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Godwin

July 26, 2016

Its author explains what he was trying to do with Godwin’s law.

The EU still is a mess

July 25, 2016

The EU has a core problem that it hasn’t yet figured out how to resolve. I don’t know that Brexit will help it at that, rather than hinder it. I suspect a political compromise will be worked out. Alas, likely only after enough economic pain.

Trump and the apocalypse

July 24, 2016

The apocalyptic mind is hard to fathom. In the US, it is apparent in a faction of the right for whom national or global catastrophe is always just around the corner. They feed on and generate fear. There are no small number who believe that America is falling into the abyss, that only faithful Christians can rescue it, and that the coming apocalypse is fore-ordained by their god and part of his plan. That last is not easy to reconcile with their desire to stop it.

Either entering or about to stop an apocalypse, it’s important and difficult to scry the sides. Those who seem evil may save the day. Those who seem decent may be a temptation of the few sent from higher powers. So it’s hardly surprising that the GOP convention hosted a Christian prayer against the enemy. The Democratic Party. Or to see a variety of evangelicals rally around Trump. Tony Perkins long has supported authoritarian policies, so it’s natural that he would boost a candidate who has announced his desire to use torture more, to close parts of the internet, and to make the civil service partisan.

Not all Christians are so quick to demonize those who politically disagree with them. Or to cast their lot for someone like Trump:

Trump is a misogynist and philanderer. He demeans women and minorities. His preferred forms of communication are insults, obscenities and untruths.

But this is the apocalypse, isn’t it? You can’t be picky about the guy who is going to fend off those hordes of Muslim zombies.

And you want to stay young and fit for that final battle. So it is entirely appropriate that the small business owner chosen to speak at the GOP convention is a distributor in a typical MLM scam, pushing naturopathic supplements.

History is full of unexpected catastrophes. But if history teaches us anything, it is that populist leaders promising to save the day are sometimes the cause of catastrophe, and never its preventive. The real dangers that lurk are not the ones that whip the crowd into a frenzy.

Lichens are weird

July 22, 2016

According to this fun article, they are a three-way symbiosis, not two-way. I haven’t chased down the cites. But wouldn’t be surprised.

Economics or not?

July 21, 2016

David Brooks points out that people naturally are caring, unlike homo economicus. Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer criticize the classical notion of market equilibrium and how that is used in political debate.

Turkey vs. its educated elite

July 20, 2016

It looks like the failed coup signals Erdogan’s victory over Kemalism. Populism and social conservatism prevail. Alas. The purges subsequent are unsurprising. And now, the ban on academics traveling abroad. The ones smart and footloose will take that as their cue to exit.

Crime, police, and trust

July 19, 2016

For a few decades, Americans have enjoyed long-term declines in crime and homicides. Some large cities may see a bump up this year — we won’t know for certain until next year. If there is a “Ferguson effect,” though, it may have more to do with a breakdown in trust between people and police, than with police withdrawing enforcement. One of the things that breaks that trust is when policing is run as a revenue center, in a fashion than indentures the poor. That previous link is from last year, but well worth reading.

Slate discusses the difficulty of sussing out evidence of racial bias in law enforcement. But as that Mother Jones article suggests, those researchers may be looking in the wrong place. It might be the larger problems are systemic, rather than with how police act in the field.

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