedom that underpins parenting and being a child. When a parent emphasises only what 'fits' into his conception of being a father, or being a child, rather than attending to the specific nuances of day-to-day interaction, existentialists, such as Sartre, would sound the alarm. Life with children is chaos at best. Things slip through the cracks. Daughters fall off jungle gyms. Sons run away. It happens, and not always to someone else's children. If a man presumes that fatherhood is going to go perfectly smoothly, he is either going to be upset or self-deceived.

"In the words of Albert Camus," they conclude, "our efforts in life, pitted against the indifference of the world, often resemble the frustrations of Sisyphus, who is fated to push his boulder up an endless mountain."

Siddhartha Mukherjee explains at Nautilus why sex is binary, but gender is a spectrum:

In 1955, Gerald Swyer, an English endocrinologist investigating female infertility, had discovered a rare syndrome that made humans biologically female but chromosomally male. "Women" born with "Swyer syndrome" were anatomically and physiologically female throughout childhood, but did not achieve female sexual maturity in early adulthood. [...]

In 2005, a team of researchers at Columbia University validated these case reports in a longitudinal study of "genetic males"--i.e., children born with XY chromosomes--who had been assigned to female gender at birth, typically because of the inadequate anatomical development of their genitals. Some of the cases were not as anguished as David Reimer's or C's--but an overwhelming number of males assigned to female gender roles reported experiencing moderate to severe gender dysphoria during childhood. Many had suffered anxiety, depression, and confusion. Many had voluntarily changed genders back to male upon adolescence and adulthood. Most notably, when "genetic males" born with ambiguous genitals were brought up as boys, not girls, not a single case of gender dysphoria or gender change in adulthood was reported.

"The hierarchical organization of this genetic cascade," Mukherjee writes, "illustrates a crucial principle about the link between genes and environments in general:"

At the bottom of the network, in contrast, a purely genetic view fails to perform; it does not provide a particularly sophisticated understanding of gender or its identity. Here, in the estuarine plains of crisscrossing information, history, society, and culture collide and intersect with genetics, like tides. Some waves cancel each other, while others reinforce each other. No force is particularly strong--but their combined effect produces the unique and rippled landscape that we call an individual's identity.

Based on this excerpt, Mukherjee's book The Gene: An Intimate History sounds intriguing.

Trump's lies about Obamacare have largely gotten a free pass from the media, writes Politicus USA:

Media Matters for America provided 10 facts reporters should mention when they cover Obamacare, and none of them will be mentioned by Donald Trump or congressional Republicans, or indeed, by the mainstream media:

1. Passage Of The ACA Has Resulted In The Lowest Uninsured Rate In Recent History 2. The ACA Medicaid Expansion Provided Health Care Access For Millions Of The Most Vulnerable Americans 3. The ACA Tangibly Improved Women's Health Care Coverage 4. The ACA Helped America Take Huge Steps Toward LGBTQ Equality 5. Contrary To Popular Belief, The ACA Extended The Solvency Of Medicare By Over 10 Years 6. The ACA Reduced The Budget Deficit, Reined In Medical Costs, And Reduced Economic Inequality 7. The ACA Improved Health Care Access For Minority Communities. 8. The ACA Banned Discrimination Against Those With Pre-Existing Conditions 9. The ACA Provided Crucial Insurance To Young Adults 10. The ACA Resulted In The Biggest Expansion Of Mental Health Care Services In Decades

"These are just plain facts," Politicus writes, "and they are beyond dispute:"

Donald Trump made opposition to Obamacare central to his campaign, but as usual, his attacks are lacking a factual basis. When Donald Trump speaks of "poor coverage," it needs to be remembered that we're talking about an additional 20 million + who have coverage and didn't have it before.

Additionally, the media "overwhelmingly failed to ask any substantive questions about Trump's health care policies or the consequences of repealing the ACA," and "virtually ignored Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's resurrection of his Medicare privatization scheme:"

While cable and broadcast news tended to avoid robust discussions of the impact of health care policy, right-wing media filled the void with rampant misinformation. Since the ACA passed in 2010, conservative news outlets have consistently attacked the health law with complete fictions, claiming it will explode the budget, create death panels, bankrupt Medicare, end in a "death spiral," and facilitate a government takeover of the health care system.

Today, media outlets regularly provide Trump surrogates with free airtime to push misinformation and avoid substantive discussion.

five major shifts

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Tom Engelhardt discusses exceptionalism and writes that, on election night, "I simply couldn't accept that Donald Trump had won. Not him. Not in this country. Not possible. Not in a million years."

Mind you, during the campaign I had written about Trump repeatedly, always leaving open the possibility that, in the disturbed (and disturbing) America of 2016, he could indeed beat Hillary Clinton. That was a conclusion I lost when, in the final few weeks of the campaign, like so many others, I got hooked on the polls and the pundits who went with them. (Doh!)

In the wake of the election, however, it wasn't shock based on pollsters' errors that got to me. It was something else that only slowly dawned on me. Somewhere deep inside, I simply didn't believe that, of all countries on this planet, the United States could elect a narcissistic, celeb billionaire who was also, in the style of Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, a right-wing "populist" and incipient autocrat.

"So how did it happen here?" he asks. His answer identifies "at least five major shifts in American life and politics [that] helped lay the groundwork for the rise of Trumpism:"

* The Coming of a 1% Economy and the 1% Politics That Goes With It,

Without the arrival of casino capitalism on a massive scale (at which The Donald himself proved something of a bust), Trumpism would have been inconceivable. And if, in its Citizens United decision of 2010, the Supreme Court hadn't thrown open the political doors quite so welcomingly to that 1% crew, how likely was it that a billionaire celebrity would have run for president or become a favorite among the white working class?

* The Coming of Permanent War and an Ever More Militarized State and Society,

It's no coincidence that Trump and his generals are eager to pump up a supposedly "depleted" U.S. military with yet more funds or, given the history of these years, that he appointed so many retired generals from our losing wars to key "civilian" positions atop that military and the national security state. As with his billionaires, in a decisive fashion, Trump is stamping the real face of twenty-first-century America on Washington.

* The Rise of the National Security State,

* The Coming of the One-Party State, and

After all, the Republicans already control the House of Representatives (in more or less perpetuity, thanks to gerrymandering), the Senate, the White House, and assumedly in the years to come the Supreme Court. They also control a record 33 out of 50 governorships, have tied a record by taking 68 out of the 98 state legislative chambers, and have broken another by gaining control of 33 out of 50 full legislatures. [...] In many ways, the incipient collapse of the two-party system in a flood of 1% money cleared the path for Trump's victory.

* The Coming of the New Media Moment:

It may have seemed that Trump inaugurated our new media moment by becoming the first meister-elect of tweet and the shout-out master of that universe, but in reality he merely grasped the nature of our new, chaotic media moment and ran with it.

"Let's add a final point to the other five," he concludes:

Donald Trump will inherit a country that has been hollowed out by the new realities that made him a success and allowed him to sweep to what, to many experts, looked like an improbable victory.

Trump and tax cuts

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Steven Rattner's 2016 in charts piece notes "the strong economy that President Obama will be leaving him:"

Unemployment is down to 4.6 percent, the lowest since August 2007 and a stunning decline from the 7.8 percent when Mr. Obama took office. The economy has expanded by nearly 15 percent (adjusted for inflation), the stock market has nearly tripled, auto sales have notched records, the federal deficit has been cut by more than half and house prices nationally are above past peaks. Even real median incomes ended marginally higher.

20170104-obamahighnote.jpg

Rattner says this of Trump's tax-cut plan:

It includes a $6 trillion tax reduction over the next decade, vastly tilted toward business and the wealthy. An estimated 83 percent of the benefits would go to the top 20 percent of Americans and 51 percent to the top 1 percent by 2025. A middle-class taxpayer would receive an average tax benefit of $1,090; a typical member of the top 1 percent would get $317,100.

These huge tax giveaways -- along with Mr. Trump's promises to increase infrastructure spending and not touch Social Security and Medicare -- would blow up the deficit and add $4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years over and above current projections. That's made particularly ironic by Mr. Trump's claim in a Washington Post interview that he would eliminate our current $19 trillion of debt over eight years through better trade deals and economic growth. [emphasis added]

Here's another chart, an indication of the fiscal damage that Trump intends to wreak:

20170104-trumptaxcuts.jpg

motion to impeach

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Digby asks, does impeachment begin now?

After a huge public outcry this week, even Trump questioned the timing of the new Congress' first initiative, which was to roll back certain ethics procedures. (He wasn't actually against the rollback, just thought it was premature.) There are also some encouraging signs that repealing the Affordable Care Act may not be quite as easy as Republicans had hoped, which could tangle them up with their followers all over again. If they can be similarly stopped or slowed from enacting the rest of their agenda, we might just get through this thing.

She also observes that "As long as congressional Republicans let him strut around taking credit for 'getting things done,' he'll be happy to sign anything they put in front of him:"

So what are Democrats to do with this? It's already going to be an overwhelming task to fight off Trump's worst nominees, battle back legislation that's coming from 20 different directions and expose the mountain of scandals that are quickly piling up. The Trump train wreck is already creating a chain reaction of one explosion after an other.

"Robert Kuttner wrote this provocative piece for the Huffington Post," notes digby, "advocating for a group of experts, preferably bipartisan, to begin seriously putting together the case for impeachment:"

Some people are reflexively opposed to making such a strong statement so early in the administration. But Trump is already committing impeachable offenses, and dealing with someone like this requires being well prepared to take advantage of any openings to stop him.

Along those lines, Doug Rossinow examines leftists and liberals in the political heartland and discusses "left-liberal relations in American politics:"

The World War II and Baby Boomer generations came to see these political entities as inherently discordant. Yet many today lament that, in theory, liberals and leftists ought to work for broad, common goals; otherwise no one would think that Ralph Nader's voters in 2000, or Jill Stein's in 2016, should have voted for the Democrat. We seem caught between obsolete models of progressive politics and a yearning for a progressive solidarity that is closer to fulfillment than we may realize.

"The left," Rossinow says, "has returned to prominence after an era in the wilderness of American politics:"

Today, opposition to war, capitalist exploitation, and white supremacy cut across both liberalism and the left. Now the left is often called progressivism, a notoriously ambiguous term. Much of it has reappeared inside the Democratic Party--a development overlooked by those who equate the left with minor parties or anti-systemic organizing. We have Bush and Sanders to thank for this reinvigoration of leftist politics inside the party system. [...]

Now President Trump looms. The coming years will offer plenty of fronts on which liberals and leftists may collaborate if they can manage it. Both groups may call themselves progressives, and for many--especially millennials--the old, rigid, Cold War-era distinction between liberal and left politics may fade. Leftist elements certainly won't pledge undying loyalty to the Democratic Party, but the basic political fact is that today's progressive politics, whether it succeeds or fails in securing its objectives, is already taking shape in that party and around its edges.

Mike LaBossiere's Trump and the return of Sophism looks at Trump mouthpiece Scottie Nell Hughes' take on truth from The Diane Rehm Show:

And so one thing that has been interesting this entire campaign season to watch, is that people that say facts are facts--they're not really facts. Everybody has a way--it's kind of like looking at ratings, or looking at a glass of half-full water. Everybody has a way of interpreting them to be the truth, or not truth. There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.

"Since the idea that there are no facts seems so ridiculously absurd," LaBossiere comments, "the principle of charity demands that some alternative explanation be provided for Hughes' claim:"

If Hughes takes the truth to be relative to the groups (divided by their feelings towards Trump), then she is a relativist. In this case, each group has its own truth that is made true by the belief of the group. If she holds truth to be dependent on the individual, then she would be a subjectivist. In this case, each person has her own truth, but she might happen to have a truth that others also accept.

This is something that "Trump showed with great effect. He simply accuses those who disagree with him of being liars and many believe him:"

I have no idea whether Trump has a theory of truth or not, but his approach is utterly consistent with sophism and the view expressed by Hughes. It would also explain why Trump does not bother with research or evidence--these assume there is a truth that can be found and supported. But if there is no objective truth and only success matters, then there is no reason not to say anything that leads to success.

538 says that fact-checking won't save us from fake news, and Brooke Borel (author of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking) notes the following:

Fact-checking politicians' statements or articles after they've published -- a close relative of the type of fact-checking that goes on behind the scenes in journalism -- has been instrumental in holding politicians accountable. I know what fact-checking can do, and how important it is. But to combat fake news, it's simply not enough.

I'm as distressed as any journalist is to watch fake news spread, even as available facts can disprove it. But if facts don't matter, what does? The history of news -- and the power structures that control its spread and consumption -- may offer clues on how to wrangle fake news in a way that fact-checking alone can't.

Step one is to consider that fake news may be a fight not over truth, but power, according to Mike Ananny, a media scholar at the University of Southern California.

She asks, "So how can we strip power from fake news? How do we prevent the next Pizzagate?" Andrew Pettegree, a history professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland suggests that media outlets' efforts "to debunk fake news [...] won't work, particularly for readers who have already decided that the traditional press is fake news -- and, fair or not, partisan." He suggests that "the news should stop trying so hard to entertain:"

Political reporting could improve by refusing to force false balance -- an attempt at impartiality and objectivity that can backfire. Science reporters have known this for a long time: Stories about vaccines or climate change shouldn't give equal space to deniers who think that vaccines cause autism or that climate change is a hoax.

Eliminating their false equivalency and bothsiderism would indeed be a substantial improvement.

Rachel M. Cohen looks at Trump's war on public schools and observes that "The next few years may well bring about radical change to education:"

During a March primary debate, Trump said charters were "terrific" and affirmed they "work and they work very well." A few months later he traveled to a low-performing for-profit charter school in Cleveland to say he'd invest $20 billion in federal money to expand charters and private-school vouchers as president. His campaign has not outlined where the money would come from, but suggests it will be accomplished by "reprioritizing existing federal dollars."

Mike Pence, notes Cohen, "worked vigorously to expand charter schools and vouchers while serving as Indiana's governor."

Today, more than 30,000 Indiana students--including middle-class students--attend private and parochial schools with public funds, making it the largest single voucher program in the country. Pence also helped double the number of charter schools in his state; he increased their funding and gave charter operators access to low-interest state loans for facilities.

"The new backlash from conservatives against testing and the Common Core should not be interpreted as a rejection of a federal role," she continues, "The right loves it when Washington intervenes--if it serves the right's purposes:"

While there are limits to what Trump and DeVos could do to end the Common Core standards (they are state standards, after all), Trump's executive bully pulpit could certainly help embolden Common Core opponents on the local level.

Also notable is the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association effort to "overturn a 40-year-old ruling that required public employees represented by a union to pay fees to cover the union's bargaining and representation costs:"

Now that the Republican Senate has refused to hold a vote on Obama's appointment of Judge Merrick Garland, Trump will nominate a conservative Scalia successor to the Court. With a number of Friedrichs look-alike cases headed to the Supreme Court, it's a near certainty that a reconstituted majority of five conservative justices will strike down agency fees, which could considerably reduce the resources available to the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association--two of the nation's largest unions. Were that not trouble enough, the massive support that the AFT and NEA gave to Hillary Clinton's campaign is not likely to endear them to a president with a well-known penchant for revenge.
That's not all the damage he could do, though:
Conservatives have also proposed rolling back Obama administration reforms that federalized all new student loans and applied stricter regulations, particularly to for-profit institutions. If President Trump does ultimately re-privatize student loans, consumer protections would likely disappear, and the cost of borrowing would rise.

University leaders are also worrying about what a Trump administration could mean for research funding. The government is likely to cut back on investments on budgetary grounds, but also on ideological grounds, since universities tend to be seen as liberal enclaves.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, says bluntly that "If Donald Trump opts for privatization, destabilization, and austerity over supporting public education and the will of the people," she says, "well, there will be a huge fight."

The Advocate's report on straight men and gay porn by Brenden Shucart discusses a new study ("Sexually Explicit Media Use by Sexual Identity: A Comparative Analysis of Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men in the United States" in Archives of Sexual Behavior) showing that "55 percent of gay men watch straight porn, and 21 percent of straight men watch gay porn:"

So what gives? It's no giant leap to hypothesize why gay men might enjoy watching straight porn: to watch straight guys. But when one out of five self-identified straight men reports watching gay porn, it prompts the further question: Are these men really straight, or are they down-low/straight-identified bisexual men?

Dr. Martin J. Downing, the study's lead researcher, "sees this 'identity discrepant viewing' as 'some level of evidence' of fluidity in sexual attraction, at least in terms of what people are watching." Interestingly, the piece continues, "bisexual men displayed porn-viewing habits that were quite distinct from those of their homo and hetero peers:"

Bi men reported watching guy-on-guy porn just as much as gay men do, and they consumed heterosexual porn (one male/one female) almost as much as heterosexual men. They also reported watching a significant amount of "bisexual porn" that has either two men and one woman or two women and one man. According to Downing, bisexual men aren't "watered down gays or heterosexuals."

"[Bisexual men] are more like heterosexual men in some things, and more like gay men in other things, but that's a reflection of their own unique attractions. They're not identical to either group in terms of their porn viewing, which I think is really interesting for understanding bisexuality."

Indeed. Shucart summarizes the study as follows:

There are a few takeaways from this study: Our porn consumption is more eclectic than previously suspected, and bisexual men are distinct from their straight and gay brothers in their pornographic habits and inclinations. Though not the study's focus, this further suggests that bisexuality isn't simply a way station on the road to being gay; bisexuals are bisexual.

This study is further proof of bisexuals' validity within the LGBT community--as if more were actually needed.

Derek Parfit

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Vox eulogizes philosopher Derek Parfit:

Derek Parfit, who died at age 74 on Sunday evening, was not the most famous philosopher in the world. But he was among the most brilliant, and his papers and books have had a profound, incalculably vast impact on the study of moral philosophy over the past half century.

"Parfit was not a prolific author," the piece observes:

...he tended to write his books over the course of decades, refining them repeatedly after discussions with colleagues and students. In the end, he wrote only two: 1984's Reasons and Persons, and 2011's On What Matters, a two-volume, 1,440 page tome whose third volume is still yet to be published.

[The first two volumes of Parfit's opus On What Matters are available here, with a third volume due in March.]

As befits its title, Parfit's last and longest book On What Matters sprawled across a great variety of topics. It's broadly interested in what reasons people have to act in certain ways, or hold certain beliefs, or desire certain things. A lot of those questions have to do with morality, but some don't. Perhaps the greatest joy of reading it is spotting the occasional diversions, the odd moments here and there where he makes an aside from the main narrative, often concisely expressing what would take others of us pages and pages to articulate.

Trump's propaganda effort against Obamacare includes misrepresenting Bill Clinton's remarks:

People must remember that ObamaCare just doesn't work, and it is not affordable - 116% increases (Arizona). Bill Clinton called it "CRAZY"

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2017

What Clinton said, though, was drastically different:

The current system ... But the people that are getting killed in this deal are small businesspeople and individuals who make just a little too much to get any of these subsidies.

So you've got this crazy system where all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care and then the people that are out there busting it ― sometimes 60 hours a week ― wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half. It's the craziest thing in the world.

So here's the simplest thing....let people buy into Medicare or Medicaid.

It's clear, the piece writes, that "Clinton was arguing for expanding health care access. He never called the ACA crazy."

Speaking of repealing Obamacare, digby wonders:

When Trump's own voters lose their health insurance will they be happy to sacrifice their own lives in order that their enemies will lose theirs? And by enemies, I mean me. And maybe you. Because that's what they're trying to do. They care more about cutting taxes for rich people than middle class people who don't get their insurance at work. [...]

Oh, and by the way, they don't think employers should be required to offer health insurance either. So, if they decide it's too expensive, it's really it's all about begging from your neighbors. After all, if you get sick when you aren't rich, it's really your fault right?

This is immoral. But then so are they.

In describing pushback on the delayed oversight killing, Kevin Drum quotes from the Washington Post:

The House GOP moved to withdraw changes made the day before to official rules that would rein in the Office of congressional Ethics. Instead, the House will study changes to the office with an August deadline.

"Oh please," he comments:

Trump didn't object to Republicans gutting the ethics office. He just thought they should do it later, when fewer people might notice. And that's what they're doing. They'll "study changes" and then gut the office in August, when everyone is on vacation.

Meanwhile, media outlets are falsely giving Trump credit for the reversal:

According to CNN, "President-elect Donald Trump dramatically strong-armed House Republicans into line Tuesday in his first Washington power play."

While it is true that Donald Trump criticized congressional Republicans, so did many other people.

And it is not true that he opposed gutting the OCE. His response this morning was only to say that while the OCE's existence was "unfair" to Republicans, that there were more important priorities to focus on.

We need to keep hammering on his unparalleled unpopularity, writes Eric Boehlert, who observes that "Trump's contrast with Obama in late 2008 is stunning:"

Obama entered 2009 with a 68 percent favorable rating. Today, Trump's favorable rating stands at an anemic 43 percent. And if history is any indication, that rating is almost certain to go down once the new president takes office.

Given the plurality of Americans who expect Trump to be a "poor" or "terrible" president, he wonders "what explains the press's passive, often genuflecting coverage of Trump since November?"

If Trump had just posted a 49-state, Reagan-esque landslide victory, I could more readily understand why the press would be acquiescing so regularly. But Trump just made history by losing the popular tally by nearly three million votes and remains, without question, the least popular president-elect since modern-day polling was invented.

Yet members of the press seem unduly intimidated by his presence, and have even rewarded him with chatter of an invisible "mandate." (He has none.)

Then he asks the big question:

Does anyone think that if Hillary Clinton had won in November while badly losing the popular vote to Trump, and then posted historically awful approval ratings during her transition, that story would not dominate Beltway coverage day after day, week after week?

And don't forget the press's entrenched fascination with Obama's public approval during his presidency, particularly the desire to depict "collapsing" support when, in fact, Obama's approval rating remained stubbornly stable for years.

There's a glaring Trump transition story hiding in plain sight: He's historically unpopular. The press ought to start telling that tale on a daily basis.

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