Archive for the ‘Stupidity’ category

While Weasels Gnaw Our Flesh

June 18, 2017

Just a quick hit to remind everyone that while the criminal investigation of Trump and co. widens, they’re still pissing on us at every opportunity, and calling it rain.

So how’s this: it’s going to be legal again/stay OK for profit-making higher ed to rip off their students/protect the banksters:

The U.S. Department of Education is hitting pause on two of the Obama administration’s primary rules aimed at reining in for-profit colleges.

Department officials said they will block a rule, set to take effect next month, that clarifies how student borrowers can have their loans forgiven if they were defrauded or misled by their college. The plan was first reported by Inside Higher Ed Wednesday.

The Trump administration will pursue a do-over of the rule-making process that produced that regulation, known as borrower defense to repayment, as well as the gainful-employment rule. The latter holds vocational programs at all institutions and all programs at for-profits accountable when they produce graduates with burdensome student loan debt.

Given that college debt is one of the most iron-clad ways to crush upward mobility, this is another move by Trump and the grotesque DeVos to ensure that the current class structure in the United States remains intact.

Putting this in the long view:  the GI Bill, followed by the prioritization of public higher education in the 60s by leaders like Governor Pat Brown of California and Governor George Romney of Michigan, put first class advanced education and training within reach of an unprecedented amount of Americans.  The retreat from that ideal led by (mostly but not exclusively) Republican state governments, beginning with Reagan in California and then in the White House, have incrementally narrowed that opportunity.  Now, the combinatio of cost and constraints on access meant that the debt involved makes higher education as much or more a burden as it is the engine of a better life.

Today’s Republican party is just fine with that.  DeVos is not an outlier; this isn’t on Trump, or only on him.  The idea that higher ed (or education in general) is a business in which students are the product on whom to make a profit is utterly destructive of either a democratic ideal or any plausible concept of social justice.  And it is the core tenet of today’s radical conservatives calling themselves members of the Party of Lincoln.

One last thought:  I had dinner last week with a Democratic Party senior statesman.  He told me that in his view we’ve made the mistake of thinking better policies are argument enough for elections.  They’re not; we surely know that now, right?

Instead we have to convey something more, the framework in which specific good policies can work.  DeVos’ current obscenity gives us a hint as to what that might be. Republicans throw obstacles in the way of Americans making better lives.  Democrats are — and we should say so as loud as we can — the party of opportunity.

At least that’s my take.  I know it’s hardly original.  But whatever the particular frame you may favor, I think one of our biggest needs right now is to find a way to both describe and be (ever more) the party that can lay claim to affirmative allegiance, and not just the true fact that we are better than the other side.  Your feeling?

(Oh — and happy Father’s Day, all.  This thread should be open enough to tell us your plans, completed or still in prospect, for the day.  Mine? Pick up one of the rib-eyes on sale at Whole Paycheck today, and smoke it in the Weber egg.)

Image: Winslow Homer, The Country School 1871

You’re Fired! and Ready to Go…Errr, P’raps Not

January 20, 2017

There’s much to be said about the still-unpossible fact that the shitgibbon is now president.  But in this day one of our national experiment in test-to-destruction governance, there’s something…missing.

That would be a government.  Or at least, an administration.

There are roughly 675 Federal positions that require Senate confirmation.*

There are some four thousand more jobs to be filled by direct appointment, and while many of those are minor, many are not.**

So that’s the hole. How far along is Trump to filling it?

Well, according to The Washington Post‘s tracker, Trump has so far sent 30 names to the Senate.***  None have been confirmed.  By comparison in 2009, six Obama cabinet nominees were confirmed as of the inauguration, and four more followed the next week.

And even if/when all those nominated so far do make it through the Senate process, they’ll be doing — or rather not getting done all the work of the senior management of their departments.

Foreign policy? We ain’t got none, for the time being, no matter how often Trump bellows “America First!”  There are no appointees at State below the secretary level. That’s not “none-confirmed.” That’s none, as in not a single deputy, assistant, or under secretary has yet been named.

We’ve got no boots on the ground either.  In a break with prior custom, Trump demanded the resignation of every serving ambassador as of today.  With only three as-yet unvetted, much less confirmed, ambassadorial appointments, and dozens yet to be made, the US is without its head-of-mission everywhere.  While it’s true that politically appointed ambassadors have professional staffs that are still in place, the fact remains that our international representatives aren’t there.

Same goes for the national security apparatus.  The odious and unfit Michael Flynn does not require Senate confirmation, so he’s on the job.  He’s got no help though:

Trump has made one other NSC appointment, tapping retired Gen. Keith Kellogg to be NSC chief of staff. And some reports indicate that Matt Pottinger, a former Wall Street Journal China correspondent who joined the U.S. Marines and grew close to Flynn, may become the NSC’s director for Asia.

It ain’t going to get any better any time soon.  Flynn’s in charge of filling out his org chart, and, as the same Politico article notes, he’s making a mess of it:   (more…)

WASF, Part ∞

November 23, 2016

If we can’t see it, it won’t happen, climate change edition:

Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.

Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space.

After all, we can’t have any of that nasty left wing bias that reality imposes:

There is overwhelming and long-established evidence that burning fossil fuels and deforestation causes the release of heat-trapping gases, therefore causing the warming experienced in recent decades.

[Trump campaign advisor Bob] Walker, however, claimed that doubt over the role of human activity in climate change “is a view shared by half the climatologists in the world. We need good science to tell us what the reality is and science could do that if politicians didn’t interfere with it.”

Walker is, as one expects from Trumpistas, simply lying. Half of the world’s climatologists do not doubt the fact of human-driven climate change, unless you include those who got their advanced degrees at the University of Exxon’s Koch School of Science.  Ostriches and sand ain’t in it.

carl_eytel_and_george_wharton_james_in_a_horse-drawn_wagon_on_the_butterfield_stage_road_in_the_colorado_desert_ca-1903_chs-2280

This is a hugely consequential move.  There are two technologies that are essential to modern climate science: large scale numerical modelling made possible by the insane advances in computing power and associated computer science over the last several decades…and remote sensing, the ability to monitor earth systems on a planetary scale.  That’s what NASA — and for the forseeable future, no one else, brings with its earth science programs.  Kill that and we not only lose data going forward, we degrade a capability in an intellectual infrastructure that will take a long time indeed to restore:

Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said as Nasa provides the scientific community with new instruments and techniques, the elimination of Earth sciences would be “a major setback if not devastating”.

“It could put us back into the ‘dark ages’ of almost the pre-satellite era,” he said. “It would be extremely short sighted.

“We live on planet Earth and there is much to discover, and it is essential to track and monitor many things from space. Information on planet Earth and its atmosphere and oceans is essential for our way of life. Space research is a luxury, Earth observations are essential.”

This is a call your representative kind of issue.  It’s going to be difficult, certainly, if Trump really does go down this path, but NASA is enough of a pork barrel, and some GOP senators, at least, are not wholly clueless on this issue, so it might be possible to avoid the worst outcome.  It’s necessary to try.  If and as I hear of organized campaigns on this, I’ll bring the news  here.

Feh.

PS: that laser like media focus during the campaign on issues like climate change sure was impressive, wasn’t it?

C. C. Pierce, Carl Eytel and George Wharton James in a horse-drawn wagon on the Butterfield Stage Road in the Colorado Desert, c.1903. (Eytel was a painter associated with the “smoketree school” of artists working on desert subjects; James was a journalist and photographer.)

Some Stray Reading For When You’ve Finished Your Luke Cage Binge

October 1, 2016

Hey all,

I’ve got a couple of pieces out in what we might call the mainstream media that might reward your attention.

The first closes the loop on that lovely Royal Society award shortlist we talked about a while back.  The winner was announced a couple of Mondays ago and, alas, it didn’t go to The Hunt for Vulcan (which you should still totally read).

Instead the prize went to Andrea Wulf for her intellectual biography of Alexander von Humboldt, The Invention of Nature.  It’s a very strong book, as were each of the others on the shortlist.  I commend all of them to you.

job_lot_cheap_william_michael_harnett_1878-jpeg

The event itself was great, and the organizers made sure that each of the titles in the finals had a chance to shine, and while I was certainly disappointed, I was also greatly chuffed — and why not?  My work had been recognized as among the class of the year, I got to rub shoulders with some wonderful writers, (including a personal hero, the head judge Bill Bryson), and hey — London! What could be bad.

Nothing — until, as I was getting ready to leave that green and sceptered isle, I came across a piece at The Guardian in which the writer argued that there was something dodgy about Wulf’s win — that she had garnered a feminized prize, one that sought to reward a woman’s interest in people instead of a man’s pursuit of “problem, a mystery or an underexplored scientific field.”

I couldn’t let such arrant nonsense fly unanswered, so I wrote up a response for The Atlantic.  In it I drew both on my experience as one of the competitors in the contest Wulf won, and my prior encounter with prize judging as a Pulitzer juror in 2012.  Check it out, if you’ve a mind.

The other article you might find fun is a book review that I wrote a little while ago that went live yesterday at The Boston Globe — my take on James Gleick’s new book, Time Travel.  The shorter is that the book is great, really fine work, and I commend it to you all.  Here’s a sample:

Mostly, though, Gleick leads us on a thrilling journey of ideas. Augustine talks to Robert Heinlein who talks to Kurt Gödel, all the while someone is trying to connect a call between Marcel Proust and the ever patient Sam Beckett. Alongside the big ideas come the odd facts too delicious to leave out, as when we learn that among the audio selections placed on the Voyager spacecraft is the Bulgarian folk song “Izlel je Delyo Hagdutin’’ or “Delyo the Hajduk Has Gone Outside.” Pity the alien trying to decipher that code!

So, yeah. I’ve been delinquent in my blogging here.  Think of these as peace offerings.

Have a great weekend, all.  I’m going to continue nursing my dread catarrh; nothing like a full 747 to offer a smörgåsbord of viral delights.  Honey-lemon tea (possibly helped by some bourbon) in my future.

Image: William Harnett, Job Lot Cheap, 1878.

My Gob is Smacked Past All Smackeration. Thanks, Rudy

August 15, 2016

Just a quicky here, as I can’t resist this:

Speaking in Youngstown, Ohio ahead of Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York City on 9/11, declared that Islamic extremists hadn’t carried out any terror attacks on American soil before Barack Obama’s presidency.

“Under those 8 years, before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the US,” Giuliani told the crowd. “They all started when Clinton and Obama came into office.”

Video here.

Just as a reminder.  That would be Rudy “Noun, Verb, 9/11” Giuliani.

The_Rage_of_Achilles_by_Giovanni_Battista_Tiepolo

This is beyond hateful.  This is, as Charles Pierce has often said, yet more evidence that the GOP has been consumed by prion disease.  Really, it’s  just…pitiable…

Wretched…

Terrifying…

Absurd…

…Aw, hell.  I got nuthin’.  You?

Image: Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, The Rage of Achilles1757.

Because Some Asshattery Needs Its Own Snark

July 28, 2016

I can’t help but love this story:

The [North Carolina] state GOP sent out a tweet Wednesday night saying it was “shameful” for Kaine to wear the flag of Honduras during his speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Kaine was, of course, wearing a Blue Star Service pin, which people wear to signal they’ve a family member on active duty during a war or a conflict.

Here’s a typical version:

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To the wingnut mind, which is to say the Twitter account of the North Caroline GOP, this subtle and simple acknowledgement of pride and moment in a son’s service was the Honduran flag, and Kaine’s brazen display of that unAmerican allegiance was, and I quote, “shameful.”

To which I reply: Morans!

One additional note:  the Military Times article linked above contains an error.  It states that “North Carolina Republicans have apologized to Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine…”

Maybe so, but the only acknowledgement of their feckless, incompetent asshattery I’ve been able to find is a thank you to the person who pointed out what Kaine was actually wearing.  No contrition aimed at the nominee, his son, or the Democratic Party.

Which is to say that the NC GOP is not merely incompetent, feckless and having trouble peering through its own colon; they’re a bunch of ill-mannered boors whose parents should have (and maybe tried to) raise them better.

ETA:  as pointed out by valued commenters Hoodie, Omnes Omnibus, and in a prior thread Raven, the executive director of the state GOP did issue a clear apology to Tim Kaine and his family this afternoon.  So my dudgeon was accurate at the time I first read this story, and was superceded by the time I wrote my snark.  I regret that error — and exactly none of my disdain for the impulse that produced the initial last-refuge-of-scoundrelism.

TL:DR?  “Bless their hearts.”

Image:  from this catalogue.

Stupid/Evil Venn Diagram

July 17, 2016

Not sure how complete the overlap would be on this one, but if we took a solar eclipse as our diagram generator, I’m pretty sure you’d see a corona around this guy:*

The shooting in Baton Rouge took place as protesters and Republicans were arriving in Cleveland for the party’s national convention. Steve Thacker, 57, of Westlake, Ohio, stood in Cleveland’s Public Square on Sunday holding a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle as news broke that several officers had been killed in Baton Rouge.

After the shooting in Dallas, Stephen Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, urged people not to take their guns anywhere near Cleveland’s downtown during the convention because officers were already in a “heightened state.”

When asked about Mr. Loomis’s comments and the Baton Rouge shooting, Mr. Thacker said despite the shooting, he wanted to make a statement and show that people can continue to openly carry their weapons.

“I pose no threat to anyone. I’m an American citizen. I’ve never been in trouble for anything,” Mr. Thacker, an information technology engineer, said. “This is my time to come out and put my two cents worth in, albeit that it is a very strong statement.”

Schuttersstuk_Ferdinand_Bol

Dear Mr. Thacker,

Let me see if I can explain this in words which even an information technology engineer can understand.

Just because you say you are not a threat doesn’t make it so.  To everyone but you, you are a guy with a tool for mass murder standing in the street for no apparent reason…which makes you, as seen from outside the eternal sunshine of the inside of your head, a threat to every person in your line of sight.  That you think you are a good person puts you alongside just about every self-justifiying shooter.

We do know is that the best possible gloss on your actions is that you’re a bully. Guns are tools of intimidation as well as physical violence. That you would show up heavily armed in public spaces suggests you think it’s part of civic life to scare your neighbors.  There’s a word for people like that, or rather many, of which the most mild is “asshole.”

And, forgive me for being so blunt, but you’re not just an asshole.  You’re an imbecile too.  Guns are, of course, both weapons and target designators.Anything goes wrong during the convention  — anything — and you’re a man with a gun in a chaotic situation.  How is the federal sniper on the rooftop to know who you might be aiming at?  Dumb is as dumb does.

Here’s the kindest advice I can muster: go home.  Put your freedom-wand penis-extension away.  With rights come responsibilities, and one of the most often ignored is the duty not to be a putz.

Try it.

*Yeah, that’s a ridiculously tortured metaphor, but it’s that kind of day.

Image: Ferdinand Bol, Archer Unit, militia led by Colonel Govert Suys, 1653