Trump’s Major Taiwan Blunder

Trump’s Major Taiwan Blunder
By Daniel Larison

Trump made a major error when he made a phone call to the president of Taiwan today. The Financial Times reports:

Donald Trump risks opening up a major diplomatic dispute with China before he has even been inaugurated after speaking on the phone on Friday with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan.

The telephone call, confirmed by three people, is believed to be the first between a US president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic relations between the two were cut in 1979.

Although it is not clear if the Trump transition team intended the conversation to signal a broader change in US policy towards Taiwan, the call is likely to infuriate Beijing which regards the island as a renegade province.

Standing U.S. policy for over four decades has been that there is only one China, and for the last thirty-seven years our government has recognized the government of that one China to be in Beijing. That has been part of the price of establishing full diplomatic relations with Beijing, and it has been an important part of how the U.S. has helped maintain stability and avoided conflict between China and Taiwan. Ever since that shift, the U.S. has not had diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and Trump’s call represents the first time since then that any president or president-elect has directly contacted Taiwan’s political leadership.

Changing that policy would be a delicate and risky undertaking at the best of times, but doing it abruptly without consulting anyone in the government and doing it even before being sworn into office is the height of irresponsible and clueless behavior. Whatever one thinks of the merits of existing policy on China and Taiwan, it is not the prerogative of the incoming president to start mucking around with U.S. relations with other governments before he is inaugurated. Even if this episode doesn’t lead to any serious problems, it spells trouble for how he will conduct foreign policy once he is in office.

Unfortunately, this episode probably will have some real and meaningful consequences. The article concludes with an assessment of the likely fallout:

“The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,” said Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council.

“Regardless if it was deliberate or accidental, this phone call will fundamentally change China’s perceptions of Trump’s strategic intentions for the negative. With this kind of move, Trump is setting a foundation of enduring mistrust and strategic competition for US-China relations.”

Trump had an opportunity at the start of his presidency to begin with a more or less clean slate with China, and he has now very likely frittered that away for nothing. At best, Trump has pointlessly antagonized Beijing in a way that will have lingering effects on his dealings with them for months and possibly years to come. At the very worst, his careless freelancing could produce a real crisis between China and Taiwan that could end up dragging in the U.S.

December 2, 2016 at 06:06PM
via The American Conservative

Anyone Care About Civilian Control of the Military?

Anyone Care About Civilian Control of the Military?
By martinlongman

He’s used the call sign “Chaos.” Some people call him “Mad Dog” and others call him “The Warrior Monk.” He spent forty years in the U.S. Marines before retiring in 2013 five months early. He’s got a major bug up his butt about Iran, and now Donald Trump wants to make him our Secretary of Defense. His name is James N. Mattis, and he needs a waiver.

To take the job, Mattis will need Congress to pass legislation to bypass a federal law stating that defense secretaries must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years. Congress has granted a similar exemption just once, when Gen. George C. Marshall was appointed to the job in 1950…

…It is unclear whether the legislation required to make Mattis the Pentagon chief will be difficult to obtain from Congress. A 1947 national security law said that a general must wait 10 years from leaving active duty before becoming defense secretary. An exception was granted on a one-time basis for Marshall, with lawmakers saying in special legislation at the time that it was the “sense of the Congress that after General Marshall leaves the office of Secretary of Defense, no additional appointments of military men to that office shall be approved.”

The 10-year rule was in effect between 1947 and 2008. It was then reduced to a 7-year rule. Mattis has currently been a civilian for only three years. The Congress that created the position of Secretary of Defense (supplanting the Secretary of War) in 1947, went out of their way to make sure future generations knew that they did not want any future generals taking the job after Marshall was done implementing his plan.

Donald Trump doesn’t care.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, said Thursday night that she will oppose Mattis becoming Pentagon chief.

“While I deeply respect General Mattis’s service, I will oppose a waiver,” she said. “Civilian control of our military is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and I will not vote for an exception to this rule.”

John McCain doesn’t care.

…Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he looks forward to beginning the confirmation process “as soon as possible” in the new year.

“General Mattis has a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, and our national security,” McCain said. “America will be fortunate to have General Mattis in its service once again.”

Maybe you don’t care either. But there were reasons why Congress put the rule in place. The country had just spent considerable effort destroying fascism and they felt that civilian control of the military (as well as the State Department) was a vital principle to uphold.

Trump has already selected a retired general as his National Security Advisor, and one who almost certainly could not be confirmed by the Senate to anything. He’s been considering another retired general for the State Department despite the fact that he was convicted of being careless with classified information when he served as Director of Central Intelligence and is currently on probation.

Sen. Gillibrand won’t consider Gen. Mattis for Secretary of Defense because of the principle of civilian control. I’m sure that many other senators will take the some position. But I think the Democrats are more opposed to the idea of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III serving as Attorney General, and I don’t know how much fight they have to spread around. I also don’t know if there are any Republicans who are willing to put principle over party. McCain was one possibility, and he’s clearly not on board. Maybe Rand Paul might take a stand?

Seems particularly relevant:

«Maybe you don’t care either. But there were reasons why Congress put the rule in place. The country had just spent considerable effort destroying fascism and they felt that civilian control of the military (as well as the State Department) was a vital principle to uphold.»

December 2, 2016 at 09:20AM
via Washington Monthly

Lawsplainer: Why Flag Burning Matters, And How It Relates To Crush Videos

Lawsplainer: Why Flag Burning Matters, And How It Relates To Crush Videos
By Ken White

I have a question about flag burning.

I deserve this. I earned this. I’ve . . . done things. I am forsaken and abhorred by God.

Oh stop being so dramatic. I just want to ask why I should care.


Look, I get that the Supreme Court ruled — twice — that flag burning is expression protected by the First Amendment. But we argue about controversial speech all the time, and politicians advocate for punishing protected speech all the time. Why should we care when Donald Trump oafs around about flag burning? Isn’t it just noise?

Because the flag burning “controversy” goes directly to the structure and methodology of free speech analysis.

That sounds superficially profound without actually meaning anything.

Do you want to have this conversation or not?

Pffffft. Fine. What does flag burning have to do with free speech “structure” or “methodology”?

In free speech analysis, how you get to a conclusion often has much more long-lasting impact than the conclusion itself.

Our legal system runs on precedent. The significance of the precedent isn’t “the Supreme Court said that flag burning is protected by the First Amendment.” The significance of the precedent is “someone wants to punish this speech and we have to figure out whether or not it’s protected by the First Amendment. Let’s look at the logic and methods the Supreme Court used to resolve that question when flag burning was the issue, and then apply it here.”

But the Supreme Court has decided lots of cases about the First Amendment. This is just one precedent, one example of a method of reaching a conclusion. What makes it particularly important?

The Supreme Court’s flag burning cases are crucial — not because of how they analyze existing exceptions to the First Amendment, but because they address whether the government can create endless exceptions to the First Amendment.

Just like crush videos.


Crush videos. You know, videos of women stomping on small helpless animals.

That’s . . . that’s a thing?

Of course it’s a thing.

Ugh. What does that have to do with flag burning? Or the First Amendment?

Congress — having salved all of the nation’s ills — passed a law banning crush videos. Because who wouldn’t vote for someone who stands against hurting baby animals? The law made it a federal crime to create or sell depictions of animal cruelty in interstate commerce. In 2010, in United States v. Stevens,, the Supreme Court found that the statute violated the First Amendment.

That sounds pretty straightforward. Why is it significant?

It’s significant because of the way the government defended the statute. The government’s lead argument wasn’t that crush videos were outside of First Amendment protection because they fell into an already-recognized exception, like defamation or obscenity or incitement. They argued that the Supreme Court should recognize a new categorical exception to First Amendment protection for animal cruelty, because animal cruelty is so awful. They also argued that courts can recognize new exceptions to the First Amendment by weighing the “value” of the targeted speech against the harm it threatens.

The Supreme Court — in an 8 to 1 decisionfirmly rejected those two arguments. First, the Court said, the historically recognized exceptions to First Amendment protection are well-established, and you can’t just go around adding new ones:

“From 1791 to the present,” however, the First Amendment has “permitted restrictions upon the content of speech in a few limited areas,” and has never “include[d] a freedom to disregard these traditional limitations.” Id., at 382–383. These “historic and traditional categories long familiar to the bar,” Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Members of N. Y. State Crime Victims Bd. , 502 U. S. 105, 127 (1991) ( Kennedy, J. , concurring in judgment)—including obscenity, Roth v. United States , 354 U. S. 476, 483 (1957) , defamation, Beauharnais v. Illinois , 343 U. S. 250, 254–255 (1952) , fraud, Virginia Bd. of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc. , 425 U. S. 748, 771 (1976) , incitement, Brandenburg v. Ohio , 395 U. S. 444, 447–449 (1969) ( per curiam ), and speech integral to criminal conduct, Giboney v. Empire Storage & Ice Co. , 336 U. S. 490, 498 (1949) —are “well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem.” Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire , 315 U. S. 568, 571–572 (1942) .

Second, the Court said, the government’s proposed methodology — that the Court should identify new categorical exceptions by balancing, on a case-by-case basis, the value of speech against its harm — is antithetical to First Amendment analysis and dangerous:

The Government thus proposes that a claim of categorical exclusion should be considered under a simple balancing test: “Whether a given category of speech enjoys First Amendment protection depends upon a categorical balancing of the value of the speech against its societal costs.” Brief for United States 8; see also id., at 12.

As a free-floating test for First Amendment coverage, that sentence is startling and dangerous. The First Amendment ’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs. Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it. The Constitution is not a document “prescribing limits, and declaring that those limits may be passed at pleasure.” Marbury v. Madison , 1 Cranch 137, 178 (1803).

So: in 2010, the Supreme Court overwhelmingly and clearly rejected the idea that legislatures and courts can create new exceptions to the First Amendment based on how strongly they hate speech or how awful it is.

Okay. But I don’t see what that has to do with flag burning.

The argument that flag burning is outside First Amendment protection relies on the same argument that the government made in Stevens — that the Supreme Court can, and should, recognize a special new exception to the First Amendment because burning the flag is so uniquely awful and represents such “low-value” speech.

Can’t you justify a flag-burning prohibition under already existing historical exceptions to the First Amendment? What about fighting words, or incitement to riot?

You could justify some prosecutions of flag-burning on that basis under existing neutral laws, but not laws generally banning flag burning.

“Fighting words” — to the extent the doctrine still exists, which is doubtful —

What, what? It is?

–you’ll have to wait for the first episode of the Popehat free speech podcast for that.

Anyway, at most fighting words allows the government to punish words directed at a particular person amounting to a challenge to an immediate physical fight. So, for instance, Paul Robert Cohen’s jacket saying “Fuck the Draft” couldn’t be fighting words because nobody could reasonably understand it as a direct personal challenge to them to fight. And in most cases, burning a flag isn’t a direct challenge to a particular person to fight, which is why the Supreme Court said that it couldn’t be treated as fighting words.

Could it be fighting words, hypothetically?

Sure! Say my neighbor Bob is a veteran and I knock on his door and when he opens it I’m burning a flag with a sign that says “I SPIT ON YOU BOB.” That could probably be punished under the fighting words doctrine as a direct immediate challenge to a specific person likely to cause an immediate fight — if there was an existing statute prohibiting such challenges. But flag-burning statutes aren’t limited to one-on-one confrontations like that. They seek to ban all flag burning.

Okay. But what about incitement? Isn’t burning a flag incitement?

Colloquially it might be. But legally, it’s not incitement outside of the protection of the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects speech that may make people so angry that they resort to violence — and thank God it does, because otherwise you could control speech by reacting violently to it.

No, incitement is only outside of the protection of the First Amendment when the incitement is intended to cause, and likely to cause, imminent lawless action. Maybe some people burning the flag intend to start a riot, and maybe in some situations a riot is likely. But most flag-burning statutes aren’t that narrow — they ban flag burning whether the burner intends to incite a crowd to violence or not. That’s why the Supreme Court rejected “incitement” as a rationale for flag burning laws.

Could you punish flag burning as incitement to riot?

Sure, you probably could, if you could prove that the flag burner intended to cause, and was likely to cause, imminent lawless action. You could do so under an existing incitement or disturbing the peace statute.

In 2005 members of Congress — including then-Senator Clinton — proposed a rather narrow flag-burning law limited to situations where the burner intended to cause and was likely to cause imminent violence. That would have met the strict test defining “incitement.” It still would likely not have been constitutional, because it singled out for punishment one specific type of expression likely to cause a riot, and therefore was based on content. But that’s a different post.

Okay. But you’re not a Supreme Court Justice. Reasonable minds can differ on these things. Four justices dissented in both of the flag-burning cases. Can’t you admit you may be wrong?

I’m wrong all the time. But my fundamental point is about how and why those justices dissented in Texas v. Johnson (the 1989 case striking down Texas’ flag-burning law) and United States v. Eichman (the 1990 case striking down Congresses we-are-outraged Flag Protection Act of 1989).

Those dissents don’t seriously advance either the fighting words theory or the incitement theory. Rather, they argue that the flag is unique and deserves unique protection — a new First Amendment exception.

Take Chief Justice Rehnquist’s dissent in Johnson. It opens with a stirring history of the flag and its historical significance and emotional impact, and distinguishes it from other symbols like this:

The flag is not simply another “idea” or “point of view” competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas. Millions and millions of Americans regard it with an almost mystical reverence, regardless of what sort of social, political, or philosophical beliefs they may have. I cannot agree that the First Amendment invalidates the Act of Congress, and the laws of 48 of the 50 States, which make criminal the public burning of the flag.

Rehnquist does invoke the fighting words doctrine, but not to fit flag burning within it. Rather, he cites it for the proposition that courts can carve new exceptions out of the First Amendment based on a weighing of the value of the speech against its social harm — in other words, the exact argument the government made and the Court rejected in Stevens:

The Court could not, and did not, say that Chaplinsky’s utterances were not expressive phrases — they clearly and succinctly conveyed an extremely low opinion of the addressee. The same may be said of Johnson’s public burning of the flag in this case; it obviously did convey Johnson’s bitter dislike of his country. But his act, like Chaplinsky’s provocative words, conveyed nothing that could not have been conveyed and was not conveyed just as forcefully in a dozen different ways. As with “fighting words,” so with flag burning, for purposes of the First Amendment: It is no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and [is] of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from [it] is clearly outweighed by the public interest in avoiding a probable breach of the peace.

Justice Stevens’ dissent in both Johnson and Eichman is similar: he argues that the government has a compelling interest in protecting the flag from desecration and that such prohibition is acceptable because it will apply no matter what the intended message of flag-burning is:

These cases therefore come down to a question of judgment. Does the admittedly important interest in allowing every speaker to choose the method of expressing his or her ideas that he or she deems most effective and appropriate outweigh the societal interest in preserving the symbolic value of the flag? This question, in turn, involves three different judgments: (1) The importance of the individual interest in selecting the preferred means of communication; (2) the importance of the national symbol; and (3) the question whether tolerance of flag burning will enhance or tarnish that value. The opinions in Texas v. Johnson demonstrate that reasonable judges may differ with respect to each of these judgments.

This is the balancing test put in different terms — it still relies on a judgment that (a) this speech is harmful and (b) the speech is of low value because you could say the same thing other ways that are less harmful.

So what’s your point?

The flag-burning cases are important, like the crush videos case was important, because they draw a crucial line between having a few strictly limited exceptions to the First Amendment, on the one hand, and having as many exceptions as we feel like having, on the other hand. Flag burning isn’t speech that’s uniquely valuable or important to protect. What’s important is that we protect the principled method by which we determine which speech is protected and which isn’t.

The argument that flag burning should be outside the First Amendment can be applied with equal force to just about anything — “hate speech,” “cyber-bulling,” “revenge porn,” “pro-ISIS speech,” or whatever the flavor of the month is. If think the majority was wrong in the flag burning cases, here’s what you’re saying: “the Supreme Court makes bad judgments, and I want to give that Supreme Court the power to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether the harm of speech outweighs its value. I don’t want the courts to be limited to established, well-defined categories outside of First Amendment protection.”

But that’s ridiculous.

You’re damn right it is.

It’s about nothing less than the rule of law.

Okay. Hey, aren’t you just being a dupe for Trump by reacting to one of his tweets, when he’s probably just trolling?

I write about the First Amendment. It would be ridiculous to stop just because Donald Trump raises the issue of the day. Prudence requires us to put Trumpisms in perspective; it shouldn’t prevent us from continuing to articulate our core values and talk about the things that are important to us.

Copyright 2016 by the named Popehat author.

«Flag burning isn’t speech that’s uniquely valuable or important to protect. What’s important is that we protect the principled method by which we determine which speech is protected and which isn’t.»

November 29, 2016 at 12:27PM
via Popehat

Dear Dr. B: What is emergent gravity?

Dear Dr. B: What is emergent gravity?
By Sabine Hossenfelder (

    “Hello Sabine, I’ve seen a couple of articles lately on emergent gravity. I’m not a scientist so I would love to read one of your easy-to-understand blog entries on the subject.


    Michael Tucker
    Wichita, KS”

Dear Michael,

Emergent gravity has been in the news lately because of a new paper by Erik Verlinde. I’ll tell you some more about that paper in an upcoming post, but answering your question makes for a good preparation.

The “gravity” in emergent gravity refers to the theory of general relativity in the regimes where we have tested it. That means Einstein’s field equations and curved space-time and all that.

The “emergent” means that gravity isn’t fundamental, but instead can be derived from some underlying structure. That’s what we mean by “emergent” in theoretical physics: If theory B can be derived from theory A but not the other way round, then B emerges from A.

You might be more familiar with seeing the word “emergent” applied to objects or properties of objects, which is another way physicists use the expression. Sound waves in the theory of gases, for example, emerge from molecular interactions. Van-der Waals forces emerge from quantum electrodynamics. Protons emerge from quantum chromodynamics. And so on.

Everything that isn’t in the standard model or general relativity is known to be emergent already. And since I know that it annoys so many of you, let me point out again that, yes, to our current best knowledge this includes cells and brains and free will. Fundamentally, you’re all just a lot of interacting particles. Get over it.

General relativity and the standard model are the currently the most fundamental descriptions of nature which we have. For the theoretical physicist, the interesting question is then whether these two theories are also emergent from something else. Most physicists in the field think the answer is yes. And any theory in which general relativity – in the tested regimes – is derived from a more fundamental theory, is a case of “emergent gravity.”

That might not sound like such a new idea and indeed it isn’t. In string theory, for example, gravity – like everything else – “emerges” from, well, strings. There are a lot of other attempts to explain gravitons – the quanta of the gravitational interaction – as not-fundamental “quasi-particles” which emerge, much like sound-waves, because space-time is made of something else. An example for this is the model pursued by Xiao-Gang Wen and collaborators in which space-time, and matter, and really everything is made of qbits. Including cells and brains and so on.

Xiao-Gang’s model stands out because it can also include the gauge-groups of the standard model, though last time I looked chirality was an issue. But there are many other models of emergent gravity which focus on just getting general relativity. Lorenzo Sindoni has written a very useful, though quite technical, review of such models.

Almost all such attempts to have gravity emerge from some underlying “stuff” run into trouble because the “stuff” defines a preferred frame which shouldn’t exist in general relativity. They violate Lorentz-invariance, which we know observationally is fulfilled to very high precision.

An exception to this is entropic gravity, an idea pioneered by Ted Jacobson 20 years ago. Jacobson pointed out that there are very close relations between gravity and thermodynamics, and this research direction has since gained a lot of momentum.

The relation between general relativity and thermodynamics in itself doesn’t make gravity emergent, it’s merely a reformulation of gravity. But thermodynamics itself is an emergent theory – it describes the behavior of very large numbers of some kind of small things. Hence, that gravity looks a lot like thermodynamics makes one think that maybe it’s emergent from the interaction of a lot of small things.

What are the small things? Well, the currently best guess is that they’re strings. That’s because string theory is (at least to my knowledge) the only way to avoid the problems with Lorentz-invariance violation in emergent gravity scenarios. (Gravity is not emergent in Loop Quantum Gravity – its quantized version is directly encoded in the variables.)

But as long as you’re not looking at very short distances, it might not matter much exactly what gravity emerges from. Like thermodynamics was developed before it could be derived from statistical mechanics, we might be able to develop emergent gravity before we know what to derive it from.

This is only interesting, however, if the gravity that “emerges” is only approximately identical to general relativity, and differs from it in specific ways. For example, if gravity is emergent, then the cosmological constant and/or dark matter might emerge with it, whereas in our current formulation, these have to be added as sources for general relativity.

So, in summary “emergent gravity” is a rather vague umbrella term that encompasses a large number of models in which gravity isn’t a fundamental interaction. The specific theory of emergent gravity which has recently made headlines is better known as “entropic gravity” and is, I would say, the currently most promising candidate for emergent gravity. It’s believed to be related to, or maybe even be part of string theory, but if there are such links they aren’t presently well understood.

Thanks for an interesting question!

November 30, 2016 at 08:22AM
via Backreaction

Confessions of a Progressive Gun Nut

Confessions of a Progressive Gun Nut

November 30, 2016 at 08:40AM
via My Reading List: Unread

you have to do this work

you have to do this work
By Freddie

I live between two different intellectual worlds, in the academy and in political media. Often this divide is therapeutic; when the various absurdities of either world seem overwhelming, I can turn to the other. But when one bleeds into the other, the effect is disquieting. I am forever encountering in one world attitudes that I am assured in the other world do not exist.

The trigger warning debate is the perfect example.

The conventional wisdom within progressive media is that this is a phony controversy: trigger warnings are optional for professors, not mandatory, and they’re just warnings, so they can’t censor anything. I have heard this line more times than I can count. The fact that it isn’t true seems unimportant to the people who push it. In fact the initial wave of debate about trigger warnings flared up precisely because there were people calling for them to be mandatory and because there were arguments that classroom material that carried trigger warnings should be optional. Here is a UCSB student government resolution calling for exactly that. They are not alone in that call. “No one says students should be able to use trigger warnings to opt out of course materials” is simply untrue. It is a dodge, a very common one in this discussion. It is a means for sympathetic voices in the media to avoid precisely the difficult intellectual and political questions at hand. That this insistence that “no one is calling for” what some people in my world are explicitly calling for comes packaged with smug eye-rolling only makes it more aggravating.

I live in the whiplash of debating people on campus who make arguments that I am then told no one is making by people online.

This is the constant dynamic in these fights: people in the progressive media, wanting to undermine what they see as conservative arguments, cherry-pick and idealize the ideas and organizations they defend. We then have a phony debate about the idealized version, which inevitably leads to progressives in the media arriving at a pat conventional wisdom that leaves their sense of cultural and social connection to progressive students intact, even as they decline to engage with the actual arguments of those students. And to whatever degree they are forced to engage they tend to argue through appeals to irrelevance rather than to actually affirming the student position. “They’re just college students, who cares,” they say, an ostensible defense which is more insulting than my criticism and which entirely sidesteps the uncomfortable but necessary work of hashing these things out.

Here is a question I have been asking friends of mine who work in universities. In a classroom situation in which a student has been allowed to say “I supported Hillary Clinton because I’m With Her,” does another student have the equivalent right to say “I supported Donald Trump because he will Make America Great Again”? 10 years ago I would have been sure that almost all professors would answer yes, of course they do. The idea that professors were out to silence their conservative students was a conservative canard. Today I’m less sure that the average liberal professor would answer that way. That concerns me; it concerns me as an educator, it concerns me as a citizen, and it concerns me as someone who has watched state governments defund public universities using appeals to political bias. I’m not begging the question. Perhaps the liberal academic commitment to student political freedom is as strong as ever. Or perhaps we really should be silencing our conservative students, though you know where my assumptions lie. But we have to hash that out; we have to do the work. Dismissing the idea that there is any work to be done is a form of bad faith.

I have perfectly conventional progressive views on social policy. If I were king my progressive critics would get almost everything they want, when it comes to abortion, to affirmative action, to reparations for slavery, to parental leave, to equal pay laws, whatever. Yet I am accused daily of being a reactionary, because of my conviction that these debates have to be had. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for me to have a conventional career as a liberal political writer. It would have been effortless for me. I know just when I could put my head down, just how to be loud when my perspective is popular and quiet when it isn’t. I think instead we should do the work. Politics isn’t supposed to be comfortable. Politics is supposed to hurt. And I would argue that so many informed people woke up shocked the morning after Election Day because they had built this wall of convenience between themselves and that work, a wall they couldn’t see over.


November 30, 2016 at 11:00AM
via Fredrik deBoer

They’ve decided to kill us slowly

They’ve decided to kill us slowly
By digby (

They’ve decided to kill us slowly

by digby

ICYWW about how they plan to repeal Obamacare, this article in the Washington Post spells it out for you:

– The emerging Republican stratagem is to create some “transition period,” as McCarthy calls it, setting a firm date on which the law would expire. That would then create a metaphorical cliff that the country would go over unless Congress acts. With the prospect of 20 million Americans losing health insurance coverage, the R’s bet that the D’s will cave and accept something they don’t like rather than nothing at all. As McCarthy put it, “Once it’s repealed, why wouldn’t they be willing to vote for a replacement? Right? You have no other options.”

– This might be a brilliant stroke. Or, if history is a guide, it could fail spectacularly. Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Minority Leader, says his caucus won’t budge and pledges resistance. Democrats feel like Republicans never worked with them during the past eight years, and there is heavy pressure from the left flank of Schumer’s caucus to replicate Mitch McConnell’s strategy of obstruction now that they’re going into the wilderness. It’s a dangerous cycle that could set up an epic game of chicken.
– Something to ponder: Which eight Democratic senators would actually vote for a replacement to Obamacare? McCarthy thinks incumbents up for reelection in 2018 in red states like Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Missouri will play ball and push their colleagues to do the same. He also thinks Schumer will be temperamentally more willing to cut a deal than Harry Reid would have been, despite whatever he is saying in public.

– Another wrinkle: There is not Republican consensus on what a full replacement package should look like. There was much discussion when it looked like the Supreme Court would undercut the foundation of Obamacare with the decision in King vs. Burwell about what fixes conservatives could get behind. But the justices sided with the government, so the issue never came to a head. “It’s not easy,” McCarthy acknowledged. “I’ve sat around the room trying to come up with the replacement plan.”

– To be sure, Tom Price has introduced his own legislation to replace the ACA four times, and in 2015, the House Budget Committee chairman was the chief sponsor of the only ACA-repeal bill to ever reach the White House. The president vetoed it, of course. And it is important to note that the Price alternative is quite partisan and leave no real room for negotiation with Democrats. If Republicans use it as an opening bid, the best case scenario is that the other side reads it as an unserious joke. The worst case scenario is that they take it as an insulting slap and then refuse to even come to the table.

– McCarthy believes there is close to universal support among Republican lawmakers for protecting people with pre-existing conditions and to let children stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26 (which does not actually cost insurers all that much). Trump endorsed both elements during the post-election “60 Minutes” sit-down.

– Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, who has jurisdiction over federal health care programs, now says it will take up to three years to repeal the Affordable Care Act – a timeline that would guarantee the law is once again a marquee issue in the 2018 and 2020 elections. “We know that to correct it is going to take time,” the Utah senator told Kelsey Snell yesterday afternoon. “I don’t see any reason for anybody to be too upset about it.”

– Wise Republicans are trying to get out front of what they see as inevitable voter backlash if they run roughshod with reconciliation, without trying to win Democratic buy-in (or at least making a show of trying to). “There will be a multiyear transition into the replacement,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in a separate conversation with Kelsey. “This is a failed piece of legislation and it is coming apart at the seams, but it is going to take us a while to make that transition from the repeal to actually replacing it.”

– Wisconsin is a telling example because it is the home state of both the Speaker of the House and the incoming White House chief of staff. About a quarter of a million people there are enrolled in the Obamacare exchanges, and another 143,000 childless adults are enrolled in Medicaid because of the 2010 law. “We believe that the transition should be a reasonable time, whether it’s a year, a year-and-a-half or two years,” Scott Walker, the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
What this article elides, of course, is that the Republicans have no alternative and if they simply repeal everything but the ban on pre-existing conditions and 26 year olds and add in some tax incentives, the whole market will fall apart and people will die.

Democrats should resist every step of the way. But they won’t. It’s not in their nature to fight back after a loss. They truly believe that the country is more conservative than it is because of the people with whom they associate.

I am not sanguine.


November 30, 2016 at 01:30PM
via Hullabaloo

That Time I Almost Stabbed A Couple Rednecks Who Saw My Headwrap And Assumed I Was Muslim

That Time I Almost Stabbed A Couple Rednecks Who Saw My Headwrap And Assumed I Was Muslim
By Samantha Black

It came as a surprise to everyone when I graduated from one of the top private schools in the country and, instead of attending college like most of my classmates did, joined the military.

I was an immigrant — my family came to America from Jamaica when I was 10 — and female children of immigrants are often taught by their parents that your life path is limited to three options:

1. Have a business that makes a lot of money
2. Go to college for a job that makes a lot of money
3. Marry someone who makes a lot of money

Simple right? The army fit none of those criteria. But I disliked everything about schools. I hated the pretentious kids at my school, I hated the cardboard cutout curriculum, and I especially hated the canned food they reheated and sold for five to ten dollars per day.

My decision was especially was off putting to my family because of the type of people and situations they thought I would be around. I wasn’t the most sheltered person, but I was a bit more privileged than the typical 18-year-old who chooses to join the army. Going from nuns and affluent stay at home moms to drill sergeants not-all-that-much-different than the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket was a bit of a culture shock. But I handled it

I am now going on my 6th year in the military. When I left my first duty station in Alaska, I changed from active duty to reserves. After my active duty discharge, I started wearing headwraps. Whether it was the bright and beautiful colors of the different cloths, or the fact that my ears were never again cold, I loved them. I wear them everywhere. (Also, I have to say that the headwrap changes the way men approach me on the street. Instead of “hey redbone” or “hey bitch” its “hey beautiful nubian sista.” Which I know is super, duper problematic, but that’s another topic for another day.)

The only time I can’t and don’t wear them is with military uniforms. Not that I would want to in my new unit, which is located in backwoods West Virginia. I’m not going to say they fit every single stereotype up there but holy hell they sure do come pretty close. And something happened to me recently that exemplifies that. And the fallacy of us existing in a “post-racial’ America.

I was there for a weekend for drill. Once a month, we show up in uniform for a weekend and do a month’s work of work in two days. It was after hours so I was off duty and going to eat dinner at one of the local eateries. I was sitting down minding my business — literally not doing anything but staring at my phone rereading Fifty Shades of Grey because I’m a lonely woman — when I hear several grossly uncomfortable comments that made my skin literally crawl and urged my legs to move me to the exit.

“Why the fuck would she come around here knowing there are soldiers that frequent this area?”

“Check if she has a bag”

“I wonder if she would cry if I ripped it off her head?”

“Her father probably raped her, that’s why she’s shy”

I am by no means a passive, let people roll over me, let it slide, turn the cheek type of person. But ignorance is always palpable and around every corner in this area so I let it slide. I let it slide… until…. this slender “I would date a sixteen year old if she looked right” man and his “I am the sixteen year old that looks right” girl approach my table visibly intoxicated. They actually thought it was a good idea to speak. They either thought about this scenario a little too much or not enough because they strolled up to my table too jolly for my liking.

The skeleton man, with his potentially underage partner in slime in tow, came to me and spoke. What he said was laden with swear words, slurs, words that I can only guess about, and spittle. Lots and lots of spittle. Here’s my kosher and SFW translation:

It’s really disrespectful of you to wear that (points at my head wrap) around here. The troops are honorable and they don’t need constant reminders of why all their friends are dying. You need to take that off.

Now, the military has taught me several things that I value. Because of those harsh lessons, I carry a knife. More precisely, I carry a tactical knife. A benchmade 556 Griptillian. It’s sharp. It’s always concealed on my hip. By the time I heard their giggles and saw them swaying towards me, I had already grabbed Bessie (my knife) and had her in an ice pick grip with the edge out and the tip aggressively carving into the wood of table. It took them too long to notice, but I noticed when they had just begun to notice. The misguided young lady flexed her arm to reach towards me — not sure what the she was intending to do without getting her fingers sliced off — but I pulled the knife out of the table and flipped it around in my palm and pointed it at her. She was not as stupid as I thought because she stopped her advance.

What came next is the best and most accidentally craziest — and probably sexiest (to the right person) — thing I’ve ever said. To this day, I can still hear how low and scary it sounded to my own ears.

“If you, or your cousin-husband ever reach to grab my head wrap again, I’ll castrate him up to his neck and filet the skin off your thighs.

They blinked. I didn’t blink. They blinked again. I must have been a good liar. I can’t even cut a steak without crying about the dead cows and their families that wonder why they never came home that day.

I watched their retreat. Either deciding I was an actual threat or I wasn’t worth the trouble, they went outside to smoke. I tried to calm my shaking hands down. I paid my bill to an oblivious waitress who either didn’t care what was happening or just honestly didn’t see anything. (I’m going to keep my faith in humanity and say she didn’t see.)

As I’m leaving, I see them in the parking lot. I keep my head leveled to watch and make sure they don’t try anything dumb. But, alas, drunk people are dumb. They didn’t physically assault me. But verbally, they were adamant with their prejudice. I heard several things, including “troops” and “Muslim bitch.” I needed to put them out of their misery. I needed the satisfaction that came with my next move.

From the safety of the driver’s side of my car, I pulled my military ID out of my pocket and flashed it at Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.


November 30, 2016 at 01:35PM
via VSB

Trump Needs To Take The VA Secretary Job Seriously

Trump Needs To Take The VA Secretary Job Seriously
By Dan McLaughlin

Among all the various things Donald Trump promised on the trail, few will be more central to the argument that his Administration has succeeded or failed than whether he can say, four years from now, that he made meaningful improvements in our system of veterans’ healthcare. The VA healthcare system has been a scandalous failure under President Obama, a failure that is mostly not Obama’s doing (most of its causes predate him) but against which he’s made little headway. A thorough housecleaning is long overdue at the VA, as both parties on Capitol Hill have recognized. And unlike many other
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November 30, 2016 at 04:53PM
via National Review Online – The Corner

*bangs desk with expert finesse* controversial opinion time controveRSIAL OPINION TIME

bangs desk with expert finesse controversial opinion time controveRSIAL OPINION TIME

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November 30th, 2016next

November 30th, 2016: CURSED SHIRT UPDATE: I wore it and things were fine? BUT: I went out for dinner with friends at the end of the day, full of confidence, and their chocolate lava cake dessert was rancid. A search of folklore databases doesn’t bring up any results for “relics that just mess up the desserts of others” so we are in uncharted territory here. Further experiments are necessary.

– Ryan

November 30, 2016 at 12:00AM
via Dinosaur Comics!