Evil and stupid

I haven’t had to use the “evil or stupid” formulation in a while, since it has been a long time since Republicans were driving policy in this regard.  But, I can unequivocally claim that Trump’s Muslim refugee order is very evil and very stupid.  Obviously, this is horribly inhumane.  And it is just stupid is that completely feeds right into the hands of ISIS, etc., who try and convince other Muslims that the US is anti-Muslim (surely, it helps them when we actually are).  Some of my favorite tweets on the matter:

The Republican cowards just kill me.

And, literally damn the Christians who think this comports with their Christianity.

 

You know, I have no idea whether Trump’s personal conflict of interests drove this.  But neither does anybody so long as he won’t release his tax returns or properly extricate from his businesses.

Context:

“Foreigners from those seven nations have killed zero Americans in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and the end of 2015,” Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, wrote on the group’s website.

Phew.  That’s enough for now.

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Photo of the day

From a recent Atlantic photos of the week gallery:

A stag eats corn on a snow-covered field in the village of Dumnice near the town of Vushtrri on January 16, 2017, as subzero temperatures gripping Kosovo were predicted to fall even further later in the week.

Armend Nimani / AFP / Getty

Christian wrong

So, originally, I was just going to include this Bill Ayers excerpt in quick hits, but then I realized I came across two other good posts on the topic this week.  Anyway, Ayers has a really really good take on Trumps profoundly mis-guided and profoundly immoral zero-sum universe.  But he concludes, by bringing it around to the failure of American conservative Christianity, in this regard:

The direction of the Christian gospel is pretty clear on this point. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Blessed are the merciful, for they will have mercy.” “Do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other also.” “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

The list goes on and on, of course. Even “us first” nationalism is difficult to sustain in the face of Scripture. At the beginnings of the Abrahamic story God promises that “in you all nations of the earth will be blessed”, and Peter understood that “God shows no partiality”.

I keep being confronted with the same question: for those of us who claim to be Christians, do we take this stuff seriously or don’t we? Forget the Supreme Court, or LGBT rights, or abortion, or any of the other issues that Christians sometimes hold up as being “the” issue that justifies their choices. All of this is under Screwtape’s “Christianity and…” – things we attach to God that become God. They are idols.

To view the world as Us vs. Them, to reduce every human interaction and every issue to a struggle to produce winners and losers, is an utter and complete repudiation of the Gospel of Christ. To follow a man who walks that path is to reject the injunction of Jesus’ own prayer to God: Thy will be done. God’s will is not for a world of conflict and strife. Why would we follow someone who wants to make it more so?

Amen!

Meanwhile, I also enjoyed the take from avowed atheist, Kevin Drum:

But it actually goes further than this. One of the things Donald Trump taught us last year is the ultimate hollowness of the Christian right. Trump is the most obviously unreligious person to run for president in—well, probably forever. He doesn’t go to church. He hasn’t read the Bible. His lifestyle would make Hugh Hefner blush. He doesn’t pray. He doesn’t ask forgiveness from God for his sins. He’s not born again. There is literally nothing in his 70 years on this earth that suggests he’s anything but a stone atheist…

The Christian right has never been about actual faith. Like any other interest group, they just want what they want: abortion restrictions, money for private schools, opposition to gays, and so forth. As long as you’re on board, they don’t care what’s in your heart. They never have, and that’s why the suggestion that Democrats need to be more publicly devout has always been so misguided. Faith doesn’t matter. Empathy for people of faith doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is supporting the Christian right’s retrograde social views, and Democrats were never going to do that.

And, finally, a Divinity graduate friend, shared this progressive Christian take:

For the last few years Christians have been singing worship songs that include lyrics like “ keep my eyes above the waves, when oceans rise …” and yet have rejected refugees who’ve seen loved ones die beneath waves, who themselves have literally struggled to keep from drowning in oceans. Those American Christians — particularly white evangelicals — continue to sing the words: “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders …” but fail to realize the shameful irony that they’re largely responsible for refusing shelter and opportunity to some of the world’s most helpless and oppressed people.

This represents a predominant theme of Westernized Christendom: proclaiming Christian rhetoric while actively — or passively — practicing the opposite in reality.

Because while the gospels instruct followers of Christ to help the poor, oppressed, maligned, mistreated, sick, and those most in need of help, Christians in America have largely supported measures that have rejected refugees, refused aid to immigrants, cut social services to the poor, diminished help for the sick, fueled xenophobia, reinforced misogyny, ignored racism, stoked hatred, reinforced corruption, and largely increased inequality, prejudice, and fear.

If Christians refuse to help and actually use their political advocacy and opinions to further hurt refugees, immigrants, women, foreigners, minorities, the poor, the oppressed, the persecuted, the sick, the LGBTQ community — and aren’t abiding by the golden rule of loving their neighbors as themselves, then who exactly are Christians supposedly loving?

What benefit are Christians providing their communities, and what good are they contributing to the world around them? Because in America, it appears that the sole purpose of Christianity is to selfishly protect people’s own self-interests instead of sacrificially serving others.

The election of President Donald Trump has proven that numerous Christians are more worried about power, influence, and control than the gospel messages of humility, generosity, ministering to others, and love.

Of course there are exceptions, but it should be sobering for Christians to realize that that many who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, the Healer, the Light of the World, supported policies that are bringing darkness and pain to so many people.

Amen, again.  And, just so I don’t have to do a separate post, here’s today’s NYT story about the refugees (who put their lives at dramatic risk for the American military) who are currently being detained and denied entry to the U.S.  I’m sure that’s just what Jesus would have wanted.

 

Quick hits (part I)

1) This is disturbing:

Common stereotypes associate high-level intellectual ability (brilliance, genius, etc.) with men more than women. These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance (such as physics and philosophy). Here we show that these stereotypes are endorsed by, and influence the interests of, children as young as 6. Specifically, 6-year-old girls are less likely than boys to believe that members of their gender are “really, really smart.” Also at age 6, girls begin to avoid activities said to be for children who are “really, really smart.” These findings suggest that gendered notions of brilliance are acquired early and have an immediate effect on children’s interests.

2) What to do about it?

What is to be done? Research provides some clues. The psychologist Carol Dweck has written that emphasizing the importance of learning and effort — rather than just innate ability — for success in any career might buffer girls against these stereotypes. The relevant stereotypes, already in place at the age of 6, seem to fixate on who is supposed to have innate ability. If innate ability is seen as secondary, then the power of these stereotypes is diminished. Other research indicates that providing girls with successful role models might similarly “inoculate” them, boosting their motivation and protecting them from the idea that they are not intellectually competitive. One study even suggested that witnessing a more equal distribution of household chores could help balance the career aspirations of boys and girls.

Early and consistent exposure to such protective factors – and to the countless contributions made by women – may have the best chance of convincing little girls that they are, in fact, smart enough.

4) This is fascinating!  Breast milk has a gender bias.

In 1973, the biologist Robert Trivers and the computer scientist Dan Willard made a striking prediction about parents and their offspring. According to the principles of evolutionary theory, they argued, the male-to-female ratio of offspring should not be 50-50 (as chance would dictate), but rather should vary as a function of how good (or bad) the conditions are in which the parents find themselves.

Are the parents’ resources plentiful — or scarce? The Trivers-Willard hypothesis holds that when their conditions are good, parents will have more male offspring: Males with more resources are likely to gain access to more females, thereby increasing the frequency with which their genes (and thus their parents’ genes) are preserved in future generations. Conversely, male offspring that lack resources are likely to lose out to males that have more resources, so in bad conditions it pays for parents to “invest” more in daughters, which will have more opportunities to mate.

It follows, as a kind of corollary, that when parents have plentiful resources they will devote those resources more to their sons, whereas when resources are scarce, parents will devote them more to their daughters.

In short: If things are good, you have more boys, and give them more stuff. If things are bad, you have more girls, and give more of your stuff to them.

In recent years, evidence has emerged suggesting that in various mammalian species, breast milk — which is, of course, a resource that can be given to children — is tailored for the sex of each offspring. For example, macaque monkey mothers produce richer milk (with higher gross energy and fat content) for sons than for daughters, but also provide greater quantities of milk and higher concentrations of calcium for daughters than for sons.

5) Ryan Lizza on Trump, Mexico, and foreign policy:

The incident also made it clear that congressional Republican leaders, who, during the Obama years, were vocal about the President’s relationships with other countries, have no interest in policing Trump’s foreign policy. At a press briefing in Philadelphia yesterday, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who casually announced that Congress would find some fifteen billion dollars to pay for the border wall, had nothing to add about Trump’s detonation of the U.S.-Mexico alliance. “The President can deal with his relationships with other countries,” McConnell said.

Finally, and perhaps most important, Trump’s treatment of Mexico reinforces an emerging world view that casts aside the values at the center of American foreign policy since the Second World War. As with his degrading comments about nato, his view that Taiwanese democracy and independence is a negotiating chip with China, his cavalier attitude toward Russia’s annexation of Crimea and meddling in Ukraine, his abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership without even a cursory consultation with allies in the region who fear Chinese hegemony, his obsessions with the use of torture and the seizure of Iraq’s oil fields, Trump’s views on U.S.-Mexico relations are devoid of the liberal values that have kept Western democracies together for decades. During the Cold War, Reagan pushed Mexico to liberalize its economic and political system and tried to bring the country closer to America and away from any Communist-inspired Latin American movements. Both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama made economic integration with Mexico a priority, and they all worked toward humane immigration solutions. Trump, meanwhile, is treating Mexico like a nineteenth-century colony. Other countries are watching, and the long-term effect could be to gradually isolate us from the rest of the world.

6) The abortion “gag rule” is a political football that changes every time the president’s party changes.  But this time is different.  And bad for, you know, actually helping people.

7) Rapidly-improving artificial intelligence may largely replace much of the diagnostic work of radiologists, pathologists, and dermatologists.

8) Do not miss the “bad lip reading” version of the inauguration.

9) Brian Schaffner actually did a survey experiment on the inauguration crowd size.  Results.

10) PPP with a North Carolina poll.  Not suprisingly, my fellow NC denizens love Krispy Kreme donuts and UNC sports.

11) Jason Kander on Trump’s ongoing voter fraud lies.  The real problem is that Trump differs only in degree from his fellow Republicans:

By deliberately undermining confidence in the integrity of our democracy, the president can make it quite a bit easier for his party to push legislation making it harder for certain eligible voters to vote. Curtailing voting rights by dishonestly inventing widespread fraud has been a major part of the Republican Party’s political strategy for a while. Now that plan is getting a major boost from a president who has no problem just making stuff up.

12) Why are journalists more liberal than the public?  Journalists want to live in cities and therefore have metropolitan values.  And they tend to be relatively smart people who are in a career pursuing facts and the public good of an educated public, not money.

13) It really is banana republic stuff that we let members of Congress, e.g., Tom Price, trade stocks in the sectors they regulate.  And, even if what people like Price are doing is legal, it sure as hell is unethical.

14) Andrew Reynolds shares a summary of his responses to his famous NC is no longer a democracy Op-Ed.

15) Apparently, being an airline pilot is a depressing job.

16) The headline pretty well gets it: “A Wall Alone Can’t Secure the Border, No Matter Who Pays for It.”

17) Another good reason not to make it easier to get a gun silencer— the loud noise of a gun is an important safety feature.

18) You know the biggest reason I would never want to run for office (at least in our public-financing-free world)?  It really is hellish.

19) I didn’t re-read 1984 last year in anticipation of Trump; I just wanted to.  (And I loved it as an adult, as opposed to finding it a slog as a teenager).  But, damn, no am I sure glad I did.  Adam Gopnik on Trump and 1984.

 

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