Linkdump: May to June 2017

I’m far behind on posting “Links and Comments”, and think I should try to do so daily. For now, I’m catching up on everything I’ve copied to my notepad documents for blog use, listing them in reverse chrono order, with only the barest of commentary, or none at all.

3 June: Salon, Amanda Marcotte: Climate change as culture war: Trump’s Paris pullout is a giant middle finger to the left. As Paris makes clear, right-wing attitudes on climate change are largely driven by hatred of tree-hugging liberals.

“The right-wing media views the world in us-vs.-them terms, win-lose terms,” Lisa Hymas, the director of the climate and energy program at Media Matters for America, said over the phone. “Liberals like the Paris agreement, so conservatives reflexively hate it.”

2 June: Religion Dispatches: Don’t Ignore the Role of “Christian Values” in Conservative Conspiracy

2 June: Vox, David Victor: Trump’s Paris climate agreement speech, annotated by an expert in energy and foreign policy: “…essentially every substantive paragraph in the president’s speech is anchored in sand.”

2 June: Slate, Ian Prasad Philbrick: Trump Thinks We Spend “Billions and Billions and Billions” on the Paris Climate Deal. We Don’t.

(My thought: Trump is a person who counts one, two, three, enormous.)

2 June: Slate, Oliver Milman: An Annotated Version of Trump’s Climate Speech: He got pretty much everything wrong.

2 June: Vox, David Roberts: The 5 biggest deceptions in Trump’s Paris climate speech. It wasn’t easy narrowing these down.

Here we come to the root of the matter: tribalism. The tribalist (or “nationalist” as they are often called) sees all relationships, including relationships among nations, as zero-sum contests. There are only strong and weak, dominator and dominated, winners and losers.

1 June: Slate, Susan Matthews: The Planet’s Loss Is Trump’s Gain. Pulling America out of the climate accord serves his short-term needs. To him, that’s all that matters.


On other topics:

29 May: Salon, Keith A. Spencer: Watch these conservatives do mental gymnastics to convince themselves “The Handmaid’s Tale” isn’t about them

And the worst take of all:

“How ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ May Be Too Close to Reality in California” by Collin Garbarino, also in The Federalist

This last item compares the system of slavery of fertile women in The Handmaid’s Tale to the process of gestational surrogacy in California, a process increasingly used by gay men.

Because the author apparently doesn’t distinguish between slavery and paid, voluntary, medical services.

You read that right: Garbarino is comparing the systematic rape of enslaved women in “The Handmaid’s Tale” with women who serve as surrogate mothers for gay men, to illustrate how in California “the ideology of gay rights speak with religious authority.”

Garbarino has achieved a rare feat: He has managed to offend and mischaracterize five constituencies in one article: sexual assault victims, gay men, surrogate mothers, LGBTQ rights advocates, and Californians. Impressive.


30 May: The New Yorker, Manu Saadia: For Alt-Right Trolls, “Star Trek: Discovery” Is an Unsafe Space.

Because the trailer for the new CBS Star Trek series doesn’t show any white men.


29 May: Slate, Mario Vittone: Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

Not politics! Rather, how humans idealize certain situation into story-patterns that often don’t jibe with reality.


27 May: Salon, Conor Lynch: It’s not just Bernie: Socialism is back, and right-wingers have good reason to worry. Decades after socialism became a death zone in American politics, its surprise comeback has conservatives scared.


26 May: Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta: The “Conceptual Penis” Prank Pulled By Skeptics Shouldn’t Be Taken Seriously


26 May: Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley: The Republicans Are the Party of Thugs and Nazis

(That is, it’s not that that’s how Republicans define themselves; it’s that thugs and Nazis are drawn to the Republican party. Why would that be?)


26 May: The Conversation, via Alternet, John Baird: Our ‘Selfish’ Genes Contain the Seeds of Our Destruction—but There Might be a Fix. Are our genes leading to humanity’s downfall?

This keys off Stephen Hawking’s recent comment that humanity needs to find another planet within 100 years or face extinction, and discussing ideas of Richard Dawkins and Daniel Kahneman.


27 May: Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta: A Public School Rightly Rejected an 8th Grader’s Graduation Sermon

An example of how an ordinary incident about how separation of church and state, the latter being a public school, is taken as an example of Christian persecution by Todd Starnes of (of course) Fox News.


Seen recently but posted 10 Nov 2016: The Week, Damon Linker: Liberals think history is on their side. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Linker seems to be a non-conservative who nevertheless likes to shake up liberal and progressive presumptions. He’s right that there are no guarantees in history; but history does, overall and despite pockets of resistance and regression, have a liberal, progressive trend. I’ve only glanced through this and should read it in detail, and see if he addresses this.


30 May: Slate, Daniel Denvir: Canada Figured Out How to Win the Drug War. Don’t fight it.

About how US Attorney Jeff Sessions is cracking down on the failed war on drugs; an example of how conservatives just *know* things to be so, despite evidence.


19 May: New York Times Magazine, Martin E.P. Seligman and John Tierney: We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment

Recent research revises earlier assumptions about what makes humanity unique.

What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation. Other animals have springtime rituals for educating the young, but only we subject them to “commencement” speeches grandly informing them that today is the first day of the rest of their lives.

A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise. Looking into the future, consciously and unconsciously, is a central function of our large brain, as psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered — rather belatedly, because for the past century most researchers have assumed that we’re prisoners of the past and the present.


15 May: Slate, Ruth Graham: Shalts and Shalt-Nots: Why do the Ten Commandments occupy such a lofty place in the American sensibility?

Review of a book by Jenna Weissman Joselit, Set in Stone: America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments.


14 May: Vox, Sean Illing: How this 30-year-old book predicted todays’ politics. How TV has trivialized our culture and politics.

About Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business


12 May: HuffPost, Ed Mazza: Stephen Fry Explains Why Some People Believe Everything Donald Trump Says. “The incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence.”

About the Dunning-Kruger effect


8 May: Salon, Amanda Marcotte: Baby born clutching IUD? Free abortion vacations? Nope — but such urban legends are very useful to the right. Titillating stories can be more persuasive than facts, and the anti-choice movement loves its nutty urban myths.

As I’ve noted before, if there was a legitimate, intellectual, scientifically valid case against abortion, it could be made without resorting to misrepresentation and lies (like those covert videos intended to discredit Planned Parenthood). But that never seems to happen.


6 May: New York Times Sunday Review, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz: Don’t Let Facebook Make You Miserable

The lives of your Facebook friends are not as great as what they portray; take solace, and don’t become depressed. Applies to you, and to me.

(I think I already posted about this on Fb.)

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