Open Thread

Here is the basic idea of an open thread. This is where a comment, idea, link, or whatever can be posted when it doesn’t necessarily fit the subject matter of any available post. This also can be where people can lodge their complaints or make suggestions, including possibilities for future posts.

Plus, this would be a good place for rants, as I’ll be less discerning in my moderation of comments here. I encourage open discussion. But there are limits. If your comment creates a negative atmosphere or simply lessens my happiness, then it will not be approved. I will use my discretion. Make sure your comment is worthy of your time and my own.


8,400 thoughts on “Open Thread

  1. A good article with a useful insight. Dark fantasies often are projections of what we fear within ourselves. But I’m not sure about the conclusion. In this age of late stage capitalism, it is hard to imagine that capitalist realism, neoliberal globalization, neo-imperial exploitation, and. plutocratic corporatism is going to transform into a sustainable economic system that serves the public good. That ship sailed long ago, I’m thinking. We might have to start over from scratch — in the way that serfdom and slavery needed to end, not reformed (one might argue they still need to end).

    This summer, Elon Musk spoke to the National Governors Association and told them that “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.” Doomsayers have been issuing similar warnings for some time, but never before have they commanded so much visibility. Musk isn’t necessarily worried about the rise of a malicious computer like Skynet from The Terminator. Speaking to Maureen Dowd for a Vanity Fair article published in April, Musk gave an example of an artificial intelligence that’s given the task of picking strawberries. It seems harmless enough, but as the AI redesigns itself to be more effective, it might decide that the best way to maximize its output would be to destroy civilization and convert the entire surface of the Earth into strawberry fields. Thus, in its pursuit of a seemingly innocuous goal, an AI could bring about the extinction of humanity purely as an unintended side effect.

    This scenario sounds absurd to most people, yet there are a surprising number of technologists who think it illustrates a real danger. Why? Perhaps it’s because they’re already accustomed to entities that operate this way: Silicon Valley tech companies.

    Consider: Who pursues their goals with monomaniacal focus, oblivious to the possibility of negative consequences? Who adopts a scorched-earth approach to increasing market share? This hypothetical strawberry-picking AI does what every tech startup wishes it could do — grows at an exponential rate and destroys its competitors until it’s achieved an absolute monopoly. The idea of superintelligence is such a poorly defined notion that one could envision it taking almost any form with equal justification: a benevolent genie that solves all the world’s problems, or a mathematician that spends all its time proving theorems so abstract that humans can’t even understand them. But when Silicon Valley tries to imagine superintelligence, what it comes up with is no-holds-barred capitalism. […]

    The fears of superintelligent AI are probably genuine on the part of the doomsayers. That doesn’t mean they reflect a real threat; what they reflect is the inability of technologists to conceive of moderation as a virtue. Billionaires like Bill Gates and Elon Musk assume that a superintelligent AI will stop at nothing to achieve its goals because that’s the attitude they adopted. (Of course, they saw nothing wrong with this strategy when they were the ones engaging in it; it’s only the possibility that someone else might be better at it than they were that gives them cause for concern.) […]

    There’s a saying, popularized by Fredric Jameson, that it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism. It’s no surprise that Silicon Valley capitalists don’t want to think about capitalism ending. What’s unexpected is that the way they envision the world ending is through a form of unchecked capitalism, disguised as a superintelligent AI. They have unconsciously created a devil in their own image, a boogeyman whose excesses are precisely their own.

    Which brings us back to the importance of insight. Sometimes insight arises spontaneously, but many times it doesn’t. People often get carried away in pursuit of some goal, and they may not realize it until it’s pointed out to them, either by their friends and family or by their therapists. Listening to wake-up calls of this sort is considered a sign of mental health.

    We need for the machines to wake up, not in the sense of computers becoming self-aware, but in the sense of corporations recognizing the consequences of their behavior. Just as a superintelligent AI ought to realize that covering the planet in strawberry fields isn’t actually in its or anyone else’s best interests, companies in Silicon Valley need to realize that increasing market share isn’t a good reason to ignore all other considerations. Individuals often reevaluate their priorities after experiencing a personal wake-up call. What we need is for companies to do the same — not to abandon capitalism completely, just to rethink the way they practice it. We need them to behave better than the AIs they fear and demonstrate a capacity for insight.

  2. The interaction between genes and the environment is complex, and growing evidence indicates that some people might have a genetically determined tendency to create the very environmental risk factors that lead to the development of a disorder.

    • Since epigenetics determines which genes express and how they express, and since the environment determines epigenetics, what follows is that the environment would determine which genetics express in what way toward seeking which environments.

      It’s environments all the way down, as even DNA is part of the environment. It is completely meaningless what we arbitrarily demarcate as not being environment. It’s imaginary fantasizing to believe anything could be separate from the environment, similar to the belief in supermatural beings.

    • The US ruling elite and those who support them better hope they never get what they deserve. Sadly, if and when further blowback comes, even innocent US citizens will get hurt. But that is the way it is. Almost all of the victims of US violence and aggression have been innocent. That is how the geopolitical game is played. But one day the US will become the target and far worse things will happen than 9/11.

    • My mom spent her career as a public teacher. But even she doesn’t always seem to fully appreciate how bad it has gotten for teachers. She retired back in the early 2000s. Teaching has gotten worse these past decades with increase of paperwork, constant testing, pressure to teach to the test, growing number of students per teacher, defunding of the kinds of services I got as a kid, etc.

    • We are in an impossible position. Sanders believes in the system and so seeks to reform the system from within the system. But nationalism is a large part of the cause of our international problems, nationalism being inseparable from the history of imperialism, colonialism, and globalization as it has formed into neoliberalism and neoconservatism. Nationalism can’t offer solutions to the problems it has helped to cause, as problems can never be fundamentally changed and resolved on the same level they were created.

      The deeper problem is the ideological realism that has shut down the radical imagination, making it almost impossible for anyone to envision alternatives and take them seriously. This is why nationalism remains attractive, even though it will worsen the situation. We are incapable of thinking in any other way. That is why it will have to get worse before it gets better. There is no greater impetus to radical imagination than utter terror and vast tragedy when the system finally shudders to a stop or crashes into a wall.


    America’s war on terror has spread to 76 countries, as shown below:

    This metastasizing of “counterterror” efforts is truly paradoxical: the more the U.S. military works to stop terror, the more terror spreads. “Progress” is measured only by the growth of efforts to stem terror networks in more and more countries. But the notion of “progress” is absurd: That 76 countries are involved in some way in this war on terror is a sign of regress, not progress. After 16 years and a few trillion dollars, you’d think terror networks and efforts to eradicate them would be decreasing, not increasing. But the war on terror has become its own cancer, or, in social-media-speak, it’s gone viral, infecting more and more regions.


    Lest we forget, our problems are global. Like climate change, they demand local action but also a level of international co-operation not seen since Bretton Woods. Neither North America nor Europe nor China can solve them in isolation or even via trade deals. Nothing short of a new Bretton Woods system can deal with tax injustice, the dearth of good jobs, wage stagnation, public and personal debt, low investment in things we desperately need, too much spending on things that are bad for us, increasing depravity in a world awash with cash, robots that are marginalizing an increasing section of our work forces, prohibitively expensive education that the many need to compete with the robots, etc. National solutions, to be implemented under the deception of “getting our country back” and behind strengthened border fences, are bound to yield further discontent, as they enable our oligarchs-without-borders to strike trade agreements that condemn the many to a race to the bottom while securing their loot in offshore havens.

    Our solutions, therefore, must be global, too. But to be so, they must undermine at once globalization and parochialism – both the right of capital to move about unimpeded and the fences that stop people and commodities from moving about the planet. In short, our solutions must be internationalist. And the goals of an International New Deal are pressing.

    First, we need higher wages everywhere, supported by trade agreements and conditions that prevent the Uberization of waged labour domestically.

    Tax havens are crying out for international harmonization, including a simple commitment to deny companies registered in offshore tax havens legal protection of their property rights.

    We desperately need a green-energy union focusing on common environmental standards, with the active support of public investment and central banks.

    We should create a New Bretton Woods system that recalibrates our financial infrastructure, with one umbrella digital currency in which all trade is denominated in a manner that curtails destabilizing trade surpluses and deficits.

    And we need a universal basic dividend that would be administered by the New Bretton Woods institutions and funded by a percentage of big tech shares deposited in a world wealth fund.

    The financial genie needs to be put back in its bottle, with capital controls domestically and globally to be imposed by co-ordinated action in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Money must be democratized and internationally managed in a manner that shrinks both trade deficits and surpluses. The robots must become humanity’s slaves, a feat that requires common ownership, at least partly.

    All this sounds utopian. But no more so than the idea that the globalization of the 1990s can be maintained in the 21st century or replaced profitably for the majority by a revived nationalism.

    Who should pursue this internationalist agenda? Progressives from Europe and North America have a duty to start the ball rolling, courtesy of our collective failure to civilize capitalism. I have no doubt that if we embark upon this path, others in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa will soon join us. At DiEM25, the Democracy in Europe Movement that I proudly co-founded, we take this duty seriously. We are determined to take this agenda, which we refer to as the European New Deal, to voters across the continent in the May, 2019, European Parliament elections. With globalization in retreat and militant parochialism on the rise, we have a moral and political duty to do so.

    • My comment:
      The costs are high and some of the benefits are questionable.

      There are more slaves in the world than existed at the height of slavery before the American Civil War. Even ignoring outright slavery, there are larger numbers of people trapped in conditions only slightly above slavery or else lacking a good source of income. Subsistence living remains the norm in many parts of the world. And in places experiencing instability, subsistence isn’t guaranteed and people are forced to rely on the aid of others, if they are lucky enough to have access to aid.

      Even though there is less violence in some ways, the total numbers of violent deaths are higher than ever before. For one, there has never been a larger or more powerful militarized global empire in history. With endless war in much of the world (US War on Terror includes 79 countries now), violent conflict has become pervasive and more destructive than ever. Violent conflict combined with environmental destruction, ecosystem collapse and climate change, there are some of the largest refugee crises ever before seen. All of this combines to vast systems of both fast and slow violence. 40% of deaths worldwide are related to pollution. That isn’t even to consider all of the externalized costs of physical illnesses, disabilities, and neurocognitive harm that precedes death and keeps communities struggling.

      And even the supposed decrease of poverty is less than clear, as the standard of poverty has been set so low that many economically desperate people have simply been redefined as not being in poverty, similar to how the permanently unemployed are no longer recorded in US data (and haven’t been since the Reagan administration) — some data indicates that the majority of working age Americans are either unemployed or underemployed, and that is in the wealthiest country in the world. Large sections of the global population are technically not in poverty because the measurement of poverty has been set so low, even as they struggle with food and shelter on a daily basis.

      To say that our present international order isn’t sustainable would be an extreme understatement. It is true that, as the problems have become increasingly global, the solutions must be global. This is late stage capitalism which is the end of a historical period, but old paradigms can take a long time to lose power. Late feudalism overlapped with early capitalism for centuries. There is unlikely to be any single moment when neoliberal corporatism disappears, although it’s possible that an even worst world war could cause wholesale destruction and rebuilding, which might precipitate a dramatic transformation with unforseeable consequences. It does seem like changes are happening faster. We might find ourselves in a new historical period long before we realize what happened. It could be so different that we won’t be able to recognize it for what it is.

      It will be a new era of global governance or, failing that, global collapse. Either possibility seems equally probable. Also, either possibility could lead to good or bad results. On the side of globalization, we could finally achieve a post-scarcity social democracy or even more powerful authoritarianism. And as for collapse, it could mean an empowering decentralization or the end of civilization as we know it. About anything is possible at a moment like this because of all the factors involved. This moment in history is maybe more unpredictable than prior periods of instability, such as the Bronze Age collapse. That is because technology offers more alternatives in affecting the outcome, for good or ill. Interesting times, as they say.

  5. I haven’t read the book, but I might understand the reviewer’s complaint. Another complaint could be made. E.O. Wilson wants there to be more connection between the sciences and the humanities. This isn’t exactly a new argument.

    It might have been more interesting if Wilson had explored all the diverse thinkers who have already explored this territory for generations. The problem is the most interesting thinkers such as Jaynes and McGilchrist are those least likely to be known by the likes of Wilson.

    “It’s impossible to begrudge such a person a few literary victory laps. Yet Wilson is so widely read and admired that when he makes a public statement about the relationship between science and the humanities, it has to be taken on its own terms and assessed for what it says. And “The Origins of Creativity” is an extremely shallow book.”

    • I tend to think that the entire system is the worst part. That is because one can either defend the system or not while remaining complicit in the system in either case. It serves the purposes of all involved, including the good liberals content with being told children stories.

    • Sitting in a psych class, I was reminded of the trauma of not only being, frankly, verbally abused by her, of the way her cavalierly accused me of asperger’s as if that’s totally not unethical, but also of the trauma of having had my grievances and emotional misgivings that were rooted in very concrete reasons just distilled into whatever labels she pulled out that day

  6. There is mounting evidence that the population density was far higher than is assumed. Reports from the very earliest expeditions speak of natives everywhere with large tracts of land being farmed both in North and South America.

    But by the time the official expeditions came two decades later, all they found were empty villages and endless unused land. What they didn’t realize was that smallpox and other pandemics had raced through nearly every corner of the Americas and decimated whole populations.

    More and more research is showing a wide pattern of densely populated areas and large scale agriculture of pre-Columbian America.

  7. Other answers here address the ramifications of the Dawes Act and why it was part of an assimilation effort. But, I just want to echo or reiterate the central theme…or, specifically HOW this act was supposed to Americanize this particular population.

    Basically, the Dawes act was meant to break up tribal lands, and diminish tribal governance, plain and simple

    See, because, prior to that point, Natives were not US citizens (for the most part). They were only citizens or members of their own tribal nations, and were considered “sovereign domestic nations.” Lands were held communally. This was radically different than the American or European model.

    This system essentially reinforced a certain polity and citizenship – and this was decidely NOT American.

    So, to disrupt this Native self-determination, you first have to dissolve the communal land holdings. Then, you can get rid of the tribal governance.

    This was basically the first step preceding Termination*.

    *This policy was designed to terminate the government-to-government relationship between tribal nations and the federal government.

    • I’ve heard about that before. There might be a book about the topic. On a related note, I know of a specific book about the early fascination and sympathy that the Scottish immigrants felt toward Native Americans.

    • I found that was true with the smartest HBDers. There was some point beyond which they wouldn’t go beyond, certain info to which they had no rational response. But within the bounds of their dogmatic beliefs and ideological worldview, they were well informed and logically analytical. We are all that way to an extent, what we are more or less rational about. The difference with ideologues is how bluntly clear is the demarcation and how they psychologically express it.

    • I wonder how that might be different in some places. There is a kind of racism in this liberal college town. But it is more of a general anxiety about race issues with the standard systemic racial problems (e.g., policing disparities). The university so dominates the town that diversity is taken for granted. I’ve never noticed mixed race/ethnicity relationships being treated differently, although I’m sure it happens even here.

      I just don’t think it would be as big of an issue here as in a big city. That is because most of the diversity here has little if anything to do with socioeconomic class, as poverty and inequality is extremely low here. That creates a commonality of sorts when most of the population is on or near the same socioeconomic level. Plus, most of the diversity here is from foreigners attending or working at the university, a group that is generally treated differently since they are on average wealthier.

  8. “erhaps most importantly is the sociological implications for understanding ethnic/race relations in the context of American history: there is a tendency for minorities to be punished in times of economic, political and/or geopolitical crises. Times of social and systemic stability, however, tend to mute whatever underlying tensions exist between different groups. In times of societal crisis—whether perceived or real—patterns or retractability of American identities have erupted to the forefront of America’s political landscape, often generating institutional and civil society backlash against workers from other nations, a pattern documented by Fong’s research into how crises drastically alter social relationships.[41]

    • This is why liberals and liberal-minded leftists are so obsessed with preventing problems before they begin and hence so obsessed with improving environmental conditions. Liberalism is dependent on liberal-mindedness, both being dependent on low poverty, inequality, and stress along with high trust, stability, and order.

      If you look at the most liberal states, they have high taxes to pay for programs and policies that make life better for more of the citizenry. This is a feedback loop. It is the liberal mindset that leads to that kind of political order but it is also the socioeconomic conditions that make possible that liberal mindset.

      On the opposite side, the desperation and fear and outrage found in the most conservative states creates the very conditions for conservatism, i.e., the reactionary mind. And of course during times of conflict and uncertainty, conservatives wield immense power across the entire country, with even liberals becoming more fearful and reactionary.

      The only societies that maintain long term liberality are those that have established strong cultures of trust and well funded social democracies. But purposely foment an antagonistic sense of conflict while defunding public programs and it would be easy to turn those liberal countries into right-wing states. That is what happened when economic problems caused liberalism to fail in a place like Germany, making possible for the Nazi takeover.

  9. “They said she looked emaciated and only 10 years old, though she was 17” then the article goes on to say “The victims were provided with food and beverages after they claimed to be starving.” CLAIMED TO BE!? They we’re so malnourished they didn’t guess any of them were over 18! They were totally starving

    permalinksavereportgive goldreply

    [–]Desert_grape 247 points 1 day ago
    The oldest was 29. From looking at the pictures on the parents Facebook, I can not figure out which one was almost 30. They all look like children.

    permalinksaveparentreportgive goldreply

    [–]1pandas_mom 18 points 19 hours ago
    Considering the mother’s large breasts and ALL of the daughters concave chests I would say they haven’t gone thru puberty yet because of malnutrition …. poor poor babies

  10. This is interesting. Many species are highly adaptable. That has been a great advantage and problem for humans. We are so adaptable that we are capable of creating immense dysfunction. Take some children. Impoverish them, beat them, poison them, malnutrition them, and hurt them in every way imaginable. Most of them will survive to have kids that will experience the same.

    If humans were less adaptable to dysfunction, we’d be forced to lessen that dysfunction. But since we are so adaptable, the dysfunction perpetuates and worsens. Only the most adaptable species survive near humans: rats, mice, racoons, etc; and apparently sunfish. The least adaptable species get isolated in the remaining healthy ecosystems or else go extinct.


    The Trump administration has waived part of the punishment for five megabanks whose affiliates were convicted and fined for manipulating global interest rates. One of the Trump administration waivers was granted to Deutsche Bank — which is owed at least $130 million by President Donald Trump and his business empire, and has also been fined for its role in a Russian money laundering scheme.


    To secure enactment of these safeguards, Amash needed support from a majority of House Democrats. That meant that House Democrats held the power in their hands to decide whether Trump — the president they have been vocally vilifying as a lawless tyrant threatening American democracy — would be subjected to serious limits and safeguards on how his FBI could spy on the conversations of American citizens.

    Debate on the bill and the amendments began on the House floor yesterday afternoon, and it became quickly apparent that leading Democrats intended to side with Trump and against those within their own party who favored imposing safeguards on the Trump administration’s ability to engage in domestic surveillance. The most bizarre aspect of this spectacle was that the Democrats who most aggressively defended Trump’s version of the surveillance bill — the Democrats most eager to preserve Trump’s spying powers as virtually limitless — were the very same Democratic House members who have become media stars this year by flamboyantly denouncing Trump as a treasonous, lawless despot in front of every television camera they could find.

  13. In the end, Taiwan chose to adopt a single-payer system like that found in Medicare or in Canada, not a government-run system like Britain’s. At first, things did not go as well as hoped. Although the country had been planning the change for years, it occurred quite quickly after democracy was established in the early 1990s. The system, including providers and hospitals, was caught somewhat off guard, and many felt that they had not been adequately prepared. The public, however, was much happier about the change.

    Today, most hospitals in Taiwan remain privately owned, mostly nonprofit. Most physicians are still either salaried or self-employed in practices.

    The health insurance Taiwan provides is comprehensive. Both inpatient and outpatient care are covered, as well as dental care, over-the-counter drugs and traditional Chinese medicine. It’s much more thorough than Medicare is in the United States.

    Access is also quite impressive. Patients can choose from pretty much any provider or therapy. Wait times are short, and patients can go straight to specialty care without a referral.

    Premiums are paid for by the government, employers and employees. The share paid by each depends on income, with the poor paying a much smaller percentage than the wealthy.

    Taiwan’s cost of health care rose faster than inflation, as it has in other countries. In 2001, co-payments for care were increased, and in 2002, they went up again, along with premiums. In those years, the government also began to reduce reimbursement to providers after a “reasonable” number of patients was seen. It also began to pay less for drugs. Finally, it began to institute global budgets — caps on the total amount paid for all care — in the hope of squeezing providers into becoming more efficient.

    Relative to the United States and some other countries, Taiwan devotes less of its economy to health care. In the early 2000s, it was spending 5.4 percent of G.D.P., and by 2014 that number had risen to 6.2 percent. By comparison, countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development spend on average more than 9 percent of G.D.P. on health care, and the United States spends about twice that.

    After the most recent premium increase in 2010 (only the second in Taiwan’s history), the system began to run surpluses. […] For a country that spends relatively little on health care, Taiwan is accomplishing quite a lot.

    Comparing Taiwan and the United States may appear to be like comparing apples and aardvarks. One is geographically small, with only 23 million citizens, while the other is vast and home to well above 300 million. But Taiwan is larger than most states, and a number of states — including Vermont, Colorado and California — have made pushes for single-payer systems in the last few years. These have not succeeded, however, perhaps because there is less tolerance for disruption in the United States than the Taiwanese were willing to accept.

    Regardless of which health system you might prefer, Taiwan’s ambition showed what’s possible. It took five years of planning and two years of legislative efforts to accomplish its transformation. That’s less time than the United States has spent fighting over the Affordable Care Act, with much less to show for it.


    The studies using hypnosis show that a person’s mood, thoughts and perceptions can be profoundly altered by suggestion.

    In such studies, participants go through a hypnosis induction procedure, to help them to enter a mentally focused and absorbed state. Then, suggestions are made to change their perceptions and experiences.

    For example, in one study, researchers recorded the brain activity of participants when they raised their arm intentionally, when it was lifted by a pulley, and when it moved in response to a hypnotic suggestion that it was being lifted by a pulley.

    Similar areas of the brain were active during the involuntary and the suggested “alien” movement, while brain activity for the intentional action was different. So, hypnotic suggestion can be seen as a means of communicating an idea or belief that, when accepted, has the power to alter a person’s perceptions or behaviour.

    The personal narrative
    All this may leave one wondering where our thoughts, emotions and perceptions actually come from. We argue that the contents of consciousness are a subset of the experiences, emotions, thoughts and beliefs that are generated by non-conscious processes within our brains.

    This subset takes the form of a personal narrative, which is constantly being updated. The personal narrative exists in parallel with our personal awareness, but the latter has no influence over the former.

    The personal narrative is important because it provides information to be stored in your autobiographical memory (the story you tell yourself, about yourself), and gives human beings a way of communicating the things we have perceived and experienced to others.

    This, in turn, allows us to generate survival strategies; for example, by learning to predict other people’s behaviour. Interpersonal skills like this underpin the development of social and cultural structures, which have promoted the survival of human kind for millennia.

    So, we argue that it is the ability to communicate the contents of one’s personal narrative –– and not personal awareness – that gives humans their unique evolutionary advantage.


    Ms. Tippett: [laughs] I like that. So the title of the book is The Warmth of Other Suns, which comes from some lines of Richard Wright — another product of this experience — as he was about to leave Mississippi for Chicago in 1927. And I’m just going to read it. He wrote, “I was leaving the South to fling myself into the unknown. I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns, and, perhaps” — just perhaps — “to bloom.” You have said that the language of “political asylum” is absolutely apt here for what people were undertaking. And it’s just not — as much as we know a lot of these stories and a lot of the things that were wrong, that feels like a new recognition.

    Ms. Wilkerson: It does. I think that because it happened within the borders of our own country, we don’t think about it as — first of all, it was a kind of immigration, although these were — this is the only group of Americans who had to act like immigrants in order to be recognized as citizens. They were forced to seek political asylum within the borders of their own country, because they were living in a caste system in the South that did not recognize their citizenship.

    And some of them traveled farther than current-day immigrants might, but that was really not the point; the point was that the country actually was kind of two countries in one, and that’s what they had to do.

    I often say that the book is viewed as being a book about the Great Migration, and over time, as I’ve talked about it over these years, I’ve come to realize that it’s not about migration. The Great Migration is not about migration, and really, probably no migration is about migration. It’s about freedom and how far people are willing to go to achieve it. This is the means that they feel they must take in order to find freedom wherever they can find it.

    Ms. Tippett: Yeah, and this book is such a — it embodies this paradox that writers know, that storytellers know, that radio actually knows — that the more particular you can get with your story, the more universally it can be received and that others can join their life and their imagination with what you have to share. And there were these moments for me in the book that were just so human, that were so relatable, that made all of these other horrors come home. And so one of them, for me, was George Swanson Starling; was — you asked him what he hoped for in leaving, and he said, “I was hoping I would be able to live as a man and express myself in a manly way” — I’m getting chills — “without the fear of getting lynched at night.” And even the way it comes across — he didn’t say it — it doesn’t sound like he said it with a lot of bitterness or drama. It was just matter-of-fact.

    Ms. Wilkerson: Not even that much emotion, because it was — these were the facts of their lives. And at that time, when they were growing up — and this time period was a very long time. It was the end of Reconstruction until the 1970s. It encompassed — someone who was born in the 1880s and passed away in the ’60s would’ve known nothing other than this, and so these were the facts of their lives. And he didn’t — he was not emotional. He wasn’t bitter. It was just a matter-of-fact statement of what it was that he was up against, and why he felt he had no choice but to go. I ran into a lot of people who said they didn’t think they would’ve lived, if they had stayed. There was actually a tremendous amount of fear that a lot parents in the South had for their children, if they were extroverted and opinionated.

    • Ms. Wilkerson: Lorraine Hansberry, Denzel Washington — there are so, so many people that you could — that’s one way of recognizing the impact that it had, because ultimately, what this migration was — and I think people are identifying it — is that it’s an unleashing of this pent-up creativity and genius, in many cases, of people miscast in this caste system. You think about those cotton fields and those rice plantations and those tobacco fields, and on all of those cotton fields and tobacco plantations and rice plantations were opera singers and jazz musicians and poets and professors, defense attorneys, doctors. This is the manifestation of the desire to be free and what was lost to the country, because, for centuries, for 246 years of enslavement — and I have to remind people, 12 generations of enslavement. Twelve generations of enslavement — how many “greats” do you add to “grandparent” to get back to 1619 until 1863?

      And that gives you a sense of how long all of these people were miscast into an artificial hierarchy as to what they were permitted to do, or risk death if they did not do that. One fact about this whole idea of where we are right now, just cosmically, I think, in terms of this — let me put it this way: No adult alive today will live to see a time when the time of enslavement was equal to the time of freedom. And so that shows you that this history is long, and the history is deep. When you go to other countries, you go in other parts of the world — in Europe or India, other places — and the history goes so far back — the people in Portugal can still remember, “Well, there was that catastrophe in the 15th century. We still haven’t gotten over that yet.”


      Think about how this is really not that long ago in a sense of generations, in the sense of even — I would view it, almost, cellular memory in the bones of a people.

      I actually was also encouraged by the fact that, after the Charleston Mother Emanuel shootings, the Commonwealth of Virginia rose to the occasion, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the editorial board, said that there should be a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and that it should come from Virginia, which was the capital of the Confederacy. And the solutions lie in the South, I believe. I really believe that the solutions lie in the South.


    Margaret Atwood as an enemy of feminism is a tough concept to get your head around. She is, after all, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, the universally acclaimed dystopian fantasy in which women are enslaved to men. Her impressive body of work – one that has profoundly informed the feminist zeitgeist – is a 50-year-long attack on misogyny and the patriarchal state. Ms. Atwood is probably the leading feminist author in the world. So what happened?

    What happened is that the Revolution has entered a new phase. Having vanquished the reactionaries, the Jacobins are sending the moderates to the guillotine. The buildings must be razed so that society can begin anew. Everyone who isn’t for them is against them. Moderates like Ms. Atwood, with their odious ideas about due process and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, are traitors to the Revolution.

    As one letter to The Globe put it the other day: “Revolution isn’t about justice. It’s about change.” […]

    Sadly, I am the very last ally Ms. Atwood needs. If anything, my opinion will only serve as more ammunition for people who are convinced she’s joined the reactionaries. But I can’t help it. I too believe that due process, as frustrating and imperfect as it is, is better than the alternative. I do not think that public lists of anonymous accusations against named media men, like the one currently doing the rounds in the U.S., should be allowed to destroy careers. (The accusations on the Shitty Media Men list include such crimes as “secretly removing condom during sex” and being “in general a huge disgusting sleaze ball.”)

    But of course I’d be on her side. I’m just another elderly cis white woman with too much privilege. Off with our heads.

    • Underpaid, over-worked, and stressed-out teachers isn’t an accident or mere side effect. It is intentional.

      We know for a fact that paying teachers more would improve the educational outcome of the students that most need help, the kids who have parents that can’t afford to move to wealthy school districts or send them to costly private schools. That is the whole point. We know what works and the ruling elite will avoid that at all costs, even if it means the slow destruction of our society, as long as they can maintain their wealth and power in the present.

      The last thing in the world the ruling elite wants is a well-educated citizenry, especially minorities and the poor. They don’t even want a well-educated middle class. That is because a well-educated citizenry is more capable independent thought and harder to manipulate. Effective social control requires a population subservient to propaganda, political rhetoric, and perception management.

      It’s like when Tulsi Gabbard referred to the devastating results of regime change in Libya and Iraq as an ‘accident’. That implies these results weren’t intended. But that is bullshit. Of course, it was intended. That is how the American Empire maintains global power, not by winning wars so much but simply by keeping entire regions in a permanent state of instability.

      The US doesn’t have to directly control countries in the way colonial empires did in the past for that is difficult and expensive. Instead, the US only has to ensure that no other global superpower gains control and that the local populations are kept from democratic self-governance. The main purpose isn’t political control but neoliberal exploitation. Regime change is a temporary strategy. We put brutal regimes into power like Saddam Hussein who we use for our purposes and then we take them back out when they no longer serve our purposes.

      Failing schools and failing states are intentionally created and maintained.


    The political triumph of Donald Trump is a symbol and symptom – not cause or origin – of our imperial meltdown. Trump is neither alien nor extraneous to American culture and history. In fact, he is as American as apple pie.

    He is a sign of our spiritual bankruptcy – all spectacle and no substance, all narcissism and no empathy, all appetite and greed and no wisdom and maturity. His triumph flows from the implosion of a Republican party establishment beholden to big money, big military and big scapegoating of vulnerable peoples of color, LGBTQ peoples, immigrants, Muslims, and women.

    It also flows from a Democratic party establishment beholden to big money, big military, and the clever deployment of peoples of color, LGBTQ peoples, immigrants, Muslims and women to hide and conceal the lies and crimes of neoliberal policies here and abroad; and from a corporate media establishment that aided and abetted Trump owing to high profits and revenues.

    The painful truth is there is no Donald Trump without Barack Obama, no neofascist stirrings without neoliberal policies – all within the imperial zone. Obama was the brilliant black smiling face of the American empire. Trump is the know-nothing white cruel face of the American empire.

    Obama did not produce Trump, but his Wall Street–friendly policies helped facilitate Trump’s pseudo-populist victory. Obama’s reluctance to confront race matters in a serious and substantive manner did not cause the ugly white backlash, but Obama’s hesitancy did not help the opposition to white-supremacist practices.

    And, more pointedly, both Obama and Trump – two different faces of the imperial meltdown – supported military buildups, wars against Muslim-majority countries, drone strikes, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and people, illegal imprisonments of innocent people, night raids on poor Muslim families, and inhumane detention camps. These war policies and war crimes have come back to devour what is left of America’s democratic soul.

  18. This fits the sense of the situation we’ve been in for years now. I remember thinking along these lines with the emergence of the Tea Party. It was precisely because public opinion is shifting to the left that the ruling elites in both parties and the corporate media help give so much attention to the political right, from the Tea Party to Trump.

    It’s similar to why both parties and the corporate media beat the war drums for the Iraq War when most Americans were against starting that war. Right now, the political left is (and has been for a long time) the greatest threat to the powers that be. And so the Tea Party is preferable to Occupy, as Trump is preferable to Sanders.

    We see this in how some Democratic politicians who warned of Trump’s authoritarianism have recently voted for a bill that gives unchecked executive power to Trump. The fear-mongering is all posture and spectacle. They don’t really fear Trump. Trump isn’t Hitler. And Trump isn’t the fundamental problem. Both parties along with the entire political and economic system is the problem. Trump is just one of the many results, a sign of the times.

    “There’s little doubt that Trump’s regime is a cause for concern, on multiple grounds, as I and many others have written. But we should not mistake mood for moment. Even one that feels so profoundly alien as ours does now. For that, too, has a history in America.”

  19. I think it has gone too far and not far enough for different reasons. My main complaint is how identity politics have been used for division, not empowerment. The most disempowered aren’t being represented. And it continues the upper class white political activism that conveniently overlooks the injustice, oppression, and suffering of everyone else: poor women, minority women, poor white men, etc.

    The mainstream media, mainstream politicians, and mainstream celebrities have treated the Me Too movement as being all about themselves, rather than being one small part of a violently oppressive society and militarized empire. It plays right into the status quo because the system itself remains unchallenged. Instead of abusive upper class white men in power, they want abusive upper class white women in power such as Hillary Clinton. Then we will have gender balance in our political oppression, class war, and white supremacy.


    Progressives believe in restorative justice—except when we don’t.

    When oppressed people do things that hurt themselves or their kids or others, we point to a vast web of systemic and structural factors as contributing causes. No one is an island, we say, and we argue for second chances and the kinds of remedies and services that help people change. But when it comes to bad things done by rich white guys we adopt a different mental model—one that is, in fact, almost identical to the model of justice that conservatives apply to poor brown folk.

    Suddenly, we are all rabid believers in free will and personal responsibility, and we want bad behavior punished. We look at a harm-doer, and all we can see is the crime and the victim. Down where our moral emotions swirl, our yearning for justice isn’t social or restorative; it’s retributive. We experience something remarkably like hate. We want them to suffer.

    #MeToo didn’t start as mob justice. It started as an outcry of anger and anguish. But retributive justice swiftly followed, with members of the woman’s social network, large or small, real-world or virtual, acting as judge and jury. At the primal level where we are driven by frustration and empathic pain, all violations can seem equal because they represent all others, and each violator represents every man who has ever left a woman feeling soiled or crushed. Matt Damon or Al Franken or Charlie Rose or Garrison Keillor . . . we don’t really know how guilty they are and we don’t really care because they are Man.

    We Americans—as offspring of a Christianized culture— believe in the power of substitutionary atonement. Christianity’s core story is that one person can suffer for another, the innocent for the guilty, and this somehow sets the world right. Guilty party or scapegoat or something in between? It’s all ok—as long as someone pays. For without the shedding of blood is no remission of sin. So says the Iron Age text.

    And if we can mete out that punishment ourselves, following trial by Twitter or a Facebook feeding frenzy, we are more than glad to do so. “Due process is for legal crimes,” commented one progressive lawyer on my Facebook. “These are social crimes and social consequences; they don’t require due process.”

    Don’t they? Is our criminal justice system not a formalized extension of social consequences for social crimes? Have we not spent millennia formalizing process and proportionality precisely because we humans are so prone to acts of reactive retribution that we subsequently recognize as unjust? Is it any less grave a matter to end a person’s career, strip his art from public fora, shatter his reputation, or break his marriage than to lock him up?

  21. Yesterday and today in history:

    January 17

    1706 – Birth of Benjamin Franklin – claims bankers primary reason for Revolution
    “The colonies would gladly have borne the little tax on tea and other matters had it not been that England took away from the colonies their money, which created unemployment and dissatisfaction. The inability of the colonists to get power to issue their own money permanently out of the hands of George III and the international bankers was the prime reason for the revolutionary war.”

    1893 – Death of former President Rutherford B. Hayes
    Hayes lost the popular vote to Democrat Samuel Tilden in 1877. Twenty electoral votes were “unresolved.” The (s)election of Hayes as President was determined by a special commission, controlled by the CEO of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and made up of Supreme Court justices and members of Congress. A deal was struck, The Compromise of 1877, that Hayes would receive the 20 electoral votes if he agreed to pull federal troops from the South, what ended Reconstruction and the launch of Jim Crow racist laws. Those same troops were shifted to put down the first national labor strike in 1877, resulting in the death of over 100 strikers.

    1961 – Farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower — indicts the “military industrial complex”
    “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

    “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

    January 18

    2012 – American Sustainable Business Council report: “Small Businesses Reject Role of Money in Politics; View Citizens United Decision as Bad for Business
    “Small business owners view the Citizens United decision as bad for small business:
    66% of those surveyed said the two-year-old ruling that gives corporations unlimited spending power in elections is bad for small businesses. Only 9% said it was good for small business.”

    The Council spans a growing network of business associations across the United States, which in turn represents over 200,000 businesses and 325,000 business executives, owners, investors, and others.

    • This is more of the mainstream missing the forest for the trees, obsessing over the effects while ignoring the cause(s). Social media can’t be primarily blamed for our collective dysfunction any more than can Trump. The failures and distortions, not to mention propaganda, of corporate media is far more dangerous and damaging than social media.

      Anyway, this is not entirely new. The problems of media spin and spectacle goes back centuries. Anyone who knows American history in detail knows that the founding fathers were far worse culprits of using media in devious ways. The notion of news media having a moral duty to honestly report facts only became fashionable in the recent past of the past few generations. This was initiated through the mudraking tradition of investigative journalism. Prior to that, newspapers were some combination of sensationalist and partisan. In the mid-20th century, news media became increasingly professionalized because of nationalization and corporatization, but this made them better vehicles for propaganda and perception management.

      The corporate media is full of plenty of bullshit. The complaint being made in corporate media is that they no longer have a government-sanctioned monopoly over the public mind, as they did during the Cold War. Their corporate bullshit now has to compete with other media sources.

      They aren’t any better since corporate media and social media are so intertwined. Consider that Bannon came out of the corporate world (both Hollywood and the financial sector) and Breitbart news has been funded by some of the wealthiest corporatists in the US (the Mercer family). Plus, Google that owns Youtube has been doing everything in its power to shut down advertising dollars going to alternative media, the kind of alternative media that would help to challenge and refute all the fake news.

      Also, it seems the corporatist propaganda of the Cold War might be making a comeback. Back in the bad ol’ days, the intelligence agencies had journalists, reporters, and other media figures on their payroll (as well as professors, artists, writers, writer workshhops, etc). Now Bezos of Amazon has bought Washington Post seemingly with the money he got from a contract with the CIA, not to mention his being on a Pentagon board, and since then the Washington Post has repeatedly used anonymous CIA sources.

      Besides, doesn’t anyone remember when a Clinton-funded organization sought to use paid trolls to promote Clinton’s campaign and to attack Sanders’ supporters? Social media has become the playground of powerful funded by big money, domestic and foreign, political and corporate. About the video of Pinker taken out of context, that is likely to have been produced by one of those covert organizations with a specific agenda.

    • For most of American history, Latin Americans were considered the descendants of other European empires (the Spanish and Portuguese, even Germans settled there). They weren’t treated as an ethnically separate semi-race until much later.

    • That is the entirety of American history. Even ethnicities like Italians that were once sometimes called the ‘n’ word became racist and racial supremacist in their bid for inclusion in white identity. That reminds me of this movie scene:

  22. Considering it’s an insult to say someone “looks Native” in Mexico and that in many Latin countries Native-identifying people are seen as lowest on the totem pole and Native women disportionatelt targeted for rape, it’s not that surprising Latino white supremacy.

    You don’t need to be purely European to have white supremacist ideas. Latin America is white supremacist just in a different way

    • It might be similar to why Southern Europeans and American Southerners are most racist. Those are two populations where African genetics have mixed with the white population to a greater extent. The fact that so many Latinxs have non-white ancestry makes it a contentious issue within the racial order, whether in Latin America or the United States.

    • I remember when I first read about that data. Everyone knows that American blacks for obvious reasons have plenty of European genetics. But it never occurred to me that African genetics spilled back over into the white population. It seems obvious, though, once you think about it.

      The genetic data does show a significant percentage of white Southerners have some African genetics. Even before the genetic data came out, one book I read noted that it was a common fear among Southerners of having an ‘n’ word in the woodpile, a way of saying there might be a black ancestor. Only after coming across the genetic data did it cross my mind how dark, thick, and curly was the hair my ‘white’ best friend down in South Carolina.

      It’s strange that somehow didn’t stand out to me when I lived down there. We are enculturated to think of race in black and white terms, either one race or the other. But the mixing of races among the poor had to be fairly high at different points in history. And my friend was working class, his family earlier having been rural.

    • That is one of the most brilliant takedowns I’ve seen in a while. That gives voice to a basic point I’ve been making for years, in my complaints against the likes of Haidt, Harris, and Pinker. But this person wrote a piece that communicates this message so much better than I so far have been able to do. And it is a message that needs to be repeated, until those in the mainstream finally get a clue.

      My only disagreement is that these radical centrists are more radical than they are centrist. They are a radical elite (some combination of white, male, and middle-to-upper class) who are at the center of power and privilege, authority and influence within the establishment and so defenders of the status quo. Their opinion is in the center of the minority within the comfortable classes, not in the center of the silenced majority of the American public. That is an important distinction to keep in mind and to constantly repeat.

    • That is the single most important criminal case involving sexual misconduct and abuse. It’s above even the ugliness of the Weinstein scandal.

      The reason I say that is this was a systemic problem that lasted so long with so many not just knowing about it but involved in it. This wasn’t merely a lone powerful guy but someone who was protected by the system, a system that should have been protecting the gymnasts instead.

      I always see systemic problems as the most harmful and dangerous. That is particularly true of a society that pretends to have aspirations for democracy. My main complaint about the mainstream faction of the Me Too movement is its refusal to take seriously how systemic is oppression and victimization in our society.


    Over the past 50 years, the volume of the ocean with no oxygen at all has quadrupled, while oxygen-deprived swaths of the open seas have expanded by the size of the European Union. The culprits are familiar: global warming and pollution. Warmer seawater both holds less oxygen and turbocharges the worldwide consumption of oxygen by microorganisms. Meanwhile, agricultural runoff and sewage drive suffocating algae blooms. […] Earth’s oceans had lost 2 percent of their oxygen since 1960.

    Two percent might not sound that dramatic, but small changes in the oxygen content of the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere in the ancient past are thought to be responsible for some of the most profound events in the history of life. Some paleontologists have pointed to rising oxygen as the fuse for the supernova of biology at the Cambrian explosion 543 million years ago. Similarly, the fever-dream world of the later Carboniferous period is thought to be the product of an oxygen spike, which subsidized the lifestyles of preposterous animals, like dragonflies the size of seagulls. On the other hand, dramatically declining oxygen in the oceans like we see today is a feature of many of the worst mass extinctions in Earth’s history. […]

    Today, the preconditions might be back, though in a form unlike anything in Earth’s history. It’s not nearly as warm as it was during the Cretaceous greenhouse, a circumstance that helped lead the oceans closer to the edge—though that may change in the coming centuries. And the continents are arranged more favorably than in the stagnant bathtub of the Late Cretaceous. Only a global technological civilization of billions of people, drenching the world’s shallow seas with phosphorus and nitrogen and blasting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, could summon OAE 2 back from the fossil record.

    The circumstances of the Earth’s ancient anoxic events might have been strange, but not nearly as strange as our modern world. As with global warming, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification, humanity still has time to avoid the grislier scenarios promised by spreading anoxia. But as Nielsen, Ostrander, and Owens write: “Ancient OAE studies are destined to become uncomfortably applicable in the not-so-distant future.” In other words, our project as a species may well ultimately be the same as that of a large igneous province—producing in our eruptions of carbon dioxide and nutrient pollution an increasingly tenantless and sickly ocean beloved by bacteria.

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