@BillKristol nails Trumpkins

“Conservatism in the age of Trump isn’t just stupid. It’s proud of its stupidity. It isn’t just non-intellectual. It’s anti-intellectual, and disdainful of serious scholars and thinkers.”

One of the best smiles in American conservatism.

Republicans are now committed to Total War – on American democracy

❝ The election is just five days away, and something truly frightening is happening, something with far-reaching implications for the immediate future of American politics. Republicans, led by Donald Trump but by no means limited to him, are engaging in kind of termite-level assault on American democracy, one that looks on the surface as though it’s just aimed at Hillary Clinton, but in fact is undermining our entire system…

Consider these recent developments:

❝ There appears to be a war going on inside the FBI, and from what we can tell, a group of rogue agents, mostly in New York, may be in such a fervor to destroy Hillary Clinton that they may be aggressively leaking damaging innuendo to the press against her in the waning days of the campaign. They succeeded in their apparent goal of making FBI director James Comey a tool of their campaign — and the basis for their investigation is an anti-Clinton book written under the auspices of an organization of which the CEO of the Trump campaign is co-founder and chairman. Pro-Trump FBI agents now seem to be coordinating with Trump surrogates to do maximal possible damage to Clinton…

High-ranking Republican officeholders are now suggesting that they may impeach Clinton as soon as she takes office. These are not just backbench nutbars of the Louie Gohmert variety, but people with genuine power, including Ron Johnson, the senator from Wisconsin, Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and veteran legislators like James Sensenbrenner and Peter King. The message is being echoed by top Trump surrogates like Rudy Giuliani…

There is a growing movement among Republicans in the Senate to simply refuse to approve any nominee appointed by a Democratic president to the Supreme Court, leaving open any and all vacancies until a Republican can be elected to fill them.

State and local Republican officials are engaged in widespread and systematic efforts to suppress the votes of African-Americans and other groups likely to vote disproportionately Democratic; in many cases officials have been ordered by courts to stop their suppression efforts and they have simply ignored the court orders.

❝ And please, spare me any explanations for this phenomenon that rely on how “divided” Americans are. Are we divided? Sure. But there’s only one party that is so vigorously undermining core democratic institutions in this way. You may not like what Democrats stand for, but they aren’t engaging in widespread official vote suppression, chanting that should their candidate win her opponent should be tossed in jail, promising to prevent any Republican president from filling vacancies on the Supreme Court, suggesting that they’ll try to impeach their opponent as soon as he takes office, cheering when a hostile foreign power hacks into American electronic systems, and trying to use the FBI to win the election.

Only one party is doing all of that. And we should all be very worried about what Republicans will do after November 8, whether they win or lose.

RTFA if you’re not already fully aware of the details.

Regardless, understand that this election and the ideology dedicated to replacing democracy with autocracy, corporate plutocrats profiting, populist mob rule utilized as a tactic – ain’t new and will continue beyond November 8th.

GOP Masters of Sophistry

I make no case for Hillary other than she’s a decent alternative to the cowards, ideologues and bigots staffing and leading today’s Republican Party. That description of that political entity isn’t especially radical. I know too many Recovering Republicans who feel the same.

Who will I vote for in Democrat primaries – after I make my usual every-other-year-registration as someone other than Independent? Bernie, of course. He comes closer to a model of truth and service, sound knowledge and integrity of anyone I’ve had a chance to vote for in decades.

Yes, I still would rather be voting for someone in a 3rd Party independent of ownership by the usual corporate lobbyists. Even that class representation needn’t be restricted to the two old parties. Essentially useless, an impedance to progress.

And, still, Hillary is lightyears ahead of the thugs in the Republican Party. The choice in November 2016 will be easy-peasy.

Dismantling higher education in America

While researching a recent column for Al Jazeera America on the “killing of tenure” and what it means for the future of higher education, it became clear that the attempts by conservatives to dismantle the institution of tenure, highlighted by the Wisconsin legislature’s removal of previously statutory tenure protections, are only one component of a much wider array of threats to the profession of teaching and research.

For academics lucky enough to have tenure at an “R-1 research university” — one with “extensive” doctoral level graduate programs and support for faculty research as well as teaching — the erosion of traditional tenure protections is damaging because it threatens not only academic freedom but research and teaching that contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to U.S. GDP. The continued downtrend in funding for university research has paralleled and is tied to the erosion of tenure, academic freedom and shared governance more broadly. All these trends are tied to the corporatization of the university; that is, the increasingly privatized model of higher education which does away with shared governance and tenure in favor of centralized administration and contingent labor, puts profits and the bottom line ahead of the public good, and efficiency and “customer service” ahead of a well-rounded education that encourages critical inquiry and independent thought.

Today upwards of three-quarters of faculty members nationwide are working outside of the tenure system. This reorientation of the profession away from tenure, shared governance and academic freedom, which together formed the bedrock of the great American university system, has left contingent and tenure-line faculty alike to face an unprecedented array of obstacles to their economic, let alone professional, survival.

Indeed, upwards of a quarter of faculty with doctorates live below the poverty line — eight percentage points higher than the national average for all Americans. Think of this in the context of the American dream, where dedication and education are supposed to ensure a piece, however modest, of the American dream. If 10 years of intensive college and graduate study can’t even get a person a better salary than the average Walmart cashier, there is something profoundly wrong.

The average American voter still sits back, accepting every ideological lie from the political economy of wealth and power. The working people who built the wealth of the nation on their backs are relegated more often to leftover jobs, ignorant of the qualities needed nowadays for advancement. The best-educated segment of our populace is considered advanced meat robots by conservative politicians, nothing more than articulate proletarians – interesting, but, unproductive by the liberal side of American politics more concerned with the workings of Wall Street than the potential of academia.

The best-educated of our political elites sit back and prate about the young tigers of the whole world still coming to the United States for their education – even though that phenomenon, premised upon the worldwide myth of an educational system that began to crumble over a half-century ago, already shows the cracks of diminishing returns. Other nations now better educate their young. Other nations are well along at building networks of new and powerful research and thought.

Congress only debates who should rule: Caeser or Mammon?

Court rules parents haven’t a right to send their unvaccinated kids to school

In New York City, parents do not have the right to send their unvaccinated kids to school if another student has a vaccine-preventable illness…That’s according to a Brooklyn Federal District Court judge, who ruled earlier this month that a parent’s constitutional right to freely exercise their religion does not always make their children exempt from vaccination requirements.

New York City schools require all students to get a series of basic vaccinations in order to attend classes. But in New York State — along with several other states — laws say that parents can opt out of these requirements for religious reasons.

When three families in New York City recently tried to do so, their children were barred from attending school, leading them to file suit against the city. Citing a 1905 Supreme Court case — in which the court ruled that Massachusetts was permitted to fine a man $5 for refusing a smallpox vaccine — Judge William Kuntz ruled that the court had “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations…”

All this comes as increasing numbers of parents around the country are refusing vaccines, leading to outbreaks of a number of diseases that could have easily been prevented. Earlier this spring, during a measles outbreak in New York, the unvaccinated sibling of a home-schooled child who’d been infected was barred from attending public school. That sibling ultimately contracted the disease, and keeping him home prevented it from spreading further.

The idjits and ignorant have every right to believe what they do, say what they wish – and keep their silliness out of everyone else’s lives.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Golden rice naysayers ignore nutrition as well as free tech

Recently Zac Goldsmith MP – a former editor of The Ecologist, no less – branded the views of Australian Environment Secretary Owen Patterson as “grotesque” after the minister called anti-GM campaigners “wicked”. Mr Goldsmith stated: GM has never been about feeding the world, or tackling environmental problems. It is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations. It’s not wicked to question that process. It is wicked not to.

…Golden rice is a bio-fortified, genetically modified Oryza sativa rice crop that offers a nutritionally enriched staple for those who cannot afford or obtain a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Golden rice can be produced by subsistence farmers in developing countries using varieties adapted to local conditions. Access to the technology is free.

Lack of vitamin A causes blindness and death in over a million children under five that do not have access to a balanced diet, every year. For many their staple diet is rice, but rice does not produce vitamin A in the grain even though it has all the genes necessary to do so (and in fact does so in the leaves).

The inventors of golden rice, Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg, worked out how to “turn on” the synthesis of vitamin A in the edible grain itself by inserting two genes, resulting in a rice variety with boosted vitamin A levels. Widespread adoption of golden rice could decrease deaths due to vitamin A deficiency by an estimated 25% or more. This is a result, and a crop, that could not be achieved using conventional breeding.

From the outset golden rice was a public good project governed by the Golden Rice Humanitarian Board. Swiss biotech company Syngenta contributed to the project by developing improved varieties in their labs but arranged that any intellectual property associated with golden rice was licensed free of charge to allow the technology to be available to resource-poor farmers who are permitted to save seed.

Yet protestors continue to promote misinformation and destroy field trials. Many refuse to engage in a meaningful dialogue and discuss GM issues on a case-by-case, evidential basis. For the first time since the introduction of GM crops almost two decades ago, developing countries now grow more than industrialised countries, contributing to food security and alleviating poverty in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. The technology is not forced onto growers. Today over 17m farmers in 29 countries grow GM crops.

Virtually all the anti-GM crop opposition I have confronted are little different in substance from so-called climate skeptics. They don’t read a damned thing other than declarations from pundits fitting preconceived notions. Little or no examination of peer-reviewed scientific discussion enters the equation. In the rare instance of a publication accepting an article they can pull useful quotes from – they ignore responses, criticism and contrary proof from scientists.

The science utilized by independent university researchers to create most GM crops is not owned by corporations like Monsanto. It is often patented with provisos for free use or a requirement that any profits be returned to universities to further research. The anti-GM movement has become a religion as damned by know-nothing ideology as the conspiracy-laden crowd of Birthers and Tea Party mousies. Sad to say, that condemns their good intentions to the same cul-de-sac in history as Luddites.

CDC now recommends routine HPV vaccination for boys

US health authorities on Friday urged all boys age 11-12 to get a routine vaccination against the most common sexually transmitted disease, human papillomavirus, or HPV.

Other changes as part of an annual update to US immunization schedules included a recommended hepatitis B vaccine to the protect the livers of adults up to age 60 who have diabetes and a vaccine against whooping cough for pregnant women…

The HPV vaccine has been approved for girls since 2006 but the CDC had not expressly urged it for boys, though boys were included among those who could receive it to prevent certain cancers and genital warts. Health experts have expressed hope that if pre-teen boys and girls are both encouraged to get the vaccine, the rate of infection will decrease in the general population.

About half of all sexually active adults will get HPV in their lifetime. There are more than 100 types of HPV, and most clear the body on their own, but some strains can linger and lead to cervical, anal or oral cancer…

The vaccine, currently recommended for girls age 11-26, has faced resistance from some parents over fears that immunizing young girls would encourage them to be promiscuous…

Which is about the dumbest piece of reasoning this side of legislation that says the Earth is flat.

I have another post in the hopper about the spooky drivel America’s latest clot of right-wing populists believe as biblical rote – along with tales about babies, storks and cabbages.

I haven’t scoured it for details, yet – but, I imagine crap beliefs like this one is there in all its glory.

Texas continues fight for nutball view of history

Tempers are flaring in Texas over controversial proposed changes to the US state’s public school curriculum. The changes, put forward by the Board of Education’s conservative members, include referring to the slave trade as the “Atlantic triangular trade”…

The changes eliciting the most concern include diminishing the role Thomas Jefferson – principal author of the Declaration of Independence – in history courses because of his belief in the separation of church and state, and dropping references to a landmark court case that barred schools from segregating Mexican American students…

The new curriculum would emphasise the role of religion in America’s founding, as well as promoting the superiority of the capitalist system.

The Board insists, though, that capitalism will only be referred to as “free enterprise system”, largely because of the negative connotations of the word capitalism.

Criticism of 1950s McCarthyism, where suspected communists were aggressively questioned before government inquisitors, would also be toned down.

Rod Paige, who served as Secretary of Education under President George W Bush, urged the Board to delay its vote…

“What students are taught should not be the handmaiden of political ideology.”

The ideologues whose agenda is premised upon revising history via the Texas Board of Education aren’t especially different from those who preceded them in history – in Kansas, in Tennessee. They would turn back the clock of ignorance to keep students from evolution, constitutional separation of state and church, a modern understanding of science and society.

They prefer to alter the role of government from one of management to indoctrination. All the crap they prate about liberal government, they practice themselves. To suit the politics dedicated to the bigotry and backwardness of the Confederacy.