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The other Hitler comparison

April 13, 2017

While Sean Spicer was busy demonstrating his qualifications to be Trump’s true spokesman, a Republican state legislator in North Carolina compared Lincoln to Hitler:

Lincoln was the same sort if (sic) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.

This, of course, is standard neo-confederate fare: that states rights are this nation’s purpose, and that the important thing is that state government have the power to limit reproductive freedoms, favor religion, and enforce sexual bigotry. The fact that the original call for states rights was to preserve slavery bothers them hardly a bit.

That ideology is now home in the GOP. Historians have no problem understanding how America’s political parties have shifted coalitions and swapped positions over the decades. Many Republicans, less so. Here’s the thing: you can be the party of Lincoln, or you can be the party of states rights. You can believe that federal judges using the 14th amendment to defend personal liberty against state law is nothing less than tyranny, or you can cheer that radical Republican, John Bingham, who framed the 14th amendment’s sweeping language. You can damn the Democrats as the party of slavery (they certainly were in the 19th century), or you can welcome into your tent those who are still flying Robert E. Lee’s flag. But when you try to straddle those contrary positions, to claim that the modern GOP is true to its roots, you just look dumb. That North Carolina legislator made the easy mistake of openly explaining a quite logical consequence of his neo-confederate views. Let’s see how quickly he spins.

Old professions

April 12, 2017

Stefano Benazzi, an archaeologist at the University of Bologna, has found two teeth at a dig in north Italy that had dental fillings put in them, some 13,000 years past. The fillings were made from bitumen. He found even earlier evidence of dental practice, but not fillings. See how quickly the field progressed? We can only hope, for the sake of the patients, that they had wine back then.

Article 50 begun

April 11, 2017

Andrew Sullivan pens an empathic apology for those who voted for Brexit. It’s certainly true that the European Union contains a large flaw, enforcing a monetary policy independent of a true political union. But as Sullivan admits, the primary motivation was ugly nativism. And that from areas with the fewest immigrants. Which gives this screed more resonance:

The more they crow about their win, the more the awful truth reveals itself: The working class backlash did not lead to working class victory. The anti-elitist uproar did not vanquish the elite. The only winners here are the sordid little charlatans who made their fame fanning the flames of hatred, hedgefund managers, and of course the manufacturers of “Keep Calm and Carry On” mugs, which erupted in storefronts across the land like a kitsch rash on the body politic. Apart from that, everyone lost.


April 10, 2017

Professors at North Carolina State University find that teaching research methodologies doesn’t help students think more critically. What succeeded in that, some, was teaching a course on fables and conspiracy theories.

State entomologists frequently encounter those who think they are suffering some bug infestation, but really aren’t. Delusional parasitosis may be more organic than a lapse in rationality — it’s hard to escape the feeling that some bug is biting you when you have that feeling. And here in south Texas, some bug often is biting you.

Stephen Law writes on why atheists and believers both see each other as unreasonable. Neil Carter writes more personally on losing faith.

Small steps

April 6, 2017

Congratulations to General Kristin Goodwin, the new commandant of cadets at the Air Force Academy. Undeservedly, she faces a special kind of opposition. Because she is lesbian.

Bleak science

April 5, 2017

In the science pipeline, public funding is more important for basic research than for applied research. As technology and medicine nears practical commercialization, commercial interests pick it up. But that basic research is harder to explain politically.

Health research is easier to explain. And we are at the start of an era of rapid progress there. Smart nations will plow that field. None of which will save it from current politics.

Trade and the global economy

April 4, 2017

Krugman is cheered by the fact that Trump has done nothing on trade policy other than bluster. I am not so optimistic. First, that claim is heavily qualified by yet. Second, other nations will respond to Trump’s protectionist stance, even where it doesn’t translate into policy.