Tribalism, not Trump, is the problem

Bill the Cat from Bloom CountyTrump’s campaign is a scary phenomenon. He’s spread fabricated statistics about homicide by blacks, declared he’ll conduct a massive program to expel eleven million people, and declared that all Muslims should be made to register. This would make him the most tyrannical president in my lifetime, at least (Truman was president when I was born), yet for a long time he’s been leading the Republican polls.

Focusing too much on Trump would be a mistake. He’s a gibbering yahoo who just happens to have enough money to disseminate his nonsense widely. The real problem is the large number of people who are receptive to what he’s saying. Xenophobia as a national insanity has turned up again and again in our history. Theodore Roosevelt denounced “hyphenated Americans” and said “there ought to be no room for them in this country.” In the nineteenth century, job ads often specified “No Irish need apply.”

Murderous attacks by religious fanatics have provoked a new wave of xenophobia. The government’s reluctance to say that religious fanaticism is the motive has left a vacuum which people blaming all Muslims have started to fill. The claim “Religion has nothing to with it” is obvious nonsense, but political leaders think Americans aren’t capable of dealing with distinctions between Islamic sects that uphold a barbaric, medieval view and Islam in general. We also have to count the repeated, grossly exaggerated efforts to make us afraid of terrorists. After all that, what’s surprising is that there isn’t more outright violence toward Muslims.
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Prize scam by Allen Mello

Allen Mello Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Nashua, NH is running a highly deceptive “Heart of Gold” giveaway, designed to bring in people on the false belief that they’ve won big prizes. They lured me in that way today.

A mailing which I received on Wednesday from them claimed to be giving away prizes. More often than not, I throw those things out with the rest of the junk mail, but I thought of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and decided to uncover the numbers. The mailing had specific prizes next to specific numbers, so I’d know whether I’d won something worth claiming or not.
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Thanksgiving

Being an atheist, I don’t thank a deity on Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean I’m short on deserving recipients of thanks. So just a few…
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Smith College, former educational institution

Smith College has barred reporters from covering a sit-in unless they promise to agree with the demonstrators. One of the organizers said: “We are asking that any journalists or press that cover our story participate and articulate their solidarity with black students and students of color. By taking a neutral stance, journalists and media are being complacent in our fight.”

The disturbing thing is that the college has made this a formal ban.
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On Rand Paul

Just for the record: I don’t support Rand Paul. Before his current round of anti-refugee demagoguery, I thought he’d be more acceptable than the other candidates, but he’s only harming libertarianism by associating himself with it. He’s just an opportunistic conservative.

A modest Java proposal: NationalSecurityException

class NationalSecurityException extends SecurityException;

When a NationalSecurityException is thrown, the catch clause may access any data, regardless of permissions. This applies only to a catch clause which is in the function that threw the exception.

Should any other function catch a NationalSecurityException, it is expected to ignore it and proceed as if it never happened. Specifically, it is not permitted to throw an IllegalStateException or IllegalAccessException after catching a NationalSecurityException. Any attempt to do so will result in a WhistleblowerException.
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Paris

I should be in bed, but I have to write something. Often I react to disasters by getting very analytical about them, trying to find some sense in them. I can just imagine Dr. McCoy cursing me out for it.

We’ll undoubtedly hear a lot that the killings in Paris were “senseless.” But they were well-planned and purposeful, not like someone shooting up a mall or theater on his own. It wasn’t a military objective, though, not an attempt to conquer or gain concessions in any direct way. The attacks will provoke backlash against Muslims, and the backlash is the key to the purpose.
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Prof. Frankenstein’s monster turns

“Illiberalism” is a word I often use for intolerant behavior, but it’s too weak for what’s happening on some college campuses. The New York Times has an account of what some of the protesters at the University of Missouri were doing.

Tim Tai, a student photographer on freelance assignment for ESPN, was trying to take photos of a small tent city that protesters had created on a campus quad. Concerned Student 1950, an activist group that formed to push for increased awareness and action around racial issues on campus, did not want reporters near the encampment.

Protesters blocked Mr. Tai’s view and argued with him, eventually pushing him away. At one point, they chanted, “Hey hey, ho ho, reporters have got to go.”

Melissa Click, a professor of mass media, reportedly tried to incite the protesters to violence:

As the video nears its end, the person taking the video, Mark Schierbecker, emerged from the scrum and approached a woman, later identified as an assistant professor of mass media, Melissa Click, close to the tents. When he revealed that he was a journalist, Ms. Click appeared to grab at his camera.

She then yelled, “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here.”

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How to read the news

Here are some tips, as much to remind myself as anything else, on reading the news.

1. Major news outlets don’t pursue truth as their overriding goal. They’re selling a product.
2. Sources that promote a cause may be painstakingly honest yet still be blinded by their own aims.
3. The desire to please an influential source dampens critical thinking.
4. Be wary of stories that confirm your preconceptions.
5. Always check for two or more independent sources, and check if they really are independent.
6. Headlines are, as often as not, deceptive clickbait.
7. Paraphrases can be gross distortions. Look for actual quotations. But quotations can be gross distortions too.
8. Most reporters and editors know hardly anything about science.
9. Anonymous sources can be found to support anything.
10. On the Internet, stories can be rewritten in place without warning.

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St. Mary’s Bank’s gross negligence

If you’ve got an online banking account with St. Mary’s Bank, change your password now. Then come back to this article. It’ll still be there. Hopefully your money still is too, but I wouldn’t guarantee it.
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