31 August, 2018

The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You

Four years and eight days ago, I read in the newspaper an astonishing story. A man in Texas, a white supremacist named Mark Stroman, had been executed the night before. (So far, so Texas.) But in the white supremacist’s final days, one of his victims, a Muslim immigrant named Raisuddin Bhuiyan, had been fighting to save the life of this man who shot him in the face in the feverish aftermath of 9/11.
I was intrigued and before long, totally hooked. I went on a journey of reporting this story and writing a book about it, “The True American,” that at its heart was about how my country was slowly dividing into two parallel societies — a republic of dreams, and a republic of fears.
After Raisuddin was shot, his life was in tatters. But he remained in America, fought hard and became whole again. And once he had managed to secure the American Dream for which he had come, he reached the conclusion that he had accessed that dream in a way that many native-born Americans could not. And he came to see that the man who shot him was on the other side of that line of fortune, born to a mother who told him she wished she’d aborted him, having cycled through the dismal schools and prisons that ruin so many young American men. And so Raisuddin, in the name of his faith and of his newfound American citizenship, forgave his erstwhile attacker — and then, remarkably, took the State of Texas and its governor to court, to try to prevent them from putting Stroman to death.

Coburn on McCain

John’s relationship with President Trump will be a prominent feature in news coverage in the moment, but that moment will pass. What will endure is his relationship with his family, his friends, the Constitution, the American Idea and its Author. John wasn’t comfortable with public religiosity, but he was a man deeply devoted to principles beyond himself and he knew those principles had a source.

30 August, 2018

Why Philanthropy Is Bad for Democracy Anand Giridharadas, author of Winners Take All, on how well-meaning liberals paved the way for Trump

You quote a great line from Thomas Piketty: he says, “the durability of this system depends on the effectiveness of its apparatus of justification.”
Yes! I read that line in a moment where I was thinking, “What is this book?” The apparatus of justification, that’s what this all is! I’ve never been back to Aspen since I finished the fellowship. I’ve been told, in many subtle ways, that I’m not welcome back. No one is more easily offended than the person who thinks they are changing the world. Because they think, “I could be burning this money or spending it on a yacht.” There’s a simple critique that says, “All this philanthropy is a drop in the bucket,” and I think they would all agree to that. But my critique goes way farther than that: ‘This is a drop in the bucket that is upholding the problem.” The idea that their kindness is how a bad system is maintained — it hurts them in a way that’s hard to overstate.

29 August, 2018

Colbert Interview

So what’s the precise idea you’re serving?The thing is that you’re not crazy. We’re serving the audience in a way, while [Trump’s] gaslighting the audience. As a Catholic, I was taught that the worst thing was heresy because not only are you sinning, you’re also dragging somebody else into your sinful state. Well, Donald Trump is a heretic against reality; he lives in this fantasy world where only his emotions count and therefore only his reality is real. But he’s also saying, “Everybody else, your reality isn’t real.” And so all you have to do is go, like, “Hey, you’re not crazy.” That’s the thesis statement. Your reactions, your emotions are valid — you actually feel that way. The world is as you perceive it. Don’t let anybody say you’re crazy. This is not what America is meant to be about.

On Jordan Peterson

I've explain to people before that Jordan Peterson functions in a way that you can essentially describe him as The Red Pill personified. Here's what I mean:
Peterson, like many military factions; cults; terrorist groups; fascist ideologies; and other such groupings tap into a demographic with much potential that can somewhat be easily manipulated into becoming footsoldiers to work for a particular social or political cause: young, lonely, socially or economically disaffected (and in this case, white) men searching for direction or purpose. How he does this is by offering benign, cookie cutter, seemingly common sense advice like cleaning your room, standing up straight, talking concisely and precisely, etc.
But that's only part of it. A lot of the advice he gives can be found anywhere. Self-help books are quite literally a dime a dozen. So, there has to be something else to his advice that attracts these men and make him seem like he's the first one to dole this out. What gives Petersonian advice it's special flair is his tendency to wrap his advice with some form of justification for the desire and entitlement of many white men to be dominant or superior over women, LGBTQ folk, and racial/ethnic minorities. The justifications often come from pseudo-science, misapplication and misunderstanding of scientific research, quasi-philosophy (in Peterson's case, Jungian archetypes), fake intellectualism, and conspiratorial nonsense spoken as critical thinking.
So, it's not enough to say "Stand up straight to make yourself look confident." To really sell it, you have to say "Stand up straight to make yourself look confident because women are biological programmed to like confident men."

27 August, 2018

We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage

It is the history of unrelenting physical and psychological abuse of captive children. Across thousands of miles, across decades, the abuse took eerily similar forms: People who grew up in orphanages said they were made to kneel or stand for hours, sometimes with their arms straight out, sometimes holding their boots or some other item. They were forced to eat their own vomit. They were dangled upside down out windows, over wells, or in laundry chutes. Children were locked in cabinets, in closets, in attics, sometimes for days, sometimes so long they were forgotten. They were told their relatives didn’t want them, or they were permanently separated from their siblings. They were sexually abused. They were mutilated.
Darkest of all, it is a history of children who entered orphanages but did not leave them alive.

Student Loan Watchdog Quits, Says Trump Administration 'Turned Its Back' On Borrowers

In his resignation, Frotman also accuses the CFPB's leadership of suppressing a report, prepared by his office, revealing new evidence that some of the nation's largest banks were "saddling [students] with legally dubious account fees."

The Trump administration has also taken steps outside the CFPB to curb oversight of the student loan industry. The Justice and Education departments have argued that debt collectors should be protected from state efforts to regulate them. And, earlier this month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos moved to scrap a rule meant to punish schools where graduates struggle with poor earnings and deep debt. The department defended its decision, saying it would instead give borrowers school performance data so they can decide for themselves what colleges offer the best value.

John McCain Urges Americans To Come Together In A Farewell Letter


“My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,
“Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.
“I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.
“I owe that satisfaction to the love of my family. No man ever had a more loving wife or children he was prouder of than I am of mine. And I owe it to America. To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures. Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.
“‘Fellow Americans’ — that association has meant more to me than any other. I lived and died a proud American. We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world. We have helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. We have acquired great wealth and power in the process.
“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.

“We are three-hundred-and-twenty-five million opinionated, vociferous individuals. We argue and compete and sometimes even vilify each other in our raucous public debates. But we have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumption that we all love our country we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before. We always do.
Ten years ago, I had the privilege to concede defeat in the election for president. I want to end my farewell to you with the heartfelt faith in Americans that I felt so powerfully that evening.
I feel it powerfully still.
“Do not despair of our present difficulties but believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.
“Farewell, fellow Americans. God bless you, and God bless America.”

26 August, 2018

Pope Francis Long Knew of Cardinal’s Abuse and Must Resign, Archbishop Says

On the final day of Pope Francis’ mission to Ireland, as he issued wrenching apologies for clerical sex abuse scandals, a former top Vatican diplomat claimed in a letter published on Sunday that the pope himself had joined top Vatican officials in covering up the abuses and called for his resignation.
The letter, a bombshell written by Carlo Maria ViganĂ², the former top Vatican diplomat in the United States and a staunch critic of the pope’s, seemed timed to do more than simply derail Francis’ uphill efforts to win back the Irish faithful, who have turned away from the church in large numbers.
Its unsubstantiated allegations and personal attacks amounted to an extraordinary public declaration of war against Francis’ papacy at perhaps its most vulnerable moment, intended to unseat a pope whose predecessor, Benedict XVI, was the first pontiff to resign in nearly 600 years.

25 August, 2018

Based on a True True Story?: Scene-by-scene breakdown of Hollywood films

BS jobs and the yoke of managerial feudalism


The Economist: People tend to emotionally adjust to their circumstances, so is there any reason to believe that we would be dramatically more satisfied in a world free from drudgery? 
Mr Graeber: The thing that surprised me was just how hard it was for so many people to adjust to what seemed like comparatively minor problems: basically, boredom and sense of purposelessness in life. Why couldn’t they just say, “Okay, so I’m getting something for nothing. Let’s just hope the boss doesn’t figure it out!”
But the overwhelming majority reported themselves to be utterly miserable. They reported depression, anxiety, psychosomatic illnesses that would magically disappear the moment they were given what they considered real work; awful sadomasochistic workplace dynamics.

22 August, 2018

The Great Chinese Art Heist

For much of the 20th century, China's leaders hardly seemed to care about the country's lost and plundered antiquities. Art was a symbol of bourgeois decadence, fit for destruction rather than preservation. By the early 2000s, however, China was growing rich and confident, and decidedly less Communist. The fate of the country's plundered art was seized upon as a focus of national concern and pride.
Suddenly a new cadre of plutocrats—members of the country's growing club of billionaires—began purchasing artifacts at a dizzying pace. For this new breed of mega-rich collector, buying up Chinese art represented a chance to flash not just incredible wealth but also exorbitant patriotism.
But less conspicuous campaigns to lure art back to China were initiated, too. One of the country's most powerful corporate conglomerates, the state-run China Poly Group, launched a shadowy program aimed at locating and recovering lost art. Poly—an industrial giant that sells everything from gemstones to missiles—was run by a Communist Party titan who staffed the project with officials connected to Chinese military intelligence.

21 August, 2018

BolshevikMuppet on Safe Spaces

Safe spaces are a dangerous concoction, as they do not exist in the real world
What do you think would happen if I went to an AA meeting and starting taking pictures of the participants, or screaming about how they’re all just weak-willed babies who need to learn how to drink responsibly?
That’s a safe space.
How about my local libertarian party? Think they’ll particularly accept me going to their private meeting to be belligerent toward them and insulting of their views?
Safe space.
Would you let me in your house to tell you how much you suck? That’s sure as hell a safe space.
How can I know my hard-earned money is going to prepare my niece for the real world if the control is in the administration's hands?
The “real world” looks a lot more like the supposed fragility of college students than anything like the anarchic “academic freedom” advocated by people who misunderstand safe spaces as something more than “no, you don’t get to be belligerent at all times in all places.”
In the real world if I don’t like what you have to say, I can kick you out of my office. If YouTube doesn’t like what you have to say, they can kick you off their platform.
If there’s a group in need of more realistic expectations, it’s those who think the “real world” and “free speech” entitles them to speak their mind wherever they’d like free from all forms of restriction.

20 August, 2018

War Without End


Specialist Robert Soto had been haunted by dread as the soldiers left their base, the Korengal Outpost. His platoon was part of an infantry unit that called itself Viper, the radio call sign for Bravo Company, First Battalion of the 26th Infantry. Viper had occupied the outpost for nine months, a period in which its soldiers were confined to a small stretch of lower valley and impoverished villages clinging to hillsides beneath towering peaks. Second Platoon had started its deployment with three squads but suffered so many casualties that on this day even with replacements it mustered at about two-thirds strength. With attrition came knowledge. Soto knew firsthand that the war did not resemble the carefully considered national project the generals discussed in the news. He had enlisted in the Army from the Bronx less than two years before, motivated by a desire to protect the United States from another terrorist attack. But his idealism had turned swiftly into realism, and the war had become a matter of him and his friends surviving each day as days cohered into a tour. 

The City Born in a Day The bizarre origin story of the surprisingly exceptional Oklahoma City, in a government-sanctioned raid called the Land Run.

What follows is an excerpt from Sam Anderson’s new book Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City, Its Chaotic Founding, Its Apocalyptic Weather, Its Purloined Basketball Team, and the Dream of Becoming a World-Class Metropolis. Anderson (a former book critic for New York) argues that humble Oklahoma City — 27th most populous city in the country, home of the American Banjo Museum — is, in fact, one of the most secretly interesting places in the world.
That claim might seem outlandish, but the historical evidence backs it up.
Consider, for instance, OKC’s bizarre origin story. It reads less like an episode of actual history than a spaghetti western written by a faulty algorithm. The place was founded on a single afternoon, in an event called the Land Run, during which a formerly empty patch of prairie became a city of 10,000. The chaos that ensued was so alarming that the U.S. government never allowed anything quite like it to happen again.

19 August, 2018

As a Rotherham grooming gang survivor, I want people to know about the religious extremism which inspired my abusers

I witnessed the ways young men are groomed to become perpetrators by older grooming gang members. It’s very similar to the tactics used in grooming for terrorism, with love-bombing, emotive language (“brother”, “cuz”, “blud”), and promises of wealth and fame, then humiliation, controlling with guilt and shame, training with weapons, and instilling hate and fear of outsiders.
Always, at the same time, they continue to convince these young men that they must find girls to be gang-raped too.
Grooming gang crime is upheld by religious extremism. Like Sweden, we must officially recognise this, and work to curb extremist preaching, teach religious counter-narratives, give gendered extremism education and deliver quality relationships education, while learning the lessons from Prevent and Channel. We need a careful, considered approach that is respectful of the human rights of everyone.

The 2008 financial crisis never really ended

With the wisdom of hindsight, Tooze believes the critical intervention that mitigated the crisis was not the bank bailouts or central bank asset-buying programs but rather “unprecedented transnational action by the American state” to pump dollars into banks all over the world.
Tooze certainly isn’t celebrating these measures but acknowledges that they worked in the short term. He has unflinching scorn for the collective European response to the 2012 crisis, writing that “millions have suffered for no good reason.” While millions suffered in the US as well, Tooze argues that at least in the US, a political decision was made: save Wall Street first and worry about Main Street later. In Europe, there were too many opposing ideas and leadership couldn’t decide how to act. The lack of coordinated response was a disaster. Ask any Greek or Italian today if the crisis is over, and they’d likely share Tooze’s opinion.

18 August, 2018

How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump

Power always learns, and powerful tools always fall into its hands. This is a hard lesson of history but a solid one. It is key to understanding how, in seven years, digital technologies have gone from being hailed as tools of freedom and change to being blamed for upheavals in Western democracies—for enabling increased polarization, rising authoritarianism, and meddling in national elections by Russia and others.
But to fully understand what has happened, we also need to examine how human social dynamics, ubiquitous digital connectivity, and the business models of tech giants combine to create an environment where misinformation thrives and even true information can confuse and paralyze rather than informing and illuminating.

World's smallest transistor switches current with a single atom in solid state


(Nanowerk News) At Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), physicist Professor Thomas Schimmel and his team have developed a single-atom transistor, the smallest transistor worldwide. This quantum electronics component switches electrical current by controlled repositioning of a single atom, now also in the solid state in a gel electrolyte. The single-atom transistor works at room temperature and consumes very little energy, which opens up entirely new perspectives for information technology.

Ben Shapiro: What If Everybody Sucks at Everything?

The comfortable thing about conspiracy theories is that they allow us to graft logic onto chaos — they give us a feeling of security. In the words of the Joker in "The Dark Knight," "Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying." But what if there is no plan? What if everybody is just bad at everything? What if the adults who run the most important institutions in the country were the children who picked their noses and put the boogers under the desks in school?

Birth of a “Troll Nation”: Amanda Marcotte on how and why conservatives embraced the dark side

I think there is a lot of political science that shows that people recognize that they’re getting benefits from the government, and they will actually throw that out the window if their cultural resentments push them in that direction. You see that a lot with Obamacare. A lot of people started to acknowledge that Obamacare made their lives better, but they're willing to get rid of it if they can punish black people. I wish that wasn’t true. I don’t know how to get around that problem.
I think a lot of people who make these economic arguments are underestimating how important culture is to people -- how much self-esteem men get from male dominance or white people get from white dominance. We go, “That’s not real,” not in the way that money is real or health care is real. But actually, people feel it’s very real to them. I think we would be in error if we didn’t think about that and take that seriously.

17 August, 2018


On a fall day in 1998 I sat opposite the kindly guidance counselor at my Midwestern Christian high school who extolled the virtues of evangelical higher education. She seemed concerned that Christian students’ faith might be weakened or lost were they to enroll in a secular institution. For me, this was a red flag. If Christianity was the Truth, then what was the danger in the open-ended exploration of ideas? I ultimately opted for Ball State University, though many capable classmates, like many current and former evangelicals I’ve met since, chose evangelical colleges or universities, confident that they would prove compatible with authentic intellectual inquiry and tolerance for a range of political views. Given a worrisome trend at a number of Christian schools, not all would make that same choice today.

Escape from Jesus Land: On Recognizing Evangelical Abuse and Finding the Strength to Reject the Faith of Our Fathers

Filial duty–a concept that likely seems quaint to the majority of people familiar with the names of intellectuals like Lakoff and Haidt–is a hard thing to shake when you come from a patriarchal religious background. The extent to which family loyalty, and specifically loyalty to fathers, prevails in “flyover country,” and, indeed, wherever conservative Christian enclaves exist in America, may come as a shock to many people who grew up in liberal and/or “coastal elite” families, because, for them, it is simply very difficult to imagine. Having grown up in a very conservative state in an evangelical enclave, I continue to be surprised precisely at how surprised many Americans are at the prevailing extremism that passes for “normal” in Jesus Land. As the reactions to the revival of the #ChristianAltFacts hashtag on Twitter and the personal experiences of many exvangelicals show, things that are “normal” for evangelicals can often be shocking to those who do not know much about the subculture we come from.

I Worked With Richard Russell at Horizon Air, and I Understand Why He Did What He Did


If the environment itself isn’t enough to persuade you that you are nothing more than a cog to the upper management/shareholders, there are plenty of other, even more exasperating reminders. You are making around $3 less per hour than anybody else at SeaTac (including other airline employees, restaurant employees, car rental employees, bus drivers, etc.), although there are benefits! Health insurance and stock options might be nice, but they don’t pay the rent. However, a vast majority of the ground service agents are men under age 30, so insurance and stock options mean nothing to them. They become empty gestures from a management who knows you’ll never use them, and thus cost the company little.
But that's only one part of the picture. To be clear, the people I worked with were dedicated, hard working, safety-conscious, attempting to be loyal—all of the things that are supposed to get you ahead in America. But the workers on the ground and our immediate supervisors could barely keep our heads above water. As a subsidiary of Alaska Air Group, Horizon Air is the proverbial red-headed stepchild. It is glaringly clear to everyone who works there that cost-cutting by the executive team(s) in order to keep the shareholders happy is the main goal, and Horizon is the first stop on the belt-tightening train.

15 August, 2018

Tired of Acuna hitting their pitches, the Marlins hit him instead


That’s one way (and not a particularly sporting one) to keep Ronald Acuna from hitting a home run on the first pitch – hit him with the first pitch. That’s what Jose Urena of Miami did Wednesday night. It was also Urena’s last pitch. 

13 August, 2018

Comment re Alex Jones

What's depressing is the number of people who think of "the Internet" as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and maybe twelve other sites, and if you've been kicked off them then you're "censored from the Internet."

09 August, 2018

On day hundreds of new votes found in Kansas, Colyer calls on Kobach to recuse self


Colyer released a letter at 5 p.m. calling on Kobach to recuse himself from providing advice to local election officials. The letter comes after multiple counties reported that the election night totals on the secretary of state’s website were inaccurate, further clouding the results of a historically close election.

07 August, 2018

The Woman Who Cared for Hundreds of Abandoned Gay Men Dying of AIDS

Ruth Coker Burks cared for hundreds of dying people, many of them gay men who had been abandoned by their families. She buried more than three dozen of them herself, after their families refused to claim their bodies. For many of those people, she is now the only person who knows the location of their graves.

05 August, 2018

Comment on rich peoples' homes

https://np.reddit.com/r/LateStageCapitalism/comments/94m9vp/were_not_jealous/e3m50sc/I clean rich people's houses as a part time job. When I'm at a multi-million dollar house envy is not what I feel. Primarily I feel disgust. The rich segregate themselves in these neat little gated communities, with so much land around them that they could build several smaller houses. Their lawns stretch far, immaculate and disciplined, brought to a lush green by a massive amount of water. They have security systems which alert them to any door opening, cameras which can be accessed remotely, in neighborhoods where no thefts happen. They buy useless antiques and set them in dusty rooms which no one uses, because their houses are too big for every room to see occupation or use in a four person family. They have multiple kitchens, stocked with all the necessary amenities -- brand new fridges, dishwashers, ovens. They buy toys like single person aircraft and huge televisions and projectors for game and living rooms. At a certain point the abundance just numbs you. Who needs this much stuff? Why do they have it? What hole are they trying to fill? How much could be repurposed towards people that actually need it? How much water and gas and resources in general go to the upkeep of their properties -- which they always have multiple of -- and how much could those resources help the needy?
I see a mountain of waste; a monument to the useless. They want more and more, an endless charade of performance and presentation. They don't even need cleaning, they can't possibly make a 6,000 square foot house that dirty in the intervening week or two. It's once again a competition to keep up with neighbors. "Who has the most spotless house" is as competitive a statement as "who has more and nicer things?" It's all pointless, cynical and nihilistic. I don't want any of it. I just want to survive comfortably and not die in ditch from indebtedness and the privations of poverty. No one needs any of it and, deep down, I feel like no one even really wants any of it, except as a proclomation of superiority to their supposed peers.

04 August, 2018

1 big threat: A hurricane-force cyberattack

    When we asked America’s foremost intelligence experts what keeps them up at night, one response came up over and over again: the risk of a crippling cyberattack.

    ‘The most bizarre thing I’ve ever been a part of’: Trump panel found no voter fraud, ex-member says

    Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the 11 members of the commission formed by President Trump to investigate supposed voter fraud, issued a scathing rebuke of the disbanded panel on Friday, accusing Vice Chair Kris Kobach and the White House of making false statements and saying that he had concluded that the panel had been set up to try to validate the president’s baseless claims about fraudulent votes in the 2016 election.

    03 August, 2018


    Dennis Hastert Sentenced to 15 Months, and Apologizes for Sex Abuse


    “The defendant is a serial child molester,” said Judge Thomas M. Durkin of Federal District Court, as Mr. Hastert sat impassively, often staring downward, hands crossed on his lap. He added, “Some actions can obliterate a lifetime of good works. Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence.”
    Mr. Hastert was not charged with sexual abuse because statutes of limitation for acts in the 1960s and ’70s have run out; the judge noted pointedly that punishment for such a conviction would have been far worse.