Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse: Ariz. Education Department strikes ‘evolution’ from science standards draft

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Avery Anapol reports in The Hill:

Arizona education officials have published a draft of revised science standards for the state’s K-12 and charter schools, deleting several references to evolution.

The draft standards, the state’s first update in 15 years, no longer includes some mentions of “evolution” or the word “evolve,” and edits wording in places to refer to it as a “theory.”

One line replaces “evolution” with “biological diversity,” while another adds the words “are believed to” to describe the impact of evolution, according to The Arizona Republic.

Science teachers who drafted the revised standards said they were surprised that state Department of Education officials struck some of the language from the standards.

“This would be something I would definitely be incredibly uncomfortable with,” Amber Struthers, a teacher who worked on the draft, told 12 News.“It would be a huge missing gap in understanding core concepts in science.”

National groups, including the National Center for Science Education and the Secular Coalition for Arizona, have voiced opposition to the changes.

Opponents have accused Arizona Superintendent of Public Institutions Diane Douglas of inserting her personal religious beliefs into the revisions.

Douglas said earlier this year at a political event that she believed intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in schools.

Douglas said in a statement that her beliefs are “not included” in the new science standards.

The education department told The Arizona Republic the standards are not curriculum or instructional practices and they focus on core ideas regarding science and engineering that teachers can use. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 6:13 pm

Bowing to pressure, White House to host bipartisan briefing on Russia investigation

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He blinked.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 6:00 pm

Former EPA head Gina McCarthy knows why climate change activists aren’t getting their message across

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Neil Swidey writes in the Boston Globe Magazine:

GINA MCCARTHY STRIDES INTO the ocean-view ballroom at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth, plops down her green backpack, and glances out the window. The waves are angrily advancing on this last night in April, which feels as dreary as mid-January. “The water seems way closer than it was the last time I was here,” she says.

Maybe that’s because of climate change, the threat that McCarthy led the charge to confront as head of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration. Or maybe it’s just high tide.

She is surrounded by a couple of hundred researchers and advocates from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a national nonprofit based in Cambridge. It’s a gathering of serious specialists whose usual concern appears to have morphed into clinical depression. After all, they’ve spent the last year watching McCarthy’s successor at the EPA, Scott Pruitt, aggressively work to reverse each of the Obama administration’s environmental initiatives, as if crossing off every last item on a grocery list before reaching the checkout.

Following her introduction, as the crowd gives her a standing ovation, the 5-foot-2, white-haired McCarthy bounds to the podium in her New Balance sneakers. “The Union of Concerned Scientists,” she begins, drawing out the adjective for effect. “I’ve always wondered, compared to what? The Union of I-Don’t-Give-a-S*** Scientists?”

Channeling that old Saturday Night Live skit where William Shatner implored a convention of Trekkies to “get a life,” McCarthy tells the crowd she isn’t interested in moping. She invokes a different SNL skit, saying she has no use for “Debbie Downers.”

“I agree we live in crazy-ass times,” she says. “But if we get hopeless, we lose. We’re in the fight of our lives. Get tough!”

McCarthy has always been known for her blunt, no-nonsense style. But as the 64-year-old new Harvard professor travels the country these days, feeling unencumbered because she’s out of government for the first time in nearly four decades, and dumbfounded by the demolition work going on at the EPA, she is letting loose even more. She now comes across as one part tent-revival preacher and one part take-your-lumps therapist.

Environmentalists love McCarthy for pushing through the Clean Power Plan, which set the first federal standards for power plants to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the main driver of global warming. They love her for the rules she championed to cut mercury emissions, rules to increase fuel efficiency in cars, and rules to protect rivers and streams that supply drinking water. Most of all, they love her for . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 5:48 pm

What if the United States had proportional representation instead of a winner take all system?

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Excellent answer on Quora. Go read it and give him an upvote.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 5:46 pm

Breitbart after Bannon

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In an Atlantic newsletter I just received:

Breitbart Without Bannon: Raheem Kassam, the London editor brought on by Steve Bannon in 2014, has left Breitbart. His departure marks a turning point for Bannon and the news network; Kassam, who is heavily involved in far-right organizations such as the anti-European Union and anti-immigration United Kingdom Independence Party, was one of the few allies Bannon had left at the company after departing in January. Kassam’s exit comes after reports that the website’s readership has dropped by half since last year.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 5:35 pm

Extremely nice rye whisky: Gibson’s “Rare” 12-year-old

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Real presence, and smooth—and deep somehow. They had a minibottle, so I thought I’d give it a try just on general principles (“rare,” “rye,” “12 years old” has a certain appeal), but I never expected it to be so good. Minibottle was CDN$15.75 (marked down from CDN16.75), and as I recall the larger bottles (750ml? 1L? 1.14L?) was CDN$45.75. I may have to invest.

To American readers, I can only repeat what I see too often on Amazom streaming (but not only there), to wit “Sorry – not available in your country.” But up here I bought it at my local BC Liquor.

Eat your heart out.

Oddly, I started liking rye after I moved here. I wonder whether one’s taste is shaped by local cultural norms. That might explain fraternity drinking, for example, both what and how much.

We drink in accordance with our identified culture, and to some extent I think we would choose the cultures to match one’s own preferences, so naturally there are cultural groupings along that aspect of culture—along that cultural dimension. Culture seems to have a lot of dimensions, in that sense. A continuum of dimensions. Isn’t that a Hilbert space?

UPDATE: By coincidence (I presume), I was reading The Great God Pan, by Arthur Machen. “Pan” means “everything,” so the god Pan is simply everything, considered as a God. That means, of course that you are a part of God (since you exist, you’re part of “everything” (i.e., a part of Pan)), Of course, the evil also are a part of God.

In the book Machen writes:

Clarke heard the words quite distinctly, and knew that Raymond was speaking to him, but for the life of him he could not rouse himself from his lethargy. He could only think of the lonely walk he had taken fifteen years ago; it was his last look at the fields and woods he had known since he was a child, and now it all stood out in brilliant light, as a picture, before him. Above all there came to his nostrils the scent of summer, the smell of flowers mingled, and the odour of the woods, of cool shaded places, deep in the green depths, drawn forth by the sun’s heat; and the scent of the good earth, lying as it were with arms stretched forth, and smiling lips, overpowered all. His fancies made him wander, as he had wandered long ago, from the fields into the wood, tracking a little path between the shining undergrowth of beech-trees; and the trickle of water dropping from the limestone rock sounded as a clear melody in the dream. Thoughts began to go astray and to mingle with other thoughts; the beech alley was transformed to a path between ilex-trees, and here and there a vine climbed from bough to bough, and sent up waving tendrils and drooped with purple grapes, and the sparse grey-green leaves of a wild olive-tree stood out against the dark shadows of the ilex. Clarke, in the deep folds of dream, was conscious that the path from his father’s house had led him into an undiscovered country, and he was wondering at the strangeness of it all, when suddenly, in place of the hum and murmur of the summer, an infinite silence seemed to fall on all things, and the wood was hushed, and for a moment in time he stood face to face there with a presence, that was neither man nor beast, neither the living nor the dead, but all things mingled, the form of all things but devoid of all form. And in that moment, the sacrament of body and soul was dissolved, and a voice seemed to cry “Let us go hence,” and then the darkness of darkness beyond the stars, the darkness of everlasting.

It’s quite a work.  But the idea that “God” is “everything” seemed, oddly, to work. And if so, then God (a peculiar sort of God) obviously exists: it consists of everything that exists, so it also exists (and everything that is, is a part of it).

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

America’s Version of Capitalism Is Incompatible With Democracy

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Eric Levitz has a very interesting column in New York:

American democracy is unwell; on this much, President Trump’s detractors can agree.

But when they turn to the tasks of identifying our republic’s symptoms, naming its illness, and writing a prescription, different factions of “the resistance” produce divergent diagnoses.

One group — comprised of comparative politics scholars, liberal pundits, and NeverTrump conservatives — have their eyes fixed on Donald Trump. They see the moral cowardice of a Republican elite that declined to deny an illiberal demagogue their nomination, or to abandon him in the general election, or to let the investigation into his campaign proceed unimpeded. They observe a president who relentlessly assails the independence of federal law enforcement, the legitimacy of adversarial media, and the veracity of official election results — and a conservative base that takes his lies to be self-evident. And, pulsing beneath it all, they discern the rise of a hyperpartisanship that’s leading each party’s elected officials to eviscerate informal constraints on their authority — and each party’s voters, to believe that the other side has no legitimate claim to power.

In these complaints, the democracy movement (as my colleague Jonathan Chait has dubbed it) sees all the telltale signs of a bad case of norm-erosion. Democracies can’t live on laws alone; they also require adherence to certain informal rules that correct for the inevitable flaws in any Constitution’s design, and protect against the threat of charismatic leaders consolidating power. Thus, to heal our republic, and immunize it against future strains of the same virus,several liberal thinkers have called for the formation of bipartisan coalitions, united in defense of democratic norms and the rule of law. In their view, the threat that Trump poses is so grave and unique, ideologues on both sides of the aisle should now prioritize maintaining a rule-based order over winning policy battles, so as to safeguard their freedom to settle such disputes democratically in the future.

But there is a second opinion.

Several social democratic (and/or, democratic socialist) thinkers, examining the patient from a few steps to the democracy movement’s left, have had their eyes drawn to a different set of symptoms. They see state and federal legislators who routinely slash taxes on the wealthy, and services for the poor, in defiance of their constituents’ wishes; regulatory agencies that serve as training grounds for the firms they’re meant to police; a Supreme Court that’s forever expanding the rights of corporations, and restricting those of organized labor; a criminal-justice system that won’t prosecute bankers for laundering drug money, but will dole out life sentences to small-time crack dealers; a central bank that has the resources to bail out financial firms, but not the homeowners whom they exploit; a Pentagon that can wage multitrillion-dollar wars that exacerbate the very problems they were supposed to solve — and still get rewarded with a higher budget — even as the Housing Department asks the working poor to pay higher rent for worse accommodations; and, seething beneath all of these defects, disparities in the distribution of private wealth so vast and consequential, the nation’s super-rich have come to enjoy an average life expectancy 15 years longer than its poor.

In these grisly conditions, social democrats see a textbook case of malignant capitalism. Democracies cannot survive on norms alone. When markets are left under-regulated — and workers, unorganized — the corporate sector becomes a cancerous growth, expanding until it dominates politics and civil society. An ever-greater share of economic gains concentrates in ever-fewer hands, while the barriers to converting private wealth into public power grow fewer and farther between. Politicians become unresponsive to popular preferences and needs. Voters lose faith in elections — and then, a strongman steps forward to say that he, alone, can fix it.

All this contraindicates the democracy movement’s prescription: If our republic’s true sickness is its inegalitarian economic system, then that illness won’t be cured by cross-ideological coalitions. Quite the contrary: What’s needed is a movement that mobilizes working people in numbers large enough to demand a new deal from capital. Thus, if the liberal intelligentsia wishes to save American democracy, it should devote the lion’s share of its energies to brainstorming how such a movement can be brought into being — and what changes that movement should make to our nation’s political economy, once it takes power.

Why this argument matters.

It’s important not to exaggerate the division between “normcore” liberals and “radical” leftists. Jedediah Purdy, the Duke University law professor who wrote a much-discussed critique of the former, has condemned Trump’s (norm-defying) lies about voter fraud as a dire threat to “self-rule” in the United States. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, whose book How Democracies Die is the bible of the “normie” center, argue in that very text that “addressing economic inequality” could help inoculate America against future populist demagogues. Each side recognizes that both our economic system’s tendency to concentrate wealth at the top and Trump’s assault on democratic norms are serious problems; they just disagree about which of these represents the more fundamental threat to American democracy at the present moment.

But there are real stakes to that dispute. Beyond the aforementioned implications for how the anti-Trump opposition should be organized, the goal of preserving norms, and that of redistributing economic power, can — and, if Democrats ever regain power, will — come into conflict.

Let’s say Chuck Schumer becomes Senate Majority Leader next year. If restoring norms is the paramount objective, then . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 4:51 pm

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