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Courts block Trump on coal

September 25, 2017

Despite the law on such matters, the Trump administration is trying to ignore greenhouse gas emissions when approving coal leases. It was just slapped down by one of the more conservative appeals courts, the 10th circuit.


It’s not sexism or racism or stupidity…

September 21, 2017

In America, today, not many people will say, “I am biased against women.” It’s not socially acceptable. But they will make all sorts of claims about the nature of women and men, and let those views drive everything from their dating to their hiring decisions. So I’m not at all surprised that researchers at the Harvard Business School find the latter, not the former, when they investigate hiring bias. Some roll their eyes more than me.

And few today will say, “I don’t like blacks.” But they like Breitbart. They know when to interject “what about black-on-black crime?” They think white people are under attack. And like David French, they get irritated that they’re constantly reminded of these things.

Heck, the only group today more persecuted than whites are evangelical Christians.

Tribalism and politics

September 20, 2017

Andrew Sullivan writes on the increasingly tribal nature of American politics. He is correct that tribalism is ingrained in the human psyche, that “it comes more naturally to us than any other way of life.” It requires political mechanisms to keep it in check at the national level. Sullivan notes the political institutions that have helped other nations manage that, and the fragility of America’s political structure in that regard:

There is no neutral presidency here, and so when a rank tribalist wins the office and governs almost entirely in the interests of the hardest core of his base, half the country understandably feels as if it were under siege. Our two-party, winner-take-all system only works when both parties are trying to appeal to the same constituencies on a variety of issues.

But Sullivan misses something large. He works to be fair, to point out the role that tribalism plays on all political sides. “It doesn’t matter if you believe, as I do, that the right bears the bulk of the historical blame.” By relegating the role of tribalism to the cultural and procedural ways we have divided, and even more, setting that to the past, Sullivan ignores the fact that the right-wing’s policies have become overtly tribalistic. Opposition to immigration. Protectionist economics. The automatic support for law enforcement in conflict with minorities, and the castigation of every minority protest against that. Rampant nationalism. Opposition to universal access in healthcare. Praise of traditional sex roles. Dismissal of science. What these all have in common is that they strengthen tribalism. Sullivan tries to explain the right’s recent shifts there as examples merely of following the tribal leader:

When a tribal leader does so, the tribe immediately jumps on command. And so the Republicans went from free trade to protectionism, and from internationalism to nationalism, almost overnight.

But these shifts weren’t just the happenstance of what Trump wanted. They are shifts away from cosmopolitan policy, and toward a politics of tribalism. They were part of how Trump got out in front of that movement.

A nation’s civic institutions are a large part of what moderate tribalism. That is why the pundits of the right have spent decades attacking most of our civic institutions, from public schools to NASA, libraries and museums and parks, municipal art and municipal spaces both. The courts as well as the FBI are the dread deep state that must be neutered. The only civic institutions they support are the military, the police, and religious institutions. And then only when they serve their tribal purpose. Attorney General Sessions is ending the DOJ’s commitment to community policing.

Given that Sullivan sees increasing tribalism as an unfortunate social change in how we do politics, and not also the result of particular policies and political stances, it isn’t too surprising that his recommendations are tepid. Perhaps because I see this increased tribalism as the successful result of a political program, I am less sanguine than him about how it might end. The opposite of tribalistic is cosmopolitan. The right has tried to make #cosmopolitanbias a slur. I fear Sullivan’s own interest in that will be challenged more than he imagines in the years to come.

Coffee and bikinis, whiskey and swill

September 19, 2017

Coffee and bikinis! That combination is right up there with chocolate and almond, or seranno and garlic, or Garfunkel and Oates. I cannot believe that Everett, Washington would try to ban it. They deserve to get sued.

NPR looks at how some distilleries are experimenting with sending their whiskey to sea to age it:

Chemist Tom Collins, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, who has analyzed the flavor profiles of American whiskeys, says higher temperatures like those found in tropical locales, and the swill of the ocean, can both accelerate the whiskey aging process.

Well, I have experienced both swell and swill on a boat at sea. I hope those whiskey makers are more careful than NPR writers in choosing which their whiskey wants.

Consequences of global warming

September 18, 2017

We don’t yet know whether global warming will make hurricanes more frequent or more intense or change their existing patterns. We do know it has caused and will cause the seas to rise. Elevation relative to sea level is a crucial determinant of storm risk to the infrastructure and homes and businesses we build. Ignoring that accelerating rise when building new or rebuilding will be a costly error. Trump, alas, will be that short-sighted, because he lets politics misinform him on science.

The military is trying not to be that shortsighted. It understands, though, that it must now couch its attention to global warming in the emporer’s new language.

One of the myths about the increase in atmospheric CO2 is that it is a good thing, because CO2 is plant food. The biology error there is thinking that simply increasing an organism’s food intake always is a good thing. When you increase CO2 in the atmosphere, plants don’t just grow more. They grow in different fashion. And some important food plants become less nutritious.

Unions and frauds

September 15, 2017

I’m not surprised that the elites of Silicon Valley generally are liberal, nor that the exception to that is they do not support unions. The common view in the high-tech industry is that unions made sense when business was more static, when employees would stay with one firm for decades, and when work roles were more rigidly defined. None of those things are much true in the tech industry, and are less true in most business today than in decades past. So, the thinking goes, different mechanisms are required to provide the balance between business and labor. There are counter-arguments to that view. And those who manage business clearly have their own vested interest. Interestingly, though, the liberal view of the Valley’s elite includes support for other mechanisms of reducing inequality, including mechanisms that would cost them directly in the pocketbook.

It is not the least surprising that Newt Gingrich has his fingers in the private college pie.

Someone was in Ted Cruz’s office in the wee hours of the morning, drinking Cruz’s whiskey and using Cruz’s Twitter account, gave approval to pornographic tweets. I’m surprised Cruz would hire anyone with that much gumption.


September 14, 2017

arrghhhThe photo left — click on it to expand — shows the USS Jimmy Carter, a Seawolf class nuclear fast attack submarine, recently returning to her home port. Note that she is flying the Jolly Rogers. Why would a US Navy sub fly the Jolly Rogers? Well, there might be reasons.

5th Landing had a good race last night, with the able Teri at the helm. The other J/105 racing, Veloce, was just ahead of us at the mark. But then had her chute cut in two by submarine attack. Or, by something deep. Never let your chute go deep.