Saturday, March 31, 2018

It Wasn't for the Politicians. This Day Was for the People.

The March for Our Lives was for the victims and those who knew them, all of whom are bound in blood.

from Esquire:

WASHINGTON, D.C.—I was walking in the general direction of Capitol Hill on Saturday when I made a call for myself. I’d long since lost track of the people with whom I’d been walking, and the closer we got to Capitol Hill along Pennsylvania Avenue, the thicker the crowds became until it was virtually impossible to see anything at all except the person in front of you and the people on either side. Anyway, being basically trapped, I made the call about which way the reporting of the March For Our Lives was going to go.

No politicians.

Not even the ones I like. Not even the ones with whom I agree. (These groups are not the same, by the way.) Not if they picked me up and carried me around on their shoulders. Not if they came and sat in my lap. No politicians. Not this day. This day was for everybody else and this day was for politicians—all politicians—to take a seat and listen. Because this day was nothing if it was not a massive condemnation of general political malpractice, a case that already had gone to the jury too many times, and a case on which the jury had come back too many times, and now it was the politicians who had to sit there, quietly, and listen to a nation’s victim-impact statement. No, there would be no talking to politicians on Saturday. I didn’t want to distract them from hearing what they needed to hear.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was everywhere in the swelling crowd—students, alumni, teachers and coaches, football jerseys and baseball caps, theater kids and wideouts. The massive turnout was marbled throughout with the people most immediately touched by the country’s most recent massacre. I walked along with Amanda Koplovitz, an MSD senior who, back on Valentine’s Day, had spent several hours in a closet in the theater building across from the freshman building that Nikolas Cruz was turning into a killing ground. She stayed in there for two hours. Amanda had come to Washington with a friend. “This,” she said, gesturing toward the crowd around her, “started almost immediately. We started talking to each other and everything came together like you see.” She still can remember every second of every minute, and every minute of every hour. “I didn’t see my phone for two weeks," she said. “That was the least of my worries, though.”

As I wandered through the crowd, I noticed something else: signs declaring some of the participants in the march to be from the other national stations of the cross. Columbine. Newtown. The Pulse nightclub. Two guys from Northern Illinois University where, on Valentine’s Day in 2008, exactly ten years before Nikolas Cruz walked into the freshman building in Parkland, a student named Steven Kazmierczak opened up on a crowd of his fellow students with a shotgun and three handguns. He killed five people and wounded 17 others before he ended things by killing himself. I’d forgotten that shooting ever happened, which is the kind of amnesiac anesthesia that this march was aimed at preventing. As I turned away and back toward the street, I saw a woman holding a tall metal rod topped with a picture of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

On January 8, 2011, Nancy Bowman, an OR nurse in Tucson, Arizona, needed to buy some milk. So she and her husband, a doctor, drove on down to the Safeway in the Las Toscana Village Mall. As Bowman was walking into the store, a man named Jared Lee Loughner was walking out, a 9 mm. Glock held down by his leg. He walked up to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was having an outdoor meet-and-greet with her constituents in the parking lot of the mall, and he shot her in the head. Then he shot 21 other people, six of them fatally.

“I started taking care of the people, who were down like dominoes,” Bowman recalled. “It took about 45 minutes or so before all the victims were pronounced dead at the scene or were transported to the hospital.

“I didn’t know who I was working on then, but I know them now. People asked how I could work on so many, but they were just lying down there like dominoes. I did mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Judge John Roll until my husband came up to me and said, ‘You got to stop. You got to go and save somebody. You can’t save him.' I took care of Pam Simon, who was an aide to Gabby Giffords.” Bowman also worked to save Ron Barber, who later briefly would take Giffords’ seat in the House of Representatives. “I worked on Ron,” Bowman said, “because he was about to bleed to death. I took care of Christina Taylor-Green and the woman who’d brought her there.” Christina Taylor-Green died shortly thereafter. She was nine years old.

“I work in the OR,” said Nancy Bowman, “So I’m very familiar with blood, yes.”

Standing with Bowman was Patricia Maisch. On that terrible day, Maisch actually had come to the mall to see Congresswoman Giffords. She wanted to thank her for voting for the Affordable Care Act and for voting for President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, which had helped Maisch and her husband run their heating and cooling business. She found herself intimately involved with the end of Laughner’s rampage.

“That’s when he ran out of ammunition, and he was trying to reload,” she said. “That’s when two guys, without guns, tackled him. Essentially tackled him on top of me. Because of that, I was able to take a magazine out of his hand that he was trying to reload.”

Most of the attention was on the stage, and that was as it should be. There were no politicians there, either. There was Emma Gonzalez and her mournful, gravid silence, and the great Naomi Wadler, the 11-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia, who said that she was here for a singular purpose.

I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics, instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.
From the stage, it was clear that this event was not only about the victims of massacres, but also the victims of the daily, slow-motion massacre in our cities and out in our rural areas, places shattered by poverty, drug addiction and hopelessness. (It was this that seems to have brought Paul McCartney out in New York, who told CNN that, "One of my best friends was killed in gun violence right around here, so it's important to me.") Those clips will be played, over and over again, all over television. With any luck at all, they will, anyway.

But my lasting memory of the march will be all these other people—Amanda Koplovitz, the two men from Northern Illinois, Nancy Bowman and Patricia Maisch, and hundreds of others who came here because what happened in Parkland had happened to them, too. In this country now, there is a sprawling community of people who have survived mass murder, a community bound quite literally in blood. There are too many of them. There were too many of them a decade ago. This community is almost certain to get larger. Someday, god help us, the kids from Parkland will march with other survivors in honor of the most recent dead. We certainly are growing an interesting brand of combat veterans here in the United States these days.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Sweden’s recycling is so revolutionary, the country has run out of rubbish

from the Independent:

Sweden’s recycling is so revolutionary, the country has to import rubbish from other countries to keep its recycling plants going. What lessons can we learn, asks Hazel Sheffield

Sweden is so good at recycling that, for several years, it has imported rubbish from other countries to keep its recycling plants going. Less than 1 per cent of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011.

We can only dream of such an effective system in the UK, which is why we end up paying expensive transport costs to send rubbish to be recycled overseas rather than paying fines to send it to landfill under The Landfill Tax of 1996.

The UK has made strides in the proportion of waste recycled under an EU target of 50 per cent by 2020. This has underpinned hundreds of millions of pounds of investment into recycling facilities and energy recovery plants in the UK, creating many jobs. We’re not quite at that target yet. Recycling in the UK peaked at around 45 per cent of all waste in 2014.

Since then, provisional figures from the ONS have shown that figure has dropped to 44 per cent as austerity has resulted in budget cuts. The decision to leave the EU could be about to make this situation worse. While Europe is aiming for a 65 per cent recycling target by 2030, the UK may be about to fall even further behind its green neighbours.

Why are we sending waste to Sweden? Their system is so far ahead because of a culture of looking after the environment. Sweden was one of the first countries to implement a heavy tax on fossil fuels in 1991 and now sources almost half its electricity from renewables.

“Swedish people are quite keen on being out in nature and they are aware of what we need do on nature and environmental issues. We worked on communications for a long time to make people aware not to throw things outdoors so that we can recycle and reuse,” says Anna-Carin Gripwall, director of communications for Avfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management’s recycling association.

Over time, Sweden has implemented a cohesive national recycling policy so that even though private companies undertake most of the business of importing and burning waste, the energy goes into a national heating network to heat homes through the freezing Swedish winter. “That’s a key reason that we have this district network, so we can make use of the heating from the waste plants. In the southern part of Europe they don’t make use of the heating from the waste, it just goes out the chimney. Here we use it as a substitute for fossil fuel,” Ms Gripwell says.

Sweden’s heating network is not without its detractors. They argue that the country is dodging real recycling by sending waste to be incinerated. Paper plant managers say that wood fibre can be used up to six times before it becomes dust. If Sweden burns paper before that point it is exhausting the potential for true recycling and replacing used paper with fresh raw material.

Ms Gripwall says the aim in Sweden is still to stop people sending waste to recycling in the first place. A national campaign called the “Miljönär-vänlig” movement has for several years promoted the notion that there is much to be gained through repairing, sharing and reusing.

She describes Sweden’s policy of importing waste to recycle from other countries as a temporary situation. “There’s a ban on landfill in EU countries, so instead of paying the fine they send it to us as a service. They should and will build their own plants, to reduce their own waste, as we are working hard to do in Sweden,” Ms Gripwall says.

“Hopefully there will be less waste and the waste that has to go to incineration should be incinerated in each country. But to use recycling for heating you have to have district heating or cooling systems, so you have to build the infrastructure for that, and that takes time,” she adds.

Swedish municipalities are individually investing in futuristic waste collection techniques, like automated vacuum systems in residential blocks, removing the need for collection transport, and underground container systems that free up road space and get rid of any smells.

In the UK, each local authority has its own system, making it difficult for residents to be confident about what they can recycle and where. “We need more of a coherent national strategy in England to the collection of recyclable materials, rather than the current approach, whereby it is largely left to individual local authorities to determine their own collection policies,” says Angus Evers, partner at Shoosmiths and a convenor of the UK Environmental Law Association’s Waste Working Party.

Local authorities will often start by recycling the highest volume materials because they are measured according to the proportion of waste recycled, so bigger items count for more. “Whatever we end up with in the UK, we need a system which collects all recyclable materials rather than cherry-picking the easiest and cheapest,” says Richard Hands, chief executive of ACE UK, the drink carton industry’s trade association.

Mr Hands points to his own drinks carton industry, which includes Tetra Pak, SIG Combibloc and Elopak. Through ACE UK, these brands have driven up carton recycling, more than doubling the number of local authorities collecting cartons from 31 per cent in 2011 to 65 per cent in 2016.

He says that the UK needs to build infrastructure around recycling plants so that it can stop sending waste overseas. Some local authorities already have a “no export” policy to achieve this. “Growing the UK waste industry will create jobs and generate UK-based revenue for the economy,” Mr Hands says.

Angus Evers says a better domestic recycling system should be a part of our strategy for leaving the EU. “The materials we currently export represent a huge drain of valuable resources going out of the UK that could be used in the UK economy to make new products and reduce our imports of raw materials. If we have aspirations to be less dependent on Europe, then we need to be more self-sufficient and recycle more,” Mr Evers says.

And what will Sweden do if we stop sending it rubbish to feed its heating system? Ms Gripwall says the Swedes will not freeze – they have biofuels ready to substitute for our exported waste.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Fugazi’s In on the Kill Taker (5 Minutes mini Doc.) | from Pitchfork media

No band pushed back harder against the commodification of the underground as Fugazi. With the release of their third LP, In on the Kill Taker, the poster children for DIY punk ethics found themselves caught up in of one of the most turbulent times in the subculture’s history.

Monday, March 26, 2018

School of Life Monday:
Why We Worry All the Time and How to Cope

Many of us have had such difficult starts in life, we are unable to find the serenity and security we need to approach every new day with a reasonable degree of confidence. A short film to boost our sense that things can and will be OK.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

My 10 Year old showed me one of the nice videos he's listening to...

The other stuff is just SO FAR OUTA CONTROL it makes what we thought was heavy seem like it's nothing?
I thought people got over the misogyny and violence, in videos and music already, damn. it's as bad as ever ...
and in music young kids are listening to... damn.

other than the consumerist bits, there's some nice thoughts in this one here...


And this is as soft as it gets...

Saturday, March 24, 2018


This is DOPE!




Friday, March 23, 2018

Juice Magazine "Drop In" with Glen E. Friedman
Interview by Jeff Ho & Dan Levy

Juice Magazine “Drop In” Live Interview Show with Glen E. Friedman, with hosts Jeff Ho, Dan Levy and Jim Murphy, at Juice Magazine in Venice Beach, California on December 26, 2017.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Swing district poll suggests that progressive policies
could deliver a 2018 "blue tsunami"

from Boing Boing:

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake surveyed 600 likely voters in 30 "swing" districts (districts that are considered too close to call in the 2018 midterms), along with 300 "surge" voters (who are less likely to turn out for the 2018 midterms), and found that a platform that advances policies like "Medicare for all," cheaper prescription drugs, and cracking down on Wall Street would deliver these swing districts for the Democrats.

These are the policies that the Warren/Sanders wing of the party advocates, and the policies that the Dem establishment (whose go-to donors would suffer under these policies) insist are unwinnable nonstarters.
A majority of the voters surveyed preferred a bold economic vision, as opposed to an incremental approach. When asked, 52 percent said they prefer “a bold and comprehensive agenda to rewrite the rules of the economy,” compared to the 36 percent of voters who would choose to “make our economy work for everyone by building on the success of the past.”

Another takeaway from the memo, Jayapal said, is that talking about race is not something Democrats “should shy away from.” Support for a policy to “improve opportunity for working and low-income families — white, black, and brown — by investing $2 trillion in rebuilding our roads, bridges, schools, and communities, while creating millions of good-paying jobs” had more support among likely voters than the phrasing of the policy that did not include race.

Progressive candidates that win elections are seen as a niche group that “somehow managed to beat the odds,” despite polls showing that progressive policies are actually mainstream values to voters across the country, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., said.
Polling Shows Running on Progressive Policies Would Work in Swing Districts [Aída Chávez/The Intercept]

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Study: Fake news "reaches more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories"

from Boing Boing

A team of MIT researchers "analyzed every major contested news story in English across the span of Twitter’s existence" and found that "fake news and false rumors reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories," reports The Atlantic. Why? The MIT team has two hypotheses:
First, fake news seems to be more “novel” than real news. Falsehoods are often notably different from the all the tweets that have appeared in a user’s timeline 60 days prior to their retweeting them, the team found.

Second, fake news evokes much more emotion than the average tweet. The researchers created a database of the words that Twitter users used to reply to the 126,000 contested tweets, then analyzed it with a state-of-the-art sentiment-analysis tool. Fake tweets tended to elicit words associated with surprise and disgust, while accurate tweets summoned words associated with sadness and trust, they found.
Image: Shutterstock

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Richard Spencer says that antifa sucked all the fun out of college appearances, calls it quits

from Boing Boing:

Elements of the left say that antifa tactics -- direct, physical confrontations with fascists and racists -- are a "gift to the alt-right," letting them play victim and validating their paranoid fantasies about the persecution of white dudes -- but punched Nazi Richard Spencer says that antifa tactics have worked as intended, making it impossible for him to continue his on-campus recruitment tour for his forthcoming race-war.

Spencer's admission of antifa's victory was part of a long, dull Youtube video he posted last Sunday, in which he announced the premature end of his "college tour," because "When they become violent clashes and pitched battles, they aren’t fun," adding, "Antifa is winning to the extent that they’re willing to go further than anyone else, in the sense that they will do things in terms of just violence, intimidating, and general nastiness."

Spencer’s latest message suggests the very opposite. “The idea of a college tour was going into the belly of the beast — going into academic, Marxist-controlled territory — and giving a speech that introduces that basic ideas of identitarianism and the ‘alt-right,’” he said in his video, emphasizing the use of “public-facing” events to spread and normalize the “alt-right” message. Anyone who has watched Spencer and his ilk in public debates with liberals on the question of race should see how the belief that his violent white supremacy can be reasoned away is flawed. He sticks to his guns about the necessity of a white “ethno-state,” and his liberal interlocutor calls him a monstrous racist. The result is that anti-racists agree with the liberals and racists agree with Spencer. The effect, as both sides hold to their arguments, is mere entrenchment of an intolerable status quo — or, worse yet, closet racists decide Spencer’s arguments license them to come out publicly, too.

Instead of this deteriorating stalemate, the antifa strategy aims to create material, felt consequences for neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups, and those who would organize with them. The approach takes seriously that young, white, often alienated men see promise, belonging, and elevation in these organizations. They don’t join groups like Identity Evropa, an American white supremacist group which has focused heavily on campus propaganda, because of the strength of their arguments — and they won’t leave such communities because of the flawed logic of their ideology, either.

Is Antifa Counterproductive? White Nationalist Richard Spencer Would Beg to Differ. [Natasha Lennard/The Intercept]

Monday, March 19, 2018

School of Life Monday:
The Art of Diplomacy

The art of diplomacy is vital if we are to get better at managing our relationships, our friendships and our working lives. None of us are born knowing how to be diplomatic, but the skill can be learnt - and should be to make life more gracious and efficient.
widely practiced.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Skateboarding, not surfing,
Should be California's official state sport

from the Los Angeles Times:

In case you missed the headlines, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi of Torrance has introduced a bill to make surfing the official sport of California. Muratuschi, a member of the Assembly's informal "surf caucus," announced the proposal at a news conference in Hermosa Beach last month, while standing next to a statue of the 1960s surfer Tim Kelly and wearing a Hawaiian shirt. "Nothing represents the California dream better than surfing," he said.

That depends on how you define the California dream, of course. Were he to take a state poll, Muratsuchi would certainly discover that far more Californians skateboard than surf. This is one of many reasons why skateboarding, not surfing, should be California's state sport.

Let's start with the obvious: Surfing as we know it is from Hawaii. The sport has Polynesian roots, and modern surf culture grew up alongside the resorts of Waikiki. That's why surfing is already the official sport of that state.

In fact, it was Hawaiians who brought surfing to California. The first people on record to surf in North America, back in the 1880s, were Hawaiian princes: Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana'ole, David Kawananakoa and Edward Keliiahonui. They fashioned boards out of redwoods and put on a demonstration in Santa Cruz. The pastime was further promoted in California in the early 20th century by two more Hawaiians, George Freeth and Duke Kahanamoku, who traveled around the state and proselytized about the pleasures of wave riding.

Skateboarding, by contrast, is native to California. The sport was born sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s when bored surfers, smarting from flat or otherwise bad wave conditions, screwed roller skate wheels onto wood planks so that they could go "sidewalk surfing."

But there are other virtues to making skateboarding, not surfing, the state sport. Skateboarding is more egalitarian. While surfing can easily cost a newcomer $1,000 in gear, a basic skate set-up can be had for around $100. This difference in cost is one reason why the Surfrider Foundation reported in 2011 that the average household income for surfers was $75,000, while most "core participants" in skateboarding come from households where the median income is between $25,000 and $49,999, according to data from the International Assn. of Skateboard Companies.

Skateboarding is more geographically accessible. To surf, not only do you have to be at the beach, you have to be at a beach with a particular combination of wind and tide conditions. To skate, all you need is a smooth concrete surface.

Because it is both cheaper and easier to do, skating is significantly more widespread than surfing. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Assn., there are about 1.7 million surfers, windsurfers and sailboarders in the United States, and even that figure is thought to be inflated by tourism. There are 6.2 million skaters across the country, according to the IASC.

It's especially popular in Los Angeles. Nearly 1 out of every 10 children between the ages of 6 and 17 in L.A. County knows how to skate, according to a survey by the LA84 Foundation. And 70% of them are nonwhite.

Thanks in part to the Tony Hawk Foundation, which has helped open 544 skate parks in the U.S., there are now skate parks in Watts, San Pedro, Canoga Park, Long Beach and Compton, among other places. The Kelly Slater Wave Company's artificial wave pool in Lemoore may have boosters dreaming of surf contests in landlocked locations around the world, but the sport will have a lot of catching up to do.

There's no question that California has played an important role in the history of surfing. Californians helped surfboards evolve from heavy, canoe-like planks to the thin chips of today. We invented the wetsuit, created a multi-billion-dollar surfing industry, and developed the modern science of wave forecasting, opening the door for big-wave riding. Some of the best surfers in the world, including Kelly Slater and Keala Kennelly, have made California home. And we surely have the edge when it comes to surfing lore, from Butch Van Artsdalen and the hellraisers of Windansea to Miki Dora and the pranksters of Malibu.

But we didn't invent it.

Both surfing and skating will make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo in 2020, before the Games come to L.A. in 2024. Summer surf here is patchy at best, so the conditions could embarrass. Skate ramps and half pipes are consistent.

Assembly Bill 1782 is already winding its way through the Legislature, but it's not too late to reconsider. California should be proud of its truly indigenous pastime.

Dennis Romero is a writer and reporter in Los Angeles.

thx Neftali Williams

Friday, March 16, 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Honda’s tiny urban EV
could be available to order next year

from Inhabitat:

Honda recently announced that the Urban EV Concept they unveiled last year at the Frankfurt Motor Show could be ready to order by 2019. The Verge described this little vehicle with a retro feel as a “Japanese plush toy made real.”

The Urban EV “previews Honda’s first mass-produced battery electric vehicle sold in Europe,” according to the company. At a 2018 Geneva Motor Show press conference, Honda Motor Europe senior vice president Philip Ross confirmed the company anticipates opening order banks for the car early next year, with a production version coming to Europe later in 2019.

The Honda Urban EV’s retro vibe is accompanied by utterly modern features like a wrap-around panoramic screen. Four people can go for a spin in the car, sitting on two bench seats. The design is intended to call to mind the “ambiance of a lounge,” according to Honda.

The dashboard display offers vehicle information, with the screens on the doors acting as side mirrors via digital camera displays. The Verge said there aren’t many switches or buttons in the car, although they pointed out such minimalism isn’t rare in concept car design. Another futuristic feature is the Honda Automated Network Assistant, which “learns from the driver by detecting emotions behind their judgments” to offer recommendations.

Honda has not yet divulged the range of the Urban EV. When they debuted the vehicle in 2017, they mentioned their Electric Vision strategy launched at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show; development of “a dedicated electric vehicle platform, featuring fully-electric powertrain technology” is part of that vision. The automaker said, “Key parts of that powertrain development will include a high-density, lightweight battery pack, integrated heat management and the evolution of energy transfer functions — both to and from the vehicle.”

Monday, March 12, 2018

School of Life Monday
How To Be A Good Teacher

We're used to thinking of 'being a teacher' as a specialised job, but in fact, teaching is a skill required of us in a huge range of contexts, from the home to the workplace.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

How denialists weaponize media literacy
and what to do about it

from Boing Boing:

danah boyd's SXSW Edu keynote, What Hath We Wrought? builds on her essay from 2017 about the relationship of media literacy education to the rise of conspiracy theories and the great epistemological rift in which significant numbers of people believe things that are clearly untrue, from climate denial to flat-earthing.

boyd suggests that media literacy's emphasis on considering the social context of news prepared the way for denialism. The message of media literacy educators is that the motives of a speaker should be considered when evaluating the speaker's claims -- and the message of denialists is that climate change scientists only get paid if they're right; doctors are financially interested in vaccinating your kids; George Soros is paying #blacklivesmatter protesters, etc -- denialism weaponizes the methods of media literacy.

boyd worries that "google it" is being proposed as the answer to "fake news" -- search engines are gameable, and digging for depth about extraordinary claims might well turn up hermetically sealed denial-bubbles of people who are painstakingly making the case that their delusions are truthful.

boyd closes with policy prescriptions: focus on contradictions in claims, not motives. Cultivate the "cognitive strength" to empathize and understand toxic worldviews without being swayed by them.

Empathy is a powerful emotion, one that most educators want to encourage. But when you start to empathize with worldviews that are toxic, it’s very hard to stay grounded. It requires deep cognitive strength. Scholars who spend a lot of time trying to understand dangerous worldviews work hard to keep their emotional distance. One very basic tactic is to separate the different signals. Just read the text rather than consume the multimedia presentation of that. Narrow the scope. Actively taking things out of context can be helpful for analysis precisely because it creates a cognitive disconnect. This is the opposite of how most people encourage everyday analysis of media, where the goal is to appreciate the context first. Of course, the trick here is wanting to keep that emotional distance. Most people aren’t looking for that.

I also believe that it’s important to help students truly appreciate epistemological differences. In other words, why do people from different worldviews interpret the same piece of content differently? Rather than thinking about the intention behind the production, let’s analyze the contradictions in the interpretation. This requires developing a strong sense of how others think and where the differences in perspective lie. From an educational point of view, this means building the capacity to truly hear and embrace someone else’s perspective and teaching people to understand another’s view while also holding their view firm. It’s hard work, an extension of empathy into a practice that is common among ethnographers. It’s also a skill that is honed in many debate clubs. The goal is to understand the multiple ways of making sense of the world and use that to interpret media. Of course, appreciating the view of someone who is deeply toxic isn’t always psychologically stabilizing.

You Think You Want Media Literacy… Do You? [danah boyd/Data & Society]

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Do trees really talk to each other?

from Boing Boing:

There's a good, long piece in this issue of Smithsonian about the scientific debate over whether trees talk to one another.

Trees certainly communicate. In forests, they're connected to each other through underground fungal networks (sometimes jokingly referred to as the "wood wide web"), and they'll send carbon back and forth as needed, as ecologist Suzanne Simard explained in her wildly viral TED Talk on tree-to-tree networks.

But while scientists agree that trees pick up on each other's signals, there's a question of intent. Are the trees intentionally trying to send messages to other trees? Or are they just broadcasting messages ambiently -- in the matter of course of, y'know, being trees -- that other trees just happen to pick up? Are some tree scientists overly anthropomorphizing trees, with talk of tree "mothers" that warn their child-trees of danger, or younger trees that actively try to keep alive elder, progenitor trees?

It's a damn cool area of science, either way. Here's a taste of the Smithsonian piece, which is really worth reading in full:

Once, he came across a gigantic beech stump in this forest, four or five feet across. The tree was felled 400 or 500 years ago, but scraping away the surface with his penknife, Wohlleben found something astonishing: the stump was still green with chlorophyll. There was only one explanation. The surrounding beeches were keeping it alive, by pumping sugar to it through the network. “When beeches do this, they remind me of elephants,” he says. “They are reluctant to abandon their dead, especially when it’s a big, old, revered matriarch.”
To communicate through the network, trees send chemical, hormonal and slow-pulsing electrical signals, which scientists are just beginning to decipher. Edward Farmer at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland has been studying the electrical pulses, and he has identified a voltage-based signaling system that appears strikingly similar to animal nervous systems (although he does not suggest that plants have neurons or brains). Alarm and distress appear to be the main topics of tree conversation, although Wohlleben wonders if that’s all they talk about. “What do trees say when there is no danger and they feel content? This I would love to know.” Monica Gagliano at the University of Western Australia has gathered evidence that some plants may also emit and detect sounds, and in particular, a crackling noise in the roots at a frequency of 220 hertz, inaudible to humans.

Trees also communicate through the air, using pheromones and other scent signals. Wohlleben’s favorite example occurs on the hot, dusty savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, where the wide-crowned umbrella thorn acacia is the emblematic tree. When a giraffe starts chewing acacia leaves, the tree notices the injury and emits a distress signal in the form of ethylene gas. Upon detecting this gas, neighboring acacias start pumping tannins into their leaves. In large enough quantities these compounds can sicken or even kill large herbivores.

Giraffes are aware of this, however, having evolved with acacias, and this is why they browse into the wind, so the warning gas doesn’t reach the trees ahead of them. If there’s no wind, a giraffe will typically walk 100 yards— farther than ethylene gas can travel in still air—before feeding on the next acacia. Giraffes, you might say, know that the trees are talking to one another.

above photograph © GEF

Friday, March 9, 2018

There's a documentary on badass Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: [The Notorious] 'RBG'

from Boing Boing:

Here's a film I'll be lining up to see. It's the story of U.S. Supreme Court Justice/hero/dissenter Ruth Bader Ginsburg and it will be told on the big screen in the upcoming documentary, RBG.
At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. But without a definitive Ginsburg biography, the unique personal journey of this diminutive, quiet warrior's rise to the nation's highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans – until now. RBG is a revelatory documentary exploring Ginsburg 's exceptional life and career from Betsy West and Julie Cohen, and co-produced by Storyville Films and CNN Films.

RBG will be in limited theatrical release starting on May 4.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

They Were Trained for This Moment

from SLATE

How the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High demonstrate the power of a comprehensive education.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned to class Wednesday morning two weeks and moral centuries after a tragic mass shooting ended the lives of 17 classmates and teachers. Sen. Marco Rubio marked their return by scolding them for being “infected” with “arrogance” and “boasting.” The Florida legislature marked their return by enacting a $67 million program to arm school staff, including teachers, over the objections of students and parents. Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill opted to welcome them back by ignoring their wishes on gun control, which might lead a cynic to believe that nothing has changed in America after yet another horrifying cycle of child murder and legislative apathy.
But that is incorrect. Consumers and businesses are stepping in where the government has cowered. Boycotts may not influence lawmakers, but they certainly seem to be changing the game in the business world. And the students of Parkland, Florida, unbothered by the games played by legislators and lobbyists, are still planning a massive march on Washington. These teens have—by most objective measures—used social media to change the conversation around guns and gun control in America.
Now it’s time for them to change the conversation around education in America, and not just as it relates to guns in the classroom. The effectiveness of these poised, articulate, well-informed, and seemingly preternaturally mature student leaders of Stoneman Douglas has been vaguely attributed to very specific personalities and talents. Indeed, their words and actions have been so staggeringly powerful, they ended up fueling laughable claims about crisis actors, coaching, and fat checks from George Soros. But there is a more fundamental lesson to be learned in the events of this tragedy: These kids aren’t freaks of nature. Their eloquence and poise also represent the absolute vindication of the extracurricular education they receive at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Despite the gradual erosion of the arts and physical education in America’s public schools, the students of Stoneman Douglas have been the beneficiaries of the kind of 1950s-style public education that has all but vanished in America and that is being dismantled with great deliberation as funding for things like the arts, civics, and enrichment are zeroed out. In no small part because the school is more affluent than its counterparts across the country (fewer than 23 percent of its students received free or reduced-price lunches in 2015–16, compared to about 64 percent across Broward County Public Schools) these kids have managed to score the kind of extracurricular education we’ve been eviscerating for decades in the United States. These kids aren’t prodigiously gifted. They’ve just had the gift of the kind of education we no longer value. 
Part of the reason the Stoneman Douglas students have become stars in recent weeks is in no small part due to the fact that they are in a school system that boasts, for example, of a “system-wide debate program that teaches extemporaneous speaking from an early age.” Every middle and high school in the district has a forensics and public-speaking program. Coincidentally, some of the students at Stoneman Douglas had been preparing for debates on the issue of gun control this year, which explains in part why they could speak to the issues from day one. 
The student leaders of the #NeverAgain revolt were also, in large part, theater kids who had benefited from the school’s exceptional drama program. Coincidentally, some of these students had been preparing to perform Spring Awakening, a rock musical from 2006. As the New Yorker describes it in an essay about the rise of the drama kids, that musical tackles the question of “what happens when neglectful adults fail to make the world safe or comprehensible for teen-agers, and the onus that neglect puts on kids to beat their own path forward.” Weird. 
The student leaders at Stoneman Douglas High School have also included, again, not by happenstance, young journalists, who’d worked at the school paper, the Eagle Eye, with the supervision of talented staff. One of the extraordinary components of the story was the revelation that David Hogg, student news director for the school’s broadcast journalism program, WMSD-TV, was interviewing his own classmates as they hid in a closet during the shooting, and that these young people had the wherewithal to record and write about the events as they unfolded. As Christy Ma, the paper’s staff editor, later explained, “We tried to have as many pictures as possible to display the raw emotion that was in the classroom. We were working really hard so that we could show the world what was going on and why we need change.” 
Mary Beth Tinker actually visited the school in 2013 to talk to the students about her role in Tinker v. Des Moines, the seminal Supreme Court case around student speech and protest. As she described it to me, the school’s commitment to student speech and journalism had been long in evidence, even before these particular students were activated by this month’s horrific events. Any school committed to bringing in a student activist from the Vietnam era to talk about protest and freedom is a school more likely than not to be educating activists and passionate students. 
To be sure, the story of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students is a story about the benefits of being a relatively wealthy school district at a moment in which public education is being vivisected without remorse or mercy. But unless you’re drinking the strongest form of Kool-Aid, there is simply no way to construct a conspiracy theory around the fact that students who were being painstakingly taught about drama, media, free speech, political activism, and forensics became the epicenter of the school-violence crisis and handled it creditably. The more likely explanation is that extracurricular education—one that focuses on skills beyond standardized testing and rankings—creates passionate citizens who are spring-loaded for citizenship. 
Perhaps instead of putting more money into putting more guns into our classrooms, we should think about putting more money into the programs that foster political engagement and skills. In Sen. Rubio’s parlance, Marjory Stoneman Douglas was fostering arrogance. To the rest of the world, it was building adults. 

Dahlia Lithwick

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate and hosts the podcast Amicus.

Monday, March 5, 2018

School of Life Monday
Asking for Help When We're in Trouble

It can be easy to feel that no one in the world really cares about us. The truth is more complicated: people are generally able to care a lot, but they need to hear a clear sign of distress first - something we're often too inhibited or modest to give. We should learn to (as it were) scream when we're really in trouble. People will generally come running.

“It can, at points, seem horrifically clear that simply no one really cares. They barely notice our presence, they hardly stick around to listen to what we have to say, they catch none of our hints – and they are overwhelmingly preoccupied with their own projects and day-to-day concerns.
On the basis of such evidence, it is easy for us to fall into a large, damning and dangerously heart-breaking conclusion about our situation: that we are profoundly alone – far beyond any possibility of connection or empathy…”

Friday, March 2, 2018


The National Student Walkout is a nationwide protest of our leaders’ failure to pass laws that protect us from gun violence. Mass shootings happen far too frequently in America, and we as a nation have become numb to seeing the news. After each one, the same cycle takes place: the media spend less than a week on the story, politicians offer their “thoughts and prayers,” and nothing ever changes. But after the horrific massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, young Americans are taking matters into their own hands.

On April 20th, the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, American students will walk out of class and protest.

Together, we will send a message that we won’t tolerate any more inaction on this issue. And if cowardly politicians fail to act, young people will show them the consequences of letting so many Americans die by voting them out in November.

Can't find a walkout near you? Create your own here. And get your #NationalSchoolWalkout merch here! All proceeds go to Everytown for Gun Safety.

go here to the original post to put in your zip code and find a location near you.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Watch: The Yes Men's short documentary
On the NRA's murder-happy nature

from Boing Boing:

In 2016, the Yes Men (previously), everyone's favorite political pranksters, hoaxed the NRA: today, they've released their short documentary, which lays bare the NRA's internal culture of racist-driven fear and gun-humping murderous fantasies.
Featuring a Yes Men hoax performed June 22, 2016 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the film tells:

* how Republicans—in a terrified reaction to the Black Panthers' performative activism—once promoted the first gun-control legislation;

* how, once the Black Power movement was crushed, Republicans began calling for looser gun-control legislation, presumably for (white) "defense";

* how the NRA, once a moderate organization, became a tool of racist Republican fear when it was hijacked by extremists including LaPierre, its current president; and

* how fear of a Black uprising partly morphed into the right-wing street's signature terror of "government" (which in its best form, after all, is just another word for "people power").
New Yes Men film calls B.S. on murderous NRA [Yes Men]