More falsehoods from sTrumpf

A popular conspiracy theory is spreading in the Trump family. It’s totally false.

By Matt O’Brien July 26 at 9:49 AM -via Washington Post – July 26th, 2016

The unemployment rate is not a conspiracy. It is not manipulated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And anyone who suggests otherwise is either uninformed, or trying to misinform others.

Which is to say that you shouldn’t listen to Donald Trump & Co. For a year now, the alleged billionaire has insisted that the “real” unemployment rate is something like 42 percent instead of the 4.9 percent it actually is. He hasn’t said how he’s gotten this — maybe it’s from the same “extremely credible source” who told him President Obama’s birth certificate was fake? — but the simplest explanation is that he’s just ballparking how many adults don’t work. That’s 40.4 percent right now. The problem with using that number, though, is that it counts college students and stay-at-home parents and retirees as being equally “unemployed” as people who are actively looking for work but can’t find any. So it doesn’t tell us too much, at least not on its own, unless you think it’s a problem that we have more 70-year-olds than we used to.

Or unless conspiracy theories are one of your favorite accessories, as seems to be the case with the father, and now the son, Donald Trump Jr. On Sunday, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the official unemployment numbers are “artificial” ones that are “massaged to make the existing economy look good” and “this administration look good.” How do they supposedly do this? By, he claimed, defining “the way we actually measure unemployment” to be that “after x number of months, if someone can’t find a job, congratulations, they’re miraculously off” the jobless rolls. The only problem with this theory is it’s false. The BLS hasn’t changed the way it measures unemployment during the Obama years, and there is zero evidence it has changed the numbers themselves. Not only that, but Donald Trump Jr. doesn’t even seem to know how unemployment is defined in the first place. As the BLS explains, everyone who doesn’t have a job but is trying to find one counts as “unemployed.” It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been looking as long as you are, in fact, still looking.
Continue reading More falsehoods from sTrumpf

How Do We Make America Strong Again?

 Start Telling The Truth

Tyler Durden's picture

As laudable as some of these interpretations of strength might be, to me “being strong” boils down to one principle, and only one principle: tell the truth, however painful and unwelcome as it might be. The essence of weakness is the cowardice of avoiding the truth. We as a nation have grown accustomed to the cowardice of half-truths, half-confessions, half-apologies and a financial system that rewards fraud in all its variations of artifice, deception and lies.

What’s presented as “fact” is actually a spectrum of manipulation and lies. Does anyone with a basic grasp of the economy really believe unemployment is 5% or less? Does anyone seeking the truth believe that a person working one hour a week is equivalent to someone working 40 hours a week? Isn’t counting both of these positions as equally statistically important jobs a form of not telling the truth? If you hold great wealth and power, and the source of your wealth and power is illegitimate, you must dissemble, fabricate, propagandize and lie to hide the illegitimacy of your power. That is the status quo of the U.S. in a nutshell. Those who earned wealth and gained power legitimately have no fear of the truth. Those whose wealth and power is illegitimate fear the truth more than anything else.

The ‘Power Elite’, P-E, of the nation has purposefully co-joined “America” and “Empire,” as if the two cannot be separated.They have successfully conned much of the public into a strained belief that the U.S. isn’t an Imperial Project, that we’re just looking out for our “interests,” which just happen to extend into every nook and cranny of the entire planet.

The P-E has also purposefully confused bullying with strength. Bullying fails because the bullied hate the bully with every fiber of their being. True strength flows from opt-in, mutually beneficial alliances that people and nations join out of self-interest. Such opt-in relationships can only endure if telling the truth is the core principle, for truth is the foundation of trust, and trust is the foundation of durable alliances and cooperative networks. The P-E of the nation has pushed the narrative that its own rising power reflects the rising power of the nation. Nothing could be further from the truth. The increasing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many is the source of America’s weakness, vulnerability and fragmentation.

Take a look at this chart. While GDP per person (per capita) has been rising, household income has been declining. What does that tell us about the economic growth we keep hearing about? That it’s flowing to the top and being drained from the bottom 80%.

Telling the truth, and insisting on the truth, requires courage, a moral foundation and strength. Telling lies, accepting half-truths and living with fraud as a way of life is easy because it requires no courage, moral foundation or strength.

You want to make America strong again? The only way to do so is to start telling the truth and insisting on the truth.Accepting statistical lies, propaganda and fraud as “truth” because it’s easy and doesn’t challenge our assumptions is a one-way road to ruin.

The End of Truth

by Roger Cohen – July 26th, 2016 – NY Times Op-Ed

Goodbye to all that. This looks like the end of a brief interlude that began in 1945. The interlude was relatively peaceful by historical standards. It saw the construction of a rules-based world order under-girded by visceral knowledge of destruction and acute awareness of potential Armageddon. The postwar order involved new institutions, treaties, alliances, and even a union of the very European nations most given to repetitive bloodshed.

Its end was signaled in 2014 by the Russian president Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea, a move that ripped to shreds the “territorial integrity” of Ukraine in direct violation of Article 2 of the United Nations Charter.

But it was not so much this act itself that presaged the unraveling. It was the lies that accompanied it. The Soviet Union, in 1931, used the slogan that two plus two equals five. Putin, a pure Soviet product, traffics in lies — the supposed Western encirclement of Russia, the preposterous notion that all the Russian forces and materiel in eastern Ukraine have been figments of the world’s imagination.
As George Orwell observed, “From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned.” Enter Putin’s pal, Donald Trump, who declares that “there will be no lies” as a prelude to shrieking unvarnished untruth for 76 minutes from a gold-limned podium. Where was Leni Riefenstahl when she was needed last week in Cleveland?
Trump is not alone. There is a global movement of minds. As John Lanchester has observed in The London Review of Books, “I don’t think there’s ever been a time in British politics when so many people in public life spent so much time loudly declaring things they knew not to be true.” The successful arguments of the “Leave” campaign for Britain to quit the European Union “were based on lies.” The charlatan trafficking most vociferously in these untruths, boorish Boris Johnson, has just become Britain’s foreign secretary.
Facts are now a quaint hangover from a time of rational discourse, little annoyances easily upended. Volume trumps reality, as Roger Ailes understood at Fox News, before a downfall that coincided with the apotheosis of his post-factual world.
A red-faced bully, adept in the choreography of collective hysteria, arises. He promises that he alone can set things right. He is the voice. He stands against a great tide of menace, from ISIS to immigrants, and only he understands the vast dimensions of the danger. We have been here before. Fascism was a backlash against dysfunctional democracies. It invited belief in the leadership of the strongman against enemies within and without. Its currency was untruth and its culmination bloody un-reason. It was decried and dismissed by those it would devour.

It is inevitable, given what he represents, that Trump looks to Putin. Orwell again: “Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth.”

 Putin is not a totalitarian, but he has totalitarianism in him, and the conditions of today are not those of the 1930s. But in technology’s disorienting cacophony, the disaggregation of increasingly unequal societies, the frustrations of the many millions for whom life has become an exercise in precariousness, the pressures of globalization and mass migration, the stirring of racism, the spread of terrorism, and the steady undermining of truth, the seeds of a new authoritarianism have been sown. This is the wave Trump rides.

Trump’s strongest argument is that he represents change and Hillary Clinton does not. He will see Clinton’s charges of mendacity with accusations that she is untrustworthy. He may well win. Anyone denying this has not grasped that “epidemic suggestion” tends to be unstoppable.

 Brexit illustrated a thirst for disruption at any cost. It was the supporting act for a possible American leap in the dark that would place Trump’s portrait in United States embassies around the world. Perhaps that’s the least of it. Still. That face so displayed would signal the end of an era and imminent danger to the Republic and the world.

On Melania’s speech

Did Melania Trump’s speechwriters plagiarize Michelle Obama’s speech? If so, why?

Richard Muller 

Richard Muller, Prof Physics, UC Berkeley, author “Now, The Physics of Time” (Norton, 2016)

138.7k Views on Quora
 * * * *

Melania Trump is 100% guilty—the fault can’t be blamed on her speech writers. Yet in a larger sense she is a victim, someone to be forgiven.

Let’s not project our disdain for Donald on Melania. Like Donald, she is in a position for which she is woefully unprepared, but unlike Donald, she didn’t thrust herself into this position, but was thrust into it by her husband.

I have come across many cases of plagiarism in my role as a professor at UC Berkeley. For 10 years I’ve asked students to “summarize” articles on science and technology that they find on the web. The problem is that they don’t understand what plagiarism is; they don’t know how to “rephrase” what they read, and when they try, they think it inadequate, so they copy the words more closely.

Are they guilty of plagiarism? Yes, but it is (in my mind) the result of their inadequacy in writing. (Part of my goal is to develop them into being better writers.)

Melania Trump was undoubtedly impressed by Michelle Obama’s speech, and she wanted to say many of the same things. She is not a speech writer, but she wanted to write the speech herself. So as she wrote it, she discovered that Michelle had said it better, and her own text drifted closer and closer to Michelle’s. She made a point of changing a word here and there to “avoid” any possible plagiarism. But as an inexperienced speech writer, she didn’t appreciate where to draw the line. She had the same problem that my students had.

Should the reviewers of the speech have caught the plagiarism? That’s amazingly hard to do unless you are looking for plagiarism (as I do as a professor at Berkeley). It is not what someone expects in a political speech, and few writers review speeches from amateurs.

I forgive Melania because I have seen so many students struggle with their desire to express ideas they have seen in great speakers, with no true concept for how to do that. We put potential spouses of presidential candidates in a very difficult, perhaps impossible position. They are expected to deliver a great speech, but unlike the candidate, they have little or no experience in this very difficult job. We should not expect them to be able to do that.

What spouses should do is let the professional write their speeches.

How much of Michelle Obama’s speech was written by her? Was the eloquence her own? It is a remarkably good speech for an amateur, so I assume that most of it was written by her speechwriters. Is it plagiarism to deliver a speech as your own and take credit for it when it was written by someone else, a ghostwriter who goes unacknowledged? In politics, we have decided that doing so is not plagiarism, although in my university, having your presentation be written by a ghostwriter would serve as good grounds for expulsion.

The wonderful irony of this incident was pointed out to me by my daughter Elizabeth Muller. After the way Donald has railed against Obama, we discover that his wife Melania truly respects and admires Michelle Obama! I suspect that Michelle is a role-model for Melania. We could never have learned this more dramatically than through the speech Melania gave at the convention!

* *Here is a comparison of sections of both speeches * * *


You can see the comparison here: Part of Melania Trump’s Speech Sounds an Awful Lot Like Part of Michelle Obama DNC Speech

The measure of a man made obvious by what he says…

Cue the ‘Freedom Kids’ who performed a bizarre tribute song to Trump at a Florida rally, USA. We expect to see a lot more of this…

Keeping all this in mind, here are the most disgustingly outrageous things Donald Trump has said recently:

1. “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud”

Trump was determined to “expose” President Obama’s birthplace back in 2012, and even claimed to have sent investigators to Hawaii in the hopes of proving Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

2. “Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again – just watch. He can do much better!”

Clearly Donald is a Team Edward kind of guy…

3. “Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

Trump always has charming things to say about successful, prominent women – but he stooped particularly low with this comment about Huffington Post founder.

4. “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” 

Trump proves (again) that he views a woman’s looks over anything else…

6.  “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” 

Oh for goodness sake.

7. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” 

Just another casually racial slur, then…

8. “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.”

Don’t worry, his racist outbursts aren’t just directed at Mexico.

9. “If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”

Trump has infamously hated on Rosie O’Donnell, making crude, sexist and misogynistic remarks about her on multiple occasions.

10. “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

Because of course, no woman can resist Trump’s charms. [Throws up on keyboard]

11. “One of they key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”

Well at least he’s showing some self awareness.

12. “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

And not that fabulous barnet of yours?

13. “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”

Definitely not missing the point…

14. “I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Possibly (/definitely) one of the creepiest things we’ve ever heard…

15. “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”


16. “I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.”

We’re glad he’s so concerned about the obesity crisis.

17. “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

Women aren’t possessions, Donald. They can’t belong to you.

18. “You’re disgusting.”

To put this into context, Donald Trump said this to the opposing lawyer during a court case when she asked for a medical break to pump breast milk for her three-month-old daughter.

19. “The point is, you can never be too greedy.”

Campaign slogan = sorted.

20. “Sorry, there is no STAR on the stage tonight!”

In his Twitter liveblogging of the Democratic debate, Trump seemed to think he was watching a talent show rather than looking for the next POTUS.

21. “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”

We think Donald may be overestimating the power of Twitter.

22. “My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

Don’t worry, we won’t.

23. “I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”

What does that even mean?

24. “The other candidates — they went in, they didn’t know the air conditioning didn’t work. They sweated like dogs…How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.” 

Because sweating = the inability to solve a political crisis. Gotcha.

25. “Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

Along with the petition to keep him out of the UK, can we also campaign for Trump to stop talking about his penis?

26. “Thanks sweetie. That’s nice”

Said Donald in typically patronising style to a female 9/11 survivor. Inappropriate – and quite creepy.

27. “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

Threatening your opponent’s wife on Twitter? Stay classy, Don…

28. “I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down”

Ah 7-Eleven, great convenience store, and def not to be confused with a national tragedy and symbol of global terrorism, eh Trump?

29. “The only card [Hillary Clinton] has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else to offer and frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”



Day Three: RNC 2016

Morning Reads: GOP Platform Would Push Us Back Decades on Climate; Trump Preparing Purge of Government Employees?

A roundup of some of the stories we’re reading at HQ… July 20, 2016

Convention-goers celebrate after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won the nomination on the second day of the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

No longer “presumptive” –> Donald Trump is now the actual Republican presidential nominee although his formal acceptance speech isn’t until tomorrow night. The delegate roll call Tuesday evening was choreographed so that Trump’s home state of New York would be the one to make it official. The New York Times: “The hall echoed with the strains of ‘New York, New York.’ Giant screens hanging over the arena glittered with an animation of gold fireworks and a three-word proclamation: ‘Over the Top.’” Appropriately, Trump wasn’t in Cleveland to celebrate his nomination in person but teleconferenced in from — where else? — New York. Manhattan’s Trump Tower, to be exact.

How Trump chose his veep –> A fascinating story by Robert Draper in The New York Times Magazine begins with a close adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich purportedly meeting with Trump’s son, Donald Jr. Despite Kasich’s candidacy against Trump and continued criticism, “Donald Jr. wanted to make [Kasich] an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

“When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

“Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

“‘Making America great again’ was the casual reply.”

Undoing decades of hard work –> America’s progress on climate change has been slow and halting, and we have not come far enough. But under Barack Obama, measures to reduce demand for fossil fuels, like his Clean Power Plan and vehicle fuel efficiency standards, have made for some of America’s biggest steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet, Steven Mufson writes for The Washington Post, “The Republican Party platform adopted Monday night would bring a total about-face on US energy and climate policy, declaring the priority placed on combating climate change under President Obama ‘the triumph of extremism over common sense, and Congress must stop it.’ The GOP platform calls coal ‘clean,’ pledges to reverse a Supreme Court ruling on the scope of the Clean Air Act, seeks to open vast amounts of federally protected public lands and waters to oil, gas and coal exploitation, rejects the Paris climate accord and Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and opposes a carbon tax. It takes aim at ‘environmental extremists’ and calls the environmental movement ‘a self-serving elite.’”

A “purge” in America? –> Reuters’ Emily Flitter: “If he wins the presidency, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would seek to purge the federal government of officials appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama and could ask Congress to pass legislation making it easier to fire public workers, Trump ally Chris Christie, said on Tuesday. Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump’s White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.”

Blow against voter ID –> Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress: “On Tuesday, a federal judge in Wisconsin handed down a decision that will drastically weaken that state’s voter-ID law, an increasingly common method of voter suppression that is often favored by conservatives because it effectively shifts the electorate rightward. Although the decision leaves the law in place, it permits voters who are unable to obtain an ID to sign an affidavit at the polls testifying to that inability and to receive a ballot.”

Study on police use of force

A new study confirms that black men and women are treated differently in the hands of law enforcement. They are more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground or pepper-sprayed by a police officer, even after accounting for how, where and when they encounter the police.

But when it comes to the most lethal form of force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias.

“It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Roland G. Fryer Jr., the author of the study and a professor of economics at Harvard. The study examined more than 1,000 shootings in 10 major police departments, in Texas, Florida and California.

The result contradicts the image of police shootings that many Americans hold after the killings (some captured on video) of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Walter Scott in South Carolina; Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.; and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

The study did not say whether the most egregious examples — those at the heart of the nation’s debate on police shootings — are free of racial bias. Instead, it examined a larger pool of shootings, including nonfatal ones.

The counterintuitive results provoked debate after the study was posted on Monday, mostly about the volume of police encounters and the scope of the data. Mr. Fryer emphasizes that the work is not the definitive analysis of police shootings, and that more data would be needed to understand the country as a whole. This work focused only on what happens once the police have stopped civilians, not on the risk of being stopped at all. Other research has shown that blacks are more likely to be stopped by the police.

Continue reading Study on police use of force

Repeat, retry, fail


Fossil Fuels Forever

Tomgram: Michael Klare, Fossil Fuels Forever | TomDispatch

The Unyielding Grip of Fossil Fuels on Global Life
By Michael T. Klare

Here’s the good news: wind power, solar power, and other renewable forms of energy are expanding far more quickly than anyone expected, ensuring that these systems will provide an ever-increasing share of our future energy supply.  According to the most recent projections from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy, global consumption of wind, solar, hydropower, and other renewables will double between now and 2040, jumping from 64 to 131 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs).

And here’s the bad news: the consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas is also growing, making it likely that, whatever the advances of renewable energy, fossil fuels will continue to dominate the global landscape for decades to come, accelerating the pace of global warming and ensuring the intensification of climate-change catastrophes.

The rapid growth of renewable energy has given us much to cheer about.  Not so long ago, energy analysts were reporting that wind and solar systems were too costly to compete with oil, coal, and natural gas in the global marketplace.  Renewables would, it was then assumed, require pricey subsidies that might not always be available.  That was then and this is now.  Today, remarkably enough, wind and solar are already competitive with fossil fuels for many uses and in many markets.

If that wasn’t predicted, however, neither was this: despite such advances, the allure of fossil fuels hasn’t dissipated.  Individuals, governments, whole societies continue to opt for such fuels even when they gain no significant economic advantage from that choice and risk causing severe planetary harm.  Clearly, something irrational is at play.  Think of it as the fossil-fuel equivalent of an addictive inclination writ large.

The contradictory and troubling nature of the energy landscape is on clear display in the 2016 edition of the International Energy Outlook, the annual assessment of global trends released by the EIA this May.  The good news about renewables gets prominent attention in the report, which includes projections of global energy use through 2040.  “Renewables are the world’s fastest-growing energy source over the projection period,” it concludes.  Wind and solar are expected to demonstrate particular vigor in the years to come, their growth outpacing every other form of energy.  But because renewables start from such a small base — representing just 12% of all energy used in 2012 — they will continue to be overshadowed in the decades ahead, explosive growth or not.  In 2040, according to the report’s projections, fossil fuels will still have a grip on a staggering 78% of the world energy market, and — if you don’t mind getting thoroughly depressed — oil, coal, and natural gas will each still command larger shares of the market than all renewables combined.

Keep in mind that total energy consumption is expected to be much greater in 2040 than at present.  At that time, humanity will be using an estimated 815 quadrillion BTUs (compared to approximately 600 quadrillion today).  In other words, though fossil fuels will lose some of their market share to renewables, they will still experience striking growth in absolute terms.  Oil consumption, for example, is expected to increase by 34% from 90 million to 121 million barrels per day by 2040.  Despite all the negative publicity it’s been getting lately, coal, too, should experience substantial growth, rising from 153 to 180 quadrillion BTUs in “delivered energy” over this period.  And natural gas will be the fossil-fuel champ, with global demand for it jumping by 70%.  Put it all together and the consumption of fossil fuels is projected to increase by 177 quadrillion BTUs, or 38%, over the period the report surveys.

Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of climate science has to shudder at such projections.  After all, emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels account for approximately three-quarters of the greenhouse gases humans are putting into the atmosphere.  An increase in their consumption of such magnitude will have a corresponding impact on the greenhouse effect that is accelerating the rise in global temperatures.

At the United Nations Climate Summit in Paris last December, delegates from more than 190 countries adopted a plan aimed at preventing global warming from exceeding 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial level.  This target was chosen because most scientists believe that any warming beyond that will result in catastrophic and irreversible climate effects, including the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps (and a resulting sea-level rise of 10-20 feet).  Under the Paris Agreement, the participating nations signed onto a plan to take immediate steps to halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and then move to actual reductions.  Although the agreement doesn’t specify what measures should be taken to satisfy this requirement — each country is obliged to devise its own “intended nationally determined contributions” to the overall goal — the only practical approach for most countries would be to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

As the 2016 EIA report makes eye-poppingly clear, however, the endorsers of the Paris Agreement aren’t on track to reduce their consumption of oil, coal, and natural gas.  In fact, greenhouse gas emissions are expected to rise by an estimated 34% between 2012 and 2040 (from 32.3 billion to 43.2 billion metric tons).  That net increase of 10.9 billion metric tons is equal to the total carbon emissions of the United States, Canada, and Europe in 2012.  If such projections prove accurate, global temperatures will rise, possibly significantly above that 2 degree mark, with the destructive effects of climate change we are already witnessing today — the fires, heat waves, floods, droughts, storms, and sea level rise — only intensifying.
Continue reading Fossil Fuels Forever

How the Age of Acquiescence Came to an End

Tomgram: Steve Fraser, How the Age of Acquiescence Came to an End | TomDispatch

Bernie, The Donald, and the Sins of Liberalism
An American Version of Class Struggle
By Steve Fraser

Arising from the shadows of the American repressed, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have been sending chills through the corridors of establishment power. Who would have thunk it? Two men, both outliers, though in starkly different ways, seem to be leading rebellions against the masters of our fate in both parties; this, after decades in which even imagining such a possibility would have been seen as naïve at best, delusional at worst. Their larger-than-life presence on the national stage may be the most improbable political development of the last American half-century.  It suggests that we are entering a new phase in our public life.

A year ago, in my book The Age of Acquiescence, I attempted to resolve a mystery hinted at in its subtitle: “The rise and fall of American resistance to organized wealth and power.” Simply stated, that mystery was: Why do people rebel at certain moments and acquiesce in others?Resisting all the hurts, insults, threats to material well-being, exclusions, degradations, systematic inequalities, over-lordship, indignities, and powerlessness that are the essence of everyday life for millions would seem natural enough, even inescapable, if not inevitable. Why put up with all that?

Historically speaking, however, the impulse to give in has proven no less natural.  After all, to resist is often to risk yourself, your means of livelihood, and your way of life.  To rise up means to silence those intimidating internal voices warning that the overlords have the right to rule by virtue of their wisdom, wealth, and everything that immemorial custom decrees.  Fear naturally closes in.

In our context, then, why at certain historical moments have Americans shown a striking ability to rise up, at other times to submit?

To answer that question, I explored those years in the first gilded age of the nineteenth century when millions of Americans took to the streets to protest, often in the face of the armed might of the state, and the period in the latter part of the twentieth century and the first years of this one when the label “the age of acquiescence” seemed eminently reasonable — until, in 2016, it suddenly didn’t.

So consider this essay a postscript to that work, my perhaps belated realization that the age of acquiescence has indeed come to an end.  Millions are now, of course, feeling the Bern and cheering The Donald.  Maybe I should have paid more attention to the first signs of what was to come as I was finishing my book: the Tea Party on the right, and on the left Occupy Wall Street, strikes by low-wage workers, minimum and living wage movements, electoral victories for urban progressives, a surge of environmental activism, and the eruption of the Black Lives Matter movement just on the eve of publication.

But when you live for so long in the shade of acquiescence where hope goes to die or at least grows sickly, you miss such things.  After all, if history has a logic, it can remain so deeply hidden as to be indecipherable… until it bites.  So, for example, if someone had X-rayed American society in 1932, in the depth of the Great Depression, that image would have revealed a body politic overrun with despair, cynicism, fatalism, and fear — in a word, acquiescence, a mood that had shadowed the land since “black Tuesday” and the collapse of the stock market in 1929.

Yet that same X-ray taken in 1934, just two years later, would have revealed a firestorm of mass strikes, general strikes, sit-down strikes, rent strikes, seizures of shuttered coal mines and utilities by people who were cold and lightless, marches of the unemployed, and a general urge to unseat the ancien régime; in a word, rebellion.  In this way, the equilibrium of a society can shift phases in the blink of an eye and without apparent warning (although in hindsight historians and others will explore all the reasons everybody should have seen it coming).

Liberalism vs. Liberalism

Anticipated or not, a new age of rebellion has begun, one that threatens the status quo from the left and the right.  Perhaps its most shocking aspect: people are up in arms against liberalism.

That makes no sense, right?  How can it, when come November the queen of liberalism will face off against the billionaire standard bearer of Republicanism?  In the end, the same old same old, yes?  Liberal vs. conservative.

Well, not really.  If you think of Hillary as the “limousine liberal” of this election season and The Donald as the right-wing “populist in pinstripes,” and consider how each of them shimmied their way to the top of the heap and who they had to fend off to get there, a different picture emerges.  Clinton inherits the mantle of a liberalism that has hollowed out the American economy and metastasized the national security state. It has confined the remnants of any genuine egalitarianism to the attic of the Democratic Party so as to protect the vested interests of the oligarchy that runs things.  That elite has no quarrel with racial and gender equality as long as they don’t damage the bottom line, which is after all the defining characteristic of the limousine liberalism Hillary champions.  Trump channels the hostility generated by that neoliberal indifference to the well-being of working people and its scarcely concealed cultural contempt for heartland America into a racially inflected anti-establishmentarianism. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders targets Clintonian liberalism from the other shore.  Liberalism is, in other words, besieged.

The Sixties Take on Liberalism

How odd!  For decades “progressives” have found themselves defending the achievements of liberal reform from the pitiless assault of an ascendant conservatism.  It’s hard to remember that the liberal vs. conservative equation didn’t always apply (and so may not again).

Go back half a century to the 1960s, however, and the battlefield seems not dissimilar to today’s terrain.  That was a period when the Vietnam antiwar movement indicted liberalism for its imperialism in the name of democracy, while the civil rights and black power movements called it out for its political alliance with segregationists in the South.

In those years, the New Left set up outposts in urban badlands where liberalism’s boast about the U.S. being an “affluent society” seemed like a cruel joke.  Students occupied campus buildings to say no to the bureaucratization of higher education and the university’s servitude to another liberal offspring, the military-industrial complex.  Women severed the knot tying the liberal ideal of the nuclear family to its gendered hierarchy.  The counterculture exhibited its contempt for liberalism’s sense of propriety in a thousand ways.  No hairstyle conventions, marriage contracts, sexual inhibitions, career ambitions, religious orthodoxies, clothing protocols, racial taboos, or chemical prohibitions escaped unscathed.

Liberalism adjusted, however.  It has since taken credit for most of the reforms associated with that time.  Civil rights laws, the war on poverty (including Medicare and Medicaid), women’s rights, affirmative action, and the erasure of cultural discrimination are now a de rigueur part of the CVs of Democratic presidents and the party’s top politicians, those running the mainstream media, the chairmen of leading liberal foundations, Ivy League college presidents, high-end Protestant theologians and clerics, and so many others who proudly display the banner of liberalism.  And they do deserve some of the credit.  They may have genuinely felt that “Bern” of yesteryear, the one crying out for equal rights before the law.

More importantly, those liberal elites were wise enough or malleable enough, or both, to surf the waves of rebellion of that time.  Wisdom and flexibility, however, are only part of the answer to this riddle: Why did mid-twentieth century liberalism manage to reform itself instead of cracking up under the pressure of that sixties moment?  The deeper explanation may be that the uprisings of those years assaulted liberalism — but largely on behalf of liberalism. Explicitly at times, as in the Port Huron Statement, that founding document of the ur-New Left group, Students for a Democratic Society, at other times by implication, the rebellions of that moment demanded that the liberal order live up to its own sacred credo of liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness.

The demand to open the system up became the heart and soul of the next phase of liberalism, of the urge to empower the free individual. Today, we might recognize this as the classic Clintonista desire to let all-comers join “the race to the top.”

Looking back, it’s been customary to treat the sixties as an era of youth rebellion.  While more than that, it certainly could be understood, in part, as an American version of fathers and sons (not to speak of mothers and daughters). An older generation had created the New Deal order, itself an act of historic rebellion. As it happened, that creation didn’t fit well with a Democratic Party whose southern wing, embedded in the segregationist former Confederacy, rested on Jim Crow laws and beliefs. Nor did New Deal social welfare reforms that presumed a male breadwinner/head of household, while excluding underclasses, especially (but not only) those of the wrong complexion from its protections, square with a yearning for equality.

Moreover, the New Deal saved a capitalist economy laid low in the Great Depression by installing a new political economy of mass consumption.  While a wondrous material accomplishment, that was also a socially disabling development, nourishing a culture of status-seeking individualism and so undermining the sense of social solidarity that had made the New Deal possible.  Finally, in the Cold War years, it became clear that prosperity and democracy at home depended on an imperial relationship with the rest of the world and the garrisoning of the planet.  In the famed phrase of Life Magazine publisher Henry Luce, an “American Century”  was born.

Uprisings against that ossifying version of New Deal liberalism made the sixties “The Sixties.”  Political emotions were at a fever pitch as rebels faced off against a liberal “establishment.”  Matters sometimes became so overheated they threatened to melt the surface of public life.  And yet here was a question that, no matter the temperature, was tough to raise at the time: What if liberalism wasn’t the problem?  Admittedly, that thought was in the air then, raised not just by new and old lefties, but by Martin Luther King who famously enunciated his second thoughts about capitalism, poverty, race, and war in speeches like “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”

Most of the rebels of that moment, however, clung to the ancestral faith.  In the end, they were convinced that once equilibrium was restored, a more modern liberalism, shorn of its imperfections, could become a safe haven by excluding nobody. Indicted in those years for its hypocrisy and bad faith, it would be cleansed.

Thanks to those mass rebellions and the persistent if less fiery efforts that followed for decades, the hypocrisy of exclusion, whether of blacks, women, gays, or others, would indeed largely be ended. Or so it seemed. The liberalism inherited from the New Deal had been cleansed — not entirely to be sure and not without fierce resistance, but then again, nothing’s perfect, is it?  End of hypocrisy.  End of story.

The Missing Link

Yet at the dawning of the new millennium a paradox began to emerge.  Liberal society had proved compatible with justice for all and an equal shot at the end zone.  Strangely, however, in its ensuing glorious new world, the one Bill Clinton presided over, liberty, justice, and equality all seemed to be on short rations.

If not the liberal order, then something else was spoiling things.  After all, the everyday lives of so many ordinary Americans were increasingly constrained by economic anxiety and a vertiginous sense of social freefall.  They experienced feelings of being shut out and scorned, of suffering from a hard-to-define political disenfranchisement, of being surveilled at work (if they had it) and probably elsewhere if not, of fearing the future rather than hoping for what it might bring their way.

Brave and audacious as they were, rarely had the rebel movements of the fabled sixties or those that followed explicitly challenged the underlying distribution of property and power in American society.  And yet if liberalism had proved compatible enough with liberty, equality, and democracy, capitalism was another matter.

The liberal elite that took credit for opening up that race to the top had also at times presided over a neoliberal capitalism which had, for decades, been damaging the lives of working people of all colors.  (Indeed, nowadays Hillary expends a lot of effort trying to live down the legacy of mass incarceration bequeathed by her husband.)  But Republicans have more than shared in this; they have, in fact, often taken the lead in implanting a market- and finance-driven economic system that has produced a few “winners” and legions of losers. Both parties heralded a deregulated marketplace, global free trade, the outsourcing of manufacturing and other industries, the privatization of public services, and the shrink-wrapping of the social safety net.  All of these together gutted towns and cities as well as whole regions (think: Rust Belt America) and ways of life.

In the process, the New Deal Democratic Party’s tradition of resisting economic exploitation and inequality vaporized, while the “new Democrats” of the Clinton era and beyond, as well as many in the boardrooms of the Fortune 500 and in hedge-fund America, continued to champion equal rights for all.  They excoriated conservative attempts to rollback protections against racial, gender, and sexual discrimination; but the one thing they didn’t do — none of them — was disturb the equanimity of the 1%.

And what does freedom and equality amount to in the face of that?  For some who could — thanks to those breakthroughs — participate in the “race to the top,” it amounted to a lot.  For many millions more, however, who have either been riding the down escalator or already lived near or at the bottom of society, it has been a mockery, a hollow promise, something (as George Carlin once noted) we still call the American Dream because “you have to be asleep to believe in it.”

Given their hand in abetting this painful dilemma, the new Democrats seemed made for the already existing sobriquet — a kind of curse invented by the populist right — “limousine liberal.”  An emblem of hypocrisy, it was conceived and first used in 1969 not by the left but by figures in that then-nascent right-wing movement.  The image of a silk-stocking crowd to-the-manner born, bred and educated to rule, networked into the circuits of power and wealth, professing a concern for the downtrodden but not about to surrender any privileges to alleviate their plight (yet prepared to demand that everyone else pony up) has lodged at the heart of American politics ever since.  In our time, it has been the magnetic North of right-wing populism.
Continue reading How the Age of Acquiescence Came to an End

The costs of monopolies

Economist’s View: The Costs of Monopoly: A New View

The Costs of Monopoly: A New View

by James Schmitz: – July 2016

The Costs of Monopoly: A New View, The Region, FRB Minneapolis: Economists overwhelmingly agree that the actual costs of monopoly are small, even trivial. This consensus is based on a theory that assumes monopolies are well-run businesses that limit their output in order to drive up prices and maximize profit. And because empirical studies have found that monopolists do not restrict output or raise prices by very much, most economists have concluded that monopolies inflict relatively little harm on the economy.

In this essay, I review recent research that upends both the theoretical and empirical elements of this consensus view.2 This research shows that monopolies are not well-run businesses, but instead are deeply inefficient. Monopolies do drive up prices, as conventional theory suggests, but because they also reduce productivity, they often ultimately destroy most of an industry’s profits. These productivity losses are a dead-weight loss for the economy, and far from trivial.

The new research also shows that monopolists typically increase prices by using political machinery to limit the output of competing products—usually by blocking low-cost substitutes. By limiting supply of these competing products, the monopolist drives up demand for its own. Thus, in contrast to conventional theory, the monopolist actually produces more of its own product than it would in a competitive market, not less. But because production of the substitutes is restricted, total output falls.

The reduction in productivity exacts a toll on all of society. But the blocking of low-cost substitutes particularly harms the poor, who might not be able to afford the monopolist’s product. Thus, monopolies drive the poor out of many markets.

Continue reading The costs of monopolies

TIDCA: n, acronym for “things I don’t care about”

Somewhat akin to the “bucket list”, is what could be called the “f**kit list”, or things I don’t care about. Once a list is stidcatarted, it develops a mind of it’s own – as in:

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Manga, Duck Dynasty, iWatch, Wingnut commentators, Kardashians, Nugent/Norris/Tebow/Palin/Coulter/Malkin, most of the 2016 D/R Presidential aspirants, Noah’s Ark facsimile, Fox bleached blondes talking heads, soccer, basketball, religions of any flavor, what’s on TV, sTrumpf’s outrage of the day, shaved heads, how much money my neighbors have, Gangsta Rap, tabloid news, 90+% of the stuff I receive in email and at the Post Office, porn, Creationism, processed imitation food, tats, what I did or didn’t do in ancient history, unprovable beliefs of every kind, ISIS, games of chance, “Reality TV”,  propaganda, Kim’s of several flavors, Faux News, video shoot-em-up games, Israeli politics, GMO food, obsessions over brands, Kanye West/Taylor Swift, people who believe they are in sole possession of truth with a capital T, fake science, fake boobs, fake news, and lists.

  • – – – – OTOH- – – things that I really do care about:

physical conditions of the natural world: air, water, land, life forms; logical reasoning; evidence based proofs; love, care and concern for others; art with vision, integrity, and gravitas; personal willingness to confront barbarity in any form; “inspired” play in sports, especially individual play; natural laws of the cosmos; the power and beauty of mathematics; the continuing development of the human mind; respect and consideration for everything one encounters in life; fairness, honesty, integrity, morality, and applied effort in all tasks undertaken; reasonable boundaries on duty and diligence; basic decency in grooming, actions, and interactions with others; intelligence that seeks to learn what something is, not just it’s name; fidelity to spouse/mate; people who love their pets but do not anthropomorphize or ‘sissyfy’ them;  time and distance in the cosmos; the hopes and aspirations bound up in Voyager, SETI and Hubble; the mighty illusions of societies; skilled artisans and their works; multi-lingualism; left-handedness; planetary mass extinctions; Pokemon Go, entropy; the art, craft, intensity, dedication, and effort directed toward giving pleasure, joy, and thankfulness to others.

Refugees are straining social systems across the Western World

Journeyman Philosopher: How xenophobia is undermining our democracy

by Paul P. Mealing – July 2016

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Today, in Australia, we are having a Federal election and there is a very large elephant in the room.  Tony Abbott (former conservative Prime Minister, who was ousted by his own party) made the point, a couple of days out from polling day (today) that there were 2 issues that were never discussed or debated in the election campaign. One was so-called ‘border protection’ and the other was something I’ve since forgotten, so obviously not as important to me as it was to Tony. In a perverse sort of way, he is right: border protection is all about how we treat asylum seekers. It’s a euphemism for offshore detention on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The reason that it was never raised is because both of the major parties are too ashamed to mention it and, besides, everyone knows that refugees can’t vote. As a consequence, for the first time in my life I refuse to vote for either of the major parties.

It’s a pity we can’t time travel – Dr Who style into the future – so we can see how future generations judge Australia in this page of our history. I’m pretty sure it won’t be flattering.  Pauline Hanson’s political skills are rudimentary at best and her political party has floundered, imploded and all but self-destructed, yet her influence on Australian refugee policy will go down in history as an example of how democracy can bring out the worst characteristics of humanity and conquer compassion, tolerance and charitable instincts. Her ego must be currently inflated beyond the bounds of all reason when she looks to America and sees that one of the contenders for the most powerful position in the free world holds the same contempt for outsiders as she does.

Not that Australia is in any position to admonish Trump when we have the most draconian, morally bankrupt, human rights-defying, democracy-eroding policy towards asylum seekers in the Western world. Why democracy-eroding, you may ask. Journalistic freedom is the measure of any democracy anywhere in the world. When we hide activities, involving human rights, from the media under the guise of national security, democracy is weakened. The Government does not want us to know what’s happening on Manus Island or Nauru and have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Australian public in the dark. It’s a human rights catastrophe, and if I’m wrong then let the media report on it. Where else in the so-called free world can health professionals be threatened with jail for reporting on human rights abuses by agents of their own government. This is not democracy. What makes this law so perverse is that health professionals have a legal obligation to do the exact opposite when it comes to abuses on mainland Australia.
Continue reading Refugees are straining social systems across the Western World

Self test of cognitive abilities


Note: One of the results of the aging process in senior citizens is the increased susceptibility to various forms of dementia. Currently the incidence is roughly one in ten people over the age of seventy, and for those eighty and over it rises to one in eight. Unfortunately select groups have a much higher incidence rate,  rising to one in three.

It is somewhat difficult for a person to self-diagnose their level of impairment, but there is a fairly simple and painless way: take a test periodically to measure your cognitive abilities, and memory. This is not to see where your score is relative to someone else, but rather to take the same test over a period of time, and see whether there is a significant change in your score from previous tests.

The following is one I recommend since it focuses a lot of attention on memory, which is where the results from dementia becomes most apparent.

Take the test, record your score…wait six month or a year and do it again. If you detect a significant decline, consider professional counseling or medical care.

Here is the test: 

On a related issue, in response to several recent studies testing the efficacy of marijuana in the treatment of dementia, there is at least one study which shows that THC does indeed have therapeutic value – by assisting the brain control the growth of the plaque associated with Alzheimer.

The methodology and findings of the study are available here:…/journal-of-alzheime…/jad140093. – while the summary statement was clear on the basic finding: “These sets of data strongly suggest that THC could be a potential therapeutic treatment option for Alzheimer’s disease through multiple functions and pathways.”

Other studies downplayed the efficacy of THC treatments and asserted there are two additional areas of concern: a) use of synthetic THC in pill form versus other forms, and b) the potential for addiction. Given enlightened considerations regarding the routine use of marijuana by senior citizens leads many to assert the actual and potential benefits far outweigh any potential hazards.

Holistic Snake Oil Salesman Mike Adams oops…

UnNatural News: The Health Ranger Sells Formaldehyde

by Mark Aaron Alsip

mike adams formaldehyde

For the most part, the scientific world simply laughs at Mike Adams, the self-proclaimed “Health Ranger”.  Adams’ web site, Natural News, regularly publishes supermarket tabloid-style articles on topics such as life on Mars being wiped out by ancient aliens, World War III possibly already being underway, and both 9/11 and the Sandy Hook massacre being hoaxes.  And who can forget this side-splitting video1 of Adams and a puppet expressing (in song) their scientific illiteracy about GMOs?

But there’s a serious, darker side to The Ranger.  In addition to spouting medical misinformation that could actually cost real human lives, such as the well-debunked view that vaccines are dangerous and pushing ineffective holistic cancer cures that don’t work, Mike Adams is selling merchandise that contains the very same chemicals he claims will kill you.

To illustrate this last point, let’s go shopping at  Having been bent over in the garden doing a lot of weeding these past few weeks, my back is killing me.  The Health Ranger promises that this bottle of NutraCool topical pain relief formula will cure what ails me:2

nutracool product formaldehyde

NutraCool, on sale in the Natural News store, contains an ingredient Mike Adams links to cancer. (click/enlarge)

Before I buy though, I’m keen to take the advice of Mr. Adams and learn what’s in the product I’m considering putting on my body.  If you read Natural News regularly, there are supposedly a lot of sneaky toxic chemicals out there in the cold cruel world–not all of them sitting out in plain sight.  Why, here… check out this advice on hidden formaldehyde in cosmetics and skin care products:

“Formaldehyde is a highly toxic chemical that is still used under the guise of different ingredient names that don’t include “formaldehyde” in the title in a large number of products that are frequently in close contact with consumers.” 3

One of those devious, hidden formaldehyde sources, according to the Health Ranger?  Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.  This compound is sometimes used as a preservative in cosmetics, much to the chagrin of astroturf “consumer advocate” sites quoted by Adams, such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which warns that sodium hydroxymethylglycinate can slowly release formaldehyde into cosmetics over time.

Why might this matter to Mike Adams?

“Formaldehyde is highly effective as a preservative; however, it is also highly toxic to our immune system, nervous system and is also a major carcinogen.” 3

Health Ranger says to avoid sodium hydroxymethylglycinate in personal care products and links it to myriad diseases.  Do you see where this is going?  Maestro, cue the ominous drum roll.  Let’s even add some scary claps of thunder, because this is going to be big.  Without further ado, I present the ingredients in the UltraCool pain relief gel sold by

natural news nutra cool

NutraCool ingredients

As Minnie Mouse said to Mickey on their wedding night:  Eek!  There it is in all its glory… sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, the chemical compound Natural News links via formaldehyde to cancer, neurotoxicity, and immune system disfunction.

If Mike Adams is a health “Ranger”, his (moral) compass doesn’t appear to be pointing due north.
Continue reading Holistic Snake Oil Salesman Mike Adams oops…

Caring for loved ones with dementia

Dementia Care Dos & Don’ts: Dealing with Dementia Behavior Problems
Posted On 14 Jan 2016 – by : Sarah Stevenson
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Mid-to-late stage dementia and Alzheimer’s disease often presents challenging behavior problems. The anger, sadness, paranoia, confusion and fear that people with the disease are experiencing can result in oppositional, aggressive and sometimes violent speech or actions.Dementia Care Dos & Dont’s: Dealing with Dementia Behavior

Understand and learn which strategies are most effective in dementia behavior management.

Dealing with Dementia Behavior

Communication difficulties can be one of the most upsetting aspects of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia — and it’s frustrating for those with the disease and for loved ones. Although it can be hard to understand why people with dementia act the way they do, the explanation is attributable to their disease and the changes it causes in the brain.

Familiarize yourself with some of the common situations that arise when someone has dementia, so that if your loved one says something shocking, you’ll know how to respond calmly and effectively.

Common Situation #1: Aggressive Speech or Actions

Examples: Statements such as “I don’t want to take a shower!,” “I want to go home!,” or “I don’t want to eat that!” may escalate into aggressive behavior.

Explanation: The most important thing to remember about verbal or physical aggression, says the Alzheimer’s Association, is that your loved one is not doing it on purpose. Aggression is usually triggered by something—often physical discomfort, environmental factors such as being in an unfamiliar situation, or even poor communication. “A lot of times aggression is coming from pure fear,” says Tresa Mariotto, Family Ambassador at Silverado Senior Living in Bellingham, WA. “People with dementia are more apt to hit, kick or bite” in response to feeling helpless or afraid.

Ann Napoletan, who writes for, is all too familiar with this situation.

“As my mom’s disease progressed, so did the mood swings. She could be perfectly fine one moment, and the next she was yelling and getting physical. Often, it remained a mystery as to what prompted the outburst. For her caregivers, it was often getting dressed or bathing that provoked aggression.”

DO: The key to responding to aggression caused by dementia is to try to identify the cause—what is the person feeling to make them behave aggressively? Once you’ve made sure they aren’t putting themselves (or anyone else) in danger, you can try to shift the focus to something else, speaking in a calm, reassuring manner.

“This is where truly knowing your loved one is so important,” says Napoletan. “In my mom’s case, she didn’t like to be fussed over. If she was upset, oftentimes trying to talk to her and calm her down only served to agitate her more. Likewise, touching her–even to try and hold her hand or gently rub her arm or leg–might result in her taking a swing. The best course of action in that case was to walk away and let her have the space she needed.”

DON’T: “The worst thing you can do is engage in an argument or force the issue that’s creating the aggression,” Napoletan says. “Don’t try to forcibly restrain the person unless there is absolutely no choice.” Mariotto agrees: “The biggest way to stop aggressive behavior is to remove the word ‘no’ from your vocabulary.”

Common Situation #2: Confusion About Time or Place

Examples: Statements such as “I want to go home!”, “This isn’t my house.”, “When are we leaving? “Why are we here?”

Explanation: Wanting to go home is one of the most common reactions for an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient living in a memory care facility. Remember that Alzheimer’s causes progressive damage to cognitive functioning, and this is what creates the confusion and memory loss.

There’s also a psychological component, says Mariotto:

“Often people are trying to go back to a place where they had more control in their lives.”

DO: There are a few possible ways to respond to questions that indicate your loved one is confused about where he or she is. Simple explanations along with photos and other tangible reminders can help, suggests the Alzheimer’s Association. Sometimes, however, it can be better to redirect the person, particularly in cases where you’re in the process of moving your loved one to a facility or other location.

“The better solution is to say as little as possible about the fact that they have all of their belongings packed and instead try to redirect them–find another activity, go for a walk, get a snack, etc.,” says Napoletan. “If they ask specific questions such as ‘When are we leaving?’ you might respond with, ‘We can’t leave until later because…’ the traffic is terrible / the forecast is calling for bad weather / it’s too late to leave tonight.”

“You have to figure out what’s going to make the person feel the safest,” says Mariotto, even if that ends up being “a therapeutic lie.”

DON’T: Lengthy explanations or reasons are not the way to go. “You can’t reason with someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia,” says Ann. “It just can’t be done.” In fact, says Mariotto. “A lot of times we’re triggering the response that we’re getting because of the questions we’re asking.”

This was another familiar situation for Ann and her mother. “I learned this one the hard way. We went through a particularly long spell where every time I came to see my mom, she would have everything packed up ready to go–EVERYTHING! Too many times, I tried to reason with her and explain that she was home; this was her new home. Inevitably things would get progressively worse.”

Common Situation #3: Poor Judgment or Cognitive Problems

Examples: Unfounded accusations: “You stole my vacuum cleaner!” Trouble with math or finances: “I’m having trouble with the tip on this restaurant bill.” Other examples include unexplained hoarding or stockpiling and repetition of statements or tasks.

Explanation: The deterioration of brain cells caused by Alzheimer’s is a particular culprit in behaviors showing poor judgment or errors in thinking. These can contribute to delusions, or untrue beliefs. Some of these problems are obvious, such as when someone is hoarding household items, or accuses a family member of stealing something. Some are more subtle, however, and the person may not realize that they are having trouble with things that they never used to think twice about.

According to Napoletan,

“There came a time when I began to suspect my mom was having problems keeping financial records in order. At the time, she was living independently and was very adamant about remaining in her house. Any discussion to the contrary, or really any comment that eluded to the fact that she may be slipping, was met with either rage or tears. It was when she asked me to help with her taxes that I noticed the checking account was a mess.”

DO: First you’ll want to assess the extent of the problem. “If you’re curious and don’t want to ask, take a look at a heating bill,” suggests Mariotto. “Sometimes payments are delinquent or bills aren’t being paid at all.” You can also flip through their checkbook and look at the math, or have them figure out the tip at a restaurant.

The Alzheimer’s Association says to be encouraging and reassuring if you’re seeing these changes happen. Also, you can often minimize frustration and embarrassment by offering help in small ways with staying organized. This is what Napoletan did for her mother: “As I sifted through records to complete her tax return, I gently mentioned noticing a couple of overdraft fees and asked if the bank had perhaps made a mistake. As we talked through it, she volunteered that she was having more and more difficulty keeping things straight, knew she had made some errors, and asked if I would mind helping with the checkbook going forward. I remember her being so relieved after we talked about it.” From there, over time, Napoletan was gradually able to gain more control over her mother’s finances.

DON’T: What you shouldn’t do in these circumstances is blatantly question the person’s ability to handle the situation at hand, or try to argue with them. “Any response that can be interpreted as accusatory or doubting the person’s ability to handle their own affairs only serves to anger and put them on the defensive,” says Napoletan.

Are you a caregiver or family member of someone with dementia? Do any of these situations sound familiar to you? We want to hear your stories — share them with us in the comments below.


World Population Day 2016


World Population Day 2016: 7.4 Billion and Counting!
Welcome to the World Population Day update from the Global Population Speak Out campaign. In this edition, you’ll find out about a new population-related documentary, “Sense & Sustainability.” You can see the trailer embedded below and can participate in promoting the film and the accompanying educational package by clicking here.
Next, read a World Population Day essay written by Bob Engelman (author of More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want). Bob is also the creator of the recently published Family Planning and Environmental Sustainability Assessment (FPESA) study, which found wide-ranging scientific literature affirming that the practice of voluntary family planning promotes environmental sustainability.
We also urge you to take note of an important new study from Guttmacher Institute, which corrects the myths around “lack of access” to contraception in the developing world. “High levels of unmet need are sometimes interpreted as evidence of a lack of access to contraceptive supplies and services in developing countries. This interpretation is oversimplified, however,” says the study’s introduction. “Whether married or not, women with unmet need rarely say that they are unaware of contraception, that they do not have access to a source, or that it costs too much.” The percentage who actually do “lack access” is reported to be 5%. Meanwhile, fear of health effects and personal or spousal opposition to contraception account for 49% of non-use. 

Continue reading World Population Day 2016

Selecting Delete is an incomplete option

delete Social media offers many opportunities to view a huge variety of information, data, images, sounds, and sensations, some obtained by choice, some by chance, and some against one’s preferences. In the latter case the notion has been advanced that all a person need do is to “just delete it”.  But that does not erase the presentation from one’s consciousness. Instead it remains in the mind as a ghost image, which may be referenced when the appropriate situation arises.

The nastiness, lies, dishonesty, pretense, and deceit dispensed by government, politicians, and the general public cannot be avoided; but it can be mitigated. The most popular method is by removal and isolation. The Bushmen of the Kalahari are not impacted by whatever idiocy Sarah Palin spouts when prodded, nor was Tom Hank’s character affected by the stock market behavior of FedEx while he was on the island. The “gated communities” which have sprouted up around the World are a testament to the virility of this concept of removal and isolation. However as the saying goes: “No man is an island” amply demonstrates the principle that humans are social creatures who need others, even for basic survival. It’s also difficult for all life forms to live a rich, full life as a hermit; and without progeny a species comes to an abrupt end.

Neal DeGrasse Tyson, echoing Carl Sagan, suggested a better way:

Neil deGrasse Tyson

“Knowing how to think empowers you far beyond those who know only what to think.”

This is a hallmark of enlightenment for millennia – from Plato to Einstein the process of thinking either places or removes boundaries on what to think about, and how. The scientific method, rigorous mathematics, symbolic logic, evidence based proofs, and peer review have made our technological world what it is today. A hundred years ago the fastest a person could travel was less than 50 miles per hour, fifty years ago calculations were performed mechanically. But these scientific methods alone did not neutralize dishonesty, deceit, and lies, as we still have the hydrogen bomb, Predator drones, Angels/Devils/ETs, and millions of people who ‘believe’ some empirically provable nonsense.

It makes little difference whether the frame is spiritual, social, political, or artistic a huge majority of what propels human existence is the status  quo, the “what we know”, and “what we’ve always done”. But this reliance exacts a cost when change is eminent or has occurred. T-Rex and their ilk learned this lesson the hard way.

Atheists take this principle to the extreme and assert that all -beliefs- such as in a personal supernatural entity are invalid and a relic from an earlier stage of human development; while agnostics simply assert that all the evidence is not yet in on that, and many other things as well – that we have limits, as Elliot Sobol suggested: ‘One can never prove anything right. One can only prove things wrong.” What we should concentrate on is the best available answers given our current state of knowledge.

This approach should work for many, and I recommend it as a way forward through the endless mass of STUFF which we encounter daily. Exert energy in support of verifiable proofs, show why and how something is false, refute James Randi’s notion that “you can’t prove a negative”, and as Carl Sagan demanded make sure that: “Extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary evidence”.

(to be continued…  

The pretend war

The pretend war: why bombing Isil won’t solve the problem

The deployment of our military might in Syria will exacerbate regional disorder – and it will solve nothing


Not so long ago, David Cameron declared that he was not some ‘naive neocon who thinks you can drop democracy out of an aeroplane at 40,000 feet’. Just a few weeks after making that speech, Cameron authorized UK forces to join in the bombing of Libya — where the outcome reaffirmed this essential lesson.

Soon Cameron will ask parliament to share his ‘firm conviction’ that bombing Raqqa, the Syrian headquarters of the Islamic State, has become ‘imperative’. At first glance, the case for doing so appears compelling. The atrocities in Paris certainly warrant a response. With François Hollande having declared his intention to ‘lead a war which will be pitiless’, other western nations can hardly sit on their hands; as with 9/11 and 7/7, the moment calls for solidarity. And since the RAF is already targeting Isis in Iraq, why not extend the operation to the other side of the elided border? What could be easier?

But it’s harder to establish what expanding the existing bombing campaign further will actually accomplish. Is Britain engaged in what deserves to be called a war, a term that implies politically purposeful military action? Or is the Cameron government — and the Hollande government as well — merely venting its anger, and thereby concealing the absence of clear-eyed political purpose?

Britain and France each once claimed a place among the world’s great military powers. Whether either nation today retains the will (or the capacity) to undertake a ‘pitiless’ war — presumably suggesting a decisive outcome at the far end — is doubtful. The greater risk is that, by confusing war with punishment, they exacerbate the regional disorder to which previous western military interventions have contributed.

Even without Britain doing its bit, plenty of others are willing to drop bombs on Isis on either side of the Iraq-Syria frontier. With token assistance from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, US forces have thus far flown some 57,000 sorties while completing 8,300 air strikes. United States Central Command keeps a running scorecard: 129 Isis tanks destroyed, 670 staging areas and 5,000 fighting positions plastered, and (in a newish development) 260 oil infrastructure facilities struck, with the numbers updated from one day to the next. The campaign that the Americans call Operation Inherent Resolve has been under way now for 17 months. It seems unlikely to end anytime soon.

In Westminster or the Elysée, the Pentagon’s carefully tabulated statistics are unlikely to garner much official attention, and for good reason. All these numbers make a rather depressing point: with plenty of sorties flown, munitions expended and targets hit, the results achieved, even when supplemented with commando raids, training missions and the generous distribution of arms to local forces, amount in sum to little more than military piddling. In the United States, the evident ineffectiveness of the air campaign has triggered calls for outright invasion. Pundits of a bellicose stripe, most of whom got the Iraq war of 2003 wrong, insist that a mere 10,000 or 20,000 ground troops — 50,000 tops! — will make short work of the Islamic State as a fighting force. Victory guaranteed. No sweat.

 And who knows? Notwithstanding their record of dubious military prognostications, the proponents of invade-and-occupy just might be right — in the short term. The West can evict Isis from Raqqa if it really wants to. But as we have seen in other recent conflicts, the real problems are likely to present themselves the day after victory. What then? Once in, how will we get out? Competition rather than collaboration describes relations between many of the countries opposing Isis. As Barack Obama pointed out this week, there are now two coalitions converging over Syria: a US-led one, and a Russia-led one that includes Iran. Looking for complications? With Turkey this week having shot down a Russian fighter jet — the first time a NATO member has downed a Kremlin military aircraft for half a century — the subsequent war of words between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin gives the world a glimpse into how all this could spin out of control.

Continue reading The pretend war

If we weren’t social animals, we’d still be living in caves

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Social contracts are written into our biology. As is the justice they need. The arc of our evolution has long bent towards the justice of “laws” fittest for team survival. We bred ourselves, by artificial selection, to internalize and feel strongly about social rules.

Christopher Boehm in Moral Origins concludes, after intensive analysis of 50 representative hunter-gatherer cultures, that our ancestors likely experienced a “radical political change,” evolving from a hierarchic “apelike ‘might is right’…social order,” to become more egalitarian. About 250,000 years ago, their survival became a team sport because chasing big-game toward teammates was much more productive than solo hunting. But only if profit-sharing was sustainable. Even with fit teammates hunting needs luck (e.g. 4% success today). Then, as now, the logic of social insurance solved team problems by sharing profits and risks. Productivity gains in interdependent teams radically changed our evolution. Cooperators thrived. As did teams with the best adapted sharing rules, provided they were well enforced.

Boehm says all surviving hunter-gatherers enforce law-like social rules to prevent excessive egoism, nepotism, and cronyism. They use rebukes, ridicule, shame, shunning, exile and execution (typically delegated to close male kin of the condemned, to avoid inter-family feuding). For example, meat isn’t distributed by the successful hunter but by neutral stakeholders. Excessively dominant alpha-male behavior—like hogging more than a fair share of meat—is punished by “counterdominant coalitions.” If the strong abused their power they were eliminated, in a sort of inverted eugenics. Resisting injustice and tyranny are universal traits in today’s hunter-gatherers. They likely run 10,000 generations deep in our prehistory.

Social punishment created powerful selection pressures. Self-control becomes the lowest-cost strategy for avoiding social penalties. Shame and guilt likely evolved as mechanisms for internalizing the logic of team rules—a social contract written into our biology. We intuitively recognize what is considered punishable. And often punish ourselves. Cultures configure shame and guilt system triggers differently. But rules balancing short term individual selfish gain with longer-term or team interests are more evolutionarily productive. Thinking of our evolved urges as irresistible is a deep error, since self-control, especially relative to social rules, has long been needed for survival (see “evo-irresistible error”)

Our ancestors bred themselves to be team players. They used intelligently directed artificial selection of good cooperators as mates (“auto-domestication”). Bad cooperators were less likely to be selected for, or successful at, the hugely costly and highly collaborative business of raising long helpless offspring.

Justice, wrote Hesiod, poet of the ancient Greek masses and Homer’s rival, was “Zeus’s greatest gift” to us. Greatest or not, without it human nature wouldn’t be what it is. And we wouldn’t exist.