October 7, 2017 in 4,393 words

Bernie’s foreign policy looking better everyday

Filmmaker Michael Moore says Trump “will take us to war.” He’s afraid that centrist liberals and the mainstream media will support him like they did when Bush invaded Iraq. “Liberals and Democrats,” he regrets, “often are afraid of being accused of being wimps or weak, weak-willed, not strong, not pro-America. And so they’re so eager to just hop on, so nobody questions their patriotism.”

If Moore is right, we are in trouble because there isn’t much of a peace movement anymore. The military industrial complex is stronger than ever. We are involved in several wars right now. The sprawling U.S. empire has more than 800 military bases in over 70 nations. U.S. Special Operations are being deployed in more than a hundred countries. The military is America’s most trusted public institution today.

Paradoxically, anti-war feelings are also quite strong and the American people are receptive to a diplomatic and demilitarized foreign policy. When Obama negotiated the Iran nuclear deal and started to establish normal relations with Cuba, he was popular.

The military has become much more clever about framing its story and filtering information. Bombings in America’s many wars are secret. Wars are funded by credit card. Americans don’t like soldiers to be killed so drones and private mercenaries are used.

Why nation-states are good

The nation-state remains the best foundation for capitalism, and hyper-globalisation risks destroying it

The populist revolt of our day reflects the deep rift that has opened between the worldview of the global intellectual and professional elites, and that of ordinary citizens. These two groups now live in parallel social worlds and orient themselves using different cognitive maps. Yet the intellectual consensus that brought us to this chasm remains intact. Proposed remedies among mainstream thought leaders rarely go beyond an invocation of the problem of inequality, and a bit more focus on compensating the losers.

But the problem lies deeper, in elites’ attachment to a globalist mindset that underplays and weakens the nation-state. Without a shift, we might find not only our open global economy, but also our liberal, democratic order swept away by the backlash wrought by the blind spots and excesses of this mindset.

Among the intelligentsia, the nation-state finds few advocates. Most often, it is regarded as ineffectual – morally irrelevant, or even reactionary – in the face of the challenges posed by globalisation. Economists and centrist politicians tend to view globalism’s recent setbacks as regrettable, fuelled by populist and nativist politicians who managed to capitalise on the grievances of those who feel they have been left behind and deserted by the globalist elites. Last October, the British prime minister Theresa May ignited an outcry when she disparaged the idea of global citizenship. ‘If you believe you’re a citizen of the world,’ she said, ‘you’re a citizen of nowhere.’

Markets need regulatory and legitimising institutions to thrive – consumer-safety rules, bank regulations, central banks, social insurance and so on. When it comes to providing the arrangements that markets rely on, the nation-state remains the only effective actor, the only game in town. Our elites’ and technocrats’ obsession with globalism weakens citizenship where it is most needed – at home – and makes it more difficult to achieve economic prosperity, financial stability, social inclusion and other desirable objectives. As we’ve all seen, elite globalism also opens political paths for Right-wing populists to hijack patriotism for destructive ends.

What the Supreme Court Says About Sitting Out the National Anthem

Some public schools are telling student athletes they can’t kneel during the anthem – but that’s unconstitutional

Several Aurora Central High School football players take a knee during the national anthem in October 2016.

When the president uses what used to be called his “bully pulpit” – but now is called “Twitter” – to attack a person or an issue, of course it has much broader consequences. For instance, it’s no surprise that after campaigning on a travel ban focused on Muslims and selectively bringing attention to terrorist attacks only when perpetrated by Muslims, anti-Muslim hate crimes have spiked in the U.S. Likewise, after beginning his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and drug dealers and endlessly touting his idea for a fairytale border wall, attacks on Mexicans and Mexican-Americans have gone up.

So of course the same thing happened with President Trump’s obsession with NFL players and the national anthem. For those who have been on Mars for the past few weeks, Trump has tweeted repeatedly attacking the mostly black NFL players who have knelt during the pre-game national anthem as a show of protest against police brutality. In response, a much larger number of football players knelt or engaged in some form of protest during the pre-game national anthem over the past two weeks.

As a result, there has been endless commentary criticizing the president for his comments denigrating the nation’s history of protest and the value of free speech. On the flip side, Trump’s supporters have argued NFL players must respect the flag and country during the national anthem. And, showing there’s no depth to stupidity, the always shocking Pat Robertson linked the protests to the Las Vegas shooting and said players should stop protesting in light of what happened there.

The messages the president has sent about protest, police brutality, racism, free speech and obedience are incredibly troubling. But so far, he’s just been directly targeting a very small group of people.

Here’s How Breitbart And Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream
A cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News reveals the truth about Steve Bannon’s alt-right “killing machine.”

In August, after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville ended in murder, Steve Bannon insisted that “there’s no room in American society” for neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, and the KKK.

But an explosive cache of documents obtained by BuzzFeed News proves that there was plenty of room for those voices on his website.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart courted the alt-right — the insurgent, racist right-wing movement that helped sweep Donald Trump to power. The former White House chief strategist famously remarked that he wanted Breitbart to be “the platform for the alt-right.”

Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley, on September 24.

The Breitbart employee closest to the alt-right was Milo Yiannopoulos, the site’s former tech editor known best for his outrageous public provocations, such as last year’s Dangerous Faggot speaking tour and September’s canceled Free Speech Week in Berkeley. For more than a year, Yiannopoulos led the site in a coy dance around the movement’s nastier edges, writing stories that minimized the role of neo-Nazis and white nationalists while giving its politer voices “a fair hearing.” In March, Breitbart editor Alex Marlow insisted “we’re not a hate site.” Breitbart’s media relations staff repeatedly threatened to sue outlets that described Yiannopoulos as racist. And after the violent white supremacist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August, Breitbart published an article explaining that when Bannon said the site welcomed the alt-right, he was merely referring to “computer gamers and blue-collar voters who hated the GOP brand.”

These new emails and documents, however, clearly show that Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum — and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream.

It’s a relationship illustrated most starkly by a previously unreleased April 2016 video in which Yiannopoulos sings “America the Beautiful” in a Dallas karaoke bar as admirers, including the white nationalist Richard Spencer, raise their arms in Nazi salutes.

These documents chart the Breitbart alt-right universe. They reveal how the website — and, in particular, Yiannopoulos — links the Mercer family, the billionaires who fund Breitbart, to underpaid trolls who fill it with provocative content, and to extremists striving to create a white ethnostate.

FBI terrorism unit says ‘black identity extremists’ pose a violent threat

Leaked report, citing concerns of retaliation over ‘perceptions of police brutality against African Americans’, prompts fears of crackdown on activists

An FBI report describes a likely ‘increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement’.

The US government has declared “black identity extremists” a violent threat, according to a leaked report from the FBI’s counter-terrorism division.

The assessment, obtained by Foreign Policy, has raised fears about federal authorities racially profiling activists and aggressively prosecuting civil rights protesters.

The report, dated August 2017 and compiled by the Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit, said: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Incidents of “alleged police abuse” have “continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement”.

The FBI’s dedicated surveillance of black activists follows a long history of the US government aggressively monitoring protest movements and working to disrupt civil rights groups, but the scrutiny of African Americans by a domestic terrorism unit was particularly alarming to some free speech campaigners.

“When we talk about enemies of the state and terrorists, with that comes an automatic stripping of those people’s rights to speak and protest,” said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It marginalizes what are legitimate voices within the political debate that are calling for racial and economic justice.”

Mass Shooters Aren’t Disproportionately White

Where the myth came from, and what it gets right and wrong about the demographics of mass killings.

Stephen Paddock, 64, the gunman who attacked the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday.

Stephen Paddock shot more than 500 people from the windows of his Las Vegas hotel room Sunday night, killing 58 of them. In the days since, a familiar story has been passed around the internet about the blinkered way in which we talk about these sorts of massacres. We’re so quick to blame Islamic terrorists, this story goes, that we don’t address the stark, distressing truth about mass shootings. The killers aren’t angry immigrants, by and large. They’re white men.

“These shooters are almost exclusively coming from a single socio-economic class and racial group,” wrote actor Cole Sprouse in a widely shared Twitter thread. We must now address “what part of whiteness influences this kind of Petri dish for gun violence and killing.”

This wasn’t just a social media phenomenon. The Huffington Post published Sprouse’s tweets as a “Powerful Take on Whiteness and Mass Shootings.” An article in Elle called the link between white men and mass shootings “a general rule” and proposed that “our refusal to confront toxic white male violence is why this problem will metastasize.” The progressive news site ThinkProgress said that “when we talk about mass shootings, we are talking about white men.” Newsweek wondered if “white men commit mass shootings out of a sense of entitlement.” A CNN opinion piece bemoaned the fact that “America has silently accepted the rage of white men.”

In a narrow sense, these stories are correct: The plurality of mass killers are white. But the notion that white men of privilege are disproportionately represented among mass shooters—indeed, that they make up “nearly all” of them—is a myth.

Trevor Noah’s Off-Air Comments On Guns Might Make Your Day

The “Daily Show” host summed up why he should offer his opinion as an outsider.

Trevor Noah has plenty to say about the national gun debate ― and it isn’t all scripted.

In a between-the-scenes moment from “The Daily Show” posted online Thursday, Noah took on critics who have questioned whether the foreign-born comedian should be chiming in on gun control. “This is an American conversation,” conservative radio host Larry O’Connor told Fox Business in a clip Noah showed his audience.

The comedian, a South African who criticized many Americans for avoiding the conversation about gun control after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, then offered a thoughtful response.

“People go, ‘Why do you have an opinion about this?’ And I say, ‘I hear what you’re saying but ask yourself this question: Why did nobody say that when Americans were protesting for South Africans to get freedom during apartheid?’ No one asked that question.”

Watch above for laughs sprinkled into some pretty sound reasoning.

The Flagrant Sexual Hypocrisy of Conservative Me

Representative Tim Murphy, Republican of Pennsylvania, on Capitol Hill in 2014. He announced on Thursday that he would resign his seat in the wake of news reports saying that he urged his mistress to have an abortion.

There are a few, rare exceptions that abortion opponents tend to allow to their hard-line rules: rape, incest, life or health of the mother, and “I got my mistress pregnant.”

The most recent culprit in the category of anti-abortion double-think is Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican who on Thursday announced he would resign from his House seat this month. Two days before, Mr. Murphy had voted for a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks on the medically dubious grounds that, at that age, a fetus can experience pain.

“I was proud both to sponsor and vote for this important bill to clearly stand for the dignity and value of all human life, both the born and the unborn,” Mr. Murphy wrote in a statement posted on his office’s Facebook page after the bill passed in the House.

Then The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published texts revealing that when Mr. Murphy’s mistress thought she was pregnant, he urged her to consider an abortion.

Sound familiar? Perhaps Mr. Murphy’s story calls to mind the Tennessee congressman Scott DesJarlais, who is similarly pro-life in the streets, pro-choice in the sheets.

5 Heartwarming Stories From History Among All The Horror

History sucks. Ugh, so many wars. And dates to memorize. Oh man, remember slavery? Boo. Boo! Even the good stuff, like defeating the Nazis, had to follow some horrific event, like the rise of the Nazis. But if you dig deep enough, you can find a few heartwarming stories buried in history’s cold murky depths. Stories like …

#5. MLK Had a Pillow Fight On the Day He Died

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death was a terrible blow to the Civil Rights Movement, and the world has been worse off without him. But we can at least take comfort in knowing that he enjoyed most of his last day on Earth. Andrew Young, future congressman and friend of King’s, was returning to his hotel room from a day arguing in favor of a worker’s strike in court. When he arrived, King and his friend Ralph Abernathy ambushed Young with pillows. In what Young later described as an “exhilarating” moment, the two of them knocked the crap of him with pillows. Really picture that: the eternally stoic Martin Luther King Jr. swinging a pillow into a man’s chest and trying not to giggle so hard he snorts.

They got ready for dinner, still joking and laughing. It would be the last time they would see King alive. Young went to the parking lot to wait for King. He shadowboxed with James Orange, King’s assistant, in the parking lot while they waited. King was assassinated on the balcony. But he didn’t die alone or unhappy; he died after a full day with his friends, joking and laughing and acting out the best moments of a tween sleepover.

US Intelligence Unit Accused Of Illegally Spying On Americans’ Financial Records

The Treasury Department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis has been illegally rifling through and filing away the private financial records of US citizens, Treasury employees alleged. “This is such an invasion of privacy,” said one official.

The intelligence division at the Treasury Department has repeatedly and systematically violated domestic surveillance laws by snooping on the private financial records of US citizens and companies, according to government sources.

Over the past year, at least a dozen employees in another branch of the Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, have warned officials and Congress that US citizens’ and residents’ banking and financial data has been illegally searched and stored. And the breach, some sources said, extended to other intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency, whose officers used the Treasury’s intelligence division as an illegal back door to gain access to American citizens’ financial records. The NSA said that any allegations that it “is operating outside of its authorities and knowingly violating U.S. persons’ privacy and civil liberties is categorically false.”

In response to detailed questions, the Treasury Department at first issued a one-sentence reply stating that its various branches “operate in a manner consistent with applicable legal authorities.” Several hours after this story published, the department issued a more forceful denial: “The BuzzFeed story is flat out wrong. An unsourced suggestion that an office within Treasury is engaged in illegal spying on Americans is unfounded and completely off-base.” It added that “OIA and FinCEN share important information and operate within the bounds of statute.”

Still, the Treasury Department’s Office of the Inspector General said it has launched a review of the issue. Rich Delmar, a lawyer in that office, offered no further comment.

But a senior Treasury official, who is not authorized to speak on the matter so requested anonymity, did not mince words: “This is domestic spying.”

Puerto Rico governor says ‘Let’s talk’ after Elon Musk offers to solve the island’s power crisis

Puerto Rico’s power grid has been practically demolished in the wake of hurricane Maria. It now has a once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild and the island’s governor Ricardo Rossello wants to have a chat with Elon Musk about his recent offer to use Tesla batteries and solar power for the the job.

Only 10 percent of the island has power at the moment and, according to the Puerto Rico state-owned electric company, some communities won’t be able to turn the lights back on for four to six months.

Musk tweeted yesterday he could be the one to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electricity system using independent batteries and solar power.

“The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” Musk wrote.

Governor Rossello tweeted at Musk shortly after with, “Let’s talk. Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your #TeslaTechnologies? PR could be that flagship project.”

How Monopoly Man Won The Internet

As former Equifax CEO Richard Smith prepares to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, activist Amanda Werner looks on through a monocle.

Monopoly Man became the Internet crush of the day on Wednesday, after upstaging former Equifax CEO Richard Smith at a Senate hearing on the company’s massive data breach.

The board game character, whose name is Rich Uncle Pennybags, was brought to life by Amanda Werner, an arbitration campaign manager for Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Reform, groups that advocate for consumer rights and protections.

Almost immediately, the monocle, mustache, top hat, pillowcase-sized bag of (#fake) Benjamins became a social media sensation.

The most unlikely viewers tuned in to the Senate Banking Committee hearing to watch Werner troll Smith, who was facing a roomful of angry senators after a hack that may have exposed the personal information of more than 145 million people.

People loved it.

“It was a very calculated move,” said Werner, who prefers the pronouns “they” and “them,” adding that it was hilarious to watch the scene become a meme in real time.

Werner mugged and preened for the camera and somehow, in a week dominated by sad and distressing news, gave people what they didn’t know they wanted: a delightful reprieve.

The progressive argument for reading Dr. Seuss books to kids

Red Fish, Blue Fish

Comfort in creatures.

Parents and educators at an elementary school in Cambridge, Massachusetts are split over a divisive issue: Should kids be learning how to hop on pop?

On Sept. 1, to usher in back-to-school season, US first lady Melania Trump sent a selection of 10 Dr. Seuss books to one school in each state. This week, Liz Phipps Soeiro, a librarian at Cambridgeport School, a public elementary school, responded with a letter published at The Horn Book, saying she wouldn’t accept the books. Soeiro called Dr. Seuss cliché and racist. She suggested Trump be more imaginative in her selection, and included an alternate list of 10 picture books for kids.

Soeiro has a point, no doubt. Trump’s staff could not have been lazier in choosing obvious American mega-classics, and students could benefit from more copies of lesser known titles about non-white kids. But in pitting Seuss against social justice, Soeiro misses one of the fundamental reasons his rhyme-saturated books have endured, and why we should keep reading them to kids.

Soeiro’s is a specific kind of list, for a specific kind of ultra-woke parent. It includes Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic, by Ginnie Lo with illustrations by Beth Lo; Drum Dream Girl, by Margarita Engle with illustrations by Rafael López; and Separate Is Never Equal, by Duncan Tonatiuh. These are parents who, in Soeiro’s words, want their kids to be aware from a very young age of “the beautiful resilience of children who stand up to racism and oppression and for social justice and reform” and “children who are trying to connect with parents who are incarcerated simply because of their immigration status.” Of the 10 books she suggests, nine are about human characters with brown skin who live in the real world and for the most part have non-white-European names.

But picture books have an advantage that grownup books don’t—the ease with which they paint a world of abstract unreality, letting children become shapes or animals with place-agnostic names, protagonists too experimental or highbrow for adults. (To wit: the tenth book on Soeiro’s list is about a crayon.)

We have a pretty good idea of when humans will go extinct


The probability of global catastrophe is very high,” the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned in setting the Doomsday Clock 2.5 minutes before midnight earlier this year. On nuclear weapons and climate change, “humanity’s most pressing existential threats,” the Bulletin’s scientists found that “inaction and brinkmanship have continued, endangering every person, everywhere on Earth.”

Every day, it seems, brings with it fresh new horrors. Mass murder. Catastrophic climate change. Nuclear annihilation.

It’s all enough to make a reasonable person ask: How much longer can things go on this way?

A Princeton University astrophysicist named J. Richard Gott has a surprisingly precise answer to that question, which I’ll get to in a second. But to understand how he arrived at it and what it means for our survival, we first need to take a brief but fascinating detour through the science of probability and astronomy, one that begins 500 years ago with the Polish mathematician Nicholas Copernicus.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Benchmark Senior Living at Plymouth Crossings uses robotic pets to help brighten the mood of elderly residents, while also stimulating cognitive function. VICE News goes and finds out what that looks like.

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

Everyday situations can be stressful for those on the autism spectrum. Step into the shoes of 16-year-old Layla as she attends a birthday party. Hear her inner thoughts and experience how overwhelming an occasion like this can be for her.

Warning: This film contains effects which may cause anxiety for some viewers.

Special counsel Robert Mueller met with the author of the infamous Russia dossier that mentions the most highly anticipated film of the year: the pee-pee tape.

Brooke Shields revealed the details of her conversation with Donald Trump which he asked her out immediately after his 1999 divorce. Stephen reveals the pick-up lines he used on the other ’90s female celebrities.

Stephen rounds out the week with some monologue-ery about an odd FDA ruling and some explicit architecture at the Louvre.

Stephen digs into the modern-day genetic testing because curiosity is in his genes.

To raise money for hurricane relief, Stephen and Nick Kroll asked celebrities to tweet images of themselves from their puberty. Here’s the best of the worst!

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

#1: Why do they even exist?

Just another day in the life of Max.


On 50th anniversary, founders of Boulder’s open space program look to the future

A 1978 view of Davidson Mesa as one comes over the hill into Boulder Valley on U.S. 36. Thanks to the creation of Boulder’s Open Space, not much has changed since then.

On Oct. 12, 1967, City of Boulder voters made history. In approving an “open space sales tax,” Boulder became the first U.S. municipality to apply a tax specifically for the purchasing and preservation of open space. Now, 50 years later, the advocates that played vital roles in open space development look at the 45,000-acre greenbelt around the city and stress the importance of maintaining their work in the years to come.

“It’s been the most popular program we’ve ever had,” says Ruth Wright, one of the few still around to tell tales of the initial open space campaign. She remembers collaborating with the other founders — neighborly, visionary citizens who recognized the need for a greenbelt — to preserve the ecosystems in these natural areas and control urban sprawl.

“But what happens in the next 50 years?” she now wonders. “It depends on you to be vigilant.”

Development of the greenbelt and the Open Space and Mountain Parks department started through the People’s League for Action Now (PLAN), an environmental group intent on preserving Boulder’s picturesque scenery. In the early ’60s, when landowners wanted to develop Enchanted Mesa into a hotel, activists looked to the community for enough donations to meet the purchase price. This gave Boulder one of its first pieces of protected land.

By 1967, PLAN had garnered even more support, and citizens passed the sales tax allocating money for land acquisition. Hence the City’s open space program was born.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?