Sunday Spectacle: Brain Music

BRAIN MUSIC: 51 years ago Alvin Lucier strapped some electrodes to his head and made music with his brain waves.

More recently, researchers at the University of Washington have created the encephalophone, a synthesizer you manipulate with brain waves.

“Other musicians and scientists have used EEG technology to make sound before, Deuel said, but only ‘passively generated sound’ based on brain activity. The encephalophone, he explained, is ‘an EEG-controlled musical instrument.'”

WRITING UPDATE: Haven’t moved forward much on the word count, but I’m editing and re-writing what I’ve already written. I’m not making as much progress as I hoped, but I’m still making progress. Some is better than none. When I planned out my writing schedule I forgot that my work schedule changes over the summer. Starting in May I’ll have 3-day weekends (and longer work days over a shorter work week). Starting in May I’ll make Friday a whole writing day. I believe that will help me get back on schedule.

LAST WEEK’S SPECTACLE: I probably should have said yes. Many people knocked on my door asking me if I wanted them to rake the leaves off my front lawn, and I consistently said “No. I’ll do it. I need the exercise.” Last Sunday I raked. This Sunday I’ll rake. The brief reprieve from yard care has ended. Spring has sprung and there is raking to be done. Soon the rains will start and the lawn will want mowing. Maybe I’ll plant a bunch of okra this year. Last Sunday was all yard, no blog. This Sunday I’m up early enough to do a little bit of each.

OUR CREEPY PRESENT: 3D print biological machines in your home! Now you can ‘build your own’ bio-bot.

“…researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been developing a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical and optical pulses. Now, Rashid Bashir’s research group is sharing the recipe for the current generation of bio-bots. Their how-to paper is the cover article in Nature Protocols.

“‘The protocol teaches every step of building a bio-bot, from 3D printing the skeleton to tissue engineering the skeletal muscle actuator, including manufacturers and part numbers for every single thing we use in the lab,’…”

Maybe I’ll soak my bio-bot in a self-propelling liquid.

RICH LAW POOR LAW: There’s literally one set of laws for the rich and a different set of laws for the poor in Georgia. An anomaly or a glimpse of the future?

If you publish Georgia’s state laws, you’ll get sued for copyright and lose

“Now, the case has concluded with US District Judge Richard Story having published an opinion (PDF) that sides with the state of Georgia. The judge disagreed with Malamud’s argument that the OCGA can’t be copyrighted and also said Malamud’s copying of the laws is not fair use.”

WORD OF THE DAY: Aubade — “A dawn song expressing the regret of parting lovers at daybreak.”

MORE POETRY!:

Aubade
by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Our Current Situation: Off the Beaten Path

INTRO: This week I want to veer off into some rarely mentioned resources. I figure you already read Salon, or Slate, or Vice, or Vox, or whatever your news spin of choice, and don’t need me pointing to articles about filibusters or chemical warfare.

We are immersed in information. All answers are only a Google search away. They may not be the right answers, but they are answers. And, the human brain is greatly satisfied in locating any answer, regardless of accuracy. Our acceptability threshold is low.

This means that well-meaning professionals working diligently to provide high-quality information are ignored. News organizations don’t call upon them, and their results don’t rise to the top of the search results page.

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TAX-FUNDED RESEARCH YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE: The Library of Congress runs a research service for members of Congress called (predictably enough) the Congressional Research Service. The CRS is not allowed by law to share its work with anyone other than the requesting member of Congress. The loophole here is that members of Congress can share the research reports with anyone they choose. The Federation of American Scientists regularly contacts members of Congress and asks for reports and posts them at Congressional Research Service [CRS] Reports.

Here’s a search tip. When you’re looking for a reasonably high-quality explanation of a current issue, search the keywords for the issue and add the term CRS. This helps bring Congressional Research Service reports to the top of the results list.

Example: A search for Chemical Weapons might bring up a Wikipedia page and a multitude of news sources, but a search for Chemical Weapons CRS should bring near the top of your results —

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Issues for Congress” (Sept. 30, 2013)

Chemical Weapons: A Summary Report of Characteristics and Effects” (Sept. 13, 2013)

and

Syria’s Chemical Weapons: Progress and Continuing Challenges” (Brief Report) (Oct. 1, 2014)

These are a little dated, but it indicates how long Congress has been struggling with this issue.

In January 2017 the CRS prepared a report titled “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response.”

It’s a treasure trove of information. Highly recommended.

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40 TOUGH JOBS: The Political Appointee Project published their “40 Toughest Management Jobs in Government.” This is a good guide to the jobs Trump should be filling first.

The Political Appointee Project is a project of the National Academy of Public Administration.

“The Academy is an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan organization established to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. The Academy’s unique feature is its 800+ Fellows—including former cabinet officers, Members of Congress, governors, as well as prominent scholars, business executives, and public administrators. Our Fellows have a deep understanding of financial management, human resources, technology, and administrative functions at all levels of government, and direct most of Academy’s studies.”

Their work can be a little dry, and they’re as understaffed as anybody right now, but there’s a ton of great, practical advise here on running a government.

Compare this list with the Washington Post’s Appointee Tracker. The deputy positions are among the most challenging jobs in the federal government. Trump has not nominated a candidate for nearly every deputy position. This is willful sabotage.

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NEOLOGICAL STUDIES: I don’t think neological is really a word, but it should be. Neology: The study of the new. (Oh, wait! It is a word, but with a different meaning: “the use of a new word or expression or of an established word in a new or different sense : the use of new expressions that are not sanctioned by conventional standard usage : the introduction of such expressions into a language.” Whatever. My definition is better.)

It’s a shame that our most forward-thinking government institution is DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). DARPA may be best known for giving us the internet (AP Style says you don’t have to capitalize it anymore), but its also been instrumental in human-computer interface research (moving prosthetics with your mind!, robot and drone technology, and onion routing.

There are very few organizations willing to think such far-out thoughts (experimental space planes, exoskeletons, and starships for interstellar travel). We’d be better off if the blueprint for our future was not in the hands of the military.

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PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: Weird spike in mortality statistics.

Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century

“This increase for whites was largely accounted for by increasing death rates from drug and alcohol poisonings, suicide, and chronic liver diseases and cirrhosis.”

Maybe Trump voters are the last gasp of a dying breed.

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VOTING DATA: Interesting set of voting data to dig into if you’re into that sort of thing.

Creating a National Precinct Map

“This map tells many particularly interesting stories on which I’ll elaborate in future posts, but suffice to say that most of the precinct swing can be explained by one variable: education level, perhaps augmented somewhat by race and ethnicity.”

We have an epidemic of willful ignorance and gross miseducation.

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WHAT HE SAID:

“It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get.”

~Confucius (551-479BC)

I have zero idea if this is a legit quote (or legit accurately translated quote), but I endorse the sentiment.

***

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:

(h/t Sean Bonner)

EDITORIAL: I think the 5 stages of grief template has been largely debunked, but I find myself in the we-are-eternally-fucked-and-wallowing-in-willful-ignorance-and-every-institution-is-failing-us-but-we-had-a-good-run-i’m-just-going-to-drink-this-bourbon-sit-on-the-beach-and-watch-the-sun-set-except-i-have-decades-before-i-can-retire-and-things-are-so-fucked-up-i’ll-probably-never-be-able-to-retire-I-should-just-say-fuck-it-but-I-don’t-want-to-be-poor-again-being-poor-sucks-so-I’m-going-to-keep-working-and-mourn-silently-but-I’m-still-drinking-this-bourbon stage. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s the stage I’m in.

If there are so many transgressions, and so many bad people, why are none of them ever punished? Good people work really hard and evil still flourishes. Things suck here and we have it GREAT. Subscribe to the Human Rights Watch weekly newsletter if you want a reminder of how much worse it could be.

So, I’ve been thinking lately about Neal Stephenson’s “Innovation Starvation.”

If you haven’t read it, it’s Stephenson’s lament that there are no more grand ideas in literature anymore. Specifically in science fiction. Let me concede immediately that there are huge problems with his essay, but, putting those issues aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about art as a template for new ways of understanding the world.

If the law won’t save us, and journalism won’t save us, and non-profits won’t save us, and protest won’t save us, it’s up to poets and comic book writers and science fiction writers and comedians. That’s where we’re going to get a new narrative for the future. (Really, it’s up to us all tapping into our human compassion and finding ways to let that drive flourish, but until then the poets and writers and singers of songs will have to carry the burden.)

And, right about the time I’m thinking this I come across this essay by Cory Doctorow about his new novel Walkaway where he writes:

“Stories of futures in which disaster strikes and we rise to the occasion are a vaccine against the virus of mistrust.”

And so, that’s where I’m turning my attention when I’m feeling bleak. Stories where humans rise to the occasion.

MORE POETRY!:

Excerpt from The People, Yes by Carl Sandburg.

The people yes
The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
You can’t laugh off their capacity to take it.
The mammoth rests between his cyclonic dramas.

The people so often sleepy, weary, enigmatic,
is a vast huddle with many units saying:
“I earn my living.
I make enough to get by
and it takes all my time.
If I had more time
I could do more for myself
and maybe for others.
I could read and study
and talk things over
and find out about things.
It takes time.
I wish I had the time.”

The people is a tragic and comic two-face: hero and hoodlum:
phantom and gorilla twisting to moan with a gargoyle mouth:
“They buy me and sell me…it’s a game…sometime I’ll
break loose…”

Once having marched
Over the margins of animal necessity,
Over the grim line of sheer subsistence
Then man came
To the deeper rituals of his bones,
To the lights lighter than any bones,
To the time for thinking things over,
To the dance, the song, the story,
Or the hours given over to dreaming,
Once having so marched.

Between the finite limitations of the five senses
and the endless yearnings of man for the beyond
the people hold to the humdrum bidding of work and food
while reaching out when it comes their way
for lights beyond the prison of the five senses,
for keepsakes lasting beyond any hunger or death.
This reaching is alive.
The panderers and liars have violated and smutted it.
Yet this reaching is alive yet
for lights and keepsakes.

The people know the salt of the sea
and the strength of the winds
lashing the corners of the earth.
The people take the earth
as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope.
Who else speaks for the Family of Man?
They are in tune and step
with constellations of universal law.
The people is a polychrome,
a spectrum and a prism
held in a moving monolith,
a console organ of changing themes,
a clavilux of color poems
wherein the sea offers fog
and the fog moves off in rain
and the labrador sunset shortens
to a nocturne of clear stars
serene over the shot spray
of northern lights.

The steel mill sky is alive.
The fire breaks white and zigzag
shot on a gun-metal gloaming.
Man is a long time coming.
Man will yet win.
Brother may yet line up with brother:

This old anvil laughs at many broken hammers.
There are men who can’t be bought.
The fireborn are at home in fire.
The stars make no noise,
You can’t hinder the wind from blowing.
Time is a great teacher.
Who can live without hope?

In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people
march:
“Where to? what next?”

Our Current Situation: Building Trust

TRUSTING JOURNALISM: Jay Rosen is convinced people will pay for high-quality journalism and building trust is the key. Inspired by a Dutch news organization he’s working to develop a US news organization built on trust (and grant funding). This is what a news organization built on reader trust looks like.

I agree with Rosen that some sort of subscription model will probably be necessary to build a trustworthy news site. I’m less confident about the vision he puts forth. I hope it works! At they say, it’s a process.

***

TRUSTING COMMERCE: You know journalism is in dire straits when people trust advertisers more than they trust reporters.

“…61% of people trust the advertising they see…”

“…68% of Americans don’t trust the news…”

***

FRIENDLY TRUST: Of course, it may not matter if Rosen builds a reliable news source since people trust people more than they trust organizations.

“The main factor in determining a reader’s trust in an article appears to be who shared it, not the news organization that published it, according to a study out Monday from The Media Insight Project,…”

***

WITCH POWER: Is Fox News worried about witches?

“After one of their spells worked just days ahead of the American Health Care Act’s defeat, a group of self-proclaimed witches are set to cast another “binding spell” on Sunday night in an effort to kick Trump out of office…”

One. Of. Their. Spells. Worked.

Fortunately a devoted follower calls out this fake news.

“This is such BS. Trump is covered by the blood of Christ to which no evil can stand. If he has trouble it is not from witches”

Who needs trustworthy news when we have Fox?

***

TROOP TRUST: Most people trust the military.

And why wouldn’t they?

Military Members Stole Millions in Afghan Rebuilding Effort

“John Sopko, head of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), said Thursday evening in a speech at Duke University that his team identified nearly $1 billion in questionable costs and funds that could be put to better use.”

Though, I guess $1 billion misspent out of $117 billion isn’t so bad.

***

TRUMP TRUSTS NEWS: In this interview with TIME, Trump excuses his bullshit by saying “I’m just quoting the newspaper.”

TRUMP: Well that was in a newspaper. No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he’s a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn’t, I didn’t say that. I was referring to a newspaper. A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with, had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and Lee Harvey Oswald, having breakfast.

TIME: That gets close to the heart…

TRUMP: Why do you say that I have to apologize? I’m just quoting the newspaper, just like I quoted the judge the other day, Judge Napolitano, I quoted Judge Napolitano, just like I quoted Bret Baier, I mean Bret Baier mentioned the word wiretap. Now he can now deny it, or whatever he is doing, you know. But I watched Bret Baier, and he used that term. I have a lot of respect for Judge Napolitano, and he said that three sources have told him things that would make me right. I don’t know where he has gone with it since then. But I’m quoting highly respected people from highly respected television networks.

By that logic…Hairy Space Alien Lives on Donald Trump’s Head. I’m just quoting the newspaper. Maybe ICE will expel his hair?

***

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EDITORIAL: While my professional conferencing annoyed me more than inspired me this year, I did come away with a silver lining. I know where to focus my professional attention next.

At the conference I attended Roxane Gay mentioned in passing (responding to a question about the demise of Toast), “No one will pay for content.” I think she wasn’t fully cognizant to whom she was speaking. Within that room were representatives of institutions that pay tens of millions of dollars every year for content. Depending on who was in the room it could be hundreds of millions.

Every. Year.

What they are paying for is trust. They are trusting that there is a structure in place that weeds out inaccurate, invalid, untrustworthy information, and promotes accurate, trustworthy, valid information. They are paying for information that most accurately interprets the natural world and the human experience. This system isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve come up with so far. My professional task for the foreseeable future is to see how that scholarly trust developed, what its current challenges are, and how it can be improved.

So, at least I have that to look forward to.

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Sunday Spectacle: Home Again

HOME: It’s good to be back. Went away to a professional conference in Baltimore, and came back feeling cranky and hypercritical. I go to this conference because it usually reminds me there are a lot of smart people doing interesting things in my tiny little professional world. This year… not so much. Here’s the non-political stuff that caught my attention this last week.

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RIPPLES ON AN EVAPORATED LAKE: I’ve been listening to a lot of Raymond Scott lately.

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OUR CREEPY PRESENT: This is… different.

Lice-Hunting Underwater Drone Protects Salmon With Lasers

“The latest of many attempts to rein in sea lice involves a software-and-camera-controlled underwater laser drone. Along with colleagues at his Oslo-based company, Beck Engineering, Esben Beck, a young Norwegian designer and engineer, developed the system that’s turning fish hatcheries into laser light shows. A couple of stereo cameras zero in on an individual louse attached to a fish in the pen; a thin laser beam shoots the bug, killing it but leaving the fish unharmed.”

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AI TWITTER ASSISTANT: Hey! I suck at Twitter. Should I be using an “intelligent social media assistant”? (Actually, something like this might be useful at work.)

How Post Intelligence Uses AI And Deep Learning To Help You Not Suck On Social Media

“Post Intelligence isn’t just some janky app that dumps a bunch of trending topics in your lap for you to tweet about. Instead, Post Intelligence analyzes your tweets (if you’ve got any to analyze) through deep learning artificial intelligence. Over time it recognizes your tone, quirks and suggests topics and themes to tweet about.”

Post Intelligence

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THIEMEYER: To close, a bit of fantasy.

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.'”

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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.”

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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.

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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

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    “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

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    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

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    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.