The perversity of perversity


Fig. 1. “Dilbert Classics,” by Scott Adams, for September 25, 2022, via GoComics newsletter, fair use.

The obvious interpretation of Scott Adams’ cartoon (figure 1) is that it refers to the ubiquitous terms of service and license agreements that, each and every single one of them, all say we should read them and which we don’t read because life is short and it’s all mumbo-jumbo anyway. The warning, of course, is that we might be agreeing to things, like Dilbert’s unicorn horn (figure 1), we might not intend.

Yawn. You’ve seen this lecture before and so have I. Read more

Spring in November?

See updates through September 26, 2022, at end of post.



Fig. 1. “[O]riginal caption: ‘Burning at the stake. An illustration from an mid 19th century book,’ scan of woodcut (19th century?), submitted by mullica [pseud.] to Flickr, and thence by Speakfree [pseud.] May 31, 2011, to Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0.

As Vladimir Putin faces defeat in Ukraine and questions arise about his own longevity in power,[1] I am thinking that Viktor Orbán in Hungary, who has been friendlier toward Putin than other European countries,[2] and who has been lionized by white Christian nationalists in the U.S. as offering an example of what the U.S. should become,[3] must be feeling a bit more isolated. Read more

  1. [1]Laurence Peter, “Ukraine war: Russian pop megastar Alla Pugacheva condemns conflict,” British Broadcasting Corporation, September 18, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62948146; Insider, “Municipal deputies in 18 Moscow and St. Petersburg districts demand Putin’s resignation,” September 12, 2022, https://theins.ru/en/news/254943; Julia Ioffe, “Fear and Loathing in Moscow,” Puck News, September 13, 2022, https://puck.news/fear-and-loathing-in-moscow/; Allison Quinn, “Moscow Officials Urge Putin to GTFO: ‘Everything Went Wrong,’” Daily Beast, September 10, 2022, https://www.thedailybeast.com/moscow-officials-urge-vladimir-putin-to-give-up-power; Steve Rosenberg, “Megastar speaks out,” British Broadcasting Corporation, September 18, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62948146
  2. [2]Drew Hinshaw and Laurence Norman, “Hungary’s Orban Keeps EU Guessing Over Russian Oil Embargo,” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/hungarys-orban-keeps-eu-guessing-over-russian-oil-embargo-11653053395
  3. [3]Zack Beauchamp, “Ron DeSantis is following a trail blazed by a Hungarian authoritarian,” Vox, April 28, 2022, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2022/4/28/23037788/ron-desantis-florida-viktor-orban-hungary-right-authoritarian; Zsuzsanna Szelényi, “How Viktor Orbán Built His Illiberal State,” New Republic, April 5, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/165953/viktor-orban-built-illiberal-state; Ishaan Tharoor, “U.S. conservatives yearn for Orban’s Hungary,” Washington Post, August 4, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2021/08/04/american-conservatives-orban-hungary/; Ishaan Tharoor, “The Orbanization of America: The U.S. right walks in Hungary’s path,” Washington Post, May 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/17/viktor-orban-american-right-illiberal-orbanization/; Ishaan Tharoor, “The Orbanization of America: Florida shadows Hungary’s war on LGBTQ rights,” Washington Post, May 18, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/18/cpac-hungary-lgbtq-orban-florida-desantis/; Ishaan Tharoor, “The Orbanization of America: How to capture a democracy,” Washington Post, May 18, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/18/orban-democracy-trump-united-states-elections-hungary/; Ishaan Tharoor, “Orban at CPAC brings the ‘far-right international’ into focus,” Washington Post, August 4, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/08/04/orban-hungary-far-right-international-cpac-conservative/

On ‘intelligence’


Fig. 1. “A scholar in his study,” oil on canvas by Rembrandt, 1634, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Surely I have commented in this space that no standardized test measures anything other than a particular form of literacy.[1] This is very specifically why people of color often challenge such tests as racially biased.

How are they biased? I can’t tell you. I’m white. I don’t see it like a person of color can. But in the tests I’ve taken, I certainly do recall that there were a number of questions that were more open to interpretation than the multiple choice selections, implying that a single correct answer could be chosen from those offered, would suggest. Read more

  1. [1]I lack a proper citation for this. I learned it in my final semester at California Institute of Integral Studies, the one I had to withdraw from, due to a financial aid screw-up relating to a failed attempt to change programs. Transformative Studies was the wrong program for me; I was attempting to get into the Social and Cultural Anthropology program. I wound up, much more happily at the now-defunct (or nearly so) Human Science program at Saybrook University.

The white Christian nationalist Supreme Court


Fig. 1. “Protesters in Foley Square defending the right to abortion following the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade. Part of 2022 abortion protests in the United States.” Photograph by Legoktm [pseud.], May 3, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Lawrence Hurley quotes a number of people, often former Supreme Court clerks,[1] saying essentially this:

The court’s legitimacy comes down to whether the public thinks the court is doing law, not politics.

It is important that the public think the justices are reaching decisions in good faith based on the law, Girgis said. “It’s bad for the system if the public doesn’t think that’s what they are doing.[2]

But it isn’t just politics. It’s religion. And it’s white Christian nationalism. Read more

  1. [1]Lawrence Hurley, “Justices join debate on Supreme Court’s legitimacy after abortion ruling,” NBC News, September 18, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/justices-join-debate-supreme-courts-legitimacy-abortion-ruling-rcna47795
  2. [2]Sherif Girgis, quoted in Lawrence Hurley, “Justices join debate on Supreme Court’s legitimacy after abortion ruling,” NBC News, September 18, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/supreme-court/justices-join-debate-supreme-courts-legitimacy-abortion-ruling-rcna47795

‘Pull’ and ‘Push’ factors in migration


Fig. 1. Unattributed and undated photograph, via the British Broadcasting Corporation, August 12, 2020,[1] fair use.

Republican governors in Arizona, Florida, and Texas have been flying and busing migrants to so-called “sanctuary” locales to try and gin up support for Republican campaigns:[2]

The moves by the Republican governors came just months ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. Immigration continues to be a hot-button issue for many Republicans, including in Texas and Florida, where [Ron] DeSantis and [Greg] Abbott are seeking reelection. The way the governors are using immigration to drum up support is reminiscent of how Republicans in 2018, including former President Donald Trump, used the migrant caravans from Central America to stoke fear in an effort to keep their congressional majority.[3]

Something I consistently see in conversations with my passengers as an Uber driver is that people in the U.S. typically only see “pull” factors as driving migration:

Not one person has asked for a handout; they have asked to work.[4]

Read more

  1. [1]British Broadcasting Corporation, “English Channel migrants: Where they’re from and what they’re escaping,” August 12, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-53721146
  2. [2]Lisa Kashinski, Sue Allan, and Gary Fineout, “GOP governors put focus on migrants with Martha’s Vineyard transport,” Politico, September 15, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/15/desantis-migrants-marthas-vineyard-immigration-florida-00056870; Alexander Thompson et al., “‘At first they were surprised, just like us.’ Martha’s Vineyard responds to surprise arrival of planeloads of migrants,” Boston Globe, September 15, 2022, https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/09/15/metro/marthas-vineyard-responds-surprise-arrival-planeloads-migrants/
  3. [3]Lisa Kashinski, Sue Allan, and Gary Fineout, “GOP governors put focus on migrants with Martha’s Vineyard transport,” Politico, September 15, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/15/desantis-migrants-marthas-vineyard-immigration-florida-00056870
  4. [4]Lisa Belcastro, quoted in Alexander Thompson et al., “‘At first they were surprised, just like us.’ Martha’s Vineyard responds to surprise arrival of planeloads of migrants,” Boston Globe, September 15, 2022, https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/09/15/metro/marthas-vineyard-responds-surprise-arrival-planeloads-migrants/

Nate Cohn embarrassingly goes for luck rather than rigor


Fig. 1. Graph showing the deterioration of response rates by the Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, fair use.[1]

I wasn’t planning on commenting on a story by Nate Cohn in the New York Times on how recent polling results resemble the failures in two recent election cycles.[2] Thankfully, I have my mother to remind me that yes, I probably do need to comment. Read more

  1. [1]Courtney Kennedy and Hannah Hartig, “Response rates in telephone surveys have resumed their decline,” Pew Research Center, February 27, 2019, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/27/response-rates-in-telephone-surveys-have-resumed-their-decline/
  2. [2]Nate Cohn, “Yes, the Polling Warning Signs Are Flashing Again,” Washington Post, September 12, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/12/upshot/polling-midterms-warning.html

More questions than answers as Donald Trump flags come down

See updates through September 24, 2022, at end of post.



Fig. 1. Flags in front of a house in Clairton, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There are one U.S. flag, two U.S. Army flags, one Confederate battle flag, and, less visibly behind a utility pole, a Betsy Ross flag. Photograph by author, April 29, 2020.

So, as I’m driving around southwestern Pennsylvania, I’m noticing a lot fewer signs and flags in support of Donald Trump.

The ubiquitous Confederate flags in the area almost entirely came down after the January 6 coup attempt. There are still a few up, but they’ve become rare. Read more

It is now even more urgently orange jumpsuit time

See updates through September 19, 2022, at end of post.



Fig. 1. Donald Trump, depicted in an orange jumpsuit, reportedly by the Drudge, via Mediaite,[1] fair use.

I suppose I should not be surprised that the story of Donald Trump’s absconding with records that properly belong with the National Archives and Records Administration[2] is taking a darker turn. Read more

  1. [1]Alex Griffing, “Drudge Puts Trump in an Orange Jumpsuit as Site Monitors His Potential Indictment,” Mediaite, August 29, 2022, https://www.mediaite.com/news/drudge-puts-trump-in-an-orange-jumpsuit-as-site-monitors-his-potential-indictment/
  2. [2]Jacqueline Alemany et al., “National Archives had to retrieve Trump White House records from Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, February 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/trump-records-mar-a-lago/; Farnoush Amiri, “National Archives: Trump took classified items to Mar-a-Lago,” Associated Press, February 19, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-national-security-9c1f6dca7e3e8073ee029604c8253a5c; Scott R. Anderson et al., “What We Do and Don’t Know About the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago Search,” Lawfare, August 9, 2022, https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-we-do-and-dont-know-about-fbis-mar-lago-search; Isaac Arnsdorf et al., “Trump is rushing to hire seasoned lawyers — but he keeps hearing ‘No,’” Washington Post, August 16, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/16/trump-lawyers-fbi-raid/; Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, “Agents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago seized 11 sets of classified documents, court filing shows,” Washington Post, August 12, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/12/trump-warrant-release/; Devlin Barrett et al., “Mar-a-Lago search appears focused on whether Trump, aides withheld items,” Washington Post, August 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/trump-fbi-search-mar-a-lago/; Devlin Barrett et al., “FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say,” Washington Post, August 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/11/garland-trump-mar-a-lago/; Igor Derysh, “‘Lawyers are giggling’: Legal experts scratch their heads at Trump’s ‘very strange’ new DOJ lawsuit,” Salon, August 23, 2022, https://www.salon.com/2022/08/23/lawyers-are-giggling-legal-experts-scratch-their-heads-at-trumps-very-strange-new-doj/; Matt Ford, “Trump’s Republican Defenders Inexplicably Forgot To Expect the Worst,” New Republic, August 16, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/167422/gop-response-mar-a-lago-search; Lauren Gambino, “Judge to consider unsealing Trump search affidavit as legal worries mount,” Guardian, August 16, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/aug/16/donald-trump-search-affidavit-legal-cases; Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha, “Merrick Garland Weighed Search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago for Weeks,” Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/merrick-garland-weighed-search-of-trumps-mar-a-lago-for-weeks-11660601292; Clyde Hughes, “Rep. Greene files articles of impeachment against Attorney General Garland,” United Press International, August 13, 2022, https://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2022/08/13/-Marjorie-Taylor-Greene-articles-impeachment-Merrick-Garland-Attorney-General/4231660394406/; Julia Ioffe, “Defund… the F.B.I.?” Puck News, August 9, 2022, https://puck.news/defund-the-f-b-i/; Julia Ioffe, “The C.I.A.’s Trump Deja Vu,” Puck News, August 16, 2022, https://puck.news/the-c-i-a-s-trump-deja-vu/; David Klepper, “Trump’s angry words spur warnings of real violence,” Associated Press, August 16, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/ghislaine-maxwell-social-media-donald-trump-mar-a-lago-31741bb13f708ee68b523592623341eb; Erik Larson, “Trump’s ‘Planted Evidence’ Claim Unlikely to Stand Up In Court,” Bloomberg, August 11, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-08-11/trump-s-planted-evidence-claim-unlikely-to-stand-up-in-court; Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha, and Sadie Gurman, “FBI Recovered Eleven Sets of Classified Documents in Trump Search, Inventory Shows,” Washington Post, August 12, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fbi-recovered-eleven-sets-of-classified-documents-in-trump-search-inventory-shows-11660324501; Arwa Mahdawi, “The Mar-a-Lago search prompts a big question: who snitched?” Guardian, August 13, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/13/mar-a-lago-search-ivanka-trump-week-in-patriarchy; Renato Mariotti, “Espionage Isn’t the Strongest Case Against Trump. It’s Simpler Than That,” Politico, August 14, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/08/14/trump-classified-documents-doj-opinion-00051584; Tara Palmeri, “The Trump Informant Guessing Game: Knives Are Out!” Puck News, August 11, 2022, https://puck.news/the-trump-informant-guessing-game-knives-are-out/; Amber Phillips, “What could the Mar-a-Lago search mean for Trump legally?” Washington Post, August 10, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/07/what-is-presidential-records-act-how-did-trump-violate-it/; Jennifer Rubin, “Trump’s risk of indictment for his document snatch just skyrocketed,” Washington Post, August 23, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/08/23/trump-documents-indictment-risk-skyrocket/; Perry Stein, “Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago,” Washington Post, August 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/garland-trump-raid-politics/; Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley, “Trump Tells His Lawyers: Get ‘My’ Top Secret Documents Back,” Rolling Stone, August 23, 2022, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/trump-tells-lawyers-get-my-top-secrets-documents-back-1234580501/; Betsy Woodruff Swan, Kyle Cheney, and Nicholas Wu, “FBI search warrant shows Trump under investigation for potential obstruction of justice, Espionage Act violations,” Politico, August 12, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/08/12/search-warrant-shows-trump-under-investigation-for-potential-obstruction-of-justice-espionage-act-violations-00051507; Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump says FBI conducting search of Mar-a-Lago estate,” Associated Press, August 8, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-mar-a-lago-government-and-politics-9e8d683afe87389407950af7ccfdbdd6; Eric Tucker and Michael Balsamo, “Trump calls for ‘immediate’ release of Mar-a-Lago warrant,” Associated Press, August 12, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-search-unsealing-the-warrant-5e00a3e6728cd77daa0d2180d078fcb6; Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent, “Merrick Garland’s surprise announcement calls the Trump-GOP bluff,” Washington Post, August 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/08/11/garland-announcement-trump-fbi-bluff/; Marcy Wheeler, “Trump's Timid (Non-Legal) Complaints about Attorney-Client Privilege,” Empty Wheel, August 14, 2022, https://www.emptywheel.net/2022/08/14/trump-claims-the-ssa-receipt-includes-privileged-materials/; Cat Zakrzewski, “Lawmakers demand data about online threats against law enforcement,” Washington Post, August 19, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/08/19/fbi-social-media-law-enforcement/; Matt Zapotosky et al., “National Archives asks Justice Dept. to investigate Trump’s handling of White House records,” Washington Post, February 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/02/09/trump-archives-justice-department/

The false dichotomy of mythologies that underlies political polarization

I recently came across Anne Applebaum’s 2018 article in the Atlantic, “A warning from Europe: The worst is yet to come,” in which she describes the politics in Poland as reminiscent of Viktor Orbán’s competitive authoritarian regime in Hungary, posing it in a false dichotomy with meritocratic, cosmopolitan, and capitalist “liberalism.”[1] It’s not ideologically quite a match for white Christian nationalism, as indeed are not structurally similar regimes in Turkey and India, and as indeed would not be a similar regime which might arise in Italy[2] and might have arisen in France.[3] Read more

  1. [1]Anne Applebaum, “A warning from Europe: The worst is yet to come,” Atlantic, October 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/10/poland-polarization/568324/
  2. [2]Archie Bland, “Italy’s political dysfunction opens the door to a far-right government,” Guardian, August 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/aug/22/first-edition-giorgia-meloni-italy-election
  3. [3]Arthur Goldhammer, “Yes, Be Worried: Marine Le Pen Could Finally Come to Power in France,” New Republic, April 7, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/166041/marine-le-pen-win-president-france-2022-elections