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3 Drinks Flight Attendants Avoid When They're Flying
October 20th, 2017, 07:42 PM
You might think twice about ordering these beverages when you're on a plane.

Falling sick after a flight is not exactly news to regular travelers. Typically, we attribute this to the stale air and claustrophobic quarters which act like an incubator for infectious ailments. But what if that oxygenated vacuum isn’t the only disease-causing agent aboard?

“Flight attendants will not drink hot water on the plane. They will not drink plain coffee and they will not drink plain tea,” a member of that profession recently told Business Insider.

The problem has to do with the fact that these caffeinated beverages are brewed from the airplane’s own water supply, a source that first came into question following a study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency back in 2004.

For that report, the EPA tested the onboard drinking water of 158 planes. According to the EPA findings, around 13 percent, or one in 10 airplanes, contained coliform (a hazardous form of E.coli bacteria) in its water supply. In that same Business Insider article it was further reported that through a Freedom of Information Act Request, a 2012 follow-up study by the EPA showed that the problems with airplane water had remained unchanged.

This issue largely comes down to regulation. Quoted by Business Insider, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA explained that the EPA is responsible for implementing regulations to ensure “safe drinking water on the aircraft.” The AFA had insisted on these measures “over 15 years ago,” but because it “gives broad discretion to airlines on how often they must test the water and flush the tanks… [the AFA] does not believe this regulation goes far enough or is sufficiently enforced."

So how exactly is this regulation enforced? NBC 5 reported that the EPA “requires airlines to test for coliform and E. coli on every airplane at least once a year.” If the airline is found to contain either bacteria, the regulation requires that they flush the tanks and restrict water access until tests show the water is clean. The problem is that bacteria still enter the water supply through the hoses used to fill up the tanks at airports. A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health highlights this fact, indicating that the most harmful microorganisms found in an airplane’s onboard water come from the transport vehicles that deliver the water supply.

John Goglia, an aviation safety consultant, added his own concerns about onboard water in a column published on Forbes.

“Thirty years ago when I was working for USAir, we began a process to bleach the water tanks that hold the water and flush out the system,” wrote Goglia, who noted that this was done on a regular basis. The problem, he added, was that “a lot of sediment” began to accumulate in the tanks even after they were bleached and flushed. “It’s hard to drink anything made with water from those tanks after seeing what accumulates in there,” he noted.

Today, drinking coffee or tea on an airplane remains a risky endeavor. However, a recent Condé Nast Traveler article suggests that these concerns may be inflated. As a result of reported issues about onboard water, the magazine reported, the airline industry has come to implement “newer, stricter regulations.” A statement from Airlines for America, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group that represents the largest airlines in the country, was included in the article to back up this claim. According to the group, the “water received from municipalities for onboard systems is safe,” thanks to “rigorous sampling and management requirements.”

It’s probably wise to take this statement—from a group representing the business interests of airlines—with a pinch of salt. The best way to decide whether or not you should enjoy a hot beverage on your next flight is simply to use your better judgment.

 

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This Fashion Brand Is Objectifying Naked Male Models to Make a Statement About Sexism
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
After all, the #1 rule of advertising is, sex sells.

The longstanding irony of the fashion industry is that while it serves mainly female customers, it has capitalized on the decades-old advertising tradition of objectification of women. How many countless brands have used the nude female body to sell a product? In 2017, after three waves of feminist activism, one might think we’d have seen more progress by now. At least one company agrees, and to prove it, they’re using nude male bodies to turn the tables on objectification.

A new campaign for women’s business wear brand Suistudio features chiseled naked men—most of them faceless—lounging around a penthouse apartment while women in well-cut suits touch, ogle and use their bodies to prop up their stilettos. It’s obvious social commentary on the one-sided nature of sexual objectification: it flips the archaic, traditional male-female dynamic on its head by outfitting women in power suits and casting men in submissive positions. 

Credit: Suistudio

Credit: Suistudio

Credit: Suistudio

Suistudio USA vice president Kristina Barricelli told UpWorthy, "There is nothing wrong with sex, the naked human body, and the inclusion of that in a campaign. Sex is a big part of fashion. The problem is that in recent history, we haven’t seen a naked man objectified in the background. How strange! Why not?"

The campaign was shot by fashion photographer Carli Hermes and is aptly titled “Not Dressing Men.” Ha.

Could a photo shoot finish the work feminists launched to reverse sexism and finally bring about women’s full equality? Probably not. But it’s fun and provocative and certainly makes a statement. Which is the whole point of fashion, after all.

 

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The Alt-Right Group Richard Spencer Asked to Protect Him at the U of Florida Discussed Bombing a Federal Building: Report
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Their leaked chat records show numerous calls for violence.

Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida on Thursday continues causing controversy, now with leaks showing that Spencer contacted the alt-right group Anti-Communist Action (Anticom) to help with his security.

The media collective Unicorn Riot obtained conversation records that took place between members of Anticom on the gamer app Discord. Unicorn Riot reports that the content of many of these messages has “a substantial amount of hate speech” and that “Anticom members were also keen to discuss Holocaust denial as well as valorize attacks on Jews, Muslims and people of color, with many references to lynchings and gas chambers.” The messages contain calls for violence, including instructions for making bombs, members saying they want to run people over, and a suggestion that the group "bomb a federal building with explosive touch powder."

Credit: Unicorn Riot

Credit: Unicorn Riot

One message sent out in September 2017 by ‘Pence Bot’, which, as Unicorn Riot explained, “sends automated direct messages from Anticom Discord administrators to other users in the chat,” makes a specific ask to Anticom members in anticipation of Spencer’s University of Florida speech.


Credit: Unicorn Riot

This message also contains a reference to ‘Pepe,’ the “founder of the group," according to an AntiCom member who was kicked out.

As Unicorn Riot reports, Anticom’s website is no longer active but it did say that Anticom’s mission "is to defend our communities from radical political violence by physically resisting leftist terrorists and rioters.” Anticom’s Twitter, which is still active and has been tweeting about Spencer’s speech at the University of Florida, has an account description that reads “Better dead than red. Want to punch a commie?” followed by their contact email.

Richard Spencer’s event, which was booked without a sponsoring student group and under the name of his organization, the National Policy Institute, will cost the University of Florida an estimated $500,000 in security costs. Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced a state of emergency preceding the event. There is a protest planned outside of Spencer’s event, organized by the group No Nazis at UF.

In the message sent below the one about Richard Spencer’s request for security, there are references to Anticom’s “March Against Communism,” which was to take place in December in Charlotte, NC. At the end of September, however, the group canceled the torch march.

More of the chat records from Discord can be found on Unicorn Riot, and they wrote that they intend to publish more of the chat records, having also created a searchable database for the records

 

 

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WATCH: Bush Just Delivered a Stunning 16-Minute Repudiation of Trumpism—Without Ever Mentioning His Name
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
He also warned that some American leaders were not acting like positive role models.

Former President George W. Bush warned Thursday that the United States of America was being ripped apart by external and internal strife — citing both Russian operations and white supremacists.

“Parts of Europe have developed an identity crisis,” Bush said in a speech sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York. “We have seen insolvency, economic stagnation, youth unemployment, anger about immigration, resurgent ethno-nationalism and questions about the meaning and durability of the European Union. America is not immune.”

“In recent decades public confidence in our institutions has declined, our governing class has often been paralyzed in the face of obvious and pressing needs, the American dream of upward mobility seems out of reach to some who feel left behind in a changing economy, discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts, our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication, there are some signs that the intensity of support for democracy itself has waned — especially among the young.”

“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity, disagreement escalates into dehumanization,” Bush continued.

The former Republican president then referenced a number of issues that have circulated around President Donald Trump and his supporters.

“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism immigration has always brought to America, the fading value of trade, we’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge. In all these ways, we need to recall and recover our own identity.”

Bush said the United States needed to harden its defenses against Russia, which has used social media in a disinformation campaign targeting Americans. He also said the U.S. government needed to ensure its voting system was protected from cyber attacks.

“America has experienced a sustained attempt by a hostile power to exploit our country’s divisions and feed them. According to intelligence services, the Russian government has made a project of turning Americans against each other,” Bush said.

“Foreign aggressions including cyberattacks, disinformation and financial influence should never be downplayed or tolerated,” he added.

The former president also described white supremacy “in any form” as a “blasphemy against the American creed.”

“Our identity as a nation, unlike many other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood,” he said, referencing a chant used by neo-Nazis during a march in Virginia.

“Being American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility,” Bush remarked. “We become the heirs of Thomas Jefferson by accepting the ideal of human dignity found in the Declaration of Independence, we become the heirs of James Madison by understanding the genius and values of the U.S. constitution, we become a heirs of Martin Luther King Jr. by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. This means that people of every race, religion and ethnicity can be fully and equally American.”

Bush also warned that some American leaders were not acting like positive role models.

“Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.”

Watch his full speech below:

 

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8 Times Bernie Sanders Made a Total Fool of Ted Cruz During Their Town Hall Debate
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
The Vermont senator was in vintage form Wednesday night.

After failing miserably to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have set their sights on tax reform, confident that if there's one thing the party can agree on, it's tax cuts for the rich. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has even suggested the "markets may tank” should the government fail to provide financial relief for the people who need it least.

Against this backdrop, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held a town hall Wednesday night to debate not just the benefit of tax reform, but the very function of federal government. While Cruz trotted out his tired and oft-debunked talking points about the benefits of trickle-down economics, Sanders forcefully explained how the GOP tax plan hurts the middle class, reminding us again why he's an early Democratic frontrunner for 2020.

Here are eight of the Vermont senator’s best lines from their showdown on CNN.

1. On past tax cut plans.

"In two minutes, Senator Cruz is going to tell you that if we give tax breaks to the billionaires like George W. Bush did, like Ronald Reagan did, we're going to create zillions of jobs and you're all going to become very, very rich, that we have a trickle-down economic theory, tax breaks for the wealthiest people, the largest corporations, and, whoa, everything is good. That is a totally fraudulent theory."

2. On the Kochs' support for tax cuts.

"Now, the Trump Republican tax proposal that's before us today, this proposal is being pushed by Senator Cruz's campaign contributors, some of the wealthiest people in this country, by the Koch brothers, who are worth $90 billion. Why are they pushing this agenda? Because 80 percent of the tax breaks in this proposal will go to the top 1 percent."

3. On the Bush tax cuts.

"Under President Bush, he did it. He gave tax breaks. And you know what happened? He gave tax breaks to the rich. And you know what happened? We lost 500,000 private sector jobs, and the national debt almost doubled under Bush."

4. On the long-term effects of the Reagan tax cuts.

"So this idea—of giving tax breaks to large corporations—is basically a fraud. Listen to what Ronald Reagan's domestic policy advisor Bruce Bartlett said. He said that virtually every Republican, what every Republican says about taxes today, is a lie. Reagan's OMB director David Stockman said that the idea that closing loopholes and adding growth will pay for trillions in cuts, quote, 'is just completely fanciful and irresponsible.'"

5. On his alternative tax plan.

"I happen to believe that if you want to really get the economy moving, you do things like raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, put money into the hands of working people, provide targeted tax breaks to small businesses and working people, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, creating 15 million jobs."

6. On so-called 'deficit hawks.'

"Now, Ted, I gather you are a big deficit hawk, yeah? How did you vote on the authorization bill for the Department of Defense which increased military spending by, if I'm not mistaken, $700 billion, so that we are now spending more on the military than the next 12 nations combined? Check—correct me if I'm wrong, Ted—I think you voted for that huge increase in military spending. I think that at a time when we have people working two or three jobs trying to make ends meet, where kids can't afford to go to college and are leaving school deeply in debt, I happen not to think that spending $70 billion more on the military and giving a huge boondoggle to the military industrial complex that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about, I happen to think that was not a good idea."

7. On Ted Cruz's ulterior motives.

"Let's examine what Senator Cruz really wants to do. He wants to see legislation passed that would give $1.9 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent, significantly increase the national debt being passed on to our kids and our grandchildren. And in order to pay for these tax breaks for billionaires, he wants to throw 15 million people off of Medicaid, cut Medicare by over $450 billion, cut Pell Grants, cut programs like the WIC program, women, infant and children program, designed for low-income pregnant women and their little babies."

8. On tax structures in Scandinavia.

"Second point that I want to make, Ted, you said earlier—two points that I want to make here. Number one, we can have a debate about whether you like what's going on in Denmark or not. Don't compare Denmark to Cuba. Don't compare Denmark to communist countries. Denmark has a higher voter turnout rate than we do. They're a vigorous democracy, as are other Scandinavian countries."

 

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The Koch Brothers Couldn't Ask for a Politician More Eager to Do Their Bidding Than Mike Pence
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
The right-wing billionaires have the vice president in their pocket.

In New York City last week, Vice President Mike Pence asked billionaire David Koch and around 100 other wealthy, conservative political donors for help in supporting a Republican tax plan. Since the plan would overwhelmingly benefit the richest Americans — like those he was addressing — Pence probably didn’t need to do much persuading. “To get…

 

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Guess Who Breitbart and Sarah Palin Are Blaming for the California Wildfires?
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Right-wing media have cooked up a vile new xenophobic narrative.

A collection of right-wing websites teamed up with half-term nitwit Sarah Palin to spread a fake news story that appeared to pin the Northern California wildfires that have tragically killed at least 40 people onto an immigrant man who was arrested at a park in Sonoma, California. Jesus Fabian Gonzales—who “often sleeps in the park and is well-known to law enforcement”—was arrested Sunday after starting a small fire that he says he lit to stay warm, and one that “was so small a responding sheriff’s deputy was able to mostly put it out before firefighters arrived.” Gonzales was taken into custody without incident for one count of arson, but by Tuesday, Breitbart, InfoWars, and other sites were blaring sensationalist headlines, including one that stated that the “homeless arsonist behind Calif. wildfire that killed 40 people is an illegal alien”:

Breitbart News and InfoWars offered no evidence to link the man’s arrest to the fires and their accounts of the man’s arrest were disputed the same day by Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano.

“There’s a story out there he’s the arsonist for these fires. That is not the case. There is no indication he is related to these fires at all,” Giordano said in a news conference also broadcast on the department’s Facebook page and area TV stations. “I just did want to kill that speculation right now so we didn’t have things running too far out of control.”

Speculation from, say, Palin, who tweeted that “bet you not a single mainstream news organization is going to cover this story. Not PC or something.” No, it’s just fake, dumbass. In fact, USA Today notes that Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said that “the only questions Breitbart News and InfoWars asked were about Gonzales's ethnicity and whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed a detainer on him, which would hold him for an additional 48 hours at the jail.” It’s almost like they have an agenda here!

And one of the fake news websites that ran with the story also appeared to think California was being hit by one giant fire, rather than the at least one dozen major fires that firefighters are courageously battling, and some hours away from where Gonzales was arrested. But when your goal is to blame immigrants for just about anything, who cares about the facts?

 

 

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Is Trump Playing the Madman, or Is He Really This Nuts?
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
A national security expert assesses the president's grand strategy, such as it is.

Donald Trump commands the most powerful military in the history of the world. With that responsibility has not come greater self-control, transparency or introspection.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump answered questions about American foreign policy by repeatedly saying that he would not let America's enemies (or friends) know his plans and that all he would promise was "America first." After winning the White House, Trump continued with his bluster and childish understanding of statecraft. For the presidential inauguration, he wanted a huge military parade in the style of a foreign dictator or autocrat to make the world tremble before America's power. (He was dissuaded.)

Trump has threatened countries such as North Korea and Iran with nuclear annihilation. In a speech before the United Nations, Trump engage in juvenile name-calling. He apparently finds it amusing to call North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man" while threatening to destroy his country. Trump's nickname for himself remains unknown.

While this nuclear theater of the absurd continues, the national security establishment looks on, its leaders and spokespeople often publicly appear dumbfounded, confused and outright flummoxed by Trump's behavior. Matters are made only more dire by the very real concerns about the  president's mental health.

Trump's defenders and enablers, on the other hand, insist this is all part of a grand strategy sometimes known as the "madman theory."

How do foreign policy experts evaluate Trump's presidency? What is the actual likelihood of war with either Iran or North Korea? Given Trump's apparent mental instability, should it be made more difficult for an American president to launch a nuclear attack? Are Trump's unpredictability and verbal taunts actually part of a larger and more elaborate strategy?

In an effort an answer these questions, I recently spoke with Tom Nichols. He is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College and also teaches at the Harvard Extension School. Nichols is the author of seven books, including "No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security" and “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.”

A longer version of this conversation can be heard on my podcast, which is available on Salon’s Featured Audio page. Nichols' opinions and comments are his own and do not reflect those of the United States government.

Given Trump's unpredictability in respect to foreign policy, the concept of the "madman theory" has been used by journalists and others to describe his supposed strategy. Can you provide some context for the madman theory? What are its origins?

The madman theory is a notion of deterrence in which you want to convince your opponent that you're more reckless than he is. Deterrence in its simpler version is like a game of chicken. So if that's the paradigm, the madman theory is like downing a bottle of vodka in front of your opponent and saying, "You know what, dude, I don't care if I live or die. I'm crazy. I'm nuts." On that concept, the other guy is going to swerve first, because he is going to say, "My opponent just isn't rational." The problem with the madman theory is that it also makes your opponent very nervous and prone to want to attack first, because you cannot be reasoned with. The biggest problem with Trump has been that if you tell people, "Hey, I'm doing the madman thing," then you've blown the whole idea. You don't publicly say, "Hey, I'm just trying to appear unreasonable." Because then your opponent says, "OK, not only are you reckless, you're stupid."

How have foreign policy professionals responded to Trump's apparent embrace of the madman theory?

Well, in my limited conversations with my fellow policy experts on this, I do not think anybody takes it seriously or that Trump is getting over on the North Koreans this way. I do think the North Koreans see him as unpredictable. They're trying to figure out who is in charge of the U.S. government. But I think all that is bad. I think deterrence is not well served when your opponent can't figure out who's running the show. The president of the most powerful country in the world should not say, "Hey, I'm unstable. I could do anything. I'm kind of a madman."

But I think one of the reasons you hear the madman theory discussed so often now is because President Trump's supporters are desperate to reverse-engineer some reason for what he's doing. They’re always trying to present his impulsiveness as a plan. So when he says, "Hey, Rocket Man, I could end you tomorrow." They say, "Ah, don't worry, it's the madman theory. He's playing four-dimensional chess." When in fact he's just tweeting or blurting stuff out. But his supporters have a hard time just admitting that the guy is impulsive. So they come up with elaborate theories about why he's doing what he's doing. I don't think anybody is really buying that, here or anywhere else in the world.

During the campaign Trump said, "Well, I don't want America's enemies to know what we're going to do. ... I want to surprise them. That's how we're going to win." That's how we're going to make America great again." 

The great Thomas Schelling, who pioneered a lot of this work back in the '60s, once said that deterrence rests on the threat that leaves something to chance. The problem is that the way Trump and his mouthpieces are taking it is they're saying that being totally unpredictable and opaque and nutty is the way to do stuff. Well, that's just wrong. Deterrence theory would tell you to say to your opponent, "Hey, I'm not interested in war, but you're setting in motion some things here that can go bad. I can't tell you that I can stay in control of everything happening. It's not a perfect world, but I can't control everything." This is far preferable to saying, "I'm totally unpredictable."

If you are North Korea's leadership, are you terrified after listening to Trump talk about incinerating your country?

Let's not be too understanding of the North Koreans. Because these are guys that have been talking about turning American cities into seas of fire for several years. The only thing that breaks the pattern is that the North Koreans are not used to American presidents talking this way. There's actually a [recent article] that said they've been reaching out to Republican think tanks and individuals to try to  get some kind of read on Trump. On the other hand, they can watch the disposition of our forces near them. The president can talk all he wants. If nothing is moving, then they have to report back that troops in South Korea are not on alert. So there is a disconnect between Trump's rhetoric and the reality on the ground.

Trump does sound like a belligerent. But it also sounds so over-the-top, I wonder if they take it seriously. After his UN speech, I just kind of sat back and said, "All this does is embarrass us. It doesn't really send a warning."

What do you think is going to happen in the near to medium term with North Korea?

What I'm worried about is a misperception of some kind. That both parties misread the signals because they're so convinced that hostilities are imminent they then decide that it's go time. Now, I think cooler heads are prevailing everywhere for two reasons. One is that the North Koreans understand that if they start something, the Chinese are going to walk away from it. The Chinese have made it very clear that if America comes after North Korea, they will support them [North Korea].

I think the second reason is that no matter how much rhetoric comes out of the White House, just about everybody in the national security establishment understands that the options are limited right now. If the North Koreans test an actual nuclear missile and explode it over the Pacific, we're going to be in a different ball game. Because the urge to destroy that program will start becoming overwhelming and it might even change my mind about it.

What about a very basic type of realpolitik, where the North Koreans are told that if they act aggressively towards South Korea or other countries in the region their country will be destroyed?

I think those messages have been sent by every president for years. I mean, Bill Clinton talked about turning North Korea into a parking lot. John McCain, while Clinton was president, actually said, "We would totally eliminate them." But the North Korean ace in the hole here is always to say, "You guys can talk all you want, but we'll destroy Seoul. When we go down, we will take hundreds of thousands of people with us. So is it worth it to you?"

In the end, no matter how many times they call us names or claim seas of fire and all that stuff, they know that they can take down Seoul, but that they will go down too. That's why I said that this status quo, for now, is probably more stable than people realize -- if only because it serves the Chinese interest, it serves the South Korean interest, it serves the North Korean interest and it serves our interest not to go to war.

What is the actual procedure for an American president to order the use of nuclear weapons? Is it too easy?  

The system was designed during the Cold War. It wasn't made to stop the president. It was designed to enable the president. The assumption was -- and I think it was a good assumption -- that deterrence with the Soviet Union required them to understand that if the president says go, it means go. That the Soviets can't plunge us into a big existential crisis where there is a big debate in Congress and the whole thing. That if they attack us, or if they look like they're about to attack us, the president can make a decision and say, "Launch what we've got and take them out."

Now, the problem is that was always predicated on a bolt-out-of-the-blue attack. The United States still has nuclear forces on a "ready to launch in 15 minutes" status as though it were 1961. I don't actually think that's a good idea. I think that in the day-to-day operations of the government, there should be a second set of codes.

I wrote a piece in USA Today where I suggested there should be a second person -- maybe the Senate Majority Leader -- who would hold a kind of veto code. So if the president gave that order, what he would actually do is have an aide, probably the secretary of defense, establish communications with our military and he would have to verify that he is, in fact, the president. He would have to use the code he has for that day to say, "This is who I am. This is the code the NSA has issued, and I am legitimately this person." Then a second person in the room  would say, "I am verifying that the president is giving this order."

Let's say, hypothetically, that a president is mentally unstable and he gives an illegal or immoral order on a whim: "We're going to destroy North Korea. We're going to destroy Iran." Would the people around him -- the generals, the admirals and the like -- just stall that order as long as they could? Or would somebody stand up and say, "Mr. President, I'm not doing this."

I will try to do this by historical analogy. When Nixon was president, he was drinking a lot. He was kind of strung out. He was freaking out about Watergate, and the secretary of defense said, "Any unusual orders should be checked with me." Now that doesn't mean it could have happened. It doesn't mean that if the president gave an order to some Air Force general he would not have launched. Would there be a some type of Jack Ryan moment where a bunch of people in the room say, "Mr. President, we're not doing that!" Maybe, although again the system and the people who are in that system are not designed that way.

What advice would you give Trump and his inner circle about their approach to international relations generally and the use of military force specifically?

I would say stop making threats you're not going to fulfill. You're not going to drop nuclear weapons on North Korea. You're not going to drop nuclear weapons in the Middle East. So get over that. Start making an alternative plan for dealing with a nuclear North Korea, including containment. My argument all along, and I've been saying this for years, is that the United States need a much stronger conventional military. The United States spends its money on high-end weapons systems when in fact what's really going to deter people is people in uniform carrying guns.

So my answer would be: Stop rattling the nuclear saber and start thinking about making different kinds of threats. I think in both cases, with small countries, the threat should be that if you use nuclear weapons, if you go to war with the West, we will fight you conventionally, and we won't stop until we pull you out of the spider hole the way we did with Saddam Hussein. It may be very costly, and it may take a long time. But as Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gaddafi can tell you, sooner or later this will end up with you dead.

 

 

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Donald Trump Floats Demented New Conspiracy Theory Involving Democrats, Russia and the FBI
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Another day, another paranoid, fact-free allegation on social media.

President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested that the infamous “pee-pee tape” dossier that alleged he got a “golden shower” from Russian prostitutes was concocted by a conspiracy between the Democratic Party, the FBI, and the Russian government.

“Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?”

The dossier, which was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, alleges that the Russian government has been cultivating Trump as a potential asset for years. Although the dossier’s allegations about Trump’s sexual activities in Russia have not been verified, some of its other allegations are apparently being taken seriously by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has been tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Developing…

 

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Don Lemon Smacks Down Conservative Former NFL Player as 'Un-American'
October 19th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Constitutional rights are an elusive concept to the ex-athlete.

Don Lemon was discussing protests during the national anthem with former NFL player Chris Valletta, who is white, when the CNN host decided he couldn't take Valletta's nonsensical argument any longer.

Valletta tried to claim that players should stand during the anthem because the U.S. affords freedom of speech, despite the fact that kneeling is an exercise of free speech. He then scaremongered about a future in which no one would sing the anthem.

"But how can you as an American citizen who believes in the First Amendment and in the Constitution and everything you say about the anthem, how can you tell another citizen how and when to protest? That’s un-American," Lemon responded.

Valletta said he "took offense to that" and declared himself a "bold American."
 
"You may be a bold American, but that's misguided, because even if you disagree with it, you should fight for the right for others to do whatever they want," Lemon said, reminding Valletta about a little thing called the U.S. Constitution.
 
After a bit more nonsense from Valletta, Lemon was over it.
 
“You’re not making sense. This is not a dictatorship, totalitarian country you can’t tell people when to stand and when not to, otherwise, we would be living in North Korea and Kim Jong-un would be our leader."
 
Watch the full discussion below.


'UnAmerican': Don schools conservative NFL... by sarahburris

 

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Rachel Maddow Has a Provocative Theory About Trump's Response to Fallen Soldiers in Niger
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
It's all a diversion from something very specific.

President Donald Trump's phone call to the widow of fallen soldier Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed in Niger, has dominated the headlines since the details were first revealed.

The president reportedly told Johnson's wife her husband "knew what he signed up for" and appeared not to know the soldier's name. 

This comes after Trump made false claims about how his predecessors handled the deaths of U.S. service members.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow believes that Trump's snowballing controversy about fallen troops is intentional. He wants to keep people talking about it.

“It’s not just distraction, it’s diversion. Just barely related enough in terms of subject matter, doesn’t just challenge people to talk about something new, but stands in for real scandal,” Maddow said. “Muddies the real story’s storyline. Diverts energy from the initial news cycle that was difficult for the White House to deal with. Not just distraction, diversion.”

Maddow believes the story is a diversion from what really happened to the soldiers in Niger. Details have remained elusive about the ambush that killed four troops.

“Something about what happened in Niger has caused this president, apparently instinctively, to divert the conversation from what happened to those soldiers,” Maddow explained.

Watch the segments below.

 

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Trump Campaign Staff Publicly Circulated Russian Propaganda on Twitter Before the Election: Report
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Top officials tweeted state-backed foreign propaganda disguised as domestic content.

Multiple members of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, including Donald Trump Jr., campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and other staffers circulated tweets by professional trolls on the payroll of the Russian government, according to a startling new report from the Daily Beast.

According to the Daily Beast:

“The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the 'Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,' was operated from the Kremlin-backed ‘Russian troll farm,’ or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed.”

The Russian-backed organization responsible for the tweets engaged in a widespread influence campaign that included popular social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Twitter refused to comment on the revelations, citing “privacy and security reasons.” 

This is the first tangible evidence presented to the public that members of the Trump campaign team promoted Russian propaganda materials in the course of the election. Some of these campaign members, including Conway and the president's son, are influential within the Trump administration. Conway is now a top White House staffer, serving as counselor to the president.

According to former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, the propaganda content was “designed to look organic” to dupe Americans into promoting the content themselves in the hope of swaying the election.

The promotion of the Russian tweets does not establish that Trump’s campaign members knew the content's origin. Numerous right-wing Twitter accounts outside the campaign also retweeted the same content with likely no knowledge that the tweets were Russian state propaganda.

As congressional investigations examine Russian election interference and question Trump aides under oath, these latest revelations provide yet another piece of the puzzle into how far-reaching Russia’s influence actually was during the 2016 presidential race.

 
 

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Trump's Chaos: He Taunts the Public, Holds Programs Hostage and Forces Others to Clean Up His Mess
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Traumatic Obamacare reversals underscore dismal new normal in Washington.

When will President Trump stop playing games with Obamacare?

By Wednesday morning, less than a day after the Senate committee overseeing health policy announced a bipartisan bill to fix near-term fiscal issues without undermining consumer protections, Trump was backtracking on his Tuesday comment that it was a “short-term solution.”

“I am supportive of [Tennessee senator and committee chairman] Lamar [Alexander] as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's [insurance companies] who have made a fortune w/ O'Care,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

That Trump tweet prompted Alexander to reply, “I will work with the president to see if we can make it even stronger.”

Only a day before, Alexander told a health care forum, “The president engineered the bipartisan agreement by calling me and asking me to work with Senator [Patty] Murray (D-WA) to do it. I’ve talked with him three times in the last 10 days about it.”

What’s next is anybody’s guess. On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he opposed the Senate bill that, among other things, restored $7 billion in Obamacare subsidies for 7 million low-income policyholders—which Trump last week said he would no longer pay. That decree created a needless crisis, prompting insurers to say this week that they would increase individual Obamacare premiums by an average of 20 percent in 2018, and raise rates on other policies.

If this sounds confusing, it is. The status quo in Washington under Trump is anything but normal lawmaking. Instead of a process where opposing sides bicker, bargain, accept the result, and move on, Trump has introduced a deliberately chaotic dynamic. Millions of lives are toyed with. Needed programs are held hostage and threatened. And every new day finds Trump saying something that contradicts what he said—or agreed to—only days before.

The highest-profile example is the fate of the Obamacare subsidies and Trump’s similar refusal to fund enrollment drives for people to get coverage for 2018—which the Senate legislation also would reverse.

This dynamic could also be seen in Trump’s handling of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program for 800,000 visa-less children of immigrants—the Dreamers. Trump said he would keep DACA and boasted of a deal with the Democrats. But then he changed his terms, adding items no Democrat would accept, like building a Mexico border wall.

Another example is his silence on another big government-created health care crisis now unfolding, the failure of Congress to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which serves 9 million poor children and their families across America.

“He is gathering hostages—the health of kids, a functioning insurance market, the status of Dreamers illegally brought to the U.S. as children by their undocumented parents,” wrote Andy Slavitt in USAToday. (Slavitt oversaw the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid for President Obama from 2015 to 2017.) Trump's plan is to use these hostages to get Democrats to agree to have taxpayers pay for his border wall and other demands to please his base.”

It’s important to understand what Trump is doing—he's creating crises that would not exist were it not for disruptive tactics that force others to clean up his mess, such as the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee having to put into legislation remedies to counter Trump’s vindictive abuse of power.

The bipartisan bill announced Tuesday by HELP Chairman Alexander and vice-chair Murray would do what Republicans have sought—give states flexibility to run federal healthcare programs, rather than being forced into a do-everything-you’re-told approach from Washington. But the HELP committee also had to find a way around Trump’s intransigence over spending congressionally appropriated funds.

Moreover, the committee also sidelined, at least temporarily, a stunning new line of attack on Trump and the GOP—that the announced 2018 premium hikes were akin to a major tax increase.

Trump’s 'Tax Increase' Postponed

“The higher [Obamacare] rates—ranging from 9 percent to 27 percent more than they proposed in June—depending on the insurer, are essentially a tax that President Trump is imposing on consumers,” Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said, this week before the HELP Committee bill was announced. “Make no mistake: the president had a choice and he chose to make health care cost significantly more for people who need help. The fallout from this lands squarely on his shoulders.”

None of this chaos was remotely necessary.

As health policy experts have said, Obamacare is not failing, contrary to Trump’s assertions. Insurers selling individual policies were profitable as recently as this spring, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has reported. But after Trump’s subsidy-ending decree, insurers in almost every state were facing multi-millions in losses in 2017, Avalere, an independent consulting firm, said Tuesday (before the Senate bipartisan legislation was announced).

Trump’s advisers said this week his proposed tax cuts would raise annual wages by several thousand dollars—a figure that has been disputed as a long-term projection and over-ambitious. But Trump ending Obamacare subsidies would cause health care premiums to immediately jump by thousands of dollars in 2018—and still could, if Congress doesn’t act on the Senate HELP proposal.

One can only wonder if Trump’s tax cut-obsessed colleagues read the writing on the walls, especially in states that voted for Trump. Earlier this week, local newspapers in the final presidential swing states were telling readers Trump was about to make multi-thousands of households feel significant fiscal pain.

“Pennsylvania insurers offering Obamacare plans will need to raise premiums an average 30.6 percent in 2018, nearly four times the increase that had been anticipated before President Donald Trump scrapped government subsidies five days ago,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. “Earlier this year, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department had projected an average 7.6 percent rate hike for individual health insurance plans purchased… in this state.”

Pennsylvania was not the only swing state feeling the sting.

“The sticker price for individual health plans sold on Michigan's Affordable Care Act exchange will jump 16.7% next year under new rates announced Monday by state officials,” the Detroit Free Press said, noting 393,322 Michiganders “currently buy individual health insurance on or off the government-run exchange.”

In Wisconsin, Obamacare premiums were projected to go up 36 percent in 2018. In Ohio, some insurers filed papers with regulators seeking increases as much as 48 percent.

Needless to say, Sens. Alexander and Murray’s legislation has to be passed by the Senate and House and signed into law by Trump. It is far from a done deal. But look at what never should have been in their bipartisan “solution” in the first place—provisions to counter Trump’s intentional traumatizing the health security of millions.

This toxic and dysfunctional dynamic reflects the new normal in Trump’s Washington. Nothing about it bodes well for the legislative process or the ability of government to solve problems lessening the real-life stresses and challenges people face.         

 

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Donald Trump Has Spent an Astounding Amount of His Presidency Tweeting
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
A new report indicates he's wasted entire days tapping away on social media.

What has he tweeted now? Odds are you've asked yourself this question in the wee hours of the morning with a knot in your stomach or a tightness in your chest. And while there's no way to anticipate what horrors await—threat of nuclear war? Personal attack on a private citizen? The possibilities are endless!—we now have an idea of precisely how much time Donald Trump has spent torturing the country on social media since he assumed office. (An ABC poll found that 67 percent disapprove of the president's use of Twitter.)

According to an intrepid Washington Post report, Trump takes an average of six minutes and 24 seconds composing his missives. Post reporter Philip Bump arrived at this number by measuring the time gap in his multi-part tweets, which ranged from 12 seconds for pre-programmed, lawyer-vetted messages to more than three hours for the president's more free-associative screeds.

"These are estimates and they are impossible to verify," he writes. "But the evidence at hand supports the idea that days of Trump’s time in the White House have been spent on sending out his Twitter messages."

Trump has tweeted an astounding 1,817 times since becoming president. That amounts to 11,653 minutes—8.1 days, or approximately 3 percent of his time in office. And that figure doesn't account for the time he's expended perusing his timeline for dank white supremacist memes.

We can only begin to fathom how many weeks he's spent watching "Fox & Friends."

H/T Washington Post

 

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Painful Truth: The Unhealthiest County in America Voted Overwhelmingly for Trump, Who Will Only Make Things Worse
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
The painful truth of how people vote.

By nearly every measure, Union County, Florida, is the unhealthiest place in the United States. A Business Insider data analysis finds that the county outpaces the rest of the U.S. in deaths caused by “cancers, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, malignant skin melanoma, and nonmelanoma skin cancer”; that it has “the highest [U.S.] death rate overall”; and that life expectancy is just 68 in a country where the national average is nearly 79.

The median annual income, at just $39,163, is almost $20,000 less than the national average, and one-fifth of Union County residents live under the poverty line. Heroin is now the main cause of accidental death, and a new program has been launched to “reverse the growing trend of heroin and opioid abuse in the area.” The situation is not helped by the fact that those who occupy the county’s 12 small towns are edging toward midlife, with an average age of 40.

With its soaring death rates, widespread illness, out-of-control drug abuse, and high rates of unemployment, Union County is in desperate need of a turnaround, including more social services, funding, and development—a longshot with any administration in power. The county is also 74 percent white. And perhaps unsurprisingly, in the 2016 presidential election, its citizens voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump by a staggering 80.2 percent.  

To be clear, Trump won every faction of white voters, from the uneducated to the college educated, rich and poor, across gender lines. Those voting patterns say less about Trump than about white receptivity to a sales pitch steeped in racism and xenophobia. Despite Trump’s pan-white socioeconomic appeal, Union County is the kind of place news editors persist in falsely pinpointing as the loci for Trump support. It’s a power move, really; a way of punching down to avoid holding their own class accountable for voting with white supremacy as a primary, though more quietly spoken, motivator. The difference between Trump votes cast by residents of Union County and those from white America’s upper classes is that for the former, the decision will be far more consequential. Nine months in, there is already proof the result is an even greater imbalance of life and death.

Like so other many poor counties, Union County has been in decline for years. Local NPR affiliate WUFT recalls that the county’s once-thriving industry, clothing manufacturing, shut down in the mid-1990s, and others have slowed to a standstill. The only careers to be had are in the school system, sawmill, or local prison, which also houses one-third of the population. The most bustling street in the area’s biggest city is described by WUFT as “lined with convenience stores, churches and local businesses...in rundown buildings.” The county has ranked last in health and wellness in Florida since 2010.

One of the few areas where Union County has had good news in recent years is in health care. Back in 2008-2009, nearly a quarter of residents had no health insurance, according to a 2012 Health Department assessment. By 2015, that number had dropped to 10.9 percent, and “like the state of Florida as a whole, the percentage of uninsured individuals [was] the lowest it has been since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2009.”

The numbers of uninsured are guaranteed to go up under Trump, for a mix of reasons sociologists and researchers are still grappling with. In attempting to explain middle-aged, working-class whites' climbing death rates in this country—mostly due to self-harming behaviors—Princeton researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton have blamed depression, hopelessness and bitterness tied to eroding faith in the promise of America’s future. “[They] have lost the narrative of their lives,” Deaton told Vox last year, “meaning something like a loss of hope, a loss of expectations of progress.”

In other words, high rates of blue-collar whites are self-medicating—one-fifth of Union County residents smoke, 37 percent are obese and 20 percent report drinking excessively—to dull the painful feeling that they have less to live for than ever before. And yet, they have voted to hasten their end by electing a man who will take their health care away and do nothing to reopen those manufacturing plants. They have signed on to a party whose mission is to create a scarcity economy that makes the rich richer, while the rest fight for scraps. This somehow creates a bottom tier delusion of prosperity, as long as someone else is being left behind.

It seems probable that if things get worse in Union County, which a Trump presidency guarantees, its citizens will grow more desperate, their self-destructiveness will increase and their outcomes will grow worse. The fierceness with which Trump’s base supports him suggests they may dig in their heels even deeper. Their vulnerability may yet ripen for further exploitation and their anger will be more misplaced. Union County’s hopes rest on a younger generation that will offset some of the death that currently plagues the area, but it’s hard to predict the mess it will be in after this administration is through with it.

During the campaign, Trump suggested African Americans should vote for him because, “what the hell do you have to lose?” The implication was that black folks’ lives were already so pain-filled and pathetic, and their futures so bleak, the answer was clearly “nothing.” Union County heard those Trumpian pronouncements, and though not seeing themselves as the intended audience, acted on them. Seeking an unrealistic form of change, and vengeance against made-up scapegoats instead of the system that has truly left them behind, probably feels good before it hurts.

But I have to wonder: What will happen with these down-at-the-heels towns as fear makes them cling tighter to the very forces that have been screwing them over from the beginning? How immense will be the runoff of trauma (however self-inflicted, in part), and how can it be treated? How do you help people who only grow more attached to their abusers? I’m really asking, though I'm petrified of the answer, because the ripple effects will impact all of us.

 

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Making Way for Psychedelics: 5 Paths Going Forward
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Psychedelics have been criminalized in the U.S. for half a century. Maybe there's a better way.

Psychedelics, hidden for decades in the shadows, are back in the light. Research studies at universities like UCLA and NYU have ushered in a new era not seen since the 1950s and '60s, when psychedelics were a common psychotherapy tool for psychiatrists like Humphrey Osmond, who gave psychonaut Aldous Huxley, author of The Doors of Perception, a dose of mescaline in 1953.

Since psychedelics were officially declared illegal in 1967, marijuana, a Schedule I substance along with psychedelics, is legal in some form in 29 states and the District of Columbia. The federal legality of psychedelics hasn’t changed, but societal perception and use has.

The microdosing trend has been driven by the Silicon Valley crowd in particular, who have reported that psychedelics spike creativity and productivity and reduce depression and anxiety.

Recently, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) received the green light to commence a Phase III FDA approval process to study MDMA for PTSD treatment for veterans, and more Americans are going to far-flung sites to take part in shamanic rituals using ayahuasca, ibogaine and peyote.

With all this psychedelic momentum, should psychedelics be legalized? Here are some possibilities.

1. Albert Hoffman’s method

Albert Hoffman was the first person to synthesize LSD for Switzerland’s Sandoz Pharmaceutical in 1938. Hoffman also experienced the first LSD trip when he accidentally ingested some LSD and took a notorious bicycle ride on April 19, 1943. Hoffman believed that psychedelics have benefits and that people should be able to access them, though he felt the drugs should be subject to controls and taken under the supervision of a psychiatrist.

2. The religious way

In the case of O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal, a Christian Spiritist sect, the government found that their use of ayahuasca, a sacramental tea containing the psychedelic DMT, was protected under the First Amendment. The government had to concede that applying the Controlled Substances Act to ayahuasca would be a burden on religious freedom.

In 1996, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, ensuring that Native Americans could use peyote as part of their religious practice. Though likely the road less traveled, the burden is on the government to prove a psychedelic is not for religious use.

3. Medical road

Medicinal cannabis markets have boomed since California was the first to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. A medicinal system is likely the easiest route to follow since it’s a recognizable structure, more palatable to mainstream consumers and a simpler model to convince lawmakers. This is the route MAPS seems to be following, as evidenced by its close work with the FDA. But this approach also produces a unique set of challenges, especially cost, time and establishing regulations.

4. Fully legal

This method is probably the most politically difficult because it relies on two government agencies, the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Trump’s chosen FDA commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, has called for deregulation to cut costs and expedite drug reviews, though it’s unknown whether that would apply to psychedelic policy.

The DEA could be tricky because it’s overseen by anti-drug crusader Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Some of his recent drug policy moves are ordering his staff to enforce mandatory minimums for drug offenders and asking Congress for permission to prosecute medical marijuana providers. Given Sessions’ obstinate views on cannabis, psychedelics would probably be held to the same hard line.

5. Prohibition path

This is the road we currently travel, where people are driven to the darkest corners of the internet to get "legal" psychedelics, find themselves on the streets looking to buy or interact with strange dealers. Others find themselves without protections from bad players trying to make a buck. Especially vulnerable are those in the nightlife and party scene, where MDMA is frequently tainted with fentanyl, a potentially lethal synthetic opioid.

Many experts say that psychedelics defy all regulatory categories and shouldn’t be subject to drug policy at all. Psychedelics, meaning “mind manifesting,” need a category all to themselves.

 

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ICE Head Says He's Ordered Increase of Workplace Raids 'by Four to Five Times'
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
The agency is also going to strongly prosecute employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

During a Heritage Foundation appearance this week, acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director Thomas Homan pledged to supercharge his agency’s war on undocumented immigrant communities, saying that federal immigration agents will not only continue to ignore calls to stop stalking and arresting immigrants outside courthouses—including human trafficking court—but that he has also ordered an increase in workplace raids "by four to five times”:

"[A]s long as they think they can come here and get U.S. citizenship and not get removed, they're going to keep coming," he said during a Q&A session. "As long as they can come here and get a job, they're going to try and come."

Homan said ICE has already stepped up workplace enforcement since the Trump administration took office, and revealed he has given instruction to increase it "four to five times."

"We're taking worksite enforcement very hard this year. We've already increased the number of inspections and worksite operations, you're going to see that significantly increase this next fiscal year," he said.

Homan explained ICE is also going to strongly prosecute employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrant workers, in addition to deporting those workers.

“Homan said ICE will continue to strongly target illegal immigrants who are part of gangs”—a reminder here that there are no Department of Homeland Security guidelines prioritizing so-called “bad hombres” because Donald Trump threw out those priorities—“but, if someone is still undocumented even without provable gang ties, they will still be deported, he said.” This, for once, is a fact from the administration, because thousands of undocumented immigrants without a criminal record have been swept up by ICE. 

Homan has been Trump and Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s top mass deportation accomplice at ICE, pledging to increase raids in California because the state just passed landmark anti-deportation legislation and warning immigrant moms and dads that “if you’re in this country illegally … you should be uncomfortable. You should look over your shoulder, and you need to be worried.” Now instead of using our tax dollars to focus on actual dangers to public safety, Trump and gang want to double-down on sweeping up immigrants just trying to support their families.

 

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How Media Sexism Demeans Women and Fuels Abuse by Men Like Weinstein
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Advertising continues to portray women as charming keepers of the home, making it harder to succeed at work.

The sexual abuse scandal currently embroiling media mogul Harvey Weinstein has stunned the United States, with Hollywood and the fashion industry declaring that “this way of treating women ends now.”

As an Argentinean woman who studies gender in the media, I find it hard to be surprised by Weinstein’s misdeeds. Machismo remains deeply ingrained in Latin American society, yes, but even female political leaders in supposedly gender-equal paradises like Holland and Sweden have told me that they are criticized more in the press and held to a higher standard than their male counterparts.

How could they not be? Across the world, the film and TV industry – Weinstein’s domain – continues to foist outdated gender roles upon viewers.

Women’s work

Television commercials are particularly guilty, frequently casting women in subservient domestic roles.

Take this 2015 ad for the Argentine cleaning product Cif, which is still running today. It explains how its concentrated cleaning capsules “made Sleeping Beauty shine.”

The prince could help clean up, but why bother when women can do it all?

In it, a princess eager to receive her prince remembers that – gasp – the floors in her castle tower are a total mess. Thanks to Cif’s magic scouring fluid, she has time not only to clean but also to get dolled up for the prince – who, in case you were wondering, has no physical challenges preventing him from helping her tidy up.

But why should he, when it’s a woman’s job to be both housekeeper and pretty princess?

Somewhat paradoxically, advertisements may also cast men as domestic superheroes. Often, characters like Mr. Muscle will mansplain to women about the best product and how to use it – though they don’t actually do any cleaning themselves.

Mansplaining domestic chores.

More recently, there’s been a shift – perhaps an awkward attempt at political correctness – in which women are still the masters of the home, but their partners are shown “helping out” with the chores. In exchange, the men earn sex object status.

Thanks for ‘helping out,’ hubby.

We’ve come a little way, baby

Various studies on gender stereotypes in commercials indicate that although the advertising industry is slowly changing for the better, marketing continues to target specific products to certain customers based on traditional gender roles.

Women are pitched hygiene and cleaning products, whereas men get ads for banks, credit cards, housing, cars and other significant financial investments.

This year, U.N. Women teamed up with Unilever and other industry leaders like Facebook, Google, Mars and Microsoft to launch the Unstereotype Alliance. The aim of this global campaign is to end stereotypical and sexist portrayals of gender in advertising.

As part of the #Unstereotype campaign, Unilever also undertook research on gender in advertising. It found that only 3 percent of advertising shows women as leaders and just 2 percent conveys them as intelligent. In ads, women come off as interesting people just 1 percent of the time.

Britain paves a path

Even before it was forced to reckon with allegations that Harvey Weinstein had also harassed women in London, the United Kingdom was making political progress on the issue of women’s portrayal in the media.

In July, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority announced that the U.K. will soon prohibit commercials that promote gender stereotypes.

“While advertising is only one of many factors that contribute to unequal gender outcomes,” its press release stated, “tougher advertising standards can play an important role in tackling inequalities and improving outcomes for individuals, the economy and society as a whole.”

As of 2018, the agency says, advertisements in which women are shown as solely responsible for household cleaning or men appear useless around kitchen appliances and unable to handle taking care of their children and dependents will not pass muster in the U.K. Commercials that differentiate between girls’ and boys’ toys based on gender stereotypes will be banned as well.

Sticky floors

The U.K.‘s move is a heartening public recognition that gender stereotypes in the media both reflect and further the very real inequalities women face at home and at work.

Worldwide, the International Labor Organization reports, women still bear the burden of household chores and caretaking responsibilities, which often either excludes them from pay work or leaves them relegated to ill-paid part-time jobs.

In the U.K., men spend on average 16 hours per week on domestic tasks, while women spend 26. The European Union average is worse, with women dedicating an average of 26 weekly hours to men’s nine hours on caretaking and household tasks.

In Argentina, my home country, fully 40 percent of men report doing no household work at all, even if they’re unemployed. Among those who do pitch in, it’s 24 hours a week on caretaking and domestic chores for men. Argentinean women put in 45 hours.

You can do the math: On average, Argentinean women use up two days of their week and some 100 days annually – nearly one-third of their year – on unpaid household labor.

Real-world consequences

These inequalities, combined with advertising that reinforces them, generate what’s called the “sticky floors” problem. Women – whether would-be investment bankers or, I dare say, aspiring Hollywood stars – don’t just face glass ceilings to advancement, they also are also “stuck” to domestic life by endless chores.

The cultural powers that be produce content that represents private spaces as “naturally” imbued with female qualities, gluing women to traditional caregiving roles.

This hampers their professional development and helps keep them at the bottom of the economy pyramid because women must pull off a balancing act between their jobs inside and outside of the domestic sphere. And they must excel at both, all while competing against male colleagues who likely confront no such challenges.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama once pointed out this double standard in homage to his then-competitor Hillary Clinton. She, he reminded an audience in 2008, “was doing everything I was doing, but just like Ginger Rogers, it was backwards in heels.”

The Conversation

The sticky floor problem puts women in a position to be exploited by men like Weinstein, who tout their ability to help female aspirants to get unstuck. Until society – and, with it, the media we create – comprehend that neither professional success nor domesticity has a gender, these pernicious powerful dynamics will endure.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

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What Is Antifa, Really?
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Mark Bray literally wrote the book on anti-fascism.

The Charlottesville white supremacist rally left one woman dead, dozens injured and a country grappling with questions about how such a thing could happen on the streets of a supposedly liberal college town. Adding media insult to national injury, the tragedy inspired a festival of false equivalency from pundits on both sides of the aisle, who considered the anti-fascist or Antifa counterprotesters just as bad as those chanting "blood and soil."

Marc A. Thiessen wrote in the Washington Post that "Neo-Nazis are the violent advocates of a murderous ideology that killed 25 million people last century. Antifa members are the violent advocates of a murderous ideology that, according to 'The Black Book of Communism,' killed between 85 million and 100 million people last century."

Antifa groups have been misunderstood, condemned for being violent and mischaracterized as a centralized group with membership cards and a headquarters. In reality, Antifa is a label, used by those following a guiding principle oriented against all forms of fascism, racism and white supremacy.

To clear up some of the confusion, AlterNet spoke with Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook. We discussed the origins of anti-fascism, the fight against Donald Trump and the far right, and the huge commitment people make to be part of the Antifa movement.

The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

Ilana Novick: How you would define Antifa?

Mark Bray: Antifa is, of course, short for anti-fascism. But it really is a shorthand for a specific tendency that in English is usually referred to as militant anti-fascism. Militant anti-fascism is essentially a pan-radical-left politic of direct action against the far right. 

IN: Is it more of a tactic or a guiding principle, rather than a specific movement that someone can join?

MB: Think about it like socialism. Is socialism something that someone can join? No, it's a politic. But are there socialist groups you can join? Yeah. Same with Antifa. Antifa is either an activity or a mode of politics, depending on exactly what kind of phrasing you prefer. In that sense, anyone can make their own Antifa group. There is no Antifa central command, but there are Antifa groups with membership that you could join. Or you could make your own group.

In that way, it's no one group, but there are groups.

IN: In your book, you trace Antifa principles to post-World War II Europe. Can you talk about how that started and why?

MB: Sure. It's a slightly different conversation if you talk about the U.K. versus continental Europe, in part because in continental Europe, many of the governments that emerged out of the ashes of World War II established themselves as officially anti-fascist institutions. In that sense, their solution for stopping a rebirth of fascism, or Nazism, was to make it illegal. Laws were passed against Nazi or fascist politics. That was an official governmental anti-fascism.

Decades later, really in the '80s and '90s, when you get a neo-Nazi skinhead movement, militant anti-fascism in continental Europe emerged as an alternative vision of anti-fascism that rejected turning to the state or the police, or legislation to stop the far right, but advocated for direct action from below. In that sense, it was sort of a contestation within continental Europe over what anti-fascism really means.

In Britain, it's a different conversation, because right after World War II, the government essentially allowed a lot more leeway for fascism far-right groups to reestablish themselves. In that sense, the militant anti-fascist resumes right again in 1946, and continues onward. Whereas in continental Europe, the importance of anti-fascism, in a real and literal sense, does not really reemerge until the '80s.

IN: What, if anything, sets American anti-fascism apart from its European counterpart?

MB: Part of it is a question of defining terms, of course. If you want to think of anti-fascism or opposition to white supremacy in a wider lens, of course, you can go back to opposition to the KKK. It can stretch far back. But if we're talking about the history of the specific Antifa politics that we're talking about, that would pretty much date with the creation of anti-racist action in the U.S., Canada, and somewhat beyond in the late '80s, into the '90s. That was largely modeled on the British anti-fascists action. It was created largely, initially by anti-racist-skinheads pushing back against the emergence of a neo-Nazi skinhead movement. They felt like the language of anti-racism fit in the American context better than anti-fascism.

Anti-racist action was the name of this network. It grew to have hundreds of chapters around the continent, with thousands of members, and was really a major force in pushing back against the far right in the '90s, into the 2000s. That's the lineage and legacy that today's Antifa groups grow out of.

IN: What were some of the other hallmarks of their tactics, in terms of direct action or recruitment? Is that still going on today? I remember seeing anti-racist action groups at punk shows in the late '90s and early 2000s. 

MB: Sure. You're right that part of what they accomplished was creating an anti-racist youth culture. Especially in punk and alternative music, which was important, because the far right was trying to recruit in those scenes in the '80s and '90s. Being able to push back in that way was very important. 

Sometimes anti-racist groups, sometimes through infiltration, or through spying on these groups, would figure out where that [recruiting] spot was, and show up with 150 people in that meetup spot, so the meetup couldn't happen, to disseminate the location for the show. A lot of it was this kind of local-level pushback against attempts to embed this in the punk scene. But it grew beyond that to have wider influences in hip-hop communities, and other kinds of left political groups.

IN: Did that drop off after the late '90s or early 2000s? 

MB: The people that I've spoken to definitely seem to indicate that into the mid-2000s, the role of militant anti-fascism in the radical left scene in the U.S. declined. The people that formed some of the oldest currently existing groups like Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon, which was founded in 2007, and others that formed groups in the late 2000s, early 20-teens, emphasized that during that era, it was a real challenge convincing other leftists that it was a worthwhile use of time to monitor, and track, and counteract the far right.

The politics was at a lull during this period, then made a resurgence, it seems, largely with the growth of the alt-right, and especially the Trump campaign. To some extent, that had to do with a kind of decline in the perceived need to fight back against these groups, and others. Just with the profile of the anti-war movement, into Occupy Wall Street, and people just putting time into other things.

IN: Following Charlottesville, much of the media coverage of Antifa focused on their willingness to use violence. Is that accurate? And why?

MB: Taken as a whole, the percentage of what [Antifa groups] do that entails physical confrontation is a very small percentage. The time commitment that's required to be part of one of these Antifa groups is massive. One person likened it, in terms of the amount of time they spend, to it being like a second job. To gain entry to some of these groups, it sometimes requires a long vetting process that takes months, with background checks, and a requirement that people participate in all sorts of activities to kind of demonstrate their commitment.

Much of it is research. Much of it entails figuring out who far-right groups [are], their membership, who they're working with, where they're holding their events; tracking individuals across multiple social media platforms; reading through message boards; figuring out what they're trying to do; trying to contact the owners of the venues to cancel the events. If the owners of the venue are resistant to canceling, organizing boycotts or pickets. Or gathering community support to shut down a white-collar rock show at a VFW. 

A lot of it entails public education. In the '90s, anti-racist action also had an educational component where sometimes they would speak to schools and so forth. It also involved, as we discussed, cultural work, holding concert series, tabling at alternative venues. Trying to push back against the tendency of the far right to try and gain a foothold in subcultural spaces.

Danish anti-fascists in the '90s would sometimes, once they figured out who these neo-Nazi skinheads were, call their parents, and get their parents to stop them from going out and meeting with these people. It entailed noise protests, singing protests, putting up flyers and propaganda to kind of claim public space. Doxxing is a huge part of it. 

IN: It sounds like a lot of time and effort and screening is involved, in order to be allowed in. Is that true for a lot of groups around the country?

MB: Not all groups accept new members. The ones who do, go through significant and long-term screening processes. It's decentralized, but for example, there's a network called the Torch Network. That's sort of a descendant of the Anti-Racist Action Network. They have a dozen groups that are affiliated. But there are groups that are not affiliated, that still coordinate, share resources, share information.

Some are also more secretive than others. In Michigan, Solidarity and Defense is a group that does not operate with as much security. They're more open-faced. They don't cover their faces. They try to do community work. Redneck Revolt is a network of anti-fascist groups that focus on bigger a left gun culture, and working to counter recruit at gun shows, to try and win white conservative men, especially in rural areas, away from the right, but towards the left. Sometimes they'll show up to demonstrations with firearms in open-carry states. 

IN: Where does Antifa fit in with the larger rise of, or just general interest in, activism since Trump's election?

MB: Yeah, I mean you could even take it back further. I mean, this decade as a whole has witnessed a kind of rebirth of ... I don't know how you describe it, but kind of direction-action politics from below. Through Occupy, through Black Lives Matter, through anti-fascism, through organizing against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and other kinds of examples. So in that sense, the people that are part of these groups, also currently or in the past, have done other kinds of politic. Some of them have participated with Black Lives Matter or Occupy. Or have organized against gas pipelines and what have you.

There's the assumption there Antifa is sort of this one specific, very clearly defined box, and the people who participate in these groups are not also active in other groups. But... in my experience speaking to people, these folks don't just do one thing. It's also worth looking the development of a larger anti-racist movement, of which anti-fascism is one small facet, focused on direct-action resistance to the far right, and resistance to police brutality, and entails a broader vision white supremacy.

It’s part of a larger conversation about what direct action can mean, and what kinds of power communities can mobilize on their own, without turning to politicians to solve problems for them. 

The larger context here is that there's been, over the past few decades, a rebirth of anti-authoritarian and anarchist politics in the United States—not always labeled as such. That has been a key motivator behind some of the recent protest movements. It's certainly very influential with anti-fascism. Part of this is a larger debate about how social change happens, and what kind of a world different factions want to see.

 

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7 Real Threats to Free Speech on College Campuses
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
The pervasive effort to paint college students as both pitiful snowflakes and violent terrorists ignores the very real threats to free speech on campus.

The speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at the University of Florida is dredging up all the usual talking points, painting students as somehow both pitiful snowflakes and violent terrorists. Coming from figures as diverse as Bill Maher and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this contradictory narrative at once demonizes student protesters and drowns out a growing number of very real threats to student free speech. Here’s a sample.

1. Guns in the Classroom

The increasing presence of guns on campus naturally has a stultifying effect on classroom discussions. Teachers are already wearing protective armor to class because their students are allowed to carry concealed weapons, and are afraid for their safety in class and on campus in general. Is anyone likely to engage in a heated debate when there’s a legitimate chance a tense argument could end in gunfire?

2. Making it Legal to Run Over Protesters

At least six states have proposed bills designed to protect drivers who strike protesters. Additional states have passed legislation aimed at discouraging protests, especially those of the left-leaning variety, including Black Lives Matter demonstrations or the effort to block the Dakota Access Pipelines.

If people are willing to accept running over protesters on city roads, it isn’t hard to see how campuses might be next. The fact that this idea is even being considered, let alone in six states, shows how far some are willing to go to discourage protests.

3. Making it Illegal to Even Talk About Certain Topics

There are some subjects that may soon be illegal for students to even discuss, let alone protest. As  Glenn Greenwald writes, some 43 senators – 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats – are backing a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, launched to protest the now decade-long occupation of Palestine.. Greenwald stresses that the bill’s proposed punishments are its most shocking aspect, including a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.  Individuals, including students, writes Greenwald could face “civil and criminal punishment on individuals solely because of their political beliefs about Israel and its policies.”

This law isn’t an aberration, by the way. Punishment of  students who criticize Israel is now so common that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as ‘the Palestine Exception’ to free speech.

This notion that criticism of Israel cannot be tolerated has already had an impact on teachers and students. A tenured professor at the University of Illinois was fired  by the school’s Board of Trustees for criticizing Israel on social media.  Meanwhile, last year on the Berkeley campus, David Horowitz’ Freedom Center put up posters accusing, by name several students and faculty members for  being connected to a “terror organization” because of their involvement in Students for Justice in Palestine, which the poster labeled, “the chief sponsor of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activities on campus.”

4. Banning Courses that Conservatives Don’t Like

Some state legislatures have gone so far as to try to ban certain courses at colleges. Legislators in Michigan threatened to cut off funds from Michigan State if it didn’t stop offering courses that “allegedly promote unionization.” Or how about the time that then Governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels tried to ban the teaching of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States at Indiana University? These efforts by conservative politicians to quash courses and materials on topics they don’t like echoes a similar effort to ban ethnic studies for K-12 students in Arizona, a ban that a federal judge recently ruled to be racist.

5. Social Media Crackdown

Social media is another area where free speech is regularly threatened. When George Ciccariello-Maher, a Drexel University associate professor of politics and global studies, tweeted in the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting about “a sense of double entitlement – as white people and as men – that, when frustrated, can occasionally lead to violent consequences,” his comments set off a firestorm, despite being backed by decades of research. But that didn’t stop conservative sites like the Daily Caller, Breitbart News, FrontPage, the Blaze, the College Fix, Infowars, and more from misrepresenting his tweets. Ciccariello-Maher received numerous death threats, one of which read, “I will beat your skull in till there is no tomorrow.” Even Fox News spread the lie that not only was Ciccariello-Maher blaming Trump directly for the shooting, but also, bizarrely, the victims themselves.

This is far from the only instance where professors have been targeted because of comments on social media. He cites numerous cases, including Johnny Eric Williams from Trinity College, who was “targeted and suspended [for] reposting someone else’s words on Facebook.”

As for Ciccariello-Maher, Drexel placed him on administrative leave. “By bowing to pressure from racist internet trolls, Drexel has sent the wrong signal: That you can control a university’s curriculum with anonymous threats of violence,” says Ciccariello-Maher.

6. The Professor Watchlist AKA 21st McCarthyism

This next example of a real threat is particularly disturbing: Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) Professor Watchlist. On its homepage, TPUSA explains that they, “will continue to fight for free speech and the right for professors to say whatever they wish; however students, parents, and alumni deserve to know the specific incidents and names of professors that advance a radical agenda in lecture halls.” The implication, of course, is everyone on this list is guilty of advancing a “radical agenda.”

So who are these guilty teachers? Well, there’s Ann Blankenship-Knox, “who recently revealed the techniques she uses to push a social agenda and ‘decenter whiteness’ in the classroom.” It gets worse – “She also pledges to ‘decenter whiteness’ in her classes by prioritizing ‘first person narratives of people of color, and documentaries that challenge the narratives presented in Mississippi history books.’” Then there’s Amy Robertson, “the co-author of Unveiling Privilege to Broaden Participation, a study about male dominance in the field of physics. This study states that “white male privilege pervades the discipline of physics as well as the classrooms in which physics is taught and learned.” as well as stating that ‘Physics strongly values male-socialized traits such as independence, competition, and individual victories.’ Overall their goal is to ‘disrupt privilege’ by dismissing these traits saying we need to be willing to open up the space of what counts as physics.” Finally, there is Aswini Tambe, who tweeted, “#YesAllWomen We need to add men control to our call for gun control. It’s men with guns who kill people. Overwhelmingly. Recast masculinity!” Shocking.

7. Student Protest Itself

Perhaps the most serious threat to freedom of speech on college campuses is the concerted effort to demonize protest itself, as if the only reason students would protest is because they can’t bear to hear alternative “arguments.” And when we focus on and attack protestors themselves, we never confront the very ideas that were being protested in the first place, while those who want to spew hatred without anyone daring to question them are champions of free speech. You might remember one of these noble champions, Richard Spencer, as one of the men chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” in Charlottesville, where one of these “very fine people” murdered a student protestor.

In the end, whether students and teachers are protesting silently or with a megaphone, whether they’re fighting for the right to speak on social media or about sensitive subjects without going to prison, or whether they’re fighting to learn about history outside narrow nationalist confines without the fear of being shot, it’s important to remember one simple truth.

Protests aren’t a threat to free speech. They are free speech.

Things We Didn't Expect from Online Dating: An Increase in Interracial Marriages
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
And what the study's model doesn't catch about embedded prejudices.

Today, with over 50 million people on Tinder alone, the internet has become love’s kingdom of knowledge. Once stigmatized as a vacuous meeting ground, the internet can also be a pantheon of valuable information, reflecting subtle social shifts in the 21st century. The internet has also apparently contributed to the rise of interracial marriages. However, while dating site data can be analyzed to project a more integrated world, the vast universe of the internet also houses strict racial divides.

Josue Ortega and Philipp Hergovich are no strangers to the modern social study of gross data. The two economists have created a model to study what people’s dating tendencies express collectively, particularly on the subject of interracial marriage. Their research indicates that interracial marriages are on the rise in the U.S., ascending with new iterations of online-dating sites.

In their paper “The Strength of Absent Ties: Social Integration via Online Dating,” Ortega and Hergovich argue that while old networks for coupling have gently dissolved (gone are schoolmate bonds and unified neighborhood communities), online dating has led people to connect differently, and in doing so, they’ve become less likely to marry within racial categories.

By compiling random graphs and “matching theory,” the study authors observed an increase in interracial marriages alongside the introduction of new dating websites, at least according to census data: first in 1995 with Match.com, and then slowly increasing, with a predictive jump in 2014, when Tinder became a relevant dating app. The study also found that marriages and relationships that started online tended to be stronger.

However, while Ortega and Hergovich claim that their “model predicts nearly complete racial integration upon the emergence of online dating,” it is clear that embedded prejudices in individuals are finding ways to express themselves on dating sites. Take the whites-only dating site Where White People Meet (as if the majority race needs a separatist dating pool), or Plenty of Fish and Tinder, which are dating grounds for white nationalists, while the web page WASP Love was expressly created for the so-called alt-right. 

OkCupid, Tinder’s parent company, has written about interracial love on its site, though it brings a different lens to the data it has amassed.  In 2014, the site reflected on the user information it collected over the last five years, finding 82% of non-black men on OkCupid showed a bias against black women; that a majority of women wanted to date within their own race; and that if anything, racial biases had intensified over five years. The analysis departs from Ortega and Hergovich’s original question of marriage, and rather than buoy the duo’s research, OkCupid’s data potentially shows embedded racist attitudes when it comes to dating.

According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one-third of marriages start online. According to Stanford sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, the internet is the second most common way for heterosexual couples to meet, only outcompeted by relationships connected through mutual friends. Meanwhile, the internet out-trends all other courtship methods when it comes to same-sex couples. The popularity of online dating also makes it a sourcebook for people’s behavioral tendencies in their quest for love.  

The discussion of interracial relationships and online dating is not new to dating site creators. E-Harmony.com’s blog Love & Harmony has a whole page devoted to interracial relationships, and goes so far as to advertise “Interracial dating starts with eHarmony.” 

Clearly, dating sites have been weighing in on their role in interracial dating, whether that action is symbolic, marketing or another exhibit of white supremacy. While Hergovich and Ortega’s work does hint at a rise in racially integrated marriages in the future, the internet is vast, and there is too much gray area to pretend we are in some kind of post-racial world, simply because a model has predicted it.

 

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For Months, the Trump Administration Has Illegally Stopped Undocumented Women From Obtaining Abortions
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
Pregnant women are forced to attend Christian-sponsored “crisis pregnancy centers.”

The U.S. Constitution grants all women—including prisoners and undocumented immigrants—the right to an abortion, no matter what obstacles fundamentalist Christians may create in certain states. But since Trump's inauguration, the administration has blocked young pregnant women who cross the border without papers from seeking abortions.

The San Francisco ACLU has now taken on one such case on behalf of Jane Doe, a pregnant 17-year-old who is being held in a federal immigration shelter in Texas. The shelter won’t allow her to visit the doctor who has agreed to perform her abortion.

"The government may not want to facilitate abortion, but it cannot block it," U.S. Magistrate Laurel Beeler told SFGate. "It is doing that here."

Several hundred undocumented pregnant women cross the border alone each year, but shelters do not allow minors to leave to get abortions without permission from the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. Instead, these women are forced to attend Christian-sponsored "crisis pregnancy centers" where they are falsely warned that abortions are dangerous, forced to look at sonograms of the fetus and pressured into carrying their pregnancies to term.

Jane Doe missed her first scheduled abortion on September 28 because the shelter forbade it, and she is now attending mandatory anti-abortion counseling.

“Jane Doe is a brave and persistent young woman who has already been forced by the Trump administration to delay her abortion for weeks,” ACLU attorney Brigitte Amiri told SFGate. “The government is holding her hostage so that she will be forced to carry to term against her will.”

According to SFGate, Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, told a shelter staff person, “My priority is unborn children, and there will be no more abortions.”

Plenty of others are on his side. In response to the ACLU’s claim in court, seven states, including Texas, filed arguments stating that undocumented immigrants in American custody have no right to an abortion.

 

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The New Economic Science of Capitalism's Slow-Burn Energy Collapse
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
The struggle for a new economic paradigm is about to get real.

This article was produced in partnership with AlterNet and Insurge Intelligence. Learn more about Nafeez Ahmed and how to support his work.

New scientific research is quietly rewriting the fundamentals of economics. The new economic science shows decisively that the age of endlessly growing industrial capitalism, premised on abundant fossil fuel supplies, is over.

The long decline of capitalism-as-we-know-it, the new science shows, began some decades ago, and is on track to accelerate well before the end of the 21st century.

With capitalism-as-we-know it in inexorable decline, the urgent task ahead is to rewrite economics to fit the real world: and, accordingly, to redesign our concepts of value and prosperity, precisely to rebuild our societies with a view of adapting to this extraordinary age of transition.

A groundbreaking study in Elsevier’s Ecological Economics journal by two French economists for the first time proves the world has passed a point-of-no-return in its capacity to extract fossil fuel energy: with massive implications for the long-term future of global economic growth.

The study, ‘Long-Term Estimates of the Energy-Return-on-Investment (EROI) of Coal, Oil, and Gas Global Productions’, homes in on the concept of EROI, which measures the amount of energy supplied by an energy resource, compared to the quantity of energy consumed to gather that resource. In simple terms, if a single barrel of oil is used up to extract energy equivalent to 50 barrels of oil, that’s pretty good. But the less energy we’re able to extract using that single barrel, then the less efficient, and more expensive (in terms of energy and money), the whole process.

Recent studies suggest that the EROI of fossil fuels has steadily declined since the early 20th century, meaning that as we’re depleting our higher quality resources, we’re using more and more energy just to get new energy out. This means that the costs of energy production are increasing while the quality of the energy we’re producing is declining.

But unlike previous studies, the authors of the new paper, Victor Court, a macroeconomist at Paris Nanterre University, and Florian Fizaine of the University of Burgundy’s Dijon Laboratory of Economics (LEDi), have removed any uncertainty that might have remained about the matter.

Court and Fizaine find that the EROI values of global oil and gas production reached their maximum peaks in the 1930s and 40s. Global oil production hit peak EROI at 50:1; while global gas production hit peak EROI at 150:1. Since then, the EROI values of oil and gas—the overall energy we’re able to extract from these resources for every unit of energy we put in—is inexorably declining.

Source: Court and Fizaine (2017)

Even coal, the only fossil fuel resource whose EROI has not yet maxed out, is forecast to undergo an EROI peak sometime between 2020 and 2045. This means that while coal might still have significant production potential in some parts of the world, rising costs of production are making it increasingly uneconomical.

Axiom: Aggregating this data together reveals that the world’s fossil fuels overall experienced their maximum cumulative EROI of approximately 44:1 in the early 1960s.

Since then, the total value of energy we’re able to extract from the world’s fossil fuel resource base has undergone a protracted, continuous and irreversible decline.

Insight: At this rate of decline, by 2100, we are projected to extract the same value of EROI from fossil fuels as we were in the 1800s.

Several other studies suggest that this ongoing decline in the overall value of the energy extracted from global fossil fuels has played a fundamental role in the slowdown of global economic growth in recent years.

In this sense, the 2008 financial crash did not represent a singular event, but rather one key event in an unfolding process.

The economy-energy nexus

This is because economic growth remains ultimately dependent on “growth in material and energy use,” as a study in the journal PLOS One found last October. That study, lead-authored by James D. Ward of the School of Natural and Built Environments, University of South Australia, challenged the idea that GDP growth can be “decoupled” from environmental impacts.

The “illusion of decoupling,” Ward and his colleagues argued, has been maintained through the following misleading techniques:

  1. substituting one resource for another;
  2. financialization of GDP, such as through increasing “monetary flows” through creation of new debt, without however increasing material or energy throughput (think quantitative easing);
  3. exporting environmental impacts to other nations or regions, so that the realities of increasing material throughput can be suppressed from data calculations.
  4. growing inequality of income and wealth, which allows GDP to grow for the benefit of a few, while the majority of workers see decreases in real income—in other words, a wealthy minority monopolises the largest fraction of GDP growth, but does not increase their level of consumption with as much demand for energy and materials.

Ward and his co-authors sought to test these factors by creating a new economic model to see how well it stacks up against the data.

Insight: They found that continued economic growth in GDP “cannot plausibly be decoupled from growth in material and energy use, demonstrating categorically that GDP growth cannot be sustained indefinitely.”

Other recent scientific research has further fine-tuned this relationship between energy and prosperity.

The prosperity-resource nexus

Adam Brandt, a leading EROI expert at Stanford University’s Department of Energy Resources Engineering, in the March edition of BioPhysical Economics and Resource Quality proves that the decline of EROI directly impacts on economic prosperity.

Earlier studies on this issue, Brandt points out, have highlighted the risk of a “net energy cliff,” which refers to how “declining EROI results in rapid increases in the fraction of energy dedicated to simply supporting the energy system.”

Axiom: So the more EROI declines, a greater proportion of the energy being produced must be used simply to extract more energy. This means that EROI decline leads to less real-world economic growth.

It also creates a complicated situation for oil prices. While at first, declining EROI can be expected to lead to higher prices reflecting higher production costs, the relationship between EROI and prices begins to break down as EROI becomes smaller.

This could be because, under a significantly reduced EROI, consumers in a less prosperous economy can no longer afford, energetically or economically, the cost of producing more energy—thus triggering a dramatic drop in market prices, despite higher costs of production. At this point, in the new era of shrinking EROI, swinging oil prices become less and less indicative of ‘scarcity’ in supply and demand.

Brandt’s new economic model looks at how EROI impacts four key sectors—food, energy, materials and labor. Exploring what a decline in net energy would therefore mean for these sectors, he concludes:

“The reduction in the fraction of a resource free and the energy system productivity extends from the energy system to all aspects of the economy, which gives an indication of the mechanisms by which energy productivity declines would affect general prosperity.

"A clear implication of this work is that decreases in energy resource productivity, modeled here as the requirement for more materials, labor, and energy, can have a significant effect on the flows required to support all sectors of the economy. Such declines can reduce the effective discretionary output from the economy by consuming a larger and larger fraction of gross output for the meeting of inter-industry requirements.”

Brandt’s model is theoretical, but it has direct implications for the real world.

Insight: Given that the EROI of global fossil fuels has declined steadily since the 1960s, Brandt’s work suggests that a major underlying driver of the long-term process of economic stagnation we’re experiencing is resource depletion.

Exactly how big the impact of resource depletion on the economy might be, can be gauged from a separate study by Professor Mauro Bonauiti of the Department of Economics and Statistics at the University of Turn.

His new paper published in February in the Journal of Cleaner Production assesses data on technological innovations and productivity growth. He concludes that:

“… advanced capitalist societies have entered a phase of declining marginal returns—or involuntary degrowth—with possible major effects on the system’s capacity to maintain its present institutional framework.”

Bonauiti draws on anthropologist Joseph Tainter’s work on the growth and collapse of civilizations. Tainter’s seminal work, The Collapse of Complex Societies, showed that the very growth in complexity driving a civilization’s expansion generates complex new problems requiring further complexity to solve them.

Axiom: Complex civilizations tend to accelerate the use of resources, while diminishing the quantity of resources available for the civilization’s continued expansion—because they are continually being invested in solving the new problems generated by increasing complexity.

The result is that complex societies tend to reach a threshold of growth, after which returns diminish to such an extent that the complexification of the society can no longer be sustained, leading to its collapse or regression.

Bonauiti builds on Tainter’s framework and applies it to new data on ‘Total Factor Productivity’ to assess correlations between the growth and weakening in productivity, industrial revolutions, and the implications for continued economic growth.

The benefits that a certain society obtains from its own investments in complexity “do not increase indefinitely,” he writes. “Once a certain threshold has been reached (T0), the social organization as a whole will enter a phase of declining marginal returns, that is to say, a critical phase, which, if ignored, may lead to the collapse of the whole system.”

This threshold appears to have been reached by Europe, Japan and the US before the early 1970s, he argues.

Insight: The US economy, he shows, appears to have reached “the peak in productivity in the 1930s, the same period in which the EROI of fossil fuels reached an extraordinary value of about 100.”

Of course, Court and Fizaine quantify the exact value of this peak EROI differently using a new methodology, but they agree that the peak occurred roughly around this period.

The US and other advanced economies are currently tapering off the end of what Bonauiti calls the ‘third industrial revolution’ (IR3), in information communications technologies (ICT). This was, however, the shortest and weakest industrial revolution from a productivity standpoint, with its productivity “evaporating” after just eight years.

In the US, the first industrial revolution utilized coal to power steam engine and telegraph technology, stimulating a rapid increase in productivity that peaked between 1869 and 1892, at almost 2%.

The second industrial revolution was powered by the electric engine and internal combustion engine, which transformed manufacturing and domestic consumption. This led productivity to peak at 2.78%, remaining at around 2% for at least another 25 years.

After the 1930s, however, productivity continually declined, reaching 0.34% in the period 1973–95. Since then, the third industrial revolution driven by computing technology led to a revival of productivity which, however, has already tapered out in a way that is quite tepid compared to the previous industrial revolutions.

Axiom: The highest level of productivity was reached around the 1930s, and since then with each industrial revolution has declined.

The decline period also roughly corresponds to the post-peak EROI era for total fossil fuels identified by Court and Fizaine.

Thus, Bonauiti concludes, “the empirical evidence and theoretical reasons lead one to conclude that the innovations introduced by IR3 are not powerful enough to compensate for the declining returns of IR2.”

Insight: The implication is that the 21st century represents the tail-end of the era of industrial economic expansion, originally ushered in by technological innovations enabled by abundant fossil fuel energy sources.

The latest stage is illustrated with the following graph which demonstrates the rapid rise and decline in productivity of the last major revolution in technological innovation (IR3):

The productivity of the third industrial revolution thus peaked around 2004 and since then has declined back to near 1980s levels.

Bonauiti thus concludes that “advanced capitalist societies (the US, Europe and Japan) have entered a phase of declining marginal returns or involuntary degrowth in many key sectors, with possible major detrimental effects on the system’s capacity to maintain its present institutional framework.”

In other words, the global economic system has entered a fundamentally new era, representing a biophysical phase-shift into an energetically constrained landscape.

Going back to the new EROI analysis by French economists, Victor Court and Florian Fizaine, the EROI of oil is forecast to reduce to 15:1 by 2018. It will continue to decline to around 10:1 by 2035.

They broadly forecast the same pattern for gas and coal: Overall, their data suggests that the EROI of all fossil fuels will hit 15:1 by 2060, and decline further to 10:1 by 2080.

If these projections come to pass, this means that over the next few decades, the overall costs of fossil fuel energy production will increase, even while the market value of fossil fuel energy remains low. The total net energy yield available to fuel continued economic growth will inexorably decline. This will, in turn, squeeze the extent to which the economy can afford to buy fossil fuel energy that is increasingly expensive to produce.

We cannot be sure what this unprecedented state of affairs will herald for the market prices of oil, gas and coal, which are unlikely to follow the conventional supply and demand dynamics we were used to in the 20th century.

But what we can know for sure from the new science is that the era of unlimited economic growth—the defining feature of neoliberal finance capitalism as we know it—is well and truly over.

UK ‘end of growth’ test-case

The real-world workings of this insight have been set out by a team of economists at the University of Leeds’ Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, whose research was partly funded by giant engineering firm Arup, along with the main UK government-funded research councils—the UK Energy Research Centre, the Economics and Social Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

In their paper published by the university’s Sustainability Research Institute this January, Lina Brand-Correa, Paul Brockway, Claire Carter, Tim Foxon, Anne Owen, and Peter Taylor develop a national-level EROI measure for the UK.

Studying data for the period 1997-2012, they find that “the country’s EROI has been declining since the beginning of the 21st Century.”

 

Energy Returned (Eout) and Energy Invested (Ein) in the UK (1997–2012) Source: Brand-Correa (2017)

The UK’s net EROI peaked in 2000 at a maximum value of 9.6, “before gradually falling back to a value of 6.2 in 2012.” What this means is that on average, “12% of the UK’s extracted/captured energy does not go into the economy or into society for productive or well-being purposes, but rather needs to be reinvested by the energy sectors to produce more energy.”

The paper draws on previous work by economists Court and Fizaine suggesting that continuous economic growth requires a minimal societal EROI of 11, based on the current energy intensity of the UK economy. By implication, the UK is dropping increasingly below this benchmark since the start of the 21st century:

“These initial results show that more and more energy is having to be used in the extraction of energy itself rather than by the UK’s economy or society.”

This also implies that the UK has had to sustain continued economic growth through other mechanisms outside of its own domestic energy context: in particular, as we know, the expansion of debt.

It is no coincidence, then, that debt-to-GDP ratios have continued to grow worldwide. As EROI is in decline, an unsustainable debt-bubble premised on exploitation of working and middle classes is the primary method to keep growth growing—an endeavor that at some point will inevitably come undone under its own weight.

According to MIT and Harvard trained economist Dr. June Sekera—who leads the Public Economy Project at Tufts University’s Global Development And Environment Institute (GDAE)—net energy decline proves that neoclassical economic theory is simply not fit for purpose.

In Working Paper №17–02 published by the GDAE, Sekera argues that: “One of the most important contributions of biophysical economics is its critique that mainstream economics disregards the biophysical basis of production, and energy in particular.”

Policymakers, she says, “need to understand the biophysical imperative: that societal net energy yield is falling. Hence the need for a biophysical economics, and for policymakers to comprehend its central messages.”

Yet a key problem is that mainstream economics is held back from being able to even comprehend the existence of net energy decline due to an ideological obsession with the market. The result is that production that occurs outside the market is seen as an aberration, a form of government, state or ‘political’ interference in the ‘natural’ dynamics of the market.

And this is why the market alone is incapable of generating solutions to the net energy crisis driving global economic stagnation. The modern market paradigm is fatally self-limited by the following dynamics: “short time horizons, growth as a requisite, gratuitous waste baked-in, profits as life-blood.” This renders it “incapable of producing solutions that demand long-view investment without profits.”

Thus, Sekera calls for a new “public economics” commensurate with what is needed for a successful energy transition. The new public economics will spur on breakthrough scientific and technological innovations that solve “common-need problems” based on “distributed decision-making and collective action.”

The resulting solutions will require “long time-horizon investment: investments with no immediate payoff in terms of saleable products, no visible ROI (return on investment), no profit-making in the near-term. Such investment can be generated only in a non-market environment, in which payment is collective and financial profit is not the point.”

The only problem is that, as Sekera herself recognizes, the main incubator and agent of the non-market public economy is government—but government itself is playing a key role in dismantling, hollowing-out and privatizing the non-market public economy.

There is only one solution to this conundrum, however difficult it might seem: Citizens themselves at all scales have an opportunity to work together to salvage and regenerate new public economies based on pooling their human, financial and physical assets and resources, to facilitate the emergence of more viable and sustainable economic structures. Part of this will include adapting to post-carbon energy sources.

Far from representing the end of prosperity, this transition represents an opportunity to redefine prosperity beyond the idea of endlessly increasing material accumulation; and realigning society with the goal of meeting real-world human physical, psychological and spiritual needs.

What will emerge from efforts to do so has not yet been written. But those efforts will define the contours of the new post-carbon economy, as the unsustainable juggernaut of the old grinds slowly and painfully to a protracted, chaotic halt.

In coming years and decades, the reality of the need for a new economic science that reflects the dynamics of the economy’s fundamental embeddedness in the biophysical environment will become ever more obvious.

So say goodbye to endless growth neoliberalism.

 

 

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Trump Sinks to New Low in Call to Grieving Widow of Fallen Soldier
October 18th, 2017, 07:42 PM
A lawmaker recounted the repulsive incident on national television.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL) told CNN's Don Lemon that President Donald Trump made a horrifying remark to the widow of fallen soldier Sgt. La David Johnson, who lost his life in Niger.

"Basically he said, 'Well, I guess he knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt,'" Wilson recounted.

She was present for that portion of the call, which occurred on speakerphone in a vehicle she was sharing with Johnson's family. Trump made the disgusting remark to Wilson shortly before she received her husband's casket.

“This is a young, young woman, who has two children, who is six months pregnant with a third child,” Wilson added. “She has just lost her husband. She was just told that he cannot have an open casket funeral, which gives her all kinds of nightmares how his body must look, how his face must look. And this is what the president of the United States says to her?”

Wilson explained that she asked for the phone during the call, because she was going to "curse him out."

“I was livid. But they would not give me the phone,” she said.

Watch the segment below.

 

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Trump's Rumored Candidate to Run the CIA Could Plunge America into a Hot War
October 17th, 2017, 07:42 PM
The Iraq vet and Arkansas senator is a rising GOP star—and a Trumpian true believer who longs for war with Iran.

It may be that it took direct, vicious attacks on the mainstream media for its practitioners to understand the catastrophe of Donald Trump and cover him both factually and, more important, truthfully. They aren't perfect, but they aren't being the lapdogs we all saw during the Bush administration and thank goodness for that. Still, they have yet to kill some stale old tropes that desperately need to be thrown overboard. One of them is this idea that there are "grownups" out there somewhere who will come rescue us from the folly of our democratic choices.

Back in 2001, the entire press corps was delirious over the ascension of George W. Bush after the years of Bill Clinton and his hippie White House.  Those so-called "grownups" wreaked havoc, and the press seemed to be chagrined enough by the Bush administration's failures to let Barack Obama's quiet dignity speak for itself. But with the election of Donald Trump and his infantile bullying, this meme has returned in a big way. I wrote about this latest iteration of the "finally, the adults are back in charge" line a few months ago, and it's only become more frequent and more desperate as the administration sheds its original cast of characters in favor of what Trump refers to as "my generals." (It's like a remake of "Seven Days in May" around there these days.)

Well, it just got worse. The much-rumored upcoming departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has created lots of gossip about possible replacements, starting with UN ambassador Nikki Haley, known as "the Iran whisperer." The other possibility being discussed is CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a Trump favorite who drives three hours a day from Langley, Virginia, to the White House to personally deliver the president his national security briefing just the way he likes it -- short, sweet and with "killer graphics."

If Pompeo were to be moved into Tillerson's spot, that would open up the CIA job, and word is that Trump is considering Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas for that position. Cotton is only 40 years old and has had one term in the House and three years in the Senate, so he seems a bit young for the job. (In fact, he's the youngest current U.S. senator.) But he's apparently enough of a grownup to join the Trump babysitters' club. Axios reported:

MSNBC and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt — who talks frequently to Cotton on and off the air, and first floated the idea of Cotton for CIA — told me that Pompeo, Cotton, SecDef Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly would be "a quartet of serious intellectuals and warriors in the 'big four' jobs." And you could add National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster as a fifth.

Hewitt also said that Cotton and Trump get along well and that he and Pompeo both "like and listen to the president" and "accept his realism in foreign affairs." Trump's views on foreign affairs are not of what is called the "realist" school, nor are they actually realistic, so I'm not sure what Hewitt's referring to. But it sounds as though both men are champion Trump flatterers, which makes the president comfortable and happy.

On the substance, Cotton is a terrible choice. He comes from Arkansas, but he went to Harvard for both undergrad and law school. Then he served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger and worked in management consulting at McKinsey & Company, before embarking on his long-planned political career. (I wrote about him back in 2015, calling him Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree.)

His one term as a congressman was unremarkable, but he flew into the Senate like a whirlwind and immediately embarrassed the entire Republican caucus by catching them all on their way out of town and getting them to sign an ill-considered letter he wrote to the Iranian government telling them that the nuclear agreement wasn't worth the paper it was written on. As former Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote at the time:

The document was crafted by a senator with two months of experience under his belt. It was signed by some members rushing off the Senate floor to catch airplanes, often with little close analysis. Many of the 47 signatories reasoned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement was vetting enough. There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign).

This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.

Those questions have now been answered. It has no such capacity.

Cotton is clearly an intelligent man, but his instincts are highly Trumpian. It's seems likely that he's among the advisers who pushed the president toward decertification of the Iran deal based on no evidence. As CIA director, he would have no compunction about doing whatever is necessary to "find" evidence to achieve his long-cherished goal of a war with Iran. (It wouldn't be the first time the CIA director declared a "slam dunk" in such a situation.)

According to Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Cotton's Harvard thesis reveals his philosophy:

Cotton insists that the Founders were wise not to put too much faith in democracy, because people are inherently selfish, narrow-minded, and impulsive. He defends the idea that the country must be led by a class of intellectually superior officeholders whose ambition sets them above other men. Though Cotton acknowledges that this might seem elitist, he derides the Federalists’ modern critics as mushy-headed and naive.

“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings,” Cotton wrote. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”

On the surface, such a belief would seem to be an odd mix with the allegedly populist Donald Trump and his "alt-right" white nationalist allies, but it really isn't. Trump himself is a big believer in eugenics and Steve Bannon is looking for a few good men to lead his army into the big final battle. Tom Cotton may be just the grownup they've been looking for.

 

 

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