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February 20, 2020

Hal Brown blog Feb. 20, 2020 to -

Back to early February

Feb. 29,2020
My tweet, click to enlarge, he called it a hoax yesterday and tried to take it back today:
Trump: “Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that … coronavirus. We did one of the great jobs, you say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ They say, ‘Oh, not good. Not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue.  … They tried to beat you on ‘Russia, Russia, Russia,’ that didn’t work out to well. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything. They tried over and over. They been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning, they lost, it’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax.”
Click to enlarge

Donald Trump’s war on coronavirus is just his latest war on truth | Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

  • Trump has nodded in a similarly conspiracist direction, tweeting that the media are doing all they can “to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible”. That reference to the markets is key. 
  • And so his first instinct is that of the Manhattan hustler-hotelier loudly assuring guests that the strong smell of burning coming from the ground floor is merely the chef trying out a new barbecue rather than a sign that the building is on fire. Crucial to that effort is talking loudly over the fire marshals, or even gagging them altogether.
  • You could see that when Trump spoke in the White House briefing room, brazenly contradicting the experts by his side. 
  • Note the fate of Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. On Thursday he dared say that “we are dealing with a serious virus” with a higher mortality rate than regular flu. That was deemed insufficiently upbeat for the great leader. According to the New York Times, “Dr Fauci has told associates that the White House had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance.”
  • The new mantra, it seems, is to be one of Trump’s favourite phrases: repeated again on Thursday: “Nobody really knows.” That could be the motto of post-truthists such as Trump, conveying the hope that voters will become confused, concluding that no truth is ever even possible, and that in the fog of information and rumour it’s best simply to trust the man in charge. That’s what Trump wants every American to believe, about coronavirus and everything else for that matter: nobody really knows.
Their drawing is worth 1000 words:

Below: The latest book about Trump, Sink in the Swamp
We'd originally pitched the title, "Another S**tstorm in F**ktown: The Donald J. Trump Odyssey." We, or at the very least I, earnestly wanted that to be the title of the book. In my point of view, it is an appropriate title for a book about the current political era. Now, everybody involved in the decision-making process actually had a sway over this—book agents or people working for the publisher 100 percent vetoed that title. The compromise was that "Another S**tstorm in F**ktown" is the title of the first chapter of the book. You can't get everything in life, but there's compromises to be had.

What would you do if Trump defender and Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight called you, mistakenly believing you were Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and shared his ideas to help President Trump win re-election? Would you let him talk or inform him he had the wrong number? How would you react if Rudy Giuliani suddenly texted you, claiming he was being held hostage on an airplane by Robert Mueller, who wouldn't release him until he ratted out Trump? Would you laugh it off or write about it?

These are just a small fraction of the experiences that Daily Beast reporters Asawin "Swin" Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay lay out in their new book about covering Trump World, "Sinking in the Swamp: How Trump's Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington." Suebsaeng and I spoke about the book recently on "Salon Talks."

"Sinking in the Swamp" is a no-holds-barred look at the reporters' first-hand experiences of covering all things Trump. As Suebsaeng details, Trump's Washington hotel is "swamp central," where administration officials and their dubious allies flock to show their loyalty, while in essence paying tribute to their leader by spending lavishly at the hotel he owns.

Suebsaeng and Markay also detail their hilarious interactions with Trump's best-known defenders in the media — some of whom I've had run-ins with as well — from Sebastian "Dragon of Budapest" Gorka to Dan "Own the Libs" Bongino. They also reveal who the two biggest liars in TrumpWorld are — and that's a stiff competition.
Despite this buffet of hucksters, liars and all around ethics-free sleazebags, Suebsaeng makes that the most dangerous person of all is the swamp's proprietor, Donald J. Trump. And if he wins again in November, no one can predict how deep, dark and dangerous that swamp will become. Watch my "Salon Talks" with Asawin Suebsaeng here, or read a transcript of our conversation below, lightly edited for length and clarity.

Trump Touts Border Wall In Face Of Coronavirus: ‘Border Security Is Health Security’

“You’ve all seen the wall is going up like magic,” he continued, saying they’d “have 500 miles built by very early next year.” 
“We will do everything in our power to keep the infection from entering our country. We have no choice,” Trump said. “Whether it’s the virus that we’re talking about or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans… Now you see it with the coronavirus.”
“When you have this virus... or any other problem coming in. It’s not the only thing that comes through the border,” Trump said. “And now just using this — so important, right? So important.”
Dr. Celine Gounder — a clinical assistant professor of infectious diseases at New York University and host of the podcast “Epidemic” — said Trump’s remarks “show a real lack of understanding on the way diseases spread.” 

Mike Huckabee Sickens Twitter Users With Coronavirus Scenario Involving Donald Trump

The former GOP Arkansas governor used a bonkers analogy to take aim at “the left & media.” It backfired.

Feb. 28, 2020

Lance Dodes, MD, John Gartner, PhD, and Bandy Lee, MD are the three most frequently featured mental health guests on Lawrence O'Donnell. Watch Dr. Dodes below.

Hey, Amanda, tell us something we don't know... 

Hey, Trump supporters: He'd rather endanger your health than lose an election

Trump and his trolls downplay coronavirus to protect him — and may be encouraging their fans to take dumb risks, Amanda Marcotte, Salon

Despite steady warnings from health organizations worldwide, right-wing media are clogging the airwaves with conspiracy theories and inaccurate reporting. Outlets like Fox News are broadcasting sensationalistic, poorly sourced talking points, obfuscating the realities of the outbreak and the United States' own readiness to deal with it, leaving Americans more vulnerable and less informed.

Virtually from the moment reports of a new virus emerged out of Wuhan, China, far-right extremists began circulating theories about its origin. When experts declared that the coronavirus likely spread from bats, far-right figures began circulating videos showing Asian people consuming exotic animals. Former InfoWars personality Paul Joseph Watson tweeted, “Our media encourages us to eat all kinds of weird stuff because it’s ‘normal’ in other cultures,” but “some cultures are better than others.”

In early February, fringe bloggers claimed that the findings of an unpublished, unreviewed paper that found similarities between the virus and HIV indicated that the virus was man-made. Though it was repeatedly debunked, the claim is now ubiquitous in right-wing media: The Daily Wire, The Federalist, Steve Bannon and Rush Limbaugh have all uncritically pushed the conspiracy theory that the virus may have leaked from a Chinese research lab.

On Fox News, (Tucker) Carlson has broadcast the narrative multiple times under the guise that “some say” it might be true.


I was surprised at the mention of Netflix here:

The danger here is that the moral and political systems that promote freedom and independence will be seen as less desirable to the passive nihilist than the moral and political systems that promote dogmatic acceptance of tradition and blind obedience to authority. Though we might say we want to be free and independent, such liberation can feel like a terrible burden. This was expressed for example by Søren Kierkegaard in The Concept of Anxiety (1844) when he described anxiety as the ‘dizziness of freedom’ that arises when we look down at what appears to us as the ‘abyss’ of endless possibility. Just think of how often being presented with a menu full of options leads restaurant-goers to ask the server for a recommendation. Or how Netflix went from promoting its vast library of movies for you to choose from to promoting its algorithm that would let you ‘chill’ while it makes choices for you.

Feb. 27, 2020

I made this image and posted it on Twitter (here) with "What are doctors going to do? Live up to the Hippocratic oath to first do no harm or abide by the Trump Pence Hippopotamus rule where the heavyweights make the decisions about public health?"

A musical interlude:
I'm watching Better Call Saul on Netflix (98/96% Rotten Tomatoes ratings)and the first episode of season 3 began with this song. 

I saw this on Facebook:

Hey, Trump supporters: He'd rather endanger your health than lose an election, by Amanda Marcotte, Salon

Trump and his trolls downplay coronavirus to protect him — and may be encouraging their fans to take dumb risks

But this may be Trump's biggest deception of them all, because, in truth, he doesn't actually care for his own voters one single whit. The only person Donald Trump cares about is Donald Trump. While his supporters bray in glee over the way Trump's lies drive "the libs" nuts, they're falling for his biggest con of all — because he wouldn't hesitate to screw over every single one of his supporters, if he thought it would help him. 

Trump's ease with betraying even his most loyal followers has been evident in his response to the threat of coronavirus, the apparent viral epidemic that began started in China and has now spread to at least 47 countries, including the United States. For most leaders who don't have a crippling case of sociopathic narcissism, the threat of this disease turning into a global pandemic would cause concern for the well-being of the nation, and of humanity at large. The response of any normal president, of whichever party, would be guided by the principle that the most important thing is the health and safety of Americans. 

Below: If Warren is the candidate this was good practice for debating Trump.


Women’s Group Demands MSNBC Fire Chris Matthews Over Elizabeth Warren Confrontation - Daily Beast

Conspiracy theories to colonialism: GOP covers up Trump's incompetent coronavirus response, from Salon

Republican response to potential pandemic aims at protecting Trump with cowardice, hypocrisy and outright lies

Feb. 26, 2020

This is my tweet:

Even as Trump lies and tries to spin about the risk of coronavirus to Americans, the only human beings who count to him, we have to understand that even if no-one in America dies of the disease estimates are 40% it will have a detrimental effect on our economy. 

"On Wednesday, Moody’s Analytics said it now sees a 40 percent chance that the virus will break containment in China and grow into a global pandemic that would push the United States and the world into a recession. Its chief economist, Mark Zandi, said in a research note that he expected the virus to reduce American economic growth by 0.2 percentage points this year — and that a “black swan” recession now looked uncomfortably possible."  NY Times


From the NY Times: 

How Does a Buddhist Monk Face Death?

The subtitle is "If we learn to celebrate life for its ephemeral beauty, its coming and going, we can make peace with its end." I suggest that the reverse can be true and perhaps a healthier and pragmatic way to look at life and its inevitable end. 

We can make peace with the end of life if we learn to celebrate life for its ephemeral beauty, but I would add to appreciate it for its complexity and the ability humans have to strive to understand whatever meaning there is in the human condition including pain and joy, sorrow and suffering.

I think the following is wishful thinking bordering on gobbledygook rooted perhaps in the nearly universal fear that death is the end of everything, you are gone, finito ... but why fear death at all if it is just oblivion which by definition of the word is non-being, a mindless and selfless state that isn't even a "state" since the you that was you is not there? 

Yancy: You also said that we fear death because of our uncertainty about what follows it. As you know, in Plato’s “Apology,” Socrates suggests that death is a kind of blessing that involves either a “dreamless sleep” or the transmigration of the soul to another place. As a Tibetan Buddhist, do you believe that there is anything after death?
Namgyal: In the Buddhist tradition, particularly at the Vajrayanalevel, we believe in the continuity of subtle mind and subtle energy into the next life, and the next after that, and so on without end. This subtle mind-energy is eternal; it knows no creation or destruction. For us ordinary beings, this way of transitioning into a new life happens not by choice but under the influence of our past virtuous and non-virtuous actions. This includes the possibility of being born into many forms of life.

Yancy: As a child I would incessantly ask my mother about a possible afterlife. What might we tell our children when they express fear of the afterlife?

Namgyal: We might tell them that an afterlife would be a continuation of themselves, and that their actions in this life, either good or bad, will bear fruit. So if they cultivate compassion and insight in this life by training in positive thinking and properly relating to others, then one would carry those qualities and their potential into the next. They would help them take every situation, including death itself, in stride. So, the sure way to address fear of the afterlife is to live the present life compassionately and wisely which, by the way, also helps us have a happy and meaningful life in the present.




Feb. 25, 2020

When American presidents travel abroad, foreign officials have, for many years, made every effort to impress the Leader of the Free World. In many instances, this led foreign governments to try to arrange substantive policy breakthroughs important to the U.S. chief executive. In other cases, officials have arranged carefully planned visits to sites of cultural and historical significance. Some presidents like to deliver remarks to local students or conduct interviews with foreign journalists.
But with Donald Trump, those usual efforts won't work -- in large part because the Republican doesn't have much of an interest in policy, culture, or history. And with this in mind, the New York Timesreported on India's approach to making the current American president happy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India opted to appeal to Mr. Trump's first love -- crowd size -- as he stages a rally of more than 100,000 people in Ahmedabad on Monday after a drive in from the airport along roads where perhaps 100,000 more will line the motorcade route. The president will almost certainly not be greeted by the 10 million people he expects, but it will look like an enormous crowd nonetheless and, the Indians hope, satisfy his need for affirmation.

It's worth pausing to appreciate how truly pitiful this makes Trump sound. There appears to be an international understanding that the current American president cares about spectacle and celebrations of himself, and so foreign officials have learned to appeal to his narcissism.

Old pickleball players

Feb. 24, 2020


Donald Trump headlined a rally this week, and it took him a few minutes before he showed obvious signs that he was slurring.
The POTUS’ words were barely understandable for a few seconds, and Political Flare claimed that there’s really something wrong going on with the president.
However, this isn’t the most humiliating aspect of his speech. Even though Trump obviously slurred his way through the rally, he still mocked Joe Biden’s stutter. The latter has been diagnosed with a speech disorder, and he’s also very open about it.

Trump's Border Patrol shock troops: So much for conservative "small government" by Chauncey DeVega, Salon

Is Trump trying to turn the Border Patrol into a "national police" force? At least his fascism isn't subtle

In fact, as revealed by a recent trove of emails Trump adviser Stephen Miller actually wants to use trains to deport migrants, immigrants and refugees because it would serve as a tactic of terror and intimidation given that imagery's evil history. 
Racial authoritarianism is not an abstract concept. It is both a noun and a verb. In the United States and elsewhere, it takes the form of both structural and interpersonal violence against nonwhite people in service to a belief and a goal that white people should always and forever be the dominant group in American society – even if that means that the country is no longer a democracy. To accomplish that goal the Trump regime, its allies, and enforcers are participating in a campaign of "soft ethnic cleansing" against non-whites.

“THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated”

On the most mundane level, his incessant lying
 is a form of cheating. He lies about everything,
 but the lies that will have the greatest effect on his
 chances of re-election are the bold and blatant lies about his record. 
Perhaps the most lethal form of cheating can be seen in the way Trump mirrors the Russian strategy. GQ's Julia Ioffe spoke with a former CIA agent, Marc Polymeropoulos, who explained why the Russians favor Trump:
"Russian active measures thrive on chaos, and this is what a second Trump term delivers," says Polymeropoulos. "America is at war with itself politically for another four years. Advantage: Russia. Second, while it's true that the Trump administration has at times been very tough on Russia with respect to sanctions, strategically, under the Trump administration, Russians have regained a foothold in the Middle East, NATO is weakened by a more disengaged America, and Trump's disdain for Ukraine is a huge boon for Russia."
The chaos is an advantage for Donald Trump in the upcoming campaign as well. It keeps the Democrats off balance and never fully sure how to defeat him, particularly now that he has total control of the Republican establishment as well as a cultish following that simply cannot be moved. All of this has emboldened him to act in even more unpredictable ways.

This, more than anything, is what has Democratic voters tying themselves in knots over the election. Nobody has any real idea how to counter such a profoundly dishonest and amoral character. All anyone can know for sure is that he is prepared to win by any means necessary. Democrats are right to be nervous. 

Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote Sunday in a scathing court order denying Stone’s request to remove her from the case. “Given the absence of any factual or legal support for the motion for disqualification, the pleading appears to be nothing more than an attempt to use the Court’s docket to disseminate a statement for public consumption that has the words ‘judge’ and ‘biased’ in it.”


Feb. 23, 2020

Seattle Public Market, click to enlarge each photo

Feb. 22, 2020

My afternoon photoshop contribution for any Democrat who wants to adopt it.

It is horrible that articles like the following have me thinking dark thoughts about wishing that this would happen here.
Millions of people risked their lives and died in wars to save Democracy. Some were drafted but many in the world wars volunteered.
There's a philosophical discussion to be engaged in here.
Some thoughts:

Whenever I entertain the fantasy Trump might succumb to impossible to deny, even by his sycophants, dementia if he’s reelected I realize his father lived to be 94 and his mother to be 88. Donald Trump's  paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Christ Trump was born in 1880 and died in 1966. His grandfather Frederick Trump died on May 29, 1918, while walking with his son Fred, Trump suddenly felt extremely sick and was rushed to bed. The next day, he was dead. It turned out to be one of the early cases of the Spanish flu, which caused millions of deaths around the world so I don’t think his genes had anything to do with his early death. It looks like Donald lucked out with good genes.
Not only good genes but good luck in the Trump family:
As she grew older, his mother Mary she suffered from severe osteoporosis.[2] On October 31, 1991, she was mugged while shopping on Union Turnpike near her home. She was thrown onto a sidewalk after her purse with $14 in it was taken. She sustained broken ribs, facial bruises, several fractures, a brain hemorrhage, and permanent damage to her sight and hearing. A delivery truck driver named Lawrence Herbert apprehended her 16-year-old assailant, for which he was later rewarded by Donald Trump with a check that kept him from losing his home to foreclosure.
Mary Anne's husband Fred Trump died at age 93 in June 1999. She died a year later on August 7, 2000 at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, at age 88. Services were held at Marble Collegiate Churchin Manhattan and she was buried alongside her husband and son (Fred Jr.) at Lutheran All Faiths Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens. The death notice in her Scottish hometown newspaper, the Stornoway Gazette, read: "Peacefully in New York on August 7, Mary Ann [sic] Trump, aged 88 years. Daughter of the late Malcolm and Mary MacLeod, 5 Tong. Much missed."

I can’t find anything health related about Trump’s maternal grandparents.

Pike Place Market, Seattle

Feb.21, 2020

My evening photoshop therapy tweet:

Trump names right-wing troll Richard Grenell to run national intelligence: What could go wrong? by Heather "Digby" Parton in Salon

Angered by more Russia revelations, Trump appoints unqualified hack to lead purge of intelligence agencies


Grenell is one of the most odious Trump toadies in the administration, and that's really saying something. Like so many others, he came to Trump's attention as a sharp-tongued Fox News personality. It's likely that Trump didn't know much about him other than the fact he was a big fan. That's all it takes. Truthfully, if he'd known Grenell's whole story he would like him even more.
Grenell held a few PR flak jobs in the government, working for the likes of John Bolton at the UN, where he was universally reviled. But he is best known as a Twitter troll, just like the president. He quit Romney's presidential campaign in 2012, where he'd been hired as a foreign policy spokesman, after his Twitter feed was revealed to be full of nasty comments. During the 2016 campaign, he got back in the game and really made a name for himself as a crude and vicious Trump supporter.
Needless to say, Trump loved it and gave him the plum job of U.S. ambassador to Berlin, where he immediately alienated everyone in sight. On his very first day on the job, referencing the fact that Trump had withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, Grenell tweeted that "Germans doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately." Obviously he had no authority to dictate any such thing, and people in Germany were not amused, to say the least. Leaders of two German political parties have called him a "brat" and a "failure" and requested that he be withdrawn. No such luck.

Here’s the short Fox News clip that sent President Trump into another bonkers rage



After Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts reported that the network was “told” (like we should believe this!?!? HB) that Trump “did not berate or otherwise yell at” Maguire over the briefing as had been reported elsewhere, Fox News host Ed Henry welcomed on Wallace to discuss.

“How seriously should we take this report about renewed Russian interference in our elections?” Henry wondered aloud.
“We should take it very seriously,” Wallace replied, adding that per the briefing the Russians are favoring Trump as they did in 2016.
“I can understand where President Trump doesn't like it,” the Fox News Sundayhost continued. “Especially the fact that it was a briefing to House Intelligence which is chaired by Adam Schiff, who is not exactly friendly with the president. He obviously regards as an enemy. And not unreasonably so. But we should take the briefing by the DNI as a very serious indication.”

‘We must exorcise the demon’: Longtime GOP strategist publishes a devastating column as he registers as a Democrat

In an op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times this Friday, longtime Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich reveals that he has registered as a Democrat in the run up to the Florida presidential primary.


Stipanovich admits that there has always been a “seamy underbelly” within the GOP of “paranoiacs, conspiracy theorists, radicals and racists” who historically were not taken very seriously. But thanks to the “pressure cooker of anger, angst and envy” over the last decade, “what had been a fairly small, fairly stable minority in the GOP metastasized.”

“And Trump seized the moment,” he writes. “In doing so, he did not so much transform the GOP as unmask it. It is no longer Morning in America. The optimism is gone. Damn the future. Let’s go back. Make America Great Again. But great when?” Read his full op-ed over at the Tampa Bay Times.


The following article is republished under Creative Commons:

Find something morally sickening? Take a ginger pill
by Jessica Tracy

Professor of psychology and a Sauder Distinguished Scholar at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is the director of the Self and Emotion Lab at UBC, and an associate editor at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. She is also the author of Take Pride: Why the Deadliest Sin Holds the Secret to Human Success (2016). 

If I were to say that I’m thinking about having sex with my stepbrother, I guess you’d tell me to think again: sex with a sibling or even a stepsibling is just plain wrong – it’s not a morally acceptable action. The reason I’m posing this hypothetical proposition is because it’s worth considering why we find this kind of behaviour so wrong. Is this judgment based on a rationally derived principle about maximising good and minimising harm? Surely sex with my sibling would harm our relationship, not to mention the rest of our family’s relationship with each of us. Or is the moral judgment here based simply on the fact that sibling sex makes us more than a little queasy? In other words, are our moral beliefs merely gut feelings – quite literally stemming from our body’s tendency to become repulsed by certain human behaviours?

There are, after all, practices that many of us deem morally wrong and disgusting, including sex with a close relative, but also touching a dead body, or eating a recently deceased pet. And the more disgusting we find these behaviours, the more wrong they seem (sibling sex is obviously worse than first-cousin sex, which is worse than second-cousin sex, etc).

 This association begs the question: might our moral judgments come from the sickened way that morally improper behaviours make us feel? And if feelings of nausea cause our moral beliefs, could that explain why certain objectively blameless practices – homelessness – are considered by many to be morally taboo?

Until recently, no research study had been able to figure out if the disgust felt upon encountering a morally troubling situation is what makes us decide that the situation is wrong. In fact, no study had even determined whether that feeling is real – whether, when we say we are disgusted by some morally reprehensible event, we mean it literally: we feel nauseous.

This gap in scientific knowledge led my former graduate student Conor Steckler to come up with a brilliant idea. As those prone to motion sickness might know, ginger root can reduce nausea. Steckler suggested we feed people ginger pills, then ask them to weigh in on morally questionable scenarios – behaviours such as peeing in a public pool, or buying a sex doll that looks like one’s receptionist. If people’s moral beliefs are wrapped up in their bodily sensations, then giving them a pill that reduces some of those sensations might reduce how wrong those behaviours seem.
In my psychology lab at the University of British Columbia, we filled empty gel capsules with either ginger powder or sugar (for randomly assigned control participants); in a double-blind design, neither the participants nor the researchers running the study knew who received which pill. 

After swallowing their pills and waiting 40 minutes for them to metabolise, participants were asked to read scenarios describing a range of possible moral infractions, and tell us how morally wrong they believed each to be. Sure enough, as we reported in an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2019, we found the predicted difference. Those who ingested ginger decided that some of those violations, such as someone peeing in your swimming pool, were not so wrong after all. Blocking their nausea changed our participants’ moral beliefs.

Importantly, these effects didn’t emerge for all the moral dilemmas we presented. Prior to conducting the research, we had categorised hypothetical moral situations as either highly severe or only moderately problematic, based on research assistants’ judgments of wrongness. Having sex with a sibling and eating one’s dead dog were considered highly severe, but touching the eyeball of a corpse, eating faeces that had been fully sanitised, and buying an inflatable sex doll that looks like one’s receptionist were seen as more moderate. In our studies, ginger had no effect on participants’ responses to highly severe infractions. Apparently, most people think it’s so obviously wrong to eat your own dog or sleep with a close relative that any disgust they might feel at these behaviours had no impact on their beliefs.

In contrast, for the more ambiguous infractions – such as buying that sex doll or eating (totally clean!) faeces – people’s moral judgments were partly shaped by their disgust feelings. In such cases, where disgust is elicited but wrongness is uncertain, people seem to lean on their gut emotions to make moral judgments. If those feelings are inhibited, so that people can think about the possibility of eating clean faeces without wanting to throw up, the objectionable behaviours become less morally problematic.

We also found that ginger had no effect on people’s beliefs about other kinds of moral violations: those that involve harm to others, such as drinking and driving, or those that involve fairness, such as failing to tip a server. The violations that were affected by ginger, in contrast, centred on maintaining the purity of one’s own body. These transgressions are ones that have, historically, carried a high likelihood of transmitting disease. As a result, it is evolutionarily adaptive for us to feel disgusted by, and consequently avoid, close contact with dead bodies, human faeces and certain unsafe sex practices. 

Throughout human evolutionary history, moralising these behaviours, along with others that protect the sanctity of the body, might have been a useful way for societies to shield their members from dangerous germs they had no cognitive awareness of. According to the psychologist Jonathan Haidt and his colleagues, in many cultures this presumably adaptive tendency morphed into a broader ethic that uses concepts such as purity, sanctity and sin to discourage behaviours perceived to cause some manner of bodily degradation. In many cultures, these rules have stretched far beyond their original adaptive purposes; today, across the globe, societies regulate individuals’ purity-related behaviours by invoking morality in ways that sometimes do – but just as often do not – lead to actual health or social benefits.

In fact, much of the socially proscribed moralisation of sanctity that occurs now is, itself, wrong. It is appropriate, and useful, for people to feel disgusted by spoiled foods, faeces, dead bodies and sibling sex. But that doesn’t mean that we should moralise these emotional responses. We don’t have to extend our beliefs about right and wrong to behaviours that don’t actually hurt others, even if we find them disgusting. The tendency to do so is an ancient evolutionary holdover and, with the help of modern sanitation and safe sex practices, it’s one we can afford to set aside.

Yet this kind of moralisation is manifested frequently in response to a number of behaviours that, to some, appear to tarnish the presumed purity of the human body. The belief – held by 51 per cent of people in the United States – that it is wrong to engage in gay sex is shaped by the moralisation of sanctity. Some people might feel disgust in response to certain sexual behaviours (in the same way that most children do to all sexual behaviours) but, for adults, that emotional reaction is a misfire. Their disgust is not a valid signal of danger. And our research shows that moral beliefs based on sanctity concerns represent a different category of morality than those based on harm and fairness. We were able to shift people’s sanctity beliefs simply by giving them ginger. A moral view that changes on the basis of how nauseous we feel is probably not one that we want to put a lot of stake in.

Instead, many of us would prefer to hew to a set of moral standards that come from a coherent, rationally derived philosophy about enhancing justice and mitigating harms. Certain human behaviours do make us feel sick. But we need not rely on those feelings as a basis for our moral principles, or when judging others for what we feel to be immoral.
Before deciding that something is wrong, we might ask ourselves, is it just that I’m disgusted by it? Or, when encountering what appears to be a moral dilemma, we could play it safe and reach for a ginger ale.Aeon counter – do not remove

by Jessica Tracy

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Feb. 20, 2020
My evening tweet
(photoshop therapy for me)

 "I haven’t given it any thought,” the president recently told reporters. If you believe this I have a magic potion to sell you that will give you superpowers. 

The only thing we can say these days about Trump and his copious linkage to Russia is that it's "Chinatown, Jake." Irrespective of what happens or what new evidence emerges, Trump's actions are neither prosecutable nor impeachable.
Attorney General Bill Barr, who's become nothing more than another goon in Trump's junk drawer of fixers and henchman, has made it clear that he's in full agreement with the Office of Legal Counsel memo that forbids the prosecution of a sitting president. Robert Mueller also abided by the OLC's judgment. So no indictment of this president will happen — not based on this story, not based on anything — unless Barr suddenly resigns. Trump can absolutely shoot a guy on Fifth Avenue without being held legally accountable while in office. Likewise, the odds of a second impeachment for further crimes that might come up in the next 11 months are less than zero. No president has ever been impeached twice, especially not within months of the first attempt. (The OLC did, however, rule that a president can be prosecuted for the same crimes for which he was impeached and acquitted, but only after he leaves office.)

Even if everyone involved, including Assange, Rohrabacher and Trump himself, all stepped out tomorrow and confessed to every word of what's been reported so far, the Republican Party would not convict Trump for illegally selling pardons. Duh. And by the way, Trump's already been accused of selling pardons once this week, and there's zero reason to give him the benefit of the doubt on any of this. Nevertheless, any and all Trump crimes, including this one, between now and the triumphant moment a new president is sworn in, will be summarily laughed off by Trump's fanboys on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they're all terrified and impotent, quivering in the ponderous shadow of Trump. That, and anyway all his crimes "own the libs."