The Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack Makes Me Fear a New American Civil War

1540829759035 GettyImages 1054587820Time to be afraid for the future:

’…[We] are a nation profoundly divided about what it means to be American. The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer suggested, in Anna Holmes’ documentary The Loving Generation, that the US has long been pledging allegiance to two very different visions of what it means to be an American. On one side, being an “American” involves signing up for a civic faith dedicated to the Constitution, to the rule of law, to the privacy of the voting booth and liberty and justice for all. This is the Americanness of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, of the pulsing urban coastal centers, a vision that’s open to your tired, your poor, your refugees from around the world yearning to be free and ready to work hard. On the other hand are those who believe that “American” means people whose parents were born here, who are white and Christian, who want to bar the doors against the swarthy hordes. And yes, at least some of the latter—like this weekend’s gunman—believe in the more sinister slogan that arbeit macht frei.

The US government has been teetering back and forth between these two visions for generations. And no matter which side occupies the White House, the other wants their country back. One side was happy with George W. Bush’s red meat, red state presidency, invading freedom-hating nations, torturing suspected enemies to show strength, and keeping the country secure with a sprawling (and enduring) “security” apparatus. The other side—the globalists, the diversity-lovers, the cosmopolitans, the blue-coastal urbanites—thought that by electing Barack Obama, they had won back their country. Now, if they didn’t before, these people know that boiling underneath Obama’s presidency was a furious resistance: the Tea Party, the racists, the white nationalists who then elected their Birther-in-Chief.…’

Via Vice

California’s Wildfires Are Exposing the Rotten Core of Capitalism


It’s going to get weirder from here.

Unknown’“No matter what the kind of natural disaster, whether it’s flooding or wind damage or fire, the biggest burden of the longest duration falls on the already-poor,” David Lodge, director of Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, told me.

In addition to the immediate threats to life and limb that come with any severe natural disaster, there may be a temporary period of homelessness or unemployment that can send someone on the brink of poverty over the edge. Without adequate insurance, savings to rebuild, or a reliable social safety net in place, what Lodge has called “the human face of policy-induced suffering” is revealed.

And with the current trajectory of increasing weather disasters, that suffering is likely to grow.…’


A debate over plant consciousness is forcing us to confront the limitations of the human mind

Consciousnessplants 2’The inner life of plants arouses the passions of even the mildest-mannered naturalists. A debate over plant consciousness and intelligence has raged in scientific circles for well over a century—at least since Charles Darwin observed in 1880 that stressed-out flora can’t rest.

There’s no doubt that plants are extremely complex. Biologists believe that plants communicate with one another, fungi, and animals by releasing chemicals via their roots, branches, and leaves. Plants also send seeds that supply information, working as data packets. They even sustain weak members of their own species by providing nutrients to their peers, which indicates a sense of kinship.

Plants have preferences—their roots move toward water, sensing its acoustic vibes—and defense mechanisms. They also have memories, and can learn from experience. One 2014 experiment, for example, involved dropping potted plants called Mimosa pudicas a short distance. At first, when the plants were dropped, they curled up their leaves defensively. But soon the plants learned that no harm would come to them, and they stopped protecting themselves.

But does any of this qualify as consciousness? The answer to that question seems to depend largely on linguistics, rather than science—how humans choose to define our conceptions of the self and intelligence.…’

Via Quartz