Thursday, December 14, 2017

That Net Neutrality Op-ed in the Wall Street Journal Was Written By a Comcast Attorney

In the face of widespread opposition, the Federal Communications Commission rolled back net neutrality protections that prevented internet service providers from charging websites for faster download speeds. The vote fell along party lines. But one Democrat, Barack Obama's former Federal Trade Commission chief Jon Leibowitz, dismissed net neutrality repeal as no big deal in the pages of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. He celebrated that the FTC would get restored authority to aggressively police the internet for anti-competitive or unfair conduct.
The op-ed contained an unusual disclaimer:
Mr. Leibowitz was a Democratic commissioner at the FTC from 2004-13 and chairman beginning in 2009. As a partner at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, he represents both technology companies and broadband providers.
The reference to both industries reads as an effort to be upfront about any potential conflict of interest, but also to suggest that Leibowitz has clients on both sides of the issue, so his argument is dispassionate. Tech companies, historically, support net neutrality, while broadband providers oppose it.

But it's not entirely clear what "technology companies" Leibowitz himself represents. When asked, he directed The Intercept to the Davis Polk website, which lists a fair number of tech companies for which the corporate law firm has done business.

However, we do know Leibowitz's primary broadband client: Comcast, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the net neutrality repeal.

On his bio page, Leibowitz discloses that he has "advised Comcast Corporation in connection with a number of regulatory matters and acquisitions." More broadly, Davis Polk was a key adviser in Comcast's purchase of NBCUniversal, as well as deals with DreamWorks and Time Warner Cable (which didn't end up being approved). Comcast "has used the New York-based law firm repeatedly," according to Reuters. NBCUniversal's general counsel came from Davis Polk.

So a Comcast lawyer used the Wall Street Journal to give an "unbiased" opinion on why the net neutrality repeal represented no threat to consumers. The opinion meshed seamlessly with Comcast's own published endorsements of the FCC's action.

Senior Comcast executive David Cohen wrote yesterday, "We have repeatedly stated, and reiterate today, that we do not and will not block, throttle, or discriminate against lawful content." Leibowitz, in the op-ed, stated: "Every major broadband provider has committed not to block, throttle or unfairly discriminate against lawful content." Comcast, by the way, is actually required not to discriminate, per a consent decree from the NBC merger that expires next year.

"The order returns authority to the FTC to regulate data privacy and security for the entire Internet ecosystem under a uniform federal technology-neutral framework," wrote Cohen. Leibowitz wrote, "The plan to restore FTC jurisdiction is good for consumers because it puts the nation's foremost privacy cop back on the beat."

Cohen laments "political grandstanding" and "inaccurate cries of Armageddon" preventing policymakers from coming together "to develop sensible, transparent, and durable Open Internet regulations." Leibowitz is sad that "the rhetoric over net neutrality has reached a fever pitch," and if everyone just set partisanship aside, "Congress could cement a meaningful and permanent resolution to an issue that should have been resolved a long time ago."

In other words, there's essentially no daylight between Obama's FTC head and a Comcast executive's viewpoint on net neutrality repeal.

The disclosure that Leibowitz works for "technology companies and broadband providers," seen to be on separate sides of the net neutrality debate, is also unimpressive because many tech giants aren't so opposed to net neutrality this time around. Netflix has made deals with telecom companies to pay for faster speeds. And Facebook and Google have been noticeably quiet in internet-wide protests this year. So the op-ed disclosure was misleading even without disclosing the actual names of the companies, like Comcast, Leibowitz is involved with.

To go a step further, Leibowitz's view is also wrong. Net neutrality supporters fear that kicking enforcement over to the FTC means that broadband providers would only get caught discriminating against websites after the fact. And the FTC is focusing on stopping "deception," which critics have said could mean that if a company discloses to the customer it will block or throttle certain content, the agency won't step in.

The FTC also doesn't have the resources to do its current enforcement, even before adding the internet to its beat. And while a joint agreement with the FCC to allocate those resources will help, it may not be enough. This is also the agency that defied its own staff and let Google off the hook for preferring its own content in search, which happened while a guy named Jon Leibowitz was in change.

But the big problem, which Leibowitz only tangentially cited, is that the FTC jurisdiction excludes common carriers, under Section 5 of the FTC Act. Last year a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit appeals court, one of the most liberal in the court system, threw out an FTC case against AT&T for throttling customer data speeds for this reason. Even if AT&T provided non-common carrier services, the 9th Circuit ruled, its other business as a common carrier makes it exempt from the FTC's jurisdiction.

The case is under appeal, and Leibowitz said breezily it's "likely" the FTC will win. But the makeup of the Supreme Court shouldn't raise hopes for expanded regulatory authority on anything.
Reclassifying broadband away from being a common carrier theoretically solves part of this problem. But AT&T's argument is that it owns a landline common carrier, so it's exempt from FTC enforcement on all its networks. If the 9th Circuit ruling sticks, it will drive not just AT&T, but all telecom and tech companies, to acquire some kind of common carrier business line to shut out the FTC. Tech firms like Google could merge with a common carrier telecom in a bid to fend off the FTC. Yahoo and Verizon have already started this possible trend.

More esoterically, companies could charter an "industrial loan company," a type of bank that has a statutory exclusion from FTC enforcement.

The point is that you don't want to put all enforcement responsibility into an agency that might actually not be able to enforce, pending court actions. And Public Knowledge's Harold Feld argues that this is, in fact, the case, even beyond the AT&T common carrier dispute.

This is not the first time Leibowitz has gone to bat for his clients. His incessant criticism of the FCC's privacy proposal led to Congress enabling internet service providers to sell personal data to marketing firms. And he signed on to a transition report on antitrust law that recommended gutting key aspects of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Democrats who are not on the Comcast payroll are expected to challenge the FCC vote. Several Democratic attorneys general have already planned a lawsuit.

Top photo: U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chair Jon Leibowitz, second from left, speaks as Bureau of Competition Director Richard Feinstein, left, and Bureau of Economics Director Howard Shelanski, right, listen during a news conference regarding the agency's 21-month-long investigation on Google on Jan. 3, 2013 at the FTC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Endless War | Scott Horton and Stefan Molyneux

Published on Dec 12, 2017
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Scott Horton is the managing director of the Libertarian Institute, the host of Antiwar Radio and the Scott Horton Show, the Opinion Editor of and the author of “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan.”


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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Umberto Eco Decodes the Secret Meaning of the Cell Phone

In one of his final essays, the late author of 'The Name of the Rose' acknowledges that cell phones are no longer merely the annoying tools of middle managers and adulterers.

12.09.17 12:00 AM ET

More Thoughts on the Cell Phone
I wrote a fairly irate article in the early '90s when cell phones were in the hands of just a few people, but a few who were making train journeys hell. I said, in short, that cell phones should only be allowed for organ transplanters, plumbers, and adulterers. For everyone else, especially in cases where otherwise unremarkable people were mouthing away in trains or airports about stocks and shares, metal section beams, or bank loans, it was more than anything a sign of social inferiority: those in real power don't have cell phones but twenty secretaries who filter their calls and messages, whereas those who need them are middle managers who have to answer to the CEO at any moment, or small businessmen whose banks need to tell them their account is overdrawn.

As for adulterers, the situation has changed twice since that article: initially they had to forego this extremely personal means of communication since its acquisition gave rise to entirely justifiable suspicion in the mind of their spouses; then the situation changed—everyone had one, so it was no longer cast-iron evidence of an adulterous relationship. Lovers can now use them, unless they're having affairs with persons who are to some degree in the public eye, in which case their conversations will certainly be tapped. No change with regard to social inferiority, there are still no photos of Bush with his ear to a cell phone, but it's a fact that the cell phone has become an instrument for communication, and excessive communication, between mothers and children, for cheating in exams, and for photomania. Younger generations are abandoning their wrist watches because they can check the time on their cell phones; added to this is the birth of text messages, of up-to-the- minute news information, of the opportunity now to connect with the internet and receive wireless emails, offering, in their more sophisticated forms, even the functions of pocket computers, so that we're now in the presence of a phenomenon that is socially and technologically essential.

Can we still live without a cell phone? Given that "living-with-a-cell-phone" means a total acceptance of the here-and-now and a frenzy of contact that deprives us of a single moment of solitary thought, anyone who cherishes their own inner and outer freedom can exploit the very many services it offers, apart from its use as a telephone. At most it can be switched on just to call a taxi or tell those at home that the train is three hours late, but not for being called: all you have to do is keep it switched off. When anyone complains about this practice of mine, I reply with a rather somber argument: when my father died over forty years ago, and therefore long before cell phones, I was on a journey and it was many hours before I could be reached. Well, those hours of delay had changed nothing. The situation would have been no different had I been called within ten minutes. This all means that instant communication provided by the cell phone has little to do with the great questions of life and death; it's of no use to someone who is studying Aristotle, nor to someone struggling over the existence of God.
Does a philosopher therefore have no interest in a cell phone, apart from it allowing him to carry in his pocket a list of 3,000 books on Malebranche? On the contrary. Certain technological innovations have changed human life to such an extent as to become a topic for philosophical discussion—and just think of the invention of writing, from Plato to Derrida, or the advent of mechanical looms, see Marx. Curiously there has been little philosophical reflection on other technological changes that seem so important to us, such as the car or the airplane, though there has been on the changing concept of speed. But we use the car and the airplane only at certain times, unless we're a taxi or a truck driver, or a pilot, whereas writing and the mechanization of most of our daily activities has had a radical impact on every second of our lives.
Maurizio Ferraris has written about the philosophy of the cell phone in Where are you? Ontology of the Cell Phone. Perhaps the title raises a hint of light amusement, but Ferrari draws a number of serious reflections from his subject, and involves us in a rather intriguing philosophical game. Cell phones are radically changing our way of life and have therefore become "philosophically interesting." Having also taken on the role of pocket diary and mini-computer with Web connection, the cell phone is less and less an oral instrument and more and more an instrument for reading and writing. As such, it has become an all-inclusive instrument for recording, and we'll see how words like "writing," "recording," and "inscription" might make a confederate of Derrida prick up his ears.
"I like to recall the tragedy of Dr. Zhivago who, after many years, sees Lara on the tram. He cannot alight in time to reach her, and dies. If both had had mobile phones, how would their tragic story have ended?"
The first hundred pages on the "anthropology" of the cell phone are fascinating even for the non-specialist. There's a substantial difference between talking on a telephone and talking on a cell phone. On the telephone we could ask whether a certain person was at home, whereas on the cell phone, unless it's stolen, we always know who is answering, and whether he or she is there, which also changes the quality of intimacy. But with a landline we know where we are calling. Now, with the cell phone, there's the problem of where the person is. There again, if he or she replies, "I'm right behind you," but has an account with a cell phone company in a different country, the answer is travelling halfway round the world. Nonetheless, we don't know where the other person is whereas the telephone company knows where we both are, so that while we can avoid letting the other person know our precise whereabouts, our movements are totally transparent when it comes to Orwell's Big Brother.
Various pessimistic and paradoxical, though credible, reflections can be made on the new "homo cellularis." For example, it changes the very dynamic of face-to-face interaction between A and B, which is no longer a one-to-one relationship because the conversation can be interrupted by a cell phone call from C, and the interaction between A and B continues intermittently, or stops altogether. And so the prime instrument of connection, my being continually available to others and they to me, becomes at the same time the instrument of disconnection, A is connected to everyone except B. Among those reasons for optimism I like to recall the tragedy of Dr. Zhivago who, after many years, sees Lara on the tram. He cannot alight in time to reach her, and dies. If both had had mobile phones, how would their tragic story have ended? Ferraris's analysis wavers, rightly, between the possibilities opened up by the cell phone and the way in which it cuts through our lives, above all in our loss of solitude, of silent personal reflection, and being condemned to a constant presence of the present. Change doesn't always equate with liberation.
But one-third of the way through the book Ferraris passes from the cell phone to a discussion of questions that have increasingly interested him in recent years, including arguments against his early influences, from Heidegger to Gadamer and Vattimo, against philosophical postmodernism, against the idea that there are no facts but only interpretations, up to what is now a full defense of knowledge as adaequatio, i.e., pace Richard Rorty, as a "Mirror of Nature." This, of course, has to be taken with many pinches of salt, and I'm sorry I can't follow step by step the foundation of realism that Ferraris calls "weak textualism."
How do we get from the cell phone to the problem of Truth? Through a distinction between physical objects such as a chair or a mountain, ideal objects such as Pythagoras' theorem, and social objects such as the Italian Constitution or our duty to pay for what we order at a bar. The first two types of object also exist independently of our decisions, whereas the third becomes operative, so to speak, only after a recording or an inscription. Once it is said that Ferraris also attempts to provide some kind of "natural" basis for these social recordings, it is here that the cell phone appears as the absolute instrument for every act of recording.
It would be interesting to discuss many parts of the book. For example, the pages devoted to the difference between recording, which includes a bank statement, a law, any collection of personal data, and communication. Ferraris's ideas about recording are extremely interesting, whereas his ideas about communication have always been somewhat generic. To use the metaphor from one of his earlier papers against him, they seem to have been purchased at Ikea. But this is not the place for deep philosophical debate.
Some readers will ask if it was really necessary to start from the cell phone to reach conclusions that could also have been reached from concepts of writing and "signature." Certainly, the philosopher can also start off from a reflection on a worm to draw an entire metaphysics, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is not that the cell phone has allowed Ferraris to develop an ontology, but that his ontology has allowed him to understand, and help us to understand, the cell phone.

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Excerpt from Chronicles of a Liquid Society by Umberto Eco. Copyright 2017 by Umberto Eco. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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Questions Without Answers. Indifference. Acceptance. Submission.

Accept it
Don't question existence or the answers you receive.
Existence is what you acknowledge no matter how disturbing.
Existence is indifferent no matter how difficult it is to exist.
No matter how great or difficult life is, accept it.
Existence everywhere, within/without you is indifferent to your acceptance therefore, accept it, you don't have a choice.
Question all you want, no matter the answer you get.
Questioning is an exercise not a means to a solution.
Ride the current, accept the waves.
Ride the waves, accept the current.
Discuss all you desire.
Discussion is free.
Observation, the purpose is paramount, choice is futile.
We can't handle the truth because the truth is never what we want it to be.

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Donald Trump is a Dinosaur!

Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90’s TV show sitcom, “Dinosaurs”. 

Trump's resemblance to B.P Richfield is bizarre! Did "Dinosaurs" predict the future? 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Lennon / I Still Cry

In my last year of college I worked as a negative film cutter
at a small edit house in a building west of times square...321 West 44th St just west of 10th.
In that building were many media companies one of which was The Record Plant
for some time, ending on this date 37 years ago,
he was working on his latest album at the record plant on the first floor...
almost every morning, as we entered the building together, we wished each other a good day,
one of us always holding the door for the other...
almost every evening, we left the building together,
always wishing each other a good evening, always the black limo waiting for him...

He was John Lennon...
except on this night 37 years ago, after wishing him well, I arrived home,
turned on Monday Night Football to hear Howard Cosell announce that John Lennon had just been shot and killed...
to this day I still cry...
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Met Says 'Suggestive' Balthus Painting Will Stay After Petition for Its Removal Is Signed by Thousands | artnet News

Who is really being suggestive here? The painter? The girl? The viewer? Suggestive in what way. The painting, titled, "Thérese Dreaming" depicts the artists intent, to expose the subjects thoughts, not any suggestive behavior; which are; was she day dreaming, after a tiring day playing outside with other children or by her self, the ease of the afternoon tires her and causes her to daydream relaxing her so much so she doesn't worry about letting her dress fall away and expose her "suggestiveness" without intent that anything - "sexual" might be happening. Initially what I saw was the look of reverie upon her face, dreaming of the days pleasures. 

The Met says this moment is an "opportunity for conversation."
Eileen Kinsella, December 5, 2017

Balthus, Thérese Dreaming (1938). © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art says it will not remove a painting of a young girl by BalthusThérèse Dreaming (1938), that has been targeted by an online petition.
The petition—which has garnered more than 8,700 signatures in five days—states that the Met should not "proudly display" an image that "romanticizes the sexualization of a child."
A spokesman for the Met called the controversy "an opportunity for a conversation" about the "continuing evolution of existing culture."
Mia Merrill, a New York City resident, launched the petition on Care 2 on November 30. Since then, it has nearly reached its goal of 9,000 signatures. The petition is headlined: "Metropolitan Museum of Art: Remove Balthus's Suggestive Painting of a Pubescent Girl, Thérèse Dreaming."
Merrill recounts how she was "shocked" to see the painting depicting a young girl "in a sexually suggestive pose… Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses without providing any type of clarification, The Met is, perhaps unintentionally, supporting voyeurism and the objectification of children."
In response to the petition, a spokesman for the Met provided the following statement to artnet News:
"The Metropolitan Museum of Art's mission is to '…collect, study, conserve, and present significant works of art across all times and cultures in order to connect people to creativity, knowledge, and ideas.' Moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present, and encouraging the continuing evolution of existing culture through informed discussion and respect for creative expression."
According to the Met's description of the work, it depicts Balthus's neighbor Thérèse Blanchard, who was about 12 or 13 at the time.
Merrill notes that when the painting was included in the 2013 Met show "Balthus: Cats and Girls—Paintings and Provocations," a plaque at the entrance warned viewers that they might find some works "disturbing."
After calling for removal of the painting in the initial petition, Merrill seems to have toned down her language, writing in a Twitter message to artnet News today: "I am not asking the Met to destroy the work. I'm asking them to be more conscientious in how they contextualize pieces. This can be accomplished by either removing the piece from this gallery or by providing more context in the painting's description. I would consider this petition a success if the Met included a message as brief as, 'Some viewers find this piece offensive or disturbing, given Balthus's artistic infatuation with young girls.'"
In a 2013 review of the Balthus show in The New Republic, critic Jed Perl called Balthus the "last of the mystics who transformed twentieth-century art." Perl said mystics are "by turns revered, reviled, demonized, and ignored—and at one point or another in his very long career Balthus was regarded in all of those ways."
Perl added that Balthus's paintings of girls "have stood in the way of a full appreciation of his achievement." He wrote that these works "can be properly appreciated only when we accept them as unabashedly mystical, the flesh a symbol of the spirit, the girl's dawning self-awareness an emblem of the artist's engagement with the world."
Thérèse Dreaming hails from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, which was donated to the Met in 1998. The Met website provides extensive detail about the painting's ownership and exhibition history. The work was originally purchased from the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York the same year it was painted for $438.40. The Gelmans acquired it in 1979.
The painting has appeared in nearly two dozen gallery and museum shows throughout the US, as well as in London, Cologne, Marseilles, Mexico City, Paris, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

and Obama

I've heard very little from him, no more than the other previous Presidents, but then should we?
There's a lot of expectation for a Superman to challenge Lex Luther who just happens to be the President, and is using the tools of the President to rip the heart of America out of the Constitution. Is that what  Our Forefathers expected when they wrote checks and balances into the early documents of the Nation to protect it from the likes of 45, when they eventually came along to hold the chest of our nation open while looters came in and took it all?

I don't know now.

That man from Chicago left the door open when he left the house, knowing full well the wolves would gather and step right in, sit by the fire and do almost nothing to protect our knowledge...
Maybe we need to crash and burn, to suffer so the we learn...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Gift of Death

Pathological consumption has become so normalized that we scarcely notice it.

By George Monbiot,
published in the Guardian 11th December 2012

There's nothing they need, nothing they don't own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub
holder; a "hilarious" inflatable zimmer frame; a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle; or – and somehow I find this significant – a Scratch Off World wall map.

They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they're in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonistic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generations.

Researching her film The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard discovered that of the materials flowing through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale(1). Even the goods we might have expected to hold onto are soon condemned to destruction through either planned obsolescence (breaking quickly) or perceived obsolescence (becoming unfashionable).

But many of the products we buy, especially for Christmas, cannot become obsolescent. The term implies a loss of utility, but they had no utility in the first place. An electronic drum-machine t-shirt; a Darth Vader talking piggy bank; an ear-shaped i-phone case; an individual beer can chiller; an electronic wine breather; a sonic screwdriver remote control; bacon toothpaste; a dancing dog: no one is expected to use them, or even look at them, after Christmas Day. They are designed to elicit thanks, perhaps a snigger or two, and then be thrown away.

The fatuity of the products is matched by the profundity of the impacts. Rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness. When you take account of the fossil fuels whose use we commission in other countries, manufacturing and consumption are responsible for more than half of our carbon dioxide production(2). We are screwing the planet to make solar-powered bath thermometers and desktop crazy golfers.

People in eastern Congo are massacred to facilitate smart phone upgrades of ever diminishing marginal utility(3). Forests are felled to make "personalized heart-shaped wooden cheese board sets". Rivers are poisoned to manufacture talking fish. This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.

In 2007, the journalist Adam Welz records, 13 rhinos were killed by poachers in South Africa. This year, so far, 585 have been shot(4). No one is entirely sure why. But one answer is that very rich people in Vietnam are now sprinkling ground rhino horn on their food or snorting it like cocaine to display their wealth. It's grotesque, but it scarcely differs from what almost everyone in industrialised nations is doing: trashing the living world through pointless consumption.

This boom has not happened by accident. Our lives have been corralled and shaped in order to encourage it. World trade rules force countries to participate in the festival of junk. Governments cut taxes, deregulate business, manipulate interest rates to stimulate spending. But seldom do the engineers of these policies stop and ask "spending on what?". When every conceivable want and need has been met (among those who have disposable money), growth depends on selling the utterly useless. The solemnity of the state, its might and majesty, are harnessed to the task of delivering Terry the Swearing Turtle to our doors.

Grown men and women devote their lives to manufacturing and marketing this rubbish, and dissing the idea of living without it. "I always knit my gifts", says a woman in a television ad for an electronics outlet. "Well you shouldn't," replies the narrator(5). An advertisement for Google's latest tablet shows a father and son camping in the woods. Their enjoyment depends on the Nexus 7's special features(6). The best things in life are free, but we've found a way of selling them to you.
The growth of inequality that has accompanied the consumer boom ensures that the rising economic tide no longer lifts all boats. In the US in 2010 a remarkable 93% of the growth in incomes accrued to the top 1% of the population(7). The old excuse, that we must trash the planet to help the poor, simply does not wash. For a few decades of extra enrichment for those who already possess more money than they know how to spend, the prospects of everyone else who will live on this earth are diminished.

So effectively have governments, the media and advertisers associated consumption with prosperity and happiness that to say these things is to expose yourself to opprobrium and ridicule. Witness last week's Moral Maze programme, in which most of the panel lined up to decry the idea of consuming less, and to associate it, somehow, with authoritarianism(8). When the world goes mad, those who resist are denounced as lunatics.

Bake them a cake, write them a poem, give them a kiss, tell them a joke, but for god's sake stop trashing the planet to tell someone you care. All it shows is that you don't.

While seemingly dated, the references below are still important to the whole of the post.

2. It's 57%. See
3. See the film Blood in the Mobile.
7. Emmanuel Saez, 2nd March 2012. Striking it Richer: the Evolution of Top Incomes in the United States (Updated with 2009 and 2010 estimates).

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Flat Earth Society Responds To Elon Musk's Tweet And We Just Can't Even

No wonder TRUMP won...
No. Elena Schweitzer/Shutterstock

If you think the Earth is flat, then you're on the wrong website. Seriously, what are you doing here? Why aren't you venturing to the icy mountainous rim around the edges, bravely peeking underneath and seeing what's on the other side of this galactic space Frisbee?

Incidentally, somewhere else that you don't expect to see flat Earth peons is on Elon Musk's Twitter profile – but this is 2017, where logic is about as relevant as witchcraft.

Musk, a man known for his cosmic ventures, giant batteries, and curious, pun-filled tweet threads, openly wondered the other day why there isn't a Flat Mars Society. After all, there's a Flat Earth Society, whose adherents are just as odd as you'd expect them to be. Is Earth the only planet that's flat?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have an enormous, game-changing spoiler for you. The official Twitter account of the Flat Earth Society responded to Musk's tweet, and they have claimed that Mars, unlike the Earth, is absolutely, definitely round.

"Hi Elon, thanks for the question. Unlike the Earth, Mars has been observed to be round. We hope you have a fantastic day!"

Well, that's cleared that up then. By round, we assume they mean spherical, but round objects can be flat too – so who knows, really.

Weirder still, when prompted by a skeptical social media user's use of a gif showing the Earth spinning on its axis, the Flat Earth Society account replied with an obtuse Star Wars reference.
"No! Alderaan is peaceful, we have no weapons. You can't possibly –" it reads. Are they suggesting that our presumably flat Earth is about to be destroyed by the Death Star? It's more likely that they're implying that photographs of Earth that we see every day are simply fabrications – but either way, this is all incredibly strange.

If Mars is round or spherical, are all the other planets also round and spherical too? Are they suggesting that Earth's the only flat planet in existence? Oh, so many questions.

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