What Not to Say to a Cancer Patient

‘What do you think is the most commonly asked question of a person who has, or has had, cancer? If you guessed, “How are you?” you got it right.

But as caring as those words may seem, they are often not helpful and may even be harmful. At a celebratory family gathering a year after my own cancer treatment, a distant relative asked me just that. I answered, “I’m fine.” She then pressed, “How are you really?”“Really” I was fine, I told her.

But what if I hadn’t been? Would I have wanted to launch into a description of bad medical news at what was supposed to be a fun event? Would I have wanted even to be reminded of a bout with cancer? Although my relative undoubtedly meant well, the way her concern was expressed struck me as intrusive…’

Source: Jane Brody, New York Times

Why there is no PTSD in Afghanistan

‘…Nearly four decades of conflict have bankrupted Afghanistan’s infrastructure, if not also the resilience of its people. Its rudimentary healthcare system — once the poster-child of NATO’s development agenda — is scarcely able to cope with the physically ill, let alone those with mental illness and others left psychologically wounded by a cruel epidemic of violence. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and drug-induced psychosis are common fare here; more commonplace yet are major depressive disorder (MDD) and anxiety. What is surprising is that PTSD, or the trauma that follows exposure to violence, is barely diagnosed at all. The question is why…’

Source: Medium


‘he promised a wall.he will be stopped by a wall of us.FOUR CONCRETE ACTS OF RESISTANCE DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX EACH WEEK…’

Source: wall-of-us

Boycott Trump Supporters

[To my fellow Bostonians: note that your hometown favorites New Balance and the New England Patriots are on the list.]

‘Each of these companies have founders, owners, or CEOs who are prominent supporters of Donald Trump. Here’s the thing – that’s their choice. They chose to help put him into office, knowing full well what it meant to tens of millions of Americans. However, it is also OUR CHOICE, and a choice that we must make, to withdraw our support from any person or corporation which supports this man and what he stands for.Now, in the days ahead, many of these companies will say, “But our company does not actually endorse political candidates.” When your CEO or Chairman or primary investor makes a public endorsement, or gives millions of dollars to fund Donald Trump, they deserve to be held accountable for that public position…’

Source: The Donald J. Trump Resistance


Could Use of 25th Amendment Keep Trump From Becoming President?

‘Amid widespread protests and worrying signs of dysfunction in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, millions across the United States are likely wondering how, or if, it’s possible to oust the billionaire from the White House before the 2020 presidential election. While there have long been talks of impeachment hearings, a favorite theory this week for removing Trump from power involves the 25th amendment to the Constitution…’

Source: IBTimes

hysterical literature

‘Hysterical Literature is a video art series by NYC-based photographer and filmmaker Clayton Cubitt. It explores feminism, mind/body dualism, distraction portraiture, and the contrast between culture and sexuality. (It’s also just really fun to watch.)…’

Source: hysterical literature

How to Decide Where to Give?

So one of the things to start to do in the face of Trump’s election is to fund social action programs and progressive charities. It’s the end of the year when the push for charitable giving ramps up. How about commenting below on what organizations you find worthwhile? I’ll start the ball rolling with several I have been giving to for a long while and which I find eminently worthy of your consideration: the ACLU, The Southern Poverty Law Foundation, Partners in Health, Oxfam, the Seva Foundation, Physicians Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), Amnesty International, the Intl Rescue Committee. No, I won’t give to the Clinton Fdtn.

This is just a start; I know I’m probably going to have to start focusing more on combating domestic ills in addition to world hunger and injustice. What do people think of supporting Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, for instance? I welcome your suggestions below and maybe this post can become a sort of compendium resource. In particular, who has an idea about how best to support public media and truth in news reporting? And what groups will be good watchdogs in the Trump years? I’m waiting for the emergence of the right umbrella grassroots organization to lead and unify the opposition. I will give to them til it hurts. I would also be interested in increasing my support in the areas of animal rights and environmental action, especially with the ascendancy of the climate denier faction. And I fully expect the Endangered Species Act to be gutted.

And don’t you expect Trump will also gut federal support for the arts?

CharityWatch: ‘Groups included on the CharityWatch Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on programs, spend $25 or less to raise $100 in public support, do not hold excessive assets in reserve, have met CharityWatch’s governance benchmarks, and receive “open-book” status for disclosure of basic financial information and documents to CharityWatch.’

GiveWell: ‘GiveWell is a nonprofit dedicated to finding outstanding giving opportunities through in-depth analysis. Thousands of hours of research have gone into finding our top rated charities. They’re evidence-backed, thoroughly vetted, and underfunded.’

Christian Science Monitor: America’s Top 50 charities: how well do they rate?

Consumer Reports: Best and Worst Charities for Your Donations

Charity Navigator: Your Guide to Intelligent Giving

Paradoxical Undressing and the Hide-and-Die Syndrome

I don’t know why but this post from ten years ago continues to be one of the most viewed pieces on FmH. Perhaps there is some high-visibility link to it somewhere on the web that people are compelled to click?

Sources of Very Obscure Death Scenes in Lethal Hypothermia (abstract): “Hypothermia is a relatively rare cause of death in temperate climate zones. In most cases of lethal hypothermia, elderly and mentally ill persons are affected as well as persons under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Although most cases of death from hypothermia are accidental, they, more often than other types of death from environmental conditions, produce a death scene that is at first obscure and difficult to interpret. The reason for this frequent obscurity is mainly because of the phenomenon of the so-called paradoxical undressing as well as the hide-and-die syndrome. In many cases, the bodies are found partly or completely unclothed and abrasions and hematomas are found on the knees, elbows, feet, and hands.

The reason for the paradoxical undressing is not yet clearly understood. There are two main theories discussed: one theory proposes that the reflex vasoconstriction, which happens in the first stage of hypothermia, leads to paralysis of the vasomotor center thus giving rise to the sensation that the body temperature is higher than it really is, and, in a paradoxical reaction, the person undresses. The other theory says that it seems to be the effect of a cold-induced paralysis of the nerves in the vessel walls that leads to a vasodilatation giving an absurd feeling of heat.

In 20% of cases of lethal hypothermia, the phenomenon of the so-called hide-and-die syndrome also can be observed. Some of these bodies are situated in a kind of “hidden position,” for example, located under a bed or behind a wardrobe. Apparently, this finding is the result of a terminal primitive reaction pattern, which is probably an autonomous behavior triggered and controlled by the brain stem. It shows the characteristics of both an instinctive behavior and a congenital reflex.” (Forensic Pathology Reviews)

Here is a Google search on the topic for those who wish to pursue it further. Note: ‘hide-and-die syndrome’ is also referred to as ‘terminal burrowing’.

Is Lucky’s Monologue Poetry?

Via Guy Tiphane: ‘In Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, the character named Lucky utters a puzzling monologue (below) when ordered to think. The monologue must be a challenge to the actor because of its length (over 700 words), the lack of punctuation, and the apparent randomness of the utterances. It is loaded with puns and possible meanings in the context of a play in which the dialogue leads nowhere.

One of several scholars trying to find meaning in the play, M. Worton wrote about our desire to make the monologue a central source of sense among the nonsense:

“…[T]he reader nonetheless senses that there are connections to be made, just as one senses that Lucky’s speech must have a logical argument hidden within the incoherence. This sense is, however, a product of the cultural history that has taught us to seek for meaning, for a cause-and-effect logic.” (Worton)

As there is no dialogue between Lucky and the other characters of the play, the monologue stands on its own, as an event that they could not control nor predict. I would like to look at the monologue and see if it could stand on its own, outside the play, as what could be called a prose poem, thereby arguing that three genres (drama, prose, and poetry) could be mixed in the same literary work, further questioning the borders that separate them’:

LUCKY: Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard quaquaquaqua outside time without extension who from the heights of divine apathia divine athambia divine aphasia loves us dearly with some exceptions for reasons unknown but time will tell and suffers like the divine Miranda with those who for reasons unknown but time will tell are plunged in torment plunged in fire whose fire flames if that continues and who can doubt it will fire the firmament that is to say blast heaven to hell so blue still and calm so calm with a calm which even though intermittent is better than nothing but not so fast and considering what is more that as a result of the labours left unfinished crowned by the Acacacacademy of Anthropopopometry of Essy-in-Possy of Testew and Cunard it is established beyond all doubt all other doubt than that which clings to the labours of men that as a result of the labours unfinished of Testew and Cunard it is established as hereinafter but not so fast for reasons unknown that as a result of the public works of Puncher and Wattmann it is established beyond all doubt that in view of the labours of Fartov and Belcher left unfinished for reasons unknown of Testew and Cunard left unfinished it is established what many deny that man in Possy of Testew and Cunard that man in Essy that man in short that man in brief in spite of the strides of alimentation and defecation is seen to waste and pine waste and pine and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the strides of physical culture the practice of sports such as tennis football running cycling swimming flying floating riding gliding conating camogie skating tennis of all kinds dying flying sports of all sorts autumn summer winter winter tennis of all kinds hockey of all sorts penicilline and succedanea in a word I resume and concurrently simultaneously for reasons unknown to shrink and dwindle in spite of the tennis I resume flying gliding golf over nine and eighteen holes tennis of all sorts in a word for reasons unknown in Feckham Peckham Fulham Clapham namely concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown but time will tell to shrink and dwindle I resume Fulham Clapham in a word the dead loss per head since the death of Bishop Berkeley being to the tune of one inch four ounce per head approximately by and large more or less to the nearest decimal good measure round figures stark naked in the stockinged feet in Connemara in a word for reasons unknown no matter what matter the facts are there and considering what is more much more grave that in the light of the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman it appears what is more much more grave that in the light the light the light of the labours lost of Steinweg and Peterman that in the plains in the mountains by the seas by the rivers running water running fire the air is the same and than the earth namely the air and then the earth in the great cold the great dark the air and the earth abode of stones in the great cold alas alas in the year of their Lord six hundred and something the air the earth the sea the earth abode of stones in the great deeps the great cold on sea on land and in the air I resume for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis the facts are there but time will tell I resume alas alas on on in short in fine on on abode of stones who can doubt it I resume but not so fast I resume the skull to shrink and waste and concurrently simultaneously what is more for reasons unknown in spite of the tennis on on the beard the flames the tears the stones so blue so calm alas alas on on the skull the skull the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the labours abandoned left unfinished graver still abode of stones in a word I resume alas alas abandoned unfinished the skull the skull in Connemara in spite of the tennis the skull alas the stones Cunard (mêlée, final vociferations) tennis… the stones… so calm… Cunard… unfinished…

Here is an attempt at annotation of some of the references in the monologue.

Only Place Beyond Earth Where Humans Could Live in the Solar System?

‘…Titan is the only other body in the solar system with liquid on the surface, with its lakes of methane and ethane that look startlingly like water bodies on Earth. It rains methane on Titan, occasionally filling swamps. Dunes of solid hydrocarbons look remarkably like Earth’s sand dunes.

For protection from radiation, Titan has a nitrogen atmosphere 50 percent thicker than Earth’s. Saturn’s magnetosphere also provides shelter. On the surface, vast quantities of hydrocarbons in solid and liquid form lie ready to be used for energy. Although the atmosphere lacks oxygen, water ice just below the surface could be used to provide oxygen for breathing and to combust hydrocarbons as fuel.

It’s cold on Titan, at -180°C (-291°F), but thanks to its thick atmosphere, residents wouldn’t need pressure suits—just warm clothing and respirators. Housing could be made of plastic produced from the unlimited resources harvested on the surface, and could consist of domes inflated by warm oxygen and nitrogen. The ease of construction would allow huge indoor spaces.

Titanians (as we call them) wouldn’t have to spend all their time inside. The recreational opportunities on Titan are unique. For example, you could fly. The weak gravity—similar to the Moon’s—combined with the thick atmosphere would allow individuals to aviate with wings on their backs. If the wings fall off, no worry, landing will be easy. Terminal velocity on Titan is a tenth that found on the Earth…’

Source: Scientific American Blog Network

The Walking Dead’s Ratings Are the Lowest Ever This Season

As many of the commenters on the Jezebel article point out, this probably has everything to do with the conflation between Negan and Trump. No joke. The show diverted itself from the challenges of dealing with a threatening epidemic of the undead to dealing with a narcissistic relentless and unscrupulous dictator. The “fear of the powerful exploiting the masses” supplants the “fear of the outsider.” Thank you very much, already got my hands full thinking about that, so the show becomes an utterly unchallenging bore. As the human threats have become more malignant, the zombies have lost their power. In any human encounter with the undead, there is no longer any suspense about surviving. They are easily dispatched one and all with a single spiking to the head.

How To Win Arguments In The Post-Truth Era 

‘1. Be Perfectly Reasonable: Whatever or whoever you’re criticising, start out by saying that you think they’re great. If you’ve got a whole industry in your sights, take time to praise certain aspects or to point out that you’re not talking about the entire sector, just a few bad apples. Whether or not you believe what you’re saying doesn’t matter – the point is to come across as someone filled with well-mannered common sense who would only be critical if it was absolutely necessary. As French playwright Jean Giraudoux put it: “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”

2. Don’t Let the Truth Get in the Way: For those interested in the truth, debating can be tricky. Facts tend to get in the way, sticking their noses in to point out what is true or false. But polemicists are more interested in winning the argument than in being right, so remember that time spent on facts that don’t back up your case is time wasted. Better still, learn how to reframe the data so that it looks like the stats are actually on your side.

3. Use Broad Strokes: Attempt to get away with gross generalisations that aren’t backed up by anything. Forget about subtlety and nuance. Focus instead on crafting pithy broadsides that sound generally true.

4. Embrace Ignorance and Inconsistency: Life as a polemicist will be busy. There won’t be enough time to make sure every contentious assertion you assert is ideologically coherent. But who needs to know anything about anything and have their ideological positions all singing from the same hymn sheet? You’ll just have to take whatever expedient argument you can get.

5. Conflate the Unconflatable: To back up your point of view it’s useful to connect things that haven’t got anything to do with each other.

6. Ad Hominem Attacks, or Play the Man Not the Ball: Hopefully, these pointers will have your argument honed into a rapier of polemic so sharp that it will easily rip your opponent’s thesis asunder. Should you find that you’re still not victorious in the cut and thrust of debate, however, why not make things personal? The purpose of an 82 Perry Street hominem attack, of course, is to make an audience doubt your opponent’s argument. And if insulting people’s appearance, personality, professionalism and mental health don’t work, why not JUST RAISE YOUR VOICE…’

Source: Bruno Diaz, 3:AM Magazine. [I’ve edited his points to remove references to British post-factual polemicists with whom most of us will not be familiar. They do stand as examples of most of his points, if you are seeking amplification.]

Everyone Should Probably Read This Cop Privacy Guide

‘Law enforcement members have a lot to worry about when it comes to their social media presences and online privacy. Criminals may scope out officers on Facebook or Twitter, and the email accounts of anyone at a police department are probably going to be of some worth to crooks.

With that in mind, one UK police organization recently published a guide for officers on how to enable the strongest privacy settings on social media, as well as more securely use various web browsers and mobile operating systems. And it turns out, everyone probably can learn something from this pretty decent guide…’

Source: Motherboard

How Dakota Pipeline Protesters Are Digging in For a Harsh Winter

‘… “With wind chill, temperatures in the 30s and 20s can easily feel down at zero,” says Kevin Lawrence, a meteorologist based in Bismarck. Given the 40-50 inches annual snowfall and consistent wind, Lawrence said he doubted the protectors’ capacity for winter camping. Without insulation and external heating sources, it would be near impossible, he said.

In a statement released Nov. 18th, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier expressed apparent concern that “we’ve seen that many of these protestors are not from North Dakota and may not be familiar with the harshness of our winters, and we urge them to leave the camps and seek appropriate shelter for their own health and safety.”

That danger can be amplified by the authorities themselves: when protesters attempted to remove the highway blockade on Nov. 20th, officers responded by using water cannons on people, in spite of 26-degree weather, and without access to active rewarming or nearby hospitalization…’

Source: Motherboard

What You Need to Know About Betsy DeVos in a Few Words

Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education is a wealthy scion of Michigan’s Republican political machine elite. She is a school choice and charter school advocate with no experience with public schools, her children having attended private Christian schools. More than 80% of Michigan charter schools, the largest proportion by far of any state, are run by private companies, and , under her championship, 1993 legislation in Michigan largely removed them from state oversight and regulation. DeVos and her family have been major funders of successful efforts to defeat legislative reform to bring more oversight to Detroit charter schools. Interestingly, she and the president-elect may disagree on Common Core.

Source: Detroit Patch

Study Finds Connection between Chronic Pain and Anxiety Disorder

painanxietyAt first glance, this was not so surprising. Of course, patients in pain are stressed, and show greater biological expression of neurobiological stress changes. What is a little less obvious but no less true is the converse, that anxious patients are more susceptible to chronic pain.

But the study may suggest an explanation for one clinically puzzling fact — that even though they have markedly different modes of action in the CNS, abusers of opiates and of benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medications often find their appeal interchangeable.

Source: Neurosciencestuff Tumblr

Giving Thanks for the Speed of Light

‘…I think we should do better than just be grumpy about the finite speed of light. Like it or not, it’s an absolutely crucial part of the nature of reality. It didn’t have to be, in the sense of all possible worlds; the Newtonian universe is a relatively sensible set of laws of physics, in which there is no speed-of-light barrier at all.

That would be a very different world indeed. In Newton’s cosmos, when a planet moves around the Sun, its (admittedly feeble) gravitational field changes instantly throughout all of space. In principle, in pre-relativistic laws of physics it would be possible to imagine communication or transportation devices that took you from here to billions of light years away, in as short a time as you can imagine.That seems like fun, but think about what you’re giving up. The speed of light enforces what physicists think of as locality — what happens at one point in spacetime influences what happens nearby in spacetime, and those influences gradually spread out. A universe

That seems like fun, but think about what you’re giving up. The speed of light enforces what physicists think of as locality — what happens at one point in spacetime influences what happens nearby in spacetime, and those influences gradually spread out. A universe without the speed of light would be one that allowed for non-local influences; one where different parts of space weren’t safely separated from one another, but were potentially connected in dramatic ways. That would be convenient for some purposes — but so utterly different from the real world that it’s hard to think through all of the consequences consistently…’

Source: Sean Carroll, Preposterous Universe

Five things to learn from elevators

‘The most terrifying potential lift incident is the dreaded free-fall to the bottom of the shaft if a cable snapped. Talk to anyone in the elevator industry though, and they will tell you that the last instance of this was in 1945 when an errant B-25 bomber pilot turned the wrong way and ran in to the Empire State Building — severing all of the cables on two separate elevators in the process…’

Source: Medium

Jack London, a century on

‘During his short life, [London] smoked sixty Russian Imperiale cigarettes a day. He drank so much that his kidneys began to fail before he reached thirty-five. He ate for dinner, when he could get them, two whole and barely cooked ducks. He was also addicted to morphine. By the end, he had become the absolute inversion of the image that made him and his fictional characters famous…’

Source: TLS

How to Know if Your Country Is Heading Toward Despotism:

 An Educational Film from 1946

‘…[A]ctually identifying despotism can pose a certain difficulty — which despots also know, and they’d surely like to keep it that way. Hence Encyclopedia Britannica’s Despotism, a ten-minute Erpi Classroom Film on how a country slides into that eponymous state. It uses the example of Nazi Germany (which might strike us today as the most obvious one but back in 1946 must have felt almost too fresh), but generalizes the concept by looking back into more distant history, as far as Louis XIV’s immortal remark, “L’état, c’est moi.” …’

Source: Open Culture

Hear a 9-Hour Tribute to John Peel: A Collection of His Best “Peel Sessions”

‘London-based online radio station NTS, in its own way very much a continuation of Peel’s project, has put together a tribute to Britain’s most astute DJ in the form of a nine-hour broadcast of some of the best Peel Sessions. Broken into four parts, it gathers performances captured at the BBC from artists like Gang of Four, The Fall, My Bloody Valentine, The Pixies, Aphex Twin, Cabaret Voltaire, and many others. “Blimey, he was really at the center of everything,” says Eno. “He was putting so many things together. He was the first person who realized pop music was serious, and that it was a place people could really meet and talk to each other. It became the center of a conversation.” A dozen years after Peel’s passing, the conversation continues.’

Source: Open Culture

Bob Dylan Isn’t Even America’s Greatest Literary Songwriter

‘The point here isn’t that Bob Dylan’s writing or music is terrible. Bob Dylan is often wonderful. But the Nobel Prize isn’t just saying he’s wonderful. It’s saying he is an apogee of American song; the one lyricist and performer deserving (so far) of the term “literature”. The Nobel crowns Dylan as a performer who has elevated his genre, and has used it in ways that have never been used before.

When you put Dylan next to Broonzy, or Chandler, or Berry, or, Cole Porter, or Joni Mitchell, or Andre 3000, that claim of clear superiority doesn’t hold up. You can love Dylan or hate Dylan, just as you can love Elvis or hate Elvis. But even if you love Elvis, it’s hard to argue that he was the King because he was somehow an exponentially more talented performer than Ike Turner, or LaVern Baker. Rather, he was the King because critics, and the public, see a white person reshaping black sources as a quintessence of creativity and cool.

In choosing Dylan, the Nobel committee cheekily subverted the usual canons of taste and literature. But Dylan as cheeky subversion is, unfortunately, its own tired trope. The power of Dylan, as an icon, is that he has smuggled the work of supposedly unsophisticated others into the hoity-toity bastion of high culture. In choosing him as the representative of American popular music, the Nobel committee shows the words of those outside the academy can be literature—when they’re spoken by the right people…’

Source: Noah BerlatskyLiterary Hub

Ivanka Trump on Donald’s sexual interest in her: “If he wasn’t my father, I would spray him with Mace”

Hey, call me a gossip rag if you will, but this is too good to pass up.

‘The remark was unearthed by Sarah Kenzidor from the Aug. 24, 2006 issue of The Chicago Tribune; it’s one of several…’

Source: Boing Boing

Addendum: Probably a Fake; Too Good to be True

‘Donald Trump has repeatedly said some disgusting, sexual things about his own daughter, Ivanka. But did Ivanka once reply that if he wasn’t her father that she’d spray him with Mace? No. The quote that seems to suggest otherwise is totally fake.Journalist Sarah Kendzior tweeted out the quote, “If he wasn’t my father, I would spray him with Mace” on November 24th—seemingly in response to something inappropriate Ivanka’s father, Donald Trump, had said. But in truth, she never said that. It’s from a Conan O’Brien comedy monologue.’

Source: Gizmodo

No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along

Thank you, Mr. Blow. No reconciliation for me either. My only quibble with his message is the line, “You did real harm to this country…” Let’s be clear that the real harm is still to come. Tip of the iceberg so far.

As an aside: I would also point out that Trump’s statements quoted in the article (“I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special.”), much as any example of  his verbal performance, illustrate directly just how stupid he is. (Since political correctness had gone by the boards, I’m relieved one can call out stupidity explicitly.) Take a look at anything he says from that vantage point. You will see that Trump struggles to have even one new idea in anything he says. And, when he does, he then invariably repeats it at least three or four times in quick succession with minimal variation, as if to reassure us of his certainty and to create the impression that there is any volume of thought there. But he is really illustrating how impoverished his thought process is and how slowly it moves, if it moves at all.

This is clearly demonstrated in any of his pronouncements. I have long since stopped believing that the American electorate would be concerned if they really knew how unintelligent he was (in fact, it may be part of his appeal); just saying how much of an issue it is for me that there is something so obviously wrong with the man’s mind.

(In the course of my demonstrating against Reagan’s reelection, I was lucky enough to have been interviewed on Boston’s WBZ Radio and I voiced my concern about the likelihood that he was already demonstrating signs of early dementia; and it was clear that Dubya was not very bright. But this is far worse.)

You don’t get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can’t simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never — never — forget that.

As I read the transcript and then listened to the audio, the slime factor was overwhelming.

After a campaign of bashing The Times relentlessly, in the face of the actual journalists, he tempered his whining with flattery.

At one point he said:

“I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special.”

He ended the meeting by saying:

“I will say, The Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along well.”

I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing. Let me tell you here where I stand on your “I hope we can all get along” plea: Never.

You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.

Source: Charles Blow, NYTimes.com

Farewell, America

‘America died on Nov. 8, 2016, not with a bang or a whimper, but at its own hand via electoral suicide. We the people chose a man who has shredded our values, our morals, our compassion, our tolerance, our decency, our sense of common purpose, our very identity — all the things that, however tenuously, made a nation out of a country.

Whatever place we now live in is not the same place it was on Nov. 7. No matter how the rest of the world looked at us on Nov. 7, they will now look at us differently. We are likely to be a pariah country. And we are lost for it…’

Source: Neal Gabler, BillMoyers.com; read the entire piece.

Extraordinary Prescience

‘[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots.

…One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.’

Source: The New York Times

Late philosopher Richard Rorty (d. 2007) wrote this in 1998. (Thanks to fred for pointing me to this.)

William Trevor, 1928–2016

‘William Trevor, the last great short story writer of the 20th century — so, very possibly, the last great short story writer — died on Sunday at 88. Trevor had an uncanny ability to confer dignity and elegance on the ordinary sadness at the heart of life, and in his best work the everyday miseries we fail to observe because they are so quotidian are elevated to the kind of grand tragedy other writers take entire novels to convey…’

Source: The Awl

Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism

  1. The cult of tradition. “One has only to look at the syllabus of every fascist movement to find the major traditionalist thinkers. The Nazi gnosis was nourished by traditionalist, syncretistic, occult elements.”
  2. The rejection of modernism. “The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.”
  3. The cult of action for action’s sake. “Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, any previous reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation.”
  4. Disagreement is treason. “The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism. In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge.”
  5. Fear of difference. “The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.”
  6. Appeal to social frustration. “One of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups.”
  7. The obsession with a plot. “The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia.”
  8. The enemy is both strong and weak. “By a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak.”
  9. Pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. “For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.”
  10. Contempt for the weak. “Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology.”
  11. Everybody is educated to become a hero. “In Ur-Fascist ideology, heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death.”
  12. Machismo and weaponry. “Machismo implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality.”
  13. Selective populism. “There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.”
  14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak. “All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning.”

Source: Open Culture

URGENT: proposed law would charge protesters with terrorism

‘This is a disaster. A new law proposed by a State Senator in Washington would allow the authorities to charge protesters with “economic terrorism,” and slap them with serious felony charges that could lead to jail time, just for making their voices heard.The outrageous proposed bill would make any form of protest that causes an “economic disruption” a class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison. It wouldn’t just apply to people who engage in illegal acts or vandalism, it could be used to prosecute any person or group who organizes a protest that authorities deem as “disruptive.” Broadly interpreted, this law could apply to time honored traditions of nonviolent dissent like boycotts and civil disobedience.

Charging protesters with terrorism clearly violates the First Amendment and is an attempt to silence legitimate dissent. Please sign the petition telling lawmakers to reject this dangerous legislation.’

Source: Action Network

Where Are All The Aliens?

‘Where are all these aliens we suppose exist? If they do exist, why have they not colonized the entire galaxy by now? There are several common answers, and recently Dr. Brian Cox has sided with one of the least pleasant ones: that “One solution to the Fermi paradox is that it is not possible to run a world that has the power to destroy itself and that needs global collaborative solutions to prevent that”.   In other words, a civilization that has the ability to communicate across space might not have a long life expectancy — as it would also have the ability to destroy itself. Stephen Hawking is inclined to agree, stating that “I don’t think we will survive another 1,000 years without escaping beyond our fragile planet”. This idea is a popular solution, but not one that we like to think about…’

Source: Big Think

An ancient Buddhist strategy for overcoming paralyzing fear

‘The first step in taming all-consuming dread of a Trump presidency is to get calm…’

Source: Eliza Barclay, Vox

A Buddhist Monk on Finding Patience and Clarity After the Election

‘ “Compassion is not sitting in your room; it’s actually very active and engaging,” a senior disciple of Thich Nhat Hanh says…’

Source: Eliza Barclay, Vox

In face of extremism, entirely new art forms may emerge

‘It is expected that art in periods of political polarization or extremism will become more explicitly political, that it will become “engaged,” actively commenting on world affairs, a form of protest or action. That is what a great many people are asking of art in the West, and particularly in the United States, after the surprising election…

However, historically, it is not always the case that tyrannies or depressions or famines only produce more explicitly political art. It has also been the case that periods of great inequality and economic anxiety and even incipient conflict can produce the most cerebral and abstract art, indeed, the most revolutionary of conceptual shifts in art – art that appears to ignore economic and social questions altogether, at least on its surface, and dives instead into questions of form…’

Source: Russell Smith, The Globe and Mail

White Nationalists Celebrate ‘an Awakening’ After Donald Trump’s Victory

‘…[I]n the wake of Donald J. Trump’s surprising election victory, hundreds of his extremist supporters converged on the capital to herald a moment of political ascendance that many had thought to be far away…

Emboldened by Mr. Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, [one spokesperson] said he expected people openly associated with the white nationalist movement to run as candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. The rise of populism and the decline of political correctness, he said, present a rare opportunity…’

Source: New York Times


If you are looking for effective advocacy groups and you are particularly concerned about the rise of the rabid right, consider supporting the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The Right Way to Resist Trump?

University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales warned about a Trump presidency five years ago and was laughed at. But he came from Italy, and drew upon the Silvio Berlusconi parallels. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for a total of nine years, Zingales says, because of the incompetency of the opposition, and he warns us against making the same mistakes lest we create a Trump dynasty that will last long beyond his age or term limits would allow.

During the campaign, the opposition’s rabid obsession with his personality flaws, Zingales argues, increased sympathy among moderate voters, increased his popularity, and gave him free advertising. And this trend is continuing since his election, The vehement anti-Trump protests are counterproductive.

“There will be plenty of reasons to complain during the Trump presidency, when really awful decisions are made. Why complain now, when no decision has been made? It delegitimizes the future protests and exposes the bias of the opposition.”

The blueprint provided by the Italian experience — of the only two men to win electoral campaigns against Berlusconi — for how to defeat Trump relies on treating him as “an ordinary opponent”, focusing on issues rather than on his character. To ignore this advice would “crown Mr. Trump as the people’s leader of the fight against the Washington caste” and cripple the opposition’s ability to conduct a battle of principles. The Democrats

“should not do as the Republicans did after President Obama was elected. Their preconceived opposition to any of his initiatives poisoned the Washington well, fueling the anti-establishment reaction (even if it was a successful electoral strategy for the party). There are plenty of Trump proposals that Democrats can agree with, like new infrastructure investments.”

“Finally, the Democratic Party should also find a credible candidate among young leaders, one outside the party’s Brahmins. The news that Chelsea Clinton is considering running for office is the worst possible. If the Democratic Party is turning into a monarchy, how can it fight the autocratic tendencies in Mr. Trump?”

Source: New York Times op-ed

If you’re 27 or younger, you’ve never experienced a colder-than-average month

‘Nowhere on the surface of the planet have we seen any record cold temperatures over the course of the year so far. Every land surface in the world saw warmer-than-average temperatures except Alaska and the eastern tip of Russia. The continental United States has been blanketed with record warmth — and the seas just off the East Coast have been much warmer than average, for which Sandy sends her thanks… This is the 332nd consecutive month with an above-average temperature. If you were born in or after April 1985, if you are right now 27 years old or younger, you have never lived through a month that was colder than average…’

Source: Grist

Bush’s ethics lawyer: Trump poised to violate Constitution his first day in office

‘The incoming president… is actively soliciting business from agents of foreign governments. Many of these agents, in turn, said that they will accept the president-elect’s offer to do business because they want to win favor with the new leader of the United States.

In an exclusive exchange with ThinkProgress, Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who previously served as chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush, says that Trump’s efforts to do business with these diplomats is at odds with a provision of the Constitution intended to prevent foreign states from effectively buying influence with federal officials.

The Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause,” provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States “shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” …’

Source: ThinkProgress

An Alarm Designer on How to Annoy People in the Most Effective Ways

‘When the cockpit recorder transcript from Air France Flight 447 was leaked to the public in 2011, many startling details emerged. The plane, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 people on board, had been under the control of pilots who were communicating poorly and not realizing one another’s mistakes. The plane’s speed slowed to dangerous levels, activating the stall alarm—the one, in the words of Popular Mechanics, “designed to be impossible to ignore.” It blared the word “Stall!” 75 times.

Everyone present ignored it. Within four minutes, the plane had hit the water.

Alarm sounds are engineered to elicit particular responses in humans. And yet, sometimes, humans choose not to respond, having decided that the situation is not urgent enough or that the sound is a false alarm. Audio alarm designers seek to avoid this by designing sounds that have an intuitive meaning and precisely reflect the level of urgency. But what makes an “awooga” sound more or less urgent than a “ding”? And how do you create an alarm noise that’s annoying enough to get someone’s attention, but not so annoying that said person disables the alarm? …’

Source: Atlas Obscura

The President and the bomb

‘I keep getting asked one thing repeatedly both in person, over e-mail, and online: “Are there any checks in place to keep the US President from starting a nuclear war?”  What’s amazing about this question, really, is how seriously it misunderstands the logic of the US command and control system. It gets it exactly backwards.

The entire point of the US command and control system is to guarantee that the President and only the President is capable of authorizing nuclear war whenever he needs to. It is about enabling the President’s power, not checking or restricting him…

He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen. He doesn’t have to check with anybody, he doesn’t have to call Congress, he doesn’t have to check with the courts… To be sure, the official doctrine that I have seen on the Nuclear Command Authority implies that the President should be given as much advice as possible from the military, the Department of Defense, and so on. But nothing I have seen suggests that this is any more than advisory — and the entire system is set up so that once the President’s order is verified and authenticated, there are meant to be only minutes until launch.

It isn’t entirely intuitive — why the President, and not someone else, or some combination of people? Why not have some kind of “two-man rule,” whereby two top political figures were required to sign off on the use before it happened? The two-man rule is required for commanders to authorize nuclear launches, so why not the Commander in Chief?’

Source: Restricted Data

imagesThe only tragedy of this election greater than that the narcissistic child Trump will have the authority to launch nuclear annihilation is that the ignorant American voting public would hand it over to him.

Trump’s Hamilton tweetstorm: calculated distraction from fraud settlement, or fragile mediocrity?

‘Yesterday, Donald Trump’s news cycle was dominated by two stories: first, that the president-elect of the United States of America had a well-developed sense of the sanctity of the theatre, such that any on-stage politicking shocked his conscience to the core; second, that he had settled a lawsuit over Trump University, handing $25,000,000 to people whom he had defrauded…’

Source: Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

Privacy Protection Urgencies in the Age of Trump

‘President Obama built the most advanced surveillance system ever and in a few short months the keys to that get handed to President Elect Trump which has some people nervous. It’s a sad fact that the folks who are only freaking out about this prospect now were perfectly OK with it when their guy was in charge, and it’s funny watching the country switch sides on this stuff almost over night.

There are a lot of articles flying around about the best ways to protect your privacy under the coming Trump Administration, but if I can humbly recommend a few simple things:

Install Signal. Use this for messaging. Don’t use Facebook messenger or SMS or anything else. Don’t use this “only for the stuff you don’t want getting out” – use it for everything all the time.

Get a VPN and use it. I like Private Internet Access because I have a recurring subscription, but I’ve also used iPredator which I also like but requires constantly prepaying so I forget and my account expires. Feel free to use both!

Use DuckDuckGo for all online searches, and change the default search engine on your browsers to DDG too. They don’t keep logs of everything you search for.

Get a good password manager and make sure you aren’t using the same passwords anywhere. I like 1password…’

Source: Sean Bonner


What do you think? I’m already onboard with DDG and 1Password. Would switch all my messaging to Signal if the people I talk to would buy in and install it too. I use a different VPN but I admit I do not surf through it all the time.


The Morning News said, ‘Interest grows in pushing for California’s secession from the United States. They call it #Calexit. It will be a flash in the pan.’

But why restrict the movement to California? People everywhere insist he is “Not My President” and many everywhere feel as if they do not live in the same country as Trump supporters. Why not a secession from Trumpsylvania, a “Trexit”? The GNP of a nation made up of the blue states would be among the largest in the world, and many would be happy to leave the rest to the Narcissist-in-Chief.

Finding Solace Around Trump’s Election

Ken Krobb at the Bureau of Public Secrets proposes that we can take heart in Trump’s election, which he suggests will hasten the demise of the Republican Party. “…It’s going to be like the proverbial dog chasing a car: what happens if the dog actually catches the car?” With the Republican monopoly of power, there’ll be no one else to blame when they actually have to deliver on their empty promises and can’t accomplish anything.

For instance, if they succeed in dismantling Obamacare, it is pretty clear they won’t be able to come up with some pie-in-the sky superior plan, and they will leave 22 million voters, newly insured under Obamacare, back to their previous uninsured situation.

But so what? Obamacare was admittedly never that popular anyway. How about the most popular social programs in America for decades, social security and Medicare, which Paul Ryan wants to dismantle?  As Eisenhower famously noted,

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course that believes you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Well, no longer negligible, at least.

Even though Trump’s fanatic base may think they have won a victory against reproductive rights and marriage equality, they are increasingly out of step with the positions of a majority of Americans on those issues. Dismantling existing rights in those spheres and sending us back to the chaos of “leaving it to the states” would be a logistical nightmare… with a backlash, hopefully.

Racism has been a core canon of the Republican Party since Nixon’s “southern strategy” in the 60s, but now it is out in the open rather than covert and deniable. Fervent Trump supporters are already supporting their newfound mandate by viciously harassing and threatening people of color in his name. The Trump Republican Party is going to have to own that, to its shame and detriment.

“[The Republican] party was already heading toward a civil war between its mutually contradictory components (financial elite, tea party, neocons, libertarians, religious reactionaries, and the few remaining moderates). To those general divisions are now added the antagonisms between the new Leader and those who oppose him. Bush at least had sense enough to know that he was an incompetent figurehead, and gladly let Cheney and Rove run things. Trump thinks he’s a genius, and anyone who doesn’t agree will be added to his already very large enemies list.”

And the whole show is so public. With the whole world scrutinizing “President Ubu and his Clown Car administration,” all Republicans will be tarred by association with his inanities, backtracking and failures. “You’re no longer in the Republican Party, you’re in the Trump Party. You bought it, you own it.”

Everyone takes it as a given that responding to this bizarre situation will strengthen the rise of new movements of protest and resistance. With the Republican monopoly control of the government, even those who normally focus on electoral politics must realize that for some time to come the main efforts for political change will be outside the parties and outside the government; “it will be grassroots participatory action or nothing.” And everyone seems to recognize that the defense of those most threatened by the new regime — people of color, Muslims, LGBTQs, Jews, the disabled — will be a strong priority.

“But we will also need to defend ourselves. The first step in resisting this regime is to avoid getting too caught up with it — obsessively following the latest news about it and impulsively reacting to each new outrage. That kind of compulsive media consumption was part of what led to this situation in the first place. Let’s treat this clown show with the contempt it deserves and not forget the fundamental things that still apply — picking our battles, but also continuing to nourish the personal relations and creative activities that make life worthwhile in the first place. Otherwise, what will we be defending?”

So this disaster will hopefully shock people into coming together to care better for one another and themselves and addressing the looming crises of the coming decades more wholeheartedly and with far fewer illusory hopes that the existing system will save us.

[When the Southern racist George Wallace ran for President in 1968, there was an oft-stated scurrilous wish from some on the Left that he succeed, so as to bring on the Revolution. Of course, what we mean these days by Revolution is a little different, but now,  nearly fifty years later, Could it finally come to pass? Krobb is not the only one pointing out that this may be the worm that eats itself, and the last gasp of the misogynist white gerontocracy in American politics, dare one hope –FmH]

A Tour of Contested Walls Around the World

Should Donald Trump actually succeed in building his long-promised wall along Mexico’s border with the United States, he’ll be in good company. Walls have long been a symbol of—and a tool in—the division between sovereignties, “From the building of the Roman Limes in the second century CE … up to more modern structures such as the iconic Berlin Wall,” as University of Quebec geographer Elisabeth Vallet writes in her book, Borders, Fences and Walls.

Source: Francie Diep, Pacific Standard

The Crowd…

Tonight there was a protest in Los Angeles, condemning the pick of Steve Bannon as Sr Advisor to the president. I think Breitbart News is very good at stirring people into a frenzy and very bad at reporting the news. I think picking the guy who runs that for a position equal to Chief of Staff is dangerous. I wanted to go and take photos, my wife Tara wanted to go and hold up a sign. Ripley, my 6 year old son also wanted a sign but I’m not a fan of indoctrinating children to anything, and didn’t want to write up a political sign that him carrying around would suggest he was making the statement. I told him what the protest was about, and asked him what he wanted on his sign. I told him he could put anything that he wanted. He wanted a happy sign that would make other people happy too, so he decided his sign should say “I Love Cats.” I thought it was great. On the other side he decided the sign should say “It’s past my bedtime” because the protest was at night and he would be tired and this would show people that even though he was tired and it was late he was there with them. I loved this sentiment. We drew up the signs and headed out.

Tara and Ripley joined some friends of ours on one side of the crowd and I walked around taking photos. The mood of the evening was largely positive, people were protesting something they were upset about but the crowd working together. There were the expected “Ban Bannon” and “No KKK” signs, as well as some more original and light hearted ones including one older lady with a sign that read “I’ve been protesting this same fascist shit for 50 years!” and a guy with a trans flag and a sign saying “This isn’t the kind of dick I wanted.” Anytime I was near my family people were taking photos of my son and his sign, with many people telling him they loved it and it was the best sign there, which made him smile big.

He got in on the chanting, memorizing the rymes. He waved his sign for people and smiled when they took his photo. This was his first protest and he told me he really enjoyed it. He said he loved seeing all the people together, hoping for the same thing.

By 8:30 it was in fact well past his bedtime and we decided to leave. Tara and Rips started to move to the edge of the crowd and I was behind them. As I turned to leave two younger women tapped me on the shoulder. I only spoke with them for a moment but I’d guess they were late 20’s-ish.

“Hi, can we talk to you for a moment about your son’s sign?”
“It’s very cute, but we are concerned that if someone sees it and takes a photo it will misrepresent the feeling of this event.”
“Lots of people have taken photos of it all night, everyone has been enjoying it”
“That’s the problem, it’s sending the wrong message – I Love Cats? This isn’t about cats”
“He’s 6, that’s what he wanted on his sign. I’m not going to put my politics on a sign and make him carry it.”
“He doesn’t support immigrants rights?”
“He’s 6”
“There are lots of kids here with political signs”
“Sure, that their parents wrote for them”
“But what will people think if they see this sign”
“I don’t really care”
“Are you really upset that a 6 year old isn’t protesting correctly?”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you weren’t a white man, maybe you should meet an immigrant and find out how they feel, you are mocking the serious people here… Racist!”

I turned around and to walk away and one of them punched me in the back of the head.

I kept walking, they shouted something but I wasn’t listening anymore.

In the 5 minute walk back to our car, at least 10 more people said “Love that sign!!”

As some of you know, my wife is an immigrant…

The sun will rise tomorrow.

Source: Sean Bonner, newsletter

Glenn Beck: The alt-right movement is ‘truly terrifying’

‘The alt-right movement is both “real” and “truly terrifying,” according to conservative radio host Glenn Beck.“I want to make sure that everybody understands that the alt-right is real. It is truly terrifying, in my opinion,” Beck said Tuesday during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

The alt-right movement is a fringe right-wing movement that welcomes white nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism and misogyny. Beck went on to explain that former Breitbart News chief Stephen Bannon — now equal partner to incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus — gave the alt-right and white nationalists a platform at Breitbart, something Bannon confirmed earlier this year.

“He has given a voice and power to that group of people,” Beck explained. “You don’t empower people like that. You just don’t. It’s not smart.”

Source: TheBlaze

Professor who predicted Trump win has another bold forecast

American University Professor Allan Lichtman, who has been dubbed the “prediction professor,” was one of the only political forecasters to correctly predict President-elect Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House last week. But now he’s guessing it will all come crashing down. “There’s a very good chance that Donald Trump could face impeachment,” Lichtman told CNN’s Erin Burnett Tuesday night.

Source: TheBlaze

Erick Erickson: ‘I think a lot of left-wing pundits privately hope someone kills Donald Trump’

‘Ultimately, it comes down to a single question that can be asked in two different ways: if you really believe Trump is a fascist who is emboldening white nationalism and will begin systematic persecution of Muslims, blacks, gays, and Jews, how can you sit on the sidelines and not take action to stop him? If you really believe that because of Trump you are “going to die from climate change” how can you not take up arms against him? After all, a majority of Americans voted against Trump, yet he will become President…’

Source: TheBlaze

Facebook’s fake news problem, explained

‘News stories are supposed to help ordinary voters understand the world around them. But in the 2016 election, news stories online too often had the opposite effect. Stories rocketed around the internet that were misleading, sloppily reported, or in some cases totally made up.

Over the course of 2016, Facebook users learned that the pope endorsed Donald Trump (he didn’t), that a Democratic operative was murdered after agreeing to testify against Hillary Clinton (it never happened), that Bill Clinton raped a 13-year-old girl (a total fabrication), and many other totally bogus “news” stories. Stories like this thrive on Facebook because Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes “engagement” — and a reliable way to get readers to engage is by making up outrageous nonsense about politicians they don’t like.

A big problem here is that the internet has broken down the traditional distinction between professional news-gathering and amateur rumor-mongering. On the internet, the “Denver Guardian” — a fake news site designed to look like a real Colorado newspaper — can reach a wide audience as easily as real news organizations like the Denver Post, the New York Times, and Fox News.

Since last week’s election, there has been a fierce debate about whether the flood of fake news — much of it prejudicial to Hillary Clinton — could have swung the election to Donald Trump. Internet giants are coming under increasing pressure to do something about the problem…’

Source: Vox

If You Want to Be Happy, Quit Facebook?

‘A remarkable paper claims that staying off Facebook for a week could make you happier: The Facebook Experiment, by Morten Tromholt of Denmark. What makes this study so interesting is that it was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) and so was able, at least in theory, to determine whether quitting Facebook actually causes changes in well-being. Previously, there has been lots of research reporting correlations between social network use and happiness, but correlation isn’t causation…’

Source: Neuroskeptic

Why misogyny won

‘America’s president-elect is an alleged sexual predator. This theory of sexism explains how it came to this — and why even many women voted for Trump…’

Source: Emily Crockett, Vox

Senate Republicans showing signs of resistance to Trump’s foreign policy

‘Barack Obama found in 2009 that winning a presidential election is one thing but getting the United States Senate to do what you want is a rather different thing. Next year, Donald Trump will have Republican congressional majorities at his back, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the Senate will back all of his priorities. And already, as the transition enters its second week, foreign policy is emerging as a potential trouble spot for Trump. It started with Dave Weigel’s report Tuesday that Sen. Rand Paul would be inclined to oppose John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani as secretary of state…’

Source: Vox

A former congressional staffer explains how to best stand up to Trump through Congress

‘…[A]  lot of Americans are looking for new ways to make a difference and do their part to stop what they consider a dangerous agenda. And some are hoping that their representatives in Congress can act as a check on Trump.For those taking this approach, blogger Emily Ellsworth has some advice: Don’t just tweet, write, or email your representatives. Call them — and go to town halls…’

Source: Vox

How Arrival Turned Linguistics Into One of the Most Gripping Dramas of the Year

‘If you’ve ever been to a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, you know that an inability to communicate can be frustrating, if not a bit scary. But in Arrival, when 12 shell-shaped UFOs land across the world, everything seems to hinge on the skills of Amy Adams’ linguistics expert, Louise—just as the movie itself hinges on making communication compelling.It was up to screenwriter Eric Heisserer and production designer Patrice Vermette to not only bring Ted Chaing’s short story “Story of Your Life” to the

It was up to screenwriter Eric Heisserer and production designer Patrice Vermette to not only bring Ted Chaing’s short story “Story of Your Life” to the screen, but also to create the language the aliens used—and then translate all of it into a gripping drama. Having seen the movie, which opened this past weekend, we can tell you they succeeded. Here’s how…’

Source: Gizmodo

How It Took More Than 100 Script Drafts to Think Like an Alien

“So many of our conflicts and our problems stem from miscommunication.”

Source: Vox

America needs progressive Tea Party to fight Trump

‘Shocked by Donald Trump’s surprise victory and the wave of white supremacism he left in his wake, many Americans have taken to the streets to protest. But if progressives really want to fight back against Trumpism, they need to build a mass national movement, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s. Put another way, they need a Tea Party of the left.

Fortunately, progressives won’t have to start from scratch. A justice coalition that includes existing advocacy groups could be built up quickly, as proven by Forward Together; for the past four years, this movement has served as a model for how progressives can unite to combat retrograde and sometimes hateful policies by state and federal governments…’

Source: Fusion

There is no such thing as a good Trump voter.

‘Millions of Americans are justifiably afraid of what they’ll face under a Trump administration. If any group demands our support and sympathy, it’s these people, not the Americans who backed Trump and his threat of state-sanctioned violence against Hispanic immigrants and Muslim Americans. All the solicitude, outrage, and moral telepathy being deployed in defense of Trump supporters—who voted for a racist who promised racist outcomes—is perverse, bordering on abhorrent…’

Source: Jamelle Bouie, Slate

Frank Zappa’s Amazing Final Concerts: Prague and Budapest, 1991

‘We say goodbye to musical icons in many different ways, from flashmobs, SNL intros, and long retrospectives to live concert tributes featuring the biggest cover band on earth. No matter how outsized the gesture, it never quite seems out of place when it comes to artists of a certain stature. In the case of Frank Zappa, we’ve recently seen jazz orchestra tributes, a “monumental live performance” of one of his own orchestral works, and several Zappa tribute concerts by his son Dweezil.For all their heart and stamina, however, no tribute can compete with the power of those artists’ farewells to us. Both David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, too fragile to perform in their last years, left phenomenal albums we’ll pore over for decades to come. Southern rock great Leon Russell, who just passed away this week at 74, put on rollicking live shows into his final years, and had concerts booked into 2017 when he died. Prince’s final performance was, like all of his performances, stunning. And Zappa? Well see for yourself. Zappa played his way out of the world as he’d played his way into it, with sardonic humor and blistering virtuosity…’

Source: Open Culture

R.I.P. Mose Allison

Fount of Jazz and Blues Dies at 89

Mose Allison, a pianist, singer and songwriter who straddled modern jazz and Delta blues, belonging to both styles even as he became a touchstone for British Invasion rockers and folksy troubadours, died on Tuesday at his home in Hilton Head, S.C. He was 89.

Source: The New York Times obituary

2016: We are continuing to lose giants of musicat an alarming rate.

Ads Surreptitiously Using Sound to Communicate Across Devices

“Once again, Bruce Schneier freaks me out“, says Gabe. Schneier writes:

The ultrasonic pitches are embedded into TV commercials or are played when a user encounters an ad displayed in a computer browser. While the sound can’t be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.


Source: Macdrifter

Weep Not, Divided Land: Here’s How A Beautiful America Will Arise From The Ugliness Of Trump’s Triumph

‘On the one side of this fight stands Bernie, plus his youthful followers, plus the progressive Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party (let’s finally say goodbye to the neoliberal, Wall Street-protecting, labor-union-ignoring, white-working-class-insulting global-elite Davos Clinton/Obama wing of the Democratic Party, who’ve handed our government to the GOP). On the other side lurks the army of resentful older white mater fornicators who voted for Trump.

The Trumpists will lose this fight, because our economy is about to be crippled by an unfettered GOP in charge of all three branches of government. The failure of the GOP’s discredited economic remedies will fire up the resentment of their white working class base to the highest heavens (a base who already believes that Washington’s Republicans have done sweet blow-all for them). By the end of his first term, Trump will face a maddened, resentful electorate, burning to stick long pointy needles in his obese effigy.

Get ready for 2020, when Elizabeth Warren will step into the arena and run against Trump. She will generate even more excitement than Bernie did. Trump cannot give his followers the satisfaction they seek — nobody can — and Elizabeth will bury him. In the end, this macho bully will meet his match at a woman’s hands. Maybe that damn Hillary bitch could not quite settle his hash, but this here Elizabeth witch will double-knot his jock strap.

If Trump is a white backlash against Obama, a total swing of the pendulum, Warren will be a progressive backlash against the Trump phenomenon, another total swing of the pendulum.Just you wait: the Donald Trump presidency is making an Elizabeth Warren presidency inevitable…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

R.I.P. Leon Russell, 74

‘With a top hat on his head, hair well past his shoulders, a long beard, an Oklahoma drawl and his fingers splashing two-fisted barrelhouse piano chords, Mr. Russell cut a flamboyant figure in the early 1970s. He led Joe Cocker’s band Mad Dogs & Englishmen, appeared at George Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangladesh and had hits of his own, including “Tight Rope.”

His songs also became hits for others, among them “Superstar” (written with Bonnie Bramlett) for the Carpenters, “Delta Lady” for Joe Cocker and “This Masquerade” for George Benson. More than 100 acts have recorded “A Song for You,” a song Mr. Russell said he wrote in 10 minutes.

By the time Mr. Russell released his first solo album in 1970, he had already played on hundreds of songs as one of the top studio musicians in Los Angeles. Mr. Russell was in Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound Orchestra, and he played sessions for Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, the Ventures and the Monkees, among many others. He is heard on “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert, “Live With Me” by the Rolling Stones and all of the Beach Boys’ early albums, including “Pet Sounds.” …’

Source: New York Times

The hazard of cherishing the music of my youth is that it is increasingly becoming a memento mori.

Donning safety pins in post-election solidarity

In the wave of reactions to Donald Trump’s election as the 45th president of the U.S., safety pins have taken on a new meaning in the country.


Some Americans are wearing safety pins as a symbol of solidarity with victims of racism, homophobia and religious discrimination. People have spoken out on Twitter to say that their safety pins show that they are an ally to marginalized groups.

Source: PBS NewsHour

A Time for Refusal

In the early hours of Nov. 9, 2016, the winner of the presidential election was declared. As the day unfolded, the extent to which a moral rhinoceritis had taken hold was apparent. People magazine had a giddy piece about the president-elect’s daughter and her family, a sequence of photos that they headlined “way too cute.” In The New York Times, one opinion piece suggested that the belligerent bigot’s supporters ought not be shamed. Another asked whether this president-elect could be a good president and found cause for optimism. Cable news anchors were able to express their surprise at the outcome of the election, but not in any way vocalize their fury. 
All around were the unmistakable signs of normalization in progress. So many were falling into line without being pushed. It was happening at tremendous speed, like a contagion. And it was catching even those whose plan was, like Dudard’s in “Rhinoceros,” to criticize “from the inside.”
Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else. This is not a process that began a week or month or year ago. It did not begin with drone assassinations, or with the war on Iraq. Evil has always been here. But now it has taken on a totalitarian tone.
At the end of “Rhinoceros,” Daisy finds the call of the herd irresistible. Her skin goes green, she develops a horn, she’s gone. Berenger, imperfect, all alone, is racked by doubts. He is determined to keep his humanity, but looking in the mirror, he suddenly finds himself quite strange. He feels like a monster for being so out of step with the consensus. He is afraid of what this independence will cost him. But he keeps his resolve, and refuses to accept the horrible new normalcy. He’ll put up a fight, he says. “I’m not capitulating!”

Source: Teju Cole, NYTimes.com

“Voted for Trump? I have only one plea”

Here’s what I am saying: You’ve said all along that you disagree with the ‘inelegant’ things Trump says about all kinds of groups of people. You’ve agreed that his statements about women are abhorrent. You say you like him because he gets stuff done, not because of the way he speaks. And I believe to my core that you agree that all people should be treated with decency.
So, now you get to prove it. It’s actually so simple: Demand that it end. Demand that he finally, vociferously reject the KKK and other white supremacist groups. Every single time he or his surrogates says something over-generalized about any group of people — “all Black people live in inner cities and their lives are hell”; “all/most/many refugees/immigrants/Muslims/whatever are dangerous”; “that woman is only a 7” — hold him to the highest standard you have. Contact him and tell him, “I support you, I voted for you, and I demand that you stop saying these things.”

Source: Medium

Can “Trump” Be Neutralized as an Offensive Euphemism?

Across Britain, the verb to trump is a euphemism for flatulence, especially malodorous flatulence. Are you familiar with the slightly scurrilous recommendation for coping with public speaking anxiety that one envision one’s audience as naked? Well, there may be a parallel here for dealing with the profound anxiety and dread so many, including myself, feel in contemplating the reality of Trump’s presidency. I am going to practice visualizing his dangerous and offensive blowhard pronouncements as offensive eruptions of a different sort out of his mouth, and malodorous ones at that.

Source: English Language & Usage Stack Exchange

Who Will Be in Donald Trump’s Cabinet?


‘The election just ended and the new president doesn’t even take office until Jan. 20. But the transition planning starts now… Now that the news of Trump’s election has settled, speculation over how the president-elect will fill out his administration has consumed Washington….’

Source: NPR


How to coexist, after defeat, with citizens whose views you despise

‘In characterizing the problem of intolerance within a republic, Rousseau wrote, “It is impossible to live in peace with people one believes to be damned.” Although Rousseau was arguing for (quite limited) religious toleration, the basic claim travels to a secular context: How can one live in peace with fellow citizens whom one believes to be, if not damned, then deplorable? In the wake of a desperately divisive, unpleasant election, how do we move forward as a nation?The challenge of ensuring that electoral outcomes are accepted is far from new. But when one side believes that a considerable number of the victorious candidate’s supporters are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it,” and the

The challenge of ensuring that electoral outcomes are accepted is far from new. But when one side believes that a considerable number of the victorious candidate’s supporters are “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it,” and the other side believes the opponent is a vessel for the “’corrupt’ global establishment,” the problem becomes all the more vexing. Further, the surprise nature of this electoral outcome makes it all the more difficult for Trump and Clinton supporters alike to transcend the elation or devastation of the electoral results.Nonetheless, a few commitments should guide our thinking about democracy in the wake of bitter elections.

Nonetheless, a few commitments should guide our thinking about democracy in the wake of bitter elections…’

Source: How to coexist, after defeat, with citizens whose views you despise – Vox

Why Are U.S. Presidential Elections So Close?

‘…The top two contenders, typically a Democratic and a Republican, but occasionally a Whig, have danced closely around the 50-50 mark for nearly 100 years. Only four times since 1824 has the winner received more than 60 percent of the popular vote. Since 2000, the candidates have been separated by an average of 3.5 points. The median and average separations have been 8.2 and 9.5 points since 1824—a figure skewed upward due to a few outlying and not particularly close races. (The electoral tally doesn’t usually appear so close because the Electoral College tends to magnify differences in the popular vote.)

This is a feature of U.S. politics that many of us have become accustomed to. So is it unsurprising? Not really. “Considering all of the factors that go into what would make an election close or not close—incumbency, the brand of the parties—my perspective is that there’s a surprising rate of close elections,” Eitan Hersh, a Yale political scientist and the author of Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters, told me.

The question is, why? …’

Keep reading: Nautilus

The Rapist-in-Chief

Of course, Donald Trump didn’t create misogyny, bullying, racism, warmongering and bigotry, but they have now crawled out of the slimy rocks under which they were (imperfectly) hidden and have permission to revel in the daylight. In another social media interchange recently, a friend warned me about indulging in the ‘ecstasy of sanctimony,’ a point well-taken and quite a nice turn of phrase I thought. Well, it looks like I may be pretty ecstatic for the next four years.