All posts by Philip Waring

Am retired. With my wife Josée I Iive in Tampa, and go often to Paris. There's not yet a bridge between the two cities and we have to fly. These two cities are far apart, but I'm working hard at finding real connections between them. Tampa is America, the best and the worst of it. Paris, well, Paris is Paris.

It has to be said, you’d rather it didn’t.

Trump’s Cruelty and the Crying Children at the Border
By

From the June 25 Issue

 

The innocence of children is, in large measure, defined by their shock when confronted by the cruelty of the adult world. When you see a child being smacked across the face by an adult three or four times her size, the child’s expression is often one less of pain than of confusion. In “The Fire Next Time,” James Baldwin described, in 1963, how black children were innocent of a “basic” American reality—that “white people hold the power”—and only slowly began to sense the anxiety of parents fearful that their son or daughter might challenge the world’s assumptions. It is a small mercy, Baldwin suggests, that full understanding comes only with time: “A child cannot, thank Heaven, know how vast and how merciless is the nature of power, with what unbelievable cruelty people treat each other.”

On the Texas side of the Mexican border today, thousands of children, by order of the Trump Administration, are learning what it is to be objects of deliberate state-sponsored cruelty. In a heartless act designed to arouse the furies of his electoral base, the President has ordered children to be separated from their parentsand stowed in tent cities and cages and a hollowed-out former Walmart.

chainlink

The Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, justifies this act of “zero tolerance” by quoting from Scripture: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” This is the political leadership of the United States—at once cruel and sanctimonious. And it is on this platform of division, fear, and cruelty that the President has chosen to lead his party into the 2018 midterm elections.

Some pundits have suggested that what is happening now in Texas will be “Trump’s Katrina.” But, without excusing the racism and the indifference shown by the authorities in that horrific episode, it ought to be pointed out that at least the federal government did not order the flooding of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. What is happening now is purely gratuitous, a deliberate act of cruelty intended as leverage to build a “beautiful wall.” And it is a wall intended not only to block Mexicans and Central Americans from making their way into the United States but to divide the United States itself, in order to retain power.

On the level of character, no one can be much surprised by the latest cruelty in Donald Trump. How much reminding is necessary? Mexicans are “rapists.” John McCain is no war hero. Maxine Waters is a “very low I.Q. individual.” Trump imitates the tremors of a disabled journalist. He insults the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then, in the midst of that island’s devastation, stops by to toss rolls of paper towels to the needy. He revels in insulting Chris Christie, who was briefly the chairman of his transition team (“No more Oreos!”); he finds ever-more disgusting and misogynist ways to humiliate Megyn Kelly, Mika Brzezinski, Carly Fiorina, and, above all, Hillary Clinton. With a smirk, he tosses a clump of mud at a Gold Star family.

Trump’s biographers make it plain that he is a man incapable of empathy, charity, compassion, or generosity. Ask yourself when you last saw Donald Trump commit an act of genuine kindness. When did he last make a joke that wasn’t at someone else’s expense? He has not only proved ruthless to his enemies, real and perceived, he has also turned on employees, mentors, family members, and loyal aides. Cruelty is the content of his character and the foundation of his politics.

Trump has now decided that maximal aggression, relentless deception, and racialized hostility are the way to solidify the conservative base of the Republican Party. Some G.O.P. stalwarts are nervous that, despite the President’s high poll numbers in the Party, the images of children stripped of their parents will alienate voters, particularly suburbanites, in November. As Liesl Hickey, a Republican strategist, tells the Times, this approach is “not a winning issue.” At some point, Trump may find it necessary to dial back this particular act of heedless cruelty.

It can’t be entirely lost on Trump that five First Ladies, including, to a very measured degree, his own wife, find the situation intolerable. But don’t count on it. Trump has reached a point where his self-adoring faith in his own instincts has only intensified. He has cast out of his circle nearly everyone who dared to disagree with him, and there are very few figures of substance in the Republican Party or the conservative media who have the spine or the decency to stand up to him with any consistency. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants only to preserve the Republican majority in Congress—that is his only evident value—and Fox propagandists like Laura Ingraham will go on insisting that the facilities in Texas are “essentially summer camps.”

The President refuses to hear the children, the cries of the children. Whether the American electorate can hear them will help decide not only an election but also who we are and what kind of country we want to be.

David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992.

Hell is Empty, All the Devils are Here.

The passage that follows was not written about Donald Trump, rather it was about Napoleon. According to the Guardian’s Helena Rosenblatt the Swiss-French political activist and writer on politics and religion, Benjamin Constant (1767-1830), was looking for the word that would best describe Napoleon’s pseudo-democratic regime. New words had been proposed, including “democratic despotism,” “Bonapartism” and “Caesarism”.

Constant’s word for Napoleon’s arrival on the scene was “usurpation”. Usurpers are constantly compelled to justify their positions, so they use lies and propaganda to manufacture support. They form alliances with religious authorities to prop up their regimes. They take their countries into useless wars to distract people from their treachery. And worst of all, they corrupt their people by tricking them into participating in their lies.

Wow, I thought, Rosenblatt’s words (actually Constant’s words) perfectly describe our Donald!! There’s more, of course, that might be said, much more, but this will do for a beginning. Let me run over the list, pointing out that every item on the list may with no stretch of the imagination be applied to our president. (Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.  Shakespeare The Tempest → Act 1, Scene 2.)

  • The principals use lies and propaganda to manufacture support. (Obama was not born in the USA, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before my victory.”)  

  • They form alliances with religious authorities to prop up their regimes. (No need at all to spell this one out! The Christian extremists, the Evangelicals in particular are a huge part of Trump’s base.)

  • They take their countries into useless wars to distract people from their treachery, (In Trump’s case it’s, so far anyway, they keep us in useless wars…)

  • They enhance their own power, line their own pockets and enrich their friends. (Trump’s friends being his close family, his cabinet appointees, some of them anyway, and a White House staff that is constantly changing as they vie among themselves for Trump’s attention and favors.)

  • Worst of all, they corrupt their people by tricking them into participating in their lies. (Here it’s enough to mention Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, her predecessor Sean Spicer, then advisors Stephen Miller and KellyAnne Conway, and finally any number of Republican legislators including Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.)

 

Still to come, perhaps next, what are the values of our liberal democracy (which does need definition). What are the values that our president is putting at risk. In the meantime please go to: 

Liberal democracy is in crisis. But … do we know what it is?  by Helena Rosenblatt in the Guardian of May 27, 2018.

“He’s usually incurious, abnormally unintelligent…”

I just today discovered this website,  https://twitter.com/JRDuquette, for the very first time. Was JRDuquette a real person? or was this just an anonymous Twitter site?

I didn’t know, and doing Google searches, my usual method, didn’t help me much. Anyway, I was struck by the writer’s cartoons, in particular by two of them, one making fun of the President (this activity has become a major growth industry, in the country and in the world) and the other of his Minister of Justice, Jeff Sessions, and I wanted to pass them on to my not thousands of followers, but maybe 50 or occasionally a few more.

Hitchens 2

Hitchens


Well these two I especially liked, and especially appreciated the words of the late Christopher Hitchens who died I can’t believe it was that long ago in December of 2011. For Christopher, whom I had never met, was so much in my thoughts and for so long, and he still is. “He’s dead? No he can’t be. When did it happen, yesterday?”

For he’s still so very much alive. I miss terribly his sensitive, perceptive, and highly intelligent commentary on all sorts of things, often things that apparently interested both of us as much. Oh what I would give now to have his commentary from wherever he may be on President Trump. What a grand target Trump would make, would have made for Christopher’s arrows.


From Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism

Trump and his base would turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.

Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.

One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.

Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena—homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth.

To them, violence, power, cruelty, were the supreme capacities of men who had definitely lost their place in the universe and were much too proud to long for a power theory that would safely bring them back and reintegrate them into the world. They were satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.

What Matters, Charles Krauthammer

I didn’t read the book at the time it first came out.  It was in 2013 that Charles Krauthammer published  “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics.”

It was an immediate bestseller, one that remained on The New York Times bestseller list for 38 weeks, 10 weeks in a row at number one.

I first read it the other day and I was immediately struck by how much I agreed with what the writer was saying.

I’ve know the writer, or rather I was aware of who he was but had never been struck in the same way by his op ed pieces for the Washington Post as when I read this book. I knew that Krauthammer had been injured in a diving board accident during his first year of medical school in 1970 and that he sustained injuries that left him paralyzed below the neck requiring him to be hospitalized for 14 months and be confined to using a wheelchair ever since.

And if this wasn’t enough, writing just a few days ago, June 8 in the Washinton Post, he told his readers that;  “I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months…. In August of last year, I underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in my abdomen. That operation was thought to have been a success, but …. recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned…. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.”

From: Charles Krauthammer,Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What matters? Lives of the good and the great, the innocence of dogs, the cunning of cats, the elegance of nature, the wonders of space, the perfectly thrown outfield assist, the difference between historical guilt and historical responsibility, homage and sacrilege in monumental architecture, fashions and follies and the finer uses of the F-word.

What matters? Manners and habits, curiosities and conundrums social and ethical: Is a doctor ever permitted to kill a patient wishing to die? Why in the age of feminism do we still use the phrase “women and children”? How many lies is one allowed to tell to advance stem cell research? What matters? Occam’s razor, Fermat’s last theorem, the Fermi paradox in which the great man asks: With so many habitable planets out there, why in God’s name have we never heard a word from a single one of them?

These are the things that most engage me. They fill my days, some trouble my nights. They give me pause, pleasure, wonder. They make me grateful for the gift of consciousness. And for three decades they have occupied my mind and commanded my pen. I don’t claim these things matter to everyone. Nor should they. I have my eccentricities.

I’ve driven from Washington to New York to watch a chess match. Twice. I’ve read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Also twice, though here as a public service—to reassure my readers that this most unread bestseller is indeed as inscrutable as they thought. And perhaps most eccentric of all, I left a life in medicine for a life in journalism devoted mostly to politics, while firmly believing that what really matters, what moves the spirit, what elevates the mind, what fires the imagination, what makes us fully human are all of these endeavors, disciplines, confusions and amusements that lie outside politics.

This book was originally going to be a collection of my writings about everything but politics. Things beautiful, mysterious, profound or just odd. Working title: There’s More to Life than Politics. But in the end I couldn’t. For a simple reason, the same reason I left psychiatry for journalism. While science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space, sports, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate.

But in the end, these things must bow to the sovereignty of politics. Politics, the crooked timber of our communal lives, dominates everything because, in the end, everything—high and low and, most especially, high—lives or dies by politics. You can have the most advanced and efflorescent of cultures. Get your politics wrong, however, and everything stands to be swept away.

This is not ancient history. This is Germany 1933. “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know,” every schoolchild is fed. But even Keats—poet, romantic, early 19th-century man oblivious to the horrors of the century to come—kept quotational distance from such blissful innocence.

Turns out we need to know one more thing on earth: politics—because of its capacity, when benign, to allow all around it to flourish, and its capacity, when malign, to make all around it wither.

This is no abstraction. We see it in North Korea, whose deranged Stalinist politics has created a land of stunning desolation and ugliness, both spiritual and material. We saw it in China’s Cultural Revolution, a sustained act of national self-immolation, designed to dethrone, debase and destroy the highest achievements of five millennia of Chinese culture. We saw it in Taliban Afghanistan, which, just months before 9/11, marched its cadres into the Bamiyan Valley and with tanks, artillery and dynamite destroyed its magnificent cliff-carved 1,700-year-old Buddhas lest they—like kite flying and music and other things lovely—disturb the scorched-earth purity of their nihilism.

Politics is the moat, the walls, beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns. The entire 20th century with its mass political enthusiasms is a lesson in the supreme power of politics to produce ever-expanding circles of ruin. World War I not only killed more people than any previous war. The psychological shock of Europe’s senseless self-inflicted devastation forever changed Western sensibilities, practically overthrowing the classical arts, virtues and modes of thought. The Russian Revolution and its imitators (Chinese, Cuban, Vietnamese, Cambodian) tried to atomize society so thoroughly—to war against the mediating structures that stand between the individual and the state—that the most basic bonds of family, faith, fellowship and conscience came to near dissolution.

Of course, the greatest demonstration of the finality of politics is the Holocaust, which in less than a decade destroyed a millennium-old civilization, sweeping away not only 6 million souls but the institutions, the culture, the very tongue of the now-vanished world of European Jewry.

The only power comparably destructive belongs to God. Or nature. Or, if like Jefferson you cannot quite decide, Nature’s God. Santorini was a thriving island civilization in the Mediterranean until, one morning 3,500 years ago, it simply fell into the sea. An earthquake. A volcanic eruption. The end.

And yet even God cannot match the cruelty of his creation. For every Santorini, there are a hundred massacres of innocents. And that is the work of man—more particularly, the work of politics, of groups of men organized to gain and exercise power.

 

Btw, as many of you probably know, two of our most famous op ed writers, Geoge Will and Charles Krauthammer, are both conservatives, and both are at Fox News  and might easily be thought of as Trumpists. They’re not. Although I didn’t read it at the time in August of last year Krauthammer wrote an op ed piece,  highly critical of Trump to say the least. He was speaking very much for me, and probably for other classical liberals, when he wrote that “the sinews of our democracy had at five moments last week held up against the careening recklessness of the Trump presidency.”

These “moments” being:

  1. The military says no to Trump on the transgender ban.
  2. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, relentlessly humiliated in public by Trump, holds on against the president and refuses to resign.
  3. The Senate Republicans reject Trump’s attempt to throw out  Obamacare.
  4. The chief executive of the Boy Scouts publicly apologizes for Trump’s speech, which he gave at the Boy Scout quadrennial jamboree, and which was a wildly inappropriate confection, at once whining, self-referential, partisan and political.
  5. For the first time a good number of police chiefs reprimand Trump himself for encouraging police brutality, characterizing Trump’s encouragement as the thuggish undertone of a man who, when heckled at a campaign rally, says approvingly that in the old days “guys like that (the heckler)” would “be carried out on a stretcher.

The Hockey Stick Graph

growth 1

And then below, two graphs of world population growth. And the very first thing you notice is that the three graphs are hockey stick graphs, graphs showing spikes beginning about 1700, and then rising rapidly, exponentially in the 18th and 19th centuries until the present time.

So what happened about 1700 to account for the rapid rise of both per capita GDP and population, world wide? Do you know? What would you say?

Michael Shermer seems to know.

Michael Shermer wiki portrait4.jpg

In any case he confidently calls these years, from about 1750 until the present, the Miracle Years. And the increase alone of the per capita wealth, the wealth of people,  of our ancestors only a few generations removed from us, does seem to be a Miracle. But not being believers ourselves we look for an explanation of what happened. We look to explain away, as it were the miracle.

Now I speak of all this as a rank amateur myself. But I do see two different, both reasonable explanations. There was the French Revolution closely followed, or preceded by the Enlightenment that French intellectual movement that celebrated reason, and reason’s greatest achievement (at least so far) science. And closely allied with reason and science there was humanism, that meaning a coming together of all mankind everywhere into accepting that all men were as one, one species of course, possessing hearts and minds pretty much the same. In addition there was the individual, and the recognition that society was at best a collection of individuals first, not first a community, but first a community of individuals. And finally there was the idea of progress.

This then is the first explanation of the miracle of hockey stick economic growth,  being best explained by the dominant positions of reason, of science, of the individual, of the rights of the individual, of humanism…. They all came together and  made our modern world of affluence, a world never before seen and therefore a kind of miracle.

The other explanation? People having children, more and more of them, and in order to feed them adequately the people had to work more efficiently and more intelligently than ever before. Hunting and gathering, even the implantation of modern agriculture into more and more of the world’s nations and regions would by themselves not be enough to feed the new billions of us. As parents do miraculous things to provide for their children so the world had now to provide for its people.

Two huge, powerful events happening at the same time. Which one is cause, which one the effect? Did the enlightenment values push the people to have larger families?  My first reaction would be to say no for the values of the enlightenment were to begin with pretty much confined to one of the world’s regions, and still have not reached many regions of the world. Whereas population growth has of course. It does seem more that the spike in population (without offering an explanation of the spike) did to some extent cause the growth of the world’s wealth. The people had to eat….

Continue reading The Hockey Stick Graph

Proof of Evolution?

This all began with first the QUORA QUESTION:

Can I see some proof for evolution? Everyone talks about it like it is a fact, but I have never seen any real evidence.

[Why do I even raise the question? Because evolution needs no further proof. But our President’s base, that is his millions of followers  (yes, millions as hard as those numbers are to be believed) don’t believe in evolution, nor in global warming, nor that questions of race and sexual preference are not to be imposed upon them by external, governmental or religious, authorities, but are best left to individuals to resolve for themselves.]

AND then the QUORA ANSWER, given by Christopher Storm:

What follows below is in the form of several pictures. Storm says that this is the simplest, most visually friendly proof for evolution that he knows. For how else would you explain the homologies below? That is, the structural similarities within two species which are best explained by a common developmental, or shared evolutionary origin.


The colored parts alow you to identify the corresponding bones in the different animals. If there are differences it’s because the animals have adapted to different pressures. But the homologies are there because we have the same ancestors.

Human hands and dog paws when seen side by side share the exact same bones although in slightly different places. The thumb of the human is a vestigial part of the dog’s foot, appearing in subsequent generations but no longer used for the same purpose, if at all.

 

 

Homologies of the forelimb in six vertebrates:

 

 

 

Then in the comparison below, of the same bones shared between humans and large cats (and horses), it is clear that many mammals have very similar skeletal structures regardless of their different ways of locomotion.

 

 

There is a nerve in the human body, the Laryngeal nerve, that is about 10 cm. long as it passes through the thorax, and during its passage well connected to other parts.

 

 

 

The corresponding laryngeal nerve in the giraffe is almost eight metres long as it also passes through the thorax of the giraffe.

 

So why do we need yet another proof of evolution? Well and once again it’s because of the number of non-believers (non-believers in evolution) among us.

 

The Millions who make up a large part of Trump’s base and who do not accept the truth of evolution.

Michael Shermer writes about them:

It is evident that there are a number of extra-scientific variables that factor into the beliefs people hold about scientific theories, and in this case additional polling data show who is more or less likely to accept evolution based on their religious and political attitudes.
In a 2014 Gallup Poll 69 percent of Americans who attend religious services weekly embrace creationism over evolution, compared to only 23 percent of those who seldom or never attend religious services.
A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that white evangelical Protestants are more likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time at 64 percent, compared to half of black Protestants and only 15 percent of white mainline Protestants.
A 2017 Gallup Poll found that 57 percent of those with no religious preferences agreed with the statement “Humans evolved, God had no part in process” compared to only 6 percent of Protestants and 11 percent of Catholics, and only 1 percent of those who attend church weekly agreed with this statement, compared to 35 percent who rarely attend church.

When will this change? Probably not in my lifetime. And certainly not during Trump’s presidency.

“légal et nécessaire”

Le HuffPost avec AFP

06/06/2018 

Pour les États-Unis, il est “légal et nécessaire” de séparer les enfants clandestins de leurs parents

L’ONU dénonce une “violation grave” des droits de l’Enfant.

BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

ÉTATS-UNIS – L’administration Trump a défendu mardi 5 juin la séparation des enfants de migrants clandestins de leurs parents, malgré les appels de l’ONU à cesser immédiatement cette “violation grave” des droits de l’enfant.

Le président américain Donald Trump, qui a ordonné il y a un mois la mise en oeuvre de cette pratique pour décourager l’immigration illégale, a rendu l’opposition démocrate responsable de cette situation, alors que les critiques se multiplient aux États-Unis et à l’étranger. “La séparation des familles à la Frontière est la faute des mauvaises lois passées par les Démocrates. Les lois sur la Sécurité à la Frontière devraient être changées mais les Démocrates n’y arrivent pas!”, a-t-il tweeté mardi.

La loi était en effet déjà en vigueur sous l’administration de son prédécesseur Barack Obama, mais rarement appliquée. Son ministre de la Justice, Jeff Sessions, a réaffirmé mardi que le fait de séparer les enfants de leurs parents était légal et nécessaire. “Si les gens ne veulent pas être séparés de leurs enfants, alors ils ne devraient pas les amener avec eux.”

Les États-Unis devraient “immédiatement mettre fin” à cette pratique

A Genève, les Nations unies ont exhorté Washington à cesser immédiatement de séparer les enfants de leurs parents arrêtés après avoir passé clandestinement la frontière.

“Nous sommes profondément préoccupés par le fait que la politique de tolérance zéro récemment mise en place le long de la frontière sud des États-Unis ait fait en sorte que des personnes prises en flagrant délit d’entrée irrégulière dans le pays fassent l’objet de poursuites pénales et que leurs enfants -y compris des enfants extrêmement jeunes- leur soient retirés”, a déclaré une porte-parole du Haut-Commissariat de l’ONU aux droits de l’Homme, Ravina Shamdasani, lors d’un point de presse.

“Les États-Unis devraient immédiatement mettre fin à cette pratique de séparer des familles et cesser de criminaliser ce qui devrait tout au plus être une infraction administrative, celle de l’entrée ou du séjour irrégulier aux États-Unis”, a-t-elle ajouté, expliquant que séparer des familles et détenir des enfants étaient une “violation grave des droits de l’enfant”.