May 2015 Archives

Trump is destroying the federal government, writes Digby--who reminds us that Trump's first use of the "drain the swamp" slogan was at a rally in Green Bay on 17 October 2016:

The fact is, that despite his tiresome repetition of the slogan "Drain the swamp" since the election, it wasn't one of Trump's signature chants, like "Lock her up" or "Build the wall." It was something of an afterthought, a sort of extension of his claims that the system was "rigged" against him to steal the election. As the various investigations into his nefarious doings unfold, it seems obvious that was another projection of his own foibles onto his opponents.

Nonetheless, it is an article of faith among many of the chattering classes that he ran as a reformer who promised to clean up Washington. But the Trump administration's approach to dealing with the institutions of government is much more old-fashioned. It is simply governing by way of personal loyalty and fealty to the president rather than expertise, experience or seniority. It's a spoils system, and not a very efficient one.

Evan Osnos' New Yorker piece "is an eye opener," writes Digby:

"Across the government, more than half of the six hundred and fifty-six most critical positions are still unfilled. [...] If they cannot find a Trump loyalist to fill a position they simply leave it empty."

Osnos writes about the Trumpian effects:

A real-estate baron, with the wealthiest Cabinet in US history, Trump is at peace with the plutocracy but at war with the clerks -- the apparatchiks who, he claims, are seeking to nullify the election by denying the prerogatives of his Administration.

Digby comments:

This attack on "bureaucracy" is really an attack on law enforcement, the State Department, the intelligence community and ordinary bureaucrats who enforce regulations and monitor compliance with the law, along with anyone else Trump and his henchmen see as enemies of the state. [...]

The story Osnos tells about the elimination of experts and the deliberate erasure of institutional memory in department after department is chilling. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to replace these people even after Trump is gone. His lasting legacy may be the destruction of the federal government as we know it.

Right Wing Watch notes that Glenn Beck worries about being murdered in the night. Or something. It's hard to tell, because his coherence quotient is even lower than normal. Beck ended yesterday's radio show with "a 10-minute monologue" on his paranoid fantasies. "I can tell you what's coming, yammered Beck, "I've told you every step of the way. I know what's coming next."

"Those riots in Baltimore. That wasn't real ... At some point, there will be a straw that breaks the camel's back, and it will set the whole country on fire. And what happens? We will cry out for police help. The police will be overwhelmed. The DOJ will say, 'We're going to take over policing, we'll coordinate it from here.' And you're done. It's lights out, republic."

"That's what's coming," Beck said. "That's what's coming":

He likens this paranoid fantasy to the Night of Long Knives:

"There are 10 million people that listen to this show. They cannot kill 10 million people in one night. You were born for a reason, and you're listening to this show for a reason," Beck stated. "Prepare for a time when voices like mine or others are no longer heard and yours is the only voice."

The fact that fascism is more closely aligned to his allies than to his opponents is a reality that never enters his mind.

"These must be very troubling and frustrating times for you, homophobes," writes Salon in its look at "the last gasp of desperate bigotry" as illustrated by this billboard:

(Credit: WDIV)

A majority of Americans now support marriage equality, and face it, if it's not fully recognized where you live yet, it will be and soon. A majority of us also support gay political candidates, and we seem to be able to watch gay people on television and movies and listen to them as we drive around in post breakup sadness without the fabric of society crumbling -- probably because if you look across the population, it's composed entirely of people who either are LGBT or who know someone who is. And yet, bless your tenacious, confused, chilly little hearts, some of you still don't get it. And you just cannot stop talking about it.

The piece quotes "a representative for one of the groups behind the billboards" as saying that "The intent was not to offend:"

"I believe that it's pretty hard in America to not say anything without somebody being offended. The issue here doesn't have anything to do with the gay community. It has everything to do with protecting freedom of religion."

Michelangelo Signorile explains why the Religious Right won't give up:

Even if marriage equality comes to all 50 states in June, after all, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people still won't be protected against discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, nor under any federal statute, a sad reality that often surprises people. There are no statewide protections in 29 states. Which means that in some states, gay and lesbian individuals have exercised the right to marry one day, only to be fired from their jobs the next after their employers learned about it. Opponents of LGBT rights have been working to keep anti-discrimination laws from being passed as well as exempt themselves from any such laws that do pass.

After 55 years, some of them still oppose contraception, and they're been trying to prohibit abortion for 42 years. There's little reason to suspect that their opposition to LGBT rights will be any less stubborn.

It wasn't all that long ago that Mike Huckabee was complaining about the irreverence of Monty Python:

There was a time in this country when a movie like The Life of Brian which, I just read--thank God the theaters in Little Rock decided not to show, but it's showing all over the Fort Worth-Dallas area, which is a mockery, which is a blasphemy against the very name of Jesus Christ, and I can remember a day even as young as I am when that would not have happened in this country or in the city in the South.

Common sense for some people is simply inconceivable for others.


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In order to keep the NSA from text-searching your phone calls, The Intercept notes that "the real solution is end-to-end encryption, preferably of the unbreakable kind:"

And as luck would have it, you can have exactly that on your mobile phone, for the price of zero dollars and zero cents.

The Intercept's Micah Lee wrote about this in March, in an article titled: You Should Really Consider Installing Signal, an Encrypted Messaging App for iPhone.

(Signal is for iPhone and iPads, and encrypts both voice and texts; RedPhone is the Android version of the voice product; TextSecure is the Android version of the text product.)

As Lee explains, the open source software group known as Open Whisper Systems, which makes all three, is gaining a reputation for combining trustworthy encryption with ease of use and mobile convenience.

Convenience precedes ubiquity...

Jeet Heer remarks on Charlie Hebdo's "artistic failure:"

Understanding the ruckus over Charlie Hebdo also requires awareness not just of the cartoons' goals, but why their message often gets garbled--especially when images can be transmitted instantly around the world, to societies unfamiliar with the particulars of French visual satire. The history of Charlie Hebdo can help explain both the magazine's intent and also the cloud of hostility it generates.

Heer mentions the blog Understanding Charlie Hebdo, which complains that CH "keeps using in 2015 an artistic strategy from the 1960s:"

The real sin of Charlie Hebdo is not so much racism but arrested development, a grave aesthetic failure because political cartoonists have to keep up with times and be mindful of the impact their images have. The free speech rights of Charlie Hebdo deserve protection and the cartoonists who work at the magazine have more than earned an award for courage. It's entirely possible to support Charlie Hebdo being honored even if you are uncomfortable with the magazine's content. But we do artists no favor by refraining from merited criticism of their work. Charlie Hebdo cartoonists deserves to be taken seriously as artists, which means that the aesthetic failure of their anti-racist racism has to be acknowledged.

Nomi Prins, in her book All the President's Bankers, looks at how Wall Street bankers own the Clintons, observing that "The Clinton era epitomized the vast difference between appearance and reality, spin and actuality:"

As the decade drew to a close, Clinton basked in the glow of a lofty stock market, a budget surplus, and the passage of this key banking "modernization." It would be revealed in the 2000s that many corporate profits of the 1990s were based on inflated evaluations, manipulation, and fraud. When Clinton left office, the gap between rich and poor was greater than it had been in 1992, and yet the Democrats heralded him as some sort of prosperity hero. [...]

The Glass-Steagall repeal led to unfettered derivatives growth and unstable balance sheets at commercial banks that merged with investment banks and at investment banks that preferred to remain solo but engaged in dodgier practices to remain "competitive." In conjunction with the tight political-financial alignment and associated collaboration that began with Bush and increased under Clinton, bankers channeled the 1920s, only with more power over an immense and growing pile of global financial assets and increasingly "open" markets. In the process, accountability would evaporate.

They could have gone in the direction of Robert Reich, who decried inequality, but they chose Robert Rubin instead.

Jon Chait looks at how conservatives justify inequality:

In 1972, the neoconservative intellectual Irving Kristol defended existing income inequality on the ground that it simply reflected the natural distribution of human ability. [...] This was a comforting story for the right. The level of inequality in the United States happened to be a perfectly optimal reflection of the talent of the populace.

Kristol happened to make this case at just about the exact time when inequality had reached a nadir. In the four decades since Kristol wrote that, the gap between rich and poor has soared:


Chait then delivers the kicker:

So, if Kristol was correct in 1972, and prevailing inequality reflected natural differences, then in the interim, either the distribution of innate talent has somehow changed dramatically or his argument has become very wrong. Indeed, the dramatic change in inequality is one of many pieces of evidence that patterns of inequality are neither natural nor immutable. Different social and governmental patterns can create varying opportunity for the poor to get rich or vice versa.

And yet the impulse to justify existing patterns of income distribution is powerful. Kevin Williamson reiterates the hoary case in National Review. Much of Williamson's essay is dedicated to the straw man argument that liberals propose "eradicating" inequality, as opposed to the actual liberal position, which is to ameliorate it slightly while still accepting not only significant inequality but more of it than nearly any other advanced economy.

Salon's look at highly sensitive people begins with history--"In 1997, Elaine and Arthur Aron introduced the notion of the highly sensitive person: those who tend to have intensified experiences and responses to their surroundings:"

They concluded that about 15-20% of the population have this form of sensory-processing sensitivity, which causes them to become overaroused by intense sensory stimuli, such as strong smells, loud noises, bright lights, and strong tastes.

To measure this form of sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS), the Arons developed a 27-item scale. They found that those scoring high on this scale tended to score high on a wide variety of intensified experiences, from crying easily to having daylight sensitivity to loving intensely to remembering dreams more vividly.

"As Elaine Aron noted in her 1996 book The Highly Sensitive Person," the piece continues, "highly sensitive people may thrive in a more peaceful environment:"

In such solitude, these individuals may be better able to take advantage of their sensitivities. Indeed, many famous artists, musicians, humanitarians and scientists were exquisitely sensitive to their environments, and used their experiences as grist for the mill of their extraordinary creativity and compassion. Sensitivity is not only associated with creativity, but also with spirituality, mystical experiences, and a connection to nature.

Kyle Schmidlin provides a summary of the Noam Chomsky/Sam Harris email tiff, writing that "Unfortunately for Harris, who reached out to Chomsky initially, the conversation didn't go as well for him as he seemed to hope it would when he embarked on it:"

Most of his discussion with Harris is driven by the question of intent on the part of perpetrators of terror and war. Harris charges, "For [Chomsky], intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all." For Harris, however, "Ethically speaking, intention is (nearly) the whole story."

Chomsky's infamous comparison of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant bombing to the terror attacks ofSeptember 11 frames the bulk of the conversation. President Clinton ordered the bombing of the Al-Shifa facility in Sudan in 1998. As a result, half of the pharmaceutical supplies of Sudan were destroyed, in particular their malaria medicine, chloroquine. Although only one person was killed by the missile itself, estimations by Chomsky and others place the resultant death toll in the tens of thousands.

Thus, Chomsky drew the analogy to 9/11, though he has since retreated from the comparison to clarify that, actually, Clinton's bombing likely killed a lot more people. For Chomsky, it's instructive to note that we treat 9/11 as one of the most horrendous acts ever to take place - which it is - but regard crimes with comparable or greater death tolls, routinely inflicted by powerful nations against weak ones, as a fact of life hardly worth mentioning.

"Listening to Harris talk about the mind," writes Schmidlin, "its innermost workings, and free will can be fascinating:"

But by engaging Noam Chomsky, he only managed to reveal just how out of his league he is on crucial matters on which he fancies himself an informed commentator. In philosophical models, perhaps intent is all. But when the death toll of opposing sides is different by a factor of hundreds, it's a moral imperative to take note of body count. And when leaders' professed intentions can't be trusted, Chomsky's moral universality is a far more reliable beacon.

I read through the exchange when Harris posted it, and my initial reaction was one of dismay at how the two cantankerous commentators talked past each other. I found it interesting, but not very enlightening.

Jade Helm

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Right Wing Watch looks at the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy theories--try not to laugh:

Yesterday on "Washington Watch," Rep. Louie Gohmert blamed President Obama for the conspiracy theories surrounding the U.S. military's upcoming Jade Helm 15 drill, which certain far-right activists believe is a prelude to a military takeover of conservative-leaning states like Texas.

Hrafnkell Haraldsson snarks that "it turns out it's not Gohmert's fault he's an idiot. It's Obama's:

Gohmert's "logic" began with the Little Sisters of the Poor not wanting to sign a Obamacare birth control waiver because God doesn't allow Obamacare waiver signing, apparently (I missed that passage in the Bible). At least, that is what he told right wing hate group leader Tony Perkins on Washington Watch Wednesday:
From this administration's standpoint, if you're a saintly nun that has dedicated your life to helping the helpless, well, we've got to sue you and force you into our program, forget your religious beliefs, we're coming after you. This is the kind of thing this administration does, they help make people concerned about their government.

Apparently, a bunch of deranged nuns saying "God tells them not to" sign a waiver makes people distrust the federal government.

So to review this exercise in Gohmertian Logic:

Little Sisters of the Poor -> Posse Comitatus Act -> Waco -> Jade Helm 15.

Slate's Justin Peters likens it to a South Park episode come to life, one "filled with hysterical townspeople hoisting odd signs and yelling cartoonishly:"

The fury over Jade Helm 15 has grown to the point where the governor of Texas has ordered the State Guard to keep tabs on the exercise in order to guarantee Texans' safety and constitutional rights while federal officials have had to repeatedly reiterate that nothing nefarious is afoot.

Daily Kos maintains that anti-science Republicans aren't stupid, they're malicious. For one example, see their removal of "significant amounts from the budgets for the National Science Foundation's geosciences program and Department of Energy's new energy sources program:"

It's always tempting to label the politicians who take such actions buffoons, dingbats, dolts, dullards, dunces, know-nothings, simpletons, numskulls, morons, blockheads, harebrains, lamebrains or just plain brainless.

But that, accurate as it may be, lets them off the hook.

Their actions in this regard are, it's true, stupid, myopic and backward. But the intent of these mutha-fucking marionettes is perfectly in line with the fossil fuelists who pull their strings. That's not stupid when the campaign coffers are being filled.

Defunding the scientists and programs dedicated to learning more about what is the only humanly inhabitable planet in many a parsec is not just idiocy. It's meant to bolster the goals and, most importantly, the bottom line of the corporations whose products are the driving force behind the global warming that is steadily making Earth less humanly habitable.

Critics often bemoan an alleged lack of musical diversity, but I haven't seen much data in any of the discussions. That has now changed:

Researchers in the United Kingdom used big data analysis to build the first evolutionary history of popular music in the United States. They processed over 17,000 songs that appeared on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 list from 1960 to 2010 to pinpoint style trends, musical diversity and the timing of revolutions.

According to their results, the single most radical change in American music had nothing to do with "the British Invasion." Instead, it occurred much more recently, with the surge in popularity of hip-hop.

"John Lennon and Mick Jagger didn't lead a musical revolution in the U.S., but Tupac, LL Cool J and other rappers did." The research, entitled "The evolution of popular music: USA 1960-2010" suggests that:

"...despite what your hipster friends say, researchers found no evidence to back up the claim that a hegemonic recording industry oligopoly is today contributing to a decline in musical diversity. In fact, musical diversity has remained pretty consistent over the last five decades."

Their analysis categorizes music as follows:

...a distribution over eight harmonic topics (H-topics) that capture classes of chord changes (e.g. 'dominant-seventh chord changes') and eight timbral topics (T-topics) that capture particular timbres (e.g. 'drums, aggressive, percussive', 'female voice, melodic, vocal', derived from the expert annotations)

Of all H-topics, H5 shows the most striking change in frequency [and] starts to become more frequent in the late 1980s and then rises rapidly to a peak in 1993. This represents the rise of Hip Hop, Rap and related genres, as exemplified by the music of Busta Rhymes, Nas and Snoop Dog, who all use chords particularly rarely...

The frequencies of the timbral Topics, too, evolve over time. T3, described as 'energetic, speech, bright', shows the same dynamics as H5 and is also associated with the rise of Hip Hop-related genres.


This maps to music genres as follows:

We identified three revolutions: a major one around 1991 and two smaller ones around 1964 and 1983... [...] The rise of RAP and related genres appears, then, to be the single most important event that has shaped the musical structure of the American charts in the period that we studied.

The discontinuity is fascinating.

Not to get all hipster-y, but I rarely find pop-music personalities worthy of mention--so one could wonder "Am I really going to post something about Miley Cyrus?" Yes, and this Daily Dot article demonstrates why she is news-worthy:

"Cyrus made a media splash on Tuesday--not for appropriating twerk culture or for spewing an LSD-fueled rant on Instagram, but for launching a super-cool charity foundation to benefit LGBT, homeless, and at-risk youth."

The source, her interview with Out magazine, is worth reading:

"All these things that I do get all this attention," she tells Out. "But then what do I do once I have everyone's attention?"

Miley says she already spent a lot of time struggling with traditional gender expectations--and being resentful that she was a girl. "I didn't want to be a boy," she clarifies. "I kind of wanted to be nothing. I don't relate to what people would say defines a girl or a boy, and I think that's what I had to understand: Being a girl isn't what I hate, it's the box that I get put into."

Daily Dot notes that "when she announced the foundation in an interview with Out magazine: Miley Cyrus--though not explicitly labeling herself--appears to be genderqueer:"

Cyrus came out as queer (or at least, non-straight) just yesterday in an interview with the Associated Press, telling a reporter that not all of her romantic relationships have been heterosexual. But when she stated today that she also doesn't identify with any particular gender, suddenly so much about Cyrus just made sense. [...]

The impacts of Miley's foundation, her fluid sexuality, and her non-binary gender identity, are sure to be huge for LGBT youth. But more importantly, it's a nice change of pace to see a massive star put their money where their mouth is.

Check out Miley Cyrus' response below:


AP says this:

When Miley Cyrus wears pasties or posts photos of her pink armpits, it's not to be a provocateur. The 22-year-old says she's just being herself, and she wants all young people to have that same opportunity.

That's why she's launching the Happy Hippie Foundation to help homeless and LGBT youth, adding that not all her past relationships were "straight, heterosexual" ones. Cyrus didn't elaborate.

"The position I'm in, I feel like I've got a lot of power:"

"When you have all eyes on you, what are you saying? And that's what I had to ask myself a lot," she said. "It's like, I know you're going to look at me more if my (breasts) are out, so look at me. And then I'm going to tell you about my foundation for an hour and totally hustle you."

The purpose of Happy Hippies is "Rallying young people to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBT youth and other vulnerable populations," which we should all be able to support. (Well, perhaps not everyone...) This whole thing brought to mind a news article from a few years ago about how, when her father saw an Adopt-a-Highway sign identifying Atheists United, he freaked out that his family "will now be attacked by Satan...There's no doubt about it."

I wonder how he's dealing with these revelations--does he blame his daughter's sexuality on Satan?

NCRM cites a new WSJ/NBC poll on the nation's relative preference for gay vs evangelical presidents:

Asked how they would feel about presidential candidates with certain qualities or characteristics, far more Americans said they would "be enthusiastic" or "be comfortable with" a candidate who is gay than a candidate who is an evangelical Christian.

A very large majority, 61 percent, said they would be enthusiastic or comfortable with a gay candidate, while just 52 percent said the same of an evangelical Christian.

On the opposite side, just 37 percent said they would "have some reservations about" or "be very uncomfortable with" a gay candidate, while 44 percent said the same of an evangelical Christian.


H/t: TPM for linking to Foucault's Iranian follies. It states at the outset that "Left-wing intellectuals have a long and inglorious history of failing to see the malignancy of political regimes and movements that turn out to be violently despotic," and alleges "Chomsky's blindness to the atrocities perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia." (Chomsky's comment that "the great act of genocide in the modern period is Pol Pot, 1975 through 1978" is not the last word on the subject, but let's set that aside for now.) The piece continues:

To this roll call of naiveté, it is right to add Michel Foucault and his enthusiasm for the Iranian revolution, evident in a series of articles he wrote for French and Italian newspapers in late-1978 and early-1979.

There is no doubting the violence, brutality and injustice of the rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, which sparked the popular uprising that finally led to his overthrow in February 1979. However, it was clear, at least to many not on the Left, that the particular Islamic form of the revolutionary movement had deeply troubling aspects.

Foucault, unfortunately, was precisely seduced by the popular uprising in Iran, which he claimed might signify a new "political spirituality", with the potential to transform the political landscape of Europe, as well as the Middle East.

The piece cites an October 1978 article, penned by Foucault well before the Revolution. "Foucault was effusive," the piece continues, that "Islam values work." As he wrote, one can be deprived of the fruits of his labor, what must belong to all (water, the sub-soil) shall not be appropriated by anyone. With respect to liberties, they will be respected to the extent that their exercise will not harm others; minorities will be protected and free to live as they please on the condition that they do not harm the majority; between men and women there will not be inequality with respect to rights, but difference, since there is natural difference. With respect to politics, decisions should be made by the majority, the leaders should be responsible to the people, and each person, as it is laid out in the Quran, should be able to stand up and hold accountable he who governs.

Public whipping was introduced for alcohol consumption. Libraries were attacked if they held books that were "anti-Islamic". Broadcast media was censored. [...] ...on March 3rd, Khomeini decreed that women would be unable to serve as judges; on March 4th, that only a man could petition for divorce; on March 9th, women were banned from participating in sport; and on March 8th, as predicted by many more pessimistic voices, women were ordered to wear the chador.

Foucault's failure, however, is not one of assessment, but of predictions--a far lesser offense.

TNR discusses the bankruptcy of Republican thought by mentioning former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers co-authorship of a Center for American Progress (CAP) report entitled "Report of the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity" (PDF):

"There is a need for policy to ensure that growth is broadly shared with employees, not just employers and the owners of firms," Summers writes, citing income inequality as a key challenge facing the country. The report suggests a number of solutions, including increased infrastructure spending, universal pre-K, raising the minimum wage, and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Some of these solutions are targeted at middle class households, while others are designed to improve the lives of low-income Americans.

In an example showing how the GOP is "a party that remains straightjacketed by extreme conservatism," National Review claims that:

[B]y describing Clintonism as the force behind the last great recovery, it stacks the deck in favor of recycling a Clintonian economic policy into a prescription for what ails us now. This is, to put it mildly, an implausible strategy, as today's economy is hardly similar to the one Bill Clinton inherited in the 1990s.

Hardly similar?! Let's see: a Republican recession followed by modest Democrat-led tax increases on the well-to-do; the GOP predicted disaster, but we actually experienced a recovery...that sounds rather similar, although the Bush II recession was far worse. That's far from being the only thing they're wrong about, as the sky is falling again in Texas over the "Jade Helm" nonsense:

Most conspiracy theories live and die on the Internet, on the ragged fringes of message boards and blogs. Rarely do they migrate to what we (perhaps misleadingly) call the real world. And rarely do they merit the notice of our leaders.

That may be changing. On April 28, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to 'monitor' a U.S. Army training exercise--Operation Jade Helm--that some Texas residents fear is a run-up to the Obama administration declaring martial law in the Lone Star state.

The US Army sent Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria to Bastrop to calm Texans' nerves, and he reiterated that "Jade Helm is simply just a challenging eight-week training exercise for unconventional warfare." The facts bounced right off those who called the exercise a "martial law program:"

The theory that the Obama administration is planning to turn West Texas Walmarts into FEMA re-education centers has been circulating on the right-wing fringe of the Internet and AM talk radio for a couple of weeks. The uproar seems to have been spawned after a U.S. Army training image for the exercise in which Texas, Utah and a small patch of Southern California are labeled "hostile" leaked online.

What TNR describes as the Texas freak-out "drove the right wing into a panic over everything from gun confiscation to state-sanctioned murder to military occupation to economic catastrophe"--a panic that is "directly traceable to a southern--and particularly a Texan--political culture that thrives on civil war-style fantasies."

It's hardly unique to Texas. Salon's Simon Maloy looks at "the weird world of conservative electromagnetic pulse mania," where Mike Huckabee, for example, worries about "an electromagnetic pulse from an exploded device that could fry the entire electrical grid and take this country back to the Stone Age in a matter of minutes." "The EMP is an absurdly overused sci-fi trope," Maloy writes, "but the threat of an actual EMP attack is a very real concern to a slice of the conservative movement:"

...ramping up concern over the devastating effects of an EMP blast does mesh nicely with another of Huckabee's interests: scamming money out of the panic-stricken and the gullible. Conspiracy websites like WorldNetDaily will happily sell you an exorbitantly expensive "Faraday cage," a specially made box that is supposed to resist electromagnetic radiation and protect any electronics stored within from the devastating effects of an EMP blast. Think of it as a tinfoil hat for your iPad. Of course, the trade-off is that for the Faraday cage to be effective, you have to keep your valuable electronics in there at basically all times, because you never know when al-Qaida's going to launch that ICBM.

Overpriced gadgets are less obnoxious than games like "Kill the F*ggot," developed by a "Christian entrepreneur:"

Randall Herman released his game "Kill The Faggot" on the online-based video game store Steam. It lasted roughly two hours before Steam pulled the product citing pretty obvious violations of its terms of service. A few hours can be a lifetime on the internet, however, so several game critics were able to download and play the game before it was deleted. The results were sickening.

The observation that "the game's unapologetic gay-bashing is even more retrograde than its graphics" is satisfyingly snarky, but there's a constellation of craziness there that is quite worrisome.

David McCullick wonders about the prevalence of THC deficiency:

Besides regulating our internal and cellular homeostasis, cannabinoids influence one's relationship with the external environment. Socially, the administration of cannabinoids clearly alters human behavior, sometimes promoting sharing, humor and creativity. By mediating neurogenesis, neuronal plasticity and learning, cannabinoids may directly influence a person's open-mindedness and the ability to move beyond limiting patterns of thought and behavior from past situations or circumstances.

Do our bodies always make enough?

I recently decided, after years of study, using cannabis (medically and recreationally) and talking to my patients, that if people are not using cannabis they may be cannabinoid-deficient. I believe that humans need cannabinoids like THC, CBD and more to live a normal healthy life. I do not mean going through life high, more like maintaining what your body needs to function properly. It is a quality of life issue. We should not be cannabinoid deficient any more than we should have a nutrient deficiency.

It is possible that medical cannabis could be the most useful remedy to treat a variety of human diseases and conditions, as a component of preventative healthcare.

Reason explains why Freddie ran by pointing out that nearly one-third of people arrested in Baltimore were on "legally insufficient" charges:

Under a settlement reached in 2010, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) agreed to change performance evaluation policies that encouraged false arrests and introduce safeguards aimed at ensuring that cops have probable cause when they take people into custody. Two years later, the ACLU complained that the BPD was "failing to comply" with the agreement. It noted that "BPD officers did not or could not justify arrests for quality of life offenses in at least 35 percent of the cases examined" by an independent auditor.

The all-too-common incidence of lying police caught on film helps explain why "minorities know that if a police officer doesn't just give you a ticket, then they are fishing for something to charge you with:"

The police are not paid to be reasonable, they are not paid to "protect and serve." They are paid to produce revenue, just like any other employee of a corporation. And they will lie to meet their quota.

In asking, what does 'middle class' mean? it's worth noting that "socioeconomic class structure in the U.S. is a nebulous thing that can be as much about perception and comparison as it is about measurable metrics, like money."

The middle 50% of households (with income between $24,000 and $90,000, and net worth between $9,000 and $317,000) would seem to constitute the middle class, and the piece mentions that self-identification is evenly split:

According to a recent survey from Gallup, about 51 percent of Americans consider themselves middle or upper-middle class, while 48 percent consider themselves working or lower class.

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