Noted & Quoted

2017AugustWeek of August 14 to August 20

So, does Mitchell make any money on the work, which has been shared so many times? He uploaded a high-res image of the symbol and granted permission for anyone to use it personally for free. But for those who want to support his work or simply want something readymade, you can also buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and journals emblazoned with the symbol through Threadless.“I really just want to spread the image as much as possible and cement it in history,” Mitchell says. “In all honesty, the amount I’ve made from my Threadless shop so far is still less than my hourly rate, so I don’t really see it as a big deal. If you look at my Twitter, half the replies are people wanting to know where they can buy a shirt. Threadless is happy to help them out with that, and so I’m happy to let that happen.”Now that the symbol has flooded our streets and our timelines, Mitchell just has one request: “Impeach this idiot already,” he says.

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JulyWeek of July 24 to July 30

This is a Waterloo moment for Trump, the tea party and their alliance.  They have been stopped in their tracks not only by Democratic opposition but because of a mutiny within their own ranks. Although never particularly liked or respected, it is now clear that they are no longer feared. The bankruptcy of their ideas and their incompetence have been exposed. Their momentum has been dissipated. Their rejection of political norms has itself been scorned. Our long national nightmare may finally be coming to an end.

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One seasoned Democrat told me that among the reasons Trump won in 2016 was that a long year of Crooked Hillary talk, about emails and Goldman Sachs and the like, had steadily demoralised and demobilised the liberal base. If sustaining fury at Trump helps keep those same voters energised, so they eventually turn out to defeat him, it’ll be worth it, he says.

But it can’t just be in the form of world-weary, if witty, tweets. What’s needed is a coherent argument, one that explains why Trump’s repulsive behaviour matters. For Americans, that will surely centre on the state of their society. The civic realm is being degraded by Trump’s lies, vanities and insults. The national conversation is being coarsened. The basic democratic assumption, that disagreements can be resolved through discussion rather than coercion and violence, is being eroded from the very top. Note the language of Scaramucci’s outburst: “I want to fucking kill all the leakers.”

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Week of July 10 to July 16

[C]limate scientists have a strange kind of faith: We will find a way to forestall radical warming, they say, because we must.

It is not easy to know how much to be reassured by that bleak certainty, and how much to wonder whether it is another form of delusion; for global warming to work as parable, of course, someone needs to survive to tell the story. The scientists know that to even meet the Paris goals, by 2050, carbon emissions from energy and industry, which are still rising, will have to fall by half each decade; emissions from land use (deforestation, cow farts, etc.) will have to zero out; and we will need to have invented technologies to extract, annually, twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the entire planet’s plants now do. Nevertheless, by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans — a confidence perhaps bolstered by their appreciation for climate change, which is, after all, a human invention, too. They point to the Apollo project, the hole in the ozone we patched in the 1980s, the passing of the fear of mutually assured destruction. Now we’ve found a way to engineer our own doomsday, and surely we will find a way to engineer our way out of it, one way or another. The planet is not used to being provoked like this, and climate systems designed to give feedback over centuries or millennia prevent us — even those who may be watching closely — from fully imagining the damage done already to the planet. But when we do truly see the world we’ve made, they say, we will also find a way to make it livable. For them, the alternative is simply unimaginable.

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JuneWeek of June 26 to July 2

They were concerned that any pre-election response could provoke an escalation from Putin. Moscow's meddling to that point was seen as deeply concerning but unlikely to materially affect the outcome of the election. Far more worrisome to the Obama team was the prospect of a cyber-assault on voting systems before and on Election Day. They also worried that any action they took would be perceived as political interference in an already volatile campaign. By August, Trump was predicting that the election would be rigged. Obama officials feared providing fuel to such claims, playing into Russia's efforts to discredit the outcome and potentially contaminating the expected Clinton triumph.

This, right here. This is where they choked. The American people had damned close to an absolute right to the information their government already had. The most fundamental act of citizenship is the right to cast an informed vote. The idea that the Obama administration withheld the fact that the Russians were ratfcking the election in order to help elect a vulgar talking yam is a terrible condemnation of the whole No Drama Obama philosophy. Would Donald Trump have raised hell if the White House released what it knew? Of course, he would have. But, as it was, the American people went to vote with only about half of the information they needed to assess his candidacy. This was a terrible decision.

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Changing views of U.S. presidents over past decade and a halfAs Pew Research Center’s global surveys from George W. Bush’s presidency illustrated, many of Bush’s key foreign policies were unpopular, and by the time he left office Bush was viewed negatively in most of the countries we polled. His successor, Obama, generally received more positive ratings throughout his White House tenure.Today, in many countries, ratings for President Trump look very similar to those for Bush at the end of his term. This pattern is especially clear in Western Europe. In the UK, France, Germany and Spain, the low levels of confidence in Trump are very similar to the poor ratings for Bush in 2008.

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Week of June 5 to June 11

To take power, May had to pretend that she, too, dreams these impossible dreams. And that led her to embrace a phony populism in which the narrow and ambiguous majority who voted for Brexit under false pretences are be reimagined as “the people.”

This is not conservatism—it is pure Rousseau. The popular will had been established on that sacred referendum day. And it must not be defied or questioned. Hence, Theresa May’s allies in The Daily Mail using the language of the French revolutionary terror, characterizing recalcitrant judges and parliamentarians as “enemies of the people” and “saboteurs.”

This is why May called an election. Her decision to do so—when she had a working majority in parliament—has been seen by some as pure vanity. But it was the inevitable result of the volkish rhetoric she had adopted. A working majority was not enough—the unified people must have a unified parliament and a single, uncontested leader: one people, one parliament, one Queen Theresa to stand on the cliffs of Dover and shake her spear of sovereignty at the damn continentals.

...Brexit is thus far from being a done deal: it can’t be done without a reliable partner for the EU to negotiate with. There isn’t one now and there may not be one for quite some time—at least until after another election, but quite probably not even then. The reliance on a spurious notion of the “popular will” has left Britain with no clear notion of who “the people” are and what they really want.

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Week of May 29 to June 4

The most extraordinary paragraph in this op-ed, however, is this one:

The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.

...First — and this is so obvious I can’t believe I have to type out these words — the United States can’t simultaneously proclaim “America first” and then claim any kind of moral strength. Saying loudly and repeatedly that American values are not going to be a cornerstone of American foreign policy strips you of any moral power whatsoever.

The second and bigger problem is that the “embrace” of a Hobbesian vision of the world by the most powerful country in the world pretty much guarantees Hobbesian reciprocity by everyone else. Most international relations scholars would agree that there are parts of the world that fit this brutal description. But even realists don’t think it’s a good thing. Cooperation between the United States and its key partners and allies is not based entirely on realpolitik principles. It has helped foster a zone of stability across Europe, North America and the Pacific Rim that has lasted quite some time. In many issue areas, such as trade or counterterrorism or climate change, countries gain far more from cooperation than competition.

Furthermore, such an embrace of the Hobbesian worldview is, in many ways, anti-American.

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May

The rise of the military, if coupled with the undermining of civilian aspects of national power, demonstrates a spiritual exhaustion and a descent into Caesarism. Named after Julius Caesar — who replaced the Roman Republic with a dictatorship — Caesarism is roughly characterized by a charismatic strongman, popular with the masses, whose rule culminates in an exaggerated role for the military. America is moving in this direction. It isn’t that some civilian agencies don’t deserve paring down or even elimination, nor is it that the military and other security forces don’t deserve a boost to their financial resources. Rather, it is in the very logic, ideology, and lack of proportionality of Trump’s budget that American decline, decadence, and Caesarism are so apparent.

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Foreigners often get Mrs Merkel all wrong. She is not the queen of Europe, nor has she any desire to be it. She is a domestic leader and politician whose mounting international stature is always a function of her ability to serve the interests and predilections of German voters. It is predominantly because Germans, for deep historical and cultural reasons, feel so “European” that that she talks and acts in a “European” way. Perhaps all the more for this, Mrs Merkel’s comments today illustrate how much Trumpandbrexit has hurt America and Britain in the past months. They have made it not just possible but also electorally beneficial for a friendly leader of a crucial partner to bash them in public. And more than that: to do it with sincerity.

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Week of May 8 to May 14

My hope is that you will continue to live our values and the mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.

DONNIE TRUMPO HAS INVOKED A CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS AND HE’S WIPING HIS ASS WITH OUR MOST SACRED DOCUMENT THIS IS THE FOURTH TIME I HAVE EXPLICITLY TOLD YOU THAT YOU HAD BETTER STEP UP

If you do that, you too will be sad when you leave, and the American people will be safer.

SORRY YOU’RE GOING TO BE FIRED AS WELL BY THIS CANCER ON THE AMERICAN STATE IT’S GOING TO BE WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER BUT THE COUNTRY’S FREEDOM IS ACTUALLY AT STAKE HERE DESTROY HIM LIKE A GREAT AVENGING EAGLE

Working with you has been one of the great joys of my life. Thank you for that gift.

IF I EVER MEANT ANYTHING TO YOU MY G-MEN AND G-WOMEN YOU WILL BURN THIS MOTHER DOWN

Jim Comey

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Quinnipiac finds: “By a 54 – 38 percent margin, American voters want the Democratic Party to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac University poll, exceeding a 5 percentage point margin for Republicans in 2013.” You wonder whether that number has to hit 20 percent before Republicans stop circling the wagon around an incompetent, scandal-plagued and uniquely dishonest administration. (At least Richard Nixon’s White House could keep its story straight.)

And yet Republicans (in Congress and in right-leaning media) by and large embarrass themselves by defending the president, eschewing calls for a special counsel, remaining unconcerned with the precedent of firing an FBI director investigating the White House and confirming some of the worst nominees in history, including an attorney general who appears to have reneged on his promise to recuse himself and raised questions about his participation in a scheme to fire Comey under false pretexts.

You do wonder when a political survival instinct will kick in.

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Inside the White House, opponents of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump’s second national security adviser, want him out. This week, they’ve made their campaign against him public, leaking to reporters details about the rocky relationship he has with his boss and trying to paint him as someone hell-bent on overseas nation-building projects that are doomed to fail. The timing isn’t accidental. The effort to damage McMaster comes as the Trump administration decides what its policy should be in Afghanistan, a debate that’s pitting McMaster against Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist.

“McMaster is pushing this Afghanistan policy through. I think some people are giving him the rope to get it through, hoping he hangs himself with it,” one senior intelligence official said.

The Afghanistan strategy McMaster is pushing, with the support of Defense Secretary James Mattis, would send roughly 3,000-5,000 U.S. and NATO troops to Afghanistan, according to a separate source familiar with the internal deliberations. These troops would be sent to help bulk up the Afghan National Security Forces, which, after years of U.S. assistance, are still struggling against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and a small Islamic State presence in the country.

...But the NSC is not walled off from the internal power politics of the Trump White House, and staffers reading the tea leaves see they still need to curry favor with people like Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, if they’re to have their voices heard and survive in what one source described as the White House’s “Game of Thrones for morons.”

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“The enduring narrative of the American dream is that if you study and get a college education and work hard, you can get ahead,” said Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI. “The survey shows that many white working-class Americans, especially men, no longer see that path available to them. … It is this sense of economic fatalism, more than just economic hardship, that was the decisive factor in support for Trump among white working-class voters.”

...

Although demographic factors like gender, age, geographic region, and religion weren’t statistically significant predictors of who voted for Trump, some of the other information gathered in the survey offers a portrait of how white working-class Americans feel about their status in the world. Nearly two-thirds of the white working class say American culture has gotten worse since the 1950s. Sixty-eight percent say the U.S. is in danger of losing its identity, and 62 percent say America’s growing number of immigrants threaten the country’s culture. More than half say discrimination against whites has become just as problematic as discrimination against minorities.

This analysis provides only a surface look at the concerns and anxieties of America’s white working class. Polling is a notoriously clumsy instrument for understanding people’s lives, and provides only a sketch of who they are. But it’s useful for debunking myths and narratives—particularly the ubiquitous idea that economic anxiety drove white working-class voters to support Trump. When these voters hear messages from their president, they’re listening with ears attuned to cultural change and anxiety about America’s multicultural future. It would be a mistake to use this insight to create yet another caricature of the Trump voter. But perhaps it will complicate the stereotypes about destitute factory landscapes and poor folks who had nowhere to turn but right.

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Week of May 1 to May 7

Americans have placed vast military power at the discretion of this mind, a presidential discretion that is largely immune to restraint by the Madisonian system of institutional checks and balances. So, it is up to the public to quarantine this presidency by insistently communicating to its elected representatives a steady, rational fear of this man whose combination of impulsivity and credulity render him uniquely unfit to take the nation into a military conflict.

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Like many others, Penrose struggled with the weirdness of quantum theory. “As Schrödinger clearly pointed out with his poor cat, which was dead and alive at the same time, he made this point deliberately to show why his own equation can’t be the whole truth. He was more or less saying, ‘That’s nonsense.’ ” To Penrose, the takeaway was that something didn’t add up in quantum theory: “Schrödinger was very upset by this, as were Dirac and Einstein. Some of the major figures in quantum mechanics were probably more upset than I was.”

But what, I asked, does any of this have to do with consciousness? “You see, my argument is very roundabout. I think this is why people don’t tend to follow me. They’ll pick up on it later, or they reject it later, but they don’t follow argument.” Penrose then launched into his critique of why computers, for all their brute calculating power, lack any understanding of what they’re doing. “What I’m saying—and this is my leap of imagination which people boggle at—I’m saying what’s going on in the brain must be taking advantage not just of quantum mechanics, but where it goes wrong,” he said. “It’s where quantum mechanics needs to be superseded.” So we need a new science that doesn’t yet exist? “That’s right. Exactly.”

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President Donald Trump questioned why the Civil War— which erupted 150 years ago over slavery — needed to happen. He said he would be "honored" to meet with Kim Jong-Un, the violent North Korean dictator who is developing nuclear missiles and oppresses his people, under the "right circumstances."

The president floated, and backed away from, a tax on gasoline. Trump said he was "looking at" breaking up the big banks, sending the stock market sliding. He seemed to praise Philippines strongman President Rodrigo Duterte for his high approval ratings. He promised changes to the Republican health care bill, though he has seemed unsure what was in the legislation, even as his advisers whipped votes for it.

And Monday still had nine hours to go."It seems to be among the most bizarre recent 24 hours in American presidential history," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. "It was all just surreal disarray and a confused mental state from the president."

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AprilWeek of April 24 to April 30

And this programmer suggested a way to avoid user input all together:

Eventually, programmers on Reddit started making fully-functioning, interactive versions of the awful forms, like this and this and this. Someone even created one out of the classic game Snake. The meme hasn’t stopped for weeks now, and iterations of it seem to be growing more detailed and elaborate.

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Week of April 17 to April 23

Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey’s citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don’t think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome. This is not that far off from Trump congratulating Putin on a successful referendum result in Crimea if that event had been held in 2017 rather than 2014.

Public disquiet and behind-the-scenes pressure on key illiberal allies is an imperfect policy position. It is still a heck of a lot more consistent with America’s core interests than congratulating allies on moving in an illiberal direction. In congratulating Erdogan, Trump did the latter.

For all the talk about Trump’s moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it’s time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts:

  1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States;
  2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works;
  3. The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values.
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Week of April 10 to April 16

He sensed that the public wanted relief from the burdens of global leadership without losing the thrill of nationalist self-assertion. America could cut back its investment in world order with no whiff of retreat. It would still boss others around, even bend them to its will...

There was, to be sure, one other candidate in the 2016 field who also tried to have it both ways—more activism and more retrenchment at the same time. This was, oddly enough, Hillary Clinton... Yet merely to recall Clinton’s hybrid foreign-policy platform is to see how pallid it was next to Trump’s. While she quibbled about the TPP (which few seemed to believe she was really against), her opponent ferociously denounced all trade agreements—those still being negotiated, like the TPP, and those, like NAFTA and China’s WTO membership, that had long been on the books. “Disasters” one and all, he said. For anyone genuinely angry about globalization, it was hard to see Clinton as a stronger champion than Trump. She was at a similar disadvantage trying to compete with Trump on toughness. His anti-terrorism policy—keep Muslims out of the country and bomb isis back to the Stone Age—was wild talk, barely thought through. But for anyone who really cared about hurting America’s enemies, it gave Trump more credibility than Clinton’s vague, muddled talk of “safe zones” ever gave her.

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As they war with the right, though, Trump and Kushner would gain no quarter from Democrats—unless Democrats were allowed to set the all the terms. This is Bannon’s central point. Democrats have no incentive to prop up Trump’s presidency for half-loaf compromises that many will suspect are contaminated with seeds of Trumpism. Trump can adopt or co-opt the Democrats’ infrastructure platform outright if he likes, but he can’t easily entice them to compromise with him, and he can’t entice House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to advance a trillion dollar direct-spending bill filled with environmental and labor protections that the GOP exists to oppose.

Which is just to say, Kushner wants Trump to chart a new course that leads to a substantive dead end for at least another 19 months. Bannon’s path, at least, preserves the hope of keeping his base consolidated through the legislative ebb. He can deregulate, scapegoat, and unburden law enforcement to turn his Herrenvolk fantasy into reality—all while keeping congressional investigators at bay.

There’s no real logical rebuttal to this, except to point to three months of chaos and humiliation as indicative of the futility of continuing to do things Bannon’s way. That is really an argument that Trump should get rid of both of his top advisers, but Trump is unlikely to grasp that in a contest between loyalists, both might deserve to lose. Family loyalty, and the beating his ego will take when the stories of his first 100 days are written, will pull him toward his son-in-law. And that’s when the real fun will begin.

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This week an unprecedented 481 icebergs swarmed into the shipping lanes of a storm-tossed North Atlantic. Strong hurricane force winds had ripped these bergs from their sea ice moored haven of Baffin Bay and thrust them into the ocean waters off Newfoundland. The week before, there were only 37 such icebergs in the Atlantic’s far northern waters. And the new number this week is nearly 6 times the annual average for this time of year at 83. To be very clear, there is no record, at present, of such a large surge of icebergs entering these waters in so short a period at any time in the modern reckoning.

...The same fresh water and iceberg release that increases regional and hemispheric storm potential also harms ocean health. For when downwelling of cooler, northern currents cease and fail to provide oxygen to the deep ocean — the ocean stratifies, loses a portion of its life-giving oxygen, and starts to produce more and more anoxic dead zones. Ocean circulation interruptions due to Heinrich Events can be relatively brief (on geological time scales) — as has likely been the case at the end of the last ice age during the melt toward the present interglacial — or long-lasting. In the long lasting instance of ocean stratification, bottom water formation is thought to shift to the Equator. In the Earth’s deep past, such events are identified as a primary trigger for ocean mass extinction events or even transition points for a deadly Canfield Ocean state. But you have to shift to an ice-free world at about 6 + degrees Celsius warmer than present to get to the start of that state — a proposition that is now entirely within reach if we continue on the present and ill-fated expedition of continued fossil fuel burning.

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Stephen Pomper, former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, National Security Council:

Thursday night’s missile strikes have the potential to be enormously consequential, not just for Syria and the other countries to whom the U.S. government is trying to send a signal, but for the international order. Thus far, we have seen nothing by way of an international legal justification. There was of course no UN Security Council mandate for the action and, as others have noted, the facts that have emerged so far do not seem to support a traditional self-defense justification that would permit force to be used consistent with Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. While it may not be at the top of the Administration’s priority list to offer an international legal explanation for the strikes, what the U.S. government says and doesn’t say about its legal justification in any Article 51 letter to the U.N. Security Council, and beyond, has implications for the sovereignty of every country in the world, and requires the most sober consideration.

***

Anthea Roberts, Associate Professor, Australian National University:

I have long been troubled by the claim that NATO’s use of force in Kosovo could be justified by the argument that it was “illegal but legitimate.” This approach seems to provide an initially attractive way of maintaining the prohibition on unilateral uses of force while permitting justice in individual cases. However, it is not a sustainable position over time given the role of state practice in developing international law. No matter how many attempts are made to characterize such uses of force as “exceptions” or “sui generis,” they weaken the Charter prohibition.

At the same time, if states that use such force do not provide a legal justification for their actions (as is true here of the US), and if other states fail to support the action as legal or condemn it as illegal (as is true here of a number of other states), it is not possible to move to a new resonance point where an exception is developed. Instead, we move into a grey zone where the old law is broken, a new legal exception remains unforged, and states instead resort to claims about legitimacy, morality and public policy. Legitimacy becomes a consideration external to the law, while the law ossifies and becomes increasingly irrelevant.

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Week of April 3 to April 9

Russia has insisted that it opposes any offensive in Raqqa that does not go through Damascus and Moscow. Unlike previous US-led offensives against Isis, the regime positioned its troops near the front lines in Raqqa, as well as between Raqqa and areas controlled by the Turkish-backed rebels in the eastern countryside of Aleppo. So, in this scenario, the regime viewed that the time was ripe for playing rough with the Americans and the use of chemical weapons would be a tool of defiance.

And what if the US was to respond, as it did? Such a scenario counterintuitively serves a fundamental purpose for the regime, which goes to the heart of specific fears by Damascus and Tehran. Such fears arise from a stated plan by the Trump administration, to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran as a way to roll back Iranian influence in the region.

A US escalation against the regime will, instead, widen the distance between Moscow and Washington.

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Even before he became president, Obama worried greatly about slippery slopes in the Middle East. In Syria, he understood that Assad would most likely survive an American missile strike on his airbases; the day after such strikes ended, Assad, Obama believed, would have emerged from his hiding place, and declared victory: The greatest power in the world tried to destroy him, and failed. Obama was acutely aware that a one-off strike (a theoretical strike described as “unbelievably small” by his secretary of state, John Kerry), could possibly have served as a convincing brush-back pitch, but he was also aware that such a limited strike could have been wholly ineffectual, and even counterproductive. Assad and his allies, understanding that the appetite of average Americans for yet another Middle Eastern war was limited, could have tried to provoke Obama into escalation. An all-out war against the Syrian regime would have been, in many ways, Obama’s Iraq. And Obama wasn’t interested in having his own Iraq.

The curious thing is that Donald Trump is also not interested in having his own Iraq. And yet here he is. Obama was known for an overly cerebral commitment to the notion of strategic patience. Trump seems more committed to a policy of glandular, non-strategic impatience. Obama may have been paralyzed by a phobic reaction to the threat posed by the slippery slope. Donald Trump now finds himself dancing at the edge of the slippery slope his predecessor so assiduously avoided.

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The power of ethnonationalism, which I tried to communicate in the story, is that it manipulates the most base and emotionally accessible ideas about politics. But that power is also a source of danger to the party that tries to weaponize it: If it backfires, it activates equally powerful emotions against it. And while the fight to preserve the American ideal from Trump’s ethnonationalism is hardly assured, there is every sign it will backfire.

Michael Anton’s now-iconic essay, “The Flight 93 Election,” made the case for Trump as a desperation gamble. (Hence the metaphor to a hijacked airline flight whose passengers had to choose a desperate and probably doomed fight over certain death.) Anton, now a staffer in Trump’s administration, saw another four years of Democratic presidencies as the end of white America and conservative America. Most Republicans — even those, like Anton, deeply suspicious of Trump — ultimately agreed. Almost the entire GOP decided its hatred or fear of Clinton overrode their misgivings about their own nominee, and, with varying levels of enthusiasm, supported Trump. They brought disaster upon their country, but as a small measure of compensatory justice, they have also brought it upon their party. By the time Trump has departed the Oval Office, they will look longingly at a staid, boxed-in Clinton presidency as a road not taken.

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Week of March 27 to April 2

Trump may be suffering, as the joke goes, the worst 100 days of any president since William Henry Harrison. His list of laws signed makes ludicrous reading: only 17 items including on March 31 (the final day of the 10th week of his administration) “An Act to name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in Pago Pago, American Samoa, the Faleomavaega Eni Fa'aua'a Hunkin VA Clinic.”

But the resources of a determined president are great. Trump’s enablers are powerful. The institutions of American government and society—including the expectations of the American people themselves for integrity in government—continue to show themselves weaker than most would have ever dared fear before 2016. We’re not anywhere near the end of this story, and certainly in no position to predict whether that ending will be happy or grim.

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Still, all those decade-plus investments in the future still rely on gadgetry that you have to wear on you, even if it's only a pair of glasses. Some of the craziest, most forward-looking, most unpredictable advancements go even further — provided you're willing to wait a few extra decades, that is.

This week, we got our first look at Neuralink, a new company cofounded by Elon Musk with a goal of building computers into our brains by way of "neural lace," a very early-stage technology that lays on your brain and bridges it to a computer. It's the next step beyond even that blending of the digital and physical worlds, as man and machine become one.

Assuming the science works — and lots of smart people believe that it will —  this is the logical endpoint of the road that smartphones started us on.

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...[P]eople have come to associate the circle head with masculinity, and because of this association, we felt that it was important to explore alternate head shapes. We reviewed many variations of our figure, altering both the head and shoulders to feel more inclusive to all genders. When the shoulders were wider, the image felt overly masculine, so we decreased the width of the shoulders and adjusted the height of the figure. As a result of these iterations, we ended with a more gender-balanced figure. We chose grays because they feel temporary, generic, and universal. With that, we included a higher contrast color combination to make this image accessible for those with visual impairments. Because of its coloring, the new profile photo also gives less prominence to accounts with a default profile photo.

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March

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In several hundred million years, the black holes of the large and small galaxies will merge into one enormous beast.

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“Our results demonstrate that the structural and functional neuroplastic brain changes occurring as a result of early ocular blindness may be more widespread than initially thought,” said lead author Corinna Bauer, HMS instructor of ophthalmology and a scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear. “We observed significant changes not only in the occipital cortex, where vision is processed, but also areas implicated in memory, language processing and sensory motor functions.”

The researchers used MRI multimodal brain imaging techniques to reveal these changes in a group of 12 subjects who were born with or acquired profound blindness by the age of three. They compared the scans to a group of 16 normally sighted subjects, who were of the same age range. On the scans of those with early blindness, the team observed structural and functional connectivity changes, including evidence of enhanced connections that send information back and forth between areas of the brain not observed in the normally sighted group.

These connections appear to be unique to those with profound blindness, suggesting that the brain “rewires” itself in the absence of visual information to boost other senses. This is possible through the process of neuroplasticity, or the ability of our brains to naturally adapt to our experiences.

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Even the negotiation process itself allows the EU to do well by doing good. The EU side is considering opening much of the negotiation to public view by publishing negotiation mandates and other documents. That is a good thing in itself: transparency is essential to create public support for trade deals. But, as Alan Beattie explains, it will also be tactically helpful to the EU side (beyond making a virtue of necessity in leak-prone Brussels). An open negotiation makes it easier to defend red lines — but above all, in the specific case of Brexit negotiations, it is likely to wrongfoot the British side more than it could cause trouble in EU capitals given the deep divisions that May has to bridge at home and the general incoherence of what the Leave campaign promised voters at the referendum.

Some have tried to point out to the British public the imbalance between the EU27 and the UK in the Brexit talks. If the EU side plays its cards right, the UK is in an even worse position than those warnings suggest.

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Week of March 20 to March 26

President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.

The allegations, if true, would appear to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics, even as US-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million (£8 million) annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP.

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The texts, posted on a darknet website run by a hacktivist collective, appear to show Manafort’s family fretting about the ethics, safety and consequences of his work for Yanukovych. And they reveal that Manafort’s two daughters regarded their father’s emergence as a key player on Trump’s presidential campaign with a mixture of pride and embarrassment.

In one exchange, daughter Jessica Manafort writes “Im not a trump supporter but i am still proud of dad tho. He is the best at what he does.” Her sister Andrea Manafort responded by referring to their father’s relationship with Trump as “The most dangerous friendship in America,” while in another exchange she called them “a perfect pair” of “power-hungry egomaniacs,” and asserted “the only reason my dad is doing this campaign is for sport. He likes the challenge. It's like an egomaniac's chess game. There's no money motivation.”

By contrast, the Manafort daughters and their mother seemed much more unsettled about Paul Manafort’s work as a political consultant for Yanukovych’s Russia-backed Party of Regions, which is a subject of renewed interest among investigators probing possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

In one March 2015 exchange that appears to be between the two sisters, Andrea Manafort seems to suggest that their father bore some responsibility for the deaths of protesters at the hands of police loyal to Yanukovych during a monthslong uprising that started in late 2013.

“Don't fool yourself,” Andrea Manafort wrote. “That money we have is blood money.”

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+ BTW, I recently upgraded some this and that on the back end of the blog, and it does seem to make comments post much faster [. . .]
Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

For WordPress self-hosted people, there is already a "restore legacy editor" plugin, even though Gutenberg hasn't been installed yet as the default.

Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress
+ I thought you were on WordPress.com, not self-hosted WordPress. I can't find any info on WordPress.com and Gutenberg or Gutenbergerish editing, so I don't know [. . .]
Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

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