The Confederate Flag and Zika: They Know It’s Hitting the South First, Right?

 

Yeah, but you know in this case those are the same things, right? 

 

You know when you hear politicians say things like “Washington is broken- and I’m the man to fix it!” It’s pretty common in both parties, of course, but there is a certain strand of Republicanism that is more likely than others. It’s the whole “I was successful at business, so I clearly can be great at foreign policy. Just knock some heads together!” One might even say that such a theory is the driving impetus of the Trump campaign, if one wanted to ignore the racism. The Onion, of course, captured this perfectly many years ago. “Millionaire Vows To Do For Government What He Did For Turkey Ranches.”

Anyway, it works really well, because there is a lot broken in Washington. To wit:

Republican lawmakers are warning that the American public will now blame Democrats if Zika becomes a full-blown health crisis.

I don’t know. It seems like they maybe wanted this to fail? By maybe putting in pretty un-Zika-y provisions, such as the flag of racism, slavery, and treason and also cutting women’s health? And then were pretty open about their reasons? Just maybe?

The GOP, of course, knows how to play this game perfectly. Block anything good and reasonable from happening in the most cynical way possible, sit back and let terrible things happen, and have both sides take the blame. But because they run on “government can’t work!” and Democrats on “let’s make government work!” it is a winning strategy, except at the national level, where the radicals and dimwits they parade can’t stand the light of day.

Oddly, the reason why they can’t deal with the national scrutiny is the reason why this is so scary. The new generation of Republicans have completely internalized this behavior. They grew up with it. There is nothing strange or cynical to them about it. This is simply how it is done. This is how you destroy the enemy, which is the government, and by extension, the Democrats. The whole point is to destroy the government so you can get more of your people elected so you can continue to destroy the government, and make it just a vessel for wars and for punishing internal enemies (Mexicans, ovaries, rappers, etc).

It’s fitting that the Confederate flag got involved. It’s not just because that is poison to decent-thinking humans. The entire GOP strategy is an extension of the Civil War by other means.

People could be very ill because of this. Babies could have their entire lives irrevocably changed. That shit like this isn’t front page news is a tragedy.

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Hillary and Donald Tied! Almost. In One Poll. Sort Of.

 

A dialogue. 

 

Times:  Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are deadlocked less than a month before the Democratic and Republican presidential conventions, according to a new national poll that shows the American electorate feeling disappointed in each candidate.

Me: Holy crap! His…strong? stance on Brexit must have really resonated! Go on.

Times: A Quinnipiac University survey released on Wednesday found that 42 percent of voters supported Mrs. Clinton while 40 percent backed Mr. Trump. The poll represents a slight improvement for Mr. Trump, who trailed by four points at the beginning of the month, and has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points

Me: OK, so, just like one poll? From a poll that had Trump doing slightly better than average, anyway?

Times: …

Me: What do some of the polling averages say?

Times: …

Me: Oh, RCP still has her up by six? HuffPolitics, used by Sam Wang, has her up by 7?  And Wang himself still has Hillary with a 70-85% chance of winning, depending on if you use random drift or Bayesian projections?

Times: Do you know what that means?

Me: …

Times: …

Me: Look, the point is, there’s really no need to inject drama. We have a dangerously ignorant white nationalist only a few weeks away from accepting the nomination, grubbing it with his greedy hands and shoving an entire political party into his malformed mouth. No matter what happens, he’s awakened a plague of blowflies that can blot out the sun. It’s goddamn dramatic enough. Don’t breathlessly report every poll. In this instance, your duty to the Republic and her people is to militate against Trump. I know the overlap between your readership and his likely voters is slim, but you don’t have to contribute to the narrative.

Times: Fine. You want to get a drink?

Me: It’s 7:30 in the morning!

Times: …

Me: Yeah.

 

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin: Where Teachers are Linebackers, and To The Rich Go The Spoils

 

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I’ve been lovingly making fun of this sign for years- really, you have all three?- but I don’t know if I ever noticed the “open for business”. Is that new. 

 

Here at Shooting Irrelevance, we’ve spent some time talking about what Scott Walker is doing to Wisconsin, because being a Chicago kid, we’ve spent a lot of time in Wisconsin. I love the state: love the people, love the food, love the drinking culture. I realized once it is the unpretentious south. You can’t see them writing a Huckabee-style book called God and Hot Ham Rolls. It’s a beautiful place where nature plays a deep role.

Underneath all that, or perhaps because of the cold winters and the need for community, is a fierce tradition of progressive populism. Wisconsin is our great labor state, or at least it was. That’s one of the tragedies of Scott Walker. He came in with the idea to ruin Wisconsin, to ruin the idea of Wisconsin. To literally change the Wisconsin Idea.

As we said once:

If you want to know everything base and venal about Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans, remember that the literally wanted to edit the Wisconsin Idea to remove anything about the human spirit, and put in language about the state’s workforce needs.

The mission of the system is to develop human resources to meet the state’sworkforce needs, to discover and disseminate knowledge, to extendknowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses and toserve and stimulate society by developing develop in students heightened intellectual, cultural, and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise, and a sense of purpose. Inherent in this broad mission are methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition. Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.

(lines are Walkers’ proposed edits)

It’s this baseness, this venality, this reduction of the unaligned poor to gristle in a mill that is the heart of the modern conservative movement. Trump’s white nationalism is a part of it, of course, but when he is (hopefully soon) swept from the stage this will remain. It’s the main economic message. Most humans exist to make others rich. Money is the only power. It’s true materialism.

Walker confirmed this yesterday, when talking about school funding, and how the rich school should be able to hoard all the good teachers.

Walker said school districts can set pay based on performance and hire based on merit.

“It’s about putting the best and the brightest in the classroom,” Walker said. “If someone is an exceptional talent and wants to go into education, they can be rewarded for that.”

When asked whether he thought such incentive-driven salary programs would be a hindrance to allowing school districts to keep quality teachers, Walker compared teaching to being a player in the NFL.

“If the Green Bay Packers pay people to perform and if they perform well on their team, (the Packers) pay them to do that,” Walker said. “They don’t pay them for how many years they’ve been on the football team. They pay them whether or not they help (the Packers) win football games.”

And, you know, some schools are the Pack or the Pats, and some are the Rams. That’s just the way the market works. You have winners and Lions.

Walker was a joke during the Presidential campaign, but he didn’t disappear. He went back to his true love: ruining Wisconsin. Walkerism isn’t going away. White nationalism and “othering” will alwas be a driving force in the GOP, as presently constituted, but its fires might not always burn so bright. When that fire is embers this mentality, the desire to turn everything into commodity, including and especially people, will remain.

 

(Note: everytime I type “ruining Wisconsin”, and I’ve noticed this in gmail as well, it is underlined and says “did you mean to say ‘running'”.  Nope.)

Breaking! Benghazi Was Dangerous Nonsense, Designed to Further Iraq Amnesia

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“Now, I may just be a simple southern lawyer…”

What happened at Benghazi on the night of September 11th, 2012, was a tragedy, one borne of the impossible gravitational pull the Middle East has on US politics, an inability not to intervene. There were errors and mistakes, confusion in the fog of a new kind of war, one in which soldiers and civilians dance across a blurred line, and one that the US has not yet learned to fight. Four men, who were dedicated to making the world a better place– to making a land that was not their home a freer and more just place, after the grotesque misrule of Qadaffi– died that terrible night.

What it was not was a political scandal. I’ve been following politics since, at the age of 5, I tried to convince my parents that Mondale was a better choice than Reagan (and I was right, goddammit). Even counting the impeachement trial, and even counting Reagan’s lack of impeachment for Iran/Contra, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an exercise in politics so cynical, so craven, and so full of errant hypocritical nonsense. The proof?

Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued itsfinal report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

It’s hard to imagine anything more outrageous than some of the top cheerleaders for the war in Iraq suddenly being brought to tearful anger over the pointless loss of American lives in the Middle East. These men and women gave high-flung flag-drowned speeches about the bravery of Chris Stevens and the other three, and how Obama, (and then Hillary, once it became clear she was running) betrayed that bravery. Suddenly, US lives, slaughtered in a distant land, meant something. Many of these were the same people who objected vociferously, with insinuations of fifth-column perfidy, at showing soldiers’ coffins arriving at Andrews. But these corpses had to be dragged to the roof, rattled by hoarse screaming and soaked in crocodile tears.

Not for nothing, but I think the Venn diagram of “thinks it was tragic what happened in Libya” and “angry at Obama for not invading Syria” has a lot of overlap.

What do these people think will happen? What do they think is the price of intervening around the world?

The answer is they really don’t think about it at all. In a way, I don’t even think this was purposefully cynical, for some of them. They are so hardwired to believe whatever is the most talk-radiofied nonsense possible that they probably honestly think being misleading on a Sunday show after the fact is a capital crime. I know anecdotal Facebook posts are the worst kind of analysis, but I saw people who were asking if this was the “biggest scandal in American history. After all, no one died at Watergate.” The representatives, who have the same sources of misinformation, are little different. Some are cynics. Many are just slickly-packaged balls of hippie-punching anger and cognitive dissonance.

That doesn’t make it better, nor does it excuse the horrible outcome of their actions. Because while it seems that this craven exercise in nonsense is just pointless, it is much worse. Not because it hurt Hillary vis a vis Trump, although it might have. But the cynicism and anger matters.

As the Times said, this investigation took longer and cost more than Congressional investigations in 9/11, into Katrina, into Pearl Harbor, into the freaking assassination of JFK, and certainly than into the colossal lies and idiocy that led us not just into Iraq, but that led to such a bloody disaster.

That matters. It’s an attempt to erase history, to put up such a wall of bullshit over the single greatest US foreign policy disaster of my lifetime, and possibly in US history, given the enveloping chaos that spread over the region in the wake of the invasion (the impact of which can be felt as far away as the Brexit). It’s all part of what Pierce calls “the great mulligan”, the idea that US history restarted on Jan 20th, 2009, and everything that happened afterwards is the fault of Obama.

It’s how craven warhounds like John McCain can say that, in Iraq, Obama “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.” Because having a country that is so unstable that the only way to prevent its collapse is to keep and indefinite number of troops there an indefinite length of time is, certainly, to be considered a victory. But the facts don’t matter. All that matters is to throw up a smokescreen, pinning all the blame on Obama, the one politician who learned (belatedly, and even then only partially) to resist the Middle East.

That the investigation took so long and turned up so, so little wasn’t a bug. It was a feature. It was the goddamn point. The point was to throw up an impenetrable barrage of lies so thick that we couldn’t see back beyond 2009, couldn’t peer into the wreckage of the early millennium. It’s part of the collective amnesia that the right has been trying, with much success, to inflict on us for almost eight years. They’ve been beating us over the head until we’re too numb to fight back. They know that Benghazi, for impossible and insane reasons, has more political resonance than Iraq. We’re to Never Forget what happened in Libya, and never speak of 2003.

Chaos In London Suggests That Maybe Listening to The Dumb Is A Bad Idea?

Maybe don’t listen to people like this?

Bad political chaos in London today, as the pound continues to plunge, and Leave leaders continue to backpeddle on the bill of goods they sold to the public. It makes one think: maybe fearful race-baiting demagogues who promise great things in exchange for opting out of the modern world maybe shouldn’t be listened to?

Remember, one of the Leave leaders, Michael Gove, said that people in Great Britain “have had enough of experts”, i.e. the people saying that Brexit would be a disaster. Does this sound familiar?

Like Mr Cameron, Mr Gove faced intense scrutiny of his campaign tactics, in particular the claim that the UK sends £350m to the EU every week.

Sky’s political editor Faisal Islam said Mr Gove knew that figure was wrong, and accused him of importing the “post-truth” politics of Donald Trump to the UK. The UK Statistics Authority has said the figure “is misleading and undermines trust in official statistics”, because it is a gross sum and does not account for Britain’s rebate and funding received from the EU. In response to Mr Islam, Mr Gove agreed to have the figure independently audited.

A number of economists do favour Britain’s exit from the EU, among them Andrew Lilico, executive director of Europe Economics, and Patrick Minford of Cardiff University.

Mr Gove opted not to name them, however, preferring to focus on how economists and economic organisations had failed to predict the financial crisis. “I’m not asking the public to trust me. I’m asking them to trust themselves,” he said.

That could easily be Trump, as could Boris Johnson’s and Nigel Farage’s idiot claims that the 350 million pounds per week could go to the NHS, a claim from which they are already saying that they didn’t mean literally. Who could be so preposterous as to hold them to that, now?

The Right in America has long held the same weaponized hatreds of experts who challenge their sacred beliefs, and have been able to turn a reliance on boring stats and figures against opponents who use them. “Experts” are disconnected eggheads who hate real Americans and just want to keep driving around in their Ferraris paid for by your tax dollars. In everything from supply-side economics to climate denial, experts are derided and shunned. The only ones that count are the ones explicitly backing their theories. And even then, they pretend to not be experts, but just walking avatars of common sense.

“Common sense” is the key phrase here, a cousin of Gove’s “I’m asking (the public) to trust themselves.” It’s not that experts can’t be wrong or blinded or biased. They aren’t arguing that. They are arguing that, because they are “experts”, they are inherently biased and wrong, because they are against the people. It’s a way to make people who know what they are talking about as an “other”, an alien, in opposition to common decency. Just like immigrants.

It’s a way to lump together everyone who isn’t in the same fearful corner. It’s an easy tactic used by cruel idiots, from Reagan to Farage, and of course, Trump. They don’t have any facts partly because they don’t care, and partly because there just aren’t any to back them up. Truth doesn’t matter as much as a visceral poke to the reptile brain. If you wonder why Trump did so well when he wasn’t a “conservative”, it’s because he was able to directly appeal to fear. He made a tribal connection by creating a small band of insiders and putting everyone else on the outside, whooping around the encircled wagons. I think that’ll doom him the the general, of course. But the tactic, in a post-national world, is only going to get stronger.

Urbanization Visualized and Captured

urbanization

Just one city! Screengrab from http://metrocosm.com/map-history-cities.html Go there.

Right around 3700BCE, the Sumerians founded a city called Eridu. With a population of around 6000, it was the first real urban area, and undoubtedly the largest collection of humans in one spot up to that time. If you buy the Toba Bottleneck Theory (which most don’t, but there is evidence of some bottlenecking in the Pleistocene) some 50,000 years before that there were only maybe 10,000 humans total. That is an endless amount of time in the scale of our lifetimes, but it was incredibly rapid. During Toba- or at least that time, no matter what your mileage on the bottleneck- humans had very little impact on the planet. Post-ice age hunting certainly had an effect, particularly in North America. But we hadn’t yet taken over the planet. Urbanization was one of the twin engines that drove the Anthropocene, the other being widespread agriculture.

It’s also the great story of our time. From that weird beginning, in a place that must have seemed like a crushing enormity, but now would be a two-stoplight drive through, urbanization very slowly took over the world. Over the next 4000 years it was largely limited to a narrow latitudinal band, and even by the time the New World was being colonized, and north and south took on new meaning, most of the world was rural. It was only in the last 50 years that mass urbanization started taking place.

This is now beautifully visualized thanks to a landmark study on cities by Meredith Reba, Femke Reitsma, and Karen C. Seto. In it, using several data sets, they have compiled the most thorough history of urbanization that I’ve seen. They aren’t as concerned with strict definitions, but more what constitutes a large city at any given time. Cahokia, the largest city north of Mexico before colonization, makes it, whereas nearby current East St. Louis, with a larger population than Cahokia, does not. I think this is fair.

Just as exciting, at least in a visual stimulation sort of way, is the ability to map it out and watch it. I took a screenshot from Metrocosm, which is an invaluable site. In it, Max Galka shows cities popping up. It’s amazing to watch the pace, as they first center in modern-day Iraq, spread slightly east and west, and start to really roll as India and China develop their eternal cultures. Then Europe and Mesoamerica, then elsewhere, more north and more south, but still spaced out. Then the 20th-century these urban area start to spring up everywhere, and in the last few seconds of the video, it’s a violent epileptic explosion of dots, each one representing the lives of hundreds of thousands and of millions. It’s amazing. (The Guardian has a video as well, shorter and set to a jauntier tune.)

What we see with these maps, and in these datasets, is a dramatic visualization of the choices we have made as a species. I personally am very much in favor of urbanization, and think that it is a great way to reduce our impact on the planet, if done correctly. But there isn’t a way to mistake it: by transforming the land for agriculture, and then transforming the very basics of water drainage, light, sound, and other factors for urbanization, we’ve created the most species-driven environmental change since (arguably) the Great Oxygenation Event, which most scientists will tell you was a bad scene, man.  Remember that the great cities of Mesopotamia were not dry and dusty, but lush and verdant.

But not to be a pessimist entirely. The data and the videos are also thrilling. It’s a stirring wonder, that atavistic gnaw in your stomach, to imagine a citizen of Eridu, gazing in wonder at the crowds. Did they know what they had accomplished? Did they know that a mere generation or two before such a thing was unimaginable? Surely they did; they had the imagination to build. They had the imagination to plan for a future. They had the knowledge to remember the past. They were us.

 

Trump Backs Down on Muslim Ban, Is A Tremendous Liar

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Pictured: Well-decided terror countries. Look at them!

Donald Trump, whose major foreign policy trip was to promote his golf course (which will do very well if the markets collapse, so pretty sweet, right?), today seemed to back down on his insane and racist and unworkable plan to ban all Muslim immigrants. He didn’t mean all of them. Just the ones from “terror countries.”

Slate!

The day began with the presumptive Republican nominee appearing to contradict his vow to fully ban Muslims from entering the United States, telling reporters on a golf course in Scotland that he wants to restrict entry by people from a number of “terror countries.” That came after he said that it “wouldn’t bother me” if a Scottish Muslim entered the United States. Which countries would he consider to be “terror countries”? Trump didn’t specify. “They’re pretty well-decided. All you have to do is look!”

Even then though it didn’t sound like Trump was saying citizens from certain countries should be fully banned, suggesting there could be a vetting process that would allow exceptions. “I don’t want people coming in from the terror countries. You have terror countries! I don’t want them, unless they’re very, very strongly vetted.”

WaPo!

Afterward, Hicks said in an email that Trump’s ban would now just apply to Muslims in terror states, but she would not confirm that the ban would not apply to non-Muslims from those countries or to Muslims living in peaceful countries.

This is obviously a very interesting and well-thought-out policy! It’s pretty well-decided which ones are. Just look. Probably Yemen, and Syria and Iraq for sure, and let’s not count out Somalia. Iran, yeah. Saudia Arabia, and maybe the Gulf States. Not Qatar, I like Qatar, I have some very quality people who I did business with. Oman? Eh, better safe than sorry. Mauritius? Never heard of it. But yeah. Morocco, Libya, of course. Indonesia, I remember Bali, so yeah. Malaysia? Are they Muslims? It sounds Asia-y, not Muslim-y. They’re in. Muslims from India? Only if they are from the very terror parts.

Look, you’re going to hear about this, and his promise that he won’t deport every Mexican because “people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody” (actual quote!), and you might hear that he is pivoting toward the general. Being all Presidential. He’s backing down from the very keys to his success, and his sworn promises. Presidential!

But what this confirms, once again, is that he’s making everything up as he goes along, because he has literally no idea about anything in the world. “The terror countries” is a perfect example. He can’t be assed to think of anything, so he just makes up a phrase and demands it into meaning. His spokesperson, Hope Hicks (turn out to vote), has to pretend this is an actual policy with actual meaning, because, remember, in Trump world, what he says, no matter how dumb (“until we figure out what’s going on!“)  is contorted into gospel by his surrounding sycophants.

The media might say this is pivoting. It is just another sign of how deeply unserious a man this is.