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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Trump Embarrasses the Country

Maureen Dowd:
Summits are always elaborately choreographed, but never before have allies had pre-emptive plans on how to counteract an American president’s handshake. Trump’s are more like dominance tests than greetings. First Justin Trudeau in Washington and then Emmanuel Macron in Brussels prepared to out-grip him on his patented “I’ll-rip-your-shoulder-out-and-show-you-who’s-boss” handshake.

When Trump pushed aside Dusko Markovic, the prime minister of Montenegro, to get in front of the NATO pack in Brussels and then straightened his jacket with primate panache, J. K. Rowling tweeted: “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.”
Donald Trump is not a tough guy. He’s a faux tough guy. That is not even in the American tradition. All of our famously tough icons, on screen and in life, were able to exude strength without using brute force. And they did it while standing up for people, not smacking them down.

  Aris Folley at AOL:
Social media was abuzz on Thursday after another video emerged of an awkward moment surrounding President Trump's body language at a NATO summit in Brussels.
After a video of Trump appearing to push past another European leader to get a prominent position at the NATO gathering went viral, another clip surfaced that seemed to show France's newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, dodging his U.S. counterpart's handshake attempt.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Evolution Picks Up Public Support

Art Swift reports at Gallup:
The percentage of U.S. adults who believe that God created humans in their present form at some time within the last 10,000 years or so -- the strict creationist view -- has reached a new low. Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults now accept creationism, while 57% believe in some form of evolution -- either God-guided or not -- saying man developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life.
This is the first time since 1982 -- when Gallup began asking this question using this wording -- that belief in God's direct creation of man has not been the outright most-common response. Overall, roughly three-quarters of Americans believe God was involved in man's creation -- whether that be the creationist view based on the Bible or the view that God guided the evolutionary process, outlined by scientist Charles Darwin and others. Since 1982, agreement with the "secular" viewpoint, meaning humans evolved from lower life forms without any divine intervention, has doubled.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Trump's ban "drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination."

The question for this Court, distilled to its essential form, is whether the Constitution, as the Supreme Court declared in Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2, 120 (1866), remains “a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace.” And if so, whether it protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge an Executive Order that in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination. Surely the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment yet stands as an untiring sentinel for the protection of one of our most cherished founding principles—that government shall not establish any religious orthodoxy, or favor or disfavor one religion over another. Congress granted the President broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation. Therefore, for the reasons that follow, we affirm in substantial part the district court’s issuance of a nationwide preliminary injunction as to Section 2(c) of the challenged Executive Order.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wireless Nation

From CDC:
The second 6 months of 2016 was the first time that a majority of American homes had only wireless telephones. Preliminary results from the July–December 2016 National Health InterviewSurvey (NHIS) indicate that 50.8% of American homes did not have a landline telephone but did have at least one wireless telephone (also known as cellular telephones, cell phones, or mobile phones)—an increase of 2.5 percentage points since the second 6 months of 2015. More than 70% of all adults aged 25-34 and of adults renting their homes were living in wireless-only households. This report presents the most up-to-date estimates available from the federal government concerning the size and characteristics of this population.
This trend creates challenges for public opinion research. 
Many health surveys, political polls, and other types of research are conducted using random-digit-dial (RDD) telephone surveys. Despite operational challenges, most major survey research organizations include wireless telephone numbers when conducting RDD surveys. If they did not, the exclusion of households with only wireless telephones (along with the small proportion of households that have no telephone service) could bias results. This bias—known as coverage bias—could exist if there are differences between
persons with and without landline telephones for the substantive variables of interest

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Idea of Reverence for the Constitution

The idea of a written constitution is coupled in The Federalist with another important contribution about how the people should regard the document. What kind of thing is a written constitution? From a legal standpoint, a written constitution is higher law. But is it merely law, or does it perform a further function and have a different status? Is the Constitution something to be venerated—something that endows government with respect and contributes to its stability and endurance— and that provides a bond that connects the people to the nation? 
As with the idea of a written constitution, many today can easily overlook the originality of this doctrine. But there is no logical connection between what are just words on a page and the veneration we apply to them. The idea of reverence for the Constitution was a creation of The Federalist. But why did The Federalist create this doctrine of constitutional reverence? 
First of all, the experience of the leading figures in writing and promoting the Constitution led them to appreciate just how difficult it was to secure a happy outcome for this kind of venture. The odds of success, they concluded, would always be slim, and there were always grave risks in trying. Every attempt at remaking government creates instability and threatens to divide the nation.
These leaders were also aware of how favorable, relatively speaking, were the circumstances in their day for accomplishing their objective. The proposed constitution was being considered at a time when people still had unusual confidence in their leaders, most notably George Washington, and when there was a lingering unity of purpose stemming from the Revolution.
Even more importantly—though the authors could not openly state this about themselves—was that the main figures involved were persons of exceptional talents, with rare devotion to the public good, and, in the case of a few, extensive knowledge of the science of politics. As I hinted above, accident (or chance) played a critical and perhaps decisive role in ratifying the Constitution.
Given these facts, the founders concluded that it would be best to lock in the gain. Veneration of the Constitution was a means to assure its durability and avoid temptations to engage in experiments of new-modeling the government. Durability would not exclude changes, which the Constitution allows for by the process of amendment. But amendment is not made easy, as this would defeat the objective of durability.
It is important to note, finally, that while The Federalist allows for piety as a support for the Constitution, it also presents the rational arguments in its favor. Depending on one’s inclination, either basis of maintaining the frame of government might work. This combination of rationalism and traditionalism is not easy to realize, as these two commitments pull the public mind in different directions. But suspended between these two poles is arguably the most realistic position for the public mind.
To support this combination, I chose upon solemn consideration to place “Fed 49” on my Virginia license plate. By this means I hope to impress on all who venture on our roads, and especially on the willful who tailgate, the need for restraint and the importance of fidelity to the Constitution.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans explains the removal of Confederate monuments:
The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.
First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy.

It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots.

These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city.

Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy.

He said in his now famous ‘Cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Monday, May 22, 2017

Finding Korea on a Map

Many posts have noted deficiencies in Americans' knowledge of geography and public affairs.

At The New York Times, Kevin Quealy reports that only 36 percent of survey respondents can locate North Korea on a map.
An experiment led by Kyle Dropp of Morning Consult from April 27-29, conducted at the request of The New York Times, shows that respondents who could correctly identify North Korea tended to view diplomatic and nonmilitary strategies more favorably than those who could not. These strategies included imposing further economic sanctions, increasing pressure on China to influence North Korea and conducting cyberattacks against military targets in North Korea.

They also viewed direct military engagement – in particular, sending ground troops – much less favorably than those who failed to locate North Korea.

The largest difference between the groups was the simplest: Those who could find North Korea were much more likely to disagree with the proposition that the United States should do nothing about North Korea.
Geographic knowledge itself may contribute to an increased appreciation of the complexity of geopolitical events. This finding is consistent with – though not identical to – a similar experiment Mr. Dropp, Joshua D. Kertzer and Thomas Zeitzoff conducted in 2014. They asked Americans to identify Ukraine on a map and asked them whether they supported military intervention. The farther a respondent’s guess was from Ukraine, the researchers found, the more likely he or she was to favor military intervention.
Education was a major factor in participants’ ability to find North Korea. Those with postgraduate degrees had among the most success; the only ones who did better were people who said they knew someone of Korean ancestry. Those who had visited or been to a foreign country were also much more likely to find North Korea than those who had not.

After the highly educated, the next most successful group was older people: Nearly half of respondents 65 and older found North Korea. The Korean War, which ended in 1953, may be in the memory of today’s older seniors.