January 2017 Archives
She made me understand there was goodness.
Actress Mary Tyler Moore, whose eponymous 1970s series helped usher in a new era for women on television, died Wednesday at the age of 80, her longtime representative Mara Buxbaum said.
"Today beloved icon Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine," she said. "A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile."
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" debuted in 1970 and starred the actress as Mary Richards, a single 30-something career woman at a Minneapolis TV station. The series was hailed by feminists and fans alike as the first modern woman's sitcom.
But that wasn't the role which catapulted her into stardom. Moore first found fame playing Laura Petrie, the wife on the "The Dick Van Dyke Show," which ran for five seasons beginning in 1961.
Patriotism was not created for marginalized people. It's always been framed by, for and within the halls of power and privilege occupied almost exclusively by rich white men.
If you can convince the lowest white man that he is better than the best colored man, he won't notice that you are picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on and he'll empty his pockets for you. - LBJ
Robb Willer studies the forces that unite and divide us. As a social psychologist, he researches how moral values -- typically a source of division -- can also be used to bring people together. Willer shares compelling insights on how we might bridge the ideological divide and offers some intuitive advice on ways to be more persuasive when talking politics.
I think the turn out for and enthusiasms of the Women's marches across the world today indicate that if anything is going to save our collective butts, it's the women.
Yet here's some good insights from Mr. Kristof too without the usual Man 'splainin'
Here is the comment I left for the following column:
culheath Winter Haven, FL
Thanks for the alternative and uplifting perspective, Mr. K.
After today's developments with the women's marches contrasted to the painful inauguration speeches of yesterday, I truly believe that these visions you share will only come to fruition when women have largely wrested the helm from the men. I say that as a 68 yr old white male more than willing to surrender the reins.
There's a broad consensus that the world is falling apart, with every headline reminding us that life is getting worse.
Except that it isn't. In fact, by some important metrics, 2016 was the best year in the history of humanity. And 2017 will probably be better still.
How can this be? I'm as appalled as anyone by the election of Donald Trump, the bloodshed in Syria, and so on. But while I fear what Trump will do to America and the world, and I applaud those standing up to him, the Trump administration isn't the most important thing going on. Here, take my quiz:
On any given day, the number of people worldwide living in extreme poverty:
A.) Rises by 5,000, because of climate change, food shortages and endemic corruption.
B.) Stays about the same.
C.) Drops by 250,000.
Polls show that about 9 out of 10 Americans believe that global poverty has worsened or stayed the same. But in fact, the correct answer is C. Every day, an average of about a quarter-million people worldwide graduate from extreme poverty, according to World Bank figures.
Or if you need more of a blast of good news, consider this: Just since 1990, more than 100 million children's lives have been saved through vaccinations, breast-feeding promotion, diarrhea treatment and more. If just about the worst thing that can happen is for a parent to lose a child, that's only half as likely today as in 1990.
When I began writing about global poverty in the early 1980s, more than 40 percent of all humans were living in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 10 percent are. By 2030 it looks as if just 3 or 4 percent will be. (Extreme poverty is defined as less than $1.90 per person per day, adjusted for inflation.)
For nearly all of human history, extreme poverty has been the default condition of our species, and now, on our watch, we are pretty much wiping it out. That's a stunning transformation that I believe is the most important thing happening in the world today -- whatever the news from Washington.
There will, of course, be continued poverty of a less extreme kind, smaller numbers of children will continue to die unnecessarily, and inequality remains immense. Oxfam calculated this month that just eight rich men own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.
Yet global income inequality is actually declining. While income inequality has increased within the U.S., it has declined on a global level because China and India have lifted hundreds of millions from poverty.
All this may seem distant or irrelevant at a time when many Americans are traumatized by Trump's inauguration. But let me try to reassure you, along with myself.
On a recent trip to Madagascar to report on climate change, I was struck that several mothers I interviewed had never heard of Trump, or of Barack Obama, or even of the United States. Their obsession was more desperate: keeping their children alive. And the astonishing thing was that those children, despite severe malnutrition, were all alive, because of improvements in aid and health care -- reflecting trends that are grander than any one man.
Some of the most remarkable progress has been over diseases that -- thank God! -- Americans very rarely encounter. Elephantiasis is a horrible, disfiguring, humiliating disease usually caused by a parasite, leading a person's legs to expand hugely until they resemble an elephant's. In men, the disease can make the scrotum swell to grotesque proportions, so that when they walk they must carry their scrotum on a homemade wheelbarrow.
Yet some 40 countries are now on track to eliminate elephantiasis. When you've seen the anguish caused by elephantiasis -- or leprosy, or Guinea worm, or polio, or river blindness, or blinding trachoma -- it's impossible not to feel giddy at the gains registered against all of them.
There's similar progress in empowering women and in reducing illiteracy. Until the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate; now, 85 percent of adults are literate. And almost nothing makes more difference in a society than being able to read and write.
Michael Elliott, who died last year after leading the One Campaign, which battles poverty, used to say that we are living in an "age of miracles." He was right, yet the progress is still too slow, and a basic question is whether President Trump will continue bipartisan U.S. efforts to fight global poverty. A four-page questionnaire from the Trump team to the State Department seems to suggest doubts about the value of humanitarian aid.
One reason for the Trump team's skepticism may be the belief that global poverty is hopeless, that nothing makes a difference. So let's keep perspective. Yes, Trump may cause enormous damage to America and the world in the coming years, and by all means we should challenge him at every turn. But when the headlines make me sick, I soothe myself with the reflection that there are forces in the world that are larger than Trump, and that in the long history of humanity, this still will likely be the very best year yet.
Remember: The most important thing happening is not a Trump tweet. What's infinitely more important is that today some 18,000 children who in the past would have died of simple diseases will survive, about 300,000 people will gain electricity and a cool 250,000 will graduate from extreme poverty.
I don't always punch people in the face, but when I do, it's a racist.
Stay vigilant my friends.
Richard Spencer, the self-proclaimed white nationalist and leader of the "alt-right" (a phrase he coined) movement, was punched in the face at a Trump inauguration protest Friday after denying that he was a Nazi.
Spencer was speaking in front of a group of people who were asking him questions such as, "Are you a neo-Nazi?" to which he responded no. He was then asked if he liked black people, and he said, "Why not? Sure."
"Would you marry a black woman?" the person asked. Spencer did not answer that question.
Spencer then told the group that neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan actually hate him, and it is at that point that a man walked up from the crowd and punched Spencer in the face.
Fuck him...I'd smack him too.
President Donald Trump hours after he was sworn in to the highest office in the nation signed an executive order aimed at "minimizing the economic burden" of Obamacare "pending repeal."
The executive order was Trump's first since becoming the 45th president of the United States. The order says that "It is the policy of my Administration to seek the prompt repeal" of the law.
It orders that the Secretary of Health and Human Services and others to "exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay" any requirement of Obamacare that would impose a fiscal burden.
The order also directs agencies to give greater flexibility to states in implementing the health care law. It says the policy of the Trump administration is to "prepare to afford the States more flexibility and control to create a more free and open healthcare market."
The president can't repeal the health care law himself, but Trump and other Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which is widely known as Obamacare. Republicans in the House and Senate last week signed bills to complete the first step to repeal the law.
Also Friday, Trump's chief of staff Reince Preibus also sent a memo Friday ordering that some pending federal regulations be frozen so Trump or others in the administration can review them.
I have never been so intensely overwhelmed by the poignancy of a film as I was by Moonlight. I literally had to stop half way through and take a break because I couldn't see through the tears. And the strangest thing being that I couldn't isolate the cause of my weeping to any singular aspect of what I was experiencing...there was something in the whole effect, the way the elements of the film were being subtlely orchestrated without dialogue, by the silences themselves.
It is so superb on so many different levels; the script, the construction, the cinematography, the direction, the acting, the continuities...all just blew me away. I plan to watch it at least five or six times times because there is just so much to plumb. So far I've managed three.
I pray this picks up this years Academy Award. I'm not even going to try to critique it it beyond my own reactions because I am still so stunned everything I think to say seems to short change it.
This reviewer gets a lot of it:
This review was originally published on September 11, during the Toronto International Film Festival.
"Who is you, man?" Dramatic film has long been fascinated with issues of identity, but they've rarely been explored with the degree of eloquence and heartbreaking beauty as in Barry Jenkins' masterful "Moonlight," one of the essential American films of 2016.
"Moonlight" is a film that is both lyrical and deeply grounded in its character work, a balancing act that's breathtaking to behold. It is one of those rare pieces of filmmaking that stays completely focused on its characters while also feeling like it's dealing with universal themes about identity, sexuality, family, and, most of all, masculinity. And yet it's never preachy or moralizing.
It is a movie in which deep, complex themes are reflected through character first and foremost. Jenkins' film is confident in every single aspect of the way that a critic can use that word.
Every performance, every shot choice, every piece of music, every lived-in setting--it's one of those rare movies that just doesn't take a wrong step, and climaxes in a scene not of CGI or twists but of dialogue that is one of the best single scenes in years.
WASHINGTON (AP) - In his last major act as president, Barack Obama is cutting short the sentences of 330 federal inmates convicted of drug crimes.
The move brings Obama's bid to correct what he's called a systematic injustice to a climactic close.
Obama has now commuted the sentences of 1,715 people, more than any other president in U.S. history. During his presidency Obama freed 568 inmates serving life sentences.
The final batch of commutations is the most any U.S. president has issued in a single day. It's the culmination of a second-term effort to remedy consequences of decades of onerous sentencing requirements that Obama's said put tens of thousands of drug offenders behind bars for too long.
Obama repeatedly called on Congress to act broadly, but lawmakers never did.
The way it should be done.
by Christina Couch
Humans worldwide produce between 35 and 40 billion metric tons of carbon air emissions each year, a big chunk of which comes from fossil fuel-burning power plants. Efforts to reduce emissions only go so far and getting rid of smokestacks is nearly impossible, but there is an alternative on the horizon. Let's transform some of that pollution into valuable, revenue-generating products.
That's the challenge put forth by the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, a global competition dedicated to accelerating the development and economic viability of technologies that can convert CO2 emissions into usable things, like biofuels, building materials, or fertilizers.
With $20 million in prizes on the line, teams from across the world are racing to design technologies for coal and natural gas power plants that can convert the most CO2 into the highest-value products, creating a path and financial incentive for the entire energy sector to clean up its act in the process.
"The specific challenge that the XPRIZE identified was not just that CO2 emissions exist and we need to reduce them, but maybe there was a fundamentally new way to go about doing that," says Marcius Extavour, the competition's director of Technical Operations. If competitors can prove that companies can make money off something they're currently throwing away without subsidies or financial incentives from the government, "that really changes the ball game."
Teams are each taking their own approaches to CO2 conversion, and in some cases developing products and conversion methods that haven't been explored on the industrial scale before, Extavour adds.
Change in Progress
Carbicrete, a startup based in Montreal, Canada, is trying to help the construction industry get a little greener. While pursuing his Ph.D. at McGill University, Mehrdad Mahoutian started experimenting with ways to make concrete without cement, a binding ingredient in concrete that requires large amounts of heat (generally from burning fossil fuels) to produce.
Mahoutian knew that slag, a waste residue generated during steel production, had some of the same chemical components found in cement, but when it just didn't work when mixed in concrete. In 2012, he began investigating whether carbon dioxide could strengthen the mixture. When CO2 is injected into wet concrete made with slag, the gas binds with calcium silicate within the slag and traps the CO2 inside. The result is a cement-free building material the Carbicrete team says is stronger and less expensive than traditional concrete with a substantially smaller environmental footprint.
"We're taking industrial waste that's not being used, and we're replacing something that's pretty nasty -- cement -- and on top of all of it, we're sequestering carbon dioxide," says Carbicrete CEO and co-founder Chris Stern. "It's a triple home run."
Stern's team plans to eventually license the Carbicrete production method, but for now, they're focused on adding an emissions capture system to their technology for the semi-final Carbon XPRIZE round, which lasts through this December. During that round, all teams will demonstrate how their conversion process performs on a small-scale simulated power plant gas stream.
As a young man, Congressman John Lewis, who represents most of Atlanta, literally put his life on the line in pursuit of justice. As a key civil rights leader, he endured multiple beatings. Most famously, he led the demonstration that came to be known as Bloody Sunday, suffering a fractured skull at the hands of state troopers. Public outrage over that day's violence helped lead to the enactment of the Voting Rights Act.
Now Mr. Lewis says that he won't attend the inauguration of Donald Trump, whom he regards as an illegitimate president.
As you might expect, this statement provoked a hysterical, slanderous reaction from the president-elect - who, of course, got his start in national politics by repeatedly, falsely questioning President Obama's right to hold office. But Mr. Trump -- who has never sacrificed anything or taken a risk to help others -- seems to have a special animus toward genuine heroes. Maybe he prefers demonstrators who don't get beaten?
But let's not talk about Mr. Trump's ravings. Instead, let's ask whether Mr. Lewis was right to say what he said. Is it O.K., morally and politically, to declare the man about to move into the White House illegitimate?
Yes, it is. In fact, it's an act of patriotism.
By any reasonable standard, the 2016 election was deeply tainted. It wasn't just the effects of Russian intervention on Mr. Trump's behalf; Hillary Clinton would almost surely have won if the F.B.I. hadn't conveyed the false impression that it had damaging new information about her, just days before the vote. This was grotesque, delegitimizing malfeasance, especially in contrast with the agency's refusal to discuss the Russia connection.
Was there even more to it? Did the Trump campaign actively coordinate with a foreign power? Did a cabal within the F.B.I. deliberately slow-walk investigations into that possibility? Are the lurid tales about adventures in Moscow true? We don't know, although Mr. Trump's creepy obsequiousness to Vladimir Putin makes it hard to dismiss these allegations. Even given what we do know, however, no previous U.S. president-elect has had less right to the title. So why shouldn't we question his legitimacy?
And talking frankly about how Mr. Trump gained power isn't just about truth-telling. It may also help to limit that power.
At his Stanford University commencement speech, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, urges us to pursue our dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks -- including death itself.
Here's a sample of the first one I drew ...the blue line is the actual data and the yellow dotted line is my estimate.
Under President Obama, the unemployment rate...number of immigrants convicted of crimes who were deported...national spending on health care, as a percent of the gross domestic product...etc
The problem with our "post-truth" politics is that a large share of the population has moved beyond true and false. They thrill precisely to the falsehood of a statement, because it shows that the speaker has the power to reshape reality in line with their own fantasies of self-righteous beleaguerment. To call novelists liars is naïve, because it mistakes their intention; they never wanted to be believed in the first place. The same is true of demagogues.
Lie to Me: Fiction in the Post-Truth Era
By Adam Kirsch
American novelists have long complained about the ability of real life to outstrip fiction. In his landmark 1961 essay "Writing American Fiction," Philip Roth observed that "actuality is continually outdoing our talents, and the culture tosses up figures almost daily that are the envy of any novelist." The figure Roth cites is Charles Van Doren, of quiz-show scandal fame; but place Mr. Van Doren next to Donald J. Trump, and you can measure the change in the nature of credibility over the past half-century.
Mr. Van Doren was disgraced when it was revealed that he had been given the answers to the questions on the game show "Twenty-One," a contest that television viewers believed was real, not staged. Today an entire flourishing genre of television goes by the name "reality," yet no one who watches it thinks it is genuinely real -- that is, unplanned and unedited. Artificiality is what makes reality television enjoyable, even though these same shows, if advertised as fiction, would appear banal, repetitive and undramatic. Reality is the ingredient that turns a bad fiction into an enthralling one.
This dynamic is part of the novel's origins. The earliest English novels, from "Moll Flanders" (1722) to "Clarissa" (1748), were published anonymously, with titles that implied they were true stories. It took generations to establish the conventions of fiction sufficiently to allow readers to take pleasure in novels that were explicitly untrue. The suspension of disbelief that fiction involves is a late stage in the evolution of taste, and it may prove to have been a temporary one.
The rise of the memoir over the past few decades doesn't mean that readers are ready to abandon the techniques of fiction; but, like readers three centuries ago, they want the freedom of fiction along with consequentiality of fact.
The author David Shields diagnosed this desire in his 2010 manifesto "Reality Hunger": "I find it very nearly impossible to read a contemporary novel that presents itself un-self-consciously as a novel." Many fiction writers share this intuition, though they respond to it in different ways.
One way is to make the novel self-conscious, by turning its imitation of reality into an exaggeration, a fun-house mirror. Has our reality since 9/11 felt apocalyptic? Then imagine Manhattan being destroyed by zombies (Colson Whitehead's "Zone One") or a flood (Nathaniel Rich's "Odds Against Tomorrow") or civil war and foreign bankers (Gary Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story"). Because we know such things "could never happen," they mark the story as fiction; because we know similar things have happened and will happen, they become truthful fictions.
An alternative approach is to make fiction as close to fact as possible, by reducing its scope to the one subject on which each writer is an unchallengeable authority: himself or herself. Ben Lerner's "10:04," Tao Lin's "Taipei" and Sheila Heti's "How Should a Person Be?" all seek to convince us that we are reading about the writer's actual life. These writers are engaged in a sophisticated project, in which the line between truth and fiction becomes harder and harder to make out.
But this game has a built-in fail-safe: Label a book "fiction," and all is forgiven. A fiction can never be accused of being a lie.
The problem is that, more and more, people seem to want to be lied to. This is the flip side of "reality hunger," since a lie, like a fake memoir, is a fiction that does not admit its fictionality. That is why the lie is so seductive: It allows the liar and his audience to cooperate in changing the nature of reality itself, in a way that can appear almost magical. "Magical thinking" is used as an insult, but it is perhaps the most primal kind of thinking there is. The problem for modern people is that we can no longer perform this magic naively, with an undoubting faith in the reality of our inventions. We lie to ourselves now with a bad conscience. When the memoir is exposed as not having "really" happened, we want our money back.
Rachel Maddow shows ExxonMobil's heavy investment in Russia, which it has yet to be able to exploit because of U.S. sanctions on Russia over the annexation of Crimea, and how a change in that policy could means hundreds of millions of dollars for ExxonMobil.
We can evolve bacteria, plants and animals -- futurist Juan Enriquez asks: Is it ethical to evolve the human body? In a visionary talk that ranges from medieval prosthetics to present day neuroengineering and genetics, Enriquez sorts out the ethics associated with evolving humans and imagines the ways we'll have to transform our own bodies if we hope to explore and live in places other than Earth.