November 5, 2018 in 2,464 words

to set my mood • • •

Pandora: thanks for paying attention to my mood this morning.

The American civil war didn’t end. And Trump is a Confederate president.

His supporters hark back to an 1860s fantasy of white male dominance. But the Confederacy won’t win in the long run.

In the 158th year of the American civil war, also known as 2018, the Confederacy continues its recent resurgence. Its victims include black people, of course, but also immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, trans people, gay people and women who want to exercise jurisdiction over their bodies. The Confederacy battles in favour of uncontrolled guns and poisons, including toxins in streams, mercury from coal plants, carbon emissions into the upper atmosphere, and oil exploitation in previously protected lands and waters.

Its premise appears to be that protection of others limits the rights of white men, and those rights should be unlimited. The Brazilian philosopher of education Paulo Freire once noted that “the oppressors are afraid of losing the ‘freedom to oppress’”. Of course, not all white men support extending that old domination, but those who do see themselves and their privileges as under threat in a society in which women are gaining powers, and demographic shift is taking us to a US in which white people will be a minority by 2045.

If you are white, you could consider that the civil war ended in 1865. But the blowback against Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, the myriad forms of segregation and deprivation of rights and freedoms and violence against black people, kept the population subjugated and punished into the present in ways that might as well be called war. It’s worth remembering that the Ku Klux Klan also hated Jews and, back then, Catholics; that the ideal of whiteness was anti-immigrant, anti-diversity, anti-inclusion; that Confederate flags went up not in the immediate post-war period of the 1860s but in the 1960s as a riposte to the civil rights movement.

Another way to talk about the United States as a country at war is to note that the number of weapons in circulation is incompatible with peace. We have 5% of the world’s population and 35%-50% of the guns in civilian hands, more guns per capita than anywhere else – and more gun deaths, too. Is it any surprise that mass shootings – an almost entirely male and largely white phenomenon – are practically daily events? Many synagogues, Jewish community centers, black churches and public schools now engage in drills that are preparations for the gunman who might arrive, the gunman we’ve met in so many aftermath news stories, who is miserable, resentful, feels entitled to take lives and is well equipped to do so. The psychological impact of drills and fear, and the financial costs of security, are a tax on other people’s access to guns. So are the deaths.

Joseph Stiglitz: ‘America should be a warning to other countries’

In the lead-up to his Australian visit, the renowned economist warns of the triple threat of rising inequality, the undermining of democracy and climate change.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz will be in Australia next week to receive the Sydney peace prize and talk about the lessons the rest of the world can learn from America’s mistakes.

It’s a stark message from a Nobel-prize winning economist.

“We were a very different country 40 years ago,” he says. “The downhill slide has been pretty fast. America, I think, should be an important warning to other countries not to take for granted their institutions. I worry that things in the United States could get much worse.”

Joseph Stiglitz is coming to Australia next week. The renowned economist and Columbia University professor has been awarded the 2018 Sydney peace prize for leading one of the defining public policy discussions of our age – the crisis caused by economic inequality.

Stiglitz is credited with pioneering the concept of the “1 per cent”, the idea that the upper 1% of Americans have accumulated so much political power and wealth in recent decades – through voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the corrupting influence of money – that the country’s economy has suffered, and its democracy has been undermined.

In 2011, barely two years into Barack Obama’s first presidential term, he warned the political upheavals then roiling countries including Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain could one day be visited upon the US, but in an American way. Later that year, the Occupy Wall Street protest emerged in Manhattan’s financial district.

His 2012 bestselling book The Price of Inequality explained in detail how America had been growing apart, at an increasingly rapid rate. He argued forcefully that the severe inequality in the US was a choice of the country’s leaders: a consequence of their policies, laws and regulations.

The ‘Radical Saving’ Trend Is Based on Fantasy

The “Financial Independence, Retire Early” advocates are using assumptions about future market returns that are unrealistic.

Retiring early sounds appealing but isn’t very pragmatic.

For as much as people have complained about the astonishingly low savings rate in the U.S., nobody has done much about it. But now there is a new movement called “FIRE,” which stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early” that encourages people to do just that. It has turned out to be surprisingly controversial.

The FIRE folks say you should engage in “radical saving” during the early part of your career—about 50 percent of your paycheck—until about age 35 or 40, at which point that is pretty much the end of your career because you can then retire. The FIRE folks have done the math and figured out that if you save that 50 percent and invest it in the stock market, using generous actuarial assumptions, that pile of money will grow even as you sell assets over time to finance consumption. The goal is for you to bounce the last check you write.

This brings up a whole bunch of interesting philosophical questions:

  1. What is the point of saving? Most people save now because they want to consume later. But the FIRE folks don’t want people to consume. For the FIRE folks, the point of saving is simply not to have to work. To give you the freedom to do whatever you desire over the last 50 years of your life. Trouble is, the freedom to do anything you want isn’t much fun when you’re hemmed in by a microscopic budget.
  2. What is wrong with consumption? Not consuming is an end in itself. Personally, I like to consume. I like nice clothes, nice jewelry and going out to nice dinners. I, too, am a radical saver, but the point of my saving isn’t so I don’t have to work, it’s so I can consume more later. Savings is just a big pile of opportunities, and someday I might come across a house or a car or something I really want and the money will be there.
  3. What is wrong with working? Why do the FIRE people dislike working so much that they want to quit at age 35? Working gives people purpose. This is my primary difficulty with universal basic income schemes: most people do not function well with a bunch of unstructured free time. I have had unpleasant jobs, and even working an unpleasant job is preferable to not working at all. I am one of these people who thinks there is dignity in working, that every job is important no matter how small.

How One Forgotten War Created Modern America

If you took an advanced high school history class, you might remember that The Spanish-American War happened. You might even remember a few details: a ship sinking in Cuba, the U.S. taking over Puerto Rico, Teddy Roosevelt riding a horse…and once you answered a couple test questions about that, you moved on forever. To most people, the wars that define America involve George Washington winning, Adolf Hitler losing, and the Russians pointing nukes at us and frowning. But what if a brief American conflict in the year 1898 did just as much to shape the entire world’s destiny? And what if people of that time knew their votes in a few key elections would make all the difference?

On this week’s episode of The Cracked Podcast, Alex Schmidt is joined by Stephen Kinzer, author of The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire. Alex and Stephen dig into The Spanish-American War, and why it’s the most important American war nobody in America ever thinks about. They’ll look at how a little-known U.S. Senator, an even lesser-known populist silver freak, and the legacy of the Spanish Inquisition shape all our lives today. And they’ll consider how modern voters could finally answer the question of what America is supposed to be in the world, and answer it in a way where everybody benefits.

Ross Edgley sets record for round Great Britain swim

An adventurer from Grantham has become the first person to swim 1,780-miles around Great Britain.

Ross Edgley, 33, was joined by 300 swimmers for the last mile before he arrived in Margate at about 09:00 GMT.

Edgley left the Kent town on 1 June, and has not set foot on land since, swimming for up to 12 hours a day and eating more than 500 bananas.

He has battled strong tides and currents in cold water, braved storms, jellyfish and swimming in late autumn.

The effort has taken its toll on his body, resulting in shoulder pain, wetsuit chafing and his tongue has partially disintegrated from salt water exposure.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Edgley is still “not quite bored of swimming” and looking for his next challenge. And learning to walk again.



Dig in.

If listening to other people chew, or even thinking about mouth noises that aren’t words grosses you out, you should probably stop reading right now.

In the ever-expanding world of ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, crunchy noises produced by chowing down on an assortment of raw vegetables is becoming increasingly popular. Whether it’s the crisp sound of a set of molars destroying a hunk of cauliflower, or a healthy eating fetish, the crudités obsession is real.

If you’re not familiar, ASMR describes a phenomenon in which specific sounds like whispers, light tapping, and page turning produces a pleasurably relaxing and often tingling sensation that some people call a “brain orgasm.” Eating and chewing sounds make up just one of the many, many varieties of ASMR, and fans of the extreme crunchy sounds produced while chowing down on a plate of celery and carrots are just a subset of that subset.

ASMR stars who specialize in eating videos, like SAS-ASMR, who has 3.5 million subscribers, tend to offer several types of chewing noises, including crunchy-specific videos featuring raw vegetables like cauliflower, entire leeks, or lotus root, accompanied by some kind of dip–ranch is popular. Other eating genres include sticky mouth sounds produced by consuming items like cinnamon rolls, honeycomb, or mochi; gum chewing; and specific foods like fried chicken or ramen.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Ed. You’re welcome.

Former President Barack Obama has leveled many attacks on President Trump heading into the 2018 midterm elections. These sharp rebukes, though, are a departure from how past leaders used their post-presidential campaign stops.

Francisco Navas visits his home town to find out whether, in the midst of Trump’s increasingly anti-immigrant rhetoric, Miami’s Cuban Americans are as receptive to the Republican party as they once were – and whether young people, separated from the exile experience, have a different vision for the future.

John Oliver discusses the disturbing policy that separated migrant families detained at our southern border, and the disturbingly real chance that it could happen again.

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

全方位からの光を防ぐことができます。This sun visor prevents the light from all directions.


Minnesota Experimental City: the 1960s town based on a comic strip

t had cars on rails, 100% recycling and a nuclear power station in the centre, all covered by a massive dome. So what went wrong with Athelstan Spilhaus’s vision of the future?

Our New Age comic strips by Athelstan Spilhaus, who designed the Minnesota Experimental City.

If Minnesota Experimental City had been a roaring success, you’d probably have heard of it. Perhaps you’d even be living there. You’d also have heard of its chief designer: Athelstan Spilhaus. The sci-fi name sounds too on-the-nose to be true, but Spilhaus was real and so, for a time, was his utopian brainchild – at least on paper. Originally from South Africa, by way of MIT, Spilhaus was a postwar polymath in the vein of Buckminster Fuller.

He seems to have been an expert in everything from engineering to urban planning to atmospheric science to oceanography. And, like Fuller, he believed that science and technology could solve most of humankind’s problems. If we could send a human into space, we could do anything. Spilhaus proposed such solutions weekly in his future-science comic-strip series Our New Age, which was widely syndicated in US newspapers from 1957 to 1973. Getting such visions off the paper turned out to be a different story, but an instructive one, as told in new documentary The Experimental City, directed by Chad Freidrichs.

South African-American geophysicist and oceanographer Athelstan Spilhaus in 1962.

Looking at projections in the early 60s, Spilhaus saw that the US population was set to grow to 400 million by the 21st century, which translated into the equivalent of building 12 new cities of 250,000 people annually. This was in an era when existing cities were dying – blighted by crime, urban decay and “white flight” to the suburbs. So in true postwar visionary style, Spilhaus rethought the entire concept of the city from first principles. He called it a “total systems experiment”.

In proposing his prototype 21st-century city, Spilhaus correctly diagnosed many of the shortcomings of the 20th-century one. He cottoned on early to concepts such as air pollution, even speculating that it was changing the Earth’s atmosphere. He focused on the problem of waste, noting that prosperity in 1950s and 60s America was being measured in terms of consumption, and suggesting that “waste is a resource that we don’t yet know how to use”.

In his city, everything would be recycled. He questioned the amount of urban space given over to roads, and proposed that the city of the future be free of the internal combustion engine, or at least that cars be integrated into a “dual-mode” guideway – whereby automobiles come off the road and on to a guided rail-like system that moves them around the city independent of the drivers. All of this infrastructure – transport, utilities, parking, air-pollution removal technology – could be built underground, leaving clear civic space at ground level. Spilhaus even anticipated that people would have personal computers in their homes one day, which they would use for shopping and education.

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