Monday, July 3, 2017

Little GOP of Horrors

Here are horror stories from the Week That Never Should Have Been.

In Georgia, you can now carry guns on college campuses (thinkprogress.org) Dozens of new gun laws take effect July 1.

You can carry guns on campus in other states as well. This is personal for your Scriber. I was a university faculty member for 35 years. I ran up against several students who I was convinced were potentially dangerous. These days I would award everyone an “A” and never challenge a class to do critical thinking. It’s sort of like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Woebegon: all students are above average – if they all carry guns.

Georgia officially ended a gun ban for college campuses Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Georgia joins nine other states with legislation that permits concealed gun carriage on college campuses, including Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Kansas’ law, which allows concealed carry on-campus without a permit or training, also went into effect July 1.

New Florida law lets any resident challenge what’s taught in science classes (Washington Post)

The legislation, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) this week and goes into effect Saturday, requires school boards to hire an “unbiased hearing officer” who will handle complaints about instructional materials, such as movies, textbooks and novels, that are used in local schools. Any parent or county resident can file a complaint, regardless of whether they have a student in the school system. If the hearing officer deems the challenge justified, he or she can require schools to remove the material in question.

… it seems likely that the law will also be used to request the removal of library books that parents find objectionable.

This chilling NRA ad calls on its members to save America by fighting liberals (vox.com)

It’s not hard to figure out what the narrative is here. A liberal insurgency is destroying American society. The “only way” to protect yourself from this surge in left-wing violence (a made-up threat, to be clear) is to donate to the NRA — an organization that exists solely to help people buy guns.

The ad isn’t an outright exhortation to violence. NRA ads never are. But the NRA has a very long history of using apocalyptic, paranoid rhetoric about the collapse of American society in order to sell people on the notion that they need to act now to preserve their gun rights.

Trump appears to promote violence against CNN with tweet (Washington Post)

Trump, who is on vacation at his Bedminster golf resort, posted on Twitter an old video clip of him performing in a WWE professional wrestling match, but with a CNN logo superimposed on the head of his opponent. In the clip, Trump is shown slamming the CNN avatar to the ground and pounding him with simulated punches and elbows to the head. Trump added the hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN, for “fraud news network.”

The company’s communications department Twitter account responded to Trump’s tweet by quoting White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a briefing last week when she said: “The president in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary.”

In the statement, CNN said: “Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the President had never done so.”

The E.P.A.’s Dangerous Anti-Regulatory Policies (Elizabeth Kolbert at the New Yorker)

This week, while attention was focussed on the Senate’s health-care bill, the Trump Administration continued to quietly do the one thing it does well: wreak havoc on the environment. …

[For example:] on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Pruitt had met privately with the head of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, during a conference in Houston, shortly before reversing an Obama Administration decision to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos for use on food crops. (An E.P.A. spokeswoman said that the two men “did not discuss chlorpyrifos.”)

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin that has been shown to be especially dangerous to infants and young children, and a review by E.P.A. scientists had led the agency to recommend that it be disallowed. Somewhere between five and ten million pounds of the pesticide, most of it produced by Dow AgroSciences, are applied to crops in the United States every year. (The company said that “authorized uses of chlorpyrifos products offer wide margins of protections for human health and safety.”) Liveris, meanwhile, heads a White House manufacturing council, and his company, according to the Washington Post, “wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump’s inaugural festivities.” In announcing that the E.P.A. would not ban chlorpyrifos, Pruitt once again passed over the well-being of the public. The decision, he said, when he announced it in March, was made out of a “need to provide regulatory certainty.”

The President does not lie like you and me (Wired.com)

I’ve let myself get distracted by fake-news shouting—which is the point of it. For the President and his adherents, appropriating and disseminating the “fake news” notion serves a dual purpose. It plays into the rampant what-aboutism that has made political arguments so much less fun in the past six months—“I’m lying? Well, they lie more!” But more importantly it muddies the very idea of truth. It leaves a little scratch on whatever lens all of us use to find the truth for ourselves. Those scratches build up; eventually the lens will be opaque. “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth, and truth be defamed as lie,” [Sisela] Bok writes, “but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.”

To Trump and his followers, it doesn’t matter if we can’t believe the President as long as they ensure we can’t believe anyone else, either. Sure, the apotheosis of all this will make traditional governance—passing laws, making treaties, regulating in the public interest—impossible. But the people in charge will be able to do all kinds of other stuff while no one’s watching, or while no one can see. They can change regulations to make them more favorable to allies and donors. They can figure out how to suppress their opponents’ voters. They can embed moneymaking enterprises into governance. The tsunami of lies will recede, leaving behind only the swamp.

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