No, We’re Not Becoming Russia

On June 1, 2020, President Trump declared he would invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 and activate various military units to move into states to assist local police and national guard troops with quelling rioting and stopping looting and other violence. Since he did that media, Democrats, and other progressives have been up in arms shrieking about authoritarian moves and how dare he and…and…and… I even saw a post on FB suggesting that Trump would cancel the November election in order to remain in office. I have to wonder how dark, twisted, and pessimistic is one’s view of this country and it’s people, and how much hatred you hold for Trump that that’s where you go first. Seriously? I read that post, rolled my eyes, picked them up and put them back in my head, and then logged out of Facebook. I may check back in tomorrow, but I think I’m going to go back to my previous routine of checking in on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and then skipping that swamp for the rest of the week.

Back to my original topic…the mention of the Insurrection Act pushed me back into my political science researcher mode. What exactly does the act do, and when has it been utilized? My comparative side wanted to go find out if other democratic countries had something similar.

Starting with the U.S. law, Jefferson signed the Insurrection Act of 1807 into law. It has been used several times since. What most people probably recognize are Eisenhower and Kennedy’s use of it to break up anti-desegregation protests and open schools in the south. It was also invoked during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Wikipedia has a good discussion and a list of the times that its been used here.

What I hadn’t known (US law is not my area of specialization), is that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Congress changed the law and expanded it to include natural disasters, epidemics, public health crises, and terror attacks. By designating AntiFa as a terror organization, it seems to me that Trump has now provided two underlying justifications for invoking the Insurrection Act: a functioning terror group, and riots that have moved beyond the capacity of local law enforcement to handle. As of now (Tuesday morning), the act has not been officially invoked. However, we did have a relatively quiet night here in Philadelphia, so perhaps it will not be necessary. I hope.

Looking at other countries with federal systems, you obviously find laws that specifically outlaw riots (even in democracies the term “riot” can be defined more or less strictly, but usually includes violence and looting in the definition. Here’s the Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition). Sanctions for participating or fomenting vary between countries as well. Canada, for example, gives police and governments, provincial and federal, much more leeway to define a gathering as a riot, and take actions as police deem appropriate. As a member of the Commonwealth, Canadian law mirrors that of Great Britain. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is a federal police force and the one used most often to disperse violent gatherings and deal with things like wide-spread looting. My quick and dirty search for Canadian law regarding activating military units within the country didn’t turn up anything specific, but going off of their status as a former British colony and current Commonwealth member, I’m going to guess that there are provisions for the Prime Minister to call up military units if he deems it necessary.

India is another democratic federal system. It has a strong central government that has more control and power over state governments than does the U.S. government over states here. India also has so-called paramilitary units which function similarly to the U.S. National Guard. India runs high with tensions between Muslims and Hindus and those tensions frequently break out into violent clashes. Also, almost as frequently, police will either do nothing, or occasionally step in on one side or the other as opposed to simply stopping and/or arresting all participants. For the army to be called in to help control violent riots, the civilian authorities must make that request. The army is viewed as more secular than local police forces so when the violence is between religious groups (usually Hindu and Muslim) the army gets the call.

In the end, it does not mean that a government has shifted from a democracy to an authoritarian system simply because the leader, whether president or prime minister, has called in the regular army to help local and state police forces deal with violence. Yes, a democracy can morph into an authoritarian system so slowly that one might not notice. But, if this is a part of that process, I argue that people are noticing the change (I think some moves have been going on for a while) and are now taking steps to reverse away from authoritarian means of governing. As an example, during Obama’s presidency, conservatives were extremely upset about his use of executive orders (EOs) noting (correctly) that EOs violated the legislative process. During the Trump presidency so far, that concern has reverted to liberals who are now extremely upset about EOs and claiming (correctly) that they violate the legislative process. In the end, more people are learning about the problematic nature of EOs and that’s a good thing.

We must remember that the U.S. is a very unique political system in the world. We were the first to institute a representative or republican form of government. We also have the widest/highest levels of individual freedoms among the world’s democracies. Those wide freedoms mean our political culture is also unique and that can be seen in how we respond to issues like police brutality and looting, or even the fact that we do respond. I know that it is not fashionable to proclaim American uniqueness, but we are indeed a one-of-a-kind political culture and political system.

I believe we will come through this current craziness and we will not be an authoritarian system. That will happen only if we allow it. And, no, Trump will not be the cause of it. I’m more inclined to think that those who so violently and vehemently oppose him and his policies (without ever thinking through results or consequences), those who scream at any and all dissent from their policies (on both sides), and those who try to force speech conventions (i.e. political correctness) on the rest of us, shift history around to suit their needs (1619 Project), and those who demand conformity with their ideas are the ones who would institute an authoritarian system.

We are a country and political culture built on individuality and compromise. The very definition of compromise is that nobody and no group gets everything they want, but we all come away a bit more satisfied with the situation than we were previously. Compromise by its very nature is messy and less than wholly satisfactory. Long-term survival, both as a political system that gives people the most leeway to define themselves, and as a species, demands that we all compromise with each other.

That’s the end of this rambling rant. Thank you for reading. Here’s to a looting-free week and all of us calming down, correcting what needs to be corrected (so, maybe the MPLS PD can look at their training and discipline procedures…), and return to rebuilding our lives and economy.

Freedom vs. killer diseases

Lately I’ve seen a lot of snark towards people who dare to express concerns regarding the rapid erosion of our civil liberties and freedoms during the Wuhan flu* lockdown. A college friend even started a Facebook post the other day with “but muh muh freedoms” and then proceeded to rant that people concerned with freedoms obviously wanted to kill of a third to half of the US population in exchange for those freedoms. I was appalled. No disease mitigation is worth the loss of our fundamental freedoms.

This is not about trading lives for freedom. It’s about maintaining our freedoms so that government overreach does NOT result in the clusterfuck we’re seeing here and now. Our privacy, our ability to provide for ourselves and our families, our ability to learn and grow…all of these things are in jeopardy from the current level of restrictions and overreach practiced by many states and counties. I’m not really sure if those individuals inveighing against the respect for and restoration of our freedoms have given any thought to how the country will move forward and recover without these freedoms.

Where do they expect to get basic necessities like toilet paper or food if manufacturers and farmers are subject to random, yet mandatory shut downs? How do they expect to educate their children? And, yes, how do they expect to take care of their ill and/or elderly family members when governments (see PA and NY for example) are requiring that assisted living facilities and nursing homes admit residents who have tested positive for Wuhan flu? Roughly 70% of all cases in the US (massively tilted by NYC) are in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. So, please tell me, how is locking the rest of us up helping when your government is locking up healthy elderly with those who are ill? And then depriving us of the means to support ourselves and take care of those ill/elderly relatives? That’s also part of your freedoms…information. And that has been severely restricted by state governments…all in the name of keeping us safe.

The government cannot and more importantly should not take care of everything for us. I don’t know about you but being infantilized by politicians is guaranteed to make me angry and act in a most contrarian manner. And, being told by useful idiots that “it’s for our own good” and that we should support every authoritarian whim of politicians as long as they claim it’s for safety reasons, is guaranteed to piss me off even more. I’m capable of discovering the dangers for myself. And, if you’re going to tell me that there are people out there who “don’t know” well, that’s on them. Or, if you’re so concerned, go tell them yourself. Governments function best when they acknowledge they are governing adults, when those adults take responsibility for their own actions, and when the rest of you don’t expect or allow the government to do everything. In my intro American politics classes I’ve always asked my students what happens if you allow the government to give you something? The answer is, it can, and often does, take it away.

Right now, we are experiencing a loss of freedoms and there is a fairly large chunk of our population that is OK with that for some strange reason. They seem to feel that since the “experts” are putting these ideas out there, those ideas must be perfect. It’s already been revealed that the “expert” model created by Neil Ferguson, MD in the UK, for example, is deeply flawed and relies on ancient FORTRAN code (seriously? Even I know that FORTRAN is the computer code equivalent of stone tablets). Ask any techie friend you have what is meant by spaghetti code. That’s what the “experts” are relying on and expecting you to take at face value. Don’t give up your ability to question everything.

Take the precautions you feel most comfortable with. Don’t let others, family or friends or experts, panic you into doing something or not doing something that your rational mind knows is not rational. Remember, fear and panic crowd out rational thinking. And, note that fear and panic are what’s being encouraged. To borrow from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy…Don’t Panic.

Demand that your government recognize and respect your natural rights and freedoms. We are better than this.

*Yes, I’m using Wuhan flu to describe this thing. It’s not racist to name a disease after the city where it was first identified. Lyme Disease anyone?

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Life is risky

As the memes and cliches say…no-one gets out alive. Life is risky and we’re all gonna die (unlike in the movie “Cocoon” where Wilfred Brimley says “you won’t ever get sick and you won’t ever die” when they find the aliens). Stay on Earth and you will die. Where we seem to be having an argument is over how and when we die and what risks we are all willing to take *before* we die.

Slowly but surely (and I’m very happy about it) the country is opening back up. There are stories from all over about states moving at their own speed and counties within states defying governors and moving at their own pace. Even Cuomo has had to allow some counties in New York to open up faster than, oh, say, NYC. But, with the reopening, some people have reverted or turned to a greater level of fear. It’s hard to tell if they’re afraid of catching the Wuhan flu and dying, or if they are pretty sure Wuhan flu won’t kill them, but will leave them scarred for life. Or, if they even know what they’re arguing for.

Now, people who were pragmatic and skeptical about the lockdown and the reasons behind it, are freaking out at the talk of reopening. I was puzzled at first, but I think I may have figured it out (note, I said *may*. I will not presume to be telepathic). Many of these people were happy to play the devil’s advocate regarding lockdown, but now that the reopening is actually happening, they’re reacting as if their biggest bluff has been called. They were comfortable when they and everybody else was restricted in movement. But, now, with things opening back up and people chafing to get out and back to some semblance of a normal life, they feel like they’re the only ones left who are worried. And, nobody likes being the only one on one side of an argument. So they’re bringing out the big guns to try to get people back into the fold.

The problem with this is that now they’re doing what they’ve railed against previously. They are trying to tell the rest of us that *we* have to adhere to *their* rules because they don’t want to be the only ones following those rules. I’m not sure why the sudden panic about disease when that has not been a primary concern prior to about yesterday. Like I said, the only thing I can figure is that suddenly they’re the last ones left and they never saw everybody else leave. So, they’re mad at the rest of us and getting defensive.

You may ask, how am I arriving at these conclusions? Well, my data source is the purely biased, anecdotal data from Facebook. I kinda sorta monitor my feed for these sorts of things. The kerfuffle over how to reopen has dissolved into a giant kerfuffle into whether each individual action within each step is wise. There’s really nothing overall to fight against. After all, they want to reopen things as well. Again, based on my own personal anecdotal evidence (which does not mean it’s wrong), they seem to like the idea of opening in the abstract, but are extremely fearful in the actual.

I’m still puzzled by all this fear. I guess the media has done a good job in stoking it. But, I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to drive out the ability to think clearly. I mean, any semi-rational individual can see that the information we’ve been getting changes rapidly. The rules/guidelines/regulations are less than useful after about two days (and that’s being generous). So, why can’t people follow that? I’m not sure, but I think it may have to do with several factors. The ability to take care of yourself, if you can work from home, that means you can easily avoid others (leaving out that your grocery delivery person is risking their health for you), and you can just hunker down.

All of this completely ignores those who cannot work from home. They’re the ones who need/want to go back to work. So, why do people not see that? How blindered are they?

I’m not sure. All I know is what I said before. Protect the vulnerable populations, wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and fucking stay home if you’re sick. I will wash my hands before I come visit you. If you wish me to wear a mask I will do so and sit or stand 6 feet away from you. But you cannot expect me to do the same with every other person. Your requests are not theirs. We are more risk-acceptant than you. Deal.

We need to just open back up and let the Karens fall where they may. Life is risky. Don’t expect me to adjust to your acceptable level of risk and I won’t expect the same of you. We’re all gonna die. Just have a ton of fun between now and then.

Image by Oleksandr Pyrohov from Pixabay

Fear

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.


–Frank Herbert, Dune

The Bene Gesserit litany against fear is something that has (sort of) stuck with me ever since I first read Dune. I say “sort of” because I never memorized the whole thing, but I did remember enough to remind myself to not let fear overwhelm me and remove my ability to think and act.

This pandemic and lockdown we’re going through right now has brought this litany back to me once more. I do not consider myself a particularly brave person, but I also like to think that I can face things that might be scary or frightening and still manage to function. Lucky for me, I was correct in my self-assessment. While stories about the spread and destruction of COVID-19 have multiplied faster than the virus has managed to infect people, I believe that I have maintained my cool.

This does not mean I am not concerned about the virus. However, I am becoming more concerned about the economic and other destruction that is being wrought in the name of keeping us free from this illness. The information is confusing, conflicting, and constantly changing (how’s that for alliteration?) Masks are for all; masks should be worn by those showing symptoms; masks are not necessary; wear masks any time you leave your house, even in your own car…you are never immune, oh, wait, yes, those were false positives; it will die down in the heat and humidity of summer…no, it won’t. It will come back worse than before…it will come back less than before…

You get the point. A law in physics says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. It seems that in the case of media and government bureaucracy reporting, for every report there is an equal and opposite report. What the hell do you do?

Well, I’ve decided that panic and fear are not going to be in my list of possible reactions. I’m watching friends, who are intelligent people, react in outright fear to any suggestion that the economy should open back up. I had a colleague say, with complete sincerity, that she didn’t think that students should be getting jobs at McDonald’s because that was “just too dangerous”. She then amended that to say, of course, if they needed the money…good grief. There is an absolute lack of understanding as to how the economy and supply chains work. I guarantee, these will be among the first people to lament the lack of food in stores and yet still fail to understand how that happened.

First off, reasonable people should be able to realize that the virus, no matter what we’ve heard about lethality, rapidity of contagion, droplets, etc. is NOT hanging around in clouds just waiting for us unsuspecting humans to walk out of the house and into a virulent cloud of infection. Really, it’s not. If you or someone you know is vulnerable, stay home, wear a mask when you go out, avoid sick people. These are things that immune compromised people have been doing for years…most of them quite successfully. If you are sick…stay the fuck home and don’t drag your sorry ass to work no matter how important you think your presence is; we’ve all done that and it’s stupid. It’s how common colds (a corona virus) float around offices. Why do you think daycares tell parents of sick kids that they cannot drop the kid off at daycare? Why do you think daycares are petri dishes of every random illness known to man? If your kid is sick, keep ’em home. But, because YOU are sick, that does not mean I have to stay home for fear of catching it. It is incumbent on YOU to take precautions not to infect others. If I am vulnerable, it is incumbent on ME to take precautions. It is not incumbent on the whole fucking world to protect you or me.

This is a rambling post, but fear is a rambling thing, I think. Again, I don’t think I’m fearful. Rather, I am concerned. Concerned about food supply chains in the immediate and near future, about the economy tanking so badly it takes a decade or more to get back to where we were in January (hard to believe that four short months ago we were at the top of our game), about mental health issues in general, about possible riots and other unrest as governors tighten the screws just as things seem to be waning.

A protest today around City Hall (or as many locals call it Shitty Hall), was met by counter-protestors several of whom held signs and banners saying “Reopening = Death”. Really? You believe we can stay closed permanently? That demonstrates a complete lack of understanding not only of epidemiology (I’m fairly certain they haven’t been out protesting against business as usual during previous flu seasons or during H1N1 or SARS or Ebola) but also of economics and how life and society depends on being able to do business. The government can give you money, yes, but it cannot make food or toilet paper. Only businesses can do that. And, many of those, and those in their supply chains, are closed. What good is government money if there is nothing to buy with it?

We need to overcome our fear of dying, our fear of illness, our fear of life. We need to recognize that people die. And, please. None of this means I or anybody else advocating for reopening WANTS people to die. What we want is to be given a chance to work towards preventing MORE deaths and preventing more AVOIDABLE deaths. Every death is a tragedy for family and friends. But, believe it or not, the world does not, and cannot, shut down for every single death (and trust me…when my father died I was shocked to walk out of the hospital and find people laughing…did they not understand what had just happened??) Fear of death cannot be allowed to overcome and obliterate everything we do.

Do not let fear become total obliteration.

Face your fear.

Let it pass over and through you.

In the end, only you remain.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Don’t Panic!

Are you panicked about coronavirus yet? Why not?? You should and you shouldn’t. It’s getting more difficult to decide what is overblown panic and what is realistic precautionary information. Should you <b>plan</b> on being quarantined? What if you have to? How do you plan for that? The whole situation is scary, uncertain, and seemingly constantly changing. But, I think with the most recent announcements by the president, namely the collaboration between the private sector and the feds to distribute and conduct the testing for COVID-19 will give us more realistic numbers, and give the number crunchers and those who have to respond to the numbers, far more accurate information. The key to damping down the panic is accurate information and we haven’t had much of that since before China announced that this virus. My plea to everybody is please don’t panic.

It’s a very weird dynamic, I must admit. On FB, I’ve seen a lot of my friends insisting that either we’re so complacent that we will all be dead by Easter and the world will end. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who are absolutely certain that the whole thing is a hoax, or at least so completely overblown that anybody saying it’s a bad flu should be ashamed of themselves. My take is that rational people recognize it’s somewhere in-between, but I will say I lean toward the it’s not really as bad as we’re being told it is by the media. Remember, the media, no matter how sophisticated they like to portray themselves as, are governed by the mantra “if it bleeds, it leads.” In other words, they <b>like</b> the sensational, emotion-inducing headlines. Dramatic pictures of empty store shelves, long checkout lines, etc. These all contribute to that feeling that society is thisclose to collapsing. And they’re gonna be with you every step of the way through that collapse.

My university has gone all on line for classes as of yesterday in response to some of this fear-mongering. We have a week to gear up and become functional in an on line environment. I understand why the decision was made. And, honestly, I’m looking forward to the increased flexibility in my days. But, at the same time, I think that it was something of an overreaction. It came in response to the cancellation of the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA seasons. It’s as if the president and board of trustees said, “Oh, crap. If the NBA is shutting down, we should too.” I mean, between Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night, everything changed dramatically. I’m just happy I’m not in administration and dealing with the logistics of all of this. Now, I just have to record my lectures.

But seriously. It’s a bit surreal. I went out for a long walk this afternoon. There were a lot of people out. Groups of friends, couples, individuals like me. All kinds of people out, living their lives, out and about. Not isolated, not quietly staying inside and avoiding all human contact. The world keeps going, and life goes on. Compare that to the grocery store this morning. Insanely long lines, carts piled high with 10s of things, panic-buying all the things. There was no meat, no frozen anything, and of course, no TP (what the hell is up with that anyway??) But the contrast was telling. Me, I’m going with continuing on with life and not giving in to panic.

Seriously. STOP PANICKING! That is what’s causing so many of the problems. Just stop. We’re not being confined to our homes, we’re not going to lose power or water. Do your usual grocery shopping. Buy your usual amount of TP. Go for a walk. Play with your kids in the park. And, for my students, do your class work. Me, I’m going to keep putting my classes on line, and post reminders to myself to check in with them from time to time (kidding…I’ll be there on line, every day).

OK, so this was a bit of a rambling post. But, please don’t panic. We’ll be fine. Testing is increasing. Trump has done the right thing in partnering with the private sector to get tests out and available to everybody. (I know that a number of my friends will screech at that comment, but it’s true. This is the right thing to do. Try not to let your hatred for the man cloud your judgment on actions taken.)

Take care, stay healthy, wash your hands, and avoid panic.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Mammoths and living

The following is a comment I left on a post called “Fraying” at According To Hoyt. The post is about how our differences, exacerbated by social media and the apparent need for many people to engage in virtue signalling (showing the world that this is a REALLY GOOD THING or NOTHING TRUMP DOES IS OK IN MY EYES EITHER! or whatever it is that they feel the need to be publicly supportive of or angry about). Because of this need to virtue signal many people believe lies and slander about others that they know personally and have known for years. Years worth of personal knowledge, friendship and shared experiences go out the window with the need to show those whose judgments they simultaneously crave and fear that yes indeed, I’m still totally supportive of this group!
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Just found this today.

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/taming-the-mammoth-why-you-should-stop-caring-what-other-people-think

It dovetails right with what you are saying about worrying about how others judge us, *that* they judge us and how we can get out from under that mammoth. Those that believed the slander about you, Sarah, will believe slander about anyone they know because they value staying in the group more than their authentic voice. They don’t realize there is another group “out there” which will welcome them in. Or they are afraid to even go look because of what others might say.

I started writing fiction because of a word prompt you had way back in the summer of 2018. I’m still in academia, but I have a plan and a system for leaving and yes, I’m going to make writing my full time job. I also know I’m going to get laughed at by colleagues. But then, due to events over the last year or so, I’ve already discovered I can’t trust most of them anyway.

Here’s to jumping and knowing the net will appear!
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The linked piece is what I want to talk about now.

The mammoth in the piece is a metaphor for our need for and fear of others’ acceptance of us. The author points out that we all have mammoths in us, but the trick to leading your authentic life and leading with your authentic voice is to control your mammoth.

Leading with your authentic voice, being public with it, is a very scary proposition. You open yourself up to ridicule, harassment, and ex-communication from co-workers, friends, and even family. When I decided to embark on this author journey I hesitated to even tell my husband that this is what I wanted to do. I was afraid he was going to laugh at me and also (very legitimately) bring up the issue of the two of us trying to live on one salary.

In the end, of course, I did tell him. And he was and is extremely supportive (I never should have doubted him. I know he would walk through fire drenched in gasoline for me). Others I’ve told have also been very supportive. A couple have asked me if I plan on continuing in academia while writing, thinking that of course, I will have to do the sensible thing and maintain a guaranteed income. (Did I mention that tenure is a life-time job guarantee and that I’d have to be insane to walk away from that? I did? Well, OK. To continue then.) When I say no, I’m jumping from academia to full time writing, most times friends tilt their heads, think about it for a few seconds, and then nod and smile and say something along the lines of “Cool! That sounds exciting!” I’m discovering that I’m very lucky in my circle of friends and I am beyond grateful for all of them.

So, my mammoth is seriously objecting to my leaving a tenured job for something that is simply riddled with uncertainty. Taming and controlling that mammoth has been difficult and scary. One of the things my mammoth does is indulge in internal conversations between me and what I imagine others will say. Needless to say this exercise does not result in any resolutions to anything, rather it simply ramps up my stress levels. I’m slowly getting that bit under control.

I read the linked piece today and I think it was the last little thing that I needed to convince me that yes, I am doing the right thing for me. I wrote some more on book #2 yesterday and today. Yesterday was a bit of a struggle, but today, things came easily. I’m not really sure yet where this book is headed (I have a vague idea, but no specifics), but I’m sure it will wind up someplace really fun and interesting. And, it should be a good story getting there.

I will no longer run my life and my ambitions according to those who are too buried by their own mammoths. I am listening to my authentic voice and giving it room to breathe and grow. It is not going to be easy, but it will be rewarding in a multitude of ways and I can’t wait! There’s a system or method to my madness and I’m heading out.

Living by the saying “Jump and the net will appear” is scary and exhilarating all at the same time. But I think this is the best way to truly live and I’m going for it.

Do it! Don’t let your mammoth smother you and don’t let the mammoths of others sit on you.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

Seeing what you want to see

There have been a number of issues in the news today that read like a “how-to” guide for deluding yourself about reality. By that I mean that many people are reading and becoming outraged by news stories on just about everything. The most common refrain I’m seeing on FB (my statistically inaccurate anecdotal survey tool) and hearing in conversations with colleagues is “I knew it! I knew s/he was corrupt/crooked/treasonous/lying/ evil/hypocritical/wrong/stupid/moronic/racist/sexist/homophobic!” or “Of course they hate him/her. S/he’s telling the truth/speaking truth to power/taking down the elites/ standing up to bullies/ supporting LGBTQ community.” Confirmation bias is seeing what you want to see.

These reactions come from all sides of the political sphere. Lefty/progressive friends hold up Greta Thunberg as a modern day Cassandra on climate change and Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi as bravely standing up against Trump the Thug. Right/conservative friends tend to understate some problems and overstate others. Although, truth be told, from where I sit, those on the right (aside from the Never Trumpers who seem to think that if they disavow Trump enough the Left will somehow come after them last) are far less likely to be sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming.

Let’s take the two main issues in the news today (tomorrow it will likely be two different issues given the rapidity with which the news cycle can spin). First off, Greta Thunberg and climate change. This child has stated that she is on the autism spectrum and suffers from depression. Her parents have money and clout. So, when she stated that the idea of climate change depressed her they encouraged that (I’m not making this up, you can read interviews with her. I’m not linking them because if you truly care about this issue you care enough to do thorough research…even if that research leads you to conclusions you don’t like or didn’t expect). So, Greta’s parents pulled her out of school and sent her on a world tour of developed countries (European and the US) to yell at them about how it’s all the adult’s fault for climate change. She’s 16, people. She’s not a meteorologist or a climatologist or a geologist or anything but a depressive, on the spectrum 16-year old girl. Who travels first class, sailed on a multi-million dollar yacht across the Atlantic and generally has her speeches and life scripted by her parents and other so-called “responsible” adults around her. Her parents in particular are making millions off of the exploitation of their daughter. This is not an “out of the mouths of babes…” moment. This is a 16-year old girl being manipulated instead of helped. Stop enabling her abusers.

The other issue dominating the news cycle (the media is spinning in place trying to keep up with what they should be screaming about today) is the impeachment inquiry begun by Pelosi et al. That one is fun too. Pelosi failed to follow House rules and put the initiation of the impeachment inquiry to a vote (probably because she knew it would fail), and changed the House rules in August to prevent Republicans from participating in any discussions regarding the inquiry. Adam Schiff received the whistleblower complaint in August, but only just now acted on it. The CIA changed the requirements for filing a whistleblower complaint from requiring first-hand knowledge, to admitting hearsay….in August. I’ll take manipulation of the system for partisan gain for $1,000, Alex. Abso-fucking-lutely ridiculous. Trump is rude, crude, and socially unacceptable, but Pelosi, Schiff, and the media are actually trying to undermine our political system and they’re doing it out of spite.

And, for anyone who thinks impeachment will ruin Trump’s presidency, I refer to you Bill Clinton’s impeachment. It didn’t ruin him. All’s it did was rile up the electorate and stop all responsible government functioning for six months. And, that’s what will happen this time. If you support Democrats and don’t like Trump, you should ask yourself why Democrats are doing everything in their power to help Trump win re-election. Because that is the way things are going right now.

Confirmation bias is running rampant on the left and seemingly everyone is caught up in it. That is going to make the shock even greater when things don’t turn out the way they expect. Brace yourselves. It’s gonna get ugly and it will come from the Left.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Total Control

Political philosopher Hannah Arendt coined the term “totalitarian” to denote those political systems which were created to control not only the political life of a state, but the cultural, social, and even personal life of its citizens. George Orwell in 1984 described a state where the government decided everything for its citizens and changed the language in order to fit the circumstances it wished to portray. Both authors, one in fiction and one in non-fiction were describing and predicting the consequences of what was coming to pass in the then-new Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, particularly under the rule of Josef Stalin.

Control of language is of utmost importance to a state. With that control the state (and those running the state) is able to force citizens to accept its view of issues, policies, and ideas. One consequence of such control is the public shaming of those who do not use the accepted terms either out of principled refusal or simple ignorance. Public shaming is very effective in silencing dissenting voices in the public square. It is also very effective in silencing any discussion or debate around any issue or policy. Disagreement with state conventions, policies, and issues is viewed and described as traitorous and those guilty of such treason must be silenced at all costs. The state and those in control cannot afford to have any of their positions questioned as that will bring to light the contradictions and hypocrisies that exist in the interior of those positions.

These contradictions and the very loud and very strong attempts to bury them is becoming clear in the rising debates around transgender athletes. Weightlifting has had the most public controversies. A transgender woman in New Zealand competed in and won a gold medal in the Australian International in 2017. Another transgender woman had her record expunged from the Raw Powerlifting Federation female records. Both of these women were and are biological men who have taken hormone treatments, but have not had surgery. Under pressure from international advocacy groups, the international sport governing federations have changed their requirements for testosterone levels in female athletes. Testosterone usage has long been an issue in the Olympics dating back to the days of East German female competitors. Testosterone boosts strength in those who take it or have higher amounts of it in their systems. Like men do. Biological men are competing against women and winning. Quelle suprise,

Be aware, none of the controversy revolves around anybody’s right to identify themselves however they wish. What is does revolve around is whether self-identification creates reality. A transgender person is not a biological male or female. Here’s where language comes into it. The word “sex” is used by biologists to denote the physiological differences within a species that allow for that species to reproduce. Without those differences appearing at some point, the species will die. Only amoebas are able to reproduce via self-separation (and even there separation is involved). Higher order fauna (e.g. not plants) must have two sexes in order to continue the species.

The word “gender” was first used as a synonym for “sex” as it was considered less racy. (I’m not kidding. I’m so old, I can remember being told to use “gender” when explaining biological processes.) Now, however, gender is used to describe the outward appearance and self-identification. That’s fine. However, changing the language or insisting that biological sex and self-created gender are one and the same is naive at best and totalitarian at worst.

The insistence that gender and sex be viewed as the same brings up a whole host of other issues. Many of these can be filed as resulting from the “Law of Unintended Consequences”. For instance, if gender and sex are indeed the same, then there is no longer any need for sex/gender segregated sports or organizations. No need for “grrl pwr” or giving girls an extra leg up in science or any other endeavor. If there’s no difference, then all kids and adults can compete for all things without regard to any differences. Language usage will tell us there is no difference. If you see a difference you are guilty of treason and wrongthink.

This is a long and involved topic. I’ll be posting more in the next few days as I continue to mull over the implications and arguments. But, hey! It’s Monday so let’s start the week with some complex, higher-order thinking!

48 Hour Rule

It’s been a busy week; the first week of the semester is always cramped, stressed, and moving at the speed of light or the speed of molasses in January, depending on what exactly one is facing at any given moment. However, I have been generally, in a headline skimming sort of way, keeping up with the news and goings-on in the world. Switching back and forth between our national shenanigans and the Brexit shenanigans, I’m starting to run out of popcorn!

The one incident that did capture my attention was the kerfuffle surrounding some kids at the March for Life and a Native American elder, Nathan Phillips. The original story was based on comments from Phillips, a 64-year old political activist. He said that the kids were yelling “build the wall” (link goes to original story) and using racist comments towards him. And, that story went viral almost immediately with multiple calls for the kids to lose any college admissions, to be expelled from school, to closing the school, to rabid anti-Catholic screeds. In less than 8 hours however, the story was blown apart. Even CNN admits that the video flying around the internet was extremely selectively edited.

Several things have crossed my mind over the last 24 hours regarding this incident. One is that I will be discussing this with my students this week. The second one is, what do we call it when a 64-year old man harasses and confronts teenagers? Isn’t that bullying? Thirdly, you would think that by now, most people would realize that they should wait 48 hours before passing judgement on ANYTHING. Especially if it perfectly fits into a narrative you desperately want to believe.

I posted two different corrections on my FB page, the one from CNN and one from Reason. The response? Crickets. I had hoped that at least one or two people would step up and admit they had jumped in with full-throated condemnation before getting all the information. But, sadly, no. The desire to maintain the fiction that one’s view of something (the political opposition can never be right, even if the story one is relying on is false) appears to be so strong, that, publicly at least, people are afraid to admit they were wrong.

Unfortunately, public admission of falling for such traps is the only way we can begin to heal this great schism. That and telling media types that perpetuate this crap to take a hike.