Our Current Situation: Out of the Loop

Yesterday was a travel day and I lost track of what time of week it was. No politics this week! Instead I’m professional conferencing and thinking about where I want to focus my professional attention.

If I WERE paying attention to our current situation this week I imagine I’d be bracing myself with a bourbon or two.

Choosing Between Love and Fear

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this.

“Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.

Sunday Spectacle: What Should Humans Do?

THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE: I’m always interested in what Bruce has to say. His closing talk at SXSW this year is a real stemwinder. After warming up with a review of this year’s hot topics at South-by he takes a look at some possible UBI (Universal Basic Income) scenarios before entering into a full-on critique of our current moral cowardice and waning humanity. While Bruce thinks and writes a lot about things and ideas, these talks are always deeply about the human experience and what we can learn from history.

The Future: History That Hasn’t Happened Yet: Bruce Sterling Speech at SXSW 2017

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OUR CREEPY PRESENT: I’m old enough to remember when every toddler didn’t carry around their own black mirror (i.e. smartphone or computer-gadget pacifier). It looks like the black mirror generation will be followed by the AI generation. How millions of kids are being shaped by know-it-all voice assistants.

“Toy giant Mattel recently announced the birth of Aristotle, a home baby monitor launching this summer that ‘comforts, teaches and entertains’ using AI from Microsoft. As children get older, they can ask or answer questions. The company says, ‘Aristotle was specifically designed to grow up with a child.'”

***

REAL PEOPLE: AV Club pointed me to these re-edited ads. Go to the link and watch all three!

“Chevy’s latest ad campaign relies on “real people, not actors” being absolutely flabbergasted at just how amazing the company’s cars are. So the folks at Zebra Corner decided to inject some actual reality into the campaign with a little help from no-nonsense Boston consumer “Mahk.” Unlike his fellow real people, who are blown away by every new reveal about Chevy, Mahk is skeptical about just why he’s supposed to be impressed by some giant doors and an award he’s never heard of.”

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SHOULD I BE READING INDEPENDENT COMICS?: I don’t (think) I know anyone who reads comics, or at least I never have conversations with anyone well-versed in the current independent comic scene. Comics Alliance series “Should I Be Reading…?” is a tremendous resource when it comes to locating high-quality, independent comics online and in print. So much good stuff here, and so much of it is available to check out online. There’s a year and a half of regular reviews here. Bookmark it and check back often.

“When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With ‘Should I Be Reading… ?’, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.”

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MODERN HERMITING: Excerpt from The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel about a modern-day hermit who lived in the wilds of Maine for 27 years avoiding human contact.

“He perched at the edge of the woods and meticulously observed the habits of the families with cabins along the ponds. He watched their quiet breakfasts and dinner parties, their visitors and vacancies, the cars moving up and down the road. Nothing Knight saw tempted him to return to his former life. His surveillance was clinical, informational, mathematical. He did not learn anyone’s name. All he sought was to understand migration patterns – when people went shopping, when a cabin was unoccupied. After that, he said, everything in his life became a matter of timing. The ideal time to steal was deep in the night, midweek, preferably when it was overcast, best in the rain. A heavy downpour was prime. People stayed out of the woods when it was wet.”

***

RIP BERNIE WRIGHTSON: Obit

Our Current Situation: You Are Creating the Future

BEYOND TRUMP: The issues are more important than Trump. Trump’s election turned a spotlight on some of the worst elements of this nation. This is good, because those elements have always been there, but now they are exposed for all to see. This is bad, because it helps normalize the hate and inhumanity.

What future do you want? What does the world look like 20 years from now? Are the prisons overflowing? Are we at war? Does the future seem bright or dim? Work toward your future.

***

RIGHT ON THE RIGHT?: This is unsettling. I agree with the CEO of Newsmax. How is that even possible? I’m so discombobulated I can’t even link to the Newsmax page. Here’s the Vox explainer. It’s not my favorite health care plan, but I’d be impressed it this gained traction among other conservatives.

  • Ditch the Freedom Caucus and the handful of Senate Republicans who want a complete repeal of Obamacare. They don’t agree with universal coverage and will never be placated.
  • Find a few parts of Ryancare II [i.e., the AHCA; Ryancare I refers to Paul Ryan’s longstanding desire to privatize Medicare] that can win passage in the House and Senate with either GOP support or bipartisan support. Declare victory.
  • Rekindle the bipartisanship in Congress that President Obama destroyed. Impanel a bipartisan committee to report back by year’s end with a feasible plan to fix Obamacare.
  • Reject the phony private health insurance market as the panacea. Look to an upgraded Medicaid system to become the country’s blanket insurer for the uninsured.
  • Tie Medicaid funding to states with the requirement that each pass legislation to allow for a truly nationwide health care market.
  • Get Democrats to agree to modest tort reform to help lower medical costs.
  • While bolstering Medicare and improving Medicaid, get Republicans and Democrats to back the long-term fix of health savings accounts. This allows individuals to fund their own health care and even profit from it.
  • ***

    PERSISTENT RESISTANCE: Don’t forget to check out the Resistance Calendar.

    ***

    ALERT TIP: Go to Google News. Search for Your State & legislature (and put it in quotes, so for me it’s “Florida legislature”.) Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the button Create Alert. Set up your alert (say, for once a day). Now, you’ll get emails when a news source mentions Your State legislature. This is one way to keep track of you local state government.

    ***

    WORD OF THE DAY: Teratocracy – Rule by monsters.

    Jamais Cascio contemplates teratocracy in three posts from 2011/2012.

    Fear of Teratocracy

    “The real test of whether a society that uses a plebiscite to determine leadership is really a democracy is whether the losing party accepts the loss and the legitimacy of their opponent’s victory. This is especially true for when the losing party previously held power. Do they give up power willingly, confident that they’ll have a chance to regain power again in the next election? Or do they take up arms against the winners, refuse to relinquish power, and/or do everything they can to undermine the legitimacy of the opposition’s rule?”

    Teratocracy Rises

    “It’s the business of the future to be dangerous, as Alfred North Whitehead said, and you don’t get much more dangerous than attacks on the legitimacy of democracy. By no means is it guaranteed that this movement will win; in fact, I think it’s more likely than not that they prove unable to get rid of democracy, although they are more likely to weaken it considerably, at least for a time. But that they are willing to attack the fundamental philosophy of the modern state in such blunt language, and have the resources to do more than just write noisy blog posts, suggests that this fight will be neither brief nor insubstantial.”

    Teratocracy Triumphant

    “American democracy is shifting from debates over policy to debates over legitimacy.”

    ***

    THE WEEK’S MOST STOMACH-CHURNING MOMENT: Sean Spicer laughs about Trump’s blatant lying and the press room guffaws along with him.

    Throughout the campaign Trump disparaged the jobs numbers as ‘phony.’ When the first jobs report of his presidency is positive, they are suddenly not phony.

    They may have been phony in the past, but it’s very real now.

    Sociopaths.

    ***

    SIX YEARS OF SYRIAN WAR: The protests that sparked the Syrian Civil War were held on March 15, 2011.

    ***

    MASS INCARCERATION: Excellent snapshot of our current prison system.

    “This report offers some much needed clarity by piecing together this country’s disparate systems of confinement. The American criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in 1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 901 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,163 local jails, and 76 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories. And we go deeper to provide further detail on why people are locked up in all of those different types of facilities.”

    ***

    SHRINKAGE: Trump has instructed OMB Director Mulvaney to shrink the executive branch of the government. Remember Clinton did this in 1993 and tasked Gore with leading the ‘reinvention of government.’ Gore’s plan, despite Congressional resistance, eliminated thousands of field offices, reduced the government workforce by 24,000 employees, and saved billions of dollars. ‘Small government’ Republican voters, of course, voted for Bush who instigated one of the largest (if not THE largest) spending increases ever in the federal government. I expect Mulvaney will recommend cutting Executive Departments to the bone and for it to have very little impact on the overall budget.

    ***

    WINNER WINNER: Congratulations to Ken Fisher AKA Ruben Bolling for winning the 2017 Herblock Award.

    Sunday Spectacle: Books and Stories to Check Out

    WRITING UPDATE: The new Full Moon Story is up. An Unhaunted House is a comedic tale about Miliwata, Florida, the most haunted city in the USA.

    Check out the previous stories, The Conscience Switch, a peek behind the curtains of power that explains how the world can be so horrible sometimes, and Blissful Skies, about a little boy that hates his grandmother and loves falling stars.

    I am now officially behind on the novel writing. I wrote exactly zero of the three thousand words I had targeted this week. I’ll be traveling later in March and my dream is I will be able to make up some wordage as I sit in airports and on the airplane. We’ll see. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

    ***

    BOOKS TO CHECK OUT: I note the books I’m currently reading in the right-hand column, and I have a page for books I’ve read in 2017 with a brief comment. This new feature Books to Check out will be an irregular post pointing to books that have caught my attention and made it to my to-read list. These are not books I’ve read, but books I might check out of the library. My personal inclinations and my day job combine to make me think about books. A lot. If you click through the links you can purchase the books at Powell’s. Or, my recommendation, visit your library. If they don’t have the book ask them if they have an interlibrary loan program.

    I love Richard Kadrey. His Sandman Slim series is pure entertainment. And now he’s added a new comedic series.

    “Coop, a master thief sort of gone legit, saved the world from an ancient doomsday device—heroism that earned him a gig working for the Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome top secret government agency that polices the odd and strange. Now Woolrich, Coop’s boss at the DOPS, has Coop breaking into a traveling antiquities show to steal a sarcophagus containing the mummy of a powerful Egyptian wizard named Harkhuf. With the help of his pals Morty, Giselle, and a professor that’s half-cat, half-robotic octopus, Coop pulls off the heist without a hitch.

    “It’s not Coop’s fault that when DOPS opened the sarcophagus they didn’t find the mummy they were expecting. Well, it was the right mummy, but it wasn’t exactly dead—and now it’s escaped, using a type of magic the organization hasn’t encountered before. Being a boss, Woolrich blames his underling for the screw up and wants Coop to find the missing Harkhuf and make it right, pronto.”

    The Wrong Dead Guy (Another Coop Heist) by Richard Kadrey

    #

    “From the 1970s through the 1990s more than one hundred feminist bookstores built a transnational network that helped shape some of feminism’s most complex conversations. Kristen Hogan traces the feminist bookstore movement’s rise and eventual fall, restoring its radical work to public feminist memory. The bookwomen at the heart of this story—mostly lesbians and including women of color—measured their success not by profit, but by developing theories and practices of lesbian antiracism and feminist accountability. At bookstores like BookWoman in Austin, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, and Old Wives’ Tales in San Francisco, and in the essential Feminist Bookstore News, bookwomen changed people’s lives and the world. In retelling their stories, Hogan not only shares the movement’s tools with contemporary queer antiracist feminist activists and theorists, she gives us a vocabulary, strategy, and legacy for thinking through today’s feminisms.”

    The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability by Kristen Hogan

    #

    I was recently introduced to the concept of the nepantla, which prompted me to add The Gloria Anzaldua Reader by Gloria Anzaldua to my reading list.

    “Nepantla is a concept used often in Chicano and Latino anthropology, social commentary, criticism, literature and art. It represents a concept of “in-between-ness.” Nepantla is a Nahuatl word which means ‘in the middle of it’ or ‘middle.'”

    “Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (September 26, 1942 – May 15, 2004) was an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. She loosely based her best-known book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, on her life growing up on the Mexican-Texas border and incorporated her lifelong feelings of social and cultural marginalization into her work.”

    #

    “The definitive history of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon agency that has quietly shaped war and technology for nearly sixty years.

    “Founded in 1958 in response to the launch of Sputnik, the agency’s original mission was to create “the unimagined weapons of the future.” Over the decades, DARPA has been responsible for countless inventions and technologies that extend well beyond military technology. Sharon Weinberger gives us a riveting account of DARPA’s successes and failures, its remarkable innovations, and its wild-eyed schemes.”

    Imagineers of War The Untold Story of Darpa the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World by Sharon Weinberger

    #

    Out at the end of April. I’ve already pre-ordered it.

    “In Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company―a biotech firm now derelict―and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech.

    “One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump―plant or animal?―but exudes a strange charisma. Borne reminds Rachel of the marine life from the island nation of her birth, now lost to rising seas. There is an attachment she resents: in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet, against her instincts―and definitely against Wick’s wishes―Rachel keeps Borne. She cannot help herself. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. For Borne makes Rachel see beauty in the desolation around her. She begins to feel a protectiveness she can ill afford.”

    Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

    Full Moon Story: An Unhaunted House

    It’s another full moon, and time for a new story. This entry is a comedic tale about real estate agent Country Rose Wiley and her attempt to sell the only unhaunted house in Miliwata, Florida. Every home in Miliwata is haunted except for the old Miller place, but Country Rose has a plan.

    Read An Unhaunted House.

    ***

    Boyd Fester was a man who loved quiet and cherished the moments when he could find it. Early mornings at the real estate office, before anyone arrived, were his favorite time of the day. He drank his coffee, looked out the window, and listened to the distant thrum of cars on the highway. When he heard the door slam he sighed. Quiet time was over.

    Country Rose Wiley marched into her boss’s office without knocking. Boyd could judge her progress precisely by the sound of her heavy walk. Everything about Country Rose was loud, including her clothes, her hair, and her footsteps. And her voice. Especially her voice. “Boyd, I want the Miller house.”

    Read the rest here.

    Our Current Situation: Impunity

    IMPUNITY: Exhausted from the villainy of the world. Some days there doesn’t seem to be any way to stop the bad guys. So what if Wilbur Ross is helping the Russian mob launder their money? At worst, he’ll be fined. So what if cops are killing people at an accelerated rate in 2017? No one will investigate.

    And on, and on.

    This post about fighting Trump Fatigue Syndrome came at the right time.

  • Understand this is a long-term fight that won’t be resolved immediately.
  • Don’t let Trump set the agenda anymore.
  • Be mindful about media consumption, especially social media.
  • Take some time off, and be okay with not always knowing the latest about everything that’s happening.
  • ***

    THIS RABBIT HOLE SEEMS NICE: I spent the last week trying to wrap my head around the Trump/Russia scandal. It got sort of obsessive there for a few days and led to the burn-out mentioned above.

    I created a comprehensive timeline. It’s 82 pages long. I was going to post it today, but I need to step away from it for a little bit to let the conspiracy madness fade away. There may be something to see there, but so far it seems mostly like opportunism, personal agendas, and coincidence. There’s no doubt there’s some unsavory business going on, but it’s not clear to me that it rises to an impeachable or incarcerable offense. These are amoral billionaires fiddling with the levers of power for their own benefit. Their army of attorneys allows them to act with impunity.

    ***

    TRUMPCARE: I guess we’ll call it Trumpcare now.

    “A White House spokesperson, however, was more emphatic. “It’s not Trumpcare,” the spokesperson said Wednesday. “We will be calling it by its official name,” the American Health Care Act.”

    Except the honest-to-God real name of the act is “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.” (thx to AW for the link.)

    The link take you to Congress.gov to see the official short title of HR1275 mentioned above. The act is officially titled: “To eliminate the individual and employer health coverage mandates under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to expand beyond that Act the choices in obtaining and financing affordable health insurance coverage, and for other purposes.”

    **

    WE STILL HAVE SLAVES: Slavery in the US did not end with the Civil War. People in the US are still enslaved today. In recent years the FBI has successfully prosecuted cases in Long Island, NY, Chicago, IL, Seattle, WA, Georgia, Arizona, Kansas City, MS, and El Paso, TX. Now accusations have surfaced that the ICE forced detainees to work for $1 a day.

    Note, however, that this is not a Trump thing (at least, not yet). This happened under Obama’s watch.

    “The lawsuit, filed in 2014 against one of the largest private prison companies in the country, reached class-action status this week after a federal judge’s ruling. That means the case could involve as many as 60,000 immigrants who have been detained.”

    Because of course it is, the private prison corporation at the center of the scandal is based in Florida.

    ***

    PUBLIC HEARINGS: Public hearing on the Trump-Russian ties start March 20.

    “Nunes also said Tuesday that his panel’s first public hearing on the issue would be held March 20 and that former members of the Obama administration had been asked to testify — including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who was fired by Trump in January after refusing to defend his travel ban executive order in court.”

    Senate questioning starts sooner and behind closed doors.

    ***

    THEY HAVE JOBS: And while all the attention is on wacky, inexplicable tweets the White House is hiring a slew of bigots and lunatics.

    “Much about the role of the beachhead teams at various federal agencies is unclear. But close observers of the early weeks of the Trump administration believe they have taken on considerable influence in the absence of high-level political appointees.”

    ***

    THEY DON’T HAVE JOBS: While at the State Department positions go unfilled.

    “With the State Department demonstratively shut out of meetings with foreign leaders, key State posts left unfilled, and the White House not soliciting many department staffers for their policy advice, there is little left to do.”

    ***

    EDITORIAL: Recently I shared Molly Ivins’ insight with a friend and I thought she was going to cry.

    Molly Ivins, I told her (paraphrasing), said the struggle was here before us and will be here after we’re gone, so it’s important to find a way to have fun while we’re fighting.

    “It lasts that long?” She looked so mournful. I thought I was saying something obvious and uncontroversial.

    “Sure. Civil rights, opposing wars, gay rights, transgender rights, freedom of speech battles, fighting against polluters, and white-collar criminals. You know, there’s always a fight.”

    She nodded and seemed somewhat relieved. I think her first response was thinking that Trump would be doing his shtick forever.

    Well, he may be. He might be front and center until he’s shuffled off this mortal coil, but he’s not the the biggest problem in the world.

    The biggest problem is, as it has always been, and always will be, the fight for human decency.

    In a recent essay I can’t recommend highly enough Rick Perlstein makes a case that ‘smartness’ has supplanted fundamental human decency as a moral barometer in the US. I couldn’t agree more. Being smart is no match for being good and decent and caring about other humans, no matter how different they seem.

    “I fear the plutocracy of wealth, I respect the aristocracy of learning, but I thank God for the democracy of the heart that makes it possible for every human being to do something to make life worth living while he lives and the world better for his existence in it.” — william Jennings Bryant

    Fighting the good fight is part of the human experience. And, since it was here before us, and will be here after us, it’s important to not let it exhaust us or to diminish our fundamental decency. Keep your head up.

    Sunday Spectacle: Some Respite From the Storm

    READ ALL THE LAURIE PENNY: I’m glad to see Uber getting some well-deserved bad press. The gig economy is a scam. Every time we take an Uber we’re spreading its social poison

    And not just Uber. All gig economy contributes to job precarity. Ask any musicians in your life about their retirement plan. If we want something like a gig economy to be successful (and I get there are aspects of it that are attractive) we need something like universal health care, and a government-funded universal basic income. If we can bail out the banksters, why can’t we bail out the workers?

    ***

    NOURISHMENT: If you’re looking for short stories to distract you from our national clusterfuck, here are some good suggestions. The Best Websites to Read Free (and Good) Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror

    ***

    BOOKS TO CHECK OUT: A fascinating list from Ann VanderMeer of books she’s blurbed so far in 2017. Ann is a fantastic editor of weird/fantasy/science fiction. I already had the Leonora Carrington book, and the Carmen Machado book on my to-buy list.

    ***

    MATILDA EFFECT: “The Matilda effect is the common bias against acknowledging the contribution of woman scientists in research, whose work is often attributed to their male colleagues.”

    ***

    BUG DINING: We should be feeding insects to our livestock.

    “Grant has produced hundreds of kilos of dried maggots in the last few months as part of an E.U.-funded research project called PROteINSECT. They are now being fed to fish, pigs, and chickens in large trials designed to answer an increasingly urgent question: Are insects the animal feed of the future?”

    ***

    THE MOON: Time’s run out for this morning’s post. I’ll wrap up with this image from Van Gogh because it has the moon in the corner.

    Our Current Situation: The Power of the Powerless

    REINVENTING THE NEWS: It’s no secret there are substantial problems with news, ‘the media’, journalism, etc. The right criticizes and mocks MSM (mainstream media) while the left criticizes and mocks ‘corporate media.’ The Venn diagram overlap here is large. Yet, our news structure continues because of the misbegotten notion that if they are pissing off everyone, they must be doing something right.

    It’s time for a reinvention.

    Let me recommend James Tyner’s “Dear news media: Create news for people who have never read a newspaper” as a good place to start.

    “For young people who are just trying to learn about the world around them — people who were previously uneducated about Medicaid or who owns which conglomerates or the history of elections — it’s important to provide information that is as complete as possible. And more importantly, it’s important to show diverse perspectives that are unlike those they already hold.”

    My dream news media combines C-Span (for primary source civic information), Wikipedia (for background and context and history), Vox (for explanations of unfamiliar topics, preferably something a little more neutral that accurately explains the various positions held by the different players), dedicated journalists (to doggedly investigate), and smart pundits to offer their perspective on how this fits the bigger picture.

    I’d also like a pair of pundits, clearly marked ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ that attempt to make their opponents’ argument in a way the opponent agrees is a fair interpretation.

    I’d also like some follow-up. How did the story end up?

    The newspaper was once ephemeral, tomorrow’s fish wrap. This had a profound, and in many ways, negative impact on news/journalism/reporting. Online news is persistent and should do a better job of providing civic information and education that’s of value to everyone.

    More student suggestions can be found here.

    POWERFUL: I’ve been reading Vaclav Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless,” and it’s well worth reading as a reminder of what life is like under a totalitarian government, and the power the people have to resist.

    “You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”

    ***

    PRAGMATIST DEMOCRACY: In my parallel news universe pundits interview Christopher Ansell so I have a better understanding of what he means by ‘pragmatist democracy.’

    “Drawing inspiration from the philosophy of Pragmatism, this book argues for a new “problem-solving democracy,” where public agencies build consent for public policy by engaging the public in active problem-solving. More so than legislatures, public agencies serve as linchpins between popular sovereignty and on-the-ground governance. For pubic agencies to play a different role in democracy, we must re-imagine how they function as organizations and interact with the public.”

    ***

    MONEY MONEY MONEY: Tom Perez is now chair of the DNC and there’s a lot of work to do. The Republican Governor Association is out-raising the Democrats, and have already started raising money for Virginia’s governor race.

    ***

    BARBARA JORDAN: “We are a party of innovation. We do not reject our traditions, but we are willing to adapt to changing circumstances, when change we must. We are willing to suffer the discomfort of change in order to achieve a better future. We have a positive vision of the future founded on the belief that the gap between the promise and reality of America can one day be finally closed. We believe that.” — 1976 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address

    ***

    GOVERNOR TO SENATOR: You’ve probably seen this tale of Trump’s dinner (and his childish taste for overdone steak covered with ketchup) but what I found intriguing was the presence of Governor Rick Scott. Scott will be term-limited in 2018 and Trump wants him to run against democratic Florida Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson’s not a flashy Dem, but he’s a good soldier and a reliable vote. I doubt there’s anyone in Florida who could beat him in a primary, but I’m not certain he wins against Scott.

    ***

    THIGH-HIGH POLITICS: Lauren Duca continues her consciousness-raising at Teen Vogue with a regular column titled Thigh-High Politics. In this edition she points us to the handy Resistance Calendar by Michael Moore. There looks to be about 35 organizing/protest events today across the nation.

    ***

    MISINFOCON: Excellent wrap-up from MisInfoCon.

    Find out more about MisInfoCon here.

    “At MisinfoCon, a summit this past weekend hosted by the First Draft Coalition, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, and Hacks/Hackers, the focus was on an immediate and executable range of actions: checklists, educational campaigns, tech solutions, community engagement projects, diversity efforts, and improving business models.”

    ***

    AGAINST EMPATHY: Understanding is important. Empathy? Not so much.

    “I want to make a case for the value of conscious, deliberative reasoning in everyday life, arguing that we should strive to use our heads rather than our hearts.”

    ***

    OUT OF TIME: That’s it for this week. It’s already a long week, and it’s only Wednesday.

    Sunday Spectacle: Trappist-1 or Bust!

    THE MAGICAL WAR HEATS UP: Witch spells vs. Christian prayer. Buzzfeed continues its efforts to become a legitimate news source by reporting on the magical conflict outside Trump Tower Friday night/Saturday morning.

    Binding spells will be cast with every new moon. Find out more here.

    Witchery, I’m happy to say, has seen a bit of a resurgence lately. A Brief History Of The Tumblr Witch

    “‘Tumblr Witch’ is not an identity, but the Tumblr witch is concerned with identities. Unlike the Wicca bloggers, the Tumblr witch is unlikely to define herself seriously as a witch. But undeniably the concept of the Tumblr witch is tied up in intersectional feminism, in a desire to reclaim power, and to laugh as she does so.”

    ***

    FUTURE WATCH: MIT Technology Review predicts technology advances we’ll see this year. They see major advances in paralysis reversal, the trucking industry’s embrace of self-driving trucks, and major leaps in quantum computing, among others.

    ***

    TRAPPIST-1 OR BUST!: Dictionary.com, of all places, has a nice summary of the NASA announcement about finding a cluster of exoplanets around Trappist-1.

    “Seven worlds orbit the ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, a mere 40 light-years away. In May 2016 astronomers using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) announced the discovery of three planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. Just announced, additional confirmations and discoveries by the Spitzer Space Telescope and supporting ESO ground-based telescopes have increased the number of known planets to seven. The TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely all rocky and similar in size to Earth, the largest treasure trove of terrestrial planets ever detected around a single star. Because they orbit very close to their faint, tiny star they could also have regions where surface temperatures allow for the presence of liquid water, a key ingredient for life.”

    ***

    BOT EXPLAINER: O’Reilly has a provides a brief introduction to our bot-filled future. And, by future, I mean present.

    ***

    SPEAKING OF BOTS: The release date of the new MST3K has been announced. In the not-too-distant-future, next April 14 AD, the bots and a new cast will launch on Netflix.

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    READING IRAN: Some Iranian authors worth checking out.

    “Things We Left Unsaid is set in Abadan—a city built around a major old refinery—in the early 1960s during the era of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Pirzad, who was born and raised in Abadan, writes with great precision and detail about a woman’s everyday experiences and emotions. Her style is casual, natural, and subtle, which was new for Iranian novels. The narrator, Clarice Ayvzaian, is an unfulfilled Armenian housewife whose life changes when Emile and her family move next door. Clarice slowly finds herself falling in love with Emile as the families’ lives get entangled. She also gets involved with the women’s movement. Although the book does provide a sense of the place, and references to social events such as women’s suffrage and the Armenian genocide, it is not a political or social realist novel.”

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    READING HORROR: Nominees for Horror Writers Association Bram Stoker awards are announced.

    Superior Achievement in a Novel

    Hand, Elizabeth – Hard Light: A Cass Neary Crime Novel (Minotaur Books)
    Jones, Stephen Graham – Mongrels (William Morrow)
    Langan, John – The Fisherman (Word Horde)
    MacLeod, Bracken – Stranded: A Novel (Tor Books)
    Tremblay, Paul – Disappearance at Devil’s Rock (William Morrow)

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    FREE MONEY: The NYT looks at an effort to provide a Universal Basic Income to villagers in Kenya. The Future of Not Working.

    “GiveDirectly wants to show the world that a basic income is a cheap, scalable way to aid the poorest people on the planet. “We have the resources to eliminate extreme poverty this year,” Michael Faye, a founder of GiveDirectly, told me. But these resources are often misallocated or wasted. His nonprofit wants to upend incumbent charities, offering major donors a platform to push money to the world’s neediest immediately and practically without cost.”

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    SK8: Girls in India take up skateboarding.

    “In 2013, Atita and her friends built a skate park in Bengaluru with the help of the HolyStoked Collective, and began teaching skateboarding to underprivileged children. She eventually launched Girl Skate India — an initiative to teach girls how to skate, promote gender equality in skating and highlight up-and-coming female skaters in India. Girl Skate India works with Holystoked to host classes for young girls and aims to make skate parks open to skaters of all genders.”

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    SATAN: