bursting bubbles

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David Masciotra discusses the ideological bubbles and wonders, don't all American live in their own little worlds?

It is likely true that many liberals live insulated lives of cultural and intellectual isolation, but it is equally true of conservatives. The construction of a bubble around an individuated life is part of human nature, but with typical idiocy and hypocrisy, American culture has issued a one-way, exclusive indictment against isolation for liberals and no one else. To condemn people of progressive politics for insular thinking and living is the equivalent to prosecuting a petty shoplifter for theft, while ignoring the bank robbery spree of a modern-day John Dillinger. Liberals, by any criteria, are the mildest offenders.

When was the last time any mainstream commentator suggested that a rural, white Christian conservative Sunday School teacher escape her bubble and befriend a group of black lesbians? Can anyone recall ridicule of a right-wing, suburban housepainter who believes God watches his every brushstroke for not attending a public lecture from an award-winning evolutionary biologist?

The absence of criticism against the conservative bubble, which is undeniably smaller and tighter that the liberal bubble, demonstrates that American culture has condescended to the conservative with, to resurrect an old George W. Bush chestnut, "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

"The entire framework of the "bubble" conversation reinforces, unintentionally or not," Masciotra continues, "the bias that the 'real America' is white, rural and Christian:"

White Christian conservatives, according to what appears is the dominant assumption, have no bubble to escape because they have ownership over the social norms and cultural conventions of American identity. The atheistic, lesbian nurse in Chicago or the Muslim schoolteacher in Los Angeles should not have the expectation that the "real America" will make accommodations to understand her, but she does toil under the pressure to appreciate the "real America," even as mainstream discourse implies that she is not part of that parochial precinct.

His conclusion is spot-on:

White Christian conservatives, especially outside major metropolitan areas, occupy their own bubbles and from the distorted view of their self-imposed ignorance mistake the media as representative of all liberals and adopt the posture of persecution. Their false sense of oppression -- visible every December with protests against the "war on Christmas" -- inspires them to act defensively against anything that strikes them as "un-American."

Just as many right-wing Christians believe they are soldiers in a cosmic war between God and the devil over the fate of the universe, they also believe that they are the last line of defense against the destruction of the "real America."

They could check out the "Real American" majority in this country--all those communities that voted (with an impressive surplus of votes) to put Hillary Clinton in the White House. Pretending that most Americans are some variety of "un-American" is perhaps the most noxious bubble of all.

In writing about Carrier's crony capitalism, Bernie Sanders explains that corporations have figured out how to roll Trump:

In exchange for allowing United Technologies to continue to offshore more than 1,000 jobs, Trump will reportedly give the company tax and regulatory favors that the corporation has sought. Just a short few months ago, Trump was pledging to force United Technologies to "pay a damn tax." He was insisting on very steep tariffs for companies like Carrier that left the United States and wanted to sell their foreign-made products back in the United States. Instead of a damn tax, the company will be rewarded with a damn tax cut. Wow! How's that for standing up to corporate greed? How's that for punishing corporations that shut down in the United States and move abroad?

In essence, United Technologies took Trump hostage and won. And that should send a shock wave of fear through all workers across the country.

He continues by reminding us that "I said I would work with Trump if he was serious about the promises he made to members of the working class:"

But after running a campaign pledging to be tough on corporate America, Trump has hypocritically decided to do the exact opposite. He wants to treat corporate irresponsibility with kid gloves. The problem with our rigged economy is not that our policies have been too tough on corporations; it's that we haven't been tough enough.

In an assessment that should surprise no one, Nicholas Napier pegs Trump's picks as comprising the richest cabinet in history:

Remember when President-elect Trump attracted working class voters by promising to "Drain the Swamp" of establishment politicians and wealthy Wall Street bankers?

As evidenced by Trump's picks, he's convinced that a cabinet full of billionaires will know what's best for a country where the average household earns $52,250 per year.

The three billionaires identified include Betsy DeVos (Secretary of Education), Wilbur Ross (Secretary of Commerce), and Todd Ricketts (Deputy Secretary of Commerce). Napier continues:

Trump rewarded his wealthy contributors with positions of power, and he isn't the first. However, for a campaign that was run touting the needs of the uneducated working class, it's hard to believe that a team comprised of the wealthiest people ever to work in government will have his voters' best interest in mind.

Over at Crooks and Liars, shelleyp asks, how much damage can they do?

If we were to search for the absolute best leaders for the different cabinet positions in the White House, we'd find Trump's picks directly opposite them. A cabinet leader should support the mission of his or her cabinet, and seek to ensure it operates to the best of its ability. Trump's picks have been, almost universally and vehemently, opposed to both the work and the premise of the organizations they've been picked to lead.

She continues:

In the Department of the Interior, requirements related to resource allocation can be relaxed. This could lead to more coal, gas, and oil leases, trees cut for timber, more acreage for cattle grazing permits, not to mention opening up mining where it was previously disallowed on public land.

Enforcement of existing water and air regulations can be discouraged, to allow more agricultural and industrial pollution. Fewer endangered species will make it to the lists, and to the protection they need.

She sees hope in a rather unusual place:

What will be the primary saving grace from the destruction these ill-equipped, fanatical leaders can bring?

Bureaucracy.

Federal departments and agencies are large, with big budgets, and considerable responsibility. How the organization operate is guided by procedures and rules that have been in place for decades, if not centuries. For the government to function, it can't go through a complete upheaval every four years. It can't be completely undermined by an incapable President and his ill-considered choices. Bureaucracy is the basis for maintaining a functioning government.

Most of Trump's picks are inexperienced, and ill-equipped for their jobs. Meanwhile, the work in the federal agencies and departments is done by career employees, who understand what they need to do to keep things running and fulfill the obligations of their job. Though these employees can be severely hindered in what they do, especially with budget cuts, they're also capable of slowing, or even stopping, permanent harm.

It's not an inspiring call to arms, but it may well mitigate the damage.

trans voices

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Tyler Ford's piece on my life without gender [from August 2015; I'm a bit late to it] is quite an intriguing read. Ford relates that, "At 17, I was sitting in a psychology class when I found myself admiring a girl in the corner of the room:"

Instead of feeling relief upon discovering that I was what other people would call a lesbian, I felt guilt, as though I were an impostor. I knew I was not like the girl I admired from the back of the classroom. I was not like any girl I had ever known. I did not know any more than this.

Ford continues with the observation that, "Learning about the existence of transgender people for the first time, at college, allowed me to start imagining a future for myself:"

Researching trans issues became a round-the-clock hobby: instead of going to class, I endlessly watched videos of trans men at various stages in their transitions, read blogs about gender identity, researched the effects of hormones, and tried to piece together my identity and my future. After eight months of exploration, I decided I wanted to start hormone replacement therapy, and I started coming out to friends and family as a transgender man.

"I came out to myself as a non-binary person," Ford continues, "someone who does not identify with either binary gender (man or woman). [...] I have been out as an agender, or genderless, person for about a year now:"

To me, this simply means having the freedom to exist as a person without being confined by the limits of the western gender binary. I wear what I want to wear, and do what I want to do, because it is absurd to limit myself to certain activities, behaviours or expressions based on gender. People don't know what to make of me when they see me, because they feel my features contradict one another. They see no room for the curve of my hips to coexist with my facial hair; they desperately want me to be someone they can easily categorise. My existence causes people to question everything they have been taught about gender, which in turn inspires them to question what they know about themselves, and that scares them. Strangers are often desperate to figure out what genitalia I have, in the hope that my body holds the key to some great secret and unavoidable truth about myself and my gender. It doesn't. My words hold my truth. My body is simply the vehicle that gives me the opportunity to express myself.

As fetching as Ford's miniskirts are, trans bodybuilder (and former Marine, world champion powerlifter and father to three sons) Janae Marie Kroczaleski reminds us that there are other ways to be trans. Here are some interview excerpts:

When was the first time you told someone you felt different?

I never said a word about it to anyone until I was 23.

In the Marines, a few of my buddies sensed there was something different about me. Even though I found women attractive, dating relationships were always very difficult. I was always an alpha male and a leader -- someone who had to be top dog. But when it came to relationships I was very uncomfortable in the male role. It took a long time until I could put two and two together, and it was confusing and frustrating.

Today, you describe yourself as gender-fluid or nonbinary. How do you describe that?

It means I don't fit neatly into our male-female system. [...] So right now I don't really fit into any of the boxes society tries to put us in regarding gender or sexuality. I think it's going to take a unique partner to find me attractive -- whether that's a woman, a man or someone like me.

I've always been powerfully attracted to women and so far, I haven't felt a connection with a man like that; but if that were to happen I would be open to it. These days I am much less concerned about "what" someone is and am more interested in who they are.

If I think something is going to make me happy, I have no problem following the adventure.

The ever-wonderful Janet Mock declares that we will not be forced to be silent, writing that "we're going to have to fight. But we've always being fighting:"

"What we have to do is ensure that all those people who are othered, whether they're disabled folks, trans folks, undocumented folks, queer folks, women--that everyone bands together to stand up in power, saying we will not be forced to be silent," Mock explained. "We will not have our rights taken away. We will develop deep coalitions that are intersectional, that are deliberate, that are clear about the kind of world and kind of country we want to live in."

Clinton's AU

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Newsweek's dispatches from an alternate universe offers "a tiny glimpse of what the internet would have looked like on November 9 if Clinton beat Trump, as so many pundits forecast."

Newsweek staff prepared a remark observing that "The highest glass ceiling in the Western world had finally shattered," and Jon Chait made a poignant comment on "the extraordinary nature of the opposition:"

Clinton has absorbed 25 years of relentless and frequently crazed hate directed at her husband, compounded by her status as a feminist symbol, which made her the subject of additional loathing. Her very real missteps were compounded by a press corps that treated her guilt as an unexamined background assumption. She is almost certainly the first president to survive simultaneous leak-attacks by both a faction of rogue right-wing FBI agents and Russian intelligence.

The Intercept's Jon Schwarz has my Quote of the Day:

"Trump could easily have won if he were a tiny bit less stupid, lazy and vile."

both sides

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Slate's Jeremy Stahl suggests that liberals have a fake news problem, too:

A BuzzFeed analysis found that 38 percent of posts from three large right-wing politics pages featured "false or misleading information," compared to 20 percent from three large left-wing pages.

Stahl continues by observing that "it has become increasingly clear that the right wing does not have a monopoly on believing things that aren't true [and] don't even have a monopoly on being fooled by propaganda:"

As the Washington Post reported last week, one organization has started to catalogue the worst media offenders in disseminating anti-western Russian propaganda that has proliferated from Putin-sponsored media organs like Russia Today. Many of the offenders called out as "useful idiots" for picking up on and spreading this propaganda are alternative media sites with a left-wing bent like Naked Capitalism, Black Agenda Report, Consortium News, Truthdig, and Truth Out. (Some alternative media outlets have pushed back against the claim that some among them are witlessly spreading Russian disinformation.)

Sorry, but those liberal sources are apples and oranges--or chalk and cheese, if you prefer--compared to right-wing sites. Having said that, however, the Buzzfeed piece is worth perusing. Its sample is limited to a mere nine news sources (three liberal, mainstream, and three conservative) over the course of seven weekdays, but "the least accurate pages generated some of the highest numbers of shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook -- far more than the three large mainstream political news pages analyzed for comparison:"

Our analysis of three hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages found that 38% of all posts were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false, compared to 19% of posts from three hyperpartisan left-wing pages that were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false. The right-wing pages are among the forces -- perhaps as potent as the cable news shows that have gotten far more attention -- that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump.

Here's the breakdown:

20161130-bothsides.jpg

It's no surprise, of course, that the Right lies more than the Left, so a factor of two to three is no surprise. I would like to see a follow-up study that's both wider (more news outlets) and over a longer time frame.

TruthOut's suggestions for building a system-changing response to Trump and Trumpism states that we "must begin with -- but also go beyond -- the urgent work of defending, wherever and however possible, the individuals and communities most at risk:"

At the most obvious level, our collective response must build upon the energies illuminated by Bernie Sanders' "democratic socialist" campaign, Black Lives Matter, climate justice, the mobilization in Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Green Party, LGBTQ activism, immigration activism, People's Action and many, many other efforts. It must also find ways to bring such energies together with the community-level organizing aimed at democratizing the economic system from the ground up, starting with the development of alternative institutions and building toward a larger vision.

While confronting the global economic crisis and the collapse of labor power, the piece observes, we must apply lessons from history:

In our own time, anew politics must build a new and different institutional power base, step by agonizing step, along with a compelling new vision of the future based on a radical democratization of the economy, starting at the community level and working up. [...]

Unless an energized new fusion of local organizing, institution-building and national progressive political energies is achieved and steadily brought together around a compelling and transformative vision, the imbalance of power illuminated in the recent election is likely to get worse, not better. Donald Trump will not be the last right-wing politician who will exploit the deepening economic crisis, fear of immigrants, the collapse of union power and the lack of deep economic organizing on the left.

Building on "local socialism" and working toward a pluralist commonwealth lead into ways of facing the challenges of the Trump era:

Clearly, the first challenge of the Trump era is to defend and protect those most threatened -- including Latino and Latina, Black and Muslim communities, the gay and transgender communities, and the women who will likely face a Supreme Court hostile to their basic right to control their own bodies.

The second is to work to achieve whatever limited gains may still be possible through traditional political efforts.

That's a great deal of groundwork to lay in less than two months, but it's also essential for so many reasons.

Yves Smith sees Trump as revealing his true colors, and notes that until recently "a remarkable amount of what Trump might stand for remained not well defined, and radically so:"

While Trump hasn't settled on all the members of his team, the picture that is emerging is that Trump prizes personal loyalty highly, and when his thin bench requires him to go outside his circle, he not surprisingly hires in his image. While he has turned to some Republican insiders, he has a large representation of very wealthy men like his Treasury Secretary pick, former Goldman partner Steve Mnuchin and his Commerce Secretary nominee, distressed investor Wilbur Ross, who like Trump have never held a government post before.

"Mnuchin is unqualified," she continues, and:

...it would be an utter disgrace if they [Democrats] don't put up a pitched battle over Price, since his desire to privatize Medicare should make it possible to rally opposition among moderate Republican voters, as well as call out Trump for reneging on a campaign promise. [...]

We'll see soon enough whether the Democrats and their allies in the punditocracy are prepared to go into effective opposition to Trump, particularly where he has clearly sold out on campaign promises, or whether they continue to engage in unproductive hysterics and dissipate energy on at best secondary targets.

Sean Colarossi writes that Trump's cabinet picks are proof that Trump has no intent of draining the swamp. "That's right, Trump supporters," he snarks, "You've been duped:"

Despite his campaign rhetoric, Trump is not an outsider with plans to distance himself from the moneyed interests and stand up for the people. If anything, the decisions Trump has made since the election show that he is embracing these powerful influences, first by letting them run his transition team and now by asking them to run his government.

It's important to note that many of us knew this would happen. After all, the idea that Trump would assume office and stand up to special interests was always a silly one. If anything, the president-elect's lack of policy knowledge and political experience makes him more susceptible to outside influences, not less.

The idea that a man who spent a lifetime stiffing small businesses and workers is suddenly going to stand up for them is nonsense.

"The swamp Trump promised to drain is only getting deeper," he concludes.

Paul Krugman describes Trump's infrastructure privatization scam in, well, less-than-flattering terms:

Crucially, it's not a plan to borrow $1 trillion and spend it on much-needed projects -- which would be the straightforward, obvious thing to do. It is, instead, supposed to involve having private investors do the work both of raising money and building the projects -- with the aid of a huge tax credit that gives them back 82 percent of the equity they put in. To compensate for the small sliver of additional equity and the interest on their borrowing, the private investors then have to somehow make profits on the assets they end up owning.

He summarizes by writing that "it's not about investment, it's about ripping off taxpayers:"

we haven't promoted investment at all, we've just in effect privatized a public asset -- and given the buyers 82 percent of the purchase price in the form of a tax credit.

New Yorker's Ryan Lizza calls Trump's administration a kakistocracy. Lizza looks at Trump's victory speech proclaiming that, "I'm reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country," and notes that, "A week later, those words seem hollow:"

The first sign that our easily distracted President-elect remained unchanged from the campaign came on Thursday. For twenty-four hours, Trump had shown some restraint. His victory speech raised hopes that, despite the evidence of his behavior on the campaign trail, he might be capable of magnanimity.

Trump's whiny tweet about "professional protesters, incited by the media" garners no sympathy:

The rest of the transition team was stacked with Trump loyalists, donors, and family members. Four of the sixteen spots were filled by three of Trump's adult children--Eric, Donald, and Ivanka--and Kushner, his son-in-law. These are the same people Trump promised would be running his business empire, which has interests around the world and could benefit enormously by influencing government policy and staff appointments.

"As of Wednesday morning," writes Lizza of Trump, "He has tweeted twenty-three times:"

Trump, whose first week was marked by seeming chaos in his efforts to put together an Administration. But what we've learned so far about the least-experienced President-elect in history is as troubling and ominous as his critics have feared. The Greeks have a word for the emerging Trump Administration: kakistocracy. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as a "government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens." Webster's is simpler: "government by the worst people."

NCRM's Brody Levesque writes that "Lizza's description is extremely apt given absolute chaos surrounding the president-elect and his advisors:"

Any semblance of an orderly transition now seems on the verge of collapse as each day brings a new revelation that questions Trump's ability to maintain control or even properly direct his apparently unwieldy staff.

He quotes Army Captain Sue Fulton:

"Welcome to kleptocracy. If you think enriching the Trump fortune won't be a condition of Presidential action, you haven't paid attention to what Donald Trump has done his entire life."

David Badash at NCRM is dismayed at Trump's policy plans:

Trump, in his video, says on day one he will withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership, an international trade agreement. The president-elect also says he will remove "job-killing restrictions" on oil and gas companies, "including shale energy and clean coal, creating many millions of high-paying jobs," Trump promises.

In other words, Trump will "make America great again" by poisoning our air and water, and, although he doesn't say it in the video, will make America great again by getting rid of healthcare, including Obamacare and Medicare. So, when we're all sick from polluted air and water, we can all use our life savings to pay off our medical bills.

In These Times, under the pseudonym Marianne Hastings, calls for a general strike on Inauguration Day:

The message of a nationwide Sick Out on Inauguration Day will help prepare people for the multiple acts of resistance that will be required by us over the next four years. The only thing holding us back from engaging in this collective action is our hesitancy to believe that it is possible. [...]

A general strike and boycott, or Sick Out, would be a commitment not to go to work or buy anything on January 20. It would not focus on any single cause or demand; instead, it would be a show of our collective power in opposition to Trump's extremism. [...] We cannot allow Trump's extremism to be normalized and take shape in our institutions of government.

Plans for a Million Woman March are being laid as well:

Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Clinton came as a shock to many -- and for many women who opposed Trump in particular, Clinton's loss was personally devastating. But in the days since the election, desperation and fear have swelled into a plan for action: a "Women's March on Washington" on January 21, the day after Trump's inauguration and the first full day of his administration.

What started as a viral idea on social media has snowballed into a potentially massive event, with more than 100,000 people already saying on Facebook that they plan to attend. It has the potential to be the biggest mass mobilization yet that America has seen in response to a presidential inauguration -- about 60,000 people protested Richard Nixon's 1973 inauguration at the height of the Vietnam War, and thousands protested George W. Bush's 2001 inauguration. [...] Now that professional organizers have taken the reins, it looks like the logistics will come together, although the broader impact remains to be seen.

One hopes so; we need some glimmers of hope, as "the huge, spontaneous groundswell behind the march says a lot about this moment in American politics:"

It's another sign that Trump could spark a new golden age of activism on the left. And it's a sobering reminder of why that might be the case: People are genuinely afraid for their civil rights under Trump, and women in particular could have a lot to lose.

"Especially for women of color, queer and trans women, and women who belong to other marginalized groups," the piece continues, "a Trump presidency could present an existential threat:"

...from a Justice Department that could roll back major civil rights gains, to families being torn apart through mass deportation, to Muslim women feeling too afraid of hateful acts and violence to wear the hijab and freely express their religion, to drastic reductions in access to reproductive health care that would disproportionately harm poor women and women of color.

"The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us -- immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault," a statement from organizers reads. "The Women's March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights."

Melville House is working on a book entitled What We Do Now (the same title as their 2004 book discussing the path forward after Bush was re-elected). In the announcement, Dennis Johnson writes that "the question of the moment for those of us devastated by the takeover of our country by the fascist right: What are we going to do now?"

Let me suggest, simply, that we all do what we can with what we have. What Valerie and I have is a publishing company, and what we've decided to do most immediately is to make a book. We had the title first: What We Do Now.

Which is to say that for the last week or so I've been contacting lots of prominent progressives, begging them for a short essay on exactly that--in whatever their field of expertise is, what can people do to somehow move forward, to keep heart, to not give up?

My idea is to get the book in bookstores for the inauguration. We want to give people a chance to greet that grim day with a sense of community, purpose, and forward motion--and galvanizing them for the long four years ahead wouldn't be a bad thing, either.

Noting that "The normal pre-publication cycle for a book in America is about 18 months," he poses some questions:

What happens when you try to get a book out in less than two months? How does your sales team get the word out to booksellers? How do you get 18 months' worth of marketing done in that time? How do you print and ship the book in time?

Even before you get to that, how do you simply gather the materials and prep them for printing in such a short amount of time?

I'm looking forward to his "mad dash to get the book done, printed, and shipping to stores before election day."

Electoral College

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Peter Beinart observes that the Electoral College was meant to stop men like Trump from becoming president. Although he recognizes the potential "anti-democratic nature" of the Electoral College, he also notes that:

Donald Trump was not elected on November 8. Under the Constitution, the real election will occur on December 19. That's when the electors in each state cast their votes. [...]

The electors, Hamilton believed, would prevent someone with "talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity" from becoming president. And they would combat "the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils." They would prevent America's adversaries from meddling in its elections. The founders created the Electoral College, in other words, in part to prevent the election of someone like Donald Trump. [...]

When George W. Bush became president after losing the popular vote in 2000, there were protests, but no real question about the inevitability of his taking office. In this way, as in many others, Americans comfortably accept undemocratic elements of America's system of government even as they profess publicly that democracy is sacrosanct.

Beinart admits that, "Before this election, I supported abolishing the Electoral College. Now I think America needs electors who, in times of national emergency, can prevent demagogues from taking power."

Peter Richardson observes that, "With slight variations, three pundits--Matthew Continetti, Ross Douthat and David Brooks--described their plight as a crisis of conservative intellectuals." The problem, writes Richardson, is "a question of motive:"

By presenting themselves as intellectuals even as they confessed their intellectual sins, these writers wanted to have it both ways. Their appeal was this: Please continue to regard us as intellectuals, even though we scrambled your understanding of the nation's most urgent priorities--not here and there, from time to time, but systematically and for decades. In this concerted effort, we followed William F. Buckley and others, who were obviously intellectuals and not merely "conservative opinion-meisters" (the phrase was Brooks') or partisan hacks.

I reject that appeal. Intellectual respectability can't be inherited; it can only be earned by telling the truth and exposing lies, especially when the stakes are high. In all three cases, we should credit the admissions but reject the stealthy self-promotion. Given the writers' indirect support for Trump and its likely consequences, one cheer for them is generous. When it comes to Trump's victory, however, there's plenty of blame to go around. The only question for these writers (and everyone else) is: What will you do to fix it?

It looks like a crisis of ass-covering, and very little else.

Trump's Muslim ban

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Anti-Defamation League's head Jonathan Greenblatt has a strong reaction to Trump's Muslim ban:

"If one day Muslim Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim," Greenblatt said.

The Trumpites are lying, of course, when denying "that he had ever advocated establishing a registry for monitoring people based on their faith." As the Guardian notes:

...in a video shot at a campaign event in Iowa in November last year, Trump said he would certainly implement a database for tracking Muslims, and that Muslims would be legally obliged to sign up.

I've been declaring for years that I will join Muslims when they're in danger, and this is one of those times.

This ban must be not allowed to stand.

"strange numbers"

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Kevin Hartnett's dive into the strange numbers found in particle collisions is a nice read, exploring "a surprising correspondence that has the potential to breathe new life into the venerable Feynman diagram and generate far-reaching insights in both fields:"

It has to do with the strange fact that the values calculated from Feynman diagrams seem to exactly match some of the most important numbers that crop up in a branch of mathematics known as algebraic geometry. These values are called "periods of motives," and there's no obvious reason why the same numbers should appear in both settings. Indeed, it's as strange as it would be if every time you measured a cup of rice, you observed that the number of grains was prime.

Hartnett writes that "mathematicians and physicists are working together to unravel the coincidence:"

For mathematicians, physics has called to their attention a special class of numbers that they'd like to understand: Is there a hidden structure to these periods that occur in physics? What special properties might this class of numbers have? For physicists, the reward of that kind of mathematical understanding would be a new degree of foresight when it comes to anticipating how events will play out in the messy quantum world.

Here's an infographic that might clarify things:

20161120-potentialshortcut.jpg

#BoycottHamilton

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Let's never stop booing the incoming administration, implores Kali Holloway in examining the Hamilton incident:

Not a single one of us needs to be scolded about the importance of safe spaces by an unhinged racist who has made this entire country an unsafe space for millions of people. This is the same guy who hasn't made a single sincere effort to get his vicious and violent supporters to end their sustained campaign of harassment against people of color and other minorities. This is the same man who once said he'd like to punch a protester in the face; who encouraged people to attack reporters at his rallies; who told crowds that he longed for the days when peaceful protesters were "carried out on a stretcher"; who egged on his supporters' aggression by telling them he would pay their legal fees if they were physically violent with protesters; and who is accused of actually harassing many women going back 40 years.

It's clear that Trump plans to gaslight us all for the next four years. When his baldface lies and hypocrisy are revealed, as they are being right now and will be many times again, let's definitely not be fooled or let him get away with it without calling it out.

Trump's tweet ended with the demand that the "Hamilton" cast apologize. Thousands of his supporters--probably people who chanted "kill the bitch!" at his rallies--retweeted his message with no apparent irony.

As far as the theatrical boycott, Holloway writes that "No one cares they won't be attending that show they never planned to attend in the first place." She implores us to "be displaying our absolute opposition to Pence, Trump and this whole administration in the loudest voices we can muster every chance we get:"

They are unburdened by values or virtue, have shown callous indifference to millions, and are on the road to destroy this country and very likely--in ways direct and indirect--millions of lives within it.

This is no time for silence or complacency. Shame on us if we ever stop booing.

AlterNet writes that the problem with the #BoycottHamilton movement is how easily Snowflake-in-Chief Trump's delicate feelings can be mocked:

If we wanna discuss what is rude Mr. President, I'm pretty sure grabbing a woman by her genitalia ranks higher than booing. #BoycottHamilton -- i miss the yankees (@redrag0n_) November 19, 2016

"The irony of the #BoycottHamilton movement," writes Hrafnkell Haraldsson in his look at how it's been destroyed by Twitter, "is that it's mostly folks who already boycott both hip-hop and knowledge of history." This tweet from John Fugelsang nails another aspect of it:

The irony of the #BoycottHamilton movement is that it's mostly folks who already boycott both hip-hop and knowledge of history. -- John Fugelsang (@JohnFugelsang) November 19, 2016

Haraldsson wondersed, "how do you boycott something you can't get tickets for because it's sold out until next August?" and LiberalAmerica discusses the #NameAPenceMusical hashtag, nothing that "both Trump and Pence are going to flat-out hate some of these postings, which makes it even sweeter:"

Les Deplorables #NameAPenceMusical -- Monique Beatty (@QDreamsOfParis) November 20, 2016

Oklahomophobic! #NameAPenceMusical
-- Amy Shouse (@CupcakeMurphy) November 20, 2016

grab her by the CATS#NameAPenceMusical
-- Kevin Perkins (@Pope_Of_Balt) November 20, 2016

A Streetcar Named You're Fired #NameaPenceMusical
-- nicandro iannacci (@niannacci) November 20, 2016

...and there are many more where those came from.

Sapna Maheshwari demonstrates how fake news spreads with this case study:

Eric Tucker, a 35-year-old co-founder of a marketing company in Austin, Tex., had just about 40 Twitter followers. But his recent tweet about paid protesters being bused to demonstrations against President-elect Donald J. Trump fueled a nationwide conspiracy theory -- one that Mr. Trump joined in promoting.

Mr. Tucker's post was shared at least 16,000 times on Twitter and more than 350,000 times on Facebook. The problem is that Mr. Tucker got it wrong. There were no such buses packed with paid protesters.

But that didn't matter.

"The next morning, the frenzy began," the analysis continues, as the rumor spread from Reddit to Free Republic and beyond. "By about noon, Mr. Tucker's initial post had been retweeted and liked more than 5,000 times:"

Around 6 p.m., the conservative blog Gateway Pundit posted a story using Mr. Tucker's images under the headline "Figures. Anti-Trump Protesters Were Bussed in to Austin #FakeProtests." The post, which included a mention of "Soros money," has been shared on Facebook more than 44,000 times, according to statistics on the website. [...] Then, shortly after 9 p.m., Mr. Trump sent this tweet:
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair! -- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016

Snopes and other debunked their tall tale, but "None of this seemed to have much impact:"

Mr. Tucker's initial tweet continued to generate thousands of shares on Facebook through Free Republic and pages like Right Wing News and Joe the Plumber.

When this crap flourishes so rapidly, what happens to our crops?

resistance agenda

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Robert Reich proposes a 100-Day resistance agenda against Trump--everything from getting Democrats to oppose Trump's agenda, marching and demonstrating, boycotting all Trump brands, writing letters to the editor, op-eds, and social media posts to investigative journalism ("We need investigative journalists to dig into the backgrounds of all of Trump's appointees, in the White House, the Cabinet, Ambassadors and judges"), launching lawsuits ("Throw sand in the gears"), and fomenting intellectual opposition ("Take Trump on where he's weakest--with serious ideas. I'll try to do my part. You do yours, too.").

TruthOut looks at the long con on Trump voters and predicts "a chance that Donald Trump will be impeached:"

If so, the Republicans will lead the effort, and it will probably take place within a year of his inauguration. At that point, the ultra-"conservative" Republican establishment will get what it could never accomplish at the polls -- President Mike Pence.

Pence supports the privatization of public education, favored "an Indiana law that would have guaranteed the right for businesses to discriminate against LGBT people," and signed "the most reactionary anti-abortion bill in the country." Salon's Nico Lang shows us that the backlash against LGBT rights has already begun, writing that "Over the next four years LGBT rights will face a sustained challenge from entities on the far right:"

Although Georgia's "religious liberty" bill passed both houses of the state's General Assembly, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed it last April. The legislation, which would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers based on "sincerely held religious beliefs," was a virtual clone of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in Indiana last year. That law, which was later amended, cost the state a reported $60 million in economic backlash.

Senate Bill 242 "could force educators to out queer and trans students to their parents," Senate Bill 92 "will void local ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination," and the so-called "Women's Privacy Act" would "force transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex they were assigned at birth:"

The Texas Association of Business has warned that passing such laws could have a detrimental impact on states. The group estimated that the three proposed bills could cost Texas as much as .5 percent of its GDP every year they're enacted. That doesn't sound like much until you do the math. The Texas economy brought in $1.4 trillion in 2013 (the most recent reliable economic measure); at the estimated rate that's a loss of $7 billion a year.

Radical Faeries

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Matt Baume's look back at four decades of Radical Faeries asks, "What the heck is a Radical Faerie?"

That's a hard question to answer -- intentionally. For some people, it's a movement. For others, it's a way of life. And for some, it's a fun pastime.

But whatever it is, its roots were deeply serious. Even before the group's inception, the Radical Faeries were devoted to challenging the status quo, and to queer liberation. Though decentralized

and lacking much structure at all, they are all universally dedicated to freedom: politically, artistically and sexually.

"Those lifestyles were adopted by free thinkers like Harry Hay," he continues, "previously an organizer with the Communist Party and Mattachine Society:"

Because the Radical Faeries are now so popular and unmanaged, it's likely they'll always exist in some form or another. But that also means a dilution of their founding goals -- far from being a radical movement, now they are often regarded as simply an aesthetic. But for those who take Radical Faeriedom seriously, it remains a driving force that pushes queer people to recognize that they are always free to push boundaries and transgress.

Push onward, Radical Faeries--you are much more dangerous than clowns like Milo Y.

VP-elect Mike Pence got treated to a special performance at Hamilton last night, as Crooks and Liars' Karoli Kuns describes:

"On his way into the show, he was booed by people in the audience, something that really seems to have upset New York Times' reporter Maggie Haberman," who complained about "A level of disrespect"

Karoli responds, however, that "I never saw her care much about how a certain former Secretary of State or our current President has been treated." In addition to the audience reaction, however, was the cast's statement:

Vice President Elect Pence, welcome.

Thank you for joining us at Hamilton - An American Musical.

We are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights.

We hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values, and work on behalf of ALL of us.

Thank you.

Andy Towle writes with mock astonishment that "Following a campaign in which he insulted and harassed millions of Americans, President-Elect Donald Trump is suddenly a fan of 'safe spaces.'" Here are Trump's tweets about the incident:

Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016


The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!

-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016

TPM shows us who's echoing Trump's complaints, and it's the usual suspects: Newt Gingrich, Michelle Malkin. Michele Bachmann, Laura Ingraham, and Joe Scarborough. Calling the cast's statement "rude" and "harassment" is a bit over the top, though--even if Pence's skin is as thin as Trump's is. Jezebel's follow-up points out the following:

In addition to everything else, never forget that Mike Pence is not a "very good man." He is a very, very, very, very, VERY, VERY bad man.
And if we're being honest, the theater is not historically the safest place for elected officials, either. [Washington Post]

Lincoln didn't even whine this much after his play.
-- Barry Petchesky (@barryap1) November 19, 2016

economic rent

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I've railed against simplistic conservative misreadings of Adam Smith before, so Dustin Mineau's explanation of how economists duped us into attacking capitalism (by explicating the concept of economic rent) was a very intriguing read:

I admit, reading the term, "economic rent" can cause eyes to glaze over quickly. A more accurate description is "unearned income". It is people and companies who make money by doing zero work and risk little or none of their own assets.

Many conservative economists claim to be staunch followers of Adam Smith. They shout slogans such as "Supply and Demand!" "Capitalism"! " "Let the markets work!" However, for anyone who actually read Adam Smith, you would note that the "invisible hand" was not his only observation of the inner workings of capitalism. Adam Smith recognized that many in the economy were making gobs of money, but weren't contributing anything. He was referring to what was eventually called "economic rent".

"Adam Smith and future classical economists," he reminds us, "existed in a time where the noble families of medieval Europe were still the large landowners:"

The nobles had just turned into Rentiers. Because they owned the land, they were able to rent it out to capitalist and workers and claim a portion of their profits and wages by charging "rent". They were able to do this without ever working. It was unearned income.

Much of the work done by economists from Adam Smith until the late 19th century was all about finding and identifying "rent-seeking". These classical economists didn't want to overthrow capitalism, they wanted to free it from the "rent-seeking" parasites.

Because "many modern economists no longer make a distinction between land and capital," he continues, "therefore the concept of economic rent is no longer discussed in our politics:"

Rent-seeking is any income that is unearned. An alternative definition is "profit without a corresponding cost of production". "Economic Rent" can come from ownership of land and just "renting" it out for money. It can also come from collecting so much capital that a firm now has a monopoly and can set the price independent of supply demand considerations, It can be from government monopoly granting, control of other "land" like our rivers, broadband spectrum, or "mineral rights" of land. It can come from control of financial assets like capital gains, dividends, and interest on loans(especially usury). It can also come from political favors from the government.

A side effect of this is that "when progressives rail against the unearned income of the rentiers, we lack the vocabulary to properly express what is happening:"

Instead, conservatives try to make it look like liberals are railing against capitalism itself or against businesses in general. In some cases we may even come to believe it ourselves. Many times when we're fighting against the "excesses of capitalism", what we are actually fighting is parasitic rentiers that are hurting the true capitalists as much as the workers.

"One could argue, he concludes, that "history is repeating itself:"

200 years ago, the conservative vs. liberal mantra was that conservatives were fighting to keep the power of the nobles and large landlords intact. The liberals were the ones trying to free themselves politically and economically from their control. Today it's the same. Conservatives are fighting to maintain the privilege of the Rentiers by pretending to defend capitalism itself. And once again, us liberals are fighting to free the market from the parasitical Rentiers.

NSA's "Project X"

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The Intercept's Ryan Gallagher and Henrik Moltke reveal an NSA spy hub in NYC that's hidden in plain sight, one that's called "Project X:"

It was an unusually audacious, highly sensitive assignment: to build a massive skyscraper, capable of withstanding an atomic blast, in the middle of New York City. It would have no windows, 29 floors with three basement levels, and enough food to last 1,500 people two weeks in the event of a catastrophe.

But the building's primary purpose would not be to protect humans from toxic radiation amid nuclear war. Rather, the fortified skyscraper would safeguard powerful computers, cables, and switchboards. It would house one of the most important telecommunications hubs in the United States -- the world's largest center for processing long-distance phone calls, operated by the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T.

Built between 1969 and 1974, the skyscraper's address is 33 Thomas Street:

An investigation by The Intercept indicates that the skyscraper is more than a mere nerve center for long-distance phone calls. It also appears to be one of the most important National Security Agency surveillance sites on U.S. soil -- a covert monitoring hub that is used to tap into phone calls, faxes, and internet data.

"33 Thomas Street," the piece continues, "has served as an NSA surveillance site, code-named TITANPOINTE:"

It has long been known that AT&T has cooperated with the NSA on surveillance, but few details have emerged about the role of specific facilities in carrying out the top-secret programs. The Snowden documents provide new information about how NSA equipment has been integrated as part of AT&T's network in New York City, revealing in unprecedented detail the methods and technology the agency uses to vacuum up communications from the company's systems. [..]

The NSA's documents also reveal that one of TITANPOINTE's functions is to conduct surveillance as part of a program called SKIDROWE, which focuses on intercepting satellite communications. That is a particularly striking detail, because on the roof of 33 Thomas Street there are a number of satellite dishes. Federal Communications Commission records confirm that 33 Thomas Street is the only location in New York City where AT&T has an FCC license for satellite earth stations.

"Much of the surveillance carried out at TITANPOINTE," Gallagher and Moltke points out, "seems to involve monitoring calls and other communications as they are being sent across AT&T's international phone and data cables:"

But the site has other capabilities at its disposal. The NSA's documents indicate that it is also equipped with powerful satellite antenna -- likely the ones located on the roof of 33 Thomas Street -- which monitor information transmitted through the air. [...]

The harvested data is then made accessible through XKEYSCORE, a Google-like mass surveillance system that the NSA's employees use to search through huge quantities of information about people's emails, chats, Skype calls, passwords, and internet browsing histories.

The article notes that, "These revelations were foreshadowed in 2006 by allegations made by Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician [see here, here, and here]:"

Klein stated that the company had maintained a "secure room" in one of its San Francisco offices, which was fitted with communications monitoring equipment apparently used by the NSA to tap into phone and internet traffic. Klein's claims formed the basis of a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of AT&T customers (Jewel v. NSA), which remains ongoing today.

Coincidentally, between 1981 and 1990, Klein also worked for AT&T at 33 Thomas Street. "I wasn't aware of any NSA presence when I was there, but I had a creepy feeling about the building, because I knew about AT&T's close collaboration with the Pentagon, going way back," he told The Intercept. When presented with the details linking 33 Thomas Street to NSA's TITANPOINTE, Klein added: "I'm not surprised. It's obviously a major installation. ... If you're interested in doing surveillance, it's a good place to do it."

A 10-minute film on "Project X" is here:

TruthOut is aghast at how militarized cops are being schooled in terror, noting that one consequence is "the ongoing transformation of Chicago's municipal police into a paramilitary:"

At the same time, funding for social services continues to shrivel. The city's infrastructure for public education continues to suffer. As the month of October began, teachers were already gearing up for another strike against school closures and the prospect of working without a contract.

"No militarized training would be complete without assault weapon exercises," the piece continues, and "many trainings get federal financial support:"

The Department of Homeland Security has a grant program, the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI), allocating millions of dollars to qualifying city areas. This current of money joins a historical torrent of capital that the federal government bequeathed police looking to acquire paramilitary capabilities, which began with the oft-touted 1033 Program. Passed by Congress in the late 1990s, this program authorizes transfers of surplus military equipment to municipal law enforcement on request.

Here's the chilling summary:

Federal money has essentially been channeled into an infrastructure that monitors, controls and represses poorer communities that bear the brunt of racism, rather than providing economic support to poorer communicates and reviving the social and educational institutions needed to create a less violent future.

taboo and tolerance

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The Federalist calls IVCF's decision to fire pro-marriage employees an "affirmation," and liberal response to the firings as an "uproar." Mentioning that "a group of former InterVarsity staff recently founded Incarnation Ministries, a new 'LGBTQ-inclusive campus ministry'" belies the claim made by some evangelicals that non-heterosexuality is opposed to Christianity. Also contentious is the declaration that "Sex belongs within marriage, and marriage is between a man and a woman" and the claim that "Upholding this position will come with a cost:"

Indeed, it already has. Hours after the Time article about InterVarsity appeared, I saw Facebook and Twitter posts calling for colleges to kick the group off campus. [...] To be frank, it seems odd that InterVarsity is suddenly a target of protest, derision, and attack. Yes, the organization could doubtless have done better in rolling out the Document on Human Sexuality.

It's not "rolling out" a position paper that's the issue, but firing people for their beliefs.

The anger of InterVarsity's critics is not just about the new policy. Yes, the Document on Human Sexuality and terminating dissenting employees contradicts the sexual libertinism of the twenty-first century West. [...] "This is why InterVarsity's Document on Human Sexuality is so threatening to the intellectual system of same-sex marriage defenders"

No, the document isn't threatening; the firings are the threat.

"perhaps it is evidence that the traditional understanding of marriage is not an arbitrary imposition of patriarchy, but a natural and inherent disposition of humankind."

Nope, not that either.

"By walking backwards [He admits it!] on the marriage question, InterVarsity has put the very intellectual framework of same-sex marriage supporters at stake."

That should win some sort of prize for overly grand pronouncements.

"The furor doesn't appear to show any sign of dying down"

Sorry, but you'll just have to live with the derision you've earned for kicking out former allies who understand sociology and sexuality. Will Christian groups develop anti-evolution positions to justify kicking out members who understand biology, or anti-Big-Bang positions so they can fire members who understand cosmology?

In the spirit of rising above such disagreements, S. Abbas Raza writes about tolerating the intolerable:"

I am writing this today to dissociate myself from the rage many of my friends have been expressing toward those who supported the "wrong" candidate in the recent presidential election in the US. I know that this will not make me popular with anyone; in fact, I am certain that at least some will take offence. But I still want to say some things I believe and which I don't see enough other people saying.

"What is tolerance," Raza asks, "if not the patience to accept that there may be some people whose views (formed by their own immediate cultural environments and their own experiences) deserve criticism by our standards but whom we do not give up on and regard as evil?"

Most leftists and liberals in the West generally correctly resist the temptation to paint whole societies in the developing world as backward and contemptible because their belief systems are at odds with the ethical norms of industrialised democracies. [...] But when it comes to the disadvantaged victims of a predatory capitalism in the US - the working class Americans whose economic conditions have been steadily worsening for more than four decades under every single administration - these progressives find it hard to show any real sympathy.

He concludes that, "we must keep in mind that the highest priority must be to help the working class out of its miserable state and reach a more equitable distribution of resources overall. There is no other way to address the US's increasingly dysfunctional state:"

This is going to require speaking to the half of the US that disagrees with us and convincing them to join us in bringing back and strengthening labour unions, pushing for more progressive taxation (the only real way to reshape the distribution of wealth in the long run), getting money out of politics and doing whatever else it takes. We might even learn something from such conversation.

Chris Hedges laments the fact that our situation is worse than you think:

Widespread social unrest will ignite when Donald Trump's base realizes it has been betrayed. I do not know when this will happen. But that it will happen is certain.

"We face the most profound crisis in human history," his jeremiad continues:

Our response is to elect a man to the presidency who does not believe in climate change. Once societies unplug themselves from reality, those who speak truth become pariahs and enemies of the state. They are subject to severe state repression. Those lost in the reverie of the crisis cult applaud the elimination of these Cassandras. The appealing myths of magical thinking are pleasant opiates. But this narcotic, like all narcotics, leads to squalor and death.

Dara Linddara observes that fear is a totally rational reaction, as many of us "woke up terrified this morning:"

They'll wake up afraid tomorrow, and the day after that, and every day of the newly elected Donald Trump administration. [...]

For perhaps millions of immigrants, Muslims, and people of color in this country, their fear is rooted in the way Donald Trump has run his campaign for the last 18 months -- and 200 years of American history. To these people, optimism is nothing more than denial.

The people who woke up afraid today have been the ones warning, unheeded, that Donald Trump's campaign was not a thought experiment. Now, they are under direct threat from his presidency. And very little that Trump has said or done as a candidate renders those fears anything less than deeply rational.

"The word that defined Donald Trump's campaign for the presidency, to me and many others," she continues, "was this: emboldened:"

White supremacist organizations are rejuvenated. People feel less constrained by "political correctness" to speak their minds about the problems with society -- even to the point, occasionally, of confronting strangers. A generation of children of color is being bullied by threats that the president-elect will send them back -- the policy's appropriation into everyday life is nearly as chilling as the policy itself. [...]

It is not on people who are under threat by Donald Trump's presidency -- under threat by the America that he was elected by promising -- to put their fears aside. It's absurd to ask them to forget everything they've seen that others have ignored.

NYRB's Elizabeth Drew discusses how the Trump victory happened, and notes that "some national polls got it essentially right:"

As some predicted, Clinton won the popular vote but not by an overwhelming number--by the latest count she won 400,000 more votes than Trump, who got fewer votes than either Mitt Romney or John McCain. [...]

"Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 30,000 votes" [and] "In Pennsylvania, Trump beat Clinton by a mere 67,902 votes... And in Wisconsin, the result was 47.9 to 46.9 in Trump's favor"

His lying helped, but so did Clinton's weakness among women:

According to the website FiveThirtyEight, just 34 percent of women lacking a college education voted for Clinton, as opposed to 62 percent for Trump; whereas Clinton won 51 percent of college educated women, while Trump got 45 percent of them. That Clinton's gender gave her no particular advantage among women doomed the prospect of our "first female president." According to political scientist Michael Kesler, writing in The Washington Post, her 12 point margin among female voters was about the same as Obama's in 2008 and 2012.

David Pierson points to Facebook's fake news as part of the problem, despite protestations from their CEO:

"The idea that fake news on Facebook ... influenced the election in any way I think is a pretty crazy idea," [Marl] Zuckerberg said.

"I do think," he continued, "there is a certain profound lack of empathy in asserting that the only reason why someone could have voted the way they did is because they saw some fake news."

Despite this deflection, Facebook deserves some blame:

The staggering election-related activity on Facebook comes at a time when the social network has been littered with thousands of fake stories with headlines like "FBI AGENT SUSPECTED IN HILLARY EMAIL LEAKS FOUND DEAD IN APPARENT MURDER-SUICIDE" from fake news organizations with reputable-sounding names such as the Denver Guardian.

On a personal front, Micah Lee suggests surveillance self-defense as an important activity:

On Tuesday, Americans handed the U.S. presidency to a racist, xenophobic, authoritarian, climate-science-denying, misogynistic, revenge-obsessed ego-maniac -- and with it control over a vast and all-too-unaccountable intelligence apparatus... [...]

With Trump eager to misuse his power and get revenge on his perceived enemies, it's reasonable to conclude there will be a parallel increase in abuse of power in law enforcement and the intelligence community. Activists who put their bodies on the line trying to protect basic rights -- freedom of religion, freedom of speech, civil rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, privacy rights -- will face the brunt of it.

He lists "some first steps that activists and other concerned citizens should take"--it's well worth checking out.

On an interpersonal level, wear those safety pins to show your solidarity. What began as a post-Brexit movement is now demonstrating "solidarity with those who might be denigrated or made afraid in a post-election America:"

20161112-safety.jpg

In her look at neural plasticity, Jessa Gamble observes that when "careers require years of internships and graduate degrees, the age of adulthood is receding, practically into the 30s:"

Adolescence, loosely defined as the period between puberty and financial independence, now lasts about 15 years, twice as long as it did in the 1950s [...] when an increasing number of young people are still dependent on their parents. There is some concern that all of this dependence could lead to a lasting immaturity and failure to take on responsibility.

On a positive note, Gamble writes that "according to developmental researchers, there is one lasting gift that extended adolescence can bestow, and it resides in the brain:"

"Neurobiological capital" is built through a protracted period of learning capacity in the brain, and it is a privilege that comes to those lucky enough to enjoy intellectually stimulating environments in late adolescence. Far from a contributor to emotional immaturity, the trend toward an adolescence that extends into the mid-20s is an opportunity to create a lifelong brain-based advantage.


"Some of this evidence," she writes, "comes from brain studies of those who have had access to higher education:"

The window for developing self-regulation closes when adult life settles into a routine, and the brain begins to exchange growth for efficiency. But if an adolescent continues to be stimulated intellectually--through higher education or travel, for example--their brain remains in its formative stage into the mid-20s, and even primes itself for future learning in adulthood. Dubbed "metaplasticity," changing brain circuits through learning during adolescence can make subsequent modifications easier in those areas.

There is, of course, a cost that makes this stimulation an "economically exclusive" prospect:

Protracted brain plasticity often depends on access to a stimulating environment--and the money that entails. Instead of falling into the rote tasks of an entry-level position after college, a debt-free graduate might volunteer overseas for a year and learn a new language and culture.

To maximize neurobiological capital, it soon may not be enough for parents to sock away money in college savings accounts. Some may need to budget for a Neurobiological Runway Fund to cover the post-college years, too.

representation

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GLAAD's annual report on LGBT characters on TV, the "Where We Are on TV" study, "looks at the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and streaming services for the 2016-2017 TV season:"

  • Of the 895 series regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming in the coming year, 43 (4.8%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. This is the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars GLAAD has ever found. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters.

Racist and sexist under-representation are still evident:

  • While this year's report marks a record-high percentage of black series regulars on broadcast (20%), black women remain underrepresented at only 38% of all black series regular characters.
  • This year, 44% of regular characters on primetime broadcast programming are women, which is an increase of one percentage point from last year but still greatly underrepresents women who make up 51% of the population.

The Advocate proclaims that "TV has never been queerer," although LGBTQ Nation notes that "More than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters died on scripted broadcast, cable and streaming series this year:"

While TV remains far ahead of film in gay representations, the medium "failed queer women this year" by continuing the "harmful 'bury your gays' trope," the report said. [...] It's part of a decade-long pattern in which gay or transgender characters are killed to further a straight character's storyline, GLAAD said, sending what it called the "dangerous" message that gay people are disposable.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's CEO, comments that:

"While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it's important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community," said Ellis.

Lynn Parramore's observation that medieval peasants got more vacation time than you is an interesting one, despite the obvious caveat that "Life for the medieval peasant was certainly no picnic:"

His life was shadowed by fear of famine, disease and bursts of warfare. His diet and personal hygiene left much to be desired. But despite his reputation as a miserable wretch, you might envy him one thing: his vacations.

Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.

As for the modern American worker? After a year on the job, she gets an average of eight vacation days annually.

"Shor's examination of work patterns," writes Parramore, "reveals that the 19th century was an aberration in the history of human labor:"

When workers fought for the eight-hour workday, they weren't trying to get something radical and new, but rather to restore what their ancestors had enjoyed before industrial capitalists and the electric lightbulb came on the scene. Go back 200, 300 or 400 years and you find that most people did not work very long hours at all. In addition to relaxing during long holidays, the medieval peasant took his sweet time eating meals, and the day often included time for an afternoon snooze. "The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed," notes Shor. "Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure."

Parramore identifies the precarious nature of today's middle-class existence, as well as the irony that "this cult of endless toil doesn't really help the bottom line:"

Study after study shows that overworking reduces productivity. On the other hand, performance increases after a vacation, and workers come back with restored energy and focus. The longer the vacation, the more relaxed and energized people feel upon returning to the office.

(It's almost as if one of the corporate goals of this setup is workers' terrified obedience, rather than mere productivity...)

the blue wall

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Ronald Brownstein asks, is Trump outflanking Clinton?

The Clinton team's decision to focus so much more attention on states that it wants to win--as opposed to those it believes it needs to win--represents one of the central, if often unremarked upon, choices of the 2016 election. It has allowed her to play offense for most of the general election, while forcing rival Donald Trump to spend most of his energy defending states more indispensable to his strategy than to hers.

He fears that Clinton "has left herself open to a flanking maneuver from Trump in any of the seemingly safe Democratic states that he is now targeting--key among them Colorado, Michigan, and Wisconsin:"

Almost all analysts agree that Clinton has more plausible options for reaching an Electoral College majority than Trump does. And among analysts from both parties, there's broad agreement about the states that offer her the most straightforward path to victory. That path starts with the 18 states that form the blue wall, a term I coined in 2009. These states have backed the Democratic nominee in at least the past six presidential elections; together with the District of Columbia, they offer 242 Electoral College votes. [...]

Clinton's electoral map thus starts with defending Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the three loosest bricks in the blue wall.

Let's hope that her victory is a resounding one--so that Trump can go back to his reality-TV sandbox, and stay out of the news.

Ezra Klein makes the case that Clinton is the most transparent candidate in history, and Trump is the least--although "it doesn't feel that way:"

Even as we are drowning in info about Clinton, we feel we know little about her; her reputation for secrecy, for opacity, for inaccessibility persists. And even as we have very little information about Trump's private dealings, we feel we know much -- perhaps too much -- about him. The result is a window into the strange ways we judge transparency, openness, and disclosure in American politics.

Klein provides a convincing summary:

We have Hillary Clinton's full tax returns going back to the year 1977. We have, with varying degrees of completeness, public schedules from her time in the White House, the Senate, the State Department, and her multiple campaigns -- you can pick any day of the past 25 years at random and have a pretty good chance of figuring out exactly where Clinton was and what she was doing.

We have lists of her campaign's donors and her foundation's donors. We have tens of thousands of emails from her time at the State Department -- emails that have received more journalistic scrutiny than those of any Cabinet secretary in history. Thanks to Russian hackers trying to disrupt the US election, we have thousands of her campaign chair's emails, giving us unprecedented insight into the inner workings of her political operation. We have reams of investigative reports, congressional testimony, and documentary evidence from the inquiries into Whitewater, Benghazi, and Travelgate.

The contrast with Trump is quite stark:

The bulk of our national knowledge of Trump has come not from his disclosures but from his management of his own image -- from the items he leaked to gossip reporters, the television shows he appeared on, the interviews he gave. Digging beyond that image is difficult because Trump has forced his former associates, and even his former romantic partners, to sign nondisclosure agreements.

Klein summarizes the situation this way:

We are in the odd place of knowing more about Clinton than we can process but somehow feeling like we know nothing at all. We simultaneously have vast gaps in our knowledge of Trump even as we wonder why he can't hold anything back. It's a strange election.

Kevin Drum calls her an open book, whereas "Trump's reputation, by contrast, is ridiculous:"

He hides everything and lies about what he can't. And since he runs a private company and has never served in government, he can get away with it. He's not subject to FOIA requests or WikiLeaks dumps or random judges deciding that all his emails should be made public.

This isn't going to change, and at this point it no longer matters whether it's fair. It just is. But it's what produces such bizarre levels of CDS [Clinton Derangement Syndrome, in case you've forgotten.] among conservatives. They've forced so much openness on Clinton in an effort to destroy her, and it drives them crazy that it's done nothing except paint a portrait of a pretty normal politician. Over 25 years, they've managed to uncover only three "scandals" that are even marginally troubling, and every dry well does nothing but convince them that Clinton is even more devious than they thought. By this time, we've tracked practically every hour of every day of Clinton's life for the past decade, and there's almost literally no unexamined time left. But it doesn't matter. The next one will get her for sure!

"On the honesty front," he concludes, "she is Mother Teresa compared to Donald Trump." Due to Mother Teresa's numerous failings, I would have chosen a different example--but Drum's point still stands.

In the course of explaining why market-based healthcare reform can't succeed, Smirking Chimp examines the proposition that "No 'free market' solution to providing health care can work without price controls:" He notes that "In other countries, 'market-based' solutions work because of decidedly non market-based practices, like government-mandated price-setting:"

Any solution that places pricing power in the hands of monopolies and near-monopolies will always fail to deliver an affordable product, whether that market is cable TV or health insurance. Monopolies inevitably lead to high prices.

He quotes from this Jacobin article by Benjamin Day (executive director of single-payer advocacy group Healthcare-NOW), which points out that Aetna, one of the largest insurers, "is pulling out of state health exchanges in 2017. The company's action marks the failure of every market-based reform included in the Affordable Care Act (ACA):"

The last gasp of the ACA's market-based reforms reveals an uncomfortable truth about our health-care system: we cannot afford to expand or even maintain our current access to care without cost controls, and health-care costs cannot be controlled with competition or markets.

The only cost control that works without undermining access to care is also the kind that Republican and Democratic leadership have foresworn this election: public budgeting and rate-setting through a single-payer system, or regulations that force nonprofit insurers to act like a single-payer.

Salon's Chauncey DeVega wrote a piece on peak propaganda which points out that Fox's viewers:

...are much more critical of Obama; are afraid of Hillary Clinton; and have a much more negative attitude about the future of the United States than the general public. Fox News viewers are also much more likely to believe that the presidential election will somehow be manipulated or subjected to fraud and that the American news media is conspiring against Donald Trump. [...]

In all, Fox News is extremely dangerous to the public discourse and consensus politics in America because it creates a feedback loop among conservatives, one that is almost impossible to break.

"This has a deleterious impact," he continues, "on the ability of Republicans to legislate and govern in a responsible manner:"

CNN and other outlets in the American corporate news media are complicit in perpetuating this alternate reality -- they are reluctant to speaking plainly about Fox News and its role in disseminating Right-wing lies and disinformation because they have been bullied into submission by the myth of the so-called "liberal media."

The sum effect of this is that CNN and other major American news outlets elevate Right-wing talking points and falsehoods to the level of factual "news." This legitimizes them as now being worthy of inclusion as an "alternative point of view" that should be spoken to in serious discussions of politics. CNN and the so-called liberal media then circulate Right-wing propaganda to a broader public outside of the Fox News echo chamber.

"It is clear that Donald Trump is good for ratings," he writes with resignation, "in the fantastical world created by Fox News and the Right-wing media:"

This is also true at CNN and for too many other outlets in the news media as well. Unfortunately, the Fourth Estate should be functioning as a watchdog for American democracy but is instead more beholden to money and profit than it is to civic virtue and truth-telling.

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