July 13, 2017 in 4,835 words

Henry Rollins: It’s Amazing How Quickly We Got Used to the Trump Dumpster Fire


Almost any situation, when endured for long enough, goes from how it is now, to just how it is. What came before becomes harder and harder to remember.

Our species adapts quickly. We have no choice. There’s hardly a square mile on the planet where a human can exist without quite a bit of alteration and protection. To varying degrees, we have always had to scramble. In more modernized countries, we first worlders are spared a lot of the day-to-day misery engendered by the elements. In a lot of ways, the conveniences we enjoy have made us inconsiderate and ignorant.

We always find a way to keep going. We’re far too high-functioning and mean to let a dying planet that’s screaming for mercy keep us from further mutilating it as we customize and innovate. No matter what, we adapt — but most important, we forget and then repeat.

George W. Bush’s use of the English language fascinated me. As his administration dragged on, it seemed to progressively devolve. When Bush was the governor of Texas, he was noticeably sharper, at times bordering on witty. By the end of his second presidential term, he seemed to marvel at getting through a sentence. During his speeches, it sounded not only like he was reading the material for the first time but that he was just saying the words, devoid of context. I wondered if it was the horror of knowing he sent so many people to their deaths needlessly, finally taking its toll. He went out crushed, like Johnson.

What Is Dodd-Frank and Why Does Trump Want to Repeal It?

Unpresidented

Trump campaigned on deregulating Wall Street, saying that regulations are “killing our country and our jobs.” He wants to repeal Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law that tried to reign in the banks after the financial crisis. What exactly does Dodd-Frank do? And is the president right that it threatens the American economy?

THE INTERNET IS FUCKED (AGAIN)

Why does this keep happening?

FCC chairman Ajit Pai is fond of saying that “the internet was not broken in 2015” when he argues for repeal of our nation’s net neutrality rules. This is particularly funny to me, because in 2014 I literally wrote an article called “The internet is fucked.”

Why was it fucked? Because the free and open internet was in danger of becoming tightly controlled by giant telecom corporations that were already doing things like blocking apps and services from phones and excusing their own services from data caps. Because the lack of competition in the internet access market let these companies act like predatory monopolies. And because our government lacked the will or clarity to just say what everyone already knows: internet access is a utility.

Most of these things are still true, even after the Obama-era FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler reclassified internet access as a Title II telecommunications service and imposed strict net neutrality rules on wired and wireless internet providers. And most of these things will get even worse when Pai pushes through his plan to rescind Title II and those rules, despite widespread public outcry.

The lack of competition in the broadband access market is so acute that it doesn’t matter if Comcast is still the most-hated company in America, or that Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) has the worst customer service: you don’t have a choice, so you just have to pay them anyway. Consumers and tech publications can review and argue and debate the merits of products from Apple, Google, and Microsoft, but you just have to take what you get from your ISP.

Everything’s Negotiable Except Cutting Medicaid

The new Senate health bill does make some significant changes, but major cuts to the largest public health-insurance program are still the key policy.

The new draft of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Better Care Reconciliation Act released today has significant additions that have seemingly responded both to the demands of his own Republican conference and to public outcry.

As my colleague Russell Berman notes, perhaps the most significant change—or the most significant potential change—over the previous version of the BCRA is the addition of the Cruz amendment, which would allow insurers that provide at least one comprehensive plan on the exchanges to offer barebones plans alongside them that would also qualify for tax credits. That provision is as of yet still bracketed, which means that it is a tentative addition—or deletion—to the final bill. In the same vein, the new BCRA would also allow people to receive tax credits for catastrophic coverage and use health-savings accounts to cover premiums. States would also still retain the ability to waive certain essential benefits from otherwise qualifying plans.

In the aggregate, those tweaks to the exchanges are the largest shift in the new BCRA. Policy-wise, the move seems likely to create some roadblocks: The loss of the individual mandate and the addition of low-premium, high-deductible catastrophic and barebones plans seem likely to disrupt markets, increase their overall risk, and reduce affordable options for people with pre-existing conditions. It would split off the risk pool of low-cost healthy adults who can get by on barebones coverage from the pool of sicker, older adults—which would increase the odds of state exchanges entering death spirals. And it’s unclear if the Congressional Budget Office will even count super-minimal insurance coverage as proper “insurance coverage” per se, which means that this plan could increase the amount the federal government spends providing credits for insurance, without increasing the number of people who count as covered.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Medicaid is the core of the matter here.

Despite doomsday rhetoric, Obamacare markets are stabilizing

First quarter results suggest insurers are on a path to profitability.


A man enters a center for people interested in signing up for health insurance on the public exchange in Florida in 2015.

“Obamacare is dead,” President Donald Trump frequently declares.

But reports of its demise appear to be premature. For the first time ever this year, insurers selling plans in Obamacare’s markets appear to be on a path toward profitability. And despite the drumbeat of headlines about fleeing insurers, only about 25,000 Obamacare customers live in communities facing the prospect of having no insurer next year.

Insurers in the Obamacare marketplaces spent 75 percent of premiums on medical claims in this year’s first quarter, an indication the market is stabilizing and insurers are regaining profitability, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study released this week. By comparison, in the prior two years, insurers spent more than 85 percent of premiums on medical costs during the same period, which translated into huge losses.

“We’re not seeing any evidence of a death spiral or a market collapse,” said Cynthia Cox, Kaiser’s associate director of health reform and private insurance. “Rather, what it looks like is insurers are on track to have their best year since the [Affordable Care Act] began.”

Medicare For All Is Coming, No Matter What They Say

Why is the nation that used to pride itself on its “can-do” spirit, being told, “No, we can’t”?

he idea of Medicare for All, or single-payer health care, has grown in popularity so quickly that it was recently an answer on the quiz show Jeopardy:

More than half of all Americans, 53 percent, now want a single-payer plan, up from 40 percent in 1998-2000.

But at the same time, Medicare for All suffers from the rise of a new growth industry: telling Americans what can’t be done to make their lives better. It seems like the nation that used to pride itself on its “can-do” spirit is constantly being told, “No, we can’t.” Why do critics oppose this idea, which could improve the lives of so many?

Bernie Opens the Door

Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy injected the single-payer idea into the political discourse. That created an opening for Democrats to embrace the idea as they seek to oppose Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare. These include, significantly, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

6 Terrifying Powers You Didn’t Know The Government Had

The legal system is an opaque and mysterious behemoth that governs our daily lives. And while you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s a relatively helpful and benign system, it turns out you were completely wrong. As it turns out, not only does the legal system hold nothing but pure contempt for you, but it’s also constantly devising new ways to completely ensnare your hapless ass and take all your stuff.

For instance…

#6. State DMVs Can Sell Your Information


Going to the DMV is an ordeal Americans put on par with going through airport security. What could make it worse? Spam email? Telemarketing calls? Boils?

God, they’re not going to give us boils, are they?

“How many sexual partners or DMVs do you visit a year?”

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The legal system is an opaque and mysterious behemoth that governs our daily lives. And while you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s a relatively helpful and benign system, it turns out you were completely wrong. As it turns out, not only does the legal system hold nothing but pure contempt for you, but it’s also constantly devising new ways to completely ensnare your hapless ass and take all your stuff.

For instance…

#6. State DMVs Can Sell Your Information

Going to the DMV is an ordeal Americans put on par with going through airport security. What could make it worse? Spam email? Telemarketing calls? Boils?

God, they’re not going to give us boils, are they?

wmiami/iStock

“How many sexual partners or DMVs do you visit a year?”

Nope, it was the first two things. Remember how whenever you sign up for any semi-reputable online account that asks for your email, they’ll have a disclaimer saying they won’t send you spam and you have to manually opt in for any marketing offers? That’s because by law a company can’t just sell your information without your permission. But before 1994, the DMV could give out information like your address, phone number, and make/model of your car to literally anyone who ponied up a few bucks. Naturally, this was a huge resource for telemarketers and early spammers, since it gave them access to people who weren’t listed in the phone book. Worse, it also gave this information to less savory people. Abortion physician Susan Wicklund had activists camped outside her house for over a month after they obtained her address from the DMV. Actress Rebecca Schaeffer was murdered by her stalker after he found her address in the same manner.

So in 1994, a federal law called the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act was passed that limits the reasons someone can access your information (stalking and anti-abortion lunacy are not permissible reasons) as well as giving drivers the right to opt out. Unfortunately, since most people aren’t even aware that their information is being sold, they don’t know to opt out, which usually requires a separate form and isn’t prominently advertised. For example, in Michigan, only 70,000 people have opted out since the bill’s passage in 1994.

The Dark Side of That Personality Quiz You Just Took

Personality tests have captivated people for decades, but their newfound popularity online makes them dangerous.

I am the Danube River.

My spirit is sparkling and swift. I yearn for new experiences and deep connections with people. I’m adaptable, but to a fault; I rarely see danger ahead. I’m capable of infidelity without much remorse. I’m also great at ceramics.

So says Meet Yourself As You Really Are, the oldest, longest, and WTF-est personality quiz I’ve taken. Published in 1936, Meet Yourself is a 336-page home-psychoanalysis test that promises to “‘X-ray’ the reader’s fundamental character.” It does so with an interminable line of questions both probing and random. Are your parents dead? Have you ever had the sensation of standing outside your own body? Do Mickey Mouse cartoons freak you out? What do you think of unskimmed milk?

As you tally “yes” and “no” answers, the book directs you to new sections based on your responses. Somewhere in the middle, you’re categorized as one of 15 rivers—the Nile, Seine, Thames, Missouri, and so on—and eventually you’re offered long-winded personality breakdowns. “As you travel across the network of questions and data by your private track, your story unfolds and your character is explained,” the introduction teases. The book has been described as a Freudian Choose Your Own Adventure, which is accurate enough: It’s like Give Yourself Goosebumps, but instead of escaping the Carnival of Horrors at the end, you learn that you have commitment problems.

East and West have opposite views of personal success, according to psychologists

Big Fish Small Pond


How big is that pond?

Would you rather be an impressive employee in a mediocre firm, or land a role at the most prestigious company in your industry, knowing you’d have to work harder to prove yourself in comparison with brilliant colleagues?

The answer to that question might seem highly personal, based on factors like whether or not you’re a competitive person, your self-esteem levels, and how much you relish a challenge. In fact, there’s another strong factor at play: People from different cultures react very differently to the question of whether it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, or vice versa.

Research already existson whether people who are in jobs or at university are more contented if they have a chance to shine at an individual level, versus if their institution is more highly regarded. Those studies have tended to find that “bigger fish” feel more competent and achieve more than those struggling in high-achieving environments. But a group of psychologists from the University of Michigan wanted to go back to the point before choices are made, asking people theoretical questions about the decisions they take. Specifically, the researchers compared people with East Asian backgrounds and European American backgrounds.

They found that Americans are much more likely to favor being a big fish in a small pond. East Asians, and specifically Chinese people, are much more likely than Americans to lean towards being a smaller fish in a bigger (i.e. more impressive) pond. There were four experiments in total. In the first, researchers asked 270 students at a large American university whether they would rather be a “big frog in a small pond” or vice versa. Of the students with East Asian American backgrounds, three quarters said they’d rather be a small frog, compared with just under 60% of students with European American backgrounds who said the same.

Home care workers have our lives in their hands. They’re paid only $10 an hour.

Home care is expected to add more jobs than any other field in the coming years. Carers will look after us in old age – but do we care enough about them?


une Barrett, a home care worker living in Miami.

June Barrett’s day as a home care worker starts at 5pm and lasts for 16 hours, overnight. All night long, she checks on her elderly clients, a married couple both in their 90s. They sleep in different parts of their Miami home, and much of Barrett’s job is spent trekking through the corridors, back and forth, to make sure husband nor wife has suddenly taken a turn for the worse. “I’m constantly on my feet,” she says.

Two million workers across the US do the kind of home care that Barrett does – the workforce has doubled in size over the past 10 years, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the field will add more jobs than any other occupation by 2024.

Barrett, a tall woman with short dark hair with a bright red streak and a Jamaican accent, started in the field in 2003, and has worked for her current clients for nearly four years. They require round-the-clock care and so she gets to her clients’ home when the day-shift carer is still there, ready for the handover. She then prepares dinner, helps them eat, and makes sure they get their medication. The wife, Barrett says, doesn’t like to take her pills, so this part of her day requires some finesse.

The husband is able to walk by himself, but the wife needs Barrett to bring her to the bathroom, to wash her and brush her teeth, and to bring her to bed. While her clients sleep, Barrett cleans the kitchen, prepares supplies for the next day, and checks to make sure they have everything they need.

When one of them is ill, the process gets more complicated. “When you do this work, you are responsible for people’s lives,” she says. “One mistake can cost your client his or her life.” Balancing two clients is challenging: when she has to help one bathe, she is worrying about the other’s safety. When things are difficult right now – the wife has slight dementia – she reminds herself that her client was a strong advocate for schools and students when she was younger. “I look at her, I see a warrior woman,” Barrett says.

Banning smartphones for kids is just another technology-fearing moral panic

Think Of The Children


Hello? Yes, this is boy.

If a few concerned parents have their way, Colorado will be among the first states to ban the sale of smartphones for use by children under the age of 13. After witnessing what he called a “dramatic, very violent outburst” from one of his sons when taking away his smartphone, a Colorado father (and medical professional) helped create a new lobbying group, called Parents Against Underage Smartphones (PAUS). The group provides links to a wide range of research into the negative effects of smartphone use on children.

The effort appears to be well-meaning and supportive of healthy childhood development. But from my perspective as a media psychologist, informed by research into the uses and effects of communication technology, I see that the group’s concerns fit a common historical pattern of undue alarm over new technology. Human innovation advances rapidly, but most people’s understanding of new items and capabilities can’t keep up. The result is a sense of moral panic over what we fear will be negative effects on us all, and even on society at large.

As we know from research on sex education, teaching fear and avoidance of something can’t always protect people from negative consequences: Sexual abstinence instruction doesn’t prevent teen pregnancies, but rather increases their frequency. Moral panics about technology similarly encourage people to withdraw from, rather than engage with and understand, the tools of today and tomorrow. The concerns of parents and groups such as PAUS are valid, but they shouldn’t be dealt with by banning technology. Rather, children and adults should work together to understand new innovations and learn to use them in productive ways.

Google’s New “Panic Mode” Should Be Part Of Every UI

Everyone’s been stuck inside hostile software. Now Android notices–and helps.

We’ve all been there. You hit the back button in a browser, but you’re stuck in a loop on the website you were trying to leave. A rogue ad takes over your screen with no obvious way to close it. Or maybe it’s something simpler; you just feel stuck in a piece of software, and so you hit every button or key in sheer panic to get out.

Now, Google is designing its UI to accommodate this specific moment of user panic. In Android 7.1, the company debuted a “Panic Detection” mode. Spotted by XDA Developers, it’s code within Android that spots when you start tapping the screen like a panicked woodpecker. And when you do, the OS automatically takes you back to the home screen. It’s like an emergency eject button for UX, based upon pure, frustrated, human fight or flight response.

Panic detection is a great idea we’d like to see spread to more platforms. Dark patterns hide everywhere, and the operating system is often the only thing we have left protecting us, the users, in those moments where external forces trap us in an interaction. Recognizing when we’re panicked brings operating systems one step closer to understanding users.

Pakistani corruption case hinges on a font

Doubt has been cast on a key document at the centre of a corruption inquiry in Pakistan because of the use of a particular typeface. And Twitter users are poking fun at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz using the hashtag #FontGate.

The social media campaign is just the latest twist in a story that has gripped Pakistanis.

The ongoing corruption inquiry is part of the fallout from last year’s Panama Paper leaks, which has consistently been one of the most discussed topics online in Pakistan. It could end with the disqualification of the prime minister, although he has claimed the allegations are politically motivated.

Documents obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists last year revealed details about offshore companies connected to a number of high profile political figures – including Sharif. He wasn’t actually named himself in the leaks – but a number of his children were linked to offshore firms that owned four luxury central London flats.

Opposition figures in Pakistan allege the money used to buy the flats was earned through corruption and a team of investigators including members of the country’s intelligence services and financial regulators have been looking into the allegations.

One key line has been to establish who was the “beneficial owner” of the companies holding the central London flats – in other words, who they really belonged to.

Ants build sinking Eiffel Towers when trying to escape


The weight of an ant tower is supported by a wider cross-section at its base, which allows the ants to better distribute their weight.

If you want to see the Eiffel Tower, you don’t have to go to Paris. Just look down at your feet —but watch your step.

Fire ants use their bodies to construct Eiffel Tower-looking structures when they run into a tall obstruction while looking for food or escaping to new areas. A new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that they build these structures without a leader or coordinated effort. Each ant wanders around aimlessly, adhering to a certain set of rules, until it unknowingly participates in the construction of a tower several inches tall.

“If you watched ants for 30 seconds, you could have no idea that something miraculous would be created in 20 minutes,” said David Hu, a Georgia Tech mechanical engineering professor who co-led the study. “With no planning, and using trial-and-error, they create a bell-shaped structure that helps them survive.”

The tower study is a follow-up to the group’s 2014 ant raft research, which examined how the insects link their bodies in order to build waterproof structures that stay afloat for months. The ants march along until they come to an open space—the edge of the raft—then settle in to become a building block of the raft.

They do the same thing for the towers, searching for an empty spot like a car in a crowded parking lot. Once an individual ant finds one, typically at the top of the tower, she stops and braces for more ants to climb on top and go vertical.

What it’s like to be struck by lightning

If you are hit by lightning, you are likely to survive. But what do hundreds of millions of volts feel like?

Sometimes they’ll keep the clothing, the strips of shirt or trousers that weren’t cut away and discarded by the doctors and nurses. They’ll tell and retell their story at family gatherings and online, sharing pictures and news reports of survivals like their own, or far bigger tragedies. The video of a tourist hit on a Brazilian beach, or the Texan struck dead while out running. The 65 people killed during four stormy days in Bangladesh.

Only by piecing together the bystander reports, the singed clothing and the burnt skin can survivors start to construct their own picture of the possible trajectory of the electrical current, one that can approach 200m volts and travel at one-third of the speed of light.

In this way, Jaime Santana’s family have stitched together some of what happened one afternoon in April 2016, through his injuries, burnt clothing and, most of all, his shredded broad-brimmed straw hat. “It looks like somebody threw a cannonball through it,” says Sydney Vail, a trauma surgeon in Phoenix, Arizona, who helped care for Jaime after he arrived by ambulance. His heart had been shocked several times along the way as paramedics struggled to stabilise its rhythm.

Jaime had been horse-riding with his brother-in-law and two others in the mountains outside Phoenix, a favourite weekend pastime. Dark clouds had formed, heading in their direction, so the group had started back.

They had nearly reached the house when it happened, says Alejandro Torres, Jaime’s brother-in-law. He paces out the area involved, the landscape dotted with small creosote bushes just behind his acre of property. In the distance, the desert mountains rise, their rippled, chocolate-brown peaks against the horizon. The riders had witnessed quite a bit of lightning as they neared Alejandro’s house, enough that they had commented on the dramatic zigzags across the sky. But scarcely a drop of rain had fallen as they approached the horse corrals, several hundred feet from the back of the property.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Prepare to spend a while. It’s The Long Read.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

It was a terror attack. Donald Trump’s lack of concern is mind-boggling.

Donald Trump Jr.’s many lawyers might be wondering if there’s such thing a stupidity plea.

‘Last Week Tonight’ host John Oliver believes the son of the President’s emails are definitely something, but questions if something means anything to anyone anymore.

Similarly to Stephen, ‘Last Week Tonight’ host John Oliver felt less than secure when filming comedy show segments on Russian soil.

The Class of 2017 grows by one! Congratulations, John ‘Very Boring’ Oliver.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

When most people think of DARE, they think of Nancy Reagan, DAREN the Lion, and ironic 90s T-shirts. But to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, DARE is as relevant today as it was when it was using cartoons to encourage elementary school kids to say no to crack.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

After Donald Trump Jr. admits to meeting with a Russian lawyer during the run-up to the 2016 election, Fox News comes up with ridiculous excuses to defend the first son.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

What’s life like when ‘entitled’ millennials can’t put food on your table despite working full-time jobs at places like Yelp, the biggest restaurant reviewing site on the planet?

I’m afraid I have some bad news…

f you run this video is for you. If you don’t run it’s also for you.

Sit back and relax with Max for a few minutes

FINALLY . . .

Will Protesters Shut Down Black Pussy’s Denver Show Again? Should They?


Black Pussy is returning to Denver after its last concert was canceled.


Let’s be honest — they had to have seen it coming. If you call your band Black Pussy and don’t expect some sort of backlash, then you’re either stupid or…nah, you’re stupid. They knew what was coming. They just didn’t care.

Let’s backtrack a touch. But only a touch. Since the group formed, the inflammatory moniker has resulted in a number of shows being boycotted and canceled, and a whole bunch of think pieces and op-eds in publications like Vice and Huffington Post.

In this town, it all came to a royal climax earlier this year, when protesters successfully called for the cancellation of a show at the hi-dive. On Friday, the Portland band returns to Denver for a show at the Moon Room, and it’s almost inevitable that a stink will be made with force once again.

Just prior to that scheduled hi-dive show, back in March, a Reddit user going by the name Living_Butterflies took the protest online, writing:

“Let’s let them know that they’re not welcome in our town. Let’s tell the hi-dive that booking a band with that name is not gonna fly, and demand that they drop them from the bill. If you’re in a band, tell them you won’t play shows there anymore. If you go there to see music or drink beer, tell them you won’t anymore. If after urging they decide to let the show go on, then we will boycott the place and let everybody know the hi-dive endorses this lazy white supremacist misogyny… The music scene in this city is already dominated by white stoner bros and their casual rape culture. It’s time to start making shows a safer place for women, people of color, and other communities that are consistently excluded or silenced.”

Ed. I’m working crazy days this week. So… Probably won’t be posting until next Wednesday (unless I find time).