Christopher Hitchens speaks to us

This is just a quick post about how I’m choosing to handle the current political situation we face in the United States.

Mind you, my disappointment isn’t about which party won the election or even about presidential politics, this is about the character of the person who is now president of the United States. More specifically it’s about the fact that he seems to champion agendas of vendetta driven by emotion over the rational evaluation of evidence and reason.

With that, I created this meme.  Share it, print it, and most importantly, live it over the next four years and throughout your life.

christopher hitchens letters
From Letters to a Young Contrarian – Christopher Hitchens

 

The one-sided outrage of my right wing friends

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Ever since the FBI announced this week that they are closing the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email habits while she was Secretary of State, my right wing friends (yes I have quite a few of those) have been apoplectic. Why? Because the director of the FBI said,

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.

In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.

Which means that they recommended to the Department of Justice that they not pursue the case.  Following that recommendation, the Attorney General announced yesterday that the case is closed.

Cue the right wing outrage.

In their near irrational hatred of the Clintons (and the Obamas for that matter), my right wing friends cannot wrap their heads around how the FBI investigation could arrive at such a recommendation. To understand it, one needs to look at the statute itself and recognize that in the FBI’s judgement, mishandling 0.367% of emails over the course of a year does not rise to the standard of “gross negligence.” Nor did the investigation uncover any evidence that Mrs. Clinton willfully and intentionally mishandled that same 0.367% of emails.  Poor judgement is not necessarily illegal. Careless handling of email traffic is not necessarily illegal. Case closed.

Here’s the sad irony.

This report does not place Hillary Clinton in a glowing light by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think the report from the FBI was quite damning and if the GOP had a reasonable candidate, much of what FBI director James Comey documented in his brief would make for a huge obstacle for any candidate to overcome. For example, the following statement would make for very effective campaign fodder,

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

As it stands however, Hillary Clinton will still cake-walk in to the White House. Because when you juxtapose her poor and careless email practices and subsequent apparent obfuscation of those practices against a lying, racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, scientifically illiterate, policy illiterate, bigoted billionaire who incites violence and celebrates dictators and tyrants, there really is no choice.

And this is where the one-sided outrage loses all its credibility.

What is Trump?

Angry_TrumpDonald  Trump’s rise to the top of the GOP heap is a symptom of classic American anti-intellectualism, which unfortunately is the real cancer eating away at the Republican Party.

While many see Trump’s rise and even Sanders’ rise, not as anti-intellectualism, but as purely symptomatic of a growing frustration with establishment government, and certainly to some degree that is true, Trump is something much more sinister. The current discontent with the establishment was summed up nicely by a smart conservative friend of mine when he said, “People are getting tired of business as usual in politics and want change. I truly believe that the lack of term limits, and the creation of career politicians that are more worried about their next fundraiser or election instead of doing what’s right, is the cause of what we are seeing now.” But let’s evaluate this idea by analyzing both Trump and Sanders.

We’ll look at Bernie Sanders first. Sanders is a mostly economic phenomenon. His supporters are comprised of largely young, student loan-laden voters who have come to realize that our politics have rigged our economic system to favor the wealthy; to their exclusion. Our system capitalizes profits and socializes losses, something that became painfully clear during the subprime mortgage crisis and the subsequent extensive bank and corporate bailouts of the last decade, and they see Sanders as a catalyst to shake that construct apart. But being frustrated in the status quo does not an anti-intellectual make.

Trump’s rise is much more than simple frustration with the establishment. His brand of political populism in the Jacksonian sense is often a fairly clean inverse of anti-intellectualism. As wonderfully documented in Richard Hofstadter’s brilliant book, “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,” we know that this phenomenon ebbs and flows throughout our history, and here we are again.

But instead of a true salt of the earth populist like Jackson, today we have the billionaire Trump.

Trump is the perfect poisonous mushroom sprouting from the great pile of crap that was and is the rise of the Tea Party as the dominant Republican identity. These are the xenophobes, the homophobes, the conspiracy theorists, the racists, the birthers, the anti-science (read global warming deniers), the religious zealots, and other malcontents coalescing under a Gadsden flag umbrella and whipped into an angry frenzy by 24/7 “fair and balanced” nonsense and propelled by YouTube ranters and misinformed bloggers.  Trump is the absence of critical thinking. He’s the antithesis of reasonable discussion. He’s the personification of the comments section of any Fox News article about anything social or political.

In a nutshell, Trump is a creation of the GOP’s inability to keep its fringe on the fringe, and the party is all but lost as a result.

Letter to the Editor: Trump true to GOP scientific illiteracy

Drought-2-650x435That climate change is beyond the grasp of so many in the Republican Party is not news. Their leaders nearly trip over themselves to proclaim their ignorance of global warming at every possible turn. Louie Gohmert, Lamar Smith, Steve King, my own representative at this embarrassing time in history, Barry Loudermilk, Ted Cruz, Mr. Snowball himself James Inhofe, and the list of Rs who get Fs in science goes on and on; each sounding as vacuous on matters of fact regarding the natural world, as the next.

So it’s also no surprise that the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump, sits at the same table of willful ignorance as the aforementioned elected officials.

But Trump, being Trump, adds his own special “flair” when it comes to bragging about being scientifically ignorant.

Trump actually told Californians that they weren’t really in a drought. See the following article for more details:

Donald Trump tells Californians there is no drought

It’s difficult to write about this without devolving in to name-calling, but “boneheaded” just races to the top of my list of adjectives when I think about the sheer inanity of such a statement by a presidential nominee.  Why? Because here’s the science.

In the December 30, 2014 edition of Geophysical Research Letters, Daniel Griffin from the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota and Kevin Anchukaitis from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution published, “How unusual is the 2012–2014 California drought?” In this paper, the two scientists demonstrate that:

“For the past three years (2012–2014), California has experienced the most severe drought conditions in its last century. But how unusual is this event? Here we use two paleoclimate reconstructions of drought and precipitation for Central and Southern California to place this current event in the context of the last millennium. We demonstrate that while 3 year periods of persistent below-average soil moisture are not uncommon, the current event is the most severe drought in the last 1200 years, with single year (2014) and accumulated moisture deficits worse than any previous continuous span of dry years. Tree ring chronologies extended through the 2014 growing season reveal that precipitation during the drought has been anomalously low but not outside the range of natural variability. The current California drought is exceptionally severe in the context of at least the last millennium and is driven by reduced though not unprecedented precipitation and record high temperatures.”

Let me lift a key statement from their study. California was in the most severe drought in the last 1200 years. So whether it’s simply that Donald can’t read complicated things or that he doesn’t understand the scientific method or that he’s just willfully ignorant, the outcome is the same.

Inaction.

If this great orange buffoon (sorry, more name-calling I know) has the audacity to tell Californians to their collective faces that they aren’t in a drought, then we just have to assume that the guy is immune to evidence and reason. While that trait fits him right in with the fringe elements of the GOP, it does the rest of us who are interested in solving problems, no good whatsoever.