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Andrew Sullivan: The Madness of King Donald

‘I think this is a fundamental reason why so many of us have been so unsettled, anxious, and near panic these past few months. It is not so much this president’s agenda. That always changes from administration to administration. It is that when the linchpin of an entire country is literally delusional, clinically deceptive, and responds to any attempt to correct the record with rage and vengeance, everyone is always on edge. …’

Source: Andrew Sullivan, New York Magazine

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The Spy Revolt Against King Donald Begins

‘…Our Intelligence Community is so worried by the unprecedented problems of the Trump administration—not only do senior officials possess troubling ties to the Kremlin, there are nagging questions about basic competence regarding Team Trump—that it is beginning to withhold intelligence from a White House which our spies do not trust.

That the IC has ample grounds for concern is demonstrated by almost daily revelations of major problems inside the White House, a mere three weeks after the inauguration. The president has repeatedly gone out of his way to antagonize our spies, mocking them and demeaning their work, and Trump’s personal national security guru can’t seem to keep his story straight on vital issues.

That’s Mike Flynn, the retired Army three-star general who now heads the National Security Council. Widely disliked in Washington for his brash personality and preference for conspiracy-theorizing over intelligence facts, Flynn was fired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for managerial incompetence and poor judgment—flaws he has brought to the far more powerful and political NSC.

Flynn’s problems with the truth have been laid bare by the growing scandal about his dealings with Moscow. Strange ties to the Kremlin, including Vladimir Putin himself, have dogged Flynn since he left DIA, and concerns about his judgment have risen considerably since it was revealed that after the November 8 election, Flynn repeatedly called the Russian embassy in Washington to discuss the transition. The White House has denied that anything substantive came up in conversations between Flynn and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

That was a lie, as confirmed by an extensively sourced bombshell report in The Washington Post, which makes clear that Flynn grossly misrepresented his numerous conversations with Kislyak—which turn out to have happened before the election too, part of a regular dialogue with the Russian embassy. To call such an arrangement highly unusual in American politics would be very charitable.

In particular, Flynn and Kislyak discussed the possible lifting of the sanctions President Obama placed on Russia and its intelligence services late last year in retaliation for the Kremlin’s meddling in our 2016 election. In public, Flynn repeatedly denied that any talk of sanctions occurred during his conversations with Russia’s ambassador. Worse, he apparently lied in private too, including to Vice President Mike Pence, who when this scandal broke last month publicly denied that Flynn conducted any sanctions talk with Kislyak. Pence and his staff are reported to be very upset with the national security adviser, who played the vice president for a fool. …’

Source: John R. Schindler, Observer

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Automation Nightmare: Philosopher Warns We Are Creating a World Without Consciousness

‘A worry for Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers is creating a world devoid of consciousness. He sees the discussion of future superintelligences often presume that eventually AIs will become conscious. But what if that kind of sci-fi possibility that we will create completely artificial humans is not going to come to fruition? Instead, we could be creating a world endowed with artificial intelligence but not actual consciousness…’

Source: Big Think

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In Defense of the Most Worthless, Helpless Creature on the Planet

‘…It’s understandable that someone would find the ocean sunfish repellently dumb. Even the mola mola’s many nicknames—schwimmender kopf (“swimming head”) in German, putol (“cut short”) in the Philippines, and “toppled car fish” in Taiwan—belie its absurd reputation. That last one is an especially accurate burn, because the mola mola grows to roughly the size and shape of a trash-compacted car.

Seriously, these things are huge. The ocean sunfish holds the Guinness world record for heaviest, most fecund bony fish. One of the biggest of these gold star boys weighed 5,071 pounds. The average weight is more like one ton, but it carries that heft along six to 10 feet of flattened flesh, flapping through the water like a smashed Prius. A mola mola raised in Monterey Bay Aquarium had to be airlifted out by helicopter and released into the bay when it gained 800 pounds in 14 months and outgrew its tank.

[I]s the mola mola actually as worthless as many of its haters seem to think? To try and settle the world’s nerdiest flame war, let’s go through the finer points of the ocean sunfish’s singular existence….’

Source: Motherboard

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Squid Communicate With a Secret, Skin-Powered Alphabet

‘Squid and their cephalopod brethren have been the inspiration for many a science fiction creature. Their slippery appendages, huge proportions, and inking abilities can be downright shudder-inducing. (See: Arrival.) But you should probably be more concerned by the cephalopod’s huge brain—which not only helps it solve tricky puzzles, but also lets it converse in its own sign language.

…Certain kinds of squid send messages by manipulating the color of their skin. “Their body patterning is fantastic, fabulous,” says Chuan-Chin Chiao, a neuroscientist at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. They can display bands, or stripes, or turn completely dark or light. And Chiao is trying to crack their code…’

Source: WIRED