June 15, 2018 in 3,623 words

Spare me the calls for civility – President Trump America’s Shithole deserves our rage

Samantha Bee and Robert De Niro have taken flak for foul language. But polite responses to Trump play right into his hands


Can we stop pretending that the right cares about civility? Whether it’s the faux outrage over the television host Samantha Bee calling Ivanka Trump a “cunt” or the yammering over Robert DeNiro’s “fuck Trump” battle cry at the Tony awards, I’m tired of those on the right feigning shock. After all, they voted in the most brash, offensive and foul-mouthed president in history.

Are we really to believe that the same people who voted for a man who suggested a woman was too ugly to sexually assault now care about a naughty word for female genitalia? The same people who defended a man who said he grabbed women “by the pussy”? Are Americans really supposed to keep quiet and polite as Republicans implement policies that literally rip nursing infants from their mothers’ breasts and are building tented internment camps for children?

But sure, it’s our curses that are the problem.

Those on the left, too, are warning that our anger will drive more people to Trump. Frank Bruni wrote this week: “When you answer name-calling with name-calling and tantrums with tantrums, you’re not resisting him. You’re mirroring him. You’re not diminishing him. You’re demeaning yourselves.

“Many voters don’t hear your arguments or the facts, which are on your side. They just wince at the din,” he says.

But here’s the thing – the people who are standing by Trump right now are not people who are interested in arguments or facts. They’re supporting a man who lies with every other breath


Trump’s Remarkable Admission About Dishonesty

The president is open in his affection for oppressive rulers and in saying it’s acceptable to lie to the public. Why does anyone still doubt he means it?


President Trump speaks to reporters on the White House lawn on June 15.

For some reason, there remains a public debate about whether the president of the United States is honest or inclined toward autocracy. There’s a certain logic to this: Voters don’t want to believe they elected a chronic liar or a skeptic of democracy and rule of law, and the traditional conventions of press coverage prevent mainstream media from stating otherwise plainly.

Yet on a regular basis, Donald Trump speaks publicly and makes clear both his dishonesty and autocratic impulses. Friday was an especially clear demonstration.

The president strode out from the White House in the morning, first appearing on Fox and Friends alongside Steve Doocy, and then taking some questions from reporters on the lawn of the executive mansion. While he covered a range of topics, and went through many of his greatest hits, the most notable elements were his praise for the totalitarian rule of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, his own declarations of criminal behavior by political opponents, and a series of easily disprovable statements about immigration law and a Justice Department inspector general’s report released Thursday.

While Trump has shown surprising deference and affection for autocratic rulers in the past, including effusive praise for Kim after the summit earlier this week, Friday’s comments were still unusual.

“He is the head of a country and I mean he is the strong head,” Trump said. “Don’t let anyone think anything different. He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.”


People Can’t Pay Rent, Debt Is Insane, and the Economy Is Somehow ‘Great’

Decades of the government helping the rich are coming home to roost.


President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan last year.

It’s not exactly a secret that the way America measures economic growth can leave regular people wondering why and how they’re still struggling just to survive. Unemployment, as President Trump took care to remind us with another unhinged and hyperbolic tweet this week, is at an almost 50-year low. After a spectacular 2017 and iffy early stretch this year, the stock market is once again trading high. Banks just enjoyed their most profitable quarter ever, encouraging the chair of the Federal Reserve—Wall Street vet and Trump pick Jerome Powell—to declare the economy in “great shape” Wednesday, and even raise interest rates on the debt owed by millions of Americans. On the surface, things look good, right?

Maybe that’s why a new report from the Low Income Housing Coalition, a liberal advocacy group working in partnership with Senator Bernie Sanders, landed with such a resounding thud Wednesday. The chief takeaway wasn’t even the most breathtaking, even if it still felt like a gut punch: There is not a single county in America where someone earning minimum wage can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment while working a normal 40-hour week. More shocking: You would have to work 122 hours a week for all 52 weeks of the year to afford rent on a two-bedroom at the national average rate on the federal minimum wage of $7.25. You don’t need to be a democratic socialist firebrand or an advocate for the poor or even a policy wonk to see that something is deeply, deeply out of whack here.

Part of what’s going on is that even as unemployment is extremely low and the macroeconomic picture looks rosy, actual workers’ incomes aren’t necessarily rising the way they should be. And as Eric Levitz noted at New York, inflation—now higher than it’s been since 2012—is gobbling up any extra money that is being brought in these days by those who aren’t extremely wealthy. Meanwhile, many Americans are spending whatever extra income they might be enjoying during these so-called boom times making a dent—and not necessarily a very large one—in their credit card debt. Their $40.3 billion in credit-card payments last quarter, according to MarketWatch, represented the second-biggest outlay toward digging themselves out of that hole since early 2009. The problem is that their new credit-card debt at the end of last year was the highest in a decade, at $91.6 billion.

More broadly, the divergence between the performance of the overall economy and the lot of the average American worker has exploded over the past few decades. Even if the economy really is humming on all cylinders right now, it’s not exactly shocking that basic necessities like rent and escaping debt would still be out of reach for many Americans.


LA IS DOING WATER BETTER THAN YOUR CITY. YES, THAT LA

With climate change on the horizon, Los Angeles is rushing to pull water from surprising sources. The goal: aqueous independence.


LA’s sprawling Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant processes the wastewater of 4.5 million people.

The frantic phone calls to the Community Water Center began in the summer of 2014. In the 7,000-strong unincorporated community of East Porterville, nestled against California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, homeowners’ wells were failing amid a historic drought. Folks were hauling water from their workplaces or from agricultural wells. Parents were sending their kids to shower at the local high school. Residents with still-functional wells were snaking hoses over fences to nourish their neighbors.

“People were in dire straits. They were desperate,” says Ryan Jensen of the Central Valley’s Community Water Center. “Elderly people or people battling chronic illnesses that need water to be able to deal with their health issues had no access to it. There was just absolute desperation.”

In total, the wells at 300 properties had failed. So a local nonprofit distributed 275-gallon tanks and officials trucked in water. That didn’t cut it.

On account of being unincorporated, East Porterville only had a handful of buildings connected to the water system in Porterville proper. So beginning in August 2016, workers hurried to connect 750 homes, the last of which tapped into Porterville this past February.

East Porterville’s situation is extreme, but it is not an outlier. If anything, it is a harbinger. “It was only an outlier in the concentration and sheer number of people who lived in a very small area that were affected by this,” Jensen says. “There’s approximately 300 communities in the state of California and more than a million residents who don’t have reliable access to safe drinking water, and that’s not even counting people who are on domestic wells.”

California is in trouble. Computer models show that with climate change will come harsher droughts and less frequent, yet more powerful storms. The state is not ready for this new reality, but one city south of Porterville could teach California how to survive desiccation: Los Angeles.


Inside The Dumb Plan To Split California Into Three States

It was recently announced that Californians will soon be voting on an initiative — known as “Cal 3” — to split their beloved state into three smaller, bite-sized states: California, Northern California, and Southern California. And while it’s fun to imagine how Fox News would describe this new liberal hellscape triumvirate (Sodom, Gomorrah, and, uh, Admah? Zeboim?), Cal 3 is promising to be the dumbest border screw-up we’ve ever seen.

Which takes some beating, we assure you.

Cal 3 is the brainchild of Tim Draper, a venture capitalist and billionaire who, like most billionaires, spends his days unnecessarily getting in other people’s business. In 2013, he spent $5.2 million on “Cal 6,” an initiative to split California into six states, which failed after it turned out that over a quarter of the 1.1 million signatures that he’d gathered in support of it were “invalid.” There were no such issues this time, however, unless you count the fact that he reportedly paid canvassers $3 for every signature they gathered.

So what’s behind his fascination with tearing up the Golden State? Well, Draper believes that the current state government is too big, and that several smaller state governments could serve the people better than one looming colossus. This isn’t the worst idea, but if the devil is in the details, Cal 3 is God’s own paradise. Who takes political office on opening day? How would funding and debt be divided up? What about people who work/study across the proposed state borders? We could wind up with a situation in which Southern California loses its access to water, and where do you even begin when solving a problem like that?

This might be stuff that they’ll reveal if the initiative succeeds, but their entire campaign is rooted in Cal 3 being better than the current model … and there’s no model for Cal 3. There’s a map, sure, which’ll be useful when they need to avoid the inevitable water riots, but no argument about why it wouldn’t just be better to fix the current government using the billions of taxpayer dollars that’d be spent implementing Cal 3.


A New Brain Experiment Just Got Closer to The Origins of Consciousness

You are here.

Neurologists have managed to pin down a sequence of actions in brain cells linked with the experience of perception – getting a little bit closer to the source of consciousness in our brains.

To do this, they peered into the brains of people with epilepsy and pinpointed the emergence of consciousness from the actions of distinct neurons into a complex symphony of awareness.

Taking advantage of diagnostic probes embedded in the brains of epilepsy patients, researchers from Tel Aviv University have identified a pathway of activity that plays a role in converting a stimulus into an image we can see in our minds.

As far as scientific mysteries go, human consciousness is still up there. For centuries we’ve wondered what distinguishes self-aware grey matter from a plain old meat calculator, and it’s a riddle that’s proved hard to solve.

“Computers and robots interact with the world without being conscious,” says the lead author of a recent study on the subject, Hagar Gelbard-Sagiv.

“But something miraculous happens inside our brains to make us conscious and experience the world from a subjective perspective.”


What young, educated Chinese women want in a man today: a clingy “little puppy”

YOU’RE MY PET


Take me home.

Lilac wants to date a “little puppy,” because, as she puts it, he would be “the exact opposite of the guys around me, including my boyfriend.”

The 25-year-old, who works at a Shanghai-based online publication and only wants to be identified by her English name, said that her boyfriend doesn’t compliment her enough on her looks. A little puppy, on the other hand, would always know to tell her, “You are the best.” After their latest argument, the two decided to take a break from their year-long relationship.

In China, “little puppy,” or 小奶狗 (xiǎo nǎigǒu), refers to a man who is younger than his girlfriend, whose qualities in the eyes of his lover include being simple, naive, considerate, and caring—and most importantly, loyal and clingy, just like a pet. The rise of little puppies as an ideal type of boyfriend points toward a shift in popular culture in the country, where young women are increasingly defying traditional attitudes toward romance.

“Pretty sister who buys me food”

The ideal romantic male figure in the eyes of Chinese women has evolved with pop-culture fads over the past decades. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the macho image as embodied by the late Japanese actor Ken Takakura—who starred in the 1976 action thriller Manhunt, the first foreign hit on Chinese big screens after the traumatic Cultural Revolution—was all the rage. That gave way in the 2000s to a taste for men with flowing locks and floral shirts, largely thanks to the influence of television shows like Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden, which spawned F4, one of Asia’s most popular boy bands ever.


The Dark Forest theory: A terrifying explanation of why we haven’t heard from aliens yet


If this theory is correct, the day after contact would look like this.

The Milky Way galaxy has 200 billion stars and perhaps 100 billion planets. If even a small fraction of those planets harbored life, and even if only a pathetic scattering of those planets had lifeforms which became intelligent, our galaxy would be teeming with alien civilizations, some of whom would be either looking for us or discoverable for at least a little while.

The number of alien civilizations the galaxy should have can be determined by an equation, the Drake equation, that turns the above factors into variables. When you plug them into the formula, you find that there should be at least 20 civilizations in our cosmic neighborhood.

This makes the fact that we have yet to find any other life in the cosmos almost shocking when you think about it. This seeming discord between how many advanced civilizations ought to be in space and the lack of evidence for any is known as the Fermi paradox. It has lead to dozens of hypotheses and potential solutions over the last few decades.

Many of the solutions aim at one of the variables in the Drake equation and try to make the supposed number of civilizations lower so it is more reasonable for us to not have met anybody yet.

Some propose that life starting at all is rare, others suggest that the development of intelligence is the bottleneck, others still posit that most civilizations would live for a short time before blowing themselves up or, conversely, never even manage to invent the radio.


WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ALL THE MOON TREES

Only nine months after the near-disaster of Apollo 13, NASA decided to try again with Apollo 14. For the mission, three astronauts were chosen – Edgar Mitchell, Alan Shepard, and Stuart A. Roosa. Shepard had already earned international fame for being the first American, second human overall, in space in 1961, funny enough soaking in his own urine owing to delays in the launch and no bathroom facility on board… Mitchell and Roosa were both accomplished pilots and engineers.

Important to the topic at hand is that years before any of this, in 1953, Roosa took a summer job as a smokejumper for the US Forest Service. It was because of this connection that when it was announced that he’d be a member of the Apollo 14 crew, he was approached with an interesting proposal.

Ed Cliff, the Chief of the Forest Service, called Roosa and asked if he’d be willing to take a metal canister filled with 500 seeds with him aboard Apollo 14. The seeds in question consisted of Douglas fir, sequoia, sycamore, sweetgum, and loblolly pine. Stan Krugman, who worked at the U.S. Forest Service and was put in charge of selecting the seeds, noted, “I picked redwoods because they were well-known, and the others because they would grow well in many parts of the United States. The seeds came from two Forest Service genetics institutes. In most cases we knew their parents (a key requirement for any post-flight genetic studies).”

On that note, a group of control seeds were also kept back on Earth to compare with.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

72-year-old Hector Zuazo used to spent a lot more time around young people. But since he retired from teaching, keeping up with younger generations of queer people has been a struggle. And that’s not surprising.

Loneliness and isolation are huge problems for senior citizens. But those problems are even more pronounced for America’s 1.5 million LGBT elders, who are twice as likely to live alone, and four times less likely to have kids. So this year, one organization tried to change that by putting together an intergenerational LGBT speed mentorship pairing event. And Zuazo was among the attendees.

“It’s a great idea because we need to make young people realize what we went through and what we need to back each other up,” Zuazo told VICE News on the day before the event.

The event, which took place in Miami in April, was organized by SAGE, America’s largest organization dedicated to queer elders. And for Michael Adams, SAGE’s CEO, the need for this kind of an event is clear. The LGBT community isn’t built around traditional family structures, he says, pointing to the fact that both young and old members are often estranged from their families. And “we have the fact that we lived through — and fought through, and died through — the AIDS epidemic, where we lost a whole generation of people,” Adams told VICE News. So “this is an experiment in how we bring all that back together.”

At the end of the night, Hector, who’d attended the event with his husband, Bob, had formed connections with two younger men, and hoped to meet with them again. The first could help him with technology, he explained, whereas the second wanted to learn how to cook.

Another attendee, 30-year-old Anthony Black, who’d heard about the event through a friend, also hoped to keep in touch with some of the mentors with which he’d been paired. “I think my biggest takeaway is that I can hang out with people of any age,” he said.

VICE News traveled to Miami to document one of SAGE’s very first LGBT speed mentorship pairing events.

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


IN SOLIDARITY !!!


Trevor breaks down the good and bad news Trump got on his birthday.

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


The Inspector General’s report on the Clinton email investigation could spell trouble for President Hillary Clinton.


Donald Trump claims he spoke with parents of sons who fought in the Korean War. The war that ended in 1953.

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


Reporter Ilya Marritz illuminates Michael Cohen’s journey to becoming Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, from his humble Long Island beginnings to his role in the Russia probe.


Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts talks about her mission to establish common-sense gun laws and explains how women are leading the gun debate.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Opposition with Jordan Klepper for making this program available on YouTube.


Seth takes a closer look at Republicans applauding the president’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Trump’s mountain of new legal problems.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s more World Cup hype content for ya.


Max with his grandma and pappy and aunt Sheila while I was away.


FINALLY . . .

Between art and destruction

Nederland photographer David Bahr looks for the beauty in fire.

In 2010, the Fourmile Canyon fire raged through Boulder County, leaving more than 160 destroyed homes and almost 6,200 charred acres in its wake. At the time, it was the nation’s highest-priority fire and a threat to Boulder County residents who lived in its path.

One such resident was nature photographer and Nederland resident David Bahr. When Bahr heard reports about the blaze, he knew his house would be in danger.

“So I went down to see what was going on at an overlook on Magnolia. I took my camera, and I started photographing,” he says. “That took my attention off the fear. By focusing on the art, I didn’t focus on the terror.”

He calls the process healing, giving him some semblance of control during a seemingly uncontrollable situation. Bahr was struck by the paradox of fire: how an element can be so destructive yet alluring.

“I realized there is a story here to tell,” he says. “There’s something very contradicting, simultaneously beautiful and terrifying.”

It was Fourmile that inspired Bahr to continue the project, leading to his exhibit One End of the Forest, showing through June 17 at the Dairy Arts Center. The show features several Boulder County fires from the past few years, including the Cold Springs fire and the Sunshine Canyon fire.


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