Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nonsense & Consequence

Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for Prez, the nonsense candidate in my view, natters on about giving due consideration to the crackpot and hurtful ant-vaccine movement. Because though every study finds otherwise, she's willing to say, well maybe.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

If the Bogeyman is gone . . .

In a speech yesterday, Trump was on point, as in: speak very slowly, look at the teleprompter. But the result was the same as if he had ranted, raved and blown his house down, per usual.

He proposed "extreme" vetting for would-be immigrants, i.e., loyalty oaths. Does it sound like McCarthyism? Trump means it to sound like McCarthyism, explicitly saying the Cold War supplies a model, built to deal with communism, that we should take out of storage and apply to Islam.


Same with waterboarding, for Trump a starter torture, to be followed by the — always "extremely" — harder stuff. Christopher Hitchens, whose unending support for the invasion of Iraq was despicable, at least said, about waterboarding, try it on me. They did. He didn't like it. Would Trump? And then comes the harder stuff?

Teleprompter or no teleprompter, today was Trump at his Trumpiest, fomenting and running on fear/hatred of the other, the outsider.

The definition of outsider shifts and changes, of course. In 1989, five black kids were charged and convicted of assaulting and raping a woman jogging in Central Park. Those kids had deeper roots in the United States than Trump, whose paternal grandfather arrived in 1885, whereas their parentage goes back earlier, as in they came as slaves, and no need to pass a Loyalty Oath. Trump, the very same Donald we see on the national stage today, already a NYC big mouth and big shot, took out full page ads in the papers calling for the death penalty for these kids.

Each and every one of them was exonerated.

(See the Ken Burns documentary, The Central Park Five, for more.)

Many of those who deemed them guilty and wished them dead have stepped up to reconsider.

Not Donald.

Back to the present, I love this bit, from a NY Times piece about Trump in Detroit:

When Donald J. Trump went to Detroit last week to deliver a speech on his economic proposals, he laid the chronic problems of the heavily black city at the feet of his opponents, saying Democrats had a stranglehold on power, "and unless we change policies, we will not change results."

But Mr. Trump had no firsthand encounter with the very difficulties he described: He flew into the city on his private plane, got into his sport utility vehicle and motorcaded on highways past several black neighborhoods before reaching the downtown convention center where he addressed the heavily white Detroit Economic Club.

Jonathan Martin and Yamiche Alcindor, "G.O.P. Urges Donald Trump to Broaden Outreach to Black Voters" NY Times 8/16/16

Trump's going to lose. Of that, I think, many of us who have ached for that conclusion, are more and more certain.

Though nothing is certain.

Still, I think a lot of us who have focused our attention on the defeat of Trump are sparing some thought to what happens next, to what happens when he's beaten.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Brain That Couldn't Shoot Straight

The NY Times Magazine feature story by Luke Dittrich — "The Brain That Couldn’t Remember"  (NY Times Magazine 8/7/16) — is generating intense, and likely ongoing, controversy.  The account that piece presents of Suzanne Corkin's work with Henry Molaison, who was rendered amnesiac by an operation,  is being challenged by figures like Steven Pinker and Daniel Dennett both of whom knew Corkin. There is also a letter signed by 200 brain scientists saying the portrayal of Corkin as a careerist who destroyed evidence that might have undermined her books and papers about Molaison contradicts, "everything we have known about her as a scientist, colleague, and friend.”

Further, MIT professors, having examined in detail the charges Dittrich makes against Corkin, rebut them in pretty convincing fashion. They conclude: "Journalists are absolutely correct to hold scientists to very high standards. [We] believe she more than achieved those high standards. However, the author (and, implicitly, the Times) has failed to do so."

The Times is said to have responded to allegations that it failed in its duty to fact-check. I look forward.

The story is still breaking about collision or collusion between journalism and medical science at the highest level.

On first reading, I found the Dittrich piece persuasive. Evidence is mounting, though, that it was partial and defamatory.

Great findings have a way of bursting out when literary ambition bangs high speed into neuroscience, as in a cultural Large Hadron Collider).

On the superb side, there is the incomparable Oliver Sacks, almost as much much a devoted scribbler, a man of innumerable notebooks, as he was a brain scientist. On the downside, there is, for example, the lowly Jonah Lehrer, who plagiarized and fabricated about many things, Bob Dylan included, but fabricated and fantasized most when it came to neuroscience.

Because that's what we want to know about: the brain, the mind, the brain, the mind. Always have wanted to know, I suspect, since we had the kind of brain mind brain that wanted to.

But who to trust?

Did the Times get it wrong in trusting Luke Dittrich, whose book on this subject — "Patient H.M. : A Story Of Memory, Madness And Family Secrets" — has just been published?

There's no way he's an Oliver Sacks? But is he no better than a discredited Jonah Lehrer?

If so, why did that get by the Times?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Jill Stein, Green Party silly person candidate

They say that vice-presidential picks don't count for much, but the pick Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president, made for her running mate, should snuff out any lingering hopes for her political viability cum sanity.

Ajamu Baraka is running as her veep.

Choice bits from the Wikipedia entry about Ajamu Baraka:

In January 2015, Baraka described the vigil for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as a "white power march" and Je suis Charlie as an "arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy" because of France's colonial history. . .

Baraka has referred to President Barack Obama as an "uncle tom president" and stated that Obama shows "obsequious deference to white power".

So, who does Baraka  like? Well, again, as per the Wiki, not even Cornell West gets the high-five:

In September 2015, Baraka criticized Dr. Cornel West and West's support for Sanders, saying that he was "sheep-dogging for the Democrats" by "drawing voters into the corrupt Democratic party".

About Israel and the Palestinians, it's predictable this self-described human rights advocate would have a certain kind of opinion. Though I was prepared, what I found did nevertheless jolt me:

During my activist life I have traveled to many of the counties that Western colonial/capitalist leaders characterized as despotic totalitarian states – the old Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba before 1989 – but in none of those states did I witness the systematic mechanism of population control and scientific repression that I witness in “democratic” Israel.

To summarize, Baraka prefers North Korea to Israel, and "the old Soviet Union" too, much that millions who survived its brutal control for decades couldn't wait to celebrate its collapse.

It's no problem to dig up more, there's plenty, but I prefer to come back to Baraka describing, "the vigil for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as a 'white power march' and Je suis Charlie as an 'arrogant rallying cry for white supremacy' because of France's colonial history. . . "

That's so utterly around the bend lunatic it has a certain charm.

As for Jill Stein, doesn't bother her at all.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Nostalgia for Nixon

Barry Goldwater where are you?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
woo woo woo
o woo wo woo

I wonder if there will come a time when we are capable of feeling a sort of nostalgia for Donald Trump, much the way some who were around at the time do for Richard Nixon — not for his dirty tricks, his break-in, cover-up, enemies list — his secret bombing — but for the way he simplified morality, removing any confusion about the difference between good and evil.

Trump is having much she same effect. But we're not done with him yet. Too soon for any sort of nostalgia to be savored, when, post-Trump, we are again faced with difficult choices about complicated questions, and can say: Trump, god that was awful, but now what? What now?

In the interim, until we are really and truly rid of Trump, the situation is as simple as it was during Nixon's heyday.

Where is the sorcerer to do to Trump what Barry Goldwater did to Nixon, topple him, dethrone him, tell him, sorry, get out, it's over?

Are there no more right wing sorcerers with Goldwater's power?

Or is Trump the new breed of the same strain as Nixon but with greater resistance?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

From McCarthy to Trump

From McCarthy to Trump

About Trump, Warren Buffet put it perfectly:

Mr. Buffett quoted a famous rejoinder to Senator Joseph McCarthy during his 1950s anti-Communist hearings: "Have you no sense of decency, sir?"

Cannot improve on that. No sense trying.

Ordinarily Well: The Case for Antidepressants

Fuse Book Review: Peter Kramer’s Fight for Optimism about Antidepressants

In this book, Peter D. Kramer counters what he sees as an ill-informed and dangerous backlash against antidepressant medications.

Ordinarily Well: The Case for Antidepressants by Peter D. Kramer. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 336 pages, $27.