The problem with bluster

The President of the United States is a pretty strange dude. He’s certainly not the only person in the world with the same kind of strangeness, but he seems to be almost completely devoid of humility and modesty. This may be what attracts some people to him, because it could be seen as strength to them, but to me it just makes him look like a really insecure person who is in constant need of validation to counteract his self-loathing. I can’t stand too strongly by that assumption, because I don’t know him. I’ve never talked to him in real life, and even if I had, I don’t have the ability to read his mind and know what he really sees when he looks in the mirror. So in the end, this is much like the missed opportunities that I’ve pondered before (here and here), but it’s amazing to me how much more mileage it seems the president could get by just being accurate, without the exaggeration and bluster.

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“Shithole countries”

Trump said an awful thing. Although he denies it, several sources have confirmed that, in a closed-door meeting about immigration policy, he asked, “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” People went nuts, with good reason, but I think the focus has been wrong. This is cross-posted from my FaceBook, word for word (except this paragraph of introduction).

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Crime and Punishment

I have conflicting views, and I find that troubling. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and it certainly won’t be the last time it happens. My conflict has to do with crime rates and mass incarceration. I am against mass incarceration, but I like low crime rates, and, because the two are correlated, it makes me worry about a cause and effect relationship. Let’s delve deeper.

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Grab Bag

I haven’t written in a while, which isn’t because there isn’t much going on, but is mostly because I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to contribute here, and because I’ve had bits to say here and there, but not really complete thoughts on much. Just to keep the juices flowing, and be sure this exercise of mine doesn’t dry up, I figured I’d get some of these partial thoughts written out in this grab bag of topics.

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Fuzzy memories

My memory for some things is awful. It’s a running joke at work, and my graduate students have teased me by admitting their strategy of coming back to me with a research idea that I dismissed weeks ago, with the hopes that I will have forgotten dismissing it, and will get excited about it the second or third time. I can’t say that this strategy hasn’t worked…largely because my memory can be pretty rotten at times. I don’t think it’s pathological, or a sign of early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think some things are salient, and stick, and others are easily dismissed, and forgotten. I also know that memories are quite flexible, and often we remember things very differently from how they actually happened. An article in Vox reminded me of this, and there are other excellent examples out there.

Fair warning, there’s a spoiler below, so if you haven’t listened to the episode of Radiolab called “Reasonable Doubt” and want to/plan to, you might not want to read below the fold just yet.

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The politics of demonization

Politics has always had an ugly side. Although we often feel like we are living through the worst of it, it has clearly been really awful at other times also. CNN had a great piece during the Trump-Clinton election showing some of the awful things candidates said about each other. The current climate includes some of this, and plenty of name calling (our President excels in this artform), but what bothers me the most isn’t the attacks between those individuals, but the blanket demonization of people who vote a certain way or another. Both sides get blame for this, but circumstances seem to be having an impact on republicans (at this moment) more than democrats. I’m not saying that things couldn’t be reversed, and democrats would be the ones to talk about here, but right now, in current politics, the republicans are worthy of some attention. Specifically, I’m talking about what’s happening in Alabama and the continued support of the GOP candidate for Senate. For the party leaders, and many of their voters, democrats are so awful, and so evil, and so wrong for the country, that they would prefer to side with Moore, in spite of all the dirt that’s been unearthed about him, than let a democrat win the seat.

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When our heroes fall

People aren’t perfect. We’re relatively safe when we idolize fictional characters, because they’re less likely to let us down, but when we idolize real people, we run the risk of being let down by their inevitable imperfection. From Bill O’Reilly to Christopher Columbus to Thomas Jefferson, people do unforgivable things, and we’re stuck trying to balance the good with the bad. What interests me is how people react when it happens.

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