Monday, October 2, 2017

REPUBLICANS AND THE HURRICANES

HARVEY III

By Ronald T. Fox

NOTE: This essay is highly critical of Republicans and the Republican Party. In making my points, I admit to taking generalization liberties. Not all Republicans are guilty as I charge below; some, to be sure, are not completely heartless. Such Republicans, though, are few and far between. Today’s GOP is under the control of radical right true believers in unrestrained capitalism and the insulation of private property rights from the reach of government. Their emphasis on economic libertarianism leaves little space for humanity, or, for that matter, democracy. So, when I use the terms “Republican” and “Republican Party,” I’m referring to the party’s dominating--and uncompromising-- radical right.


Hurricanes Harvey was the largest rainfall event in American history. Over 51 inches of rain fell in some areas around Houston. While not bringing as much rainfall, Hurricane Irma delivered powerful winds and vast destruction to Florida, leaving more than a dozen dead and millions without electricity. Not to be outdone, Hurricane Maria, a category five hurricane, brought even greater devastation to Puerto Rico. Ninety percent of the islands is still--two weeks later-- without power or fresh water.

Terrible as this destruction was, it pales in comparison to mega-storm damage elsewhere in the world.  In India, Nepal and Bangladesh torrential monsoon rains and flooding has placed some 16 million children in urgent need of life-saving support.

High magnitude hurricanes, along with record heat waves, wildfires, and draughts, have been occurring with increasing frequency. These destructive natural events, climate scientists report, are almost certainly growing in magnitude because human behavior is causing the earth’s oceans to become warmer.

Each new gigantic hurricane makes me both sad and angry. I feel empathy toward victims, especially low income people who invariably suffer the most. (I’m not so sorry, however, for wealthy folks who choose to build in flood zones or live in fancy houses along a coastline). The know-nothing climate science deniers who have prevented our government from attacking the global warming problem spark my anger, as does the mainstream media, which relishes reporting on hurricane destruction, telling human interest stories, and showing journalists knee deep in flood water, but rarely probes deeper questions about what might be causing storms to grow larger and arrive more often.

In the U.S., climate change deniers are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Republican Party. In alliance with wealthy donors from the oil, gas and coal industries who have a financial stake in opposing any effort to reduce America’s dependence on fossil fuels, the party has blocked meaningful initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In doing so, the GOP has blood on its hands. It has aided and abetted the extreme weather horrors we are experiencing.

And that is not all. Republican support for unrestricted development, opposition to regulations aimed at protecting the environment, and public health and safety, hostility toward immigrants, and opposition to federal spending that compromises principles of economic libertarianism, exacerbates the human costs of high magnitude storms and wildfires.

The GOP can’t help itself. Decades ago it threw in with billionaire and millionaire ideologues bent on changing the rules of democratic governance to promote unfettered capitalism. The party has become passionately dedicated to promoting their various agendas. This means, among other things, pushing for tax cuts for the rich and austerity for everyone else. It also means rolling back regulations that prioritize human beings over profits.

I’ve been wondering how the Republican Party will respond to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Could these catastrophic climate events, coming so close together, lead them to question Republican "truths" about climate change? Could riveting visuals of destroyed neighborhoods, uprooted families, submerged towns from Houston to Jacksonville to San Juan, and flattened Caribbean islands, along with the realization that it will take years for full recoveries, reach into hard Republican hearts and squeeze out a little humanity? In short, will they learn any lessons from the hurricanes of 2017? 

The extensiveness of destruction in the paths of the hurricanes of 2017 cannot be fully explained by what we know about climate science. Republican opposition to reducing greenhouse gasses, and the party’s policies on land development, deregulation, immigration, and federal spending, made the hurricane-hit areas more vulnerable to destruction. I wish, in the aftermath of the great hurricanes, Republicans will ask themselves the following tough questions.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

SEPTEMBER 2017 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. President Trump’s Staff. Staff for the self-styled “billionaire” are reportedly pushing the Republican National Committee to pick up the growing Russia-related legal bills for Trump’s attorneys. From the Washington Post:

Another question is who will pay the growing legal fees for the president and administration officials caught up in the Russia inquiries. Some in Trump’s orbit are pushing the Republican National Committee to bear the costs, according to three people with knowledge of the situation, including one who euphemistically described the debate as a “robust discussion.”

Though the RNC does have a legal defense fund, it well predates the Russia investigation and is intended to be used for assisting with legal challenges facing the Republican Party, such as a potential election recount.

The RNC has not made a final decision, in part because the committee is still researching whether the funds could legally be used to help pay legal costs related to Russia. But many within the organization are resisting the effort, believing it would be more appropriate to create a separate legal defense fund for the case. Stay tuned.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

PASTOR ROBERT JEFFRIES IS THE AUGUST IGGY AWARD WINNER

Phronesis readers have voted and the consensus winner of the August Ignominious Absurdity (IGGY) award is the God-fearing Pastor Robert Jeffries. With God on our side, how can we lose?

I case you missed his unbelievable absurdity, I re-post it below:

1. Pastor Robert Jeffries. In a statement emailed to journalists Tuesday afternoon, pastor Jeffries praised Trump’s aggressive statement [on North Korea] as a function of divine will.

"When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”

Jeffress has long been one of Trump’s political allies, one central to Trump and his team’s increasingly unsettling conflation of Christianity, nationalism, and pro-Trump cult of personality. [...]

In a follow-up interview with The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Jeffress doubled down on his words:

“[Those verses in the Book of Romans give] the government ... the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un.”

If Trump were to decide to plunk down a half-dozen Nagasaki-sized nukes on North Korea, that would be just fine with this supposedly Christian preacher. God not only ordains whatever it takes, he also says Americans are biblically obligated to support whatever Trump thinks is necessary. Jeffries is clearly Trump’s kind of guy-- Sec of Defense material.



Friday, September 1, 2017

AUGUST 2017 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY AWARD (THE IGGY)

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1. Pastor Robert Jeffries. In a statement emailed to journalists Tuesday afternoon, pastor Jeffries praised Trump’s aggressive statement [on North Korea] as a function of divine will.

"When it comes to how we should deal with evil doers, the Bible, in the book of Romans, is very clear: God has endowed rulers full power to use whatever means necessary — including war — to stop evil. In the case of North Korea, God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong-Un.”

Jeffress has long been one of Trump’s political allies, one central to Trump and his team’s increasingly unsettling conflation of Christianity, nationalism, and pro-Trump cult of personality. [...]

In a follow-up interview with The Washington Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Jeffress doubled down on his words:

“[Those verses in the Book of Romans give] the government ... the authority to do whatever, whether it’s assassination, capital punishment or evil punishment to quell the actions of evildoers like Kim Jong Un.”

If Trump were to decide to plunk down a half-dozen Nagasaki-sized nukes on North Korea, that would be just fine with this supposedly Christian preacher. God not only ordains whatever it takes, he also says Americans are biblically obligated to support whatever Trump thinks is necessary. Jeffries is clearly Trump’s kind of guy-- Sec of Defense material.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

JULY 2017 IGNOMINIOUS ABSURDITY AWARD: THE IGGY

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I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with the term “bonehead absurdity” as an apt description of the asinine statements I nominate each month for the infamous Bonehead Absurdity Award. ”Bonehead” suggests a foolish or stupid person who, possibly without thinking, blurts out an absurdity--a slip of the tongue, if you will. Looking back over nearly four years of bonehead absurdities, it is clear to me, and a number of Phronesis readers, that the absurd utterances I select do not represent momentary lapses of judgment; On the contrary, they provide a window into the character, values, and beliefs of the speakers. The utterances demonstrate ignorance, to be sure, but more importantly they reveal deceit, hate, mendacity, moral corruption, empathy deprivation, and, in many cases, depravity-- some of the speakers are downright evil to the core.

I have not been alone among Phronesis readers thinking that “Bonehead Absurdity” didn’t capture the essence of the shameful utterances. Loyal reader Jim Dubbs responded recently that the speakers defy definition in the extent of their stupidity or, of what he considers worse, "their willful and cynical exploitation of the baser instincts, fears, ignorance and gullibility of so much of the US population." I'd like to think an exploitation purpose motivated their absurd comments, but my sense is they reveal a deeper truth.  I think they really speak volumes about what's in their hearts and souls. These people simply can't help themselves.  A new name for the monthly award is thus called for.

No single term aptly conveys the disgraceful utterances I highlight each month. Perhaps one that comes closest is ignominious, meaning deserving of public disgrace or shame (at least from the thinking public). In recognition of the ignominious nature of the nominated absurdities, I will henceforth call the award the Ignominious Absurdity of the Month, or IGGY for short. Let all future IGGY winners will live on in Phronesis infamy.


1. Rick Wiles of TruNews. By now, you’ve heard that some Republicans have pointed the finger at liberals for the Alexandria shooting. Well, one religious right pastor took it to another level. He called for Democrats and their supporters to be rounded up en masse.

You may recall that in 2014, Rick Wiles called for a military coup against Obama. And yet, ever since Trump took office, he has warned that any opposition to Trump amounts to sedition. Hours after the Alexandria shooting, Wiles took his new line to its logical extreme—calling for a real-life version of Order 66. Listen to the whole thing here, or catch the highlights via Right Wing Watch.

Wiles claimed the shooting was the latest product of an attempt by the deep state—or, as he calls it, “the dark state”—to push Trump out. He accused the deep state and its allies on both sides of the aisle of “whipping up sedition” against Trump. To Wiles’ mind, there is only one solution—the Democrats must be branded as “a violent, seditious political movement” and disbanded.

Co-host Ed Szall asked if the “agitators in the media” should go as well. Wiles’response?

“I think they should be rounded up. It’s getting out of control. This was an attempted mass assassination today. Are we going to wait another month or two, until 30 or 40 members of Congress are mowed down? Are we going to wait until a Democrat socialist progressive commits an act of violence against Republicans?”

He then railed about Democratic attacks on Trump supporters both during and after the campaign—forgetting about the numerous acts of violence at Trump rallies, as well as the ugly and outright criminal trolling by alt-right thugs on Twitter.

But facts didn’t matter to Wiles. He claimed that the Democrats are trying to start an American version of the French Revolution. For that reason, he believes it’s time for the hammer to come down—now.

“Rachel Maddow ought to be taken off the air right now. MSNBC should be shut down. The Democratic Party should be disbanded as a violent, socialist seditious organization. It is NOT the party of Harry Truman. It’s certainly not the party of Thomas Jefferson. This is a seditious group. These are violent revolutionaries."

Wow. He’s openly calling for a real-life version of “Revenge of the Sith.” This is fascism, plain and simple.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

JUNE 2017 BONEHED ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Donald Trump. Where would the boneheads be without Donald Trump,  so I’ll start out with two. This morsel derives from his absurd decision to withdraw from the Paris accords. Included is a selection of comments he’s made in the past on climate change.

In the years before running for president, he called it “nonexistent,” “mythical,” and a total con job.”

Reminiscent of Senator “Snowball” Inhoff, whenever snow would fall in New York, Trump would be prompted to mockingly observe” “Global warming has been proven to be a canard repeatedly over and over again,” he tweeted in 2012. Later that year he said the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” A year later he wrote that “global warming is a total and expensive hoax.”

Did belief in the phoniness of global warming lead Trump to pull out of the Paris accord, or was it, as he stated, because the accord was hurting the American economy (or maybe it was that hard Macron handshake)? As with Trump, you never know. As usual, his muzzled staff offers no clue to his "thinking." What we do know is Trump thinks playing to his base is a formula for success. I don’t know what’s worse, Trump or his base?


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

FORBIDDEN QUESTIONS

NOTE: I received the following comment from anonymous on my Stupid is as Stupid Does post:

Anonymous: You make some good points about our cognitive amnesia and the failure of Americans to ask hard questions about our country’s foreign affairs. I agree that we have been very stupid about using military force, though I tend to lean toward willful stupidity: too many powerful individuals and organizations benefit from war.  What are some of the tough questions you think should be asked?  

Dear Anonymous,

For an expansive list of questions that should be asked, and very likely won't, I offer the following list provided by Andrew Bacevich, a highly regarded historian, specializing in international relations, security studies, U.S. foreign policy, and American diplomatic and military history, which was posted on the TomDispatch website. Bacevich is a Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at the Boston University Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies.  He is also a career U.S. Army officer who retired with the rank of Colonel.




Saturday, June 10, 2017

STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES


By Ronald T. Fox


"Stupidity is not the lack of knowledge, but the illusion of having it." 
                                                                                               Grigore Iulian:

STUPIDITY 7

These are confounding times.  The widespread rejection of facts and reason by many of our national leaders as well as a sizable portion of the American public has perverted our national discourse and led to decisions that boggle the rational mind.  Many people point to Donald Trump as the culprit who perverted our historical commitment to truth, but in reality our escape from reason traces back decades.  President Trump has clearly demonstrated he is well prepared to take irrationality to new heights.  

Not only have facts become politically irrelevant for most Americans, so has history. As a people, Americans are suffering, perhaps terminally, from cognitive amnesia, particularly as it applies to foreign affairs. I can’t help but think of the Santayana aphorism: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." It’s patently obvious that most of our political leaders, Republicans and Democrats, and most top military brass, foreign policy think tanks, and popular political pundits, have learned little from our recent history of military interventions in the Greater Middle East, Africa and Asia.  The Trump administration is no exception.  With missile attacks, intensified bombing, and loose talk about troop surges, it is doing its best to continue the amnesiac process. George Orwell would be proud.

STUPIDITY 5

Why are we oblivious to the lessons of past political and military disasters in places like Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, to name a few? Why do we continue to try to achieve political ends through the use of military force?  Why do we tend to shun diplomacy?

Friday, June 9, 2017

May 2017 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH


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1. Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). A constituent told Labrador at a town hall meeting at Lewis-Clark State College: “You are mandating people on Medicaid to accept dying …. You are making a mandate that will kill people,” to which Labrador responded:

“No one wants anybody to die. That line is so indefensible. . . . Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care,” he continued, drawing loud jeers from the audience.

Not only is this untrue, this is so transparently untrue that you would have to be in a Guyana cult leader's camp for the last decade to even give him the benefit of contemplating it for a half-moment. Americans attempting to struggle along despite not having access to health care is a staple of the news cycle. Americans showing up in emergency rooms suffering from acute dangers that would have never happened in the first place, had they been given access to preventative care beforehand.

Not only do Americans die from a lack of access to health care, they do so regularly, and by the tens of thousands. Labrador's insistence otherwise is not just a lie, it's a thumbing of his nose at everyone in the room. There's no way Labrador believed what he said to be true.

It's rare that we can conclusively answer the age-old question of dishonest politicians—evil, or just stupid?—but in this case it's fairly clear that Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador is lying on purpose and sincerely does not care if his constituents know it.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

APRIL 2017 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Donald Trump. The Donald allegedly told Tea Party groups at the White House that if the GOP health care plan dies, he will let Obamacare fail and let Democrats take the blame. So the Donald would allow our healthcare system to fail, destroying the lives of millions and millions of Americans, because he can’t get his way. What a baby! This should be a huge story.
 
Trump is like an attack dog. Whether its enemy Democrats, the enemy press, the enemy former President, the enemy healthcare system, or anyone else who speaks ill of him or his policies, he’s quick to move in for a kill. God help us.
 

Friday, March 31, 2017

MARCH 2017 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). Fact-conscious Americans understand that Donald Trump is a notorious liar. What’s most alarming is that many Americans, including most Republican Party identifiers, believe anything The Donald wants them to believe—that humans don’t cause climate change, all Muslims should be presumed dangerous, vaccinations cause autism, scientists shouldn’t be trusted, Obama was born in Kenya, massive voter fraud stripped him of a popular majority, his inauguration attracted a record number of attendees, the media pumps out vicious lies about the president-elect, and on and on. Chalk up Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, as a devoted Trump believer. According to Smith, it is:
 
“ … better to get your news directly from the president. In fact it might be the only way to get unvarnished truth.”
 
This is what it’s come to in America: a significant portion of the public trusts Trump’s direct communications more than it trusts the media, not to mention the truth. When this happens, as is perilously close, our democracy ends.

Monday, March 20, 2017

IS EXTREME PARTISANSHIP THE NEW NORMAL? A RESPONSE TO JIM DUBBS

 

NOTE: Below is a response to my The Personalization of Politics in America post of February 12th submitted by loyal Phronesis reader Jim Dubbs. It is followed by my response to his critique.


I must say that I am totally put off by any argument that would even try to compare the influence of political partisanship to that of racism. No contest. In any case, you may recall that in 1964, Goldwater and those who had joined his "tribe" were very personal in their partisanship (as, in fairness, were many of us who vehemently disagreed with him). His erstwhile fellow travelers (e.g., Senator John Tower, the Birchers, Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, General Walker, etc. -- hardly mainstream Republicans, but definitely not Democrats) demonstrated a partisan bias that was inflamed mainly by paranoia. Conspiracies everywhere!
 
Try to recall how many times you heard, "America, Love it or Leave it," or that fluoride water treatment was a Commie plot? One could not be neutral. A lot of families and friendships were split; emotions were very partisan and very personal. And like today, the Republican Party was hijacked by a very loud and ideological minority.
 
I tend to feel that much of the personalization of partisanship today has been amplified by the comparatively sudden emergence and pervasiveness of social media. It encourages intemperance and begs for over-simplification, which means little room or time for reasoned argument and, in turn, can rather routinely degenerate into ad hominem attacks. Soon or later, there is no room for a fair fight or a level playing field if the other side has subscribed to the tenet that the ends justify the means.
 
I am not sure how this is particularly new, however. To be more convincing, the Stanford research would need to also have been done 50 years ago to provide a basis for comparison. I think that the bigger worry about the future of domestic politics is how we can get competent individuals to run for office given the unbelievable amount of exposure and dissecting the most trivial details of their lives they are now being subject to. We may end up with only the most narcissistic and/or delusional to choose from.
 
As for this claim of partisan bias being the "new normal," I would counter by citing two factors: 1) the degree of apathy among US citizens eligible to vote as evidenced by the low voter turnout compared to other democratic nations; and 2) the growing number of voters who identify as Independents. I have joked with colleagues that voter apathy is a clear indication of the sound mental health of the populace, recognizing that the same ruling group will remain in place either way. Of course, it might just reflect a triumph of cynicism...or laziness, and apathy does, by subtraction, increase the influence of the partisan true believers.
 
My optimistic side would cite #2 as the stronger argument against concluding that partisan bias is the new normal, threatening the future of our democracy. I suppose if you are a strong partisan, that can infuse your view of almost anything, but if there are fewer like you as more of us become Independents, how might that development figure into predictions of what is normal?

Hey, it's only politics, certainly nothing to lose friends over. Besides, let's see what the next election holds before we start discussing a new normal. I seem to recall that words like "unprecedented," "aberration" and "bizarre" were frequently used to describe this past one. Just sayin'. We have survived more than a few periods of extreme partisan divides in our history. This, too, shall pass. I only wish I could say the same about racism.


Jim Dubbs


MY RESPONSE:


I’ve come to expect, and welcome, Jim Dubbs’ thoughtful responses to many of my posts.  He always brings an informed historical perspective to the table.  He makes me rethink my arguments with a keener eye to comparative history.  I don’t always agree with his responses, as is the case with his current offering, but they are always welcome. His skepticism about strong partisanship being the new normal inspired me to take a deeper look at the problem.  In my response below I take issue with some of the points he made in his critique and also offer some new thoughts on where partisanship may be heading. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

FEBRUARY 2017 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH


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1. Religions Right Activist, Gordon Klingenschmitt. On the latest episode of his “Pray In Jesus Name” program, Klingenschmitt said that gay people should never be allowed to serve as school teachers because they “should be disqualified immediately because of their immorality.”
 
Klingenschmitt was commenting on a report about a Minnesota elementary school teacher and his husband who allegedly abused multiple boys over the course of several years and then killed themselves once an investigation was launched. Klingenschmitt said that while these men were obviously possessed by “a demonic spirit of child abuse,” the school system and society as a whole also share the blame for allowing gay people to teach in public schools in the first place.
 
“As a culture now, the demonic spirit of homosexuality has taken over and redefined marriage, particularly in Minnesota, to tell these boys that it is okay,” he said. “And the demonic spirit of deception has taken over the school board or whoever decided, maybe the principal, decided to hire these child abusers to teach elementary school. Well, if anything, they should have been disqualified immediately because of their immorality, because the immorality inside of these two men are indicators that they are unfit to be a good example to little children.”
 
“This is evil upon evil and it’s not just these two men who are at fault,” Klingenschmitt added. “It is our laws as a society that need to be changed to prevent and protect children from this kind of abuse in the future.”
 
It’s always good to know that religiously righteous folks are protecting our morality.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

THE PERSONALIZATION OF PARTISANSHIP IN AMERICA

By Ronald T. Fox

PARTISAN DIVIDE III


Like many of you, I recently discovered that a number of my long-time friends voted for Donald Trump.  All are establishment Republicans who ridiculed Trump during the primary campaign.  So I was surprised by their votes. What were they thinking?

I have several old friends who identify with the Republican Party.  Over the years, this has given rise to many heated political exchanges, but in the end we always agreed to disagree.  Our political differences had no negative bearing on our friendships; if anything, our bonds were strengthened as we relished bouncing ideas and arguments off each other.  But, voting for Trump?  Had they crossed the line?  I began to wonder if our respectful partisan exchanges would continue.  Worse yet, would we be able to remain friends?  

I was aghast to think I might sever ties with old friends over partisan differences. Had the Trump election been that poisoning?  Has the partisan divide in America become so extreme that it's souring personal as well as political relationships?  A scary thought, indeed.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

JANUARY 2017 BONEHED ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH



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1. Mick Mulvaney, Ultra-Conservative South Carolina Congressman. How do you prove you're really the anti-science administration? It’s not enough just to deny climate change or spout anti-evolution slogans—any Republican can do that much. To be a serious member of the anti-science brigade, you need to stop funding research, including medical research.
 
Mulvaney, whom Donald Trump has tapped to be his budget director, has questioned whether the federal government should spend any money on scientific research. He recently delivered his brilliant insights to the flouride-is-a-communist-plot John Birch Society, and for those really craving a flashback to the days of “the AIDS virus does not cause AIDS,” the man who would have his finger on the figures for the nation’s research budgets justified the attack on basic science by questioning the connection between the Zika virus and birth defects.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded in April that the Zika virus causes microcephaly and other defects. But Mulvaney wrote:
 
“Brazil's microcephaly epidemic continues to pose a mystery -- if Zika is the culprit, why are there no similar epidemics in countries also hit hard by the virus?”
 
The answer is likely one that Mulvaney never even paused to consider—abortion. Brazil was hit first, but as the disease spread to other areas, increased awareness of its effects made detection and treatment more available. 
 
But for those like Mulvaney, who regard all of science as some sort of mystery religion run by a cabal of leftists who only want excuses to steal money from hard-working billionaires and halt the righteous profits that could be made selling DDT, the idea that Zika only caused 1,500 cases of microcephaly is a reason to stop the payments on science.
 

Monday, January 2, 2017

DECEMBER 2016 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Senator Jeff Sessions. Back in 2000, Sessions put his finger squarely on the source of problems in America’s schools: disabled children. Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general claimed, on the floor of the Senate, that while it was a good thing for schools to make accommodations for disabled students, it had just plain gone too far:

 
… we have created a complex system of federal regulations and laws that have created lawsuit after lawsuit, special treatment for certain children, and that are a big factor in accelerating the decline in civility and discipline in classrooms all over America. I say that very sincerely….Teachers I have been talking to have shared stories with me. I have been in 15 schools around Alabama this year. I have talked to them about a lot of subjects. I ask them about this subject in every school I go to, and I am told in every school that this is a major problem for them. In fact, it may be the single most irritating problem for teachers throughout America today.
 
In his statement, Sessions repeatedly cited the federal government falling short of its funding commitments to help schools comply with the law—but his answer was not full funding, it was going harder on disabled kids. Don’t think this is just Sessions rhetoric; the new AG has also walked the walk. As Alabama’s attorney general in the mid 1990s, he fought school equality after a judge ruled on behalf of about 30 of the state’s poor school districts who sought reforms. The case continued to languish in the courts while disability advocates worried that the poorest school systems didn’t have enough to fund the bare essentials for special needs students, according to a New York Times account. The case ended in 1997 ― after Sessions won a senate seat.
 
Add disabled children to the long list of people and principles Jeff Sessions won’t be protecting as attorney general.