- February 21, 2:29 pm:
- Donald Trump is unlikely to be convicted of (or probably even charged with) treason. (Trump and Russia)
- The Department of Homeland Security has issued new guidance on undocumented migrants.
- February 22, 01:16 am:
- February 22, 11:57 pm:
- February 23, 01:09 am:
- A fresh video of the Larsen C crack.
- It may now be possible to quantify the risk of crossing climate change thresholds.
- Another story on the utterly unsurprising White House denial that there was any rift between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
- An interview with a Russian newspaper editor who says the Kremlin believes Trump to be utterly manipulable.
- The Dakota Access Pipeline protest area is apparently being forcibly evacuated.
- February 23, 01:18 am: HTML editing errors corrected (oops).
- February 23, 1:38 pm:
- Betsy DeVos echoes a common conservative complaint that professors ‘indoctrinate’ college students with left-wing views.
- February 24, 04:26 am:
- February 25, 03:55 am:
- Apparently, they’ve decided that age discrimination in hiring is real. (Unemployment)
- February 26, 12:09 am:
- An interview with the linguist who advised the makers of the film Arrival. (Sapir-Whorf)
- Tom Perez defeated Keith Ellison to become the new Democratic National Committee chairperson. (Democratic National Committee)
Updates were expected. It appears that drafting the new order is taking time.
Vivian Salama, “President’s revised travel ban reportedly targets same 7 nations, adds green-card exemption,” Seattle Times, February 20, 2017, http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/ap-source-revised-travel-ban-targets-same-countries/
Jonathan Turley, “Executive Redux: Administration Set To Issue New Order On Immigration,” February 20, 2017, https://jonathanturley.org/2017/02/20/executive-redux-administration-set-to-issue-new-order-on-immigration/
Jordan Fabian, “White House punts new travel order to next week,” Hill, February 22, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/320735-white-house-punts-new-travel-order-to-next-week
I can think of more serious presidential hypocrisies than this:
Donald Trump regularly assailed President Obama for playing golf, then spent the first weekends of his own presidency doing just that. He attacked Obama for using Air Force One to campaign, and did it over the weekend just a month into the job. He mocked Obama for heading out of Washington at taxpayer expense, but appears to have no qualms about doing so himself.
How about when Barack Obama embraced and extended George W. Bush’s neoconservative and neoliberal policies after campaigning on “hope” and “change?” And how about when Obama’s supporters fell silent on the very policies they so vehemently opposed once it was “their” president carrying them out?
Josh Dawsey, “Trump forgets his Obama criticisms,” Politico, February 21, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-obama-golf-235217
Mark Z. Barabak, “No, Trump critics. It’s highly unlikely he has committed treason,” Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-trump-russia-treason-20170220-story.html
Brad Reed, “Russia’s psychological dossier on Trump reveals they’re already ‘nervous’ he’ll be ousted,” Raw Story, February 20, 2017, http://www.rawstory.com/2017/02/russias-psychological-dossier-on-trump-reveals-theyre-already-nervous-hell-be-ousted/
Sean Illing, “A Russian newspaper editor explains how Putin made Trump his puppet,” Vox, February 22, 2017, http://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/2/22/14697718/donald-trump-putin-russia-kremlin-hillary-clinton
Joel Rubin, “It’s legal for an immigration agent to pretend to be a police officer outside someone’s door. But should it be?” Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-immigration-deportation-ruses-20170219-story.html
Jonathan Easley, “Poll: Americans overwhelmingly oppose sanctuary cities,” Hill, February 21, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/320487-poll-americans-overwhelmingly-oppose-sanctuary-cities
Tal Kopan, “Trump admin outlines plan to crack down on undocumented immigrants,” CNN, February 21, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/21/politics/dhs-immigration-guidance-detentions/index.html
So once upon a time, drought was forecast to be “the new normal” in California, due to climate change. Now scientists think that climate change may intensify “atmospheric rivers” that have brought heavy rains and flooding to California this winter. This isn’t quite a contradiction: William Burroughs predicted that climate change might lead to more extreme weather. That could mean both more intense droughts and more intense storms. Also, rain isn’t enough: California’s water system counts on snowpack accumulation—warmer conditions suggests that more precipitation will fall as rain and less will fall as snow—which functions as a massive reservoir, helping to fill man-made reservoirs as the snow melts in the summer.
Allan Adamson, “Climate Change Can Supercharge Atmospheric Rivers That Bring Drought-Ending Floods In California,” Tech Times, February 21, 2017, http://www.techtimes.com/articles/198326/20170221/climate-change-can-supercharge-atmospheric-rivers-that-bring-drought-ending-floods-in-california.htm
Trump projects himself as the epitome of U.S. anti-intellectualism. So it’s natural that higher education folks are worried about his secretary for education, Betsy DeVos, who is “best known for supporting vouchers and charter schools, [and] has no background in the sector,” and yet who accuses professors of ‘indoctrinating’ their students (translate ‘indoctrination’ as ‘teaching critical thinking’). But “secretaries of education don’t set the agenda, don’t write the policies, and depend on Congress and good timing to get things done” and, moreover, she’s being sidelined even within the administration. I am concerned about the following passage, taken from the open letter the president of Macalester College has written to her:
Higher education in the United States should be an engine of social mobility: Not only is this just, it is necessary to the health of our economy and our civic life.
Brian Rosenberg here conflates two issues that need to be kept separate and in so doing, reduces higher education to job training. What “is necessary to the health of our economy and our civic life” and in fact an internationally recognized (albeit not in the U.S.) human right is 1) that people have access to economic opportunity necessary to support themselves and 2) that they have the education and skills to participate intelligently in civic life. But the first of these does not and should not follow from the second; it is to suggest that higher education is the only path to economic justice, which isn’t justice at all.
Brian Rosenberg, “My ‘Dear Betsy’ Letter,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 9, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/article/My-Dear-Betsy-Letter/239153
Kelly Field, “How Much Power Does Betsy DeVos Really Hold to Shake Up Higher Ed?” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 16, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/article/How-Much-Power-Does-Betsy/239226
Esme Cribb, “White House: ‘No Daylight’ Between Sessions, DeVos On Transgender Order,” Talking Points Memo, February 22, 2017, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sean-spicer-sessions-devos-trump-transgender-guidelines
Caitlin Emma, “Spicer denies Cabinet feud over transgender student protections,” Politico, February 22, 2017, http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-transgender-students-jeff-sessions-betsy-devos-235265
Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz, “Betsy DeVos Criticizes Professors in Remarks to Conservative Conference,” Chronicle of Higher Education, February 23, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/betsy-devos-criticizes-professors-in-remarks-to-conservative-conference/117049
The Kurgans were not really a people. The term kurgan actually refers to a style of burial, common around the Caspian Sea in the early Neolithic. I was looking into all this as I was just about to settle on my first idea for a dissertation topic. This, involving Yamnaya men, is the latest twist. And no, the article title isn’t sexist: “Early Bronze Age men from the vast grasslands of the Eurasian steppe swept into Europe on horseback about 5000 years ago—and may have left most women behind.”
So it’s been five years since I looked into all this seriously, but the article leaves some unanswered questions: First, why did the men leave their women behind? Second, what happened to those women? Third, what happened to the men who lost out to these ‘horsemen’ in Europe? Third, were the unions between the ‘horsemen’ and women in Europe consensual? Also, I don’t know the relationship between the marauding Kura-Araxes (who seem like they could have been an archetype for Star Trek‘s Klingons) I was just beginning to look at and the Yamnaya people who are a subject of this article.
But when the researchers looked at the DNA later Europeans inherited from the Yamnaya, they found that Bronze Age Europeans had far less Yamnaya DNA on their X than on their other chromosomes. Using a statistical method developed by graduate student Amy Goldberg in the lab of population geneticist Noah Rosenberg at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, the team calculated that there were perhaps 10 men for every woman in the migration of Yamnaya men to Europe (with a range of five to 14 migrating men for every woman). That ratio is “extreme”—even more lopsided than the mostly male wave of Spanish conquistadores who came by ship to the Americas in the late 1500s, Goldberg says.
Bearing all those questions in mind, I still can’t help but think of women’s sometimes (only sometimes) admitted and common preference for jerks and assholes. With a ratio of ten to one, the competition among men for mates would have been extreme—and I have to suspect, bloody—which, all other things being equal (they weren’t), would suggest that women very much had a choice of suitors. “The Yamnaya men could have been more attractive mates than European farmers because they had horses and new technologies, such as copper hammers that gave them an advantage, Goldberg says.” Or, I’m thinking, women did en masse what they so frequently do today: choose the assholes.
Ann Gibbons, “Thousands of horsemen may have swept into Bronze Age Europe, transforming the local population,” Science, February 21, 2017, http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/thousands-horsemen-may-have-swept-bronze-age-europe-transforming-local-population
Brian Kahn, “Scientists Got a New Look at the Growing Larsen C Crack,” Climate Central, February 21, 2017, http://www.climatecentral.org/news/scientists-larsen-c-crack-21178
I mentioned the idea of several climate tipping points a few days ago. I am really and truly not just making this stuff up. But supposedly this new work “allows the risk of crossing dangerous temperature thresholds to be quantified.” I’m skeptical about that, but if true, it might eventually allow for accurate forecasting of when we hit these tipping points. Just don’t hold your breath: “The issues with green house gases are extraordinary and complex and the consequences of rising green houses gases will have global impacts,” which is, I suppose, one way of saying that emergent properties remain unpredictable.
Kevin Roark, “Computer model predicts the likelihood of crossing several dangerous climate change thresholds,” Phys.org, February 22, 2017, https://phys.org/news/2017-02-likelihood-dangerous-climate-thresholds.html
Rebecca Hersher, “Protesters Leave Dakota Access Pipeline Area; Some Stay And Are Arrested,” National Public Radio, February 22, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/02/22/516448749/protesters-leave-dakota-access-pipeline-area-some-stay-and-are-arrested
So, okay, I couldn’t resist. And if sex sells, yada, yada, yada. . . . But there is actually something to analyze here. Consider, for example, this passage:
What is remarkable is that [Per-Erik Muskos, a 42-year-old local council member for Övertorneå in northern Sweden] sees the logical time slot for the health-driven sex as being during the work day. Swedes already enjoy a relatively easy work schedule —an average of 1612 hours per year, according to the OECD, 9% percent less than the OECD average. And it does not appear that they are burning the midnight oil working late: only 1% of Swedes work overtime, according to the OECD Better Life Index.
All of which makes it surprising that if couples need time to reconnect, that time should come from hours in the office, rather than all those hours before and after work (Övertorneå has a population of 2,000: this is hardly a national rallying cry).
I believe this is a brilliant example of U.S.-style neoliberal and Puritan guilt meeting up with a society that still values humanity. In the U.S. traditionally, we’re not supposed to even talk about sex, let alone get an hour off work for it. And with productivity being all-important under neoliberalism, it’s simply outrageous that human beings should get an hour at company expense to take care of a basic need.
After all, that’s why full-time work is only eight hours out of twenty-four, plus weekends. But even those of us who don’t have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet often seem to feel guilty about taking time off.
One thing is clear: Sweden’s many lifestyle benefits don’t seem to be ruining its economy, as many in the US would like to think. The European Union estimates that the Swedish economy will grow at 2.4% this year, down from 3.3% in 2016 but stronger than the EU-wide estimate of 1.6% (and a smidge higher than the IMF’s estimate of US growth of 2.3%, where workers do not enjoy fika, paid parental leave or sex-breaks). Mandated sex-breaks may be just what Sweden needs to regain its mojo.
Jenny Anderson, “A Swedish politician is advocating for the ultimate workplace benefit: paid breaks for sex,” Quartz, February 22, 2017, https://qz.com/916655/a-swedish-politician-argues-employees-need-paid-sex-breaks-for-health-and-wellness/
Marissa Evans, “The Stubborn Problem of Ageism in Hiring,” CityLab, February 24, 2017, https://www.citylab.com/work/2017/02/ageism-in-hiring-is-rife-and-not-easy-to-fix/517323/
Linguists seem not to like the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis much, at least not right now. But an earlier article on this same movie notes that “some linguists have turned again to ideas of linguistic relativity. . . . Yet some still say that Arrival goes too far: ‘they took the hypothesis way beyond anything that is plausible,’ linguist and cognitive scientist Betty Birner said of the film in an interview with Slate.”
We covered the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis when I was an undergraduate in a communication program at CSU East Bay and from what I’ve seen since, it seems to come in and out of fashion. My own impression is that it is an idea that seems to have some intuitive appeal and therefore, despite the absence of empirical support, never actually goes away. Allegedly, it “was ridiculed and dismissed by followers of the linguist Noam Chomsky, who argued that all languages share certain grammatical characteristics.” But from what I understand, Chomsky’s notion of natural grammar is also on the outs right now, I think losing out to George Lakoff’s work on metaphors (the rivalry between Lakoff and Chomsky was apparently intense). What was true when I first learned about Sapir-Whorf, that “[t]here’s no scientific evidence that that is right in any significant way,” is apparently still true today.
I noted in 2011 that “the ongoing controversy over the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis involves a linear cause and effect relationship, with all the fallacies that this entails, between language systems and cultural concepts (Graddol & Swan, 1989, pp. 147-149).” This was for a class in my Ph.D. program, a program which neglected complexity theory, so I stopped short of writing what I actually think here. Yes, I still think that Sapir-Whorf relies on linear cause and effect. Yes, I still think that’s a huge problem.
What makes more sense to me is that our understanding of the world around—which Benjamin Lee Whorf hypothesized was constrained or limited by our language—may arise jointly with the language we use to describe it in a relationship of mutual causality.
Richard Connor, “‘Arrival’ linguist: ‘I had never thought about communicating with aliens before,'” Deutschewelle, February 25, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/arrival-linguist-i-had-never-thought-about-communicating-with-aliens-before/a-37711115
“[Tom] Perez’s allies bristle at the notion that he is not a true progressive, citing his work as a civil rights attorney and as Labor secretary.” Hillary Clinton, for whom Perez was a proxy in the battle against Keith Ellison, a proxy for Bernie Sanders, also bristled at the notion that she was not a “true progressive.” So what I think seems to be happening here is that mainstream Democrats are desperately trying to redefine progressivism to embrace neoconservatism and that which neoconservatives consider a moral imperative: neoliberalism. That way, they can continue with the very “same-old, same-old” that Sanders warned against. Which is to say, they are wed to the losing idea of trying and abjectly failing to defeat the Republicans at their own game, trying to win back the South, trying to gain the support of Wall Street and the business community at the expense of working people and the poor, trying to prove they are strong on national security, and generally moving ever further to the right.
Jonathan Easley, “Perez wins bid to lead Democratic Party,” Hill, February 25, 2017, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/321099-perez-wins-bid-to-lead-democratic-party