Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Most Efficient Way to Destroy the Universe – False Vacuum

Ang Lee Has Made the Most Realistic-Looking Movie Ever. It’s Unwatchable. (Not true)

Why do I hate critics, this is why...

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk shows the promise and failure of high-frame-rate cinema.

Joe Alwyn as Billy Lynn in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Sony Pictures

Ang Lee, the three-time Oscar-winning film director, did his best to lower expectations. "It's kind of an experimental movie," he said at the Friday night premiere of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk at the New York Film Festival. His latest project, a $40 million drama starring Kristen Stewart, Steve Martin, and Vin Diesel, is the first ever to be shot in super-high-resolution 3-D at 120 frames per second. Lee knew its novel look—unrelenting clarity, abundant blooms of fine detail—might come off as more disturbing than impressive. "This is not just a new technology, but a new habit in watching movies," he warned the crowd. "I hope you keep an open mind."
Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate.

This was, perhaps, too much to ask. From the film's opening image—Billy Lynn in bed, looking like a 3-D printout of a human being with a hangover—I could feel the spring-loaded trapdoors of my mind snapping shut. The scene looked queer, uncinematic, like a theater sketch acted out in virtual reality. Others in the audience also found themselves distracted or unnerved by the movie's high-res format. "I'm sorry. I tried to keep an open mind," tweeted film critic Bilge Ebiri after the screening. "But High Frame Rate is a fucking crime against cinema."

Ang Lee is not the first director to stand accused of this particular crime. In 2012, Peter Jackson released the first of his Hobbit films in 48 frames-per-second format—not nearly as souped-up as Billy Lynn's 120 fps, but still twice the standard 24 fps. Then, as now, critics were dismissive of the high-frame-rate (HFR) effect. It looked like a teleplay, they said, or tatty summer-stock. When Jackson used the format for his second and third Hobbit films, he added lens filters and post-production work to relax and blur the imagery, hoping it wouldn't look so painfully precise.
A few of us were inclined to take a softer view of his experiment. (I rated Jackson's foray a stumbling success.) It was easy to imagine, back then, that The Hobbit simply suffered from a mismatch between frame rate and genre. Maybe the HFR would have been compelling had its razor clarity not carved away the artifice of Middle Earth, exposing the corny sets and props. Perhaps the format would be better-suited to a movie in a more steely, realist mode—one in which the sharpness added authenticity instead of making things look artificial. Now we have just such a film, an understated depiction of a young soldier with traumatic memories of his deployment in Iraq.* And yet, high-frame-rate cinema still looks unnatural and off-putting.

For a certain kind of cinematic futurist—a guy like Peter Jackson, Ang Lee, or James Cameron (who plans to use HFR for his Avatar sequels)—this rejection of fantastic, futuristic technology seems bizarre. High-frame-rate cinema isn't meant to be a gimmick, something pasted on for added thrills. It's supposed to be a cleaner and more honest record of the action in a scene, with the ugly artifacts of motion blur removed. As the press notes for Billy Lynn point out, by shooting in the unprecedented HFR/4K/3-D format, Lee's production stored 40 times more data than a standard film: five times as many frames per second, four times as many pixels in each frame, and then everything doubled for 3-D. How could all this extra information fail to make the movie better?

For decades now, forward-looking filmmakers have tried to prove that when it comes to frame rates, more is really more. Douglas Trumbull, who did the visual effects for 2001 and Blade Runner, has advocated for higher frame rates since the 1970s. By eliminating flicker, he argued all those years ago, filmmakers could produce a smoother picture—a sort of "liquid realism" that would be more affecting and engaging. According to an essay on high-frame-rate cinema by film scholar Julie Turnock of the University of Illinois, Trumbull tested out his theory by measuring the brain waves, pulse, and skin conductance of people as they watched movies with different frame rates. All three measures would increase, he claimed, as he raised the rate to 60 fps.

In the past few years, visual psychologists have taken up this line of research, confirming time and again that Trumbull had it right: Higher frame rates do produce more compelling imagery, at least insofar as one can measure such things in the lab. (Trumbull, for his part, is still working on HFR at his farm in rural Massachusetts.) A Japanese researcher, who published his work several months before the release of The Hobbit, found that people were better at perceiving depth cues in high-frame-rate 3-D films, where the moving images appeared more "natural." Two years later, a team of Canadian researchers published an experiment in which they showed 3-D movies to volunteers at different frame rates, then asked them to rate the movies' quality on a scale of 1 to 100. The HFR videos got the highest ratings by far, scoring 55 percent higher than standard clips.

The most effective scenes in Billy Lynn are the ones that seem the least movielike.

These two studies, and several others like them, show that people think HFR clips are pretty snazzy. But they don't have much to say about whether anyone actually prefers them. (An experimental subject might conclude, for example, that HFR is at once "natural," "high quality" and "a fucking crime against cinema.") Another vision researcher, Laurie Wilcox of York University, has recently addressed the latter question. In her study, titled "Evidence that Viewers Prefer Higher Frame-Rate Film," viewers rated short movies on four technical attributes (realism, clarity, depth quality, and smoothness of motion) as well as on their overall likability. On every measure, including the all-important last one, her subjects said the HFR clips were superior. That preference has been remarkably consistent across her work, she says, and it applies to both 2-D and 3-D content.
In other words, HFR appears to be the New Coke of cinema—a product people claim to love in taste tests but which no one enjoys in real-world settings. This disparity—what one group of sociologists calls "The Hobbit hyperreality paradox"—has no simple explanation. If HFR looks so damn good, then why don't we like it in the theater?

It could be that the lab tests, in which people watch very short video clips, don't get at how it feels to watch a full-length film. In the same way a soda "sip test" won't tell you all that much about a person's taste in soft drinks, a movie "clip test" might not predict her feelings at the multiplex. Maybe all the extra information you get from HFR goes down smoothly in small doses, while over time its richness overwhelms the senses. My own experience suggests the opposite: At screenings of both The Hobbit and Billy Lynn, the freaky newness of the format proved least palatable at the start, with the off-notes fading as the film went on. (Though they never really went away.)

Perhaps the scaffolding of Hollywood cinema is more to blame. Film clips used in high-frame-rate lab research tend to be artless and straightforward—documentary shots of trees or abstract animations. The frame rate could be a turnoff only when it's mixed with the grammar used for telling stories on the screen. Montages, tilts, and focus pulls provide a structure for a movie; they work like punctuation marks on a printed page, barely noticed guides for your attention. In Billy Lynn, the HFR makes those guides pop out. Panning shots no longer blur the background with their motion; cuts seem extra jagged. As a viewer, it felt like reading a book in which all the commas and periods had been put in bold and underlined.

Or maybe the issue is the content rather than the structure. The sets and props in Billy Lynn are as troublesome as they were for The Hobbit, though for opposite reasons. In Jackson's film, Gandalf's staff and Thorin's axe looked too fake, like low-end gear for LARPing. In Billy Lynn, a film that's set for the most part inside a football stadium, the props at times seemed too real. When Billy's unit gets invited to a lush buffet inside the owner's box, the limpid, high-res food—glistening kielbasas, ripe chunks of cantaloupe—disrupts and dominates the scene. You can't take your eyes off of those kielbasas! The actors, too, are more exposed in HFR. Just as high-definition cameras revealed the use of heavy powder and foundation, so do higher frame-rates spotlight an actor's put-on smile. I couldn't tell if the performances in Billy Lynn were wooden, or if they'd been made to look that way when viewed at finer grain.

In the early 1980s, Trumbull suggested the changeover to high-frame-rate cinema would be so significant as to require the development of new techniques of filmmaking. Directors would have to play scenes differently, he said, with over-the-shoulder shots minimized and "the angles, the timing, and the looks of the characters" adapted to suit the new format. Peter Jackson made no such effort, as far as I could tell. In Billy Lynn, though, Ang Lee does try to adapt to the new medium. He lets the camera linger in Billy's point of view, with other characters talking straight into the lens. It's a nod to the first-person shooter, a mode of digital entertainment where higher frame rates—60 fps, to be specific—have become de rigueur.

But the reference to videogames only makes the weirdness problem worse. We're used to seeing films at 24 fps; we're used to watching telecasts at 30 fps; we're used to playing Call of Duty at 60 fps. These distinctions are mostly accidents of history, yet they've come to stand in for a hierarchy of artistic production. As Julie Turnock points out in her essay, not all forms of moving pictures have the same prestige; some are deemed more sophisticated than the others. So a movie shot in HFR suffers from its likeness to less vaunted forms of entertainment: soap operas, sporting events, video games. For all its clarity and definition, high-frame-rate cinema comes off as déclassé.In the end, what's most troubling about HFR is not the way it looks—I mean, come on, it looks fantastic—but what that look connotes. And Billy Lynn connotes, more than anything else, a high-end game.

Indeed, the most effective scenes in Billy Lynn—I mean, the ones that look the best in superdeluxe HFR/4K/3-D—are those that seem the least movielike. First, a glimpse of action on the football field, just enough to advertise the format for showing live sports events. (Trust me, high-frame-rate 3-D sports will be extraordinary.) Second, Billy tussling, Call of Duty–style, with a soldier in a broken sewage pipe, hinting at a brighter future for virtual reality.

Most exciting is the way Lee modulates the frame rate from one scene to the next. At certain points he revs the footage up to 120 fps, while at others the movie slides toward more familiar speeds. Lee saves the most intense, hyperreal effects for Billy's wartime flashbacks, where the format works to sharpen the emotion. These are Billy's post-traumatic visions, the result of too much information stored inside his head, and the movie shows them as they seem to him—overly graphic, drenched in violent clarity, bleeding out minutiae. If there's any future for HFR in Hollywood, this must be it—not as a hardware upgrade on the endless path to total cinema, but as a tool that can be torqued to fill a need.

And after we buy those new TVs we turn OFF the motion smoothing as soon as possible so that movies don't all look like soap operas.  More.

As of now, only two theaters in the country are scheduled to project Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk in its native 120 fps. Even there it won't do much to advance the cause of its technology—it just looks and feels too different from every other movie we've seen in the multiplex. But Ang Lee is right: The aversion to HFR has as much to do with habit as aesthetics, and habits change more quickly than we think. In recent years we've seen a wholesale shift from celluloid to video, and a 3-D fad that never went away. Frame-rate standards, too, are starting to evolve. We now shoot TV shows at 24 fps to make them look more like movies, and we buy TVs that "motion smooth" our movies up to 120 fps. Will HFR/4K/3-D ever go mainstream? Our next chance to evaluate the format may not come until Christmas of next year, when Avatar 2 is scheduled for release. In the meantime, I'll try to keep an open mind.

*Correction, Oct. 21, 2016: This article originally misidentified the title character in Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk as a Marine. He is a soldier. (Return.)

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Triathlon Inspires – The inspiring story of Sister Madonna Buder "The Iron Nun"

- Triathlete, Nun, Author, and Motivational Speaker -

"Determination is the mind willing something to happen by the grace of God"

"I've learned other life lessons along the way, but the ones that I'd look back and tell my twenty something self now are: It's not what you say, it's what you do; don't pay attention to how old you are, only focus on how old you feel"

Sister Madonna Buder was born in St. Louis, Missouri in July 1930, and she was never into running as a child, but she was clearly born with a determined streak from the start. As a kid, she was a decent athlete, including, she recalled, winning a national championship in equestrian events as a 16-year-old. She entered the convent in her early 20s, and though active and trim through adulthood, she didn't become a committed athlete until hearing the urgings of that Catholic priest during a retreat on the Oregon coast.

She decided she wanted to become a nun at the age of 14 from the influence of the Visitation Sisters at the all-girls Visitation Academy in St. Louis, Missouri, that her parents put her in after sixth grade, and Marie Dorthy Buder was 23 years old when she followed her first calling in life and became a nun; it was then that she realized the importance of being of service to others. She entered a convent called the Sisters of the Good Shepard in St. Louis and served there until 1990 when she changed orders and was sent to Spokane, Washington, to serve with the Sisters for Christian Community. In 1970 she left the congregation to which she had belonged to join 38 other Sisters from different and varying backgrounds to establish a new and non-traditional community of Sisters. As a member of the non-canonical Sisters for Christian Community, independent of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, Buder has had the freedom to choose her own ministry and lifestyle. More than two decades later as Sister Madonna, she found her second calling: Running.

During those days, there wasn't any organized races, (including marathons and triathlons) for women. Those races came out for women eventually, but what she had was just organized by schools. Sister Madonna was 48 when she started running for fun — "Father John told me it would be good for my body and mind" — and it wasn't until 1977 that she actually ran her first race who wasn't really sure if it was OK for her to be running races, since she was the only nun doing so realizing the public wasn't used to a nun running. So to avoid creating slanderous conditions, she checked this all out with the bishop in advance. She told him she wanted to run for the cause of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), but that she wasn't sure how the media would handle it, so she wanted his blessing. He said, "Sister, I wish some of my priests would do what you're doing."

The deal was sealed then and there, and Sister Buder ran her very first 8.2 mile race, 'backwards' she says, because the only place she had ever trained before was on a tennis court. After that, she joined a running group, where she thrived on the group mentality, and it was here she eventually learned of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii. Her first thoughts were of how claustrophobic she would feel swimming along with so many others, her second was that she couldn't conceive of sitting in a bike saddle for so long, and her third was that she simply had to try it.

The steely nun competed in her first triathlon in Banbridge, Ireland, at the age of 52. The course was hilly, she swam in the 'darn cold' water (before wetsuits had been invented), and she was riding a second hand men's bike she had scored from a police auction. Nevertheless, she finished the race and cooled off with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. "I felt an immense amount of accomplishment after I finished that race; I was content", she said.

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd sent Sister Madonna over to Hawaii, and the woman in charge of the triathlon told her that she could get into the race. In the meantime, she practiced on a nephew's bike when she would visit her parents, who still lived in St. Louis. She quickly earned the title of "The Iron Nun" after completing the 2005 Hawaii Ironman at 75 years old, obtaining the record of the oldest woman ever to complete the race. She finished one hour before the 17-hour midnight cut-off time. Then, she went on to beat her own record the following year, at 76, finishing the same race with an amazing time of 16:59:03!

Since 1982 she's powered through more than 340 triathlons, including 45 full Ironmans (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, 26.2-mile run). In 1996, she completed an Ironman in 14:27:14--fast enough to break the world record for 65 to 69-year-olds. And at 75, Buder became the oldest woman to complete the Hawaii Ironman, a title she repeated in 2006. But it wasn't until she became the overall Ironman world record holder for finishing the Subaru Ironman Canada on August 26, 2012, in 16:32:00 that everyone started to know her name. Sister Madonna beat the record previously held by 81-year-old Lew Hollander, who finished the Ironman Kona World Championship in 2011. Her new goal is to establish that same record at the Ironman in Hawaii, but since that day, she has opened up about five age groups in her life (so that older folks can run too) that never existed. She thinks when she reaches the age group for posterity, she deserves a rest.

Asking how she trains for these triathlons, she says she runs to church every day and bikes 40 miles to swim in a lake near her home. She also jogs to her regular visits at the local jail, when it's nice out to talk to the inmates about Jesus and read scriptures to the them - an activity which she says makes her feel "so blessed" to come home from. As for her diet, Sister Buder sticks to a mostly raw diet of fruits and vegetables, but incorporates carbs and protein powder into her meals, and she says she 'listens' to what her body tells her it needs. Last year she had a biking accident where she fractured her pelvis, so while her body heals, she has been water jogging at the YMCA and going in the hot tub to let the jets and heat treat the nerves that are tender, and then she does the elliptical even though her doctor probably wouldn't advise that.

It's clearly a hobby she feels she can't let go. 'I don't know what I'd do without running!' she exclaims. "I love the feeling I get when I whiz past people younger than me and they say, I want to be like you when I get to your age!" And while she cherishes the opportunity to be a source of inspiration to others, claiming she races now mostly out of 'camaraderie', she does have certain fellow-runners place her a little too high on the pedestal. "Some of them treat me differently because I'm a Sister," she confesses. "I feels like they think I'm supposed to be their mascot and pray for good weather for us or something."

Sister Madonna is was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2014 and according to "The Iron Nun" has 12 age-group victories at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and has won dozens of national and world titles in Olympic-distance events.

"I've learned other life lessons along the way, but the ones that I'd look back and tell my twenty-something self now are: It's not what you say, it's what you do; don't pay attention to how old you are, only focus on how old you feel; and be patient — one of my worst enemies is patience, I'm still trying to fine-tune it so that I'm able to stop and smell the roses.", she exclaims.

Sister Madonna Buder is on a mission. "I'd like to give up, actually," she said with a laugh, one that revealed her poorly masked fib. "I have no excuses, as long as God's keeping me more or less fit. I feel like God's puppet, that's what I feel like. First I am down, then he pulls me up with strings, and then he pulls the strings to put me hither, dither, and yon. I guess maybe he just wants people, especially as they are aging, to get off their duffs and do something."

Sister Madonna Buder is 85 years old, has run more than 340 triathlons, and doesn't know what all the fuss is about. She decided to write a book named "The Grace to Race", where she shares the no-nonsense spirit and deep faith that inspired her extraordinary journey from a prominent St. Louis family to a Catholic Convent and finally to championship finish lines all over the world. Sister Madonna holds dozens of records, has broken dozens of bones, and tells of dozens of miracles and angels that propelled her to a far-flung race. "It is my faith that has carried me through life's ups and downs," she writes. "Whenever injured, I wait for the Lord to pick me up again and set me on my feet, confidently reminding Him, 'God, you know, my intent is to keep running toward you.'" The Grace to Race is the courageous story of a woman who broke with convention, followed her heart, and found her higher mission. Her book is available from different third-party sellers, including Amazon. For more information, visit the following link The Grace to Race.

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How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity & How to Stop

"Spending today complaining about yesterday won't make tomorrow any better." ~Unknown

When I was about sixteen or so, one of my parent's friends got into some trouble with the law. When we'd visit him he'd often shake his head from side to side and mumble, my life is in the toilet.
He said it many times, for many years, even when things seemed to have gotten better for him.
My life is in the toilet was his mantra.
At the time I thought it was funny, so I adopted it for myself, until one day I started to believe it. I've since dumped that charming phrase and gotten a new mantra.
Things haven't magically become ideal for me since I did that. I mean, there's this pinched nerve in my neck and those construction sounds across the street, and I could really use some more work, and…

Type of Drains

Everyone complains, at some point, at least a little, says Robin Kowalski, PhD, a professor of psychology at Clemson University.
There are different types of complainers, according to Kowalski, such as The Venter. The Venter is a "dissatisfied person who doesn't want to hear solutions, however brilliant."
Venting. We're just letting off steam, right? Maybe not. I've personally found that the complain drain can be soul draining, not just for the complainer, but for all within earshot.
Other types you may have met along the way (or may be yourself) are the Sympathy Seekers, the I got it worse than you do, and the habitual everything sucks folks.
The Chronic Complainers, those living in a state of complaint, do something researchers call "ruminating." This basically means thinking and complaining about a problem again and again. Instead of feeling a release after complaining, this sort of complaining can actually make things worse. It can cause even more worry and anxiety.
No one is suggesting you be a peachy-keen-Josephine and pretend all is swell when it isn't. What I've learned in my mindfulness practice is to aim to do the opposite.
In mindfulness meditation, we try to experience fully the truth of the situation, in this exact moment, and allow it to just be. Easier said than done (but what isn't?) Still, with practice, the need to express our dissatisfaction for things not being how we'd like them to be lessens.

Can't We Just Call Roto-Rooter?

Running with this drain analogy…
Call Roto-Rooter, that's the name and away go troubles down the drain!
When I was a kid I loved singing along to those Roto-Rooter commercials. Wouldn't it be cool if we could "away go troubles down the drain?" Well, maybe we can.
Most of us may have been unintentionally reinforcing the nasty habit of complaining, by virtue of… complaining.
There's something called "experience-dependent neuroplasticity," which is the continuing creation and grouping of neuron connections in our brains that take place as a result of our life experiences.
Neuroscience teaches us that neurons that fire together, wire together. Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist, coined that phrase back in 1949. What this means is that whenever we think a thought or have a feeling or physical sensation, thousands of neurons are triggered and they all get together to form a neural network.
With repetitive thinking, the brain learns to trigger the same neurons each time.
So, if you keep your mind looping on self-criticism, worries, and how nothing is working out for you, your mind will more easily find that part of your brain and will quickly assist you in thinking those same thoughts again.
This shapes your mind into greater reactivity, making you more vulnerable to anxiety.
Imagine a truck driving down a muddy road. The wheels create a groove in the mud, and each time that truck drives down that exact spot, the groove gets deeper and deeper.
The truck might even, eventually, get stuck in that mud rut. But it doesn't have to. Instead of repeating the same negative complaints, we can drive our thoughts on a different road so we don't get stuck in that negative mud rut.
Throughout our lives we are wiring our brains, based on our repetitive thinking. We get good at what we practice.
If we worry, creating more unease and anxiety, we become stellar worriers since our brain is responding, making it easier for us to worry each time we do it, thus creating our default mode living.
Default mode living is our habitual way of going about our lives. It's our reacting minds as opposed to our responding minds.
Our reacting minds are often knee-jerk reactions to something. We often say or do things that we've said and done in the past, as if we were in that default mode living, on automatic pilot. But our responding minds come into play when we give ourselves a pause before responding to a situation.
We ask ourselves what's really going on and what the next best step is. It's a clearer response in the moment that's not linked to past responses. So, how do we respond instead of react?

4 D.I.Y. Tips – Stop The Drain!

You're stuck in traffic and not only are you complaining out loud to the cars that are in your way, you're imagining getting home and complaining to tell your significant other all about it. You're practicing this conversation in your head while in the car. Your heart races, your forehead tenses up. It's all so very annoying! What to do?

1. Catch yourself.

During meditation we soon find out that our minds will wander. The moment when we notice it wandering and we bring it back to our focus, our breath, that moment is what one of my teachers calls "that magic moment."
The catching yourself is the practice. Also, the not judging or berating yourself for having a mind that thinks thoughts. All minds think thoughts. That's their job.
So to stop the drain:
  • Catch yourself in a complaint.
  • Stop complaining.
  • Congratulate yourself—you're aware!

2. Be grateful.

I've tried it; I simply can't seem to complain and be grateful at the same time!
I'm stuck in traffic, but I'm grateful to have a car. I'm grateful for the song that's playing on the radio and the sunny day.
It doesn't matter what you're grateful for; it can be the smallest thing, just notice. Complaining could very well be the evil twin of gratitude. Favor gratitude.

3. Practice wise effort.

In Buddhism, wise effort is letting go of that which is not helpful and cultivating that which is skillful.
In the book Awakening the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das breaks down wise effort into four aspects, the first one being, restraint: "the effort to prevent unskillful thoughts and actions."
Make the effort to pay attention and catch your complaining, negative thoughts before they become words.
Try it out and see how it feels. You might be surprised as to where you habitually have been putting your energy. Everything takes a certain amount of energy.
Next time you find yourself caught in a complaining loop, pause and regroup. Make the choice to put your energy elsewhere. The more you do this, the easier it gets.

4. Make a new groove.

Just the way our thoughts created that groove to make negative thoughts easier to replicate, we can create a brand new groove for pleasant feelings.
The more often we allow our minds to remember the good stuff, the easier that kind of thinking becomes.
Do you want to be the person who's never satisfied and can always find fault in others, yourself, and the world at large? Or would you rather be someone who sees things as they are and finds a way to make peace with it? Let's pretend it's up to you. Oh, wait, it is up to you.
So, what do you say? You don't need Roto Rooter to flush your troubles down the drain. Just make a new groove.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Dear Republicans, You Deserve This

Dear Republicans,

You remember how this started, right? You got in bed with the 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore' Tea Party. You saw the Harvard Law Review Editor who just happened to be black and you lost your minds. You called him a Socialist. You said he never read the Constitution. You said he was a Muslim as if that were some slight when Muslims have fought and died for this country right beside citizens of every other religion. It was never enough. You never seemed to run out of the venom you spewed.

You played to the fears of white, male America. "He's coming for your guns!" How many did the Great Gun Grabber actually get? You stared at twenty children slaughtered in Sandy Hook and turned up your palms and said, "This isn't the time to talk about gun control."

You listened and half-believed the conspiracy theorists who talked about the great conspiracy of Sandy Hook and too many of you accused the parents of being actors. The best of you, who used to care about your country first and your party second, kept silent and eventually began to participate in the madness.

You sold your souls because you saw after Romney lost that you weren't going to be sitting your man in the White House anytime soon. Reince Priebus presented his autopsy of that election. To even be competitive, you have to carry 40% of the Latino vote and 45% of the women's vote. Let's not even consider the black vote which Romney lost by more than 90 points! Romney only got 27% of the Latino vote.

Did you learn from it?

You certainly swelled your ranks with a fresh infusion of "populist" infantry who had the audacity to say Obama was going to invade Texas in Operation Jade Helm. You said that he was born in Kenya and a secret agent of the Muslim Brotherhood. You were more angry at Hillary than at the murderers at Benghazi. You stood there, silent and complicit as every maniac with a mouthpiece or radio show lied and incited their listeners to hatred and worse.  When your cries of wolf fell on deaf ears, you turned up the volume.

The night Obama won, the establishment met in secret and promised to do everything to make him a one term president even if it meant hurting the country. That's what your partisanship wrought and what did you achieve? You wasted millions in taxpayer money to flog the Benghazi horse and you voted to repeal Obamacare sixty times. While you strained to do anything to make the President look bad, you shut down the government and cost the economy $24 billion. While you played brinksmanship with the full faith and credit of our government, what you really achieved was to convince the vast majority of Americans that you are incapable of governing.

This time you went to the natural end of your rope and jumped the shark with Trump costing you stalwart republicans like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol and any steward of the Nation's security. You nominated a man for his success in business even as many of his businesses were going bankrupt and are under investigation for fraud. You apparently learned not a thing from the political train wreck that was George W. Bush.

But this time is different and you know it now. There is no hiding the fact that white supremacists and the full complement of other racists and xenophobes have embraced your nominee publicly and loudly.  The last Univision poll Jorge Ramos reported had Trump with an 83% disapproval rating among Latino voters. The party that claims to be the defender of "family values" sent dreamers back across the border or deported their parents  so they have to visit them across a fence. Not only have you proven that you care nothing for their lives but your nominee intends to deport eleven million of them .

You've turned your back on the very heart of America by refusing immigrants citizenship because you know who your constituency is afraid of and what gets them to the polls in droves. You've refused to accept the economic reality that your supply-side economic dogma has failed everywhere it has ever been tried and it has wrecked economies in almost every red state to the point that we have a negative population growth because millennials are so saddled with debt that they can't afford children.

What you've shown is that there is no amount of money you will not spend to go to war but there is no service or entitlement you will not cut for the people who fight those wars. Our veterans can't even get routine healthcare because of your opposition to VA funding. You sold everyone on the premise that the free market and private business would run everything more efficiently than the government.  Yet recently the Justice Department announced that it will no longer renew contracts with the private prison industry after they proved over and again that they had no interest in reforming the abuse of the people they incarcerated and that the civil penalties you imposed were weak and ineffective.
You loved the free market so much that you put in a rider in Medicare Part D that forbids our government to negotiate prices for any drugs. The result for that unbridled "free market" efficiency is  $800 bags of saline solution! We pay four times more for healthcare than other industrialized countries and we get worse results. Where is all this free market efficiency you keep talking about? Medicare runs perfectly well and it's run by the government that you hate.

Then there's the post office that you have done everything imaginable to break. You set a precedent never seen anywhere in the world by sneaking in a rider that requires it to fund its health care costs 75 years in advance! You only wanted that so you could say that the post office which normally runs a profit is in the red.

Lies have a cumulative effect and now you're going to pay the price.

There are so many lies that you've told that you can't even spot the truth anymore. You've fought to destroy the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act in the vain hope of crippling the regulations that protect the people. You send buffoons to the Senate who toss snowballs in the Senate chamber as proof that climate change is a hoax while ignoring the fact that this past July was the hottest month ever since records began to be kept. Meteorologists are now saying the deluge of rain in Louisiana is a 1000 year flood that's done more damage than Katrina. What's your answer to these very obvious and troubling facts? You nominate the father of birtherism to say that climate change is a lie.
Fortunately for humanity, the millennials are now the largest voting block in American history and they aren't stupid enough to fall for your lies. They've had a sample of them and they know what it means when Republicans refuse to help ease the costs of student loans. They know what it means to be debt slaves because that's the American dream you've left for them and it makes them sick. They see you voting to repeal the ACA 60 times while they struggle to find housing.

That's what your intransigence and recalcitrance has bought them. They're not happy about it either. You're going to lose the presidency and the senate. You succeeded in gerrymandering the house so much that you might just keep it for a few more years but you are about as popular as Nickelback right now. That you won't get that allusion is demonstrative of how divorced you are from the youth you've fettered to protect your own bank accounts.

The conservative site is desperately trying to put their finger in the dike.
But the current polling is so bad, as Donald Trump trails Hillary Clinton, that the toss-up states don't even matter anymore. Excluding the toss-up states, RCP has Clinton up 272-174, which means Trump could run the table of NV, AZ, IA, MO, OH, GA, NC, FL and he still loses 272-266.
I grew up in a city that was a Republican stronghold back in the '80's, in the midst of a love affair with the trickle-down economics of Ronald Reagan, and I attended many gatherings in which your representatives at the time said all the things in private that you still don't have the courage to say out loud.

In a long article, "A Tale of Two Conventions," in the August 8th issue of The New Yorker, Jill Lepore–no supporter of your candidate–had the courage to say out loud that as the progressive movement began its gradual slide to the right as far back as the 1940's,
"a big problem with postwar liberalism was liberals' failure to really listen to the continuing populist criticism of the idea of progress" (Christopher Lasch. The True and Only Heaven).
In short, we have blinded ourselves to the flood waters of destruction rolling in from Tea Party Republicanism because our naive belief that all is well and our refusal to look reality in the eye have kept us too long trapped by our own dangerous idealism.

We might be less guilty than you, but we are not innocent.

In the eighteenth century, philosopher Edmund Burke famously said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Toward the end of her article, Lepore offers this startling bit of history:
"In 1992, the year Bill Clinton was elected, a letter to the editor appeared in a small newspaper in upstate New York. 'The American Dream of the middle class has all but disappeared, substituted with people struggling just to buy next week's groceries,' the letter writer argued. 'What is it going to take to open up the eyes of our elected officials? America is in serious decline.' It was written by a young Timothy McVeigh."
Dear Republicans, good men and women are finally fed up.  Watch your backs.  You deserve what's coming.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Abandoned hotels in the Egyptian desert may as well be on another planet

The word ruins ordinarily conveys a connotation of scarcely delineated brick walls and rubble dating back hundreds if not thousands of years, but the work of German artists Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche serves as a powerful reminder that unfortunate events, especially economic ones, can easily create ruins of much more recent vintage almost anywhere.
Haubitz and Zoche's 2006 book Sinai Hotels vividly documents hotel projects in the Egyptian desert that were commenced in good faith but then, for reasons unknown, were abandoned. In virtually every case, the failed investment projects resulted in concrete foundations but remarkably little else, stranded in an otherwise vacant landscape of sand.
Caitlin Peterson has written that the buildings in the series
have proven to be the ruins left by misinvestment in state-funded tourism projects. The sculptural shells point to one of the consequences of a tourist industry that encourages uncontrolled urban development of whole landscapes and, against the backdrop of current political developments, amounts to a socio-political fuse. In their promise of holiday idylls, the names of hotel chains, which the artists have adopted for their titles, jar with discrepancy against the abandoned concrete skeletons in the pictures.
As John Coulthart astutely observed, the images have a distinctively Ballardian quality, suggesting a peculiarly modern form of decay.
Quite right—the pictures evoke any number of notable Ballard volumes—Concrete Island, Vermilion Sands, High-Rise......

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Monday, August 1, 2016

War and Wall Street: Clinton's Bleak Record

By Timothy ScottMythos: Education, Political Economy and Culture | News Analysis

Hillary Clinton takes the stage to accept the party's presidential nomination, at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 28, 2016. (Josh Haner / The New York Times)
This essay documents Hillary Clinton's history and record as an agent of Wall Street, war, racial violence and inequity, economic inequality and conservative ideology. While Clinton's early Republican Party history is well documented, it is unfair to judge her (or anyone) based on the political views of her youth. Like Clinton, all people are heavily influenced by the beliefs and values of their parents, local communities, religion, cultural and social identities as well as US dominant culture. Based on various factors, many people with conservative backgrounds are able to develop progressive and humanistic world views over time based on personal struggle, a capacity for empathy, and an expanded sense of consciousness through education and life experience. None of this appears to have happened for Hillary Clinton. Instead, she stayed the course as she and her husband pioneered the "New Democrat" (Centrist Democrats) movement and steered the party toward a neoliberal "Third Way" (dogmatic free-market and moderately liberal social policies). Yet, when it comes to the Clintons, many of their social policy positions are also distinctly conservative.
While incomplete, this post seeks to assist liberals and progressives in recognizing that when they support Hillary Clinton, they are in fact supporting violently oppressive and undemocratic interests. All of the information that follows is part of the public record.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Party's foreordained 2016 presidential candidate, is both a champion for -- and member of -- the top one-tenth of the one percent. As such, she is duplicitously held up by party leaders and supporters as an advocate of social equity and fair-minded economic pragmatism. As the first woman to be a viable presidential candidate (a second time around), Clinton promotes herself, along with other prominent white neoliberal feminists, as a status recognition trailblazer for all women; despite the fact that every position she has taken, or role she has been in, has disproportionately inflicted considerable harm to women across the globe (especially dispossessed Black, Brown and Indigenous women). In her Salon article titled, The unexpected side effect of Hillary 2016: How she transformed Democrats into "new" Republicans, Sophia A. McClennen writes:
…within the Clinton campaign there is a real issue with "the woman card." Of course, it is historic that she may well be the Democratic nominee. But that fact has nothing to do with whether or not she is feminist. It just means she is a woman who broke a barrier. Margaret Thatcher broke that barrier in her nation in 1975 and no one confused that with an advance for feminism… Having Clinton supporters like Gloria Steinem suggest that women who don't support Clinton are just looking for sex, suggests that the Clinton camp has some pretty confused ideas about what feminism means.
Hillary Clinton has a net worth of 31.3 million dollars and is a long-time darling of corporations and elite financial investors. Clinton served as a Walmart board member between 1988-1992, during which time she conspired with the company when it waged a major anti-union campaign against Walmart workers who attempted to unionize. Her top contributors over the course of her political career include Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, along with many other corporations and financial firms. During the 2016 primary election cycle, Clinton has portrayed herself as an advocate for income equality and an opponent of Wall Street greed. Yet, as the Washington Post reported in February 2016:
Even as Hillary Clinton has stepped up her rhetorical assault on Wall Street, her campaign and allied super PACs have continued to rake in millions from the financial sector, a sign of her deep and lasting relationships with banking and investment titans. Through the end of December, donors at hedge funds, banks, insurance companies and other financial services firms had given at least $21.4 million to support Clinton's 2016 presidential run.
Clinton's pick for Vice President is Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, whose campaign donors include the oil, gas and coal industries, the Israeli lobby, the finance and technology industries, defense contractors, agribusiness and more. He has thus been a champion of free-trade (TPP), bank deregulation, education reform (via EdTech), offshore drilling, hawkish foreign policies and union-busting. Kaine was also a supporter of a policy known as Project Exile, which was a federal crime and gun reduction strategy "championed by Republicans and Democrats alike and by both the top US gun lobby group and gun-control advocates." According to Nicole Lee, a Black civil-rights attorney, "Project Exile broke black families… This is not a benign thing to be for. These measures were not used against white kids in the suburbs with guns, they were used against black kids in the cities."

Clinton's current campaign manager, John Podesta, is an aggressive "corporate education reform" advocate and a long-time corporate lobbyist who founded the Podesta Group with his brother Tony in the 1980s. Writing in Salon in 2011, Justin Elliot reported:
The Podesta Group has been retained by some of the biggest corporations in the country, including Wal-Mart, BP and Lockheed Martin. After starting the firm, John Podesta went on to serve as Bill Clinton's chief of staff and, more recently, to found the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank closely associated with the Obama administration. The Podesta Group counsels Egypt 'on US policies of concern, activities in Congress and the Executive branch, and developments on the US political scene generally' according to forms filed with the Justice Department in 2009.
The Podesta Group also does PR work for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
After becoming governor of Arkansas (again) in 1983, Bill Clinton appointed Hillary Clinton to chair the state's Education Standards Committee, a task force charged with reforming Arkansas' education system. According to author Jeffrey Saint Clair, Hillary Clinton's law:
…showcased teacher testing and funding the schools through a sales tax increase, an astoundingly regressive proposal since it imposed new costs on the poor in a very poor state while sparing any levies on big corporations. The plan went through. Arkansas' educational ranking remained abysmal, but Hillary won national attention as a "realistic Democrat" who could make "hard" choices, like taxing welfare mothers.
The Arkansas Education Association (AES), unsuccessfully sued the state to overturn the law. Speaking of the law in 1983, AES president Peggy Nabors, claimed, "[t]he law was not designed to help, but was designed to be punitive in nature and to make teachers the scapegoat for education`s ills."

Clinton continues to have close personal and professional relationships within the education reform industry and with some of its key venture philanthropists. Yet, with growing national opposition to corporate education reform policies, Clinton is currently playing it safe on the campaign trail about her support for these policies. DLA Piper, a corporate law firm that represents major companies in the global education market is a major Clinton campaign donor. So is Walmart heiress Alice Walton (the world's 13th-richest person), who is a highly influential education reformer through her family's Walton Family Foundation. Clinton also served as a board member and a paid consultant for the National Center on Education and the Economy, a leading education reform policy advocacy think tank dating back to 1988. In a speech at the 1999 National Education Association's convention, Clinton asked of the union's leadership, "I also hope that you will continue to stand behind the charter school/public school movement, because I believe that parents do deserve greater choice within the public school system to meet the unique needs of their children." The charter school movement Clinton was extolling is instrumental in the privatization of public education via market-based education reform policies. Charter schools have been advanced by free market zealots and are currently being financed by billionaire venture philanthropists and hedge funders. Charter schools have also been instrumental in the resegregation of schooling in the US For more information about education reform, check out Education, Inc or this more comprehensive multi-media article. You can also listen to Education Radio.

The Clinton Foundation (known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation until 2015) has a sordid history. It has been accused over the years of being non transparent on many levels, which include being a slush fund for the Clinton family and racking up conflicts of interest in its support of aid projects that serve the interests of markets over human suffering. According to the Clinton Foundation website:
Everywhere we go, we're trying to work ourselves out of a job. Whether it's improving global health, increasing opportunity for girls and women, reducing childhood obesity and preventable diseases, creating economic opportunity and growth, or helping communities address the effects of climate change, we keep score by the lives that are saved or improved.
The foundation is funded by a "who's who" of banks, corporations, venture philanthropists, trade associations, military contractors, oil and pharmaceutical companies and governments that are clearly at odds with foundation's stated mission. A very short list of donors includes the US Chamber of Commerce, Gates Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Dow Chemical, Lockheed Martin, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Exxon, BP, Pfizer, Monsanto, Mars, Coca-Cola, and the infamous private security firm Blackwater.

In 1994, president Bill Clinton passed the deeply racist Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, of which intensified the criminalized Black and Brown Americans. First lady Hillary Clinton actively lobbied for the bill's passage, famously referring to Black youth as "super predators." With Hillary Clinton's active support, the bill increased prison sentences for nonviolent offenders, adopted harsh mandatory minimum sentences, encouraged police and prosecutors to be tougher on defendants; allocated $9.7 billion in new funding for the construction of prisons and $10.8 billion for 100,000 new police officers; attached the death penalty to more federal crimes; ended higher-education grants for prisoners; excluded ex drug offenders from food stamps and welfare; encouraged states to try more children as adults; facilitated the distribution of surplus military equipment to local police departments; and put time limits on death-penalty appeals. In just eight years following the crime bill, the prison population increased by more than 673,000 inmates.Hillary Clinton was also an ardent supporter of the Clinton administration's Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (Welfare Reform); legislation that disproportionately hurt Black and Brown women and children by dismantling the federal safety net program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). In her 2004 memoir Clinton claimed, "By the time Bill and I left the White House, welfare rolls had dropped 60 percent." This fact was not due to a reduction in poverty.
2011 as Secretary of State, Clinton penned a Foreign Policy essay titled "America's Pacific Century." In it she emphasized the importance of "opening new markets for American businesses" through using "the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade" by locking "in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region." According to Clinton, this project will entail dispatching:
…our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our interagency teams, and our permanent assets — to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region. Our strategy will have to keep accounting for and adapting to the rapid and dramatic shifts playing out across Asia. With this in mind, our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.
The strategy that Clinton outlined is based on a familiar empire building formula that the US has utilized over the past half century. Multilateral institutions refer to development banks and other organizations that shape and protect inequitable neoliberal economies. Bilateral security alliances (see Afghanistan) means providing direct military support (troops and arms) to allied governments, often times violent dictatorships. Broad-based military presence is about maintaining US military dominance over an entire region by having a continuous and visible display of readily deployable forces and weaponry. Expanding "trade and investment" means ensuring that US based financial investors and corporations dominate markets, resources and economies byway of the aforementioned strategies. This is all part of an Obama administration plan called "pivot to Asia" that was developed in response to China's growing economic power and influence, which is threatening US military and economic dominance in the region. As retired US Army colonel Ann Wright puts it, "with the Obama administration's 'pivot' of the United States military and economic strategy to Asia and the Pacific, the Chinese have seen military construction in their front yard." Read more about Clinton and "pivot to Asia" here. When it comes to expanding and protecting US hegemony at any cost, it appears that Hillary Clinton has learned much from her close personal friend Henry Kissinger.

As First Lady, Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As a US Senator, Clinton had a chance to vote on ten free trade deals. She voted yes to six and no to two. She actively supported agreements with Jordan and Peru, but skipped the votes while running for president against Obama. Clinton voted against the Trade Act of 2002, which expanded duty-free exports from Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru, because it gave fast-track authority to President Bush. During this time, free trade polled as being largely unpopular with the US electorate, so in anticipation of her 2008 presidential bid, Clinton voted against 2005 Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement. As did the politically ambitious Senator Obama, who up to then was a vocal supporter of free trade, with the caveat that they protect the rights of workers. As soon Obama became president, he forged ahead as an aggressive agent of free trade without concern for workers' rights. Secretary Clinton's recently released emails reveal that in 2011 she personally lobbied Senate Democrats to support three free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. While running for president in 2007, she claimed that she would oppose all three.

As Secretary of State, Clinton played a leading role in drafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). TPP is a widely unpopular free trade pact negotiated between eleven Pacific Rim countries and the US It is designed to maximize profits for global investors, while also advantaging the financial interests that are aligned with the US and its allies over that of China. Ultimately, coupled with "pivot to Asia," TPP is intended to be a financial weapon that is part of an escalating cold war between the US and China. As with other free trade pacts, Clinton has only backed off of her support for TPP during her latest bid for president. As presidential candidate Obama put it in 2008, Clinton said "great things about NAFTA until she started running for president."

In 2013 Bloomberg BusinessWeek reflected on Hillary Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State, claiming that "Clinton's corporate cheerleading has won praise from business groups." The article went on to chronicle how she prioritized State Department activities to focus on advancing US business interests and conducted herself as if she were a high-ranking business lobbyist, at times taking it upon herself to negotiate lucrative global contracts for US based corporations and military contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed, and General Electric. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, "In one directive, called the 'Ambassador-as-CEO' memo, she ordered US embassies to make it a priority to help US businesses win contracts. Science officers now extoll American clean-tech companies. Military affairs officers promote US fighter planes." More audaciously, according to a 2015 International Business Times investigation:
Under Clinton's leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation…[and] authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation. American defense contractors also donated to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state and in some cases made personal payments to Bill Clinton for speaking engagements.
Clinton's State Department approved these arms deals even though many of them strengthened the militaries of authoritarian regimes with well-documented records of human rights abuses.
As a US Senator, Clinton voted for the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, which has resulted in up to 175,172 civilian deaths (from violence alone) and a total of 242,000 deaths when combatants are included. In 2011, during a roundtable event on investing in Iraq, which included senior executives from thirty US companies, Secretary of State Clinton declared "It's time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity." Iraq had long been considered a "business opportunity" by many US investment firms, corporations and political leaders. Yet, in her role as Secretary of State, Clinton was not obligated to take the lead in these matters, which are normally the domain of the US Secretary of Commerce. Representatives from JPMorgan, ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin and Goldman Sachs were present, all of which (among others) received profitable US government and other contracts resulting from the decimation of Iraq (war profiteering). These four firms and others present during this 2011 roundtable were donors to the Clinton Foundation.

As Secretary of State Clinton was a forceful advocate for escalating US military operations in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. She also presided over the expansion of drone attacks that have killed hundreds, if not thousands of civilians (up to 90% not being the intended targets), while reinforcing US commitments to dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco and elsewhere. In a 2009 interview (two years before the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt) with the Arab television network Al Arabiya, Secretary of State Clinton was asked, "the State Department issued a report about criticizing the human rights record of Egypt. And what kind of -- in order for Egypt to enhance its record, what do you recommend or ask Egypt to do?" Clinton replied -- in part -- with the following:
We issue these reports on every country. We consider Egypt to be a friend and we engage in very forthright conversations with our friends… we look forward to President Mubarak coming [to the US] as soon as his schedule would permit. I had a wonderful time with him this morning. I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States.
In 2009 the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was deposed by a military coup not long after he took a leftist turn, allying the nation with the Chávez government in Venezuela, while taking steps to pass comprehensive land reform legislation. Naturally, this course upset the nation's business elite and international investors. While much of the world expressed outrage over the coup, demanding Zelaya's return, Secretary Clinton (at the behest of president Obama) continued to fund Honduran security forces and proceeded to enter secret negotiations with the coup leader -- Roberto Micheletti -- to not return Zelaya to power and instead schedule new elections. The two subsequent "elected" presidents have since reinforced Honduras' grossly unequal and despotic neoliberal paradise for the business elite, while violently suppressing efforts for social, environmental and economic justice by the most impoverished Hondurans. Clinton and the Obama administration have shown both active and passive support for both post-coup Honduran presidents, primarily through the continuance of military aid.

In terms of Haiti, Hillary Clinton's record is consistent, "where she blatantly manipulated and threatened Haitian government officials to control electoral outcomes. In that country, too, she and her husband have led the way in promoting a sweatshop-led development model." Read more here.
Finally, in a June 2016 campaign speech immediately following the mass murder within the LGBTQ club in Orlando Florida, Hillary Clinton emphasized the need for an "intelligence surge." She went on to explain, "we will work with our" Big Data (technology) companies -- as the prevailing domestic surveillance apparatus -- to expand their existing practices of "tracking and analyzing social media posts" along with other digital platforms.

In conclusion, yes Donald Trump is a scary and unpredictable bigot who should never hold public office. Yet, Clinton is far from being progressive, let alone liberal, and in fact is an agent of the status quo: a nation of unprecedented social inequity, economic inequality, militarism and structural racism. Additionally, there is no evidence to support claims that Clinton will actively support "reasonable" gun laws, LGBTQ rights and parental leave. There is, however, evidence that she will perpetuate legal and institutionalized racial violence against Black and Brown people through the "war on drugs," mass incarceration, economic austerity, militarism, immigration policy, the ongoing subjugation of Native people and summary executions by the police. While Clinton may "heed" climate science, her past and present cozy relationship with the fossil fuel industry does not bode well for her taking a lead in advancing urgent solutions for climate change. Yes, she will support Obamacare because it is in line with her market-based worldview. Still, let's stop perpetuating myths about Obamacare. It is a highly inequitable and ineffective system that mandates people to buy increasingly expensive plans that provide extensively inadequate health care coverage from nefarious insurance companies. Under the reign of Obamacare, the less money you have, the shi**ier the health care coverage you get. We must only support candidates that will advance a comprehensive single-payer healthcare system. In terms of fear about Supreme Court nominees and the overturning of decisions like Roe v. Wade -- as with the 14th and 15th Amendments and the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision -- the age-old problem of federal enforcement and states rights have systematically been reversing Roe v. Wade, particularly within the last 5 years. Even if Clinton wanted to take such action (more than likely halfheartedly), she cannot do anything about those structural realities that impede lasting legal solutions that protect civil and human rights.
At the very least, if you choose to support Clinton out of fear of a Trump presidency, then do so without perpetuating the multitude of myths and lies that portray Clinton as a champion of equity and social justice.

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The unexpected side effect of Hillary 2016: How she transformed Democrats into “new” Republicans

The Clinton campaign has drained many of the ideals Democrats have long stood for

On Oct. 30, 2010, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held a rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Despite the fact that midterm elections were right around the corner, the main goal of the rally was not openly to affect the vote. Instead, the idea was to use satire and comedy to "restore sanity" to the political dialogue in a nation that had become overwhelmed by fear, irrationality, and prejudice.  Stewart ended the rally with a "moment of sincerity" where he criticized the polarizing press, the panic incited by pundits, and the increasing inability of citizens to find any sort of reasonable compromise.

The idea wasn't to point fingers; it was to encourage a more respectful and productive dialogue among people who hold differing views.  It was a historic moment when two of the nation's most important political comedians publicly intervened to improve the course of politics.  There were about 215,000 people at the rally. Two million watched it on Comedy Central live and another half million saw it live via the internet feed.

It all feels like ages ago.

Today, both comedians have left their Comedy Central posts and many have speculated that if they had continued we wouldn't be in this mess.

But that's not the real change that matters. Now the change is over who in this nation is driven by fear and who is ruled by sanity.  When Colbert and Stewart took the stage, they didn't openly associate reason with Democrats and fear with Republicans.  They didn't have to.

Ever since the post 9/11 era of George W. Bush the nation had increasingly witnessed a turn in the Republican party from conservative values to hysterical ones.  There were numerous studies that showed that the Republican brain was less open to nuance, critical thinking, and reason. One study showed how Republicans would hold on even more fervently to their beliefs even when presented with bipartisan evidence to the contrary.

One party could process facts. One party considered them a conspiracy.

One party voted rationally. One voted illogically.

Well, the 2016 election shattered that neat little breakdown.

Now it has to be said that there were always flaws to the system that suggested that the left was reasonable and the right was dogmatic.   There are plenty of reasonable Republicans who have mourned the Tea Party era and the havoc it has played on the GOP.  And there are plenty of lefty moonbats who are a quite kooky in their positions.

But the fact that study after study revealed real differences in brain patterns and decision-making was revealing.  One study by Scientific American asked folks to complete a triad task where they had to indicate which two were more closely connected –panda, banana, monkey.  Liberals connected the abstract category of animal—panda, monkey. Conservatives connected the monkey to the banana since the monkey uses the banana.  The study concluded that liberals had higher cognitive function.
Or at least they used to.

While there seems little doubt that the entire Donald Trump campaign is based on hype, hysteria, and sensationalism; it's worth noting the very real ways that the Hillary Clinton campaign has also been dominated by binary thinking, irrationality, and panic.

First of all, the number one reason that Bernie Sanders supporters are told they should vote for Hillary is to stop Trump. Nowhere is there an argument about the merits of her platform.  If the primary argument to vote for Hillary is out of fear—then the Democrats have now joined with the GOP in promoting a politics of hysteria.

And for what it's worth, some voters today think that the lesser evil is still plenty evil.  They'd rather sit it out or vote green.  The Hillary camp simply has no counter-argument for that.

Second of all, there is a real allergic reaction to truth in the Clinton camp.  If Hillary had joined with Bernie and called for investigations into the many, many, many reported cases of election fraud, the political environment on the left would be drastically different.   But rather than deal with the facts, the Hillary camp chose to ignore the rights of voters and describe the calls for fairness as the ravings of lunatics searching for a conspiracy.

And they were joined by the mainstream media who basically refused to take seriously the idea that there were any significant election irregularities at all. We had to leave it the alternative media like Democracy Now and to brave political comedians like Lee Camp to even cover the story.  (Watch one of his clips on election fraud from RedactedTonight here.)

Outside of these alternative, anti-establishment spaces no one seemed to notice that the way that Clinton supporters ignored election fraud was pretty much identical to what happened on the Bush-Gore vote.  Except this time there is a huge difference– now the fight is within the same party.
But there's more. Because within the Clinton campaign there is a real issue with "the woman card." Of course, it is historic that she may well be the Democratic nominee. But that fact has nothing to do with whether or not she is feminist. It just means she is a woman who broke a barrier.

Margaret Thatcher broke that barrier in her nation in 1975 and no one confused that with an advance for feminism.  Having Clinton supporters like Gloria Steinem suggest that women who don't support Clinton are just looking for sex,suggests that the Clinton camp has some pretty confused ideas about what feminism means.

Then, of course, Madeleine Albright suggested there was a "special place in hell for women who don't help each other." I'm pretty sure that wasn't a reference to Hillary's questionable record supporting victims of her husband's sexual harassment.  While feminism is a broad term that can mean many things, for some of us, feminism requires standing up for the victims right in front of you. And that's not even taking into account her flip-flopping on same-sex marriage rights.
Regardless of whether Hillary should be held to account for her own treatment of women, there seems little doubt that this campaign has constructed a narrow and aggressive view of what it means to advocate for women's rights.  What may be a historic achievement for a woman in this nation is being overshadowed by a view of "feminism" that basically requires women to support Hillary or be sluts that are going to hell.  And while it is easy to let Trump's misogyny distract us, we have to recognize that the Clinton version of feminism lacks critical complexity and smacks of dogmatism.

But there's more. Despite cries of "Bernie bros," it is the Clinton camp that has adopted tactics of bullying, trolling, and shaming. Led by the efforts of David Brock, a Clinton super PAC launched Correct the Record to spend $1 million "on paid internet trolls to pounce on anyone who dared to criticize their presidential candidate."   And while there are ardent supporters of each of the candidates, we now have significant evidence that it is Clinton supporters that have been more aggressive and threatening than Sanders supporters.  Trump's fans win, but that's no surprise.
We are literally watching the Clinton campaign drain any claim to nuance, critical thinking, reasoned logic, and attention to facts from the Democratic party.

Those who justifiably reject the two-party system won't find any of this remotely novel as a concept, but I would caution that throwing those who "think" they are on the left under the bus is not a useful exercise here.   There is a real difference in the aggressive, hawkish, illogical tone of the Clinton campaign that differentiates it from those of Democrats in the last decades.

The fact that Clinton is now the favorite of many on the right, with endorsement after endorsement pouring in, should be evidence enough of a real merging of the right and the "left." What we have more clearly on view is a breakdown between the political elite and the people.

This of course, is why the reasoned tone of Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders is resonating with those of us in this nation who would rather vote to restore sanity than to keep fear alive.  Defending a two-party system that has abdicated any connection to reality simply seems insane.

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