- Update to my Projects page;
- The Supreme Court’s disregard for science;
- Anti-vaccine conservatives’ disregard for science;
- More about Trump’s and the GOP’s projecting about which party is trying to destroy democracy;
- How even Fox News is now fact-checking Trump’s “untruths”;
- And recalling that famous take-down of Trump by a British Writer: “he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace”
First of all today, I updated my Projects page, in the drop-down menu under “About” at the top of every page. First update since June 2021. Making progress.
Second for today, I have another round of takes on the current political scene. Which is all about psychology and human nature, over and over again.
Slate, Steve Kennedy, 4 Dec 2023: The Supreme Court’s Utter Disregard for Science Is Somehow About to Get Worse
Well, it’s a conservative court, so this is unsurprising. But let’s quote.
The Supreme Court is one of the most scientifically illiterate bodies in government, but why don’t we let it take over federal regulation? That is the basic question behind Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, scheduled for argument next month at the Supreme Court, and it should scare you. To those only recently paying attention, the court’s disdain for the scientific consensus, as evidenced in cases like West Virginia v. EPA, may seem surprising. However, even before the installation of its conservative supermajority, the court had long viewed scientific evidence that runs contrary to its policy preferences with contempt.
Skepticism of an inconvenient scientific consensus is nothing new for the Supreme Court, particularly for the conservatives. In Stanford v. Kentucky, the 1989 case on the constitutionality of capital punishment for 16- and 17-year-olds, Justice William Brennan pointed out the conservative majority’s “evident but misplaced disdain” for scientific evidence, particularly that of the social sciences. In Lockhart v. McCree, Justice William Rehnquist took it upon himself to disregard 14 of 15 submitted peer-reviewed studies, stating that the only reliable study happened to be the one that supported his position, contrary to the scientific consensus. Chief Justice John Roberts has gone so far as to call certain fields “sociological gobbledygook.”
Conservatives’ dislike of science does not stop at social sciences, though. In recent years, conservative justices have made statements completely at odds with the scientific consensus, including saying that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, and taking the position that a surface connection between navigable waters is necessary for pollution of wetlands to matter. There is a strong scientific consensus contrary to each of these contentions, but the conservative justices chose to disregard it in favor of their prior opinions.
The case at hand is this:
This is one of the reasons that Chevron deference, which says that courts should defer to agencies’ reasonable interpretations of their controlling statutes, and which is at issue in the Loper Bright case, is so important. U.S. administrative agencies are staffed by experts in their fields, people who have dedicated their lives to the study of their respective sciences. Judges and other court employees, on the other hand, are experts in the law who ideally would rely on scientists to inform their opinions of scientific issues, and Chevron deference ensures this reliance. As Justice Stephen Breyer has written, “the law must seek decisions that fall within the boundaries of scientifically sound knowledge,” but also that “a judge is not a scientist, and a courtroom is not a scientific laboratory.” Judges cannot make scientifically sound decisions if they disregard the scientific consensus.
However, as Roberts said during the Dobbs v. Jackson, this court is more interested in “putting the data aside.” In Loper Bright, a decadeslong conservative crusade against Chevron deference, seeking to put more power in the hands of conservative judges skeptical of the policy recommendations arising from scientific research is coming to fruition. Conservatives’ main problem with federal agencies seems to be that the scientists and policy experts who staff them are the ones regulating—and increasing costs for—their wealthy allies.
Themes I’ve repeated over and over again are here: deference to ideology over evidence; deference to wealthy donors.
Similarly: conservatives demand freedom to deny reality when it conflicts with ideology.
NY Times, 3 Dec 2023: ‘Medical Freedom’ Activists Take Aim at New Target: Childhood Vaccine Mandates, subtitled “Mississippi has long had high childhood immunization rates, but a federal judge has ordered the state to allow parents to opt out on religious grounds.”
Projection. Everyone sees it. Except those projecting. I just said this yesterday.
Salon, Heather Digby Parton, 4 Dec 2023: Trump tries to turn the tables — but swing voters won’t be convinced by his “war on democracy” remix, subtitled “Trump’s one true talent is projection”
With his latest tribute to the late great Pee Wee Herman, former president Donald Trump unveiled a new “I know you are but what am I” campaign strategy over the weekend by attacking President Joe Biden as “the destroyer of American democracy.”
The Washington Post reported that a “senior Trump adviser” told them, “President Trump is turning the tables, We are not going to allow Joe Biden and the Democrats to gaslight the American public,” and it’s clear from what LaCivita wrote that it’s yet another of their juvenile attempts to “own the libs.”
I don’t think I saw any lefties heads exploding over this but many people did explode with laughter. The claim is ludicrous, of course. Trump’s the one who attempted to overturn the election and incited a violent mob to storm the capitol and stop the certification of the election. There is no greater example of democracy destruction than that. But he said it and it wasn’t off the cuff. They passed out placards before the rally that said, “Biden attacks Democracy” and flashed the words on a big screen above him as he said it.
Washington Post, Philip Bump analysis, 4 Dec 2023: How Donald Trump uses dishonesty
The key in this piece is, as I’ve long thought, the embrace of Trump by the right was their distaste for the previous, black, president.
His approach that year  was groundbreaking for a deceptively simple reason. Republican voters, frustrated by Barack Obama’s election and reelection, had increasingly embraced misinformation about national political issues. The Republican establishment, including elected officials, didn’t know how to deal with this. At first, they tried to co-opt the energy, reframing their desired policy preferences in the vernacular common with the tea party or fringe-right media outlets. But there was still a gap between what those outlets and right-wing commentators were endorsing and what established politicians would say.
Trump closed the gap. He said the things about immigrants that were common on the fringe-right, despite being exaggerated or false. He said the things about the left that those commentators, uncoupled from the party, were claiming on Fox News and in blogs. There was a backlash, including from the GOP establishment, that helped increase the audience for his claims. Republicans — especially the hard-right Republicans who were more likely to vote in primaries — heard him and viewed him not as a dishonest, opportunistic demagogue but as a solitary truth-telling pariah. That everyone in a position to know pointed out that Trump was wrong or lying reinforced his political branding: He was the guy challenging the elite hegemony. “Birds aren’t real,” but for an older generation.
The piece goes on, with examples of Trump making things up. It reminds me of the themes of Philip K. Dick, in whose stories you can’t be sure what’s real and what’s not. This is what Trump is trying to accomplish among the entire population.
Next: even some of Trump’s supporters are beginning to rebel.
Salon, Tatyana Tandanpolie, 4 Dec 2023: Fox News interrupts Trump speech to fact-check his “many untruths”, subtitled “‘The 2020 election was not rigged. It was not stolen,’ said anchor Arthel Neville”
The New Republic, Ellie Quinlan Houghtaling, 4 Dec 2023: That Was Awkward: Fox News Forced to Fact-Check Trump’s Lies on Air, subtitled “Even Fox News couldn’t air Donald Trump’s election lies in full.”
Finally, one of my composite sites linked this piece from London Daily, 5 Dec 2023: British Writer Pens The Best Description Of Trump I’ve Read, subtitled “‘Why do some British people not like Donald Trump?’ Nate White, an articulate and witty writer from England wrote the following response”
This is brilliant, despite the fact that this post does not acknowledge that it was written years ago. I remember it. Still, I can’t resist quote a bit, since it’s still true.
A few things spring to mind. Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth, no wisdom, no subtlety, no sensitivity, no self-awareness, no humility, no honour and no grace – all qualities, funnily enough, with which his predecessor Mr. Obama was generously blessed. So for us, the stark contrast does rather throw Trump’s limitations into embarrassingly sharp relief.
Plus, we like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not once, ever. I don’t say that rhetorically, I mean it quite literally: not once, not ever. And that fact is particularly disturbing to the British sensibility – for us, to lack humour is almost inhuman. But with Trump, it’s a fact. He doesn’t even seem to understand what a joke is – his idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
Trump is a troll. And like all trolls, he is never funny and he never laughs; he only crows or jeers. And scarily, he doesn’t just talk in crude, witless insults – he actually thinks in them. His mind is a simple bot-like algorithm of petty prejudices and knee-jerk nastiness.
There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul. And in Britain we traditionally side with David, not Goliath. All our heroes are plucky underdogs: Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Oliver Twist. Trump is neither plucky, nor an underdog. He is the exact opposite of that. He’s not even a spoiled rich-boy, or a greedy fat-cat. He’s more a fat white slug. A Jabba the Hutt of privilege.
And worse, he is that most unforgivable of all things to the British: a bully. That is, except when he is among bullies; then he suddenly transforms into a snivelling sidekick instead. There are unspoken rules to this stuff – the Queensberry rules of basic decency – and he breaks them all. He punches downwards – which a gentleman should, would, could never do – and every blow he aims is below the belt. He particularly likes to kick the vulnerable or voiceless – and he kicks them when they are down.
It goes on, speculating about why so many Americans like him. Is it something peculiar about Americans?