On Jan. 20, Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States. Until then, he is president-elect of the United States.
But what exactly does it mean to be president-elect of the United States?
I’ve put together a history of the term in the U.S. using publicly available resources like the Corpus of Historical American English — a searchable database of over 400 million words of historical American English text. I’ve also used Founders Online, which makes freely available many documents written by the nation’s founders.
“President-elect” is not a term that is legally defined in U.S. law. Rather, the term’s meaning has developed over time through its use by the public. Its use can be traced all the way back to George Washington. …
Someone shares an article with an unnerving headline on Facebook, but you don’t have the energy to investigate.
A colleague spreads coronavirus misinformation during a meeting, but you decide it’s not worth it to try to correct them.
A relative calls wanting to talk about a complex political issue, but you simply don’t have the desire or capacity to process any more political information.
A lot of us have had experiences like these recently. There’s a name for this phenomenon: epistemic exhaustion.
Epistemic exhaustion is cognitive fatigue caused by trying to figure out or communicate what you believe under challenging circumstances. …
Last week, the Supreme Court heard its first case addressing religious freedom and LGBTQ civil rights with Justice Amy Coney Barrett as a member of the Court. The case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, concerns whether Philadelphia can require organizations it partners with to accept same-sex couples as foster parents.
The city of Philadelphia partners with roughly thirty private organizations — both religious and secular — to find foster parents for children in Philadelphia’s foster care system.
In 2018, Philadelphia learned that two of its partner organizations, Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services, had religiously motivated policies against placing children with same-sex couples. …
Reliability is a quality that comes in degrees. For example, a bus that always arrives exactly on time is highly reliable. A bus that often but not always arrives on time is somewhat reliable. A bus that rarely arrives on time is unreliable. People living in areas with public transit commonly discuss which among the less-than-perfectly-reliable modes of transport available are more or less reliable. In doing so, these people show they understand that reliability comes in degrees. They readily acknowledge that some imperfect modes of transport are more reliable than others.
Propagandists prefer their audiences ignore this level of nuance when assessing sources of information. A propagandist prefers that you perceive the propagandist as totally reliable while perceiving all other sources of information as totally unreliable. If this cannot be achieved, the propagandist would prefer that you view all sources as completely unreliable. At least then your decisions about whose claims to trust will rest on grounds other than the reliability of the source. …
In her book Fascism: A Warning, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recounts that:
“Mussolini observed that in seeking to accumulate power it is wise to do so in the manner of one plucking a chicken — feather by feather — so each squawk is heard apart from every other and the whole process is kept as muted as possible.”
We often think of dictatorships as arising from wars or coups, but Mussolini’s analogy vividly expresses how nations can slip from liberal democracies to illiberal autocracies through a series of small, incremental changes.
Considering this, the citizens of democracies would be wise to collectively identify certain core features of their democratic order as strictly inviolable. Such pre-identification allows attempts to violate these core features to be called out more easily. …
As I write this, a story is spreading through Twitter and Reddit that there are three people in an ED because they drank bleach in responses to Trump’s galling press conference in which he suggested that injecting disinfectant may be a way to treat COVID-19.
I have good news and bad news. The good news: this story is almost certainly fake. The bad news: people are falling for it anyway.
This morning I was scrolling through Facebook. Someone had shared a screenshot of a tweet that read:
“Hi good morning, please don’t drink, bleach or disinfectant of any type.
Currently have 3 in ED that drank the Trump koolaid over night, severe esophageal burns, lung…
Many people are suddenly finding themselves with extra unanticipated time at home because of COVID-19. There are lots of valuable ways one could choose to spend the time: cooking, calling loved ones, writing Medium posts about books, etc.
One common suggestion has been to read more. If you find yourself inclined to spend some of your unanticipated time at home reading, I’d like to recommend the following books, from one reader to another.
Wow guys, I’ve got to admit that I’m starting off this list strong. I just finished Lab Girl and was truly blown away. Lab Girl is one-part memoir, one-part botany guide. Written by English-major-turned-plant-scientist Dr. …
When I first started studying philosophy, I created a Word document where I could collect quotes from texts I was reading that I found particularly meaningful. Almost a decade later, I’m still adding to that document.
One of the unanticipated joys of keeping such a document is that it lets me look back on my former self and observe what I’ve found particularly meaningful over time. Some of the quotes no longer resonate much with me, while others have deepened in their significance.
Below are five of my favorite quotes from that document, along with explanations of why I like them so much. …
Most of the demagogues in developed countries around the world are sorites authoritarians. We need to understand this form of political erosion if we’re going to be able to stop it.
Here’s an example of a sorites paradox: Take a million grains of sand and put them into a pile. That’s a heap. Remove a single grain of sand and that won’t transform that heap into a non-heap. Remove a single grain of sand one million separate times and you no longer have a heap. But no particular removal of a sand grain appears to constitute the move from there being a heap to there not being a heap. …
This weekend, there is going to be a “straight pride” parade in Boston. In hosting this event, the parade organizers show us that they don’t understand what LGBTQ Pride is really about.
A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were walking through the mall holding hands. Two men walked out of a store about twenty feet in front of us. The men briefly looked in our direction. One man then turned to the other and pretended to grab his hand. The other man pushed him away and they both laughed. The point of the men’s act was clear to me and my boyfriend and would have been clear to anyone else who observed it. They were making a joke. To them, my relationship with my boyfriend was the joke. Even for someone with no prejudice against gay people, their actions still translate. …