February 5, 2018 in 4,035 words

“Don’t Be a Fucking Nazi”: Antifa, White Supremacists Clash at CSU

Above photo shared by the Northern Colorado Antifa Collective purports to show a white supremacist protester wounded following a Friday event on the CSU campus.


On Friday, February 2, a feared confrontation between members of a white supremacist group and Antifa protesters outside a controversial event on the Colorado State University campus came to pass. Although no arrests took place, multiple reports say things got physical between the antagonists, with injuries suffered on both sides.

A post on the Northern Colorado Antifa Collective Facebook page offers this summary: “Cause and effect…. Don’t be a fucking Nazi. Not in Fort Collins, not anywhere, the people will not take kindly of you. Thank you all for showing up!”

The two organizations wound up in the same place on Friday thanks to “Smashing Socialism,” a 5:30 p.m. talk at CSU’s Lory Student Center by Charlie Kirk, founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, a conservative national group that says its mission is “to identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets and limited government.”

As we reported, Turning Point USA tries to portray itself as mainstream. But critics such as CSU student Hank Stowers, who wrote a scathing op-ed published by the Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU’s student newspaper, which has done a stellar job of covering the tale, charges the outfit with having a “history of condoning misogyny and rape apologia in Colorado.” In his view, this philosophy has a corollary in the approach of the Traditionalist Worker Party, which has been identified as a hate group fueled by white-supremacist views. Stowers accuses them of harboring “similar doctrines of inequality, separatism and hatred.”

In the meantime, racist fliers have started popping up on CSU’s campus. They read “No Means NO!” and included the hashtag #MyBordersMyChoice and the web address of the TWP.

The Republican Party Is a Threat to the Constitutional Order

If conservatives want to save the GOP from itself, they need to vote mindlessly and mechanically against its nominees.

A few days after the Democratic electoral sweep this past November in Virginia, New Jersey, and elsewhere, The Washington Post asked a random Virginia man to explain his vote. The man, a marketing executive named Toren Beasley, replied that his calculus was simply to refuse to calculate. “It could have been Dr. Seuss or the Berenstain Bears on the ballot and I would have voted for them if they were a Democrat,” he said. “I might do more analyses in other years. But in this case, no. No one else gets any consideration because what’s going on with the Republicans—I’m talking about Trump and his cast of characters—is stupid, stupid, stupid. I can’t say stupid enough times.”

Count us in, Mr. Beasley. We’re with you, though we tend to go with dangerous rather than stupid. And no one could be more surprised that we’re saying this than we are.

We have both spent our professional careers strenuously avoiding partisanship in our writing and thinking. We have both done work that is, in different ways, ideologically eclectic, and that has—over a long period of time—cast us as not merely nonpartisans but antipartisans. Temperamentally, we agree with the late Christopher Hitchens: Partisanship makes you stupid. We are the kind of voters who political scientists say barely exist—true independents who scour candidates’ records in order to base our votes on individual merit, not party brand.

This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).

The FBI Nunes memo is out. The worst could be yet to come.

DARK MATTER


To preserve, protect and defend whom? America’s Shithole.

Is that all there is? Not quite.

Against the advice of many of his advisors, Donald Trump authorized the release of a Republican-penned congressional memo about the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in 2016 presidential election.

The memo isn’t the “smoking gun” proving the FBI was biased against Trump that pro-Trump talking heads like Fox News’s Sean Hannity have promised. In fact, it seems to do the opposite—pointing out that a member of Trump’s campaign staff triggered the investigation, not the disputed “Golden Showers” memo. The president sees it differently, of course.

This makes it all the more tempting to dismiss the memo’s release as yet another strange attention-grabbing moment in Trump’s unorthodox presidency, one that we’ll all forget about when the next bizarre situation crops up.

Don’t do it.

The memo drama is the latest evidence that the US could be tumbling toward a constitutional crisis, a political situation that the institutions of government and the country’s founding documents are not up to the task of solving.

Why Trump’s tax plan may spur more divorces

Looming end of alimony write-off has divorce lawyers telling clients to act fast.


America’s Shithole

Republicans may pride themselves on upholding family values, but their new tax law could soon lead to a surge in married couples calling it quits.

Lawyers are counseling couples considering divorce to do it this year — before a 76-year-old deduction for alimony payments is wiped out in 2019 under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“Now’s not the time to wait,” said Mary Vidas, a lawyer in Philadelphia and former chair of the American Bar Association’s section on family law. “If you’re going to get a divorce, get it now.”

Potential divorcees have all of 2018 to use the alimony deduction as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with estranged spouses.

The deduction substantially reduces the cost of alimony payments — for people in the highest income-tax bracket, it means every dollar they pay to support a former spouse really costs them a little more than 60 cents.

The change is an example of how the tax law is having far-reaching consequences beyond its corporate and individual tax cuts, in some cases by quietly overturning decades of tax policy.

Senator warns YouTube algorithm may be open to manipulation by ‘bad actors’

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia warns of ‘optimising for outrageous, salacious, and often fraudulent content’ amid 2016 election concerns.

The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee has warned that YouTube’s powerful recommendation algorithm may be “optimising for outrageous, salacious, and often fraudulent content” or susceptible to “manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities”.

Senator Mark Warner, of Virginia, made the stark warning after an investigation by the Guardian found that the Google-owned video platform was systematically promoting divisive and conspiratorial videos that were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

“Companies like YouTube have immense power and influence in shaping the media and content that users see,” Warner said. “I’ve been increasingly concerned that the recommendation engine algorithms behind platforms like YouTube are, at best, intrinsically flawed in optimising for outrageous, salacious, and often fraudulent content.”

He added: “At worst, they can be highly susceptible to gaming and manipulation by bad actors, including foreign intelligence entities.”

Sebastian Gorka was defending Trump on C-SPAN. A man phoned in to accuse him of treachery.

It’s been several months since Sebastian Gorka, a former deputy assistant to President Trump, either quit the administration in indignation or was forced out by those who thought his take-no-prisoners brand of nationalist politics was a bad influence on Trump — depending whom you ask.

Regardless, Gorka has kept up his public profile since abruptly leaving his unofficial White House spokesman role in August. A couple of months later, he appeared in a roundtable discussion on U.S. gun violence and blamed the problem mainly on “black Africans” shooting each other. Then last month, he turned up in a police report in his native Hungary, wanted on unspecified firearm charges from before Trump’s election.

But most days, as The Washington Post has written, Gorka appears without much drama on a talking-head show, where he reliably praises the president.

Sunday was such a day, or at least it started out that way.

The Uber trial exposing dirty secrets of Silicon Valley’s greatest innovators

As a blockbuster trade secrets trial kicks off, Anthony Levandowski is the central figure in the bitter dispute between Uber and Waymo.

Anthony Levandowski was still in college when the legend of his engineering prowess began to outstrip the reality.

As an undergraduate, he was feted by the University of California Berkeley after winning an engineering competition by building a robot out of Legos that could sort Monopoly money. That early success – cited in profiles by the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and others – became a key plot point in the origin story of a Silicon Valley superhero: the man credited more than any other with Google’s groundbreaking development of autonomous vehicles.

The only problem with the story, according to Levandowski’s faculty adviser at the time, is that it’s not quite accurate.

“The claim that he was going to sort Monopoly money made a good story,” said Roger Glassey, professor emeritus at Berkeley’s industrial engineering school. “But what he actually did was sort cards that were black and white. It made it a lot easier.”

The difference between sorting pastel-colored Monopoly money versus black and white paper may seem relatively minor. (Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Levandowski, said by email, “The robot was indeed capable of sorting Monopoly money, just not very well.”)

But as a blockbuster trade secrets trial between Uber and Google’s self-driving car company, Waymo, kicks off on Monday, it is instructive of the distance between the stories Silicon Valley tells us about its grand, world-changing innovations, and the prosaic and occasionally sordid reality.

6 Real Scandals Crazier Than Anything On ‘House Of Cards’

House Of Cards, everyone’s favorite political soap opera, won our hearts with its focus on a ruthless sociopath who plays a ruthless psychopath on a quest to become president of the United States. But while real politicians can certainly suck, they aren’t out there murdering dogs or pushing their enemies to certain death, right? Come on, you already know you’re not right. Of course real-life politicians have done all of that, and worse.

#6. The Governor Of Louisiana Chained An Opponent To A Tree On A Pirate Island


Huey Long became governor of Louisiana in 1928, and utterly dominated the state’s politics with the simple tactic of “firing every government employee not personally loyal to him.” He further demanded a 20 percent cut of all state contracts, and tended to declare martial law when things didn’t go his way. Not a super reasonable guy, is what we’re getting at here.

“Assemble the men; I lost at Monopoly again.”

When Long was running for the Senate in 1932, he heard that a disgruntled former employee named Sam Irby was preparing to reveal evidence of his corruption. Long did the only reasonable thing: He had the guy abducted. Huey’s brother, future governor Earl Long, wanted to have Irby killed, but the governor had a better idea. He had his personal goon squad of corrupt cops drag Irby onto a boat, which ferried him to Grande Isle, a former pirate hideout in the Gulf of Mexico. There, Irby was kept chained to a tree and attacked by clouds of mosquitoes until he became more sympathetic to Long’s ideas.

Meanwhile, every anti-Long politician in Louisiana was going berserk trying to find Irby, who was rumored to be dead at the bottom of a swamp. With kidnapping charges looming, Long forced Irby to do a radio interview claiming he had merely gone on a spontaneous fishing trip. His bodyguards then brandished guns at reporters and sped off with Irby in a car, pursued by New Orleans police in a Fast & Furious-style chase that ended with the governor’s limo giving the cops the slip in a network of alleys.

If Americans don’t like the word ‘inequality’, would ‘fairness’ be better?

Inequality is everywhere – and yet in some quarters the word itself is rebuked as the culprit. Would new language help us tackle the problem?

Just in time for last week’s convening of the most powerful and elite in Davos, Oxfam released a disturbing report that 82% of wealth the generated last year went to the richest 1%. Meanwhile, one in five children in rich countries still live in poverty, according to Unicef.

Welcome to the sickeningly unequal distribution of wealth.

These are shameful signs of a society dangerously out of whack. Nevertheless, there’s a battle – and denial over – how we should describe this problem. In some quarters, the word “inequality” itself is rebuked as the culprit. Scholars have even studied why inequality as a concept sometimes fails to shock or even trouble people.

For instance, a Yale psychology paper called ‘Why people prefer unequal societies’ put it like this: “When fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality.” What this means is that people are fine with inequality if they feel they have a chance to win, and if the system that creates it is “fair” in some way.

Among conservatives, it can even seem as if “inequality” has become the new “liberal”. Using the “I-word” to describe some of the striking and widening gaps between the richest and the poorest in America is rare in rightwing circles. As Mitt Romney put it disparagingly when he ran for president, inequality is “about envy. I think it’s about class warfare.”

THERE’S A RIGHT TIME TO UNFRIEND SOMEONE—ONLINE AND IN REAL LIFE

LINE IN THE SAND


Goodbye, my friend.

We’ve all seen it happen: A nasty argument threads out under a news article you’ve posted, or a Facebook friend posts a divisive meme or bigoted opinion. Acquaintances, colleagues, close friends, and family members emerge from the ether to argue that women are, in fact, genetically inferior when it comes to tech; that the #metoo campaign is a complete witch hunt; that there is no such thing as white privilege.

Those discussions, once tempered by politeness at the dinner table or the bar, now take place at all times of the day and night: in the morning before you start work, during your lunch break, on your commute home, or while you’re winding down to go to bed. People are braver and likely be meaner online—without the moderating influence of real-life social norms. Facebook itself has acknowledged that scrolling through its news feed isn’t always conducive to a feeling of well-being.

Social media has changed friendships forever. We craft our tribes in the digital space, we meet new people online, and we use these platforms to nurture relationships—whether it’s a distant work acquaintance or a high school bestie.

On one hand, social media can show you a new, intimate side to the people you know—on the other, you won’t always like what you see. You sit there, finger hovering over the “unfriend” button, but you can’t quite do it.

Why not?

Look at me: why attention-seeking is the defining need of our times

The urge to belong is universal. So would a better understanding of it help tackle loneliness – and explain why stalkers, spree killers and jihadists turn their pain on others?

There is a famous Jewish mother joke. You’ve heard it before. Question: How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: “Ah no, I’ll just sit in the dark. Don’t worry about me.” It’s funny, at least the first time, because people do behave like this. “Hey, over here!” they shout. “Ignore me! Ignore me!”

Everyone needs attention, like we need to eat. This is not controversial, nor is it hard to understand. But the idea must be slippery, because it will not stick. If we could keep in mind that people need attention, it would change the way we see almost everything they do, from art to crime, from romance to terrorism. And we must. Facebook alone harvests and sells the attention of 1.4 billion people every day. That’s about a fifth of the world. This alarms some people, and it is a big change. But we can’t know what to make of it until we understand what people need attention for.

Attention is other people thinking about you, and if there were ever humans who didn’t need it, they are now extinct. “Attention is one of the most valuable resources in existence for social animals,” says Dr Geoff MacDonald, a psychologist at the University of Toronto with an interest in human connection. “It was literally a matter of life and death. The people who didn’t feel good around others, or didn’t feel bad when they were separated from others, wouldn’t have the motivation to do the things that are required to pass their genes down the generations.”

Specifically, people have been shown to need a type of attention that psychologists call belonging. Abraham Maslow put belonging into his famous hierarchy of needs in 1943. In 1995, Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary concluded in their paper The Need to Belong that the available research did indeed show that everyone has a “strong desire to form and maintain interpersonal attachments”. In particular, they identified that belonging means getting positive attention from people who know you well.



THOUSANDS OF LUXURY APARTMENTS ARE SITTING EMPTY IN LONDON

GHOST TOWERS


All while the city is facing an affordable housing crisis.

If you’re in the market for a million-dollar manse, London has a sad and beautiful world of posh apartments that have been collecting dust for the past year—and hundreds more are on the way.

These luxury flats—most with a starting price of £1 million ($1.4 million)—are simply failing to sell. According to property agent Henry Pryor, they were pitched as “gambling chips for rich overseas investors,” a traditionally lucrative demographic that has since turned its back on the UK’s Brexit-roiled market.

Out of the 1,900 units built in 2017, only 900 were sold, with the total number of empty luxury apartments across London now sitting at a record 3,000.

According to Liam Bailey, Global Head of Research at global brokerage firm Knight Frank, the market has responded to slowing sales, with developers reducing the pace of building construction. This has lead to ground breaking in central London “falling from a high at the end of 2015 to around 30% to today.”

Others are taking properties off the market completely—though this isn’t the case for some of London’s priciest properties: Take the penthouses of the Shard, London’s largest skyscraper. The ten apartments have sat empty since hitting the market in 2013. Designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano—the man behind New York’s new Whitney Museum and Paris’ iconic Pompidou Centre—the apartments are priced at a cool £50 million each.

Australia’s national tourism arm subverted the Super Bowl with an ad for a fake movie

CROCODILE TEARS

Two weeks before the Super Bowl, trailers began surfacing online for a reboot of the 1986 Australian movie Crocodile Dundee. In the supposed sequel, Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home, Dundee is missing and his American son, played by Danny McBride, goes Down Under to find him with the help a local expert, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth. Ostensible behind-the-scenes photos of the production emerged online, posted to Twitter, as did an official-looking website—which went as far as to include the name of company, Rimfire Films, that produced the original Dundee movie. And the stacked cast, which also included Aussies Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, Russell Crowe, Isla Fisher, and Liam Hemsworth, touted the film on social media.

It turns out it was all an elaborate ruse by Australia’s national tourism body, Tourism Australia, to encourage Americans to visit the country. The group aired a commercial during Super Bowl 52 today (Feb. 4) that started out like the other fake trailers—until midway through, actor Chris Hemsworth, who is Australia’s global tourism ambassador, revealed that the whole thing was a shameless showcase for Australia’s beaches, wines, and restaurants.

The Super Bowl spot was part of a broader $27 million marketing campaign, created by ad agency Droga5, to target US tourists. It’s the group’s most expensive marketing effort since original Crocodile Dundee actor, Paul Hogan, starred in a pitch for the government agency in 1984, Tourism Australia said.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

New York City subways have the worst on-time performance of any major rapid transit system in the world. This is the story of how the city ended up in a state of emergency.

From the creators of “Donald Trump Says China” comes “Donald Trump Says Baby,” a semi-exhaustive investigation.

The ‘Inside the Animal Mind’ team rig a house with cameras for a week to test a theory: that dogs use their sense of smell to keep track of time.

Our two new baby ducks follow our dog, George, around. The ducks are black and super cute. As for George, motherhood doesn’t necessarily seem to be his ‘thing’! One duck is named Rockhopper and the other one, Peanut. Watch as they follow our dog George around through the grass, and on the concrete. I have cut out a couple of parts to show you the the funniest parts. This was shot on my iPod Touch. Listen closely to the sound of them waddling around on the concrete. Thought I’d upload this super funny video. Hope you enjoy!

Max keeping himself busy.

Ed. I was streaming Enigma‘s The Screen Behind the Mirror while cobbling up today’s errant ramblings ‘er, barely uninteresting at all things. Took my head some pretty amazing places.

FINALLY . . .

Why 69 Coloradans Asked for and Got Medical Aid in Dying Prescriptions


Kathy Myers, seen with husband Herb during the early days of their long and happy marriage, died last year.


In 2017, according to a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment report accessible below, 69 terminally ill Coloradans received a prescription for medication under the End of Life Options Act, a measure originally known as Proposition 106 that was approved by voters in November 2016 and went into effect the following month. Fifty of those patients obtained their prescriptions from Colorado pharmacies, and while the CDPHE doesn’t know how many used them, the department received death certificates for 56 of them.

These figures roughly correspond to ones released in December by Compassion & Choices, which led the campaign for Proposition 106. The group estimated that between 45 and 55 terminally ill adults requested prescriptions for medical aid in dying during 2017.

Accessibility to end-of-life options remained a question even after the passage of Proposition 106, as we reported in the January 2017 post “Are Dozens of Hospitals Violating Letter or Spirit of the Medical Aid in Dying Law?

Aurora’s Kathy Myers, who’s believed to be the first person in the state to request medical aid in dying, went public that same month about her struggle to find a doctor who would prescribe the medication to end her life. She died in March after a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“When we actually got the medication, it was like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders,” Kathy’s husband, Herb Myers, said in a statement. “She was down to 76 pounds, and she put on four pounds, which was a big deal. She felt so much more at ease with life in general.”

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