Rogue fun? Parody govt Twitter accounts multiply, defying Trump’s alleged ban

Rogue One? More like Rogue 24 and counting….

At least 24 Twitter accounts claiming to be posting unofficially for federal agencies sprouted like mushrooms overnight following an isolated incident in which a former employee of the National Park Service took over one of its Twitter accounts and posted four tweets about climate change on Tuesday.

After several posts about President Donald Trump from government agency Twitter accounts were deleted, a number of “rogue” parody accounts were created.After Trump’s inauguration, the official Twitter account for the National Park Service (NPS) retweeted two posts, one that showed the difference in crowd size between former US President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and Trump’s, and another that linked to an article on webpages removed from the White House

The retweets from the NPS account were quickly taken down, along with similar tweets from other government accounts.Badlands National Park also had tweets taken down after they posted statistics on climate change. Meanwhile, several government Twitter accounts stopped tweeting all together. The Twitter account for the NPS posted a tweet apologizing for the “mistaken RTs.”Gizmodo reportedly obtained an internal email sent to National Park employees, in which Washington ordered the NPS to “immediately cease use of government Twitter accounts until further notice.”

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer denied that the Trump administration issued a ban on tweets from the NPS, saying: “There’s nothing that’s come from the White House, absolutely not.” Since then, no government Twitter accounts have posted or retweeted any anti-Trump messages. On Tuesday afternoon, however, a “rogue” Twitter account for the NPS was created, posting tweets about censorship, climate change, and other issues that appear to go against the Trump administration’s policies. The rogue account for the NPS gathered 600,000 followers one day after it launched, and was followed by the creation of other rogue accounts.

Using names that are similar to government agencies, like “AltFDA,” “Rogue NASA,” and “NatlParksUnderground,” and hashtags like #resist #NotAlternativeFacts, and #LockHimUp, these accounts call themselves parody accounts, and only post political tweets. There are now more than 24 “alt” or “Rogue” agency twitter accounts. It is a wake up call that You may be living in a dictatorship if scientists and government employees are afraid of being fired for sharing facts


Under the parody rules of Twitter’s help center, accounts cannot use the same account name as a verified account, and bios need to state that the account is not real. Accounts also must not violate trademark or impersonation rules.

Source: Rogue fun? Parody govt Twitter accounts multiply, defying Trump’s alleged ban — RT America

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Decoding Trump’s meaningless mantra: Making America great again for the sour, mean and delusional –

“Make America great again” means whatever you want it to — at least if you’re a paranoid, small-minded white dude

Source: Decoding Trump’s meaningless mantra: Making America great again for the sour, mean and delusional –

Since launching his presidential campaign back in mid-2015, Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” has taken on a life of its own, becoming a rallying cry for millions of Americans who feel as if their country has lost something that previously made it great. What, exactly, that something is is not entirely clear. As Jon Stewart remarked shortly after the election, no one ever seemed to ask Trump what it was that made America so much greater in the past.

Of course, that vagueness is what made it such an effective slogan. Like many campaign slogans, MAGA can mean a great many things. To a young white male who identifies with the alt-right and Richard Spencer, for example, it is code for making America white and “culturally pure” again; to an evangelical Christian, it stands for making America devout and dogmatic again; to a blue-collar worker in the Rust Belt, it means making America a manufacturing powerhouse again.

And then there’s someone like Christopher von Keyserling, a local Republican politician in Connecticut who was recently in the news after being arrested for pinching a woman in the genitals. According to reports, von Keyserling got into a political argument with the victim at an unnamed town facility in early December. After saying “I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct,” and calling the woman a “lazy, bloodsucking union employee,” he proceeded to reach from behind her, “place his hand between her legs and pinch her in the groin area.”

People were quick to note the disturbing parallels between von Keyserling’s behavior and President Donald Trump’s, as described to Billy Bush in 2005. In this Trumpian world, von Keyserling thought that he could be as vulgar, sexist and indecent as his party’s leader — who managed to win the election even after admitting to conduct that appeared to fit the definition of sexual assault. For right-wingers like von Keyserling, Trump’s victory has made America “politically incorrect” again, which means they no longer have to hide or repress their sexist or racist or xenophobic views, or pretend to respect the rights of women. “Political correctness,” to von Keyserling, is what many other people consider basic decency. But values and social norms have evolved over time, and as an older white man von Keyserling is presumably nostalgic for the idyllic days of his youth, when women stayed in the kitchen and powerful men like him didn’t have to worry about being called out for their sexism or racism.

A recent survey from the nonpartisan research firm PerryUndem, which found that a majority of Republican men think it is better to be a woman today than a man, suggests that many other men who voted for Trump share this perspective. An 81-year-old retired police captain and Trump supporter articulated this view to the New York Times:
It’s easier being a woman today than it is a man. The white man is a low person on the totem pole. Everybody else is above the white man. … Everything in general is in favor of a woman. No matter what happens in life, it seems like the man’s always at fault.

The absurdity of this notion is evinced by the makeup of America’s political and economic elite.

According to a 2014 report, white men — who make up roughly 31 percent of the population — control 65 percent of elected offices, and have eight times as much political power as women of color (moreover, the 114th Congress was 80 percent white and 80 percent male). White men also hold the vast majority of CEO positions in Fortune 500 companies and the majority of board of director positions. Not coincidentally, Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans is overwhelmingly made up of white men.
If everybody else was “above the white man,” it is doubtful that white men would possess substantially more power and wealth than every other group — or that, with the inauguration of Trump, 44 of our 45 presidents would belong to that group.

Of course, women, LGBT people and people of color have made a lot of progress over the past few decades. This has spawned the kind of bitterness and backlash we are now witnessing from many white men long accustomed to privilege.

Which brings us back to Trump’s ubiquitous campaign slogan. “Make America Great Again” can mean many things, but it is ultimately a slogan that appeals to the politics of reaction. Whether it’s a white supremacist longing for the time when the white race dominated without shame or guilt; a bitter old man reminiscing about the days when all women were ladies; or a Christian fundamentalist who idealizes the period before Roe v. Wade, birth control and Charles Darwin, they are united in their reaction and collectively feel like victims of the modern age. Needless to say, women, people of color and LGBT people are much less inclined to romanticize the “good old days.”

In his recent collection of essays on reactionary thinking, “The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction,” Columbia University professor Mark Lilla distinguishes between reactionaries and conservatives:

Reactionaries are not conservatives. … They are, in their way, just as radical as revolutionaries and just as firmly in the grip of historical imaginings. … [The reactionary’s] story begins with a happy, well-ordered state where people who know their place live in harmony and submit to tradition and their God. Then alien ideas promoted by intellectuals — writers, journalists, professors — challenge this harmony and the will to maintain order weakens at the top. … A false consciousness soon descends on the society as a whole as it willingly, even joyfully, heads for destruction.

Today political Islamists, European nationalists, and the American right tell their ideological children essentially the same tale. The reactionary mind is a shipwrecked mind. Where others see the river of time flowing as it always has, the reactionary sees the debris of paradise drifting past his eyes. He is time’s exile.

The reactionary mind may be shipwrecked, but the election of Trump has proven that the politics of reaction are as appealing today as ever before. The Trump campaign has accelerated the disintegration of public morality, and now the Trump administration threatens to shatter much of the progress that has been made over the past several decades, and return us to the bad old days.

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The Trump story media dare not utter: They sacrificed democracy for ratings

Democracy can’t survive when media have a sole commitment to profit with little consideration for the public good

Source: The Trump story media dare not utter: They sacrificed democracy for ratings –

I certainly believe that every company has a right to make a profit- but Media (Print, Broadcast and Online) has a responsibility beyond just profit. We are in the age where FAKE NEWS is believed more than facts because the media abdicated their responsibility. They gave countless hours of free coverage to a sideshow barker because he was good for their bottom line. Now they kiss the ring of the tyrant and chief. Facts are Facts. You do not have to like them to report them. The next 4 years is an opportunity for the press to regain respect or to become a lapdog.

The media are engaged in an orgy of navel-gazing about the Donald Trump presidency, but they’re totally, utterly, absolutely, no-way-in-hell willing to gaze at their own navel.

Did Russian hackers revealing that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Brazile had put their thumb on the scale over at the DNC against Bernie cause Trump to win? Did he win because working white men are “angry”? Did he win because Hillary failed to campaign in the critical Rustbelt swing states? Did he win because of the Russians’ media operations? Is he going to be president because so many people are so upset with “gummint”?

These (among others) are the memes that you’ll find virtually every hour on TV news. But have you ever, anywhere (other than Free Speech TV), seen a TV conversation about the role the media itself played in getting Trump elected, and why they did it?

The numbers are easy to find online Trump got between $2 and $3 billion in free media coverage, while Hillary struggled to break into the evening news, and Bernie Sanders was largely ignored until the final months of the Democratic primary.

And it’s not a secret: Les Moonves, the executive chairman and CEO of CBS, said, as reported by the Hollywood Reporter about Trump’s candidacy: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” He added: “Donald’s place in this election is a good thing. . . . Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? . . . The money’s rolling in and this is fun. . . . I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

The networks — whose first priority since Reagan killed the Fairness Doctrine is profitability rather than informing the public — are no doubt salivating about the next 4 years of daily eruptions from the White House. They’re clearly betting The Donald Trump Reality Show: POTUS Version will provide an ongoing revenue stream, whereas a Hillary presidency would merely have been competent and boring, and thus not as profitable for the media.

Which raises an important question in this post-Fairness Doctrine, post-consolidation media landscape in the United States.

The media is the only industry that’s mentioned in our Constitution, because the Founders and Framers, as much as they may have hated the coverage they were getting from newspapers (see Jefferson), believed that a “free” and vibrant press would serve as a check on the 3 branches of government: a Fourth Estate, if you will.

In a letter about Shay’s Rebellion, which some argued was incited by newspapers, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“The people are the only censors of their governors; and even their errors will tend to keep them to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs, through the channel of public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people.

“The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide, whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Had television existed in 1783, Jefferson would have probably expressed similar sentiments about it.

As Jefferson wrote in 1786 to his close friend Dr. James Currie, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

But ever since Ronald Reagan functionally stopped enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and killed off the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine, leading to an explosion of acquisitions and mergers, and Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, leading to an even more startling concentration of media in a very few hands, freedom of the press in America has become as much an economic as a political issue.

This is problematic, because no democracy can survive when most of the media has a sole commitment to profit with little consideration for the public good.

The Trump presidency is virtually entirely a product of our modern for-profit, highly-consolidated media.

As such, now may be an important time to reconsider how that media — particularly television — is “free” (from corporate boards’ profit interests) with regard to ownership and programming.

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No, Mitch McConnell, we’re not going to “get past” it — the president your voters elected is a dangerous idiot –

No, Mitch McConnell, we’re not going to “get past” it — the president your voters elected is a dangerous idiot.

Donald Trump presents an enormous danger to America and the world. Democrats aren’t the ones who need to “grow up”

The last 70 days or so have been harrowing ones for millions of Americans who fully recognize the disaster that’s forthcoming after Jan. 20. I hasten to note that the tangible, low-frequency sense of panic isn’t exclusive to Democrats or Hillary Clinton supporters. There are quite a few sensible Republicans as well as Democrats who collectively recognize what’s in store. While there are numerous specifics — the known knowns — the real source of the panic is emerging from what we don’t know. We’ll circle back to this after we discuss Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The other day on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” McConnell told host John Dickerson that Democrats need to “grow up and get past” the results of the election.You know, what this is about, John, the Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. I was in Sen. [Chuck] Schumer’s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when you’re coming into a new situation, that the other guys won the election. What did we do? We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election. So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.

This comes from the same U.S. senator who, eight years ago, was so hurt by the results of the election that he famously declared as his mission statement the sabotaging of everything President Barack Obama tried to achieve. And he almost managed to do it. Nevertheless, McConnell’s “grow up” remark is one we’ve heard quite often in social media and elsewhere from Trump Republicans and pundits alike who have completely failed to grasp why, specifically, Americans of many political dispositions are terrified right now.

We’re not breaking any news when we observe that Donald Trump might be the most erratic, unpredictable, unqualified, misinformed politician ever to step into national politics, much less to be thrust into the highest office in the world. The threat here doesn’t necessarily come from Trump’s policy agenda, though his promises on that front are harrowing: border walls, deportations of American citizens, blacklists, registries, abortion bans, prosecution of journalists, a nefarious alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin and so forth. The fear and loathing with regard to Trump’s publicly known agenda covers only a small fraction of the problem.

The rest is a great big Trojan horse question mark, and it’s nearly impossible to know what sort of madness will burst forth when we least expect it. Contra McConnell, this isn’t a generic Republican stepping into the Oval Office on Jan. 20. This isn’t a predictable GOP stooge, like Vice President Mike Pence or even Sen. Ted Cruz. It’s Donald Trump, with all his twitchy, screechy, whiny berserker-in-chief instability. What follows the inauguration will be a real-life fun house with hellish consequences around every corner and with Trump pulling the levers.

Throughout the campaign, Trump’s behavior ranged from out to lunch to clueless to literally shouting breathlessly at the world. For example, every morning now Americans roll out of bed to news about Trump’s latest 3 a.m. tweet-gasm. Did he yell at Meryl Streep this time? Or was it Arnold Schwarzenegger? Did he completely scramble 40 years of American foreign policy while misspelling several words? And regarding the latter, what will the long-term repercussions be? Frankly, I never thought we’d have to double-check to make sure the incoming president’s tweets aren’t from a parody account. It’s the continuing death of “being presidential.”

Twitter aside, does anyone — including members of his inner circle, such that it is — know how Trump will deal with a major international crisis?

Source: No, Mitch McConnell, we’re not going to “get past” it — the president your voters elected is a dangerous idiot –

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Teaching In The Post-Truth Era

Defending truth — and teaching students to seek it — will not be easy, but it’s a worthy fight.

Critical literacy is essential, but not if it leads to a kind of moral relativism that tolerates all views and dismisses none in fits of false equivalence and both-siderism.

In the David Foster Wallace joke about awareness, an old fish, swimming past two younger fish, asks, “how’s the water today, boys?” and the young fish, upon swimming away, wonder to themselves “what the hell is water?”

In choosing “post-truth” as its word of the year, Oxford Dictionaries was not likely thinking about teachers and students, but the declarative dawning of a post-truth era clarifies a major challenge for progressive-minded teachers trying to help young fish figure out what the hell water is. Oxford describes post-truth as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” While the neologism “post-truth” is relatively new, the term fits into a broader context of unease about the ways the modern world, especially its attendant over-reliance on social media, affects one’s ability to acquire knowledge and share concepts of truth and values.

Today’s Knowledge Landscape

One concern is that the process of acquiring knowledge has become faster, more superficial and more social. Indeed, an increasing percentage of Americans get their news through social media. Middle and high school students, so-called digital natives, are even more likely to consume media and integrate new information they find on social media. This becomes quite troubling when you consider research on the effects of social media use on teens and the generally understood neuroscience of the teenage brain. Most teachers remember card catalogues and reference books, but for our students, this is the only form of knowledge acquisition they know. Although they aren’t naïve enough to believe that if it’s online, it must be true, they most certainly believe that if it’s true, it must be online, and it’s probably been liked by lots of their friends already. Knowledge has become populist. Additionally, there is just so much content available that it can be paralyzing for young citizens to even consider trying to be informed. Media, libraries, and databases used to serve as gatekeeping filters for students, but the internet and social media perpetually aggregate more content without much regard for truth and value. Young knowledge seekers are propelled forward and onward, compelled to keep clicking, to watch the next video, to like and share.

Although they aren’t naïve enough to believe that if it’s online, it must be true, they most certainly believe that if it’s true, it must be online, and it’s probably been liked by lots of their friends already.

A second concern is supported by two new unsurprising but arresting studies, one from Sam Wineburg at Stanford and another from Joseph Kahne of UC Riverside and Benjamin Bowyer of Santa Clara University. Wineburg’s research shows that today’s students are dismayingly unskilled at detecting bias, identifying fake news, and evaluating truth claims. Similarly, Kahne and Bowyer show that high school students are especially susceptible to “directional motivated reasoning,” which means they prefer “to seek out evidence that aligns with their preexisting views, to work to dismiss or find counter-arguments for perspectives that contradict their beliefs, and to evaluate arguments that align with their views as stronger and more accurate than opposing arguments.” Notably, the authors saw these patterns of thought in students from across the political spectrum; they seem to be exacerbated by social media news consumption.

Millennials are coming of age in a time of deepening polarization, poisonous rhetoric, and increasing partisan rigidity. Democratic norms are being degraded before our eyes and bigotry has gone mainstream. Conor Williams, writing at The 74 Million, worries that students will struggle to develop the “habits of heart” necessary for democracy to function and may even come “to fear democratic elections.” Moreover, the constant, unyielding interrogation of the media and other societal institutions, especially online, has caused them to become even more unsure about whom or what to believe.

A teenage psyche is ill-equipped to deal with such instability, which helps explain why this is one kind of response teens have as they wade into serious issues. It’s disappointing yet unsurprising that only about half of voters under 30 actually voted. Such observations portend a dismal future for civil engagement, public debate, and civic virtue.

The post-truth era demands that teachers reevaluate how we teach media literacy, but it also clarifies the work we must do to reinvigorate our approaches to inspiring students to become patient, active, moral thinkers. John Dewey reminds us that democracy is always in the process of emerging, that “it has to be enacted anew in every generation, in every year and day, in the living relations of person to person in all social forms and institutions.” So, how shall we teach now?

Critical Literacy and Objectivity

A renewed focus on media literacy is essential to addressing post-truth ennui. A matrix of approaches, often grouped under the heading critical literacy, has been used by many progressive educators to teach students how to think. Descended from Marxist critical pedagogy, a critical literacy approach encourages students to interrogate texts for bias, uncover connections to systems of power and privilege, and identify and question missing voices and narratives. It means resisting passive acceptance of facts and authority as a source of truth. And yet, given the picture I’ve painted of our students’ knowledge landscape, I think the current moment calls for a more mature form of critical thinking. Indeed, skepticism about the sources of knowledge does not mean there is no knowledge, no commonly held set of facts or assumptions; rather, it means we have to be rigorous and objective in our scrutiny of that knowledge. We have to model for students that facts exist and help them develop their own thinking based on facts, evidence, and logic.

I have argued that neutrality in the classroom is both impossible and undesirable. Objectivity, though, is not the idea that we can assess truth claims from some misbegotten “view from nowhere” but the idea that we can assess them from a “common view,” a shared epistemic grounding that cuts across ideology and politics where reasons can be exchanged and debated. In other words, critical literacy is essential, but not if it leads to a kind of moral relativism that tolerates all views and dismisses none in fits of false equivalence and both-siderism. Moreover, if a critical literacy approach encourages students to see all media as inherently biased (mostly true) and therefore unreliable (false), we will have robbed students of the ability to pursue an understanding of truth. More essential is the development of a mature critical literacy that allows students to understand and interrogate both their own views and those held by people they disagree with and decide what to think for themselves. Again, critical skepticism doesn’t mean operating as if there’s no truth.

Knowledge Acquisition

We must help students learn to embrace the tremendous complexity and difficulty of acquiring knowledge. In looking at the ways the internet changes our way of knowing, philosopher Michael Patrick Lynch has argued that our modern form of knowing “can encourage in us the thought that all knowing is downloading — that all knowing is passive.” Our challenge then is to teach students to be active consumers and producers of knowledge. This means spending more time in class collaborating with students to build knowledge collectively. It means assigning long, extensive research projects that require students to acquire, evaluate, and reflect on their sources of information. Study historiography, not just history, so that students understand that history is reductive, selective, and always adds an interpretive layer over “what actually happened.” Share more about your own knowledge journeys; let students see the process by which you design curriculum or how your own viewpoints on an issue are evolving. Model for them a mature, reflective approach to developing ideas.

Indeed, in the concern about downloading as knowledge acquisition, it’s not hard to hear an echoing of widespread concerns about Americans’ ripeness for authoritarian propaganda. Our students are learning to know in an environment that privileges superficial, easy explanations, rapid-fire opinion formation, and confirmation bias-driven groupthink. Truly, what teacher hasn’t had students say, “can you just tell me the answer?” when our hope is that they will grapple and struggle with a complex problem? As CNN’s Brian Stetler put it, we need citizens who will “refuse to be confused” to keep society advancing. And we need to view education as developing the tools students need to unconfuse themselves.

Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset” concept has been the subject of a wealth of education writing. She suggests that students need to be taught in such a way that they can embrace a vision of themselves as works in progress. In Kahne and Bowyer’s research on the prevalence of motivated reasoning, they identified students’ deeply held assumptions about the world as an obstacle to expanding their thinking and developing better opinions. Dweck’s research shows students’ self-concept serves as a similar roadblock, preventing them from being open to their own self-improvement and growth. I’d add that students’ concepts of knowledge can operate as a similar impediment. The view that knowledge acquisition should be fast, that it should fit into an already existing worldview, and that all sources are helplessly biased serves as a major obstacle to developing mature critical thinking skills. Teachers need to operate with a theory of knowledge that is open-ended, embraces complexity, and accelerates the developmental progress of their students.

Without telling students what to think, we can teach them how to think. We can teach them to value evidence and facts by showing them how to acquire and understand them. We need students to see themselves as self-actualized agents, not docile consumers. We can simultaneously teach them about bias, spin, and propaganda while also helping them discover what’s true. And we can assert that far from being self-evident, most truth actually needs to be worked at, reflected on, and constantly scrutinized.

The Moral Imperative

Educators are faced with a moral imperative to help students learn to think and to reason, to use evidence, facts, and logic, in spite of prevailing trends. Throughout the election, teachers were rightly concerned about balancing their various responsibilities: to the truth, to democracy, to resisting bigotry, and to respecting difference. In the post-truth era, this challenge becomes even greater. There is a fundamental tension between promoting progressive ideas of inclusion and tolerance and a top-down, hierarchical approach that would seem to be dictating what students think. In the face of bigotry, however, neutrality won’t work. (Nor, however, will brainwashing, oversimplifying, or blindly labeling people. Tone-deaf pleas for civility without reflection and papering over differences, similarly, will ultimately fail.)

In The Political Classroom, Diane Hess and Paula McAvoy identify “how should we live together?” as the essential question of political education. They root this through-line in the idea that “by teaching students to weigh evidence, consider competing views, from an opinion, articulate that opinion, and respond to those who disagree,” we are able to sustain “the principles of deliberative democracy.” In a time of such extreme polarization, this question needs to be at the center of our work as pedagogues. It means teaching collaboration, discussion, empathy, and active listening within a moral context that helps students grapple with profound questions of right and wrong. According to Hess and McAvoy, the classroom is a unique democratic space because, in spite of concerns about partisanship, “the political classroom is undergirded by values that promote a particular view of democratic life and so cannot be considered neutral.” Among these values is the importance of truth and integrity, empathy, and morality.

As Jacob T. Levy puts it in reflecting on the media in the post-truth era, “insisting on the difference between truth and lies is itself a part of the defense of freedom.” It’s also part of our moral responsibility as teachers, regardless of partisanship. The pursuit of truth is not partisan. Teaching students what is morally right in concert with what is factually right is our task now.


Much of what I’ve offered here is standard aspirational progressive teacher daydreaming. And I’m sympathetic, too, to those who would resist laying yet another responsibility — saving American democracy — at the feet of our country’s teachers; I know too there’s a lot of “okay, well how?” missing here.

And yet, the dawn of this post-truth era is for me a clarion call to reevaluate and reassert the values of progressive, liberal arts teaching. In the post-truth era, defending truth — and teaching students to seek it — will not be easy, but it’s a worthy fight. We may never be able to recover what we’ve lost.

Source: Teaching In The Post-Truth Era | The Huffington Post

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Making America 1953 Again

Yes, I am a liberal. I TRY to read all arguments on all sides of a debate. I do not like to have an uninformed opinion. I am as open minded as one can be with 40 years of life experience.

I found my self reading an article AND AGREEING with George Will (I was just as surprised as you!).

It is axiomatic that if someone is sufficiently eager to disbelieve something, there is no Everest of evidence too large to be ignored. In our current political state we have seen so many politicians disagree with FACT based upon how they FEEL. I am sorry- but facts do not work that way. I am always astounded when a politician TODAY tries to bring back failed policies of YESTERDAY. (Trickle down economics, protectionism, etc).

Back in October, a Marketplace-Edison Research Poll found that two-thirds of Donald Trump voters didn’t trust government-reported economic data, thanks partly to their candidate’s insistence that the numbers are bogus.This, in part, explains today’s revival of protectionism, which is a plan to make America great again by making it 1953 again.

This was when manufacturing’s postwar share of the labor force peaked at about 30 percent. The decline that began then was NOT caused by manufactured imports from today’s designated villain, China, which was a peasant society. Rather, the war-devastated economies of competitor nations were reviving. And, domestically, the age of highly technological manufacturing was dawning.

Since 1900, the portion of the U.S. workforce in agriculture has declined from 41 percent to less than 2 percent. Output per remaining farmer and per acre has soared since millions of agricultural workers made the modernization trek from farms to more productive employment in city factories. Was this trek regrettable?

According to a Ball State University study, of the 5.6 million manufacturing jobs lost between 2000 and 2010, trade accounted for 13 percent of job losses and productivity improvements accounted for more than 85 percent: “Had we kept 2000-levels of productivity and applied them to 2010-levels of production, we would have required 20.9 million manufacturing workers [in 2010]. Instead, we employed only 12.1 million.” Is this regrettable? China, too, is shedding manufacturing jobs because of productivity improvements.

Douglas A. Irwin of Dartmouth College notes that Chinese imports may have cost almost 1 million manufacturing jobs in nearly a decade, but “the normal churn of U.S. labor markets results in roughly 1.7 million layoffs every month.” He notes that there are more than 45 million Americans in poverty, “stretching every dollar they have.” The apparel industry employs 135,000 Americans. Can one really justify tariffs that increase the price of clothing for the 45 million in order to save some of the 135,000 low-wage jobs? Anyway, if tariffs target apparel imports from China, imports will surge from other low-wage developing nations.

The Wall Street Journal’s Greg Ip, who reports that there are 334,000 vacant manufacturing jobs, says that when Jimmy Carter tried to protect U.S. manufacturers by restricting imports of Japanese televisions, imports from South Korea and Taiwan increased. When those were restricted, manufacturers in Mexico and Singapore benefited.

In his book “An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Return of the Ordinary Economy,” Marc Levinson recalls the 1970 agonies about Japanese bolts, nuts and screws. Under the 1974 Trade Act, companies or unions claiming “serious injury” — undefined by the law — from imports could demand tariffs to price the imports out of the market. Of the hundreds of U.S. bolt, nut and screw factories, some were, Levinson writes, “highly automated, others so old that gloved workers held individual bolts with tongs to heat them in a forge.” A three-year, 15 percent tariff enabled domestic producers to raise their prices, thereby raising the costs of many American manufacturers. By one estimate, each U.S. job “saved” cost $550,000 as each bolt-nut-screw worker was earning $23,000 on average annually. And by the mid-1980s, inflation-adjusted sales of domestic makers were 15 percent below the 1979 level.

Levinson notes that Ronald Reagan imposed “voluntary restraints” on Japanese automobile exports, thereby creating 44,100 U.S. jobs. But the cost to consumers was $8.5 billion in higher prices, or $193,000 per job created, six times the average annual pay of a U.S. autoworker. And there were job losses in sectors of the economy into which the $8.5 billion of consumer spending could not flow. The Japanese responded by sending higher-end cars, from which they made higher profits, which they used to build North American assembly plants and to develop more expensive and profitable cars to compete with those of U.S. manufacturers.

In 2012, Barack Obama boasted that “over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires.” But this cost about $900,000 per job, paid by American purchasers of vehicles and tires. And the Peterson Institute for International Economics says that this money taken from consumers reduced their spending on other retail goods, bringing the net job loss from the job-saving tire tariffs to about 2,500. And this was before China imposed retaliatory duties on U.S. chicken parts, costing the U.S. industry $1 billion in sales. Imports of low-end tires from Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico and elsewhere largely replaced Chinese imports.

The past is prologue. The future probably will feature many more such self-defeating government interventions in the name of compassion as protectionist America tries to cower its way to being great again.

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How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization – Medium


Source: How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization

How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

You may see it as a comedy, but I cannot laugh with you. To me, Friends signals a harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America, where a gifted and intelligent man is persecuted by his idiot compatriots. And even if you see it from my point of view, it doesn’t matter. The constant barrage of laughter from the live studio audience will remind us that our own reactions are unnecessary, redundant.
The theme song itself is filled with foreboding, telling us that life is inherently deceptive, career pursuits are laughable, poverty is right around the corner, and oh yeah, your love life’s D.O.A. But you will always have the company of idiots. They will be there for you.

Don’t I feel better?

Maybe I should unpack this, for the uninitiated. If you remember the 1990s and early 2000s, and you lived near a television set, then you remember Friends. Friends was the Thursday night primetime, “must-see-TV” event that featured the most likable ensemble ever assembled by a casting agent: all young, all middle class, all white, all straight, all attractive (but approachable), all morally and politically bland, and all equipped with easily digestible personas. Joey is the goofball. Chandler is the sarcastic one. Monica is obsessive-compulsive. Phoebe is the hippy. Rachel, hell, I don’t know, Rachel likes to shop. Then there was Ross. Ross was the intellectual and the romantic.

Eventually, the Friends audience — roughly 52.5 million people — turned on Ross. But the characters of the show were pitted against him from the beginning (consider episode 1, when Joey says of Ross: “This guy says hello, I wanna kill myself.”) In fact, any time Ross would say anything about his interests, his studies, his ideas, whenever he was mid-sentence, one of his “friends” was sure to groan and say how boring Ross was, how stupid it is to be smart, and that nobody cares. Cue the laughter of the live studio audience. This gag went on, pretty much every episode, for 10 seasons. Can you blame Ross for going crazy?

And like a Greek tragedy, our hero is caught in a prophecy that cannot be avoided. The show’s producers, akin to the immutable voice of the gods, declared that Ross must end up with Rachel, the one who shops. Honestly, I think he could’ve done better.

Why such sympathy for Ross?

The show ended in 2004. The same year that Facebook began, the year that George W. Bush was re-elected to a second term, the year that reality television became a dominant force in pop culture, with American Idol starting an eight-year reign of terror as the No. 1 show in the U.S., the same year that Paris Hilton started her own “lifestyle brand” and released an autobiography. And Joey Tribbiani got a spin-off TV show. The year 2004 was when we completely gave up and embraced stupidity as a value. Just ask Green Day; their album American Idiot was released in 2004, and it won the Grammy for Best Rock Album. You can’t get more timely. The rejection of Ross marked the moment when much of America groaned, mid-sentence, at the voice of reason.

Yes, my theory is that Friends may have triggered the downfall of western civilization. You might think I’m crazy. But to quote Ross: “Oh, am I? Am I? Am I out of my mind? Am I losing my senses?” Did you know the song that originally accompanied the Friends pilot episode was R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know (And I Feel Fine).” A blissful song with an apocalyptic message that goes largely ignored.
I was a teacher in 2004. I coached our school’s chess club. I saw how my students were picked on, bullied. I tried my best to defend them, but I couldn’t be everywhere. My students were smart, huge nerds, and they were in hostile, unfriendly territory. Other students would be waiting outside my room to ambush the chess club members who met in my room every day at lunch. During my tenure as a teacher, I gained the reputation of being a slayer of bullies and defender of nerds. I promise you: bullies can be mean, but they knew Mr. Hopkins was much worse.

Maybe intellectuals have always been persecuted and shoved in lockers, but something in my gut tells me we’re at a low point — where social media interaction has replaced genuine debate and political discourse, where politicians are judged by whether we’d want to have a beer with them, where scientific consensus is rejected, where scientific research is underfunded, where journalism is drowning in celebrity gossip.

I see Kim Kardashian’s ass at the top of, and I am scared.

Maybe it’s all harmless fun. Like the good-spirited laughter of a live studio audience? Maybe. But I am sincerely worried we have not done enough to cultivate intellectual curiosity within our culture.

Fortunately, there’s a resistance forming. People with grit, who aren’t afraid to begin a sentence with “Did you know…” These are the Rosses of the world. I saw them in my chess club. And I see them in my city, hiding at the art museum, crouching at used book stores, exchanging sideways glances at the public libraries and coffee houses, and sneaking around at our schools, community colleges, and universities.

There was no hope for Ross. He went insane, and yeah, he did get annoying.

So, how do we retain our sanity in a dumb, dumb world? I wouldn’t be a good teacher if I didn’t come prepared with a few ideas.

No. 1: read a fucking book. Something special happens when you set aside the inane distractions of modern culture and immerse yourself in a novel. You open yourself up to new ideas, new experiences, new perspectives. It’s an experiment in patience and mindfulness. The New School for Social Research in New York proved that reading literature improves empathy. It’s true. Reading makes you less of a jerk. So, read often. Read difficult books. Read controversial books. Read a book that makes you cry. Read something fun. But read.

No. 2: learn something. Your brain is capable of so much. Feed it. Learn something new. The greatest threat to progress is the belief that something is too complex to fix. Poverty is permanent. Racism will always exist. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is too difficult to understand. The public education system is broken. Educate yourself, so you can be part of the conversation. Learn something scientific, something mathematic. Explore philosophy. Study paleontology. Try to learn a new language. You don’t even have to make fluency your goal, just get a few more words in your head. Listen to an educational podcast. Professors from colleges — such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford — are offering their lectures online for free. Think of what you could learn. One of my greatest challenges as a teacher was convincing students they were smart after someone had told them they were dumb.

No. 3: stop buying so much shit. This may seem like a non sequitur, but I’m convinced consumer culture and idiot culture are closely linked. Simplify your life. Idiocy dominates our cultural landscape because it sells more Nike tennis shoes and Big Macs. When we thoughtfully consider what we bring into our home, we are less likely to be manipulated by empty impulses.

And finally: protect the nerds. A computer programmer from Seattle is doing more to alleviate world poverty, hunger, and disease through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation than any other person in America right now. Nerds create vaccines. Nerds engineer bridges and roadways. Nerds become teachers and librarians. We need those obnoxiously smart people, because they make the world a better place. We can’t have them cowering before a society that rolls their eyes at every word they say. Ross needs better friends.

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