September 10, 2018 in 2,670 words

Yes, let’s wipe out Trump. But take neoliberal Democrats with him, too.

A new wave of left-leaning Democrats are waging a war on the party’s corporate wing.

Democratic candidates are winning primaries in several states, challenging the party’s decrepit establishment.


After a scorching summer of discontent, Donald Trump’s endless tweets and scandals have given Democrats their best chance to retake Congress since George W Bush’s second term. And yet, insurgent progressives are not limiting themselves to dethroning Republicans: they are taking aim at corporate-friendly Democrats within their own party, too.

Amid an upsurge of populist energy that has alarmed the Democratic establishment, a new wave of left-leaning insurgents have been using Democratic primaries to wage a fierce war on the party’s corporate wing. And, as in past presidential primary battles, many Democratic consultants, politicians and pundits have insisted that the party must prioritize unity and resist grassroots pressure to support a more forceful progressive agenda.

Not surprisingly, much of that analysis comes from those with career stakes in the status quo. Their crude attempts to stamp out any dissent or intraparty discord negates a stark truth: liberal America’s pattern of electing corporate Democrats – rather than progressives – has been a big part of the problem that led to Trump and that continues to make America’s economic and political system a neo-feudal dystopia.

Dislodging those corporate Democrats, then, is not some counterproductive distraction – it is a critical front in the effort to actually make America great again.



A Shocking Number of Killers Murder Their Co-workers

Homicide is the third most prevalent cause of workplace death.

Here’s an icebreaker for the next office party: The third leading cause of workplace death—behind “falls to a lower level” and “roadway collisions with other vehicles”—is homicide.

This sobering data point comes courtesy of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics study on fatal occupational injuries. What’s behind all this shooting (the leading m.o. of workplace murderers, according to the study) and “stabbing, cutting, slashing, piercing” (the runner-up category)? News reports point to doomed love triangles and disgruntled co-workers. Another cause, however, has been largely overlooked: fraud. Imagine a boss who kills his assistant to keep a Ponzi scheme afloat, or a crooked accountant who poisons an especially thorough auditor. In the world of CFEs (certified fraud examiners), these offenses have their own, pulpy label: red-collar crime.

Frank S. Perri, a CFE and defense attorney who teaches forensic accounting at DePaul University, coined the term after working on a murder case in 2005, an embezzlement scam that ended with a salesman—Perri’s client—convicted of smashing his partner’s skull with a claw hammer. Perri says his client was well-spoken and had no known history of violence or arrests. That’s part of why he was so dangerous. “Research shows the more that people reflect our own image, the more we are inclined to give them what is called an ‘implied credibility,’ ” he told me. “But these people can be very predatory.”

In “Red Collar Crime,” published in the International Journal of Psychological Studies in 2015, Perri describes a few dozen fraud-related homicides and attempted homicides that he researched in detail. Consider Aaron Hand, the former president of American Financial Group who plotted a $100 million mortgage fraud. After he was jailed, Hand tried to hire hit men to silence an informer. His quotes read like dialogue from a Scorsese movie (“I wish I was there to watch him suffer”). Hand’s bid failed, but Perri describes others that succeeded. Entries from the article’s accompanying tables suggest a special office edition of Clue: Irwin—Accounting Fraud, Gun; Albert—Identity Fraud, Bludgeon; Velma—Forgery, Poison.


Don’t panic! Meet the experts with a steady hand when catastrophe strikes

In an extreme life-or-death situation, would you be able to hold your nerve? Candice Pires speaks to the people whose job it is to make snap decisions in disaster situations.


Calm yourself: staying focussed is key to your ability to think and perform clearly.

I was sitting on a remote beach with my husband and friends when our five-year-old daughter came running towards us screaming. She had a gash on her forehead and blood was streaming down her face. I felt sick and yelped, and then remembered I had to comfort her. My husband and I looked at each other and at her. For a second we didn’t know what to do. Then it clicked that we had to take her to a hospital. But we had no phone reception. We decided to head to where we thought the nearest town was. On the drive, between making up stories to distract my daughter and checking my phone for signal, I kept thinking back to the interviews, below, which I had been working on before the accident. Each of the interviewees makes quick decisions in extreme circumstances for a living. In those few minutes, I had experienced some of the tunnel vision they describe. I began by speaking to Dr Sara Waring at the University of Liverpool who researches decision-making in critical and major incidents, such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Waring stresses that one of the most important things that makes someone good at making decisions in circumstances where they have very little information and very little time, is practice. “The more experienced you get at making decisions, the quicker you get at making them,” she says. Experience equips you to fill in the gaps at the start of an incident when information is lacking, and also to weed out important information when it comes flooding in later on. She also talks about how our relationship with uncertainty affects our abilities. People who are nervous about uncertainty can make quick decisions because they want to get them out of the way, but they often do it without enough facts. At the other end of the spectrum are people who quite like uncertainty and weighing up options. But in an urgent situation you don’t have the time to do that.

Our daughter had five stitches above her eyebrow, the cut is healing well and she’s proud of her scar. But the incident, and our panic, showed me how important planning is to maintaining a clear head.


6 Epic (But Pointless) Quests That Consumed People’s Lives

There’s a fine line between an epic achievement and a pointless waste of time. Completing a marathon is an accomplishment, yet if we complete a marathon video game session, we’re apparently “wasting our lives.” In honor of that double standard, here are some deeds which no sane person would consider admirable, and yet here we are: Admiring them.

6. A Guy Spent Two Years Playing Final Fantasy VII In The Least Efficient Way Possible


For those of you who didn’t spend half your teenage years playing it, 1997’s Final Fantasy VII is a classic RPG. Like most entries in its genre, winning battles earns you experience points, which allows you to level up, which lets you fight harder battles that offer you larger amounts of experience. It’s a treadmill without all of that pesky running.

Just sit and watch this loop for a few hours, and you’re basically playing the game.

That brings us to 2012 and David Curry, a cashier from Southern California who came across a gaming forum post by the esteemed Dick Tree. Mr. Tree was attempting to level up the two starting characters in FFVII to the maximum of Level 99 without ever leaving the opening stage — a section that normally takes like ten minutes.

Curry followed Dick Tree’s progress with interest, but after two years of sporadic updates, it became clear that Tree had abandoned his quest. But instead of shrugging and moving on with his life, Curry decided to take up Dick Tree’s mantle. “I got fed up with Dick Tree,” he said to the New Yorker journalist who inexplicably wrote a feature on him, “So I declared that I would do it myself.”

1,050 words. That’s how long The New Yorker needed to write “Guy Wastes Life.”

So on January 15, 2015, he got out his PlayStation, named the game’s first two heroes Dick and Tree, and spent the next two years devoting much of his free time to role-playing as a digital Sisyphus. Curry began uploading videos to YouTube, and streaming live on Twitch, eventually developing a cult following. In the meantime, Tree reappeared and claimed he’d already completed the challenge, but with no proof to offer, no one believed him. Curry continued his mission, and in April 2017, fans were treated to the 56 minutes it took him for that final “level up” to appear

.

Because you need 2,452,783 experience points to reach Level 99, and because the amount of experience you get from the game’s opening enemies is a pitifully small 12-27, the whole process took him 500 hours. Oh, and you can beat the entire game at around Level 55. Why did he do it? To teach a person he’d never met (who went by “Dick Tree”) “a lesson about finishing what you start.” The accomplishment, such as it was, prompted philosophical debates in gaming communities about the meaning and the value of time, all while Curry went on to perform the same feat in other Final Fantasy games. Because while our lives may be fleeting, it’s satisfying to complete a task you’ve set out for yourself, no matter how stupid it may seem.


Forget easy-to-use design. Choose something hard instead

HARDER IS BETTER


A brave old world.

There is a computer program called Vim, based on software created in the 1970s. It is famously difficult. Computer programmers have endless jokes about how much of a challenge it is just to exit the program. It is also ubiquitous. If you are on Mac or Linux, it is already installed on your computer, whether you know it or not. And it has a cult following of devoted evangelists who will talk your ear off about why it’s the best thing ever, sorta like In-n-Out Burger.

I am one of these cultists, and yes, I’m about to evangelize. Though not really about Vim specifically, but about difficult tech tools in general.

These days, the gold standard for tech is whether or not it’s “easy to use.” According to that way of thinking, the best kind of program is one that requires no manual, no explanation, no tutorials, and where the number of buttons you have to press is either zero or one. So easy a five-year-old could do it.

That is an nice ideal. But simplicity comes at a cost, and five-year-olds are not very smart. A simple tool is, by definition, inflexible. Software that boils everything down to one button needs to make a lot of assumptions about what the user is trying to do. If you don’t agree with those assumptions, too bad.


What happened when I went to psychic school

For six months, I attempted to quiet my fact-checking, left-brain voice and tap into my ‘goddess roots’, where fantasy and reality are interchangeable.

Montclair Psychic School sits above a florist’s shop in the town of Rutherford, New Jersey. On a Sunday in June, eight students sit in a yellow painted classroom, watching a mastiff named Axel sniff a bust of the Buddha.

“C’mere, Axel,” says a woman whose T-shirt reads: “Medicine heals the body. DOGS heal the soul.” She offers him a treat. “Good boy.”

Axel slobbers on her lap, then lopes around the room, sniffing amethyst crystals, a conga drum and a gold Tibetan singing bowl.

“Send your heartstrings out,” says Natalie Anderson, a special education teacher who moonlights as an animal communicator. “Connect. Ask Axel: what’s in his world? What does he know? What does he want? Don’t be shy.”

Axel drools on the rug as the students try to read his mind.

“He’s saying ‘hikes’,” says one woman. “He wants a job, so he feels like he has a purpose. Maybe he can get a backpack, so his job can be carrying water on hikes?”

A description of this seven-hour “pet communication” class reads: “You will learn how to send thoughts to your animal companions and trust what you are receiving back. It is only a matter of understanding telepathic communication, the natural mode of communication for all animals AND an inherent ability for all humans!”


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Fans of Infowars don’t just buy into the conspiracy theories peddled by Alex Jones, they actually buy his products. Mr. Jones has amassed a fortune by pitching health products and weapons components as antidotes to the frightening worldview he broadcasts.


If the processes powering the fusion reactor at the Sun’s core could be recreated on Earth, it would be one of the most important events in the history of our species. Nuclear fusion power plants could end our dependency on fossil fuels and provide a virtually limitless, highly efficient source of clean energy.

We went to two of the world’s leading nuclear fusion research centers—Sandia National Labs in New Mexico and General Fusion outside Vancouver—to see how close we are to bringing the power of the stars down to Earth.

Check out CNET’s channel for more: http://bit.ly/2gpeXdr


The New York Times’s anonymous White House official’s op-ed has seriously ticked off Trump, and China’s pledging aid to African countries.

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


Many people with felony convictions are unfairly prohibited from voting, and the worst state for this — surprise — is Florida.

THANKS to HBO and Last Week Tonight for making this program available on YouTube.



FINALLY . . .

The Safe, Boring, and Extremely Cheap Drug That Could Cure Aging

Forget Silicon Valley biotech wonderdrugs. Leading gerontologists are making a historic bet on metformin.

Old age is, we know, a gauntlet of chronic illness that almost no one gets through without some deep unpleasantness. Most people who reach the upper end of the average human lifespan begin, at some point, to accumulate diseases. For the most lethal maladies of the elderly — heart disease and cancer — the relationship between age and disease is logarithmic. As we grow older, our risk of contracting a chronic disease doesn’t just increase—it accelerates.

Michael Cantor would like to avoid this fate. He’s not a fanatic—not the type to haunt biohacking subreddits for self-quantification tips or take dozens of unproven anti-aging treatments in the off chance one will buy him some yardage. Cantor is a patent lawyer with a prominent practice in West Hartford, Connecticut, where his wife is the mayor. “I don’t even like to take aspirin,” he says. “I’m very nervous to do anything with respect to any other kinds of drugs.” But still, if there were a reasonable way to stave off death — he’d like to try it.

A decade ago, on a cycling trip in Bordeaux, Cantor met a man named Nir Barzilai, and the two became friends. A former Israeli army medic, now director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, Barzilai has become a globetrotting evangelist for what is known as the “geroscience hypothesis”: the idea that if you use drugs to target the underlying biological mechanisms that drive aging, you can also delay, or even altogether prevent, the cascade of disease that accompanies the end of the typical human life.

For the past several years, an effort has been underway in the field of gerontology to get a drug targeting aging approved by the FDA, with Barzilai leading the charge. The drug in question is no new wonder pill, but a diabetes medication called metformin: an ordinary, generic, typically chalky-white pill that costs a few pennies apiece.

Cantor was already familiar with metformin, but not as an anti-aging remedy; he had been prescribed it by a local weight-loss clinic. A few years ago, intrigued by his friend’s work on aging, he broached the subject of longevity.


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