The Republican Party … was literally shattered into fragments, and we had no fewer than five Republican Presidential candidates in the field. In the place of two great parties arrayed against each other in a fair and open contest … the country was overrun with personal factions. These, having few higher motives for the selection of their candidates or stronger incentives to action than individual preferences or antipathies, moved the bitter waters of political agitation to their lowest depths.
President Martin Van Buren, writing about the election of 1824.
His book is a free Kindle book. Read the whole thing.
The fires raging across the southern half of the Australian continent this year have so far burned through more than 5 million hectares. To put that in context, the catastrophic 2018 fire season in California saw nearly 740,000 hectares burned. The Australian fire season began this year in late August (before the end of our winter). Fires have so far claimed nine lives, including two firefighters, and destroyed around 1,000 homes. It is too early to tell what the toll on our wildlife has been, but early estimates suggest that around 500 million animals have died so far, including 30 percent of the koala population in their main habitat. And this is all before we have even reached January and February, when the fire season typically peaks in Australia.
One way to look at it is this – a small minority now has the ability to hijack public health policy by waging their own shadow campaign on social media. They are accountable to no one. They can force the expenditure of limited public health dollars just to minimize the effect of their own campaigns. This is also an asymmetric campaign, because it is much easier to spread fear than proper information. At the very least it is reasonable to filter out their harmful misinformation from private platforms. Panels of experts can be used to provide the filter, and fair processes can be made available for appeals. At the very least these options need to be explored.
“I felt my eyes swelling as though they would burst from their sockets, and the veins on my temples were dreadfully distended with pressure of blood upon my head,” Brown wrote. “I felt a cold sweat coming over me that seemed to be warning that death was about to terminate my earthly miseries.”
The word impeach enters English in the 1380s as the Middle English empechen, which meant “to impede,” “hinder,” or “prevent.” It was borrowed from the Old French empechier, in turn from the Late Latin impedicāre, “to fetter,” “entangle,” or “catch.” The root of impedicāre is pedica, “shackles,” formed from pēs, “foot,” yielding words from pawn to pedestrian to impede. As the metaphor goes, to shackle one’s feet is to stop them from walking, hence impeach’s historical sense of “hinder.”
Gorgas was just 27 years old when arrived at Fort Brown. There was a full-blown yellow fever epidemic raging at the time. It was so named because it turned eyes and skin yellow. About half the people who came down with it, died. Yellow fever was not only deadly, it was quick. You could feel fine on Wednesday morning, have symptoms kick in that afternoon, and be dead by Saturday.
But the political leaders in charge didn’t want to hear anything about his mosquito theory. They told him to keep that crazy theory to himself because “everyone knew that those tropical illnesses came from miasma – bad air.” Hell, the word “malaria” itself came from Italian, translating, verbatim, “mal” and “aria” – translation: bad air.
Why do so many people think they know best? And are they putting dolts in charge of government?
Ed Butler speaks to Professor Tom Nichols of the US Naval War College, himself an expert on national security, who wrote a book about why everyone from surgeons to electricians to academics find themselves under attack from novices and ignoramuses who think their opinions should have equal weight.
We also hear from Michael Lewis, whose new book The Fifth Risk examines the extent to which President Trump has neglected the US civil service. Is there a risk of something going catastrophically wrong – for example a nuclear waste containment or a natural disaster response – through the sheer inattention and incompetence of the people put in charge? Plus, might the root of the problem be the Dunning-Kruger Effect – a psychological trait whereby the inept are unaware of their own ineptness? We ask Professor David Dunning from the University of Michigan.
The National Climate Assessment—which is endorsed by nasa, noaa, the Department of Defense, and 10 other federal scientific agencies—contradicts nearly every position taken on the issue by President Donald Trump.
The report is blunt: Climate change is happening now, and humans are causing it. “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” declares its first sentence. “The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid.”
I’m a slow worker and I think a steady worker. You know, so many writers don’t like to write. I think that is their chief complaint. They hate to write. They must, they do it under the compulsion that makes any artist what he is. But they really don’t enjoy sitting down and trying to turn a thought into a reasonable sentence. But I do. I like to write, and sometimes I’m afraid that I like it too much because, when I get into work I don’t want to leave it.
In the eyes of those who anxiously seek perfection, a work is never truly completed—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned; and this abandonment, of the book to the fire or to the public, whether due to weariness or to a need to deliver it for publication, is a sort of accident, comparable to the letting-go of an idea that has become so tiring or annoying that one has lost all interest in it.