Monday, July 31, 2017

President Donald Drama Queen Roasted As "Weepy", "Unmanly" In WSJ Piece

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Above- Weepy Trump on Mt. Rushmore, accompanied Peggy Noonan's article 'Trump Is Woody Allen Without The Humor'

Every one over 60 surely recalls Woody Allen's assorted comedy characters which often portrayed a "Nebbish" over involved in his emotions (couldn't stop yapping about them), his resentments and needs. Often, apart from being a wimp, he came over as being overly invested in his needy emotions and grievances thereby coming over as basically passive, weepy and unmanly.  Interestingly, this is exactly the template WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan now asserts applies to Donald Trump.

I say "interestingly" because most of Trump's erratic, cultish base sees him as the exact opposite: some kind of macho man, a wheeler dealer of sorts, who "grabs pussies" and doesn't take any shit from "elites". But his outburst Saturday of 13 tweets attacking the GOP Senators ("they look like fools")  and others merely reinforces Noonan's point that we have an out of control 'drama queen' in the White House, not a manly man.

Don't take my word. Here are Ms. Noonan's own words from her column 'Trump Is Woody Allen Without The Humor' (July 29-30, p. A13):

"The president's primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naïve.  It's not that he is inexperienced, crude and an outsider.  It's that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms of American masculinity".

She goes on to clarify what she means (ibid.):

"He's not strong and self-controlled, not low key and determined: he's whiny, weepy and self-pitying . He throws himself sobbing on the body politic. He's a drama queen."

Ouch! Talk about speaking truth to power. For once, Ms. Noonan nails it. Trump isn't a picture or image of strength in office but of weepy, whiny petulance and grievance. He can't control his emotions even for a day but has to vent himself on twitter in "tweet storms" anytime something doesn't go his way.  And so this effeminate fool, like Woody Allen's forlorn characters, now believes Gen. Kelly will bring order to the White House? Hardly! Because that order must start at the top.

If the leader himself doesn't demonstrate the virtues of self-discipline, self-restraint and personal order, nothing Kelly tries to do will make a dime's worth of difference. In other words, if Kelly is to succeed at all the first thing he must do is get control of Trump's twitter account.  Cory Lewindowsky's claim that Kelly "must let Trump be Trump" - in other words, tweet, piss and moan to his heart's content, is simply a recipe for more disaster, more chaos.

But over and above the chaos factor was Noonan's assault on Trump's masculinity - which represents a new perspective we've not seen hitherto. Indeed, the WSJ columnist even invoked the senior Bush noting "he reminded everyone of their first husband".  But as for Trump?  "Trump must remind people of their first wife".

And the real spiker:

"Actually his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with  her stoicism and grace, her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting herself with dignity."

The Donald? Not so much.

What about Trump's trademark tweets, such as he unleashed on Saturday? Noonan again:

"Half the president's tweets show utter weakness. They are primitive, shrill little cries - usually just after dawn, e.g.

'It's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their president'

The brutes! Actually, they've been laboring to be loyal to him since inauguration day.

It's all whimpering accusation and finger pointing: Nobody's nice to me! Why don't they appreciate me?

In the case of his "brutalizing" of Sessions, his attorney general, Noonan strikes the real chord of the total lack of loyalty on the part of Trump, the unwillingness to stand by your people come thick or thin, and noting"

"A strong man does that. A weak one would unleash his resentments and derive sadistic pleasure from their unleashing"

The subtext, again, is that Trump's followers are mesmerized by exactly the wrong image of masculinity.  She expatiates on this"

"The way American men used to like seeing themselves ...was the strong, silent type celebrated in classic mid-20th century films - Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda.  In time, the style shifted and we wound up with the nervous and chattery."

Then citing as the epitome of that - Woody Allen - who "couldn't stop talking about his emotions". But as Noonan observes he had an excuse, he was a comic. "He wasn't putting it out there as a new template for maleness"

The only time Peggy stumbled in her piece was when she brought up Trump's speech to the Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, last week. Somehow  at this point her perceptions became twisted as she wrote: "Luckily, Trump addressed the Boy Scout Jamboree where he represented to them masculinity and the moral life".

Hardly! After first disavowing a political speech to an audience of adolescent boys - there to celebrate their organization - he promptly - and emotionally  - waded into an inappropriate political harangue that had absolutely no place at that venue. It was so out of context and the norm that the head of the Boy Scouts of America had to apologize for it.  In this regard, Trump's Boy Scout address was as disordered, uncontrolled and yes, unmanly, as the tweets he unleashed Saturday. Especially as he invoked the Scout Law of loyalty ("we could use some more loyalty, I'll tell you that") but is unable to recognize his own lack of loyalty to those around him.

To her credit Noonan soon got back on track noting Trump's blustery claim at a rally in Youngstown, Ohio, e.g. "it's so easy to act presidential but that's not gonna get it done" eliciting Noonan's response:

"That is the opposite of the truth. The truth six months in, is that he is not presidential and is not getting it done. His mad, blubbery petulance isn't working for him but against him. If he were presidential he'd be getting it done - building momentum, getting support. He'd be over 50 % not under 40 %."

And what about the "Mooch" brought it as the new communications chief? Well, let us say it takes one drama queen to recognize another, As Noonan puts it:

"He (Scaramucci) came across as just another drama queen for this warring, riven incontinent White House. As Scaramucci spoke,  the historian Joshua Zeitz observed: 'It's a team of rivals but for morons"

And the biggest moron may be Trump himself, who - in one Saturday tweet - failed to reveal basic knowledge of how the Senate works. He renewed his demand the Senate abolish the 60-vote rule for passage of most bills (in the wake of the ACA repeal failure) failing to process the filibuster had nada to do with the Reeps' failure. They had actually used budget reconciliation needing only 51 votes. This is the ignorant doofus the GOP is hostage to.

Will Trump's supporters eventually wake up to the fact they are backing an unmanly, hyper- emotional drama queen as opposed to a real man? Maybe, but I wouldn't make any bet on it in Vegas - or anywhere else.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Skewering Another Right Wing Conspiracy Ideation: "The Dems DID It!"

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Kimberly Strassel: Is helping to pump the idiotic "theory" that the Dems, Hillary, Loretta Lynch and others ginned up the Steele dossier to "dig up dirt on Trump" and upend his nutso (p)residency. Now we know she - like her Reich cohort - are playing with 52 cards short of a full deck.

As the screws tighten on the Trump-Russia associations and the Mueller probe into undermining of the 2016 election by the same Russkies, it was expected the Right would at some point go batshit nuts and try to contest the facts.   That time appears to be now, as across the Reich fake news spectrum (Breitbart, FOX, Drudge Report etc.) they are peddling the nonsense conspiracy that Dems and the Left are the REAL culprits in a "Russiagate"  scenario - to take down Trump!

Writing in yesterday's WSJ, we read this codswallop from Kimberly Strassel (p. A13, 'Who Paid for the Trump Dossier?'):

"Here's a thought: What if it was the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton's campaign (who did not sign letters asserting the hiring of Fusion GPS)?  What if that money flowed from some  political entity on the left, to a private law firm, to Fusion, to a British spook, and then to Russian sources?....What if they specifically made up claims to dupe Mr. Steele, to trick him into writing his dossier?"

Nice try, but you rival Alex Jones (with his Sandy Hook false flag bunkum) and Michael Flynn's  pizzagate conspiracy - with this abysmal dreck. Basically, lazily grabbing at any possible "event" and coincidence to attempt to parlay some combination into a conspiracy.

For example, 90 percent of this bull pockey got started when some right wing nitwit  (Michael Weiss) found a video or image of Russkie lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, e.g.

Sitting at a hearing (from June 14, 2014) behind then Ambassador Michael McFaul. Weiss - who we can designate as "Dolt Zero", yapped in a "Eureka!"- style tweet:

"Hey, look what I found. Veselnitskaya sitting behind @McFaul at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russia, June 14, 2014"

As if it was some huge discovery of a nefarious link, as opposed to simple seating coincidence. But this is the nature of egregious conspiracy ideation (can't really dignify it with 'theory'): it grabs isolated events and imagery and tries to stitch these disparate spots into a coherent whole - using all manner of irrational backflips, non sequiturs and hasty conclusions to arrive at some half-cocked rubbish. We've seen it before with Mike Flynn's 'Pizzagate' refuse.

Sure enough, as with all mind virus infections, Weiss' garbage was then picked up by Gateway Pundit - which we shall designate "Dolt Zero + 1".    These morons handle a website often known for inaccurate information.   Once again, following the playbook of conspiracy ideationists - notorious for jumping to conclusions with zero substantiation - the image was presented as evidence of a connection between Veselnitskaya and the Obama administration. (Based on the fictitious claim Veselnitskaya was "sitting with" McFaul, despite the fact she was doing no such thing. She was seated BEHIND him. BEHIND him is NOT seated with him.  If I attend a concert with wifey and our rabid right wing congress critter Doug Lamborn is seated behind us, that doesn't mean we are "seated with" him!  Doh!)

The spread of the mind virus then leapt again to "Dolt ZERO + 2" in the guise of the guttersnipes known as the "Sludge ....errrr..... Drudge Report".  WikiLeaks - which is now a pathetic shadow of what it once was when it released the Bradley Manning files (in 2011) then became the next victim (or accomplice) on Wednesday , further spreading this nonsense, re-tweeting the image with this:

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at hearing on Russia left of Obama's @McFaul eight days after @donaldjtrumpjr 

 This fantasy conspiracy then jumped the shark - infecting  the usual stable of half-assed, right wing media personalities (e.g. Hannity, Limburger etc.) who then regurgitated this offal.

They suggested that Veselnitskaya was "hanging out" with Obama administration officials just days after the meeting with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort.   And VOILA! We have the perfect false equivalence: "How can you media types howl about the Trump Jr., Manafort, Kusher meeting with the Russians when Dems were doing it too!"

Of course this is total horse shit. The proximate seating position of a Russkie lawyer to an Obama official (McFaul) can only be contorted into being "seated with" by a brain devoid of critical thinking and prone to making mountains out of ant hills. But let's not be too surprised as this is the noxious frequent tactic used by the pro-Trump media to try to discredit reporting from credible news outlets  It's a tactic we've come to expect from the Trump media mobocracy when faced with political peril. So they try to upend the latest political firestorm facing the Trump administration.  (Never mind much of the firestorm is created by Trump and his own hirelings, e.g. "Mooch")

Let's not forget there's another piece of this conspiracy "theory" which evidently originated with Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump's outside legal counsel. He said the Russian attorney was linked to Fusion GPS, a DC-based opposition research firm known for commissioning the Steele dossier. This is also clearly what has Kimberly Strassel's dander up. Veselnitskaya was representing Prevezon — a Cyprus company owned by a Russian national that is accused in the US of laundering money — at the same time Fusion GPS was doing work for a law firm that did work for Prevezon, according to the Washington Post.   Again, all this really shows is that Fusion was an "equal opportunity" business - happy to work with anyone who'd pay real money.  It doesn't prove that there is some nefarious connection or conspiracy, i.e. to slime Trump. (Hell, he doesn't need any help on that score!)

Corallo insisted  Fusion “was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the president.” But what he and his cohort ignore is the fact that Fusion GPS was initially hired in October 2015 by unnamed Republican clients in order to develop opposition research on Trump to be used during the GOP primary.  These Republicans were part of the old (e.g. pro-Jeb Bush) order who respected norms and traditions. They detested the fact that a two bit Queens real estate weasel and lowlife like Trump could possibly become President. So they wanted "oppo" research on him. That is the hard fact.  Once Trump won the nomination, the research was continued by Democrats. That proves nothing more than Fusion GPS is a firm that is happy to be employed by either side.  If you want, call them a bipartisan oppo research outfit. But don't call them conspirators.

None of this proves a conspiracy or even near conspiracy other than in the deranged brains of the out of  control Rightist nuts.  Hence, Strassel's claim of Fusion as "the oppo research outfit behind the infamous and discredited Trump dossier ginned up by a former British spook" is false. In fact, all the evidence suggests that the dossier was completed by Steele ca. 2015 or while Fusion was still cooperating with the Republicans on the oppo.  Also, all these conspiracy nabobs on the right appear to forget that before going underground, the material gathered in memos was considered so explosive that Steele turned it over to contacts he had in the FBI last summer. This was without informing the opposition research group for which he'd initially begun his project.  If  Christopher Steele was indeed working with the Dems or Reeps why would he not inform them?

Christopher Steele, as I've written before, is no clown or stooge or even a "spook" likely to be fooled as Kimberly Strassel claims.  According to one Financial Times account (Feb. 16) , Steele was the "UK intelligence expert on Russia".  It is, therefore, highly unlikely he'd be 'fooled" by any kind of false intel or disinformation as Strsassel seems to believe.  James Nixey, the head of Chatham House's Russia and Eurasia program, informed the AP that sections of the dossier document created by Steele "read exactly as reports from the secret services".

Let's also reference the other case being made about Veselnitskaya having ties to Democrats which has the Right's  pseudo conspiracy mavens questioning why she got a visa to be in the country on June 9, 2016, i.e.  for the meeting with the Trump campaign.  The true fact is Veselnitskaya was initially refused entry to the United States when she applied for a visa for herself and her children for the end of 2015. According to court files, she said she was granted a temporary “parole letter” allowing her into the country to assist her client Katsyv, who was facing a trial in the U.S. linked to his alleged part in the $230 million fraud uncovered by Magnitsky.  She applied in the Southern District of New York for that temporary access to be extended beyond Jan. 6, 2016, when it was due to expire. Court transcripts show that prosecutors were reluctant to give Veselnitskaya a blank check to remain in the U.S. while the case stalled. Then subsequently, a NY judge ordered an extension, with the expectation that trial would start soon.

Again, nothing mysterious, nothing nefarious - other than in the febrile brains of the Right's idiot conspiracy allies of Alex Jones.  Again,  none of this matters a whit because ultimately Donald Jr. was happy to have a meeting with someone who told him they represented the Russian government and had dirt to share about Hillary Clinton.

Was this a "nothing burger' because nothing came of it? Maybe, but that's irrelevant.  The point is legally the intent was there to dig up dirt using a high profile Russian lawyer, irrespective of it not succeeding. Just because a wife hires a hitman to whack her hubby and he doesn't succeed doesn't let her off the hook. 

While the Right media has tried desperately to shift the Russia spotlight to the DNC, Hillary and Loretta Lynch - the incontestable fact is that it has always been Trump in up to his eyeballs with the Russkies - including to save his no good, bankruptcy- filing ass.  As noted in The New Republic (Aug./Sept. p. 29):

"A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, or even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money .....Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics....It's entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters."

Of course, this very background helps explain why Trump is hyper paranoid now about Bob Mueller digging into his money trail, including leading right through his family finances. This is why, indeed, he's already telegraphed his guilt - first in firing James Comey, then in his recent obsession with Bob Mueller's probe - even warning Mueller not to veer into his "family finances" which would be taken as "crossing a red line".  Why? What's so all-fired important about them? What has Trump got to hide? Why has Trump released no recent tax returns?   All of this bespeaks a guy loaded with guilt and committed to obstruction of justice.

Thus, Strassel's blabber that:

"If Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Democrats and the media really want answers about Russian meddling, this (dossier)  is a far deeper well than the scant case against Trump"

Is pure horse hockey.  Those more in the know than Strassel -  concerning the integrity of sources and what the intel really shows -  acknowledge that what Steele compiled is very likely true, at least in part.  In addition to which the whole shtick fits the modus operandi ("Kompromat") of videoing any one who comes to Moscow and stays at a hotel- perhaps to engage in illicit sexual activities with Russkie "honey pots".  Kimberly may revolt at the thought of Russian whores jubilantly pissing all over her master, but there it is. Trump (and his loopy defenders) then may have more to worry about than where Bob Mueller is going. They better worry that if Trump signs the recently passed "sanctions" legislation Putin will go ahead and release the piss video.

The most laughable aspect of this whole farce? The Reich wingers trying to claim that Veselnitskaya was brought on by Democrats because there's no proof that she wasn't.  Wow. Great argumentum ad ignorantium.

Methinks we need to send all of these conspiracy hustlers and hucksters  back to  courses in logic 101 along with critical thinking 100. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Why Trumpist Populism Will Bring His Government Crashing Down

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Trump erupts in yet another mental meltdown....about a bug that maybe climbed onto his suitcoat.

 No sentient citizen could avoid the meltdown spectacle visible in the Trump White House yesterday, with his communications director (Anthony Scaramucci) in an off-hand 'interview'  with a New Yorker reporter even challenging Steve Bannon to perform a near biologically impossible act of self-fellatio.  But this was merely the most visible sign of an Executive in utter disarray and a state of civil war.  ("A White House at war with itself" to use Margaret Brennan's apt description on CBS this a.m.) Make no mistake, also, it will get worse, because we have a band of incompetents and derelict ignoramuses sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

As I will show in this post, much of the malignant political cancer that's metastasized the past six months can be attributed to a perverse brand of populism Trump still resorts to - as when he unleashed unseemly political rhetoric at a Boy Scouts' Jamboree some days ago. But first things first.

It was amusing yesterday to read the insufferable Dan Henninger (WSJ, 'The Post Obama Democrats,  p. A13) gloating about Trump's aberrant 2016 win, e.g. "many political sophisticates wondered how Trump would get 620 votes far less 62 million after the McCain slander and the access Hollywood tape'".  And also rubbing rotten eggs in the Democrats' faces over it, "How in God's name did we lose an election to him?"

Now, in retrospect we know the answer, especially to the last. It has to do with the toxic populism that Trump interjected into his campaign - often with the assistance of Russian-created and circulated fake news on social media. But the real explanation can be found in a section of Julian Baggini's book 'The Edge of Reason'  dealing with populism.   The section of note occurs under 'threats to pluralsim' in Baggini's chapter entitled 'Political Reason'.  It ought to be mandatory reading for every thinking American. While not specifically addressing Trump it does peg his rise and acceptance by 62 million idiots perfectly, nailing the brainless foundation of runaway, uncritical populism.

He writes, in terms of introducing the threat (p. 219):

"In social science, populism is almost always understood as entailing a malign kind of simplification in which the virtuous and the wicked are neatly divided between 'us' and 'them'."

We observed this directly in the spectacle of Trump's campaign rallies, in particular when assorted protesters and the media were called out as the "them" and those gathered in their red Trump baseball caps were the "us".  As time went on the memes unleashed also led many racists, KKK'ers, Aryan Nation followers and others to believe they were also part of this malignant  "us".  So, no surprise we beheld images like that below accompanying Trump's campaign appearances and eventual ascension:
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Baggini goes on:

"The editors of a recent academic book on populism define it as pitting a virtuous and homogenous people against a set of elites and dangerous 'others' who were depicted as depriving the sovereign people of their rights, values, prosperity, identity, and voice. Hence this populism invites us to assume that populism inevitably results in simplistic fallacies."

Again, we beheld this during Trump's campaign and soon after he was sworn in, January 20th. We heard over and over that the press and media were  "the enemies of the people" and the judiciary that issued stays against his Muslim ban were effective traitors and "so-called judges". Then there were the "dangerous others"  Trump targeted repeatedly and multiple  referenced inflammatory statements made by Trump throughout the presidential race corroborate how he singled out Muslims and the Islamic faith as a broad national security threat. He didn't stop there but went after immigrants as well.

Further from Julian Baggini (ibid.):

"Populist discourse undermines all the key underpinnings of political pluralism. Populists would agree that 'we should believe what is most rational to believe'.  But they do not appreciate the difference between this and 'We should believe what it seems to us is most rational to believe'.

The reason for this is that populism rejects the idea that what appears as plain truth to the ordinary person in the street can be anything other than what it is. What seems true is true, and only obfuscating, dissembling elites could pretend otherwise."

And therein we have the basis for fake news and fake reality. Thus, Michael Flynn's ludicrous "pizzagate" conspiracy theory about Hillary running a child sex slave ring out of a D.C. pizzeria SEEMED to be true to the brain dead Trumpies, and so it was.  In like manner, Trump's insane claim that he really won the popular vote (if all those 3-5 m illegals hadn't voted) SEEMED true, so it was. Similarly, Trump's unhinged claim that Obama wiretapped him SEEMED true to the Trumpie populist zombies so probably was. And meanwhile, only 45% of Trump voters believed Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with Russians about information that might be harmful to Hillary Clinton...even though Trump Jr. admitted it and we have the emails to prove it.

Baggini again:

"In a similar way, populism distorts the idea that rationality ought to lead to convergence of belief.  When combined with the fact that some do not agree about what is rational, they take that not as evidence that certainty is possible, but that the dissenters are not rational. When it is believed that what is  most rational is self evident, there is no cause for self doubt when others take a different view."

And further (p. 220):

"The logic of populism is therefore toxic to political pluralism, because it denies the possibility of meaningful disagreement about issues of major political significance. Populism is diametrically opposed to pluralism. It promotes a single set of values instead of plurality, offers simple solutions instead of complex compromises..."

Again, this is what we've seen issue from Trump's toxic populism: Build a giant wall and it will solve our immigration problems, at least from Mexico. Cancel NAFTA and other trade deals and that will bring American jobs back. Blabber about "king coal" and that will bring coal miners' jobs back despite coal is a falling fraction of the energy market.

One of Baggini's  most trenchant observations is that toxic populism is at root a "shift from real politics" - which entails complicated aspects of policy negotiations and compromises - to "political consumerism".  He defines the latter as "giving people what they want without the mediation of experts".

By "experts" he means political experts, or those who respect governmental norms, traditions and history.  These turned out to be exactly the lot that Trump railed against in his campaign and vowed to overturn, the so-called "elites".   And so he commenced a Vulgarian's campaign to destroy all recognized norms and sow chaos - even in his own White House. Hence the frequently heard comment that he loves it when his staff are at each other's throats. As is the case now with Scaramucci unloading on Reince Priebus yelping: 'Reince is a F****** paranoid schizophrenic" and also calling out Bannon, e.g. "I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock."

Is this any way to run a White House? According to Trump's "bible" -  based on endless conflict and "winning" -  it is. (Trump also taught his kids from the time they were pouchlings to win at any cost.) Trouble is it doesn't get you very far in actual governance and actually sows the seeds of your administration's destruction.

The problem is that this deliberate sowing of internecine warfare and chaos prevents democratic governance. Ditto with spectacles like Trump befouling a Boy Scout Jamboree with his own twisted political rhetoric (for which the Boy Scouts of America has had to apologize) and now going after his own AG Sessions via daily public shaming.  Even eliciting the following  words from  WSJ conservative columnist Karl Rove (p. A13), that it shows:

"just how vindictive, shortsighted and impulsive Mr. Trump can be."

And also how blatantly stupid, because Trump doesn't even need to fire Sessions to rid himself of Bob Mueller, he can get Rod Rosenstein to do it.  The real reason Trump is going after Sessions is personal pique, an unabated anger at his recusing himself from the Russiagate probe. This is every bit the attribute of a toxic populist - a guy with not only mental issues but manhood ones as well. I mean, as with Comey, he is too cowardly to even face Jeff Beauregard mano a mano to tell him why he's pissed.

Charles Blow, in yesterday's NY Times also had this to add about Trump:

"this man’s vindictiveness and mendacity are undergirded by the unequaled power of the American president, and as such he has graduated on the scale of power from toddler to budding tyrant. This threat Trump poses — to our morals, ethics, norms and collective sense of propriety — may be without equal from a domestic source"

Which brings us to the very real threat toxic populism poses to a pluralistic democracy, especially when that populism is being driven by a psychotic  populist halfwit with Trump's hair trigger temper and astounding sense of grievance.  Because of this he's driven to direct his rage at assorted ephemeral  targets, sowing utter chaos and confusion and in effect ushering in an era of "anti-politics" - insofar as political sense, judgments and norms ate undermined.  In this guise, because he finally represents neither the electorate nor his party, he becomes a threat to the Republic at large.

At root, as numerous commentators  (e.g. David Frum, Rick Wilson, Max Boot, Charles Blow et al) have already pointed out, the roots of destruction inhere in how this administration ('guided' by Trump's brand of populism) have exploded all historically respected norms. Even LBJ, who had a hand in cooperating with the Kennedy assassination, knew he had to keep his colorful language largely off the public radar once he became president. Hence, he let loose in private not to a news magazine reporter. - as Charlie Pierce noted last night on MSNBC's 'All In'.

Sidney Blumenthal, writing in The Denver Post ('What would Lincoln think of Trump?, July 23, p. 1D) notes Lincoln believed there was an even greater danger to this Republic than rampaging mobs, warning against "the emergence of a man driven to power by a fierce desire for celebrity and fame who 'thirsts and burns for distinction'. A demagogue who 'scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious'  and 'believing nothing is left in the way of building up would set boldly to the task of tearing down."

Thus an individual who "tears down institutions and excites the mobocratic spirit, subverting the right to free expression and with it, our national freedom."

This is Trump in a nutshell and hence the fruit of his populism: destruction.

The dark aspect of Trumpist populism - which will ultimately cause his administration to crash and burn- is that the only time he enjoys being president is when he's shattering some norm or governance or of American life, or watching others exact cruelty on one another.   In this respect, he's "like the Roman coliseum emperor who just wants to see the lions eat the Christians" in the words of MSNBC's Joy Reid.  But this is not governance, it's practiced atrocity guided by a nihilistic mindset.

Baggini again:

"The populist mode of politics is in essence, an anti-politics. This insidiously undermines the very foundations of a democratic, pluralist state, replacing  any sense of the need for reasoned dialogue, compromise and accommodation with a simplistic idea that the government's role is to reflect the clear, unified will of the people."

Thus, the singling out of Muslims, immigrants, transgender people and others for opprobrium - in terms of walls, travel bans or ostracism for military service - is taken to reflect the "unified will of the people". However, as we know, it is not all the people but the insane, unhinged, unread and fake news oriented Trump populist base.  Barely 40 percent of the actual electorate.

And the most clarifying observation yet in terms of the current Trump clusterfuck:

"The major problem with this is that if you are elected on the basis that all major ills originate from outside 'the people' (e.g. your people), there is simply no way you can govern.  At best you have a short term disaster and a return to traditional parties to clean up the mess. At worst, you create an ongoing situation in which governance becomes impossible."

It is this last to which we are fast approaching under Trumpist populism and the unstable, lawless, mindless Trump.

Watch for this populist circus to fall apart very soon. After it does, let's hope the American citizen and voter manages to rise above political consumerism the next time around - as opposed to being suckered by another classless, big -mouthed weasel and charlatan. Or in Sidney Blumenthal's words: "it will require the people to be united with each other -  intelligent and attached to the government and laws - to successfully frustrate his designs."

See also:


"While the press was writing about about The Mooch’s theatrics, less attention was being paid to the ongoing Goldmanization of Trump’s administration – a trend that poses a serious risk to the American people, and potentially to the global economy."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

GOP "Skinny Repeal": A 'Trojan Horse' To Screw 16 Million Out Of Their HealthCare

"Yeah, we gonna sneak this skinny plan through when folks least suspect it!"

As Mitch McConnell's  ACA Repeal "Vote A- Rama" continues, assorted lone voices in the wilderness have tried to warn sane citizens not to mark victory too early. They point to McConnell and the GOOPs pushing a series of "mini-bill" votes through until a conference with the House can get the final job done - likely by 51 votes to 50 (Pence casting the tie breaker then relatively fast reconciliation with an earlier House bill). An end game that will emerge as a classic Trojan Horse move, as even the GOOPs now admit (see link at bottom).

Yes. it is true that yesterday a vote to "repeal and delay"  failed by 55-45 with 7 Republicans joining with Dems to reject the bill. This is the same ill-advised plan that had been favored by small-government conservatives, such as Rand Paul from Kentucky, who have been clamoring to repeal the law for years. The CBO estimated that 32 million people would lose health insurance over the next decade under this plan compared to current law.

So no wonder seven Republicans found their sanity long enough to reject it. But the $64 question is whether they can continue to do so as McConnell pushes the iterations toward "skinny repeal".

To set the legislative scene again: one  day after the Senate narrowly voted to open debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) despite not knowing where it would lead, the so-called “skinny repeal” seemed the most probable of a number of options for the repeal or replacement of the ACA to succeed.

How or why is the skinny repeal a Trojan horse?

The “skinny repeal” would eliminate the individual mandate, the least popular provision of the ACA that requires all Americans to have health insurance or face a fine. It would also remove the employer mandate, requiring certain businesses to provide health insurance to employees, as well as a tax on medical device manufacturers. But, importantly, it would not touch the Medicaid program for the poor.  The danger here ought to be automatically evident to everyone as we note these aspects:

i) This cowardly mutant would barely meet the definition for "repealing Obamacare" and hence is most likely to get most small -c conservatives on board to vote for it.

ii) The Republican moderates - like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkoswki - would probably come on board because Medicaid would be left alone.

This means the "skinny repeal" has a damned good chance of being pushed through at the last minute.

Let's pursue this further.   If this measure passes the Senate with a simple majority, it would likely then enter a conference committee with the House, where Republicans could reconcile the differences and produce a larger repeal-and-replace measure later.  They could immediately claim 'victory' and that they succeeded in what they set out to do: repeal Obamacare (at least minimally).

Let's further observe that the Democrats are largely unable to stop this bill from moving forward. Saddled with only 48 votes (two of them - Angus King of Maine, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, independents) the party has remained united in opposition to any measure that would repeal the law, but has enjoined Republicans to work with them on solutions that would stabilize the insurance markets and lower premiums.

But as Republicans continued to work their way through a planned 20 hours of debate and prepared to vote for a series of amendments in the so-called “vote-a-rama”, it is still  unclear whether anything would be passed by the deadline of the end of this week set by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.  But what I am saying is don't put anything past McConnell to pull out all the stops to get it done.

This is exactly why Democrats have urged  ACA activists to continue putting pressure on lawmakers as the Senate enters the final, frenetic push toward repeal. For months, voters and activists have inundated the telephone lines of Republican lawmakers and protested at their offices and even some of their homes.  Up to now it has worked, but the key issue now is whether it will be sustained into the most critical '4th quarter'.

At a Planned Parenthood protest on the Capitol lawn Wednesday evening, Democratic lawmakers laid out the stakes.   Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, told the crowd:

"Keep doing your thing!. Keep being you. Keep doing what you’ve been doing because it’s working and it matters and it counts.”

"Thirty-six hours,” she added, referring to the amount of time left before the repeal vote.

So let’s keep calling. Let’s keep tweeting. Let’s keep writing. Let’s keep marching. Let’s keep shouting and we will win."

And what happens if "we" don't win and McConnell sneaks this revolting bill through? Well the consequences will be too horrific to contemplate.

The insurance markets would be roiled beyond belief, namely for people in the ACA exchanges.  Basically, minus the mandates, health care hell breaks loose. First, faced with a 20- 25 % spike in premiums even from next year, many will simply bail out.  These will likely be people who want insurance but feel they can't afford the increases. Their only option if seriously ill will be to visit ERs - jacking up even more expanses on the system.

Then, with no mandate or penalties hanging over their heads, the younger, healthier people will simply opt out of insurance altogether.  They will believe they don't need it, so why pay hundreds a month especially when they have college loans to pay off. This, logically, will leave the remaining insurance pool (again in the exchanges) older and sicker.

Such a trend - and it is expected to become a trend - will clearly  freak out insurers.  Facing the loss of the relatively healthy - who ordinarily would have helped pay for sicker citizens - the insurers will simply do what they did before the ACA and jack up premiums for everyone in the "sick" pool.  The federal government would then spend more providing subsidies to people who buy health insurance on their own - but save money by not providing subsidies to those who bailed. In other words the proponents of the bill - like Ted Cruz - are betting on the healthier folks bailing to save money to provide subsidies for those who buy their own.

Other adverse consequences are also projected. For example, with far more people uninsured, hospitals would be on the hook to provide  more care that they don't get paid for. Again, this would be mostly via ER visits by those with no insurance.   This will definitely threaten many hospitals' ability to stay open.

All in all, the "skinny" repeal, if pushed through and passed via a conference gambit, would be just about the worst calamity to happen to this nation's health care.

See also:

Republicans admit it: 'Skinny repeal' is a Trojan horse to turn Trumpcare over to the House


Thanks to Sen. John McCain (recall he was insulted during the '16 campaign by Trump as not being a 'real' war hero) the skinny bill has been sunk into oblivion. Along with Senators Lisa Murkowski (who Trump tried to blackmail into voting for the bill) and Susan Collins, McCain provided the needed 3rd opposition vote to deny the Reeps the 'skinny' majority (of 51) to pass it.  You can read more here:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Latest Neutrino Project Hopes To Make Progress Beyond Current Experimental Limits

Most precise measurement of reactor Antineutrino spectrum reveals intriguing surprise
The lower panel shows the ratio of measured data at Daya Bay (China)  to the theoretical prediction. The spectrum overall shows a 6 percent deficit when compared with the data. But in the 5- 7 MeV range the bump in the spectrum shows up as an excess compared with model predictionsThe total flux of reactor neutrinos detected at Daya Bay has also fallen short of predictions.

Let's cut to the chase: DO neutrinos exist or not?   The inherent problem, based on the results of collective experiments, may be in the question itself.  That is, instead we ought to be asking: Does the neutrino exist as a stable, permanent subatomic particle or identity?  And the answer so far appears to be that it does not. 

To fix ideas, and for reference, two Nobel -winning scientists showed that neutrinos -  which are found in three “flavors,” -  can oscillate from one flavor to another. In other words, they can change identities like a spy on the run, and hence there is no such entity as "the neutrino" - i.e. which is relatively permanent in its properties (namely its flavor).

Logically then, it makes more sense to refer to  "flavor states" than such and such a neutrino. These states are: electron, muon and tau - which are in fact superpositions of mass eigenstates.

Let's review again the basis for these neutrino flavor states. If there are three such states: electron, muon and tau, then there must be three different corresponding neutrino masses which we can call: m1, m2 and m3. Further, the three "flavors" are really different superpositions of the 3 basic neutrino mass states.  Moreover, and to make it more complex, we know that quantum interference between mass states means a neutrino originating in one "flavor" can transmogrify to another over its transit.

Because of the oscillations and quantum interference we need to reckon in a "misalignment" between flavor and the basic neutrino masses. This is done by reference to three independent "mixing angles": Θ 12 , Θ 23  and Θ 13. To a good approximation, oscillation in any one regime is characterized by just one Θ ij and a corresponding mass difference, defined:

 D m ij2 = [m j2 - m i2]

As an example, the probability that a muon neutrino of energy E acquires a different flavor after traversing distance L is:

P = sin2 Θ 23  sin2 (l23)

where l23 is the energy -dependent oscillation length, given by:

4ħ E c /  (D m 322)

How well do we know the parameters? Atmospheric neutrino observations yield:

 Θ 23  ~ 45 degrees, while D m 322 = 0.0024 eV2.

Meanwhile, solar neutrino data yield roughly 33 degrees for Θ12 and  D m 212 = 0.00008 eV2. (Note: ħ is the Planck constant of action divided by 2 π)  If then:

D m 312  =  [D m 212    +  D m 322 ] = 0.00008 eV2 + 0.0024 eV2

We know, D m 312  =  0.00248

which is close to D m 322

The experiments reported in Physics Today (May, p. 16) were initiated to track the apparent "disappearance" of electron antineutrinos from nuclear power plants proximate to the Daya Bay reactor.  But the measurements have shown a puzzling divergence between those applicable to  models for antineutrino production in reactors. This has led to the unsavory acceptance of one of two conclusions: 1) the emergence of a new physics superseding the "Standard Model" of particle physics, or 2) there exist major deficiencies in our understanding of nuclear reactor physics.

Hence, the need for more detailed neutrino experiments.  These are now about to commence with the construction of a combined $1 billion experiment funded by the U.S. Dept. of Energy,  CERN and institutions from 30 countries.

One component of the experiment is based at the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) at Fermilab, a DOE national laboratory in Batavia, IL. It will fire an intense beam of neutrinos at near light speed (c = 300,000 km/sec) through the Earth's mantle toward detectors at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, SD. The total time for the trip is estimated at 0.004 s or 4 milliseconds.

Construction began last Friday on the specialized neutrino detectors at the Sanford lab site. These will each be about a mile deep and filled with 70,000 tons of liquid argon.  The construction of the Fermilab, beamline, meanwhile, is scheduled to begin in 2021. Its first neutrino beam will fire in about ten years.

The project, make no mistake, is immense and dwarfs the Daya Bay experiments. More than one thousand physicists from around the world will observe and record the changes the neutrinos undergo  in their 4 millisecond journey from Illinois to South Dakota.  They will be expected to analyze the interactions  that then result when the neutrinos strike the extremely cold liquid and ascertain the extent to which 'flavor states' change in transit.

At the end of the experiments might we expect all neutrino results (e.g. from nuclear reactors, solar flux,  atmospheric) can finally be reconciled?   We can't say for certain yet, but at the least neutrino physicists hope that the divergences between the theoretical model predictions and actual data will be significantly reduced. Certainly below the 6 percent threshold noted at Daya Bay.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Yeah, Kids Are Entitled To Be Heard - Barely!

December, 1957, near Everglades National Park. We could no more decide where to go to on a family vacation than we could be given the checkbook to make out checks for whatever we wanted.

The WSJ Sunday Review article ('Children Should Be Heard But Only So Much', p. C3, by Jennifer Breheny Wallace) definitely merits attention by the "Generation Z" and similar parents who are convinced they were put on earth to satisfy their kids' every whim and be their perpetual pals. In the 50s such a thought would have been scorned from all quarters, and kids were "to be seen and not heard."

Meanwhile, Ms. Wallace cites examples of this modern breed of airhead parent:

- Allowing a 6-year old daughter to approve a NYC apartment, not completing the deal until she gave it her thumbs up

- Allowing their kids to pick restaurants to go to for family dinners

- Giving their kids final decision on where to spend the family vacation.

More astounding: In a recent National Retail Federation survey of 1,000 parents of Gen Z'ers "67 percent said they solicit their child's opinion before making family purchases and 59 percent said they will not buy an item unless the child approves"

My reaction? You've got to be jiving me.  If we attempted to impose a "kid" imperative concerning the destination for a holiday, or a luxury purchase, or home purchase, we'd have had our heinies handed to us by my dad. It simply wasn't on and the most substantive decisions we were allotted were reduced to: Which side of the huge backyard we wanted to weed first, or which serving on our dinner plates (calves' liver, lima beans or baked potato) we wanted to dive into first. That was it.

Ms. Wallace puts it: "When in doubt parents can ask themselves: What is my motivation behind letting my child make or influence the decision?"

To my dad, a WWII vet, there was no asking himself anything "motivational"  other than:  "Which side of his head do I put a dent in first?"  say if one of us insisted on getting an ice cream treat on the way home from the drive -in.

Some may be aghast at this "ancient" parental code, but not so fast. Dr. Richard Weissboard of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (quoted in the article) notes that when parents become too dependent on their children for closeness "it can undercut a part of the child's moral development".

It can, in fact, lead to a narcissistic or entitled kid. Also a dead kid. The classic case was 11-year old Mark Garrity Shea who mustered a test of will against his mom, Ms. Brucie Jacobs, in 2000, when the two took off for a jaunt in Botswana. Young Mark had always camped in a tent by himself in his home environs of suburban Maryland and insisted he wanted to do likewise in the Okavango bush of Botswana. After all, what young man at the age of eleven wants to sleep with mom? That's the epitome of babyness, and Mark wanted no part of it.

Mark Garrity Shea - eaten by hyenas when he insisted on having his own way in Botswana.

Had this middle class mom thought deeply about it, she'd have realized the pair were not anywhere near a Maryland camp site, but in the of the last real African wilderness areas left, and certainly not to be treated as a zoo. But she didn't and so allowed Mark to be in a tent sleeping by himself.

She only realized her mistake some time later, after midnight, when she heard her son's frantic screams as he was dragged away by a pack of hungry hyenas.

Some lessons are simply learned too late, and  hence are way too painful! Had the mom established the parameters of her will many years earlier - maybe as young as when Mark was two, this awful incident might never have transpired. Mark would have understood at his mom's initial 'No!' that this is what she meant and it was no use pressing or pushing her to change her mind and let him camp out alone.

But let's be clear, too many kids today are like Mark and firmly believe they rule the roost rather than their parents. And it is the parents' own fault for making them believe so.  According to studies disclosed in a 2012 WSJ piece ('A Field Guide to the Middle Class U.S. Family', p. D2, March13), this has now become the nature of the American middle class: perpetual wimps - giving in to anything their kiddies want, and worse, sometimes even acting as their slaves.

The study of interest was conducted by researchers at UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF), and geared to 'in vivo' or real life observation, rather than in labs. The studies, using video cameras to record family interactions in middle class America, Samoa and Peru's Amazon, showed how widely children are treated across cultures.

In Samoa, for example, children serve food to their elders and wait patiently until these elders have had their designated selections and started eating before they eat. They can't come to a table and just lunge or grab at food like many American kids. In Peru's Amazon girls no more than 5 years of age are required to climb trees to harvest papaya, and must also help (along with the boys) to haul logs thicker than their legs to stoke fires.

In other words, these kids aren't waited on, they aren't treated like "pals" and they are not permitted to exercise their own wills other than in limited domains.

The CELF U.S. videos showed parents doing most of the house work and not asking any kids to help out - even to clean their own room. In one video scene, an 8-year old named "Ben" is shown sprawling out on a couch demanding his dad to untie his shoe, then when he does - to put the shoe back on and tie it up again. The dad complied each time like a trained chimp, whereas the first time I'd have tried a stunt like that with my own dad, he'd have asked: "WHAT did you say?" as he reached for a belt.

Thankfully, even this wimpy LA dad eventually reached his limit of being pushed when the kid then demanded the dad bring him his coat from the closet and the dad responded, "Get it yourself!" Wow! Rough, tough and hard to diaper, there!

The CELF videos trained on middle class American families also revealed that in 75% of the families, mothers  "gyrate around the house" - bouncing between kids, their homework, groceries, dinner and laundry. Is it any wonder so many American married women are totally neurotic and more than 70% can't get a decent night's sleep without a pill? Cripes!

And what about the kids in all this? You know, the same ones who at age 5 in Peru would be harvesting papaya by climbing trees and who in Samoa would be cooking AND serving the food to their elders? According to Dr Elinor Ochs, the anthropologist in charge of the CELF study (ibid.):

"The kids are oblivious to their parents' perspectives"

In other words, American middle class parents appear to be raising a bumper crop of narcissists and egomaniacs. And the likely outcome from them when they will, at some point - have to acknowledge another's will (even if it's just a demanding, no-nonsense physics teacher)? Well, either prison for antisocial behavior, or more likely, a borderline personality disorder which will follow them through life with endless altercations, job firings, divorces ....whatnot.

Or maybe, god forbid, they mutate into more Trumps or Trump-like assholes. Just what the country needs: millions of entitled little shits out to get theirs and theirs alone and screw everyone else.

Richard Weissboard  makes the point "children need to be taught to make sacrifices and not to assume that others will organize their lives around them, which can lead to entitlement".

Or, it can lead to dashed expectations and severe depression when the professor or boss lets the entitled little twit know that  his or her self priorities won't work. The homework assignment, lab or paper will still be marked with an 'F' if not delivered on time, and the boss will fire your ass if you keep showing up late and making daft excuses that order your time over the company's.

But without their charges being instilled with the importance of constraints,  parents  can also hatch reckless, moral nitwits like Obdulia Sanchez. She thought it was cool to do instagram live streaming while driving her vehicle with no hands and singing a dumb song. Until she careened off the road, killing her younger sister in the back seat. This irresponsible, entitled fool now faces twenty or so years behind bars for her stunt.

Bottom line: Kids need to have limits on their choices imposed from early, because later on - not only will teachers or their bosses be likely to impose them - but the law as well.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Should Undergrads Be Exposed To Modern Physics?

A Loyola University undergrad, ca. 1966, studying for a test on special relativity. The class used a text by Hugh D. Young entitled 'Fundamentals of Mechanics and Heat' (which I reviewed at Amazon) and included at least one chapter (14) on special relativity. 

That is perhaps the most that the majority of bright undergrads would be able to cope with even today.

An ongoing controversy in physics education is just how much modern physics today's undergrads should be exposed to. By definition, 'modern physics'  includes all the physics established since 1900, including: quantum theory, special and general relativity and some high energy particle physics (nature of quarks, neutrinos etc.)

The typical plaintive cry, to judge from occasional letters (say to Physics Today)  amounts to some variation on:

"Why must we be stuck in the tedious, boring physics of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries? Why always Newton, Faraday and such instead of Bohr, Einstein and Schrodinger?  We want to be taught more of the modern physics less of the antiquated stuff!'

Thus, they are chagrined they're still being taught mostly Newtonian mechanics,  and 'old-style' Electricity and magnetism, thermal physics and only a little bit of special relativity.  What they don't say is that even that "little bit" of special relativity often poses problems.

So the question remains: can they really handle more? Most undergrads even at the top universities are simply not at the level they can grasp quantum mechanics or general relativity. Even Richard Feynman ('Feynman Lectures')  while conducting his famous first year course at Caltech, complained about the difficulty of getting quantum concepts over to many of the students.  Of course, there will always be the select few with plenty of mathematics and physics background for whom the content won't present huge problems. But make no mistake they're in the minority.

I still recall teaching a Calculus physics course for which the final chapter of the text assigned had significant quantum mechanics content, including:  the basic Schrodinger wave equation, quantum square well, atomic energy levels, eigenvalues, probability densities and how to compute expectation values. Attached below  is one problem which I worked out for the class:

But which only 1-2 of the class actually got. Most were stung by: a) not having the requisite mathematical ability (which makes one wonder how they managed to be allowed to move on from the earlier semesters) and b) not being able to conceptualize (despite numerous visual aids).

One of the visual aids which flummoxed them is shown below, including the first 3 wave functions for the H- atom(far left), the corresponding probability densities (middle) and the associated energy levels for an "infinite square well".

Basically, the possible energies of the particle, called energy levels, are quantized. The integer n used to designate them, is called the principal quantum number.

The state with lowest energy, n = 1, is called the ground state. The state with n = 2 is called the first excited state and so on.

There are n/2 de-Broglie waves capable of fitting into the well if the particle is in the nth quantum state.

At once the diagram captures the beauty and simplicity of quantum mechanics, in showing how energy is quantized in "jumps" as it is in the actual hydrogen atom.

In retrospect, the experience at Loyola with Hugh Young's presentation  of special relativity was perhaps at the limits of what a well prepared undergrad could understand.   For example, his derivation of the relativistic equation of energy (W) on pages 394, 395:

ò x2 x1  dp/dt  dx = ò t2 t1  (dp/dt)(dx/dt)  dt =

  ò t2 t1  v(dp/dt)   dt  =  ò v2 v1  v(dp/dv)  dv

W=   ò v2 v1   v  d/dv [mo v/ Ö (1 - v2/c2 ] dv

The preceding equation for W applies since for relativistic momentum:

p  =  mo v/ Ö (1 - v2/c2 )

I argue the above is "at the limit" because of the calculus -based approach with which most undergrads would not be comfortable, even those who've taken AP Calculus.  More to the point, if one veers into quantum theory and general relativity, it doesn't get any easier.

This leaves us asking the question of whether there is an alternative solution or approach, specifically for those less able students who aren't attending Caltech, MIT or Harvard.  I believe there is and came away with one idea from a recent Readers Forum article ('How Black Holes Saved My Astronomy Course')  in Physics Today by Joseph Ribaudo..  Ribaudo - based at Utica College, New York- noted the struggle of his students to master the material  with most underperforming (averages in the "C range")  in his astronomy course.   He realized a large part of the problem was that  the existing astronomy textbooks were all too similar in their writing, content and design elements - and often way too mathematical. So he turned to Neil Degrasse Tyson's 'Death By Black Hole' as his central (core) text aided by "reading and writing assignments derived from popular and historical science publications".

Can a similar strategy be used to incorporate more modern physics into undergrad classical physics courses? I am confident this is feasible. Of course, the extent of integration of the modern physics material will hinge on the time allotted for the course or courses.  In most ('General Physics') courses, the modern physics is fit in at the very end - usually in one or two chapters featuring special relativity and some of the 'original' quantum mechanics, say of Bohr then Schrodinger.  At the maximum level of exposure students will be shown the use of the Schrodinger equation to solve for simple QM systems, say a particle in a box. This assumes, of course, the student has done some work in differential equations. (N.B. It is extremely rare for freshman and sophomore physics majors to take a dedicated modern physics course, far less a QM or Relativity course.)

But let's assume students are roughly at the math and abstraction level of  Ribaudo's astronomy class. What texts might supplement the approach to teach modern physics? I'd include the following:

'The Strange Story of the Quantum' - by Banesh Hofman (Dover, 1964)

'Thirty Years That Shook Physics' - by George Gamow (Dover, 1966)

'Relativity and Common Sense' -  by Herman Bondi (Dover, 1964)

'Sidelights on Relativity' - by Albert Einstein (Dover, 1954)

'The ABC of Relativity' - by Bertrand Russell (Signet, 1959)

 All of the above are eminently readable, and the math is at a minimum. Much of the math that is set out, such as in Bondi's book, is in the form of geometry from which simple derivations of the principles are shown. Einstein's book is terrific in providing an understanding at a non-math level by the master himself.

Ribaudo mentions in his article (p. 11)  setting one mid term exam question to the effect: "Discuss the value of reading 'Death By Black Hole' and whether you'd recommend this book to others".  The same sort of question might be asked of any of the books listed above.  In terms of how much contextual mathematics one's students can handle that has to be left to the instructor. For those who might wish to know some QM but minus all the math, Hoffman's book is probably best. For those who might wish to know some special relativity without the math, Russell's book is likely best. For those who are comfortable with plane geometry and some algebra,  Gamow's book is ideal for QM, and Bondi's ditto for special relativity.

If instructors in special relativity wish to get into more problem solving and math exposure - still largely at the intermediate algebra level (with a tiny bit of differential calculus)-  my own text: 'Modern Physics: Notes, Problems and Solutions' is ideal, namely the first three chapters (pp. 1 -45).

Ribaudo also cites "reading and writing assignments" from popular science magazines (e.g. Discover) and this can also provide fertile material for modern physics. For example, asking students to read the excellent article on quantum entanglement in Discover (July/August, 2016, p. 60) and asking students how they might explain this to a friend. Or better, how they might explain it if they could go back in time and encounter Neils Bohr.

In the end, it is possible to present modern physics to undergrads, but it has to be tailored to their own math and abstraction abilities.  If this is done, and there is the time allotted to do it without having to rush, then both physics instructors and their students will be all the better for it. And we may see much less whining from the undergrads about being denied entry into the "modern stuff".


The best modern physics text I've found for math proficient students - geared to freshman and sophomores - is 'Space, Time and Quanta: An Introduction to Contemporary Physics' by Robert Mills (1994).  In his Introduction,  Mills writes of the text being a "supplement to a more conventional course" or "designed for the physics side of an interdisciplinary course" - i.e. for other (non-physics) students, but don't believe it. The text is in fact perfect as a standalone, totally complete modern physics text - at least on a par with the analogous content in The Feynman Lectures.  The end of chapter problem sets are especially good, and I simply can't see any "interdisciplinary" student being able to get through them.  Hence, I believe Mills greatly underestimates the book's value as a teaching text for modern physics.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Was SPLC Wrong to Educate Middlebury Students On Covert Hate Monger Charles Murray?

Protesters at Middlebury College not long ago, and subversive, racist - eugenicist hate monger Charles Murray.

Let us concede we live in treacherous times for bastardized memes and subtle mind viruses to be unleashed on an unsuspecting populace, especially by those endowed with an academic cachet or more or less benign appearance. There is no doubt,  not one, that if Josef Goebbels had re-materialized at Middlebury College four months ago and brandished a thesis that Jews were inferior and hence needed to be eliminated, there'd have been an unholy outcry. And oh yeah, a lot more than screaming and pulling fire alarms would have gone on. Also that there would have been no mistaking such a screed for "free speech".  In fact, if erupted from Middlebury's students they'd have been lauded rather than now vilified for "attacking free speech" regarding Charles Murray's attempted appearance.

The screeching of most of the media - including some overpaid moron named Carl M. Cannon at 'Real Clear Politics' -e.g.

 has been that the great Murray was delivered a hate -filled beat down and after all he does hold a "doctorate from MIT" and is a member of the "esteemed American Enterprise Institute".

But before our compadres on the Right do backflips in exultation at Murray's claimed respectability, let us bear in mind that the Jew-hating  Joseph Goebbels also  obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Heidelberg in 1921. So a doctorate is no assurance of respectability or moral probity. After all,  this eugenics -imbued mastermind of Nazi propaganda is the one who developed numerous tracts comparing Jews to vermin, paving the way for the Final solution.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-0821-502, Joseph Goebbels.jpg

As for the American Enterprise Institute, which the ignorant hack Cannon praises, e.g. "this Washington-based think tank is devoted to 'defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world."  (sic, barf) let's not overlook the applicable facts here:

The AEI  were the ones offering scientists up to $10,000 each to write tracts and op -ed pieces denying global warming.  As reported by the UK Guardian "letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered."

Real charming bunch of individuals devoted to "human dignity" there. They'd allow humanity the "freedom" to burn in an unbearable hothouse world - devoid of polar ice caps and glaciers, coastal cities sinking, diseases rampant-  because they've enabled liars and propagandist schmucks to brainwash people into thinking climate change is a myth or hoax.

According to The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), of which I've been a member for over 15 years, Murray - like the AEI -  "advocates the total elimination of the welfare state, affirmative action and the Department of Education, arguing that public policy cannot overcome the innate deficiencies that cause unequal social and educational outcomes".

This academic reprobate's central thesis (in The Bell Curve) is that:

"the United States has experienced dysgenic pressures throughout either most of the century (the optimists) or all of the century (the pessimists). Women of all races and ethnic groups follow this pattern in similar fashion. There is some evidence that blacks and Latinos are experiencing even more severe dysgenic pressures than whites, which could lead to further divergence between whites and other groups in future generations.”"

A section that could have come straight out of Goebbel's hands.   What are Murray's "dysgenic pressures"?  They are the selection effects, factors responsible for the reduction of a population's intelligence arising from a regressive gene pool.  In this case,  because blacks and Latinos exhibit lower average I.Q.s than whites (or Orientals) they impact the aggregate gene pool adversely sending the overall intelligence lower.

Note that while Murray has loudly insisted he's not espousing eugenics, the very use of the term "dysgenic" - which recognizes negative eugenics, show that he is.

One here is led to reference Goebbel's tract (The Nazi -Sozi, 1932) cited by Konrad Heiden in his monograph The Fuehrer, :

"Certainly the Jew is also a man, but the flea is also an animal. And the other animals do not harbor and cultivate the flea but exterminate it"

To be sure, Goebbels in his tract is blunt, crude and merciless. There is no effort to disguise exactly what his eugenics theme means.  This is unlike Murray's which basically says the same thing (pertaining to Latinos and blacks),  but is couched in academic lingo (delivered in the guise of a serious academician)  to disarm any would be critics.  Thus, because Murray offers an academic patina he is to be treated respectfully and given a fair hearing for his toxic ideas, mind viruses and memes.  "Free speech", after all. But under SPLC tutelage the Middlebury students weren't fooled and were not about to confer respect, gravitas or dignity to a racist rapscallion.

The SPLC again:

"Many criticisms of The Bell Curve, most notably Charles Lane’s thorough takedown in The New York Review of Books, have pointed out that Murray’s attempts to link social inequality to genes are based on the work of explicitly racist scientists. In an afterward to the book, Murray rejects criticisms that rest on the fact that “we cite thirteen scholars who have received funding from the Pioneer Fund, founded and run ([Lane] alleged) by men who were Nazi sympathizers, eugenicists, and advocates of white racial superiority.” Murray contends that the racist pseudo-scientists he cites “are some of the most respected psychologists of our time” and that “the relationship between the founder of the Pioneer Fund and today’s Pioneer Fund is roughly analogous to that between Henry Ford and today’s Ford Foundation.”

In fact, the Pioneer Fund’s ties to eugenics and white supremacy are not nearly as historically remote as Murray would have his readers believe. The president of the Pioneer Fund at the time The Bell Curve was written was Harry Weyher, who was a personal friend of the Fund’s founder, Wickliffe Draper, and shared his supposedly archaic views on race. Just two months after the initial publication of The Bell Curve, Weyher gave an interview in which he argued, among other things, that desegregation had “wreck[ed] the school system.”

Russ Bellant, author of 'Old Nazis, The New Right And The Republican Party', South End Press, 1991) traces the current incarnation of the Pioneer Fund back to the Reagan era with the likes of Ralph Scott and Roger Pearson both of whom "received tens of thousands of dollars from the Pioneer Fund which assists researchers attempting to prove Black inferiority".

So we return to the central question: Should an idea - no matter how abhorrent and toxic  - be able to receive an unopposed hearing anywhere?  Especially at a university? And the answer now, as before  when I posted about it (Jan. 9. 2015) , is absolutely not! 

As I noted then:

"There is a vast gulf between what clueless humans call "freedom of expression" and moral communication.  The key difference is that moral communication does not incite to violence, by castigating and vilifying a whole people. And yes, that means words and cartoons can act as murderous weapons! They embed themselves in the mind, especially of those already with axes to grind, and incite them to take precipitous action.

And lest we take that as a freak exception let us recall how Limbaugh once referred to Leftists as "cockroaches" e.g.

And the Nazis during the Third Reich regularly depicted the Jews in cartoons and films as "rats". E.g.

Was this free expression or free speech, given the horrific effect it had? Of course not! It was the most scurrilous, vile refuse and propaganda masquerading as speech. No form of propaganda is defensible, whether in books, film or cartoons. This is not free speech but hate speech. It defiles the user as it does the target, reducing each - via dehumanization. See the Nazi material produced on the Jews in the preceding link."

Back to the SPLC again:

"Murray and Herrnstein described Richard Lynn, whose work they relied on more than any other individual, as “a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences.” In his many subsequent defenses of Lynn, Murray neglected to mention the many serious methodological criticisms of Lynn’s work, or his contributions to white supremacist publications including, American Renaissance and Mankind Quarterly, the last of which Lynn also serves on the editorial staff of.

The Bell Curve not only relied on “tainted sources” like Lynn, but is itself making a fundamentally eugenic argument. The central, and most controversial chapter of the book, focuses on the threat of “dysgenesis,” a term that Murray and Herrnstein claimed to have borrowed from population biology, but which in actuality was coined and has been used exclusively by eugenicists to describe the problem that their policy proposals were intended to fix. Dysgenesis refers to the supposed genetic deterioration of a population, but while Murray and Herrnstein wrote as though it represents mainstream science, dysgenesis is not considered to be a real phenomenon by modern evolutionary biologists. It is widely accepted only among the “scholars of racial and ethnic differences” that appear so prominently in The Bell Curve’s bibliography."

In other words, like Goebbels' own distorted eugenics (applied to Jews),  Murray and Herrnstein's is also tainted by pseudo-science, yet has the disproportional effect of undermining the fundamental fabric of our society if taken seriously. Again, why should anyone have to waste gray matter rebutting this offal any more than Goebbel's comparison of Jews to fleas? The point is there is no intellectual rebuttal possible that will persuade the minions who emotionally  gravitate to these toxic notions, given they use the notions as points of support for their racist beliefs. Hence, best to not to allow the emotional chords to be excited in the first place!

We may conclude the students at Middlebury were right to disrupt Murray as they likewise would have been to disrupt Josef Goebbels.  (They were not right to engage in any physical force or assaults, obviously ) The reason is that hate speech, irrespective of any academic veneer, merits no special place or respect and absolutely no dignifying by resort to a "free speech" ruse to peddle it.  As the notorious Gen. Hudson Austin opined after slaughtering hundreds in the Spice Island of Grenada (before U.S. forces arrived in Operation Urgent Fury in 1983): "My biggest gift was being allowed free speech on the radio to pave the way for my purge!"

Hudson had been enabled - by the deft use of hate speech and propaganda - broadcast over Grenada's government radio, to enlist enough support to put hundreds of his political opponents  (to the New Jewel Movement) in the Richmond Hill prison. There,  antiaircraft weapons were subsequently used to slaughter Austin's hapless victims, after they were forced into the prison courtyard.

Most Americans never knew or heard about that, only about the invasion of the island nation which all the Caricom nations (including Barbados) had called for.

But Charles Murray would never advocate that!   Maybe not, directly. But it is but one small step to deem a race inferior before some faction will believe it is entitled to wipe out the group so designated. Let's not fool ourselves.

It is ironic beyond belief that Morris Dees is ridiculed in Cannon's piece using ad hominem ("a shyster") while the SPLC is deemed a "hate group", even as Murray and the AEI are extolled as the bearers of light and human dignity.  But this merely discloses how perverted the intellectual landscape and critical thinking basis  has become in the U.S., to the point the pro-Trump and right wing media and its memes now hold so much sway.

See also: