Cowardice, American style

Oh man did I love this Adam Serwer piece comparing Greg Gianforte’s cowardice to that of Preston Brooks (the infamous 1856 Senate caner) and of slavery-supporting Southerners:

The impetus for Brooks’s attack on Sumner was that Sumner had mocked Brooks’s second cousin, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler, for his support of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The law put the question of slavery in the territories to a popular vote, exacerbating the tensions between North and South that would eventually lead to the Civil War. Sumner gave a speech accusing Butler of having chosen “the harlot, slavery,” as his “mistress.” Brooks’s defense of Southern honor was to ambush an unarmed man reaching under his desk. As Sinha writes, Brooks later said that attacking Sumner with a cane, rather than challenging him to a duel, was an attempt to humiliate Sumner for his abolitionism by treating him like a slave. Brooks was re-elected after resigning in protest of being fined for the incident

The antebellum South was a society built on the violent exploitation of defenseless people; it is in no sense strange or odd that slaveholders would see no incompatibility between their concept of freedom and valor and ambushing and caning a man who said something that hurt their feelings. Brooks was a hopelessly craven bully who bludgeoned a man in ambush and then shrank from a fair duel with an equal once he realized he would lose.

I don’t mean to fetishize courage, which can be possessed by good and evil alike. I tell this story to show that in politics, one defends cruelty or cowardice by cloaking it in a delusion of valor…

While the reactions of Gianforte’s Republican colleagues in Congress ranged from condemnation to justification and even humor, many voices in the conservative media eagerly defended the assault (though there were notable exceptions). Pundits on Fox News explained that the California-born, Pennsylvania-raised Gianforte had merely given Jacobs a taste of “Montana justice.” Geraldo Rivera, of Brooklyn, New York, explained that Montanans “are no strangers to the more robust way of living.” The conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, who hails from the mean streets of Glastonbury, Connecticut, asked, “What would most Montana men do if ‘body slammed’ for no reason by another man?” …

Physically attacking journalists for asking questions is cowardly. Every single person who defends it is engaging in an act of cowardice. The notion that Gianforte was merely channeling the rugged frontier culture of Western mountain men when he attacked someone who asked him a question is laughable and patronizing.

It is not 1856, but these are the politics of a false valor forged by fear. It is the undercurrent of a politics that defends grown men who stalk black teenagers in the night and then gun them down when they raise their hands in their own defense; it is the politics that rationalizes Ohio police shooting a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun without so much as a chance to surrender; it is the politics of mass deportation and Muslim bans and Blue Lives Matter bills. It is the political logic of frightened people who need to tell themselves they are brave. This is not valor, it is the celebration of violence against those who cannot respond in kind. [emphasis mine]

Damn.

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Quick hits (part I)

1) I actually think I’m pretty good at admitting I’m wrong.  It helps, of course, that it’s such a rare phenomenon ;-).  In all seriousness, my high self confidence does make it pretty easy.

 Traits like honesty and humility make you more human and therefore more relatable. On the flip side, if it is undeniably clear that you are in the wrong, refusing to apologize reveals low self-confidence.

“If it is clear to everybody that you made a mistake,” Mr. Okimoto said, “digging your heels in actually shows people your weakness of character rather than strength.”

2)  Political polarization is changing how we shop.

3) I’ve probably written about my oral allergy syndrome before.  Very cool to see a NPR story about it.  Thank God for Zyrtec because I sure love my apples.

4) Love this article about a Texas high school student who did not initially get into UT-Austin despite being first in her class because she was not in the top 7%.  You can’t be in the top 7% if your class is only 10.

5) Are women’s credentials more likely to be ignored than men’s.  I’d be really surprised if this wasn’t true.

6) This article is insane for the seeming hundreds of fruit recipes in the middle, but some very good science-based advice on happiness around all the fruit.

7) Diane Ravitch says blame Democrats for Betsy DeVos.

8) This speech by Mitch Landrieu!

So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history; well, what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions: why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame—all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans.

So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

9) Re-thinking how to best protect biodiversity:

Biodiversity is usually understood in simple numerical terms: more species means more biodiversity. In the United States and abroad, most conservation laws are designed to protect as many species as funding and politics allow. But just as diversity within a human population can be measured by more than skin color, diversity within animal and plant communities can be measured in a number of ways. Some species have a unique evolutionary lineage; others perform unusual or even irreplaceable functions in their ecosystems; and still others, such as the solenodons, are sui generis by almost any metric. Until recently, reconstructing a lineage required painstaking guesswork based on tiny variations in anatomy and appearance. The advent of cheap genetic sequencing, however, changed that. At the same time, the increasing prevalence of digital photography and remote-sensing technologies such as drones, along with the growing enthusiasm for citizen science, means that more humans are watching more species more closely than ever before. “We have this massive decline in biodiversity, but, at the same time, over the past decade, there’s been this explosion of all types of data—so now is really the time to use them,” Laura Pollock, a postdoctoral researcher at Grenoble Alpes University, in France, and the lead author of the Nature paper, told me.

10) We don’t need feminism anymore.  There’s clearly no more sex discrimination.

11) I love that they measure urine in swimming pools (really not so bad) by unmetabolized artificial sweeteners.

12) I love the circus.  This makes me so sad.

13) When pollen counts rise, test scores fall.

14) This is insane.  In NC, once you give consent to sex, you cannot revoke it.  Period.  Oh, and the effort to change this absurd and archaic law?  Going nowhere thanks to the Republicans in charge of the legislature.

15) Did being a woman mean HRC couldn’t run an angry campaign?

16) It’s long been thought marriage makes people healthier.  Maybe not.  Because divorce sucks.

The participants in the Swiss study reported their life satisfaction every year, and Professor Kalmijn found that people who married did become a little more satisfied. Over time, their satisfaction eroded, though much more slowly than in most previous studies of marriage. Dr. Kalmijn also examined the implications of divorce and found that people who divorced became significantly less satisfied with their lives. In fact, the negative implications of divorce for life satisfaction were more than three times greater than the positive implications of marrying.

That’s important. It helps explain why so many of us have been so sure for so long that marriage makes people happier and healthier. In the typical study, only people who are currently married are included in the married group. Then, if the currently married people do better than people who are not married, single people are told that if they get married, they will do better, too. But many people who marry — probably more than 40 percent — divorce and end up less happy than when they were single. A better way to assess the likely implications of marriage is to compare everyone who ever married to people who never married. Very few studies ever do that.

17) Covered the gender pay gap in class yesterday.  Timely piece from Claire Cain Miller.  It’s (almost) all about motherhood.

18) Yglesias makes the case that Montana’s result is further evidence Republicans are in trouble in 2018.  I think they probably are, but I’m still not sure how much any single special election tells us.

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