Link Roundup, 2/6/2017

From Scientific American: How diversity makes us smarter.

From Wired: A nice follow up to last week’s Forbes piece, a look at the power of tech workers in the immigration fight with Trump.

From the LA Times: A look inside the cult thinking that drives so much right wing politics. This time focusing on Sandy Hook conspiracy theories.

From Gizmodo: A full list of the companies taking on Trump and the GOP over the Muslim Ban.

From Quartz: How immigration constraints to stop the next ‘unicorn’ from being made in the USA.

113 Comments

  1. Ladies and gentlemen, time to go shopping! Add Nordstrom to your list next time you need some new duds. The “prez” is tweeting that Nordstrom dropped Ivanka’s line and that’s hugely unfair…….Wha, wha, wha.

    In other news, Joe Pompeo of Politico, reported that Breitbart news announced that its business is brisk……..guess we should have expected it but happy that the left is experiencing tremendous new subscriptions as well.

    Little Liz is now the queen of tweets: #LetLizSpeak, #ShePersisted. Really, Mitch? You used an arcane rule and went after a woman, reading a letter from Corretta Scott King, that is part of the Congressional Record, in an almost empty chamber, and you think YOU WON?

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/02/08/daily-202-mitch-mcconnell-gives-elizabeth-warren-s-2020-presidential-campaign-an-in-kind-contribution/589ac34ce9b69b1406c75c9b/?

    1. An interesting sidenote – Nordstrom stock has gone up since POTUS issued his TWEET. Nordstrom first announced the dropping of Ivanka’s line a week ago and T just TWEETED yesterday. Neiman-Marcus and Belk have also dropped her line. TJ Maxx and Marshalls are no longer providing special displays. This is from the Seattle Times.

      http://www.seattletimes.com/business/retail/trump-attacks-nordstrom-in-tweet-over-ivanka/?utm_source=The+Seattle+Times&utm_campaign=6a0b5e68c7-Morning_Brief_02_09_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5beb38b61e-6a0b5e68c7-122532297

      I won’t speculate on the causes.

      1. Others are doing the speculating. Last night lawyers stated that Nordstrom had probable cause to file charges against potus for abuse of his position for personal benefit. I doubt they’ll file suit, (especially since their stock rallied) but many people are actively looking for legal means to check the abuse of power and position of potus. It’s just a matter of time before it happens.

        I was pleased to see the brave and correct action taken in SC by their Health and Environmental Division that denies a T petition to avoid environmental clean up for a business he owned. Only problem is he lied in his petition and he got caught. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/07/business/energy-environment/trump-organization-titan-environmental-cleanup.html

        Here’s an action step regarding the Nordstrom tweet if you’re interested. It has been noted by several members of Congress as well as media that the phone lines, visits, protests, cards and letters is overwhelming, and they are not slowing down. These are small actions we can each take on issues and actions that are important to us, and it appears they are adding up.

        “Call the Office of Government Ethics and lodge a complaint against Trump. Nordstrom recently announced that it was dropping Ivanka Trump’s line, and Trump took to twitter to blast the retailer. The message to leave; is that it was unethical for the president to use his position to promote his or his children’s business interests. Also, that it was unethical for KAC to give “a free commercial.” Call the Office of Government Ethics at (202) 482-9300 extension #5 and leave a complaint.”

    1. Stephen, interesting article. I guess my disagreement is that I believe Kennedy was a far better person than potus….that his goals for our country far exceeded his personal political ambition….that he “learned from his mistakes” because he was humble enough to see his mistakes. Otherwise, the parallels were fascinating.

      Somehow, I can’t see a Pres T ever dreaming big enough to put a man on the moon unless he had secured real estate rights…..

    2. I just read the JFK article. When JFK took office, I was 15 and just coming of age politically. When the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred, I was 17 and then when he was assassinated I was at Fort Ord, CA, preparing for my graduation parade from basic training. Then two years later I was in Vietnam. Needless to say it was an eventful period.

      Regarding the comparison between the two men, superficially there is similarity. But there was considerable difference, JFK volunteered for service in WWII and had his PT boat sank. He facilitated the rescue of his crew. T avoided service. JFK had personally written a well received book, Why England Slept. T’s book was ghost written. JFK had served in both the House and the Senate. T devoted his life to real estate development and being a celebrity and went through a number of bankruptcies. These are just a few of the significant differences.

      Insofar as the final question, can T learn as quickly as JFK did. My answer is to look at their past records. I think the answer is obvious.

      1. Before potus can learn, he will need to do two things: first, learn to read something with more than 40 characters;, and, second, to acquire humility. I really couldn’t say which of these two tasks will be most difficult for him but suspect the latter.

  2. My husband went to his doctor for his annual checkup today and I tagged along. Out of curiosity, I asked the doctor about health care in our area.

    The county where we live in has been hard hit economically. Our doctor said that affordability has flipped with many more people getting medical care through Medicaid and others who had insurance not coming in because they are either not covered anymore or their deductibles are so high that they put off getting care they need.

    Most of you like Vox, not Fox, so here’s an article about the dilemma people with health insurance face when emergency room care costs are prohibitive:

    http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/2/6/14493132/emergency-room-bill-bandage

    1. And the solution for this is doing away with health insurance subsidies so even more people are unable to afford health insurance?

      And consequently, the remaining people who are lucky enough to still have insurance would see their premiums skyrocket, as we will have to start paying again for health care for the uninsured. You know, the way it used to be before Obamacare.

      And people with pre-existing conditions would still have access to health care….to policies they could in no way afford. Just like it was before Obamacare.
      You remember all those fabulous fundraisers at local bars so people could get help paying for their kids cancer treatments? Before we moved to Upscaleville, we lived in Closedfactorytown. There was like one of those a month. Good times!

      For someone who goes on and on about your sister’s inability to afford health insurance, about how her family has to choose between buying food or buying whatever, you seem remarkably unconcerned about the Republican “plan” for an Obamacare replacement. You know what a big centerpiece of that so-called plan is? Health savings accounts, where families like your sister’s can put aside some money each month, money that by your own admission they don’t have, to maybe, just maybe have enough saved up to afford a full-freight hospital bill. Yeah, that makes so much sense!

      I guess that whatever crap plan the GOP foists on us, you can always console yourself that at least it isn’t a plan enacted by a Democratic president. Let that thought warm the cold, empty recesses of your heart.

      1. MassDem – my favorite subject, health care!

        Here’s another issue the GOP is going to have to “reckon” with. Gallup reports that the uninsured adult population declined the most in ten states (principally because of the expansion of medicaid)…..7 are Republican dominated…KY, AR, W VA lead the pack…..There’s gonna have to be some “splainin'” done when the new, improved T-Care comes down with a smaller Medicaid budget. Red state governors are already expressing concern because they know states will have to pick up the slack from fewer federal funds and increased medicaid demand. They know that will mean more taxes which will make them the boogeymen, not those who reside in the D.C.

        http://www.gallup.com/poll/203501/kentucky-arkansas-post-largest-drops-uninsured-rates.aspx?

        In the 7 GOP plans I’ve read so far, the nod to including pre-existing coverage has a big caveat – it’s not unconditional as it is now with Obamacare. You can continue coverage without penalty with a pre-existing condition but, there can be NO significant “break” in coverage (like the old COBRA, remember?) In other words, to qualify for an exception for a pre-existing condition, you have to be insured before you can apply for the New ACA, and , you cannot have a break in coverage that exceeds their “tolerance” window (60 days or more, it varies.) People who have not been covered, they’ve got to go through medical underwiting just like in the “good old days”. Those who are covered but lose jobs, get sick and can’t work, miss premiums, the pre-exisiting exclusion goes away. The goal is to give insurers a way to reduce coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. This is a very popular feature of the ACA and one that the GOP is tip-toeing around because insurance companies don’t want sick people (-; on their rolls. Where will these people go? Emergency rooms – the most expensive care which cost is absorbed by taxpayers and hospitals – or, Medicaid, but there is a problem. The GOP is planning to reduce federal funding for Medicaid when they block grant the program. All those people who have had subsidies under the ACA? They will now likely fall under Medicaid, which means states (aka taxpayers) will have to pick up their costs in order to meet increased demand. Makes governors the “bad” guys as they’re the ones who will have to pass new taxes or make cuts to provide health care to the uninsured. Pretty slick move by members of Congress, right? “Here you go, states, all yours!” All that “hoey” about an HSA or tax credit? How can this help poor people? No, the pre-exisiting element as structured will never replace the ACA concept and America will begin the climb back to 45 million uninsured Americans – or more. Medicare and VA health care will also be affected, but that’s a subject unto itself. Meanwhile, we taxpayers currently pay 71% of the cost of premiums for our members of Congress and civil servants, and, guess what? Unlike everyone else who applies for ACA coverage, their income doesn’t affect their eligibility! (Bet you didn’t know that…..) I don’t see that changing giving the way these things seem to always work out, so whose ox is being gored? Again.

        This is why our friends on the right are having such a tough time rolling out their replacement for Obamacare…They know what they “want” to do to contain costs, and they are trying to figure out how to pass along more of the cost to the consumer and market the plan with all of the “bad” elements blamed on the Democrats. Same old, same old. I wonder if John Q. Public will ever see the GOP for what they really are. Grafters.

    2. MassDem, Of course I am concerned with whatever plan is “foisted” on us.

      Hopefully, lawmakers have taken notice of some of the provisions of Obamacare that have been worth keeping. No one should be disqualified because of preexisting conditions.

      1. If you want to keep the no-DQ-for-preexisting-conditions clause, then you have the accept the individual mandate if you want private companies involved, or you go full single payer. I have yet to hear any 3rd option that would work in the real world.

      2. If you care about health care, then don’t get caught up in the political nonsense. Figure out what you think we absolutely need, and then refuse to settle for less. Make sure your Representative and Senators know what you want, and enlist as many like-minded friends as you can to get the point across. I would NOT recommend waiting around with the assumption that it will all work out in the end with what the GOP comes up with–there are things that will be lost once Obamacare is no more that will not be easily restored.

        You have young children, right? Do this for them.

    1. I spend all day dealing with companies. There are no organizations in the US who have put more women and minorities in senior, highly compensated positions than tech companies based in CA. I’ve never seen anything like it in the US, not even in NY, though the Big Apple does come close.

      Notice what’s not in the article – comparisons to any other high-paying industry. Show me how many women and minorities are in senior positions at Exxon and Valero.

      The only reason you’re seeing those companies mentioned is that the tech industry obsesses over this stuff. They track these numbers constantly and have entire infrastructures inside the company and across companies to try to address it. It would be hilarious to see something similar attempted in oil and gas or Big Ag.

      1. From the article:

        “Google employees are 70% male and 30% female. Google’s ethnicity data refers to US employees only, and indicates 61% white, 30% Asian, 4% identifying as two or more races, 3% Hispanic, 2% black, and 1% other.”
        ———————————–

        Maybe, companies have put some women in high profile positions, but the assertion that they are diverse when it comes to African Americans and Hispanics is baloney.

        My husband is from a region in California that is heavily tech. What is seen is white, white, white, Asian, white.

        The last time we stayed at a hotel when visiting his mom, the only Hispanics we saw were cleaning the rooms or working in the restaurant. The only African American we saw was at the front desk. Who was primary staying there during the working week? White males.

        Sorry Chris, 3% black and 2% Hispanic and 1% other is not my definition of diversity.

      2. I couldn’t find any specifics on big oil. (Any links you’ve found?) My husband worked for a major oil company and I’ve been to the company headquarters in Houston on a few occasions. There were many Hispanics and African Americans in the offices, and it was a welcome change from decades past when there were mostly white males.

        My husband’s employer had assets and joint ventures in many foreign countries. For example, some of the projects he worked on included many diverse people. The joint venture in Venezuela was heavily Hispanic in both US Hispanics (including his boss) and Venezuelan nationals. A project in Nigeria meant making friendships with many Nigerians and learning some of their customs.

        Throughout his big oil days, every foreign assignment meant company sponsored programs aimed at being sensitive culturally to the places we were being sent to. This included learning the language. My husband became proficient enough in both Spanish and Norwegian to attend meetings held in those languages and he was able to communicate effectively.

        I didn’t do nearly as well, but I did try – although I must confess I drove my Spanish language teacher to distraction. We usually ended up speaking English. At least, I got to learn a lot about Venezuela culturally, and my Spanish teacher’s English improved quite a bit. 🙂

      3. My husband worked for a major oil company and I’ve been to the company headquarters in Houston on a few occasions. There were many Hispanics and African Americans in the offices, and it was a welcome change from decades past when there were mostly white males.

        I have worked in those offices as well. Sure there are Hispanics and African-Americans in the offices. But go to the executive suite or look at the make up of the traders. It is almost as white as the GOP convention. I am frequently the only minority face in meetings and on the trading floor.

        I would hope to God the management was not that stupid to exclude Hispanics in Venezuala or Blacks in Nigeria.

        Please point out the diversity at Exxon
        http://corporate.exxonmobil.com/en/company/about-us/management

        Shell
        http://www.shell.com/about-us/leadership/executive-committee.html

        They got one Asian. On the trading floor there are some minorities but few and far between. During my time there there was one African-American junior trader.

        Conoco
        http://www.conocophillips.com/who-we-are/our-company/leadership/Pages/default.aspx

        Hey two White women

        Chevron
        https://www.chevron.com/about/leadership

        Hey two African Americans – Both in Human Resources not in operations.

        Not one Hispanic and only a handful of minorities and they were mainly at Chevron.

        So please explain to me the diversity at these companies again. I like a nice fairy tale.

      4. Turtles, I agree that these companies have a long, long way to go. Senior management is still that boring white color. When my husband was a new hire, walking into an office building meant seeing almost exclusively white, male faces.

        Currently, there is definitely more diversity in the pipeline to higher management especially as far as women are concerned.

        Being a well qualified member of a minority or a woman would actually be an advantage at this point in time. My daughter certainly thinks she has great possibilities ahead of her.

      1. Here is how to contact Sheriff Harold Eavenson and let him know how you stand on this issue: Eavenson spoke in favor of current asset forfeiture law and ridiculed Konni Burton’s S.B. 380 which would: “repealing civil asset forfeiture provisions and establishing criminal asset forfeiture in this state.”

        IOW, one must be convicted before assets are confiscated.

        972.204.7009

        950 TL Townsend Drive
        Rockwall, TX 75087

        http://www.rockwallcountytexas.com/formcenter/34/34

  3. Just for the record, as the Senate voted by the narrowest of margins to confirm a woman who is assuredly the single most unqualified nominee to lead the Department of Education, two Republican women, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, displayed courage in voting No and for which I’m writing an e-mail to thank the both of them. If at all possible, I’d ask that everyone else here do the same.

    That said, every single Republican man, including Sens. Sasse, McCain, Graham and others all voted to confirm DeVos. Sasse in particular, as one Chris suggested we keep an eye on, is particularly disappointing. Despite talking a good game, evidently the courage that the women in his caucus found was beyond him. I won’t forget that.

  4. David Frum was on a panel show and said, (paraphrasing but close) “the reason the occupy movement fizzled was because it was about 999 things which meant it was about nothing. We should concentrate on two things, tax returns and a bi-partisan commission to investigate voter fraud and voter suppression.”

    1. Two points, Tutta. Simplication of message and legislation is important. When proponents of something as basic and important as health care can’t explain the plan, it allows the opposition to control the narrative.

      Michelle Obama has repeatedly stated she will never be a candidate for POTUS. I believe her but I agree she is a wonderful person.

      I was happy to see Obama enjoying himself in the beautiful blue waters of Hawaii this morning on television. I couldn’t help smile at the contrast between his having a rip-roaring great time in the sun and surf and potus growling and tweeting more crap. Having fun yet Potus?

  5. What do Democrats need to do if they want to take power again? Keep it simple. That’s the message from a Democracy (a left-leaning blog) post that decries how Democrats have been swept up in a seemingly endless stream of bureaucracy, of tax credits, savings accounts, insanely complicated healthcare reform that people STILL can’t sort out, and all other manner of mentally taxing bullshit that people are too busy to keep up with, much less give credit for.

    Needless to say, I wholeheartedly agree. Unified opposition from the right aside, President Obama and the Democrats always seemed to be left scratching their heads, wondering why they never got as much credit as they felt they deserved for all they accomplished. That’s the problem. If you can’t explain to someone in less than a minute how you’ve helped them, you’re losing.

    That’s one truth Republicans have understood very well and it’s one Democrats, if they ever regain power, will have to learn if they want to have any hope at keeping it.

    http://democracyjournal.org/arguments/keep-it-simple-and-take-credit/

    1. Spot on. One Trump supporter asked me once, “What does Clinton actually stand for?” to which I replied, “Her policy proposals are all over her website.” And then the person said, “Yeah, but what does she actually stand for?”

      It was then, in that one very illuminating moment, that it all came crashing down for me. I realized that we non-reactionaries have too big a tendency to try and see things from all sides, to dither, to debate, to ultimately come up with pedantic policy proscriptions that don’t resonate with the people we’re trying to help.

      And I should know better. I’m a teacher. My job is to take complicated concepts, distill them down, and present them in a bite sized way that is comprehensible.

      The Left and the Middle need to stop dithering. We need to simplify the message and present it in a way (through stories, not facts) that actually sticks with people.

      1. You and I know that, but sadly, this kind of hyperbole works. Even when sensible gun legislation is passed, it is never acceptable to gun proponents…such as the proposed repeal of the law that removes gun possession from people who are severely mentally ill. How can anyone argue against the wisdom of this law, yet it is happening in Congress.

      2. Sadly, simple is a lot easier if your message is “Climate change is a hoax” or “Government is the problem” or “China is stealing our jobs” or “Muslim terrorists hate us.” Reality tends to be a bit more complicated.

      3. With all due respect, Tutta, you kinda sound like you have the impression that we’re simplifying the message for simplifying’s own sake. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s not the case at all. Look at two examples that the original Democracy post compared to see the difference in their effectiveness, Social Security and the Affordable Care Act.

        FDR and Democrats in Congress passed SS and promoted it to everyone, and in very easy to digest ways that took less than a minute to understand. Do a quick google search for all the kinds of SS posters and flyers that were made and show me one that would take more than a minute to read and understand. You will not find it because it doesn’t exist.

        People understood what Democrats had done for them, were immensely grateful and rewarded FDR with a MASSIVE electoral victory and Democrats being the majority party for 40 years thereafter.

        Compare that overwhelming success with the ACA and the difference couldn’t be more stark. President Obama and Democrats, for all their good intentions, passed a hulking behemoth in healthcare reform that they couldn’t explain (which let Republicans take control of the narrative), people were confused and Democrats got their electoral asses handed to them in 2010 in ways they still haven’t recovered from.

        You cannot inspire people to come out and vote for you if they don’t know what to be grateful for, and they won’t know that if you can’t say what that something is in a bit-sized chunk that takes less than a minute to digest. Democrats have forgotten how to do this. We see the results of this failure in people who STILL don’t know that Obamacare and the ACA are the same damned thing.

      4. Their understanding will improve “when” their health care changes under Republican rule. Of course, then it will be a little late to protest, but it won’t be too late to vote. I noticed in a NYT article today that profiled the potus/O’Reilly interview that now the operative words are “it’s going to take more time to reconcile repeal with replace….” Unfortunately, there are other issues equally important that are progressing at a brisk clip through the legislative process…The speed and plethora of changes that are happening are not accidental but designed to create chaos and defeat cohesion around a central set of objectives. Smart but reprehensible politics.

      5. DS

        With respect, Ryan, you’re argument is tied to the assumption that there’s a simple explanation for the ACA that can compete with Republican claims and branding. The law is complicated because the healthcare market is complicated; the idea that it can be distilled down into the space of, say, the Constitution, is wishful thinking.

        To simplify the message, in this case, you have to simplify the law. The leftish ways of doing that are essentially single payer or “Medicare for all.” Those were political nonstarters at the time the ACA was adopted, and remain so today.

        Simplifying is insufficient. You can’t get simpler than death panels, government takeover of healthcare, and putting a bureaucrat between you and your doctor. Those messages work because they 1) appeal to fear, and 2) rely on a narrative of out of control government that the Republican Party spent years cultivating. If you simplify the policy down to single payer or actual government healthcare, you just play even further into that narrative. If you just simplify the message, you don’t have the narrative to back you up.

        If Democrats want to be electorally successful, they need to show how their policies play into a narrative of American success. Want to start a business? We’ll make it easy to make sure you have insurance. Lose your job? We’ll make sure you keep your insurance. That sort of thing. The problem is, you have to establish the overall narrative first. That, I think, is where Democrats have really failed. That said, Trump is providing an excellent opportunity to seize the mantle of American optimism.

      6. DS, I am in complete agreement. The ACA plan is difficult for people to underderstand without a great deal of study because it was a sweeping overhaul of health care. Regulatory changes impacted employers, providers, individuals, pharma, hospitals, physicians, preventative care, private markets as well as medicare and medicaid. Given the scope of what the ACA tried to achieve, it is necessarily complex, but individuals who are simply looking for a health care plan were focused on cost and benefits, and the ACA went much, much further. The ACA fundamentally changed the way in which government interacted with the health care institutions as well as end users and providers. This complexity is difficult to explain in sound bits but it is undeniably true that it was poorly marketed. The GOP seized the narrative and created the negative image they wanted in order to kill the program. Now they talk about “repairing” the ACA…which is what they should have been working with Democrats all along to accomplish. That is history now.

        The good news is that local groups that are working to resist potus’ administration and the GOP legislative agenda andthey are not only actively protesting, but are working to become informed about issues. I met today with a board member of a local chapter of LivingLiberal and we talked about their priorities. They are developing a survey of their membership to prioritize issues, educate members, train them in effective communication and time management, and plan an organizational structure. They will find out when people can meet, what skills they can offer, and who the leaders are….everything a smart organization does with limited resources. They don’t lack passion but they do recognize that many of their members are new to political activism and they want their time and energy to be effectively utilized. That way when the members discuss health care reform, they will know what they are talking about and will be able to contribute when they have opportunities to engage with elected officials. This is encouraging grassroots activism and I salute them for their efforts to do it right.

      7. @Creigh Gordon: >] Sadly, simple is a lot easier if your message is “Climate change is a hoax” or “Government is the problem” or “China is stealing our jobs” or “Muslim terrorists hate us.” Reality tends to be a bit more complicated.

        Creigh, not a single one of those can’t be easily countered with the right policy proposal and simple message.

        Climate change is a hoax? Take former Republican Rep. Inglis’ proposal to pass a carbon tax and cut income taxes by the same amount. An incredibly simple, easy-to-understand policy that tells people directly how they will benefit. Forget a minute, I can make a poster that tells that story in less than fifteen.

        Government is the problem? Make billboards and plaster them over highways all over the country reminding people how Eisenhower started the Interstate Highway System.

        Do the same with Social Security and Medicare. Promote them in retirement homes, hospitals and all manner of places where where old people are (Florida, perhaps?) and remind them how government did that and how we should strengthen and save the system and, please, be specific and simple about it. Do this year-round and never let a Republican get a word in edgewise about how you’re supposedly going to destroy it. Never let 2010 happen again.

        The examples go on and on. Government is there to be credited, but Democrats seem to curl up into a ball anytime the opportunity comes up. Why are they afraid of what their party has done? People despise liars, but there is nothing they hate more than a coward.

        China is stealing our jobs? Show me a single congressional district or state in this country that automation won’t hit in one way or another. China and Mexico aren’t the enemy. Technology is. Get real American citizens, even some Trump voters, to cut a quick 30-second radio or TV ad explaining the problem and what the solution is. Promote a Universal Basic Income.

        Yes, reality is complicated, but I recall the immortal words of a famous president who said: “There are no easy answers, but there are simple ones.”

      8. >] With respect, Ryan, you’re argument is tied to the assumption that there’s a simple explanation for the ACA that can compete with Republican claims and branding. The law is complicated because the healthcare market is complicated; the idea that it can be distilled down into the space of, say, the Constitution, is wishful thinking.

        Democrats got themselves sandwiched between a rock and a very hard place because they went small ball and tried to act within a complicated system instead of reforming the system itself.

        Healthcare is NOT a market. It has none of the defining features of a market. Trying to force the proverbial square into the round hole is a recipe for failure and chaos.

        >] “To simplify the message, in this case, you have to simplify the law. The leftish ways of doing that are essentially single payer or “Medicare for all.” Those were political nonstarters at the time the ACA was adopted, and remain so today.

        Nope, it’s an exercise in futility to try and simplify this law now. It’s far too damaged, both politically and in terms of its execution. Just ask Republicans on Capitol Hill who have to deal with this behemoth now. At some point or another we’re going to have to make another break effort to reform the entire system and do it right this time.

        >] Simplifying is insufficient. You can’t get simpler than death panels, government takeover of healthcare, and putting a bureaucrat between you and your doctor. Those messages work because they 1) appeal to fear, and 2) rely on a narrative of out of control government that the Republican Party spent years cultivating. If you simplify the policy down to single payer or actual government healthcare, you just play even further into that narrative. If you just simplify the message, you don’t have the narrative to back you up.

        DS, that is defeatist talk that says you’re screwed no matter which way you go. We can do a national healthcare plan that covers everyone, that includes participation by the states and the federal government, and which can be funded by a modest tax increase and which will have no premiums or deductibles. That’s a story that can be told in less than a minute. If opponents want to talk death panels or a government takeover, LET THEM. Nonsense like that is nothing to fear if you have the better narrative.

        >] “If Democrats want to be electorally successful, they need to show how their policies play into a narrative of American success. Want to start a business? We’ll make it easy to make sure you have insurance. Lose your job? We’ll make sure you keep your insurance. That sort of thing. The problem is, you have to establish the overall narrative first. That, I think, is where Democrats have really failed. That said, Trump is providing an excellent opportunity to seize the mantle of American optimism.”

        Making it easier for businesses to have insurance? That sounds very nice, but NO. Cover everyone with a national healthcare plan and take the issue off businesses’ plate once and for all. You will get far more support that way.

        Lose your job? You will not have to worry because you’ll still be covered by a national healthcare plan. See how much easier that is?

      9. As Rachel Maddow says, here’s pushback for your pushback.

        1) Health care is not a market……..Everything about health care is profit-driven except for the administrative organization. It is a huge market if you check out stock prices of big pharma and health providers, medical instruments and the services aspect (labs, diagnostic tests, etc), not to mention hospitals and physicians et al. As for “going small”, I wish the Obama administration had at least offered an option for single payer, but if you recall, he bucked many in his iinner circle by going as large as he did. Don’t forget, in the final vote, 34 Dems voted against the ACA in the House.

        You have read here that I support universal health care funded by a VAT and available to all. How it would be organized (socialized, single payer, combination public/private) is beyond my ability to suggest but if one uses France as a model, it can be done, done for a lower percentage of GDP than the US and still offer better health outcomes.

        2) Repair ACA “can’t be done; whole new plan needed”. While I am in favor of any vehicle that offers quality health care affordably to all people, the reality of the time is that we will be lucky to achieve “repair”. It’s not that you are incorrect it’s just that our country is years away from having the collective will to work for a whole new, better concept.

        3) Your one minute health care plan statement….let’s hear it!

        4) I think you misunderstood DS point on this one (or I did!). I believe DS was talking about “marketing” health care in a way that appeals to people’s basic fears and needs…..I am in total agreement that Democrats did and do a terrible job of communicating their ideas, especially given the fact that the GOP can be counted upon to lie, distort, and create fear and chaos in order to defeat anything that doesn’t have their impramateur (even though this was essentially “their” plan).

        Your pushback?

      10. DS

        And the problem with your line of thinking is that all I have to do is scream “SOCIALISM!” and you’ve already lost half of America. It doesn’t matter if you can tell your story in five seconds, you’re on ground that has been prepared by Republicans for years. Doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome, but it’s going to involve a lot more than crafting a simple policy message.

      11. That only happens if you let your opponents control the narrative. That same tactic was tried during the times of SS and Medicare. It failed then and it can fail now, but proponents have to fight and define their story first. You have to get across to America, talking to people and making sure they understand what you’re for. That’s what a simple, clearly defined message and policy can do.

        Republicans and their bullshit will be formidable, but any long-term victory starts with the first step and a fight that starts right now.

      12. There are many people commiting time and energy resisting this administration and the GOP agenda. Reality is we are in for a long, hard four years sprinkled with a few bright spots. Half of America doesn’t talk to the other half and the Republican Party controls all branches of government. We have an imbecile in the WH and a Congress that is complicit by their silence. That requires that focus our llimited resources to fight for those issues that are most important and achievable. It’s exciting to see so many people fired up and pitching in to resist, but it is also important that we pace ourselves, because the journey is difficult and it is long.

      13. >] “1) Health care is not a market……..Everything about health care is profit-driven except for the administrative organization. It is a huge market if you check out stock prices of big pharma and health providers, medical instruments and the services aspect (labs, diagnostic tests, etc), not to mention hospitals and physicians et al. As for “going small”, I wish the Obama administration had at least offered an option for single payer, but if you recall, he bucked many in his iinner circle by going as large as he did. Don’t forget, in the final vote, 34 Dems voted against the ACA in the House.

        If you had to describe markets in two words, they would be leverage and transaction, and when you enter into a potential one, you always have the option of walking away, which is your leverage. If, for whatever reason, you don’t have that option, then whatever comes out of such a thing will be many things, but a market transaction isn’t one of them.

        That said, when dealing with healthcare, where is your leverage? You don’t have any. It’s your health and unless you come at life with reckless abandon, the option of walking away doesn’t exist for you. Barring government interference, health insurers have all the leverage and they make the rules as they see fit.

        Whatever else you think with regards to profits and the like, this is not a market. It’s never been one. Until we get past this misunderstandings, we’re never going to fix the fundamental problems that exist in our system.

        >] “2) Repair ACA “can’t be done; whole new plan needed”. While I am in favor of any vehicle that offers quality health care affordably to all people, the reality of the time is that we will be lucky to achieve “repair”. It’s not that you are incorrect it’s just that our country is years away from having the collective will to work for a whole new, better concept.

        True, we are years, if not decades away from coalescing around the collective will to enact universal health care. Still, we have to get started now. The longer we wait, the longer our collective victory is stalled.

        >] Your one minute health care plan statement….let’s hear it!

        I’m for a universal healthcare system that covers everyone, achieved through a program utilizing the best of the public and private sectors. With a modest tax increase, everyone will have comprehensive, private insurance with no deductibles and no premiums; insurance that can never be taken away.

        With this we can truly, finally say that Americans will never again have to worry about a lack of quality care for themselves and their families.

        >] 4) I think you misunderstood DS point on this one (or I did!). I believe DS was talking about “marketing” health care in a way that appeals to people’s basic fears and needs…..I am in total agreement that Democrats did and do a terrible job of communicating their ideas, especially given the fact that the GOP can be counted upon to lie, distort, and create fear and chaos in order to defeat anything that doesn’t have their impramateur (even though this was essentially “their” plan).

        Yup, Democrats suck at messaging. They need to re-read their FDR.

      14. DS

        Mary’s pretty close, but my overall point is this: it’s not enough to simplify policy and improve messaging. Republicans have spent the past 20 – 30 years constructing a narrative framework that supports their policy framework. “Death panels” had resonated because it fit into the overarching narrative of an overbearing government so absorbed with its technical genius that it couldn’t see the harm it was doing to its own citizens. Universal healthcare is a dirty phrase for the same reason.

        Until Democrats can lay the groundwork for their own, alternative narrative, the sort of simplified and ubiquitous messaging you’re calling for will run into a buzz saw.

      15. Even Political Orphans mess up our messaging (-;

        Still disagree on health care/market….There are plan choices (except where there is only one plan and that is mostly because Congress, aka, GOP, removed the price supports from providers set up under the ACA (rumor now is that insurers are saying they have to have this or they won’t continue past March…which will be catostrophophic for Republicans…). Even with Medicare, you have a choice between traditional and Medicare Advantage, you have choices with the RX plan and you certainly have supplemental plan choices…Most plans allow you to select ppo or hmo…What am I not getting here about your belief that choice doesn’t exist?

      16. >] Most plans allow you to select ppo or hmo…What am I not getting here about your belief that choice doesn’t exist?

        I’m assuming you mean that with respect to what I said about markets and choice. If not, please correct me.

        Assuming that’s the case though, you’ve misunderstood me. I’m not talking about a choice of plans at all, I’m talking about either having insurance or not, period. In this respect, the only so-called choice one has is either having insurance or risking shaking hands with the Grim Reaper.

        There’s no leverage in such a scenario, thus killing any notion that healthcare itself can ever truly be a market. People don’t have the option of searching out the most affordable healthcare plans when they’re having a heart attack and are being rushed to the hospital. They need immediate help and that places all the leverage in the hands of insurance companies and hospitals.

        Now the logical response to this is, well, that’s what insurance is for and while that’s not wrong, it does nothing to solve the fundamental problem in that you’re still dealing with an issue that people can’t afford to walk away from, their health, and which places the overwhelming power in the hands of others. Whatever kind of transaction emerges from such a process will be many things, but a sound transaction that takes place in the marketplace is most certainly not one of them.

      17. DS

        “It’s gotten so bad, DS, that the GOP base is “conditioned” to accept the lies and distortions they’ve been fed for decades.”

        I would say it goes somewhat beyond conditioning. The GOP has established a narrative in which the government is standing in the way of your success and trying to take the few remaining liberties you have. The truth of the narrative is immaterial; it’s reasonably coherent, and easily digestible. When the GOP tosses around bullshit like death panels, it fits neatly into their story about America.

        Democrats lack a similar narrative. You can sit here and tell me that universal healthcare benefits me, or financial regulation, or whatever really, and without some kind of story to weave it all together, you’re just having a hundred individual arguments. And you’re going to lose.

        The reason you’re going to lose is because of people like me. Take health insurance: I have it. 80% of Americans had it (loosely defined) prior to Obamacare. Most of those were reasonably satisfied. Obamacare was of marginal benefit to us.

        Now, there are bigger societal benefits to universal coverage; but that’s where Democrats need to connect the dots. How does all of this fit into one grand vision of America?

      18. >] “Now, there are bigger societal benefits to universal coverage; but that’s where Democrats need to connect the dots. How does all of this fit into one grand vision of America?

        Easy. We need to pass a universal healthcare care if we want to enact a universal basic income. You can’t have one without the other because you’d just be subsidizing healthcare for the very people we want to help and that’s no good. In order to counteract a future in which automation takes more and more of our jobs, a UBI is absolutely essential.

        This opens up the future to when everyone, regardless of their race, creed or color will be given the opportunity to excel in America. It will eliminate poverty in its entirety, give your children the tools they need to make the most of their own lives and give you, if you’re already reasonably well off, more spending money to do whatever you want. Have fun.

        But we have to have universal healthcare first. Ain’t no way around it.

      19. DS

        Great. Now all you have to do is unify the Democratic Party around that message, and sell it to America. The Republican Party is not as unified as some here seem to believe (I would argue that they are, at this point, spinning out of control at moderate speed), but they were, for the last 30 years, able to agree on their fundamental message. The Democrats have been much more fractious in that department. Get the whole party on a singular vision, and you might stand a chance.

      20. I’m curious, DS, what do you think that singular vision should be? Part of the strength of the Dem Party is the diversity of membership and views. From an organizational vantage, it is also its greatest weakness. The DNC under Howard Dean was clearly focused and able to articulate succinctly a central message. He withdrew his offer to lead the DNC again due to lack of support. The deficit of a cohesive, clear message and capable leadership lost control of government in an election we won in popular vote. What should this say to those in charge? Right now there is a tremendous groundswell of interest which a competently run party would galvanize into a potent political force. If we are to compete successfully in the 2018 mid terms, it will be due to the individual enthusiasm of rank and file Americans, not because of the DNC. We need new leadership. I’m sorry, but 30-hour filibusters against candidates they can’t defeat because they lack the numbers, is a waste of time. Put that effort towards mobilizing all this new energy and get these people registered and committed to vote.

      21. DS

        Electorally speaking, I’m not sure it matters all that much, so long as it’s there and you can fit your policy preferences into the narrative. I’m not a Democrat; I vote for Democrats (usually) because the state of the alternative since I’ve been of voting age has been pretty dire. So I’m probably not really qualified to offer a vision for the party. That said, here’s the gist of where I think Republicans stand on vision:

        “We are an exceptional nation, ordained by God to be a force for Christian good in the world. We are a nation that honors hard work, where anyone who puts forth an honest effort can succeed beyond his wildest imaginings. Government undermines those who work hard in favor of the slothful; we will set this right so that good, honest, hard working Americans can earn what is rightfully theirs.”

        If I were to take a stab at it, it might be something like this:

        “We are an exceptional nation because we do exceptional things; we do those exceptional things when we come together. Government lifts us when we stumble; through our government, we seek to lift our fellows when they fall. In this way, we will secure a future for all Americans.”

        This is all super general, grand vision type stuff, but it matters. Part of the reason Democrats have a hard time finding support for their policies is because Republicans have so successfully established the makers/takers, big government narrative. Seriously, think about how much time Democrats spend defending themselves against charges of “government takeover,” or explaining how they’ll avoid people taking advantage of the system.

        So, really what I’m arguing is that Democrats need to take control of the big narrative before they can win on the smaller ones.

      22. DS

        ” I’m sorry, but 30-hour filibusters against candidates they can’t defeat because they lack the numbers, is a waste of time. Put that effort towards mobilizing all this new energy and get these people registered and committed to vote.”

        On a smaller, more tactical note, using those filibusters strategically is symbolically important. They galvanize the base, and can draw attention to the more significant failings of the Republican Party and this administration. The Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions hearings will have what I would define as useful resonance.

        That said, I also think it’s important to avoid a scorched earth policy. Once you start doing that, it becomes difficult to maintain people’s attention.

      23. The problem is that few people watch these things. Highly interested people who have time, do watch confirmation hearings where you can be informed. Limited use is more effective, we agree.

        Also agree about scorched earth policy. Gotta pick our battles carefully. We don’t want to become obstructionists like the GOP. On issues that have mutual benefit, Dems should work with the GOP…they have always done this in the past, even when it hasn’t been reciprocal, which is sad.

  6. As of last night I was sitting back thinking, “It’s been weirdly quiet lately. Have things been slowing down, or has the media / activist groups stopped reporting everything, or is burn out already here and I’m not noticing the influx anymore?”

    Then I read this:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/05/us/politics/trump-white-house-aides-strategy.html

    The good news is we get (got) a brief reprieve. The bad news is that once they start up again, their new tactics are probably going to be more lasting.

    We also have something of a reprieve due to the efforts of the Dems in the Senate to stall everything. Once those confirmations all go through (and no single Republican Senator is going to be that one who is the reason DeVos doesn’t go through), things will get faster again.

    Still.

    It’s great to know that the utter clumsiness of the last two weeks is well documented.

    Also, I’ve started to hear a lot of “Trump doesn’t have the stamina to last 4 years, dude’ll probably keel over from a heart attack” talk among the ranks. This is false hope. Trump ends his business day at 6:30pm. It’s Bannon works the 16 hour shifts.

    Bannon is a publisher. You may hate him and disagree with him, but he’s a publisher. Dudebro can work 16 hour shifts.

    1. Part of the “quiet” from the right is that Republicans have been at a weekend convention…I have no doubt the firestorm will ensue shortly. Daily Kos reports the US Switchboard broke all records for phone calls this past week. People are working, resisting.

      Maddow just announced that the 9th circuit will live-stream their hearing tomorrow – 6pm EST, 3pm West Coast Time…if anyone is interested in watching the action on potus’ appeal of the stay.

  7. Informational diversity – a powerful idea! Lincoln’s cabinet…women breaking into management, cross-profession exchange, ethnic and racial diversity…The whole is better because of the sum of its parts….I have seen diversity work in projects I’ve been involved in over the years and the results are always better even if the process is more challenging. Another benefit of collaboration through greater diversity is that fewer serious mistakes occur because of the interaction in early planning. Teachers have been doing this via group teaching for decades, non-profits survive through creative interaction. Scientists just demonstrated the value of sharing research which enabled them to shut down the Ebola virus. A converse example would be how long it has taken to develop an HIV solution because of social stigma. Apart from all the benefits stated in the article, diversity in planning is much more enjoyable to the participants.

    More and more executives are obtaining liberal arts degrees rather than a pure business degree. That’s not to say that both aren’t valuable in leadership, rather, liberal arts inclusion rounds out competency and the ability to inspire and utilize talent in more ways. The ability to lead is enhanced by one’s ability to relate, understand, involve, and communicate effectively among a diverse work staff. http://www.business2community.com/leadership/21-wildly-successful-ceos-with-liberal-arts-degrees-01293809#4Hpi2AH6Hm616R0X.97

    Studies of Millennials assert that this group is highly motivated through diverse interaction. They understand the value and actively engage in its practice. They are not intimidated by diversity, they thrive on it. That’s encouraging as their numbers and future leadership will bring a much different style of decision-making and work process than today’s traditional business model.

    Great article. I hope this concept is being taught in our universities in all fields as it certainly is applicable to a successful outcome regardless of career choice. (The movie – Hidden Figures – makes that point rather nicely.) I couldn’t help but think about the small cluster of decision-makers at the center of potus circle and how insular and narrow their actions will be precisely because they do not divest, nor trust, nor value the input or ideas of others. When control limits involvement, the outcome rarely serves a broader need than that of the core group.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/05/us/politics/trump-white-house-aides-strategy.html?emc=edit_th_20170206&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=41048410

  8. At a previous place of employment, I was intensely interested in air pollution.

    So I sat through a 3-day streaming seminar on indoor air pollution from the Academies of Sciences, Medicine and Engineering.

    A disturbing bit of information that kept coming up in the papers discussed was the contribution of particle air pollution to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

    So here’s a link to a NYT mention of another similar study.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/06/well/live/air-pollution-may-contribute-to-dementia.html

    Another link to a representative study presented at an academies function:

    http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/~/media/files/activity%20files/publichealth/indoorpm/presentations/53weisskopf%20marc28.pdf?la=en&_ga=1.86663455.646158478.1486417358

    Don’t burn candles indoors. Know what you’re really spraying when you use an “air freshener.” If you live near busy highways, consider HEPA filters on your furnance/AC system.

  9. Some thoughts regarding the article about “How Diversity Makes Us Smarter” –

    Using reverse logic, does this mean that more homogenous societies are less intelligent? As the most diverse nation on the planet, is the US the smartest nation of all? Did our nation become smarter as it became more diverse? Does this mean the Founding Fathers were really not so smart due to the lack of diversity among them?

    1. Would George Washington’s behavior toward Ona Judge have been different, smarter even, if his moral compass advisors included freed people of color?

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/06/arts/george-washington-mount-vernon-slavery.html

      I think our founding fathers, slavers, had to strictly limit how they applied their philosophies in order to accommodate the fact that they were slavers.

      They had to be intentionally narrow minded.

      Perhaps if they had been more diverse, we wouldn’t be stuck with the electoral college, which seems to me to be a monument to how much they didn’t trust free citizens.

      1. DS

        I doubt it would have had much influence on the electoral college. In the context of the politics of the time, the EC was at least as much about defending the sovereignty of small states as it was about preserving elite control. In fact, I think that’s really the driving force behind the EC; I’ve never really bought into Hamilton’s argument.

    2. Good questions, tutta. The framers of our Constitution were all white males, landed gentry. They were educated which was important, and created an incredible document that generations later serves a far more diverse people than they could have ever imagined. There were strong opposing views among the framers but agreement was reached and we are still guided and protected by their wisdom and compromise, aided by amendments that reflect the passage of time and changing circumstances. I believe our nation’s diversity offers a perfect demonstration of strength from a combination of homogeneity, diversity and intelligence. The danger occurs when when our democratic institutions and laws are assaulted. I have read recently that Chief Justice Roberts may find that his greatest legacy is protecting our Constitution and the separation of powers. Let us hope he and the other justices rise to the challenge.

      1. From the POV of an outsider
        I’m not at all sure about your “incredible document”
        It appears to me that your “incredible document” has actually slowed down your progress
        Far from leading the world in democracy you seem to trail far behind other countries – like the one you rebelled against

        When did women get the vote in the USA – 1920? it was 1893 in NZ!
        And your blacks are STILL prevented from voting

        Every other country that has tried your model has crashed and burned

        You would almost certainly be a freer and more democratic society now if you had lost your rebellion and your “constitution” back then

      2. Imperfect, surely, but consider “who” framed the Constitution and the fact that they incorporated provisions that allow change through the amendment process. I certainly abhor the fact that voting rights were so limited but the issue of
        Black people not being able to vote is one that results from an egregious abuse of the law by mortal beings.

        There is much to criticize America for but I do believe the Constitution has generally served our country well…..our leaders, not so much.

        Points noted.

      3. Duncan,

        I agree with you. The constitution is deliberately difficult to legally amend, which discourages most reformers from even trying. They could spend their lifetimes at it and for nought.

        But the propaganda machine called our educational system works well enough, so we all believe the document is perfection itself.

    3. “Does this mean the Founding Fathers were really not so smart due to the lack of diversity among them?”

      The Founding Fathers were well read, well traveled, and widely associated. They weren’t of cultural diversity as we consider it today, but definitely were of the time. Before them, the pilgrims went to Amsterdam, a region of religious tolerance, before embarking to the New World. Amsterdam was the hub for people escaping the ‘monocultural’ English island.

      There is still some engine behind the grand historical narrative with the Renaissance -> liberalization -> democratization -> representative democracy plotting. Once diversity of beliefs challenged Church law, the world moved forward.

    4. EJ

      I’d argue that the lack of diversity amongst America’s founding fathers eerily foreshadows the specific problems that America has today.

      They were all White. As Chris has pointed out, race is a very deeply entrenched problem which the people of the American Republic have long had difficulty with.

      They were all from a Christian background. Some, like Franklin, were deists; but it’s not like there were any Jews or Muslims there. Today, the rise of hardline Christianity is a real issue in America.

      They were all either straight, or kept their LGBTQAness very securely hidden. Today, America has issues with homophobia.

      They were all English-speaking. Primary speakers of Spanish and other minority languages can fill us in about these difficulties in the present day.

      They were all male. America’s experience with the struggle over contraception and abortion is a well-documented one.

      (Some people have argued that masculinity also plays a large part in the firearms crisis. I don’t think that this blog is the right place for that discussion.)

      On the other hand, there were some types of diversity which the founding fathers embodied, and which

      They were people of widely different professions and life experiences. Nowadays, America has far less of a problem with class than many countries do.

      They were drawn from different parts of the Thirteen Colonies (AFAIK.) Nowadays, America has less of a problem with regionalism than many countries do.

      They had widely different viewpoints on many matters. Nowadays, America has admirably strong traditions of the free press and of personal liberty.

      They were people who made their money in different ways. Today America has an enviously flexible and open economy, rather than one tailored to support a particular mode of economic activity.

      Lastly, they had various degrees of military experience. Today, America has an army which is firmly under civilian control and has (as of the time of writing) not attempted a coup. In global terms this is unusual.

      1. Ok, but…

        That’s a little like saying “can you name a single country that was founded by people who used self-driving cars?” There’s an argument to be made for evolution here. The evolutionary advantages of building a successful multi-ethnic civilization are so enormous that someone is going to master it. When they do (no has yet), they will dominate the planet for a very long time.

      2. Chris – And I think we should charge ahead with self-driving cars, too. But that doesn’t mean we need to be ‘founded’ on them. Nor does the fact that we currently don’t really have them argue for the notion that we need to be ‘refounded’ so we can. In other words, ‘founding’ has nothing to do with it. The underlying principles of this country are in no way an impediment for the continuing evolution of a multi-ethnic civilization here. That was, and remains my point.

      3. EJ

        A single country of any size which did not have monoethnic founders?

        India.

        From a distance it’s easy to lump all Indian people into a single billion-plus amalgam, but this obscures the fact that they are tremendously diverse. A Marathi and a Gujarati will speak different languages, live in different ways, have different traditions, and (even if they’re both the same religion at all) worship in different forms. Once you add the caste system, the tribe system, the jati system and the Dravidian / Aryan divide, stuff just gets messy.

        India is such an ethnically diverse country that when it was founded, its founders spoke to one another in English because they couldn’t agree on an Indian lingua franca. Nowadays, India is the world’s largest democracy; and as Chris says, is benefitting significantly from its diversity.

        Do I win?

      4. Founders? I think it unnecessary to review the (very) recent past – since the formation of the Republic in 1950. Nor is it necessary to mention the conflicts that have occurred since then.

        Prior to that, there were a variety of warring fiefdoms before colonial rule. Colonial rule ended with partition. (Basically, a bunch of old white guys drawing a border in the sand.) India’s Parliament is a legacy of that. (Again, old white guys.)

        As for diversity of the founders, Nehru and Gandhi were, for god’s sake, the same family!

        Will India benefit from her ethnic diversity? I completely believe she will – just as we do. On the basis of GDP per capita, she has about a factor of 30x to go before she plays in the same pool as the US, but come on in – the water’s fine!

        So, and without judgement, *do* you win?

        [and BTW: are you the EJ with whom last year I discussed whether the average Brit considered himself first British or European? Just curious – I can’t remember…]

      5. I think it makes sense that a nation, or any organization, would start off with a homogenous group of people, people who have a lot in common and with a common goal, a select group, the membership drive is planned and organized, and then over time attracts people who get more and more diverse, almost accidentally, and then you feel the need to set membership limits. I see it almost as a physical phenomenon. As the hub expands it catches more and more loose particles.

      6. Why would a bunch of diverse individuals want to join together to form a group? They would have to have something very powerful in common to even think of joining together. It’s a prerequisite. Individuals are rarely thrown together by chance. That happens later in the process, once the core group has expanded.

      7. Ladies – Today, as in some contrast with the past, were we to consider formation of some new group with common goals – call it a ‘seastead’ if you wish – one might consider the ethnic diversity of the participants as one factor. Clearly, for an interstellar space colony, qualifications should be the trump card. want to start a seastead? When you consider who’s gonna fund it, and whether or not they get a place, I reckon you’ll have a pretty diverse crowd. And if it drifts into the South China Sea, best have a few native Mandarin speakers too. And prepare for boarding, mateys!

  10. Re: Sandy Hook truthers.
    I’m increasingly convinced that the internet has been a mixed bag for better informing the public. Yes, information has become more available, but that doesn’t guarantee people use that better availability to actually better inform themselves.

    Fringe conspiracy theories like this didn’t thrive pre-internet because they’re fringe enough they could never gain critical mass. If you had your doubts about whether Sandy Hook happened, you were probably the only one in your town, and sooner or later, you discarded it since you couldn’t find any other information about it. That served as a powerful normative force within society (for good and for bad). Now, you can go online and find whatever community you wish, and live there 24/7 if you’d like.

    Take the Comet Ping Pong pizzagate example: in the pre-internet era, maybe some local crank might claim that children were being molested there. But the rest of the community would be familiar with the pizza place and probably go there regularly, would dismiss him, and that’s that. Now, that rumor spreads internationally, until it meets a receptive, deranged guy hundreds of miles away in NC who, without any local knowledge of the place to temper his paranoid delusions, drives over and starts shooting (at least he stopped once he realized he was wrong; that’s relatively sane compared to most truthers).

    It’s not just Sandy Hook. Give people better access to medical information and you get an international anti-vaxxer movement. Better access to food safety information leads to foodbabe and unhealthy obsessions with GMO food. Better science info leads to chemtrail conspiracies.

    Giving people a better ability to connect and more sources of information has a downside (undoubtedly it has an upside as well). I’m not sure how to deal with that downside (aside from letting Google and Facebook become the “fake news” filter that traditional media and local community structures used to do before).

      1. Yes, Texan, and the appearance of the occasional diverse (conservative) participant usually throws the regulars a bit off course but keeps everyone on their toes. Otherwise, where’s the challenge when everyone agrees with each other? (For the most part).

        I wouldn’t call this blog an echo chamber, but I would say that 90% of the people agree 90% of the time.

      2. It is nice to know I’m not alone, a benefit of coming here.

        In my life away from this blog I encounter plenty of diverse opinions. So diverse sometimes we don’t even talk about it.

        From the time I was a child I had a political streak. Truly, some of the most memorable conversations I had with my mom as a young child was about social security, voting, and FDR.

      3. “Where’s the challenge when everyone agrees….” First, an intelligent discussion frequently presents viewpoints that come at an issue from a different POV – our diversity of race, gender, and ethnicity helps accomplish that. We may agree on the main issue but disagree on the details…how things get done, who does them, etc. I appreciate different points of view when they well articulated and when they are not accompanied by a dig or snark. I haven’t noticed much reticence at calling anyone out when there is disagreement. What I appreciate about this blog is that the posts are intelligent, well written, and speak to issues that broaden me intellectually. I also appreciate the civility and intelligence of those who comment, and the effort everyone makes to contribute and offer substantive input. What I don’t have patience for are small, petty comments that do little to advance discussion of important topics.

    1. Good post, WX.

      I think many still see information on the net in the same context they once saw in the library, or most newspapers, or most TV news. Back when, the reliability of that information was generally pretty good. The democratization of information has changed that substantially. Gone are the referees.

      Of course, with this brave new world comes access to an array of knowledge at my kitchen table that would have made the librarians at Alexandria swoon. The problem is that while most of the truth is at hand, it’s mingled with nonsense you mentioned. It has become *our* responsibility to ferret it out from the dross of bullshit.

      Refereeing has become democratized as well, and that might be such a good thing.

    2. I’m beginning to feel like “Transparency and Conspiracy: Ethnographies of Suspicion in the New World Order” and Hannah Arendt’s “The Origins of Totalitarianism” should be widely read in this group.

      Both tell the same tale a similar way: conspiracy tends to affect largely those who both feel powerless and lack the social resources to find guidance from others (and this counts as groups as well as individuals), and largely affects marginalized communities who abide by larger power structures AS LONG AS THOSE POWER STRUCTURES DELIVER RECOGNIZABLE GAINS to the underclass in question.

      In other words, conspiracy theory is always a thing, for the same reasons superstitions are a thing. “Transparency and Conspiracy” covers how in some small tribal cultures regular demons and angels associated with bad luck and human lack of control slowly transitioned into equally as abstract phenomena, from their perspective, as the IMF and NGOs. Conspiracy theories, however, become political and move into engagement once the object of the conspiracy ceases to deliver gains. Arendt writes about how the gentried Jews who served kings and states as ‘exceptions’ from the lower class Jews who were largely regulated to outsider status were tolerated until the kingdoms and states started breaking down and no longer well serving of the underclasses. At that point, the ‘exceptionalism’ of the Jews turned from conspiracy theory to political platform, and the rest you know.

      Both examples I write above are vast oversimplifications of 500 page books, so don’t go around feeling like I’m well representing them 🙂 . Responding more directly to your question about how much informational freedom we can suffer in light of conspiracy theorists, my answer would be that the cost of censorship is too high and there will always be conspiracy theorists, the same way there will always be terrorists but the costs of a surveillance state are too high to try to eradicate them. The better goal is to prevent systemic breakdowns like what has occurred in the global economy these past eight years as best we can (and hedge them better so that they don’t hurt as hard), while continuing to support infrastructure for education, scientific literacy, and media criticism to give more groups guidance in how to think critically.

      The same old boring solutions, which we failed to uphold over several decades of chipping away at those solutions structurally through voodoo economics and the entertainment political complex.

      1. “Deportation would be unfair to other nations….’

        And, we all know that that is uppermost in potus’ concerns……..

        I read in The Guardian this morning that the Speaker of the House of Commons bluntly stated that potus is “unfit”to be invited to visit the House of Commons…House of Lords hasn’t weighed in nor has the Queen…My, my…Brits do speak directly, don’t they…..

        https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/06/donald-trump-should-not-be-allowed-to-speak-in-westminster-hall-says-speaker?

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