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On the risk of fascism in the US

Fintan O'Toole wrote in June 2018 that "what is being trialled is fascism" and "what we are living with is pre-fascism."Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections. Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities. Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. …
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Sharpiegate

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has not had a confirmed leader since Trump took office in January 2017. Trump nominated Barry Myers, whose conflict of interest is so blatant that the government has preferred to confirm no one at all for the job.On May 1, 2019, a business columnist for the Los Angeles Times discussed the nomination of Barry Myers, the former CEO of AccuWeather and the brother of the current CEO, for head of NOAA. The conflict of interest is that "AccuWeather allegedly has tried to restrict [NOAA's public activities], largely because services provided by the National Weather Service, a NOAA agency, compete with AccuWeather’s business model of offering similar services for a price." In 2005, the Myers family asked Sen. Rick Santorum "to introduce legislation that would have barred the National Weather Service from issuing any weather forecasts that could be issued by private businesses. The Weather Service would be limited t…

Quotes: What is the effect of television on culture and on self-understanding?

Rene Dubos, writing in 1974, observed that a person living in safety can spend a lot of time watching journalistic reports of catastrophes in faraway places, yet still feel that their own life is lacking. This is because television reports may not necessarily impart a sense of gratitude that nothing terrible is happening to them; rather, the time they have wasted in front of the television has prevented anything interesting from happening to them, and this lack of interestingness is what stirs within them. But is this simultaneous lack of interestingness and lack of gratitude a fault of the television, or is it a fault of the person watching the television?Dubos wrote:In 1973, a young female college student published a book in which she presented 'a chronicle of growing old in the sixties.' On her own account, the most significant influence in her life had been that before she was twenty she had spent more than 5,000 hours watching television. She had witnessed on the screen J…

When the planet is "cognitively trapped" as "the environment"

"'Environment' is not something around and about human activities in an external sense; it is their medium," John Dewey wrote in 1949, and the "narrowing of the medium is the direct source of all unnecessary impoverishment in human living." Similarly, Vaclav Havel complained that the word "environment" suggests "that whatever is not human merely 'environs' or surrounds us and is therefore inferior to us, something we need care for only if it is in our interest to do so." He challenged us to reconsider that "the world is not divided into two types of Being, one superior and the other merely surrounding it.""Sadly, in recent decades," Calvin Luther Martin wrote in 1992, "both the earth and the concept of wildness have become cognitively trapped as "the environment" — yet another thing for Homo to conserve and preserve."One problem — call it a "spiritual" version of the problem — is …

How the Trump administration plans to erect a border wall in 2020

As of mid-2019, the Trump administration has only managed to replace 60 miles of existing border fencing. Trump is suddenly demanding to build 500 miles of new fencing between now and the November 2020 election.On August 27, 2019, Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey wrote for the Washington Post:"President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly, those officials said."U.S. Customs and Border Protection gave these construction orders to Army Corps engineers on a conference call in August. The story continued:"Defense Secretary Mark T. Es…

Hurt me 15 degrees less: On cruelty, fear, justice, order, and challenging the conservative white evangelical worldview

Yes, indeed, for white evangelicals in the US today, the catchphrase the cruelty is indeed the point,John Stoehr wrote in August 2019. They act this way simply because when they hurt "people deserving cruelty," it "feels good" to them, and they put effort into coming up with other rationalizations for their actions. (On this point, Stoehr cites Richard Rorty's Achieving Our Country.) And they are not so much afraid of their victims (making words such as "homophobia" misnomers) as they are afraid that they will go to Hell if they are more tolerant of others who they are told are going to Hell (i.e. others who are deserving of cruelty). This system makes them unwilling to listen to anyone who does not also subscribe to their evangelical group and concept of divine reward and punishment. This leaves them unable "to reason their way out of fear" and "is not a moral compass at all."Daniel Schultz replied affirmatively to Stoehr, quoting…

The chief eunuch in 'The Boy Fortune Hunters in China' (1909)

The Boy Fortune Hunters is a series by L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, writing under the pseudonym Floyd Akers. The fourth volume, The Boy Fortune Hunters in China, was published in 1909 by the Reilly and Britton Co.In this story, set in 1908, three American boys — Sam Steele of Chelsea, Mass., age 18, the narrator; Archie Ackley, "about my age"; and Joseph Herring, "a little younger" and "rich" — sail across the Pacific to China and conspire to steal a royal treasure from the palace of a dead prince, out from under the nose of the ever-loyal chief eunuch. They travel with two South Sea Islanders, Nux and Bryonia, who had been rescued at sea by Sam's uncle. The uncle then renamed them after the medicines he used to save their lives. They were subsequently "devoted" to this man, and they learned English from him. "Indeed, I had come to regard both Nux and Bry," Sam says, "as my own personal followers, a…