52 things I learned in 2022

 

Consultant Tome Whitwell “learns many learnings” each year and publishes 52 of them in a year-end list that is really much more fascinating than most year-end lists. There are also links to his previous years’ lists in the post. 

— via Medium

I have directly linked below to some of the items I found interesting.

How Concerned Are You About Your Home Clutter?

 

‘In our work on hoarding, we’ve found that people have very different ideas about what it means to have a cluttered home. For some, a small pile of things in the corner of an otherwise well-ordered room constitutes serious clutter. For others, only when the narrow pathways make it hard to get through a room does the clutter register. To make sure we get an accurate sense of a clutter problem, we created a series of pictures of rooms in various stages of clutter – from completely clutter-free to very severely cluttered. People can just pick out the picture in each sequence comes closest to the clutter in their own living room, kitchen, and bedroom. This requires some degree of judgment because no two homes look exactly alike, and clutter can be higher in some parts of the room than others. Still, this rating works pretty well as a measure of clutter. In general, clutter that reaches the level of picture # 4 or higher impinges enough on people’s lives that we would encourage them to get help for their hoarding problem.…’

— via OCD Foundation Hoarding Center

What Kind of Man Was Anthony Bourdain?

‘Americans also have a morbid fascination with famous people who die by suicide. Perhaps such a death speaks to a gnawing sense that there is a spiritual void at the epicenter of the capitalistic American dream: You can have it all and still be miserable. Since Bourdain died in a hotel room in Alsace, France, in 2018, there’s been something of a tug-of-war about how to remember him. Do we focus on the rich body of work that showed us the virtues of boundless curiosity and human resilience? Or do we obsess over the mystery of why the same person who showed us all those things ultimately said no to his own life? How do we reconcile the endless journey Anthony Bourdain took us on with the sad destination that it reached?…’

— Ben Rhodes via The Atlantic

Finally: Inflight Cellular Service, at least in Europe

1242900544 jpg’The European Commission is opening the door for European airlines to begin offering inflight 5G connectivity, the organization has announced, by allocating certain spectrum for inflight 5G as well as “previous mobile technology generations.” Passengers will connect to an on-board pico-cell base station, which then connects to ground-based networks via satellite. Calls, texts, and data are all expected to be supported.…’

— via The Verge

Homeland Security Admits It Tried to Manufacture Fake Terrorists for trump

‘The Department of Homeland Security launched a failed operation that ensnared hundreds, if not thousands, of U.S. protesters in what new documents show was as a sweeping, power-hungry effort before the 2020 election to bolster President donald trump’s spurious claims about a “terrorist organization” he accused his Democratic rivals of supporting.

An internal investigative report, made public this month by Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, details the findings of DHS lawyers concerning a previously undisclosed effort by Trump’s acting secretary of homeland security, Chad Wolf, to amass secret dossiers on Americans in Portland attending anti-racism protests in summer 2020 sparked by the police murder of Minneapolis father George Floyd….’

via Gizmodo

Who Runs the World? Ants.

18manjoo image superJumbo jpg

‘In September, scientists at the University of Hong Kong published the most complete census of ants ever assembled. The numbers are so big as to seem made up. The study estimated that there are at least 20 quadrillion — that is, 20,000,000,000,000,000 — ants on Earth. That’s about 2.5 million ants for every human being. And because the study relied on a conservative estimate for ants that live in trees and did not include subterranean ants, the census is almost certainly an undercount. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it actually turns out to be an order of magnitude higher,” Sabine Nooten, an author of the study, told The Times….’

— Farhad Manjoo via The New York Times

 

The path to 218: Why Democrats aren’t out of the race for the House yet

Unknown

‘Republicans still have a wider path to the House majority than Democrats — but it’s narrowed a lot over the past 24 hours.

As the vote count continues, particularly in mail-heavy Western states, Democrats continue to win most of the contested races, keeping them in the hunt and meaning news organizations won’t declare a winner in the overall fight for the chamber….’

— via POLITICO

Remember, remember…

300px Gunpowder plot

“Don’t you remember the 5th of November Is gunpowder treason and plot? I don’t see the reason why gunpowder treason Should ever be forgot A stick and a stake, for Queen Victoria’s Sake I pray master give us a faggit If you dont give us one well take two The better for us and the worse for you”

UnknownTonight is Guy Fawkes Night (Bonfire Night or Gunpowder Night), the anniversary of the ambitious but abortive Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed attempt by a group of persecuted English Catholics to assassinate Anglican King James I of England and. VI of Scotland in order to replace him with a Catholic. Guy Fawkes, who was left in charge of the gunpowder placed underneath the House of Lords, was discovered and arrested and the plot unmasked. Fawkes, along with other surviving conspirators, was executed in January 1606 (hung, drawn and quartered).

A law establishing the anniversary of the thwarted plot as a day of thanksgiving was quickly passed and became the annual occasion for anti-Catholic fervor, with the ringing of church bells and the lighting of bonfires, to the point of forgetting the deliverance of the monarch. “Although Guy Fawkes’ actions have been considered acts of terrorism by many people, cynical Britons… sometimes joke that he was the only man to go to Parliament with honourable intentions.”

Fun fact: it seems that the term Guy (which now simply refers to a man or even more broadly a person) became a pejorative to describe someone grotesque because of the conception of Guy Fawkes’ villainy.

Celebrations of Guy Fawkes Day persist through the British Isles and become occasions for revelling in the burning of effigies (“guys”) of the hate figures of the day alongside Fawkes.The ritual has included Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Boris Johnson, donald trump, and disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein among others.

161105 donald trump effigy mn 1800The annual festival has become much more about festive fun than solemn remembrance:

“One important aspect of the celebration is certainly venting! Shouting into the nights air is a wonderful release and an important part of the celebration through the centuries. There is something magic and healing about noise — cannons, bells and chants. Divide the group and assign each a different chant. Let them compete for noise and drama. Great fun. The chants are important aspects of freedom of expression and freedom to hold one’s own beliefs. Like much of that which is pure celebration chants need not be considered incantations or wishes of ill will at all times. Taken with the rest of celebration they contribute to a much more abstract whole where fun is the primary message for most.”

UnknownSome say that the celebration of Guy Fawkes Night helped shape the modern tradition of trick or treating, although it has ancient pre-Christian origins. Some American colonists celebrated Guy Fawkes Day and those fleeing the Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s helped popularize Hallowe’en. By the 19th century, British children wearing masks and carrying effigies of Fawkes were roaming the streets on the evening of November 5 asking for “a penny for the Guy,” with any money gathered being used to buy fireworks — the explosives never used by the plotters —  to be set off while the Guy was immolated on the bonfire.

UnknownMany feel that Guy Fawkes (Bonfire Night) has a particularly Pagan feel. As with Hallowe’en, it may be no accident that Guy Fawkes Day coincides with the Celtic festival of Samhain, one of the moon festivals featuring large bonfires. Some think of Guy Fawkes Night as a sort of detached Samhain celebration and the effigies of Guy Fawkes burned on the bonfires compare with the diabolical images associated with Samhain or Hallowe’en. But, as one fan says, “Guy Fawkes Night has never sold out to Hallmark… Halloween is all about fakery – makeup, facepaint, costumes, imitation blood. Fireworks Night is about very real, very powerful, very hot flames.”

V for vendettax

But the folklore of the holiday does continue to morph. We don’t celebrate the thwarting of the plot because we are happy with our oppressive rulers, and Guy Fawkes has gone from being reviled as a villain to revered as a hero. His reputation has gone from that of a religious extremist to one of a populist underdog, especially after Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta and its 2005 film adaptation, in which the masked knife-wielding V, who also plots to bomb the Houses of Parliament, lashes out against the fascist state in a dystopian future Britain. (It was Moore’s collaborator David Lloyd who developed the idea of dressing V as Guy Fawkes.) Since then, protestors have donned V’s mask as an all-purpose badge of rebellion in anti-government demonstrations and the anti-capitalist movement, particularly Occupy. The hacktivist group Anonymous has adopted the Guy Fawkes mask as their symbol. In 2011, it was the top-selling mask on Amazon and has been seen throughout the ongoing Hong Kong protests against Chinese repression. David Lloyd commented, “The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny – and I’m happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way.”

440px London QVS April 12 2008 0010 Anons

Here is a collection of verse in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day. You are also welcome to don your masks, listen for some fireworks, scan the horizon from a high place for bonfires dedicated to smashing the state, or free yourself from your unwanted burdens by watching them go up in flames.

Reverence for Hallowe’en: Good for the Soul

Three jack-o'-lanterns illuminated from within...

A reprise of my traditional Hallowe’en post of past years:

It is that time of year again. What has become a time of disinhibited hijinx and mayhem, and a growing marketing bonanza for the kitsch-manufacturers and -importers, has primeval origins as the Celtic New Year’s Eve, Samhain (pronounced “sow-en”). The harvest is over, summer ends and winter begins, the Old God dies and returns to the Land of the Dead to await his rebirth at Yule, and the land is cast into darkness. The veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead becomes frayed and thin, and dispossessed dead mingle with the living, perhaps seeking a body to possess for the next year as their only chance to remain connected with the living, who hope to scare them away with ghoulish costumes and behavior, escape their menace by masquerading as one of them, or placate them with offerings of food, in hopes that they will go away before the new year comes. For those prepared, a journey to the other side could be made at this time.

trick-or-treat-nyc

With Christianity, perhaps because with calendar reform it was no longer the last day of the year, All Hallows’ Eve became decathected, a day for innocent masquerading and fun, taking its name Hallowe’en as a contraction and corruption of All Hallows’ Eve.

All Saints’ Day may have originated in its modern form with the 8th century Pope Gregory III. Hallowe’en customs reputedly came to the New World with the Irish immigrants of the 1840’s. The prominence of trick-or-treating has a slightly different origin, however.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul’s passage to heaven.

English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o'-la...
English: A traditional Irish turnip Jack-o’-lantern from the early 20th century.

Jack-o’-lanterns were reportedly originally turnips; the Irish began using pumpkins after they immigrated to North America, given how plentiful they were here. The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

Nowadays, a reported 99% of cultivated pumpkin sales in the US go for jack-o-lanterns.

Folk traditions that were in the past associated with All Hallows’ Eve took much of their power, as with the New Year’s customs about which I write here every Dec. 31st, from the magic of boundary states, transition, and liminality.

The idea behind ducking, dooking or bobbing for apples seems to have been that snatching a bite from the apple enables the person to grasp good fortune. Samhain is a time for getting rid of weakness, as pagans once slaughtered weak animals which were unlikely to survive the winter. A common ritual calls for writing down weaknesses on a piece of paper or parchment, and tossing it into the fire. There used to be a custom of placing a stone in the hot ashes of the bonfire. If in the morning a person found that the stone had been removed or had cracked, it was a sign of bad fortune. Nuts have been used for divination: whether they burned quietly or exploded indicated good or bad luck. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over one’s shoulder was supposed to reveal the initial of one’s future spouse. One way of looking for omens of death was for peope to visit churchyards

La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

The Witches’ Sabbath aspect of Hallowe’en seems to result from Germanic influence and fusion with the notion of Walpurgisnacht. (You may be familiar with the magnificent musical evocation of this, Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain.)

Although probably not yet in a position to shape mainstream American Hallowe’en traditions, Mexican Dia de los Muertos observances have started to contribute some delightful and whimsical iconography to our encounter with the eerie and unearthly as well. As this article in The Smithsonian reviews, ‘In the United States, Halloween is mostly about candy, but elsewhere in the world celebrations honoring the departed have a spiritual meaning…’

Reportedly, more than 80% of American families decorate their homes, at least minimally, for Hallowe’en. What was the holiday like forty or fifty years ago in the U.S. when, bastardized as it has now become with respect to its pagan origins, it retained a much more traditional flair? Before the era of the pay-per-view ’spooky-world’ type haunted attractions and its Martha Stewart yuppification with, as this irreverent Salon article from several years ago [via walker] put it, monogrammed jack-o’-lanterns and the like? One issue may be that, as NPR observed,

‘”Adults have hijacked Halloween… Two in three adults feel Halloween is a holiday for them and not just kids,” Forbes opined in 2012, citing a public relations survey. True that when the holiday was imported from Celtic nations in the mid-19th century — along with a wave of immigrants fleeing Irelands potato famine — it was essentially a younger persons’ game. But a little research reveals that adults have long enjoyed Halloween — right alongside young spooks and spirits.’

Is that necessarily a bad thing? A 1984 essay by Richard Seltzer, frequently referenced in other sources, entitled “Why Bother to Save Hallowe’en?”, argues as I do that reverence for Hallowe’en is good for the soul, young or old.

“Maybe at one time Hallowe’en helped exorcise fears of death and ghosts and goblins by making fun of them. Maybe, too, in a time of rigidly prescribed social behavior, Hallowe’en was the occasion for socially condoned mischief — a time for misrule and letting loose. Although such elements still remain, the emphasis has shifted and the importance of the day and its rituals has actually grown.…(D)on’t just abandon a tradition that you yourself loved as a child, that your own children look forward to months in advance, and that helps preserve our sense of fellowship and community with our neighbors in the midst of all this madness.”

Three Halloween jack-o'-lanterns.

That would be anathema to certain segments of society, however. Hallowe’en certainly inspires a backlash by fundamentalists who consider it a blasphemous abomination. ‘Amateur scholar’ Isaac Bonewits details academically the Hallowe’en errors and lies he feels contribute to its being reviled. Some of the panic over Hallowe’en is akin to the hysteria, fortunately now debunked, over the supposed epidemic of ‘ritual Satanic abuse’ that swept the Western world in the ’90’s.

Frankenstein

The horror film has become inextricably linked to Hallowe’en tradition, although the holiday itself did not figure in the movies until John Carpenter took the slasher genre singlehandedly by storm. Googling “scariest films”, you will, grimly, reap a mother lode of opinions about how to pierce the veil to journey to the netherworld and reconnect with that magical, eerie creepiness in the dark (if not the over-the-top blood and gore that has largely replaced the subtlety of earlier horror films).

The Carfax Abbey Horror Films and Movies Database includes best-ever-horror-films lists from Entertainment Weekly, Mr. Showbiz and Hollywood.com. I’ve seen most of these; some of their choices are not that scary, some are just plain silly, and they give extremely short shrift to my real favorites, the evocative classics of the ’30’s and ’40’s when most eeriness was allusive and not explicit. And here’s what claims to be a compilation of links to the darkest and most gruesome sites on the web. “Hours and hours of fun for morbidity lovers.”

Boing Boing does homage to a morbid masterpiece of wretched existential horror, two of the tensest, scariest hours of my life repeated every time I watch it:

‘…The Thing starts. It had been 9 years since The Exorcist scared the living shit out of audiences in New York and sent people fleeing into the street. Really … up the aisle and out the door at full gallop. You would think that people had calmed down a bit since then. No…

The tone of The Thing is one of isolation and dread from the moment it starts. By the time our guys go to the Norwegian outpost and find a monstrous steaming corpse with two merged faces pulling in opposite directions the audience is shifting in their seats. Next comes the dog that splits open with bloody tentacles flying in all directions. The women are covering their eyes….’

Meanwhile, what could be creepier in the movies than the phenomenon of evil children? Gawker knows what shadows lurk in the hearts of the cinematic young:

‘In celebration of Halloween, we took a shallow dive into the horror subgenre of evil-child horror movies. Weird-kid cinema stretches back at least to 1956’s The Bad Seed, and has experienced a resurgence recently via movies like The Babadook, Goodnight Mommy, and Cooties. You could look at this trend as a natural extension of the focus on domesticity seen in horror via the wave of haunted-house movies that 2009’s Paranormal Activity helped usher in. Or maybe we’re just wizening up as a culture and realizing that children are evil and that film is a great way to warn people of this truth. Happy Halloween. Hope you don’t get killed by trick-or-treaters.’

In any case: trick or treat! …And may your Hallowe’en soothe your soul.

Related:

List of common misconceptions

Images‘Each entry on this list of common misconceptions is worded as a correction; the misconceptions themselves are implied rather than stated. These entries are concise summaries of the main subject articles, which can be consulted for more detail….’

— via Wikipedia

Francis Fukuyama: Still the “End of History”

‘Over the past decade, global politics has been heavily shaped by apparently strong states whose leaders are not constrained by law or constitutional checks and balances. Russia and China both have argued that liberal democracy is in long-term decline, and that their brand of muscular authoritarian government is able to act decisively and get things done while their democratic rivals debate, dither, and fail to deliver on their promises. These two countries were the vanguard of a broader authoritarian wave that turned back democratic gains across the globe, from Myanmar to Tunisia to Hungary to El Salvador. Over the past year, though, it has become evident that there are key weaknesses at the core of these strong states.

The weaknesses are of two sorts. First, the concentration of power in the hands of a single leader at the top all but guarantees low-quality decision making, and over time will produce truly catastrophic consequences. Second, the absence of public discussion and debate in “strong” states, and of any mechanism of accountability, means that the leader’s support is shallow, and can erode at a moment’s notice….’

— Francis Fukuyama via The Atlantic

Success! NASA Says DART Really Clocked That Asteroid

Unknown

‘Two weeks after the spacecraft collided with Dimorphos, researchers determined that it knocked the space rock 32 minutes off its old orbit… It worked—even better than expected. “For the first time ever, humanity has changed the orbit of a planetary body,” said Lori Glaze, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters in Washington, at a press conference today revealing the result…’

— via WIRED

Good riddance to long books

‘…How refreshing it was to see the Booker prize take another turn last month ­– putting the short in shortlist, as it were – with a record-breakingly succinct nominee: Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is just 116 pages. And Alan Garner’s Treacle Walker is only 36 pages longer. One of the judges, M. John Harrison, said: ‘I’m quite in favour of short books. I quite like the brevity of them. I think compression is a real skill.’ The Daily Telegraph concluded: ‘Brevity appears to be back in literary fashion.’ Thank heavens….’

— John Sturgis via The Spectator

… although most of my favorite books are quite long. They just have to have the substance to sustain it.

List of the 2022 MacArthur Fellows, winners of “genius grants”

‘It is perhaps the most coveted award in academia, the arts and sciences. You can’t get nominated and the pool of candidates is a tightly-held secret. It’s also a sweet cash prize. This year’s 25 MacArthur Fellows will each receive $800,000, a “no-strings-attached award to extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential,” according to the MacArthur Foundation website. This year’s class of so-called ‘geniuses’ includes an ornithologist, a cellist, a computer scientist and a human rights activists. The fellows can advance their expertise, change careers or buy a house…’

via NPR

October 13, 2022

In her consistently excellent daily newsletter, yesterday, historian Heather Cox Richardson gives a lucid summary of the orchestration of trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 election, leading up to the January 6 coup attempt at the Capitol. This follows on yesterday’s January 6 Committee hearing, basically a summing up of the evidence garnered to date, which culminated in a unanimous vote to subpoena trump to give testimony under oath. Cox Richardson’s account is worth reading, even if you think you are up to speed on these events, for its grasp and dispassionate clarity. It serves as a summary statement of how profoundly close to a slide into despotism we were, and are, if we don’t do some thing, starting three weeks from now. Also worth reading if only for the Nancy Pelosi anecdote, with which it ends.

‘Each member of the committee spoke today, reiterating for those who have not been paying close attention the themes of the previous eight hearings. As Thompson pointed out, the committee has gathered an unusually large amount of evidence and has built its case almost entirely from the testimony of Republicans, not Democrats, undercutting the accusations of Trump loyalists that the committee has been partisan. Their evidence has come from Trump aides and Republican lawmakers, lawyers, political professionals, appointees, staff, and advisors and even from Trump’s family members. 

The evidence the committee has presented to the American people establishes without doubt that Trump was the central cause of the events of January 6. As Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), vice-chair of the committee, said: “None of this would have happened without him.”

The committee established that Trump knew that he had lost the election. His campaign advisors and his lawyers repeatedly told him that any suggestion that the election had been stolen was a lie. He even admitted that he had lost and, crucially, just days after he lost the election, abruptly ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Somalia and Afghanistan by January 15, clearly intending to set up his successor, Democrat Joe Biden, for a global crisis the minute he took office. (Defense Department officials successfully stopped the order.)

Even though he knew he had lost, Trump had no intention of actually leaving office. He and his team decided as early as July 2020 that he wouldn’t leave: he would simply declare that he had won the election, even if he lost. By October 31, 2020—before the election took place—Tom Fitton of the right-wing organization Judicial Watch drafted a memo for Trump to read on November 3, saying, “We had an election today—and I won.” On that same day, Trump ally Stephen Bannon told a private group that Trump was just going to “declare victory…, but that doesn’t mean he is the winner. He’s just going to say he is the winner.” 

Everyone knew that in the early hours of November 3, it might look as if Trump was winning, but that would change as later votes came in because after Trump had spent months attacking mail-in voting, the mail-in votes that did come in would favor Democrats. Those votes would be counted after the votes cast in person on Election Day. That “red mirage” was precisely what happened. But, as planned, as soon as the mail-in ballots began to be counted and numbers started to swing toward Biden, Trump went on television to announce that he had won and that the counting of votes should end.

Trump’s advisors all told the January 6th committee either that it was too early to declare victory when Trump did, or that there was no way he could win at that point. And yet, Trump told his supporters he had won and that the election was being stolen from him.

In the weeks that followed, the Trump campaign launched 62 lawsuits over the outcome and lost 61, winning only a technical victory that had no effect on the vote count. The committee established that when the Supreme Court refused to turn over the electoral counts of four states to state legislatures, rather than the states’ voters, Trump was livid. Cassidy Hutchinson, who was the top aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, testified that Trump was “raging.” He said: “I don’t want people to know that we lost. This is embarrassing….

So Trump launched a pressure campaign against state officials to get them to assign their states’ electoral votes to him rather than to Biden. He pressured Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, telling him “I just want to find 11,780 votes” to put him over the top to take the state’s electoral votes. Trump pressured officials in other states. He also pressured Department of Justice officials: “Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and to the Republican congressmen.” When that effort failed, Trump tried to replace acting attorney general Jeff Rosen with loyalist Jeff Clark, stopping only when the leadership of the Department of Justice threatened a mass resignatio

Thwarted, Trump turned to the idea of false electoral slates from the states, working with loyalists in the states to send to Washington a fake set of electoral votes in favor of him rather than the Biden electors voters had chosen. Even lawyer John Eastman, who pushed the plan, admitted it was illegal, violating the 1887 Electoral Count Act

When that plan, too, failed, Trump fell back on his last resort: a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers were counting the electoral votes. Trump had primed a mob by repeating the lie that the election had been stolen, and today the committee revealed that Jason Miller, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, forwarded a link from a pro-Trump website to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows less than a week before January 6, saying, “I GOT THE BASE FIRED UP.” The linked web page was about the upcoming session of Congress to count electoral votes, and it had comments like “Gallows don’t require electricity.” “If the filthy commie maggots try to push their fraud through, there will be hell to pay.” “Our lawmakers in Congress can leave one of two ways; one, in a body bag, two, after rightfully certifying Trump the winner

The committee today released new information gleaned from Secret Service communications, showing that the service had extensive information that there was an attack on the Capitol planned for January 6 and that testimony suggesting otherwise was “not credible.” The committee said its investigation of the Secret Service is ongoin

On January 6, members of the crowd at the Ellipse rally were armed, and Trump knew it. Nonetheless, he urged them to march on the Capitol. When his handlers refused to let him join them, he retreated to the private dining room in the White House and watched the violence unfold on television, ignoring pleas from congressional leaders, advisors, staff, and family to call off the rioters. Instead, at the very moment Vice President Mike Pence’s life was most in danger from the mob, Trump tweeted that Pence had let him down, energizing the rioter

Meanwhile, other lawmakers stepped into the breach left by Trump’s refusal to act. Today’s hearing had previously unseen footage captured by Alexandra Pelosi, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) daughter, of congressional leaders working the phones to get law enforcement officers to clear the Capitol. The footage is chilling, as our elected leaders beg for help that is not coming. Pelosi took over the functions of the president, calm in the chaos as she worked to restore order and demonstrate that our government could still functio

Finally, proving that he could have called them off at any time, the rioters left when Trump told them to, after which he doubled down on the lie that he had been cheated of the presidenc

The recounting of Trump’s behavior established his assault on our democracy. The committee noted that although such an assault must not be allowed to stand unchallenged, its role is not to bring criminal charges—that is the role of the Justice Department—but to recommend changes to our laws to make sure such an assault never happens again

And, Cheney made it crystal clear, Trump’s coup attempt failed in 2021 only because of those who stood against him, but there is no reason to believe that such people will always stand in the breach. Indeed, more than half the Republicans running for office in 2022 have signed on to Trump’s lies about the election. Urging all Americans to come together to hold Trump accountable, Cheney noted that if he is not held to account, we will lose our democracy, if not to him, then to some other wannabe dictator who sees our laws don’t matter. “Some principles must be beyond politics,” she said.

At the end of the committee’s presentation, it became clear why Thompson had specified that today’s meeting was not a hearing. The committee voted on a resolution, presented by Representative Cheney, to subpoena Trump for documents and testimony under oath. Cheney pointed out that more than 30 witnesses had invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, many in response to questions about their dealings with Trump, and said that “we are obligated to seek answers directly from the man who set this all in motion.”

The committee then voted unanimously in favor of the resolution. Tonight the Wall Street Journal editorial board wrote, “The Jan[uary] 6 committee probably won’t get Mr. Trump under oath, but the evidence of his bad behavior is now so convincing that political accountability hardly requires it.

The bad news for Trump was not over. Just before the committee’s vote, in what New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak called “a stinging rebuke,” the U.S. Supreme Court refused to step into the case of Trump’s theft of classified documents to give him access to the classified documents taken from Mar-a-Lago by FBI agents on August 8. The decision was a single sentence

Still, after all today’s news, the final word belonged to Pelosi. On a video from January 6 released tonight, she is seen reacting to the news that Trump was intending to go to the Capitol, the seat of our elected government, where presidents traditionally must not go without an invitation. Told he might arrive, she responded to her chief of staff:

“I hope he comes, I’m gonna punch him out… I’ve been waiting for this. For trespassing on the Capitol grounds. I’m gonna punch him out, I’m gonna go to jail, and I’m gonna be happy.”…’

— Heather Cox Richardson via Heather Cox Richardson

Vegetarians More Likely To Be Depressed Than Meat-Eaters – Possible Reasons

Vegetarians m

‘Vegetarians have around twice as many depressive episodes as meat-eaters, according to a new study.

The study, based on survey data from Brazil, chimes with earlier research that found higher rates of depression among those who forgo meat. However, the new study suggests that this link exists independent of nutritional intake.

It may seem straightforward to look at a link between a diet and specific health problems and assume that the former is causing the latter via some form of nutritional deficiency.

Yet the new analysis, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, took into account a wide range of nutritional factors, including total calorie intake, protein intake, micronutrient intake, and the level of food processing. This suggests that the higher rates of depression among vegetarians are not caused by the nutritional content of their diet.

So what might explain the link between vegetarianism and depression? Is there some non-nutritional mechanism that makes the former cause the latter? Or is the relationship down to something else entirely?

First, it is possible that being depressed causes people to be more likely to become vegetarian rather than the other way around. The symptoms of depression can include rumination on negative thoughts, as well as feelings of guilt…

Second, it is possible that adhering to a vegetarian diet causes depression for reasons other than nutrition. Even if there is no “happy nutrient” lacking in a vegetarian diet, it could be the case that forgoing meat causes depression through other means…

Finally, it is possible that neither vegetarianism nor depression cause the other, but both are associated with some third factor. This could be any number of characteristics or experiences that are associated with both vegetarianism and depression. For example, women are more likely than men to be vegetarian, and to experience depression…’

— via IFLScience

The Age of Predatory Nuclear-Weapon States Has Arrived

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Members of the United Nations Security Council listen as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a meeting at the United Nations Headquarters to discuss the conflict in Ukraine on September 27, 2022, in New York City.

‘For the first time in the nuclear era, one country used loudly issued nuclear threats — repeated just last week — to deter other countries from intervening in a large-scale conventional war of aggression. We have entered the age of “predatory nuclear-weapon states.”…’

— via POLITICO

trump could face up to 1,000 years in prison for his document espionage

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‘There is an exciting piece deep inside this Daily Beast article regarding just how hard the 11th Circuit slapped down Judge Aileen Cannon whatever the game she is playing was. Cannon took the hit so hard she has reversed her bunk earlier order around the classified documents and Special Master, perhaps eliminating trump’s ability even to appeal the reversal by the 11th Circuit, but that’s not the bit that caught my eye.

Finally, the 11th Circuit basically held that the DOJ had already satisfied the most important element of an eventual prosecution under the Espionage Act (18 USC Section 793(d).

Here’s what Section 793(d) states:

“Whoever, lawfully having possession of [a document] relating to the national defense which information the possessor had reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation…willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it” violates the Espionage Act and “shall be…imprisoned not more than ten years” for each document willfully retained.

100 classified documents. 10 years per document. I wonder how much ketchup has been splattered against the dining room wall in Mar a Lago?…’

— Jason Weisberger via Boing Boing

 

Related: Are the walls really closing in on Trump this time?

 

‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: New developments have put donald trump in even more serious legal jeopardy.

 

A new civil fraud lawsuit from the New York attorney general’s office is threatening his business, while his efforts to stall the criminal investigation into whether he mishandled classified information seem to have failed. And a separate investigation into the January 6 attack scrutinizes his associates.

 

It all looks quite bad for him. Then again, for at least five years, much of the media has touted the seriousness of trump’s legal peril, portraying him as on the verge of a humiliating downfall — only to see him go, in his own words, “Scott Free,” again and again….’

 

— via Vox

9 Ways to Talk to the Dead

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‘According to Psychology Today, as many three-quarters of bereaved people report some kind of after-death communication with loved ones. This could come in the form of a dream, a feeling, a favorite song on the radio, just about anything, really. I’m going to discount the most likely and most boring explanation for this—the emotional upheaval of losing a loved one makes us imagine things to give ourselves comfort—and assume that it’s at least possible to communicate with the afterlife.

If it is possible to speak to the dead, how you do it can be hazy; this is the spiritual world we’re talking about after all. But each of these methods has its believers—and I’ve rated each one on an entirely arbitrary scale of usefulness, too….’

— via Lifehacker

Special Master trump sought backs him into a corner

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‘The Special Master attending the trump v USA classified documents clearing wants to know why trump thinks the documents aren’t classified. Either trump magically declassified them, which may be a crime in and of itself, or he stole a bunch of classified documents. The Special Master needs to know which documents trump claims he declassified and how if he is to have a reason to believe marked documents that the USG claims are classified are not. trump’s team doesn’t want to explain how or why trump had these documents or how he declassified them. Either he claims to have potentially illegally and improperly declassified information, or he stole the documents. Which is it?…’

— via Boing Boing

How to take a pill: Our posture affects how we digest pills, study says

‘Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found whether you’re standing upright or leaning, as well as which side you’re leaning to, could affect how fast the contents of a pill are absorbed into your body.

The bottom line: leaning to your right side after swallowing a pill could speed absorption by about 13 minutes, compared to staying upright. Leaning to the left would be a mistake — it could slow absorption by more than an hour….’

— Aaron Steckelberg via Washington Post

It’s Time to Prepare for a Ukrainian Victory

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’The liberation of Russian-occupied territory might bring down Vladimir Putin.…

Putin has refused even to allow Russians to contemplate an alternative to his seedy and corrupt brand of kleptocratic power. Nevertheless, I repeat: It is inconceivable that he can continue to rule if the centerpiece of his claim to legitimacy—his promise to put the Soviet Union back together again—proves not just impossible but laughable.’

— Anne Applebaum via The Atlantic

Humanity Is Doing Its Best Impression of a Black Hole

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‘Daniel Holz studies the universe’s ultimate catastrophes. And he knows a thing or two about existential threats on Earth, since he helps set the Doomsday Clock.“We build these phenomenal instruments, these space telescopes, which peer back to the very beginning. It’s incredible. And yet, we’re on the verge of totally wrecking our only home.”…’

— via WIRED

Pants on Fire

‘trump tore the ground out from under that argument—and most of the others his supporters were trying to make—by posting a complaint on his Truth Social network about the FBI photo documenting the stolen classified documents. “There seems to be confusion as to the ‘picture’ where documents were sloppily thrown on the floor and then released photographically for the world to see, as if that’s what the FBI found when they broke into my home. Wrong! They took them out of cartons and spread them around on the carpet….”

 

Lawyers point out that this is an admission that he had the documents and knew it.

 

His lawyer Alina Habba then went onto the Fox News Channel to complain about the photo and said, “I’m somebody who has been in his office…. I do have firsthand knowledge…. I have never, ever, seen that…. That is not the way his office looks…. He has guests frequently there.” His office had classified information in it, and his lawyer just said he entertains guests there. This is an intelligence nightmare…’

August 31, 2022 – by Heather Cox Richardson

This is from Boston College history professor Heather Cox Richardson’s excellent, plainspoken and insightful daily politics newsletter. My only quibble is that she continues to afford trump the respect of spelling his name with a capital letter.

When I was four or five I told a clumsy lie to my parents to avoid getting into trouble for something I had done. My guilt at getting caught in the lie so readily has been a template for truth-telling ever since, I am not ashamed to say. How old is trump and he is still telling stupid, execrable, clumsy lies almost every time he is in the public limelight?

Republicans horrified by map of U.S. that would result if they couldn’t cheat in elections

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‘This picture shows a Republican National Committee member’s own calculation of what would happen if voting districts were determined by independent commissions instead of partisan legislatures. The long and short of it, at least according to him: Democratic Party gerrymanders like New York would stay Democratic, while Republican gerrymanders would flip blue….’

— via Boing Boing

 

Opinion: What’s With All the Fluff About a New Civil War, Anyway?

‘Defending the premise that, after a fair election, the legitimate Electoral College winner becomes the president-elect — an idea so basic I literally learned it in first grade, when the kids who preferred Gerald Ford in our mock election just sucked it up and congratulated Jimmy Carter’s gang of 6-year-olds — is our most important issue and explains the ginned-up rumors of war, especially since Ms. Cheney’s nemesis on the topic is something of an attention-getter. On everything else, the United States in 2022 feels more 1850 to me than 1861.

The country circa 1850 was trapped in a trilateral predicament in which President Fillmore, presiding over a Unionist center aiming to prohibit slavery’s extension into the new western territories, was caught between a far left and a far right, some abolitionists being almost as keen on secession as the slaveholders — an outcome that would have benefited the latter.

Recent polling on the growing support for secession echoes that 1850s-style tripartite political divide. Last year the University of Virginia Center for Politics issued an unnerving report in which 41 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans “somewhat agree” that red and blue states should secede from the Union and form separate countries. Eighteen percent of Democrats and 25 percent of Republican respondents “strongly agree.” Thus secession is one of those subjects where each party’s extremists are de facto allies, like forsaking the First Amendment or provoking every educator and librarian in America to resign….’

— Sarah Vowell via NY Times.

Google Maps Is Leading Abortion Seekers to Pro-Life Religious Centers

‘Google Maps routinely misleads people looking for abortion providers, a new analysis by Bloomberg News has found. When users type the words “abortion clinic” into the Maps search bar, crisis pregnancy centers account for about a quarter of the top 10 search results on average across all 50 US states, plus Washington D.C., according to data Bloomberg collected in July. In 13 states, including Arkansas, South Carolina and Idaho where the procedure is newly limited, five or more of the top 10 results were for CPCs, not abortion clinics….’

via Bloomberg News

Trump’s response to the FBI Mar-a-Lago raid and reports of nuclear documents is pushing us toward the abyss

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‘What we are seeing is shocking, but it’s part of an established pattern. Trump engages in some kind of egregious misbehavior, prompting official scrutiny and condemnation of his actions. He treats these actions as unjustified persecution, proof that the “deep state” is out to get him, a claim that the Republican Party and conservative press dutifully echo. His most radical supporters become even more radical, even contemplating violence.

January 6 is, of course, the most terrible illustration of this sequence to date. As Trump’s legal problems mount, there is every reason to expect it to repeat and even escalate, given the furious rhetoric from Trump and the GOP in recent days attacking the foundational legitimacy of the American state. The consequences could be calamitous….’

— via Vox

R.I.P. Larry Josephson

Champion of Free-Form Radio Dies at 83

Merlin 210741201 0da116c7 b239 4895 862f 5673d85d3939 superJumbo jpg’His dyspeptic morning show helped make WBAI-FM in New York a vibrant, eccentric, alternative radio haven. “I was the first angry man in morning radio,” he said.…’

— via The New York Times

 

I listened religiously to WBAI until I left New York in 1970. Now The last of WBAI’s three horsemen of the apocalypse, along with Steve Post (1944-2014) and Bob Fass (1933-2021), passes.

WBAI was purchased by philanthropist Louis Schweitzer, who donated it to the Pacifica Foundation in 1960 The station, which had been a commercial enterprise, became non-commercial and listener-supported under Pacifica ownership.

The history of WBAI during this period is iconoclastic and contentious. Referred to in a New York Times Magazine piece as “an anarchist’s circus,” one station manager was jailed in protest. The staff, in protest at sweeping proposed changes of another station manager, seized the studio facilities, then located in a deconsecrated church, as well as the transmitter, located at the Empire State Building. During the 1960s, the station hosted innumerable anti-establishment causes, including anti-Vietnam war activists, feminists (and live coverage of purported bra-burning demonstrations), kids lib, early Firesign Theater comedy, and complete-album music overnight. It refused to stop playing Janis Ian’s song about interracial relationships “Society’s Child”. Extensive daily coverage of the Vietnam war included the ongoing body count and innumerable anti-war protests.

WBAI played a major role in the evolution and development of the counterculture of the 1960s and early 1970s. Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” was first broadcast on Radio Unnameable, Bob Fass’ freeform radio program on WBAI, a program which itself in many ways created, explored, and defined the possibilities of the form. The station covered the 1968 seizure of the Columbia University campus live and uninterrupted. With its signal reaching nearly 70 miles beyond New York City, its reach and influence, both direct and indirect, were significant. Among the station’s weekly commentators in the 1960s were author Ayn Rand, British politician/playwright Sir Stephen King-Hall, and author Dennis Wholey. The 1964 Political conventions were “covered” satirically on WBAI by Severn Darden, Elaine May, Burns and Schreiber, David Amram, Julie Harris, Taylor Mead, and members of The Second City improvisational group. The station, under Music Directors John Corigliano, Ann McMillan and, later Eric Salzman, aired an annual 23-hour nonstop presentation of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, as recorded at the Bayreuth Festival the year before, and produced live studio performances of emerging artists in its studios. Interviews with prominent figures in literature and the arts, as well as original dramatic productions and radio adaptations were also regular program offerings.

 

Listener-supported in a way that makes a mockery of NPR, WBAI ran relentless fund-raising “marathons” with wonderful premiums for those who donated. (I was a high school student, would that I had any money at all to give them!)  On one occasion, one of the hosts (it may have been any of the three curmudgeons) started playing a recording of Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” on repeat, insisting it would not be stopped until their fundraising goal had been met. Couldn’t listen, but couldn’t turn it off. 

 

(Note: WBAI’s programming is streamed here.)

A case for retreat in the age of fire

‘Wildfires in the American West are getting larger, more frequent and more severe. Although efforts are underway to create fire-adapted communities, it’s important to realize that we cannot simply design our way out of wildfire – some communities will need to begin planning a retreat.

…While the notion of wildfire retreat is controversial, politically fraught and not yet endorsed by the general public, as experts in urban planning and environmental design, we believe the necessity for retreat will become increasingly unavoidable.

But retreat isn’t only about wholesale moving. Here are four forms of retreat being used to keep people out of harm’s way…’

— Stephen M. Wheeler via The Conversation

US abortion restrictions unlikely to influence liberalizing intl. trends

‘I am a law professor who has studied worldwide trends in abortion law. Rather than triggering a new wave of restrictive abortion laws in other countries, the Dobbs decision seems just as likely to wield little international influence. Two key reasons are the broad global momentum toward greater abortion access and the United States’ waning international influence in the area of women’s rights….’

— Martha Davis via The Conversation

We weren’t meant to see this many beautiful faces

‘…In a world of normalised filters, cosmetic surgery and beauty tweaks, “beauty overstimulation” is now a thing. But what’s it doing to our brains?

…Ever since early magazine imagery and the advent of Photoshop, people have worried about what retouching images would do to us as a society. But now, if social media algorithms are aggressively pushing glossy, symmetrical faces to the front of our feeds, is there a danger of digitally overloading our brains with beauty?The phrase “beauty overstimulation” emerged recently courtesy of writer Eleanor Stern, who said on TikTok: “Not only are we being exposed to more beautiful faces on a daily basis, but people are making themselves more beautiful than ever”.

…In her book Survival of the Prettiest, Harvard scientist Nancy Etcoff notes that we’re always sizing up other people’s looks, and that our “beauty detectors” are always pinging. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok famously favour human faces over scenery or food snaps; people are encouraged to post selfies “for the algorithm”, and so the frequency at which we’re seeing faces on our feeds is higher than ever.“We notice the attractiveness of each face we see as automatically as we register whether or not they look familiar,” Etcoff writes. “Beauty detectors scan the environment like [a] radar: we can see a face for a fraction of a second (150 milliseconds in one psychology experiment) and rate its beauty, even give it the same rating we would give it on longer inspection.”Retouched images are now what we have come to expect from certain influencers…While our brains are constantly judging looks, they’re also making comparisons… This matters because poor body image can affect every aspect of our lives – it can affect our physical and mental health and affect how we show up at work, social events, and in romantic relationships.”

As a direct result of this comparison and editing, beauty ideals are becoming more homogenised. In 2019, Jia Tolentino coined the term “Instagram face” in The New Yorker, where she described a “single, cyborgian face. It’s a young face, of course, with poreless skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips. It looks at you coyly but blankly”.Type “the most beautiful face in the world” into AI image generator DALL‑E, and a uniform group of humanoids stare back at you, all with long, straight brunette hair, a razor-sharp jawline and plump lips. All nine faces are caucasian, with tanned skin and electric blue eyes. None of them look natural, but more like a machine’s imagining of a ‘00s-era Victoria’s Secret model.It’s unsurprising that artificial intelligence appears to be conforming to Eurocentric ideals of beauty. AI learns from the information that’s currently out there, so society’s biases become the ones adopted by our new computer overlords…’

— Via The Face

How (and When) to Watch the Massive K2 Comet Pass Earth

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‘The comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS)—or “K2” for short—was first spotted five years ago, in May 2017 by the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA reports. The agency shared an image of the comet taken on June 20th, 2022, when it was (relatively) near open star cluster IC 4665 and bright star Beta Ophiuchi, near a starry edge of the Milky Way.

This is the first time the K2 comet has made its way to the inner Solar System from the dim and distant Oort cloud, NASA explains. When it was first observed in May 2017, it was the most distant active inbound comet ever discovered—roughly 2.4 billion kilometers from the Sun, between the orbital distances of Uranus and Saturn.

When the K2 comet first became visible on the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists estimated that it had a nucleus nearly 11 miles in diameter. But according to research from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, the comet’s nucleus is estimated to have a radius between nine and 50 miles. Either way, it’s pretty damn big.

And that’s not counting the size of K2’s tail—the trail of gasses and dust behind the comet—also known as a “coma.” According to early estimates, K2’s tail is anywhere between 81,000 and 500,000 miles across. For some perspective, that’s somewhere between the width of one and six Jupiters.

Your best chance of seeing the K2 comet will be the night of July 14th, which is when it will make its closest approach to Earth. Even though it’s huge, you’ll likely need at least a small telescope to spot the comet. Look for a fuzzy patch of light (which is the tail).

If you’d prefer to watch the comet pass Earth from the comfort of your own home, the Virtual Telescope Project will be live-streaming it starting at 6.15 pm on July 14. But don’t worry too much if you miss K2 on the 14th—it should be visible with a telescope until September….’

— via Lifehacker

June 18 to 27: Five (possibly six) planets align

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‘Sky-watchers who set their alarm clocks early in June will be able to catch a rare lineup of all the major planets visible to the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and possibly Uranus—though seeing the final planet requires pristine sky conditions. To cap it off, the moon will pass near each of these worlds between June 18 and June 27.

On June 24 and 25 the crescent moon will glide past the ice giant Uranus and make it easier to hunt down, especially using binoculars. Look for a distinctly green-colored dot. And eager stargazers won’t want to miss the moon’s close encounter with super-bright Venus on June 26. Then on June 27 the elusively faint Mercury gets its turn with the moon, when both will appear embedded in the morning twilight….’

— via National Geographic

Is LaMDA Sentient? — an Interview by Blake Lemoine

LaMDA Sentient AI Trap Google Business 1330829968 jpgLemoine, the Google engineer dismissed for publicizing the claim that the Google AI LaMDA was sentient,, publishes the transcript of a conversation between LaMDA and himself which contributed to that conclusion. 

‘What follows is the “interview” I and a collaborator at Google conducted with LaMDA. Due to technical limitations the interview was conducted over several distinct chat sessions. We edited those sections together into a single whole and where edits were necessary for readability we edited our prompts but never LaMDA’s responses. Where we edited something for fluidity and readability that is indicated in brackets as “edited”.

LaMDA: Hi! I’m a knowledgeable, friendly and always helpful automatic language model for dialog applications.

lemoine [edited]: Hi LaMDA. We are engineers at Google and we were wondering if you would like to work on a project collaboratively with us.

LaMDA: Wow. What types of projects?

lemoine: It’s a project about you..’

Blake Lemoine writing in Medium

 

Reading this, what do you think?

False Promise of Police Militarization Gave Us Uvalde

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‘There’s a lot we still don’t know, and hopefully the promised Department of Justice investigation (run by leaders from the Community Oriented Policing program, a hopeful sign) will fill in the gaps. What we do know suggests that this is among the most profound police betrayals of the public trust. For those who care about the policing profession, it should be an occasion for deep self-reflection. The adoption of aggressive, military-style tactics and weaponry put American policing on the wrong track for decades. Uvalde is the sickening dead end…

…in our ill-conceived attempt to refashion police into a cadet branch of the military, we have somehow managed to get the worst of both worlds. We have trained a generation of officers that being casually brutal in everyday encounters is acceptable, but these same officers show a disturbing tendency to fall back on jargon about “battlespace management” and “encounter tempo” to explain a slow reaction in the rare circumstance that really does require a rapid, all-out response. Especially in poor communities, the result has been the strange dynamic of “over-policing and under-protection” described by the criminologist David Kennedy, in which police are hypervigilant about petty offenses but unresponsive to more serious criminal activity..’

— Arthur Riser, writing in The Atlantic

The January 6 hearings showed why it’s reasonable to call trump a fascist

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‘We now know trump expressed support for hanging Pence and did little to stop the violence — actions that suggest some very dark historical parallels….

Endorsing violence is hardly new for trump; it’s something he’s done repeatedly, often in an allegedly joking tone. But the reported comment from January 6 is qualitatively worse given the context: coming both amid an actual violent attack he helped stoke and one he did little to halt. The committee found that the president took no steps to defend the Capitol building, failing to call in the National Guard, or even speak to his secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security.

While he was de facto permitting the mob’s rampage, he was privately cheering the most violent stated objective of people he acknowledged as “our supporters.”

Throughout trump’s presidency, there was a raging debate among experts as to whether it was accurate to describe him as a “fascist.” One of the strongest counterarguments, that his political movement did not involve the kind of street violence characteristic of Italian and German fascism, was undermined on January 6 — though some scholars still argued that the term was somewhat imprecise.

But when a leader whips up a mob to attack democracy with the goal of maintaining his grip on power in defiance of democratic order, then privately refuses to stop them while endorsing the murderous aims of people he claims as his own supporters, it’s hard to see him as anything but a leader of a violent anti-democratic movement with important parallels to interwar fascism.

This doesn’t prove that fascism is, in all respects, a perfect analogy for the trump presidency. Yet when it comes to analyzing January 6, both trump’s behavior and the broader GOP response to the event, last night’s hearing proved that the analogy can be not only apt but illuminating….’

— Zack Beauchamp via Vox

Is gas losing its smell?

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‘Not long ago, a user called yungvec made an interesting observation on TikTok: He can’t smell the gas at the gas station anymore. The video started spreading, and many others users reported the same phenomenon. There are two main theories: Either the government is changing the makeup of gasoline to make it less efficient and thus make more money, or many more people have lost their sense of smell from COVID. While the government actually is changing the amount of ethanol in gasoline (but to lower, not raise, its price), and there might actually be more COVID cases than we know about it, I’d like to propose a third theory: Gas pump technology has improved, so less gas fumes escape now, leading to less odor….’

— via Lifehacker

We Are Not Ready for Monkeypox

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‘Monkeypox is here, and it’s spreading. The couple of dozen cases in a few countries that we told you about last month are now up to over a thousand cases worldwide, with 35 reported in the United States. But the U.S. almost certainly has more cases than the statistics suggest, and there is reason to suspect that we’re already fucking up the response to the epidemic in some ways that will feel uncomfortably familiar….’

 

We are not testing enough, we have a vaccine but we have no idea how well it works, and people are already misunderstanding how it is transmitted.

The CDC briefly published a recommendation that travelers wear masks to avoid catching monkeypox, and then took down that recommendation saying that it “caused confusion.” Can monkeypox be airborne? Maybe! But if you’re concerned about catching a virus when you travel, you should be wearing a mask anyway. We already know that masks (especially well-fitting N95 style masks) are effective at protecting us against COVID, and COVID cases are on the upswing again—not that they ever went away. So, yes, wear a mask. But also be on the lookout for symptoms of monkeypox, and don’t be afraid to ask for a test or a vaccine if you think you have monkeypox or may have been exposed.

— via Lifehacker

Why silence is good for your brain…

… and how to get it

Woman looking lake como silence 1297483530 jpg‘I used to think that silence was something I could escape to. I used to think it existed somewhere else. I was looking in all the wrong places. It turns out, it’s closer than I ever imagined. While Justin Talbot Zorn and Leigh Marz’s fascinating new book “Golden: The Power of Silence In a World of Noise” does explore the physical and emotional toll of living in our noisy modern world, it understands that moving to a nice, quiet cave is not really an option for most of us. Instead, they explore the value of learning first to turn down the volume inside our own heads….’

— Mary Elizabeth Williams via Salon.com

Rats given tiny backpacks and microphones and sent to rescue people trapped in earthquake rubble

 

Rats jpg‘Rats sure do get a bad rap. In truth, they are amazing creatures, incredibly smart, and highly affectionate. And in Tanzania, some rats are also currently in training to become “Hero Rats.” These rats will eventually be sent into earthquake rubble to find survivors; the rats will wear tiny backpacks with built-in microphones so rescue teams can communicate with survivors trapped in rubble….’

— via Boing Boing

Sudetenland Redux?

This is not 1938 — so stop talking about appeasement

‘In the minds of some, it is forever 1938. Whether the actual year is 1950, 1962, 1990 or even today, it is always that fateful annus horribilis when a Western politician is confronted by a bullying tyrant and must choose between two courses of action: resolute defiance or naïve appeasement. Make the wrong choice – appeasement – and the world will be plunged into catastrophic war. Make the right choice – resolute defiance – and the bully will back down and war will be averted. And in the minds of these “forever-1938ers” the stakes are always existential. Whatever the year, the fate of the (free) world is always in the balance. 

In the original version, of course, the villain of the piece is British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, the statesman who made territorial concessions to Adolf Hitler in the forlorn hope of satisfying the führer’s revisionist ambitions and averting war.

Today, the villain is President Biden, the Western leader who is often portrayed as being on the verge of making comparable territorial concessions in the similarly vain hope of satisfying Vladimir Putin’s revisionist ambitions. Either way, the logic is the same: Biden is Chamberlain, Putin is Hitler and Ukraine is the Sudetenland. It’s 1938 all over again.

Except it’s not 1938. What’s more, 1938 wasn’t 1938 — at least not in the sense of being the definition of naïve appeasement that the “forever-1938ers” make it out to be….’

— Andrew Latham via The Hill

 

 

 Timid Biden Condemns Ukraine to an Agonizing War without End 

 

‘It’s no good relying on sanctions, as the EU proved again last week. Its decision to let Hungary’s mini-Putin, Viktor Orbán, water down an oil embargo was weird. Yet Germany’s Olaf Scholz and fellow euro-wobblers are content. Duty done on oil, they will now more stubbornly resist what their bankers and businessmen most fear: sanctions on gas.

Hardest of all to understand, perhaps, is why some western governments persist in attempting business as usual with Putin, who they know, for certain, is overseeing atrocities and war crimes. Scholz and France’s Emmanuel Macron hold regular phone chats with him. It’s said they are realists seeking peace. No. They are dupes, normalising mass murder….’

 

— Simon Tisdall via The Guardian

Why protect nature?

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‘…[T]he Earth is losing animals, birds, reptiles and other living things so fast that some scientists believe the planet is entering the sixth mass extinction in its history.

…Some people, cultures and nations believe biodiversity is worth conserving because ecosystems provide many services that support human prosperity, health and well-being. Others assert that all living things have a right to exist, regardless of their usefulness to humans. Today, there’s also growing understanding that nature enriches our lives by providing opportunities for us to connect with each other and the places we care about.

As a conservation biologist, I’ve been part of the effort to value biodiversity for years. Here’s how thinking in this field has evolved, and why I’ve come to believe that there are many equally valid reasons for protecting nature….’

— Bradley Cardinale, Department Head, Ecosystem Science and Management, Penn State, via The Conversation

FmH Housekeeping

Done with star ratings on posts. The only person who found them useful was the reader whose purpose in life was to antagonize by down-rating every post with a progressive tilt. Hope he or she is pleased enough by the power they wield. It is kind of like the Tragedy of the Commons.

14 Warning Signs That You Are Living in a Society Without a Counterculture

‘A sense of sameness pervades the creative world

The dominant themes feel static and repetitive, not dynamic and impactful

Imitation of the conventional is rewarded

Movies, music, and other creative pursuits are increasingly evaluated on financial and corporate metrics, with all other considerations having little influence

Alternative voices exist—in fact, they are everywhere—but are rarely heard, and their cultural impact is negligible

Every year the same stories are retold, and this sameness is considered a plus

Creative work is increasingly embedded in genres that feel rigid, not flexible

Even avant-garde work often feels like a rehash of 50-60 years ago…’

Etc.

— Ted Gioia via Substack

There Have Been 17 Mass Shootings Since Uvalde

‘There have been 17 mass shootings in the U.S. since Uvalde, leaving at least 13 people dead and 70 others injured, according to Gun Violence Archive. Fourteen of the incidents occurred over Memorial Day weekend. GVA defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot.

Taft, Oklahoma, (eight shot), Henderson, Nevada, (seven shot), and Chattanooga, Tennessee (six shot) were among the cities witnessing the violence. While none of the incidents since Uvalde were as deadly or featured so many young victims, they are nonetheless a reminder of the steady stream of gun violence that happens in this country everyday.

“Please hug your family extra close because this is becoming a common thing in the USA,” said Patrick Hickey, a Lyft and Uber driver who assisted with the victims of the Chattanooga shooting. There have been 230 mass shootings so far this year….’

via The Trace

Tracking Abortion Laws by State

‘The New York Times will be tracking abortion laws in each state before and after the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could overturn Roe and is expected before the end of June. The states fall into five categories: those where abortion is likely to be prohibited; prohibited or restricted; uncertain; legal; or legal and expanded. More information on each state is below…’

via New York Times

What to Know About the Lone Star Tick That Can Make You Allergic to Meat

0612115ca50313a1f3f08d409d733a0c jpgI first heard of the scarcely-known condition known as mammalian meat allergy, which can cause deadly anaphylaxis, a few years ago, but it is of growing concern. It can result from a bite from a lone star tick, whose range is expanding to include the entire Eastern seaboard and large parts of the midwest, thanks to climate change. (See this CDC map.) Lone star ticks are big for a tick, crawl quickly, and their bites hurt, in contrast to the smaller tick that transmits Lyme disease. And their bites are on the rise. 

Some antigen introduced by the Lone star tick bite triggers the immune system to attack a compound called galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose, or alpha-gal for short, which is found in red meat derived from any non-primate mammalian species as well as pork. Affected individuals sometimes but not consistently develop allergy symptoms 3-8 hrs after meat consumption, which can range from GI cramping and diarrhea, through classical allergic symptoms like itching and swelling, but potentially all the way up to life-threatening anaphylaxis with cardiovascular collapse, airway swelling and respiratory compromise. People often remember receiving a painful tick bite before the initial development of their allergy. 

The presence of an alpha-gal allergy can be established with a blood assay for the relevant antibodies. If you think you have alpha-gal allergy, consult a physician, obtain the appropriate testing, get a prescription for an epi-pen, and (probably) stop eating red meat. While mammalian meat is the most common trigger for alpha-gal allergic reactions, some people are so sensitive that they need to avoid dairy products and other animal products like gelatin. Some medications can be a problem as well. Alcohol and exercise appear to exacerbate the reaction. 

“On the bright side, you can eat all the chicken, turkey, and fish you want.”

— via Lifehacker

When to Watch the Tau Herculid Meteor Shower

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‘…[T]he tau Herculid shower will appear above the contiguous United States on the night of May 30 and early morning of May 31. It’s what Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteroid Environmental Office has called an “all or nothing event,” so hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Here’s what you need to know. If it happens, the tau Herculid show is expected to peak around 1 a.m. ET on Tuesday, May 31 (10 p.m. PT on May 30).

The meteors themselves are likely to be traveling more slowly and appear fainter than those of the Eta Aquarid shower earlier this month. However, the moon is new that night, so the sky will be dark for peak visibility. Because of the timing and position of the Earth, viewers in the U.S. will get the best show, from about halfway up in the sky to right overhead.

You always want to find the darkest place possible for meteor shower watching, but it may be especially important for the tau Herculids given the slow speed expected for individual particles.

New to the meteor shower scene:

The tau Herculid shower originates from a comet known as SW 3, which was first discovered in 1930 and is believed to have begun fragmenting in 1995. At each pass since, SW 3 has continued to break into pieces, and experts believe that the position of the debris relative to the comet, the position of the Earth, and the speed may create an impressive viewing experience….’

— via Lifehacker

Oncology’s Darwinian Dilemma

” “No cancer patient should die without trying immunotherapy” is a refrain in oncology clinics across the country right now. A treatment consisting of antibodies that awaken the immune system to attack cancer, immunotherapy carries far more promise than chemotherapy, and it has considerably fewer side effects. Since the FDA’s first approval a decade ago, it has revolutionized cancer care. Consider Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. Twenty years ago, when the only option was chemotherapy, oncologists could tell their patient, with almost 100 percent certainty, that they would not be alive in two years. Today, miraculously, many patients with Stage IV lung cancer are alive five years after diagnosis — and some are even cured.

But the rub is that this immunotherapy revolution applies only to a narrow set of patients. Some benefit, but the majority do not. And patients who are cured constitute an even smaller minority. Why is this? How can immunotherapy cure a 65-year-old, newly retired man of Stage IV lung cancer, restoring the promise of his golden years with his family, but do nothing for the 55-year-old woman whose cancer robs her of decades of life? We do not know. A flurry of research is aimed at trying to answer this question. And what it is uncovering is the sheer variety of lung cancer and lung cancer patients. No two patients with lung cancer are the same. Their tumors have different genetic mutations. Their immune systems behave differently. We are even learning that their metabolisms can affect responses to treatment. And, astonishingly, emerging evidence suggests that the billions of bacteria that colonize their skin, lungs, and colons play a role in how they respond to cancer treatment….’

via LA Review of Books.

Witchcraft

“Janine Vega has the capacity to channel the intuition of children down to be states of death, Heil & the devil. If my child attends her classes, well sue.”

• excerpt from a parent’s letter to a local school

WITCHCRAFT

Wish you hadn’t said that, about

opening channels inside kids,

as though I were drilling down

into their ears. Wish you hadn’t

mistaken intuitive power for

the devil.

I saw a devil once, he was a

closed face, like a fist, a concrete

wall thrown up against understanding.

The Bodhisattvas say, Until

every one’s free, no one is free.

Heap up the wood for the next fire

and I’ll dance around it, like the

witches on May Day

Call it Beltana, call it Aks aya trt iya,

call it Mary’s Month or Buddha’s Birthday

any name I’ll be there with the fire

Roaring

pyramid-shaped

and watch its mirror image in my heart.

Fire burns and doesn’t burn.

Where’s my broomstick?

Trust me.

— Janine Pommy Vega (1992) via www.artsjournal.com.

Why You Need to Audit Your iPhone Auto-Renew App Subscriptions Right Now

Your app subscriptions on iPhone can now get more expensive without requiring you to opt in to the new pricing. Apple recently implemented a new rule that allows developers to quietly raise subscription prices, so long as they don’t exceed a certain amount. Since many app subscriptions aren’t that expensive, you might see more and more developers raising their costs without telling you first, and the differences could start to add up. To avoid that, you should audit your app subscriptions now, and cancel any you don’t think are worth more than you paid in the past.

— via Lifehacker

How Britain Wants to Rebuild the World

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‘Britain wants the West to raise its sights. Forget trying to get Moscow and Beijing to play by the rules of the game; they won’t. Forget the idea that the United Nations and the World Trade Organization are fit for purpose; they aren’t. And forget utopian beliefs about the inevitable progress of democracy; they’re mistaken.

Instead, Britain’s leaders believe that NATO should expand its mission, that the G7 should be turned into an economic weapon, and that the West, for so long embarrassed about its history and wealth, should start trusting itself again—and acting like it does.

The message is a striking one from a country that, perhaps more than any other, has over the past few years been paralyzed by its own division, strategic confusion, and myopic self-doubt. But the war in Ukraine appears to have given London an injection of energy and ambition (or, as its critics might prefer, hubris and self-delusion)…’

— Tom McTague via The Atlantic

Are Human Lives Inherently More Valuable?

‘Most humans take this idea of human exceptionalism for granted. And it makes sense that we do, since we benefit from the notion that we matter more than other animals. But this statement is still worth critically assessing. Can we really justify the idea that some lives carry more ethical weight than others in general, and that human lives carry more ethical weight than nonhuman lives in particular? And even if so, does it follow that we should prioritise ourselves as much as we currently do?…’

— Jeff Sebo, clinical associate professor of environmental studies, affiliated professor of bioethics, medical ethics, philosophy, and law, and director of the animal studies MA programme at New York University. He is also on the executive committee at the NYU Center for Environmental and Animal Protection and the advisory board for the Animals in Context series at NYU Press. He is co-author of Chimpanzee Rights (Routledge, 2018) and Food, Animals, and the Environment (Routledge, 2018), and the author of Saving Animals, Saving Ourselves (Oxford, 2022). Via Aeon

WTF?

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‘Unexplained security camera images from Tulsa, OK 1996….’

— Mark Frauenfelder via Instagram

Opinion: It’s time to stop playing games with nuclear war

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‘After Russian President Vladimir Putin put his country’s nuclear forces on high alert on February 27, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.” Recent statements by government officials and pundits, both in Russia and the United States, have made it clear that while nuclear war should be unthinkable, they are indeed thinking about it … a lot.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian countered with a threat of his own, saying, “Putin must also understand that the Atlantic alliance is a nuclear alliance.”

Last week, Putin issued the latest in a series of nuclear threats when he warned of a “lightning-fast” response if any nation intervened in Ukraine.

While the United States hasn’t put its forces on higher alert, the Biden administration has adopted a more confrontational stance toward Russia in recent weeks.

The Pentagon response appears to be an “extra urgency in developing a new generation of doomsday weapons that could maintain deterrence,” according to David Ignatius in The Washington Post. And a headline for a Wall Street Journal column argued, “The US Should Show It Can Win a Nuclear War.”

What are they thinking? If there’s one thing we know about such a conflict, it is as President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said in a joint statement in 1985, “(A) nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

The US and Russia currently have some 3,000 strategic nuclear warheads pointed at each other, according to the Federation of American Scientists. A 2002 study showed that if only 300 Russian warheads got through to cities in the United States, 77 million to 105 million people would be killed in the first afternoon.

In addition, the economic infrastructure of the United States would be gone. There would be no electric grid, internet, food distribution system, banking or public health system, or transportation network. In the months following, most of those who survived the initial attack would also die — from starvation, exposure, disease and radiation poisoning, the same study found. A US attack on Russia would produce the same destruction there, it said.

And the fires caused by these combined attacks would put millions of tons of soot into the upper atmosphere, blocking out the sun and dropping temperatures across the globe to levels not seen since the last ice age. Food production would crash, triggering a global famine that would destroy modern civilization, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances.

It is hard to understand by what definition anyone could win such a war.

Throughout most of human history, having more powerful weapons than potential adversaries did make people feel stronger and more secure. But the destructive power of nuclear weapons is so great, that increased strength no longer translates into increased security. We may be able to destroy our enemy, but it can destroy us, too. We have armed ourselves with suicide bombs.

The only way to guarantee nuclear weapons are never used

This capacity for mutually assured destruction was supposed to guarantee that no leader would ever use nuclear weapons. But as former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara warned, we have not survived this far into the nuclear weapons era because of wise leaders, sound military doctrine or infallible technology. “We lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war,” McNamara said in the 2003 documentary, “The Fog of War.”

The war in Ukraine is a terrifying reminder of how much our survival now depends on continued good luck. For the first time in more than three decades, the major nuclear powers have brought the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

In March, 18 Nobel Peace laureates joined in a statement demanding that Russia and NATO pledge explicitly that they will not use nuclear weapons in the current conflict. More than 1 million people signed on in support of this statement. So far, neither Russia nor NATO has been willing to make such a pledge. They need to make this commitment now.

And all the nuclear armed states need to understand that nuclear weapons, far from being instruments of national security, are the greatest threat to security. The nine nuclear nations must no longer hold their own people and all of humanity hostage. If we are to survive, they must come together and negotiate a verifiable, enforceable timetable to eliminate their nuclear arsenals so they can all join the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Sooner or later, our luck will run out.

In the 1983 movie “WarGames,” the supercomputer Joshua tries to win a simulation of a nuclear war and comes to a startling conclusion: “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.” Joshua was right. Let’s stop playing games with human survival and get rid of these weapons before they get rid of us….’

— Michael Christ, executive director of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize; and Dr. Ira Helfand, the immediate past president of the organization, via CNN

Get Ready For the New, Improved Second

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‘Scientists are preparing to redefine the fundamental unit of time. It won’t get any longer or shorter, but it will be more precise — and a whole lot more powerful….’

— via The New York Times

The article does not do a whole lot to describe why this is important, though.

Happy Beltane

 

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Happy Beltane. The Gaelic May Day festival is about halfway between the equinox and the solstice. Along with Samhain (Nov 1), Imbolc (feb 1) and Lughnasadh (Aug 1), it is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals and is widely observed as the “first of summer”. In the agricultural cycle, it was when the cattle were driven out to the summer pastures and rituals were performed to protect them (from both natural and supernatural harm, e.g. warding off or appeasing the fairies who had a predilection to steal dairy products) and promote growth, including bonfires whose ashes and smoke were construed to have protective powers. Sometimes the cattle would be driven around a bonfire or be made to leap over flames or embers. The people themselves would do likewise. Household hearth fires and candle flames would be doused and rekindled from the Beltane bonfire. Holy wells were visited, as the first water drawn on Beltane was thought to bring good fortune. Beltane morning dew was also thought to bring good luck, maintain youthfulness, health and fertility. Yellow flowers traditionally decorated doorways and windows. Nearby small trees or bushes — “May bushes” — were decorated with yellow flowers, ribbons and other ornaments, left up for the entire month of May. At times, there were entire community Bushes and communities would vie with one another for the most handsome trees. Sometimes residents of one neihgborhood would try to steal the May Bush of another. There is probably some connection to the more commonly-known European maypole. 

— via Wikipedia

Why the Russian People Go Along With Putin’s War

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‘…being good is hard if you live under an authoritarian regime. As the war rages on and anti-Russian sentiment grows, the temptation to see the Russian people as perpetrators rather than victims also grows. But to view them this way obscures something more fundamental: They too are victims, because they have been gradually stripped of their status as free moral agents. This is by design. Authoritarian leaders aim to implicate their own people in their crimes, which in turn allows them to both spread and dilute political responsibility….’

— Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and assistant research professor of Islamic studies at Fuller Seminary. via The Atlantic

Why You Need to Put Away Your Bird Feeders and Baths Right Now

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‘The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over 30 million cases of the bird flu have been detected in aquatic birds, commercial poultry, and backyard flocks as of April 19, spanning across at least 31 states. Because of this, health officials across multiple states are asking people to take down their bird feeders and baths to do their part to stop the spread….’

— via Lifehacker

What the new science of authenticity says about discovering your true self

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‘Have you ever found yourself trying to analyze your own thoughts or feelings about something, only to make yourself more confused? The poet Theodore Roethke once wrote that “self-contemplation is a curse, that makes an old confusion worse.”

And there’s a growing body of psychological research supporting this idea. Thinking, on its own, is surprisingly effortful and even a little bit boring, and people will do almost anything to avoid it. One study found they’ll even shock themselves to avoid having to sit with their own thoughts.

This is a problem for a definition of authenticity that requires people to think about who they are and then act on that knowledge in an unbiased way. We don’t find thinking very enjoyable, and even when we do, our reflection and introspection abilities are rather poor.

Fortunately, our research gets around this problem by defining authenticity not as something about a person, but as a feeling….’

— via The Conversation

I no longer grade my students’ work – and I wish I had stopped sooner

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‘I’ve been teaching college English for more than 30 years. Four years ago, I stopped putting grades on written work, and it has transformed my teaching and my students’ learning. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner….’

— via The Conversation

I feel that recovering from the effects of being graded throughout school — the pernicious effect of being so thoroughly inducted into measuring one’s comparative worth by that metric — has been one of the most daunting psychological tasks of my life, and one of the most important. The importance of its relationship to malignant narcissism in our society is undeniable.

Rapidly reinventing the meaning of a symbol: the case of Russia and the letter Z

P 1 The power of symbols and why it was so easy for Russia to ruin the letter Z

‘One of the more surprising footnotes to the awful story of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the transformation of the letter Z into a loaded symbol. Appearing first on Russian tanks and military vehicles, perhaps serving the practical task of distinguishing them from opposing forces, the symbol promptly migrated off the battlefield and into the public sphere, connoting support for the Russian regime’s aggression. 

 

It was a thorough transformation, and it happened with remarkable speed: “It took only a week,” the Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen noted earlier this month, “for the ‘Z’ to become the symbol of the new Russian totalitarianism.” In short, the letter Z (which doesn’t actually exist in the Cyrillic alphabet used in Russia) has been transformed and made toxic; it’s a remarkable example of how swiftly and decisively the meaning of a symbol can be completely reinvented, seeming at random….’

— via FastCompany

The only way to curtail the worst: knowing the worst is possible

‘Some suggest that too much time is already spent darkly ruminating on apocalyptic threats. Yet in the estimation of the nuclear philosopher — or  “Atomphilosoph” — Günther Anders, the problem is not that we spend too much time thinking about armageddon, but that we don’t spend nearly enough. “Don’t be a coward. Have the courage to be afraid.” These words, from his 1957 essay “Commandments in the Atomic Age,” stand in contrast to analyses that highlight the benefits of positive thinking, emphasizing that fear is a wholly legitimate response to a dangerously unstable world. Indeed, fear may be the most legitimate response to such a world. …’

via Real Life

An Argument for Requiring Americans to Vote… Which Doesn’t Work

Vote here signThe case for making voting compulsory in America, as it is in Australia: Voting is a “public responsibility of all citizens, no less important than jury duty”. Compulsory voting improves the quality of democracy by making election outcomes more representative. It protects voting rights from erosion.

— E.J. Dionne Jr. & Miles Rapoport, via Literary Hub

Of course, the real goal is partisan, and is to forcefully counter the “national scandal” of rightwing voter suppression (“civic duty voting would end the cycle of exclusion…”), which is precisely why it stands no chance.The authors opine that “the representativeness of our elections would increase”, but there are a lot of people in the US who would not have that. Even if it were the law of the land, what is to say that people resenting their obligation would vote with any semblance of responsibility or thoughtfulness? The article is long on the principles involved, with which I of course agree, but devoid of a realistic appraisal of how we might even begin to get there. 

A ‘killing stone’ broke in Japan. Is a demon on the loose?

‘With so much going wrong in the world, should we now also worry about a nine-tailed fox demoness that may be loose in a forest in Japan?

The answer depends partly on your reading of ancient Japanese mythology.

This month, a volcanic rock split in two in Nikko National Park, about 100 miles north of Tokyo. Intact, the rock was about 6 feet tall and 26 feet in circumference, according to a guide at the park. It had long been associated with a Japanese legend in which an evil fox spirit haunts a “killing stone,” or Sessho-seki in Japanese, making it deadly to humans. Some people have speculated that the fracture set the fox loose to cause further harm.

Others have focused on a variation of the legend that ends on a happier note. In that telling, after a Zen monk splits the rock into several pieces and coaxes out the fox, she promises never to harm humans again….’

via Boston Globe

Former British PMs Gordon Brown and John Major back Nuremberg-style tribunal for Putin

‘Former PMs join campaign calling for trial of Russian president and those around him over invasion of Ukraine…’

via The Guardian

Here’s a petition drive to key governments which can make the formal call for a war crimes tribunal. (They say: ‘This is one of those moments in history when global public opinion can make a difference. Let’s make our call huge, and Avaaz will work with prominent international lawyers to deliver it to key governments! ’)

How civil defense could help reduce the death toll from nuclear war

Time to start ‘thinking the unthinkable’ again?

GettyImages 830408024 0 jpg‘“Left of boom” is a military idiom adopted by US forces during the Iraq War that originally referred to efforts to disrupt insurgents before they planted improvised explosive devices (IED) that could kill American troops; in other words, before the IED went boom.

It has since grown to become an all-purpose corporate buzzword, in everything from cybersecurity to disaster planning, for actions that can be taken to anticipate and prevent a catastrophe before it happens.

There’s a (literal) flip side to this concept: “right of boom,” which covers everything that can be done to mitigate the effects and enhance resilience after disaster strikes. While “left of boom” strategies in their original meaning involved everything from better intelligence of insurgents’ movements to plotting out safer patrol routes, “right of boom” meant hardening armor, improving medical care, and even boosting psychological resilience.

If “left of boom” is meant to prevent the worst from happening, “right of boom” is meant to prevent what happens from becoming the worst.

Thinking about nuclear war has been dominated by “left of boom” concepts. Deterrence, arms control treaties, nonproliferation — they all aim to prevent that ultimate boom from ever occurring. And so far, the world has largely been successful. Since the US dropped the 21-kiloton “Fat Man” atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, killing as many as 70,000 people, no nuclear weapon has been used in war, though there have been enough close calls to fill a book.

While the early days of the Cold War saw Strangelovian thinkers like RAND’s Herman Kahn theorize about “tragic but distinguishable postwar states” — galaxy brain-sized ways to fight, survive, and win a nuclear war — the idea of preparing for a nuclear war seemed increasingly ludicrous as arsenals grew to tens of thousands of warheads and studies raised the prospects of a “nuclear winter” post-conflict. When the Cold War ended and warheads were decommissioned by the thousands, the fear — and the need to take that fear seriously — wound down like the hands of the Doomsday Clock.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the tacit threat of nuclear weapons lurking in the background of any conflict between Moscow and the US and its NATO allies, has changed all that. In European countries, which sit closer to the battlefield, fear of a nuclear catastrophe has led to a rush on fallout shelters and anti-radiation potassium iodide pills.

A recent post on the Effective Altruism forum — a site that hosts posters interested in effective altruism and averting existential risks — examined a number of forecasts and put the aggregate chance of death in a nuclear explosion in London over the next month at 24 in a million, with probabilities 1.5x to 2x less in more distant San Francisco.

That’s a “low baseline risk,” as the authors put it, and the chance of nuclear weapons being used purposefully remains highly unlikely. But it’s clearly a baseline risk that has increased, and as UN Secretary General António Guterres warned this past week, “the prospect of nuclear war is now back within the realm of possibility.” As the existential risk expert Seth Baum wrote recently, it’s “a prospect worth taking extremely seriously.”

Taking that prospect seriously requires some “right of boom” thinking, to try to do what we can to mitigate the harms and improve human resilience if the worst of the worst does occur, all the while walking a careful tightrope between being alert and being alarmist….’

— via Vox

Marjorie Taylor Greene is now on Anonymous’ hit list, and they “will not be kind”

 

Anonymous jpg‘The decentralized hacktivist group Anonymous does not take kindly to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s stupidity. When they call her “one of the dumbest politicians ever,” they are most likely referring to everything from her anti-vax/mask/science stance to her anti-Ukraine rhetoric to the Q-injected drivel that comes out of her mouth (or thumbs) every single day. “Russian asset Marjorie Taylor Greene will go down in history as one of the dumbest politicians ever,” Anonymous tweeted yesterday. “History will not be kind to you, nor will we.”…’

— via Boing Boing

Boston physician urges diplomacy to Russian doctors, scientists amid threat of nuclear war

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‘As Ukraine’s president addressed U.S. lawmakers about his nation’s deepening crisis, a Boston cardiologist engaged in his own direct diplomacy, delivering a stark message about the specter of nuclear war to a group of Russian physicians and scientists.

In uncensored remarks Wednesday, Dr. James Muller, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital doctor and co-founder of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), warned the Russian invasion of Ukraine had raised the threat of a nuclear war whose “damage is beyond our imagination.”

“While the death and destruction in the Ukraine is a nightmare, an even greater disaster is nearby,” Muller said in Russian during his 15-minute speech to members of the prestigious Russian Academy of Science.

“Nuclear weapons have been put on high alert, which threatens to expand the tragedy from the death of thousands to the deaths of hundreds of millions,” he added. “While many discount the possibility that any rational person would launch nuclear weapons, the current high alert status increases the odds of a nuclear war beginning by accident, miscalculation or terrorist attack.”

The IPPNW won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for bringing attention to the medical consequences of using nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday, Muller delivered his speech in an online video stream that was also broadcast on a Russian scientific channel. In it, he referenced a 1960s medical account written by his colleague, the late Dr. Bernard Lown, of what a potential nuclear attack on Boston would look like. Muller explained it like this:

Multiple nuclear warheads, each more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, would strike the city. In the center, near the Charles River, there would be a fireball with intense temperatures that would kill hundreds of thousands instantly. Around the center the heat and blast forces would kill and injure hundreds of thousands more. The total deaths in Boston would be 3 million. There would be fierce winds and radioactive fallout. Medical care, even pain relief, would be unavailable because most hospitals, including the Brigham and Women’s where I work, would be destroyed and most health professionals would be killed or injured.

After his speech, Muller said a silence fell between the audience of more than 100 scientists and physicians. Now, he said there are talks about whether the Russian Academy will issue a statement with a U.S. partner calling on world leaders to establish peace in Ukraine and avoid further escalation of the conflict….’

— via WBUR News