August 9, 2018 in 2,196 words

The Quislings of American Collapse

How Downwardly Mobile Americans are Being Radicalized into Betraying America

Check out the jaw-dropping picture above — which by now you might have seen. Now think about Senators travelling constantly to Moscow for reasons unknown. Then consider a President who’s more loyal to Russian self-interest than he is to any vaguely American ideal.

America today faces a (yet another) crisis that’s as weird and bizarre as it is gruesome. School shootings? Opioid epidemics? Retirees living in their cars and working at Walmart? Insulin which costs ten times what it does in Pakistan or Iran?

Try the quislings of American collapse. Whole groups of Americans — like the fine gentlemen above — seem to be perfectly happy betraying America. By putting Russian oligarchy, repression, and ethnic supremacy, above American democracy, freedom, and civil society. What does it all mean?

What’s happening, to put it bluntly, is that (some) downwardly mobile white American middle class men — at least some of them — are being radicalized.

An Enemy of Civil Rights Just Won the GOP Nomination for Governor of Michigan

As governor, Bill Schuette would follow in the footsteps of his backer, Donald Trump.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette talks to supporters, on Aug. 7, 2018, in Midland, Michigan.

On September 18, 2017, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission was poised to make history. In a packed room, the commission was about to determine if the state’s civil-rights act prohibited discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. Just two years prior, the Supreme Court decided, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that same-sex couples had the constitutional right to marry. And if same-sex couples could marry in Michigan, why couldn’t they, say, own an apartment or hold a job without fear of discrimination? “We felt very confident,” said Steph White, executive director of Equality Michigan. “The community was signed on. And the commission was open to the idea that they could do something positive for the LGBTQ community.”

Then, just as the three hours of public comment were concluding, Ron Robinson, a representative of the state’s Republican attorney general, Bill Schuette, stood up. He calmly informed the commission that it had no authority to issue an interpretation of the civil-rights act, and if it tried, the commissioners could be held personally liable for any resulting lawsuits.

“The whole room was like, ‘What!?’” White told me.

Schuette’s statement was unexpected and without any clear legal basis. In order to function properly, agencies like the Civil Rights Commission have to resolve ambiguities in the laws that they enforce. What’s more, the commission had issued interpretations and position statements in the past.

An Italian novel is at the center of a meta-conspiracy theory about QAnon


“Do what is possible, and then move on.”

In 16th century Europe, a Protestant priest seeks to disrupt the social order by joining a variety of religious revolts and wars happening in Europe. His real name is unknown, but his pseudonyms include Gustav Metzger, Lucas Niemanson, Lienhard Jost, Gerrit Boeckbinder, Lot, Hans Grüeb, Ludwig Schaliedecker, Titian and Ismael. His adversary is the villain Q, a spy working on behalf of the Catholic Church to maintain the status quo.

Sounds familiar? The battle between establishment and progressive is a pretty standard story throughout history. In this case, it’s also the plot of Q, a 1999 novel, conceived by the author as “a handbook of survival skills” for people wanting to push against the status quo. Strangely enough, although the book was created by a left-leaning collective in Europe, two decades later, it is being linked to a rightwing US conspiracy theory.

Who are Wu Ming and what do they have to do with QAnon?

The book was written by a now-defunct European artistic collective operating in the 1990s under the name Luther Blissett. Though originally comprising hundreds of members, Luther Blissett is now represented by its heir, an all-male Italian group known as Wu Ming. The book was originally written in Italian.

In Chinese, Wu Ming (无名) means “anonymous” or, with a different tone (五名), “five people.” It indeed originally comprised five people: Roberto Bui (Wu Ming 1), Giovanni Cattabriga (Wu Ming 2), Luca Di Meo (Wu Ming 3), Federico Guglielmi (Wu Ming 4), Riccardo Pedrini (Wu Ming 5, who left the group in 2015).

Wu Ming’s ethos is rooted in working class, revolutionary ideology, though it doesn’t identity with a specific party or concrete political project (link in Italian). The collective has published several books, including novels, short stories, essays, many of which translated in various languages. Consistent with the group’s belief that authorship should be devoid of ego, several books are available for free download from their site.

Wu Ming is rather influential in Italy’s leftist cultural scene, and it’s connected with a foundation that involves other collectives working on creative writing projects, historical anti-fascist research, and music. Through these politically tinged projects, they challenge the more mainstream left politics and promote a sense of playful mischievousness. It is the latter that might have prompted the birth of QAnon, as the rightwing result of a leftist prank.

Yellowstone Supervolcano Could Be an Energy Source. But Should It?

The national park could power the entire continental U.S. with clean energy. Here’s why it remains untapped.

Steam rises at dusk at Castle Geyser in Yellowstone National Park.

The northwest corner of Wyoming is boiling. There, 10,000 hydrothermal features transform Yellowstone National Park into an alien world with searing waters and steaming vents—all fueled by a simmering supervolcano.

While scientists agree that Yellowstone is not likely to erupt anytime soon, if and when it does, the event would be catastrophic. A massive magma chamber feeds this supervolcano, and an eruption would pack enough power to expel more than a thousand cubic kilometers of rock and ash at once. That would blanket most of the continental United States in debris and potentially plunge Earth into a volcanic winter.

So in 2017, NASA scientists ran a thought experiment to see if they might be able to halt a future supereruption. The internal study led by Brian Wilcox, an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, suggested drilling a series of wells around the perimeter of the park and pumping cold water down into the hot rock. The hypothetical solution would cool down Yellowstone’s magma chamber and prevent calamity.

As a bonus, the system would provide enough geothermal energy to power the entire country.

Humans gave leprosy to armadillos. Now they are giving it back to us.


What goes around, comes around.

Leprosy is an ancient disease, the oldest disease known to be associated with humans, with evidence of characteristic bone pitting and deformities found in burial sites in India as far back as 2000 BC.

It’s thus only natural that many might think the disease is a relic of the past. My recent studies in a Brazilian state where the disease is prevalent shows that leprosy is closer to us than we might think, however. The disease is growing in armadillos. And while these animals are not exactly the cuddly type to which humans are drawn, armadillo-to-human contact is spreading. And, when the species do interact, armadillos are giving leprosy back.

An unsightly animal, a worse disease

Leprosy, also called Hansen’s disease, is caused by infection from the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae, causing skin lesions, nerve damage, disfigurement and disability, leading to social stigmatization common to people with this disease. It is is spread mainly by aerosol infection, or coughing and sneezing, from human to human.

Typically, infection requires living in close contact with an untreated infected individual. Symptoms develop slowly, as long as three to seven years after infection. It is rare in the United States, with an average of less than 200 cases diagnosed per year in the last 10 years, mostly in individuals who immigrated from foreign countries where the disease is prevalent. It is found mostly in tropical countries such as Brazil, India, Indonesia and other countries in Africa, southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. There were 214,783 new cases worldwide in 2016.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the city of Charlottesville have declared a state of emergency this weekend, in preparation for the year anniversary of the deadly 2017 Unite the Right rally.

The organizers were denied a permit and don’t plan to meet in Charlottesville again. Instead, they will be hosting a rally in D.C. But the city of Charlottesville is still preparing for the possibility of violence.

VICE News spent time with Mayor Nikuyah Walker, the city’s first black female elected to the position, and explores what it’s been like for the Charlottesville native to revive the city after a tragedy.

“My hope is that we do this work of transforming the current state of the city so well that people will come and ask us how we did that,” Walker told VICE News. ​”And that we may become a model for how true change happens in a country that has been struggling with truth for almost 400 years.”

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

Despite the Trump administration’s campaign promise to focus on illegal immigration, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller is crafting a plan to limit legal immigrants’ access to citizenship and green cards, especially for those who have used public assistance.

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams discusses her passion for criminal justice reform and her effort to get more people of color registered to vote.

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

This week challenged the very definition of taste with $15,000 jackets and just the general existence of Don Jr.

While Sean Spicer attempts to make money off his former life as a Presidential liar, we followed him around so at least he can’t be comfortable while he does it. Produced by Paul Myers with Adam Howard. Edited by Anthony Mascorro.

THANKS to TBS and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee for making this program available on YouTube.

During a round of golf with Senator Lindsey Graham, the President pitched the idea of firing Robert Mueller not once, not twice, not three times not… okay, about twenty times.

Getting indicted for insider trading is no picnic, unless you’re New York Congressman Chris Collins, who was indicted for insider trading he conducted at a picnic.

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

Seth takes a closer look at the indictment of one of President Trump’s closest congressional backers and the trial of his ex-campaign chairman heating up.

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

鏡とまる。Mirror and Maru.


I Don’t Believe in Aliens Anymore

Humanity must learn to find meaning without relying on gods or extraterrestrials.

Ever since the Renaissance, the sciences have dealt human beings a steady stream of humiliations. The Copernican revolution dismantled the idea that humanity stood at the center of the universe. A cascade of discoveries from the late-18th to the early-20th century showed that humanity was a lot less significant than some had imagined. The revelation of the geological timescale stacked millions and billions of years atop our little cultural narratives, crumbling all of human history to dust. The revelation that we enjoy an evolutionary kinship to fish, bugs, and filth eroded the in-God’s-image stuff. The disclosure of the size of the galaxy—and our position on a randomly located infinitesimal dot in it—was another hit to human specialness. Then came relativity and quantum mechanics, and the realization that the way we see and hear the world bears no relation to the bizarre swarming of its intrinsic nature.

Literature began to taste and probe these discoveries. By the 19th century, some writers had already hit upon the theme—meaninglessness—that would come to dominate the 20th century in a thousand scintillating variations, from H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stories to Samuel Beckett’s plays. But by the turn of the new millennium, it had become clear that this sense of meaninglessness was no longer up to date.

In 1961, Frank Drake developed an equation with a string of variables to try to determine the frequency of intelligent life. Over the years, some of the variables have been plugged in. Maybe planets are just very rare? They’re not. Perhaps few planets orbit their star in the “Goldilocks zone” where it isn’t too hot or cold? No, it seems that lots do. This may sound like another round of Copernican humiliation: In a galaxy with up to 400 billion stars, many with orbiting planets, surely there’s some other intelligent, technological species. But humans have been scanning the spectra for decades and have found nothing.

Earlier this year, a group at the University of Oxford released a paper arguing that our knowledge of the universe and of math should lead us to assume that intelligent life is most probably an extremely rare event, depending on a series of fortuitous circumstances—like the weirdly large size of our moon, perhaps— that are so unlikely as to almost never happen. Humanity shouldn’t be surprised that we haven’t found aliens, because most likely there aren’t any.

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