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Topics - meepmeep

Arts and Entertainment / On the Myth of Real America
Kind of a depressing read, but some of this is what people mean when they say that representation matters.

After all, there was a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year full of white men with tiki torches chanting "You will not replace us." Which translates as get the fuck out of my bubble, a bubble that is a state of mind and a sentimental attachment to a largely fictional former America. It's not everyone in this America; for example, Syed Ahmed Jamal's neighbors in Lawrence, Kansas, rallied to defend him when ICE arrested and tried to deport the chemistry teacher and father who had lived in the area for 30 years. It's not all white men; perpetration of the narrative centered on them is something too many women buy into and some admirable men are trying to break out of.

And the meanest voices aren't necessarily those of the actual rural and small-town. In a story about a Pennsylvania coal town named Hazelton, Fox's Tucker Carlson recently declared that immigration brings "more change than human beings are designed to digest," the human beings in this scenario being the white Hazeltonians who are not immigrants, with perhaps an intimation that immigrants are not human beings, let alone human beings who have already had to digest a lot of change. Once again a small-town white American narrative is being treated as though it's about all of us or all of us who count, as though the gentrification of immigrant neighborhoods is not also a story that matters, as though Los Angeles and New York City, both of which have larger populations than many American states, are not America. In New York City, the immigrant population alone exceeds the total population of Kansas (or Nebraska or Idaho or West Virginia, where all those coal miners are).

Sympathy in pro-bubble America often goes reflexively to the white man in the story. The assumption is that the story is about him; he's the protagonist, the person who matters, and when you, say, read Stephens defending Woody Allen and attacking Dylan Farrow for saying Allen molested her, you see how much work he's done imagining being Woody Allen, how little being Dylan Farrow or anyone like her. It reminds me of how young women pressing rape charges are often told they're harming the bright future of the rapist in question, rather than that maybe he did it to himself, and that their bright future should matter too. The Onion nailed it years ago: "College Basketball Star Heroically Overcomes Tragic Rape He Committed."

Recently people have revisited a 2010 political-science study that tested the response to fictitious senatorial candidates, identical except for gender; "regardless of whether male politicians were generally preferred over female politicians, participant voters only reacted negatively to the perceived power aspirations of the female politician." They characterized that reaction as "moral outrage": how dare she seek power. How dare she want things for herself rather than others--even though seeking power may be a means to working on behalf of others. How dare she consider the story to be about her or want to be the one who determines what the story is.

And then there's the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. We've heard from hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women about assaults, threats, harassment, humiliation, coercion, of campaigns that ended careers, pushed them to the brink of suicide. Many men's response to this is sympathy for men. The elderly film director Terry Gilliam said in March, "I feel sorry for someone like Matt Damon who is a decent human being. He came out and said all men are not rapists, and he got beaten to death. Come on, this is crazy!" Matt Damon has not actually been beaten to death. He is one of the most highly-paid actors on earth, which is a significantly different experience than being beaten to death. The actor Chris Evans did much better with this shift, saying recently, "The hardest thing to reconcile is that just because you have good intentions, doesn't mean it's your time to have a voice."

(side note - how long until the skeletons in Terry Gilliam's closet come out?)
Figured this deserves its own thread.

The older news about him being a blackmailing accused rapist:

And now he's been charged with another felony:

Gov. Eric Greitens was charged Friday with felony computer tampering stemming from his use of a veterans charity's donor list ahead of the 2016 election.

The charge -- which is essentially electronic theft-- is the second felony charge the governor has received in two months. He goes to trial next month for invasion of privacy.

The embattled first-term governor and former Navy SEAL has denied any criminal wrongdoing and vowed to remain in office despite a chorus of Republicans calling for him to resign or face impeachment.

You can't be a Republican in 2018 and not have simultaneous sex harassment/coercion and financial/fraud scandals, all while defiantly refusing to step down and claiming it's all a witch hunt. :patriot:
Finally got around to reading this piece:

Because there was a lot of money in it for various hucksters and moguls and authors and politicians, the conservative movement spent decades building up an entire sector of the economy dedicated to scaring and lying to older white men. For millions of members of that demographic, this parallel media dedicated to lying to them has totally supplanted the "mainstream" media. Now they, and we, are at the mercy of the results of that project. The inmates are running the asylum, if there is a kind of asylum that takes in many mostly sane people and then gradually, over many years, drives one subset of its inmates insane, and also this asylum has the largest military in the world.

But if this was a reasonably useful arrangement for Republicans, who won a couple close elections with the help of their army of riled-up kooks, it was a fantastic deal for the real engine of the right-wing propaganda machine: companies selling newly patented drugs designed to treat the various conditions of old age, authors of dubious investing newsletters, sellers of survival seeds, hawkers of poorly written conservative books, and a whole array of similar con artists and ethically compromised corporations and financial institutions. The original strategy behind demonizing the "mainstream media" may have purely political, to steer voters away from outlets that tended to present information damaging to the conservative cause, but the creation of the conservative media was also a revenue opportunity for shameless grifters from the very start, as Rick Perlstein showed in his classic Baffler piece on the snake oil-salesmen of the right.

The bottom-feeding amorality of the sorts of people who sponsored the right-wing press, and the crummy nature of the products and services sold, shows exactly who was supposed to be consuming it: suckers. Or, more specifically, trusting retirees, with a bit of disposable income, and a natural inclination to hate modernity and change--an inclination that could be heightened, radicalized, and exploited.

Rather rapidly, two things happened: First, Republicans realized they'd radicalized their base to a point where nothing they did in power could satisfy their most fervent constituents. Then--in a much more consequential development--a large portion of the Republican Congressional caucus became people who themselves consume garbage conservative media, and nothing else.

That, broadly, explains the dysfunction of the Obama era, post-Tea Party freakout. Congressional Republicans went from people who were able to turn their bullshit-hose on their constituents, in order to rile them up, to people who pointed it directly at themselves, mouths open.

Now, we have a president whose media diet defines his worldview, interests, and priorities. He is not one of the men, like most of those Tea Party members of Congress, whose existing worldview determined his media diet--who sealed himself off from disagreeable media sources. He is, in fact, something far more dangerous: a confused old man who believes what the TV tells him.

And it's not just because he's my fellow countryman and because his Argentinianized Italian is fun to listen to:

 :crai:  :crai:

A summary of what was said:
"If only we could all cry like Emanuele when we have an ache in our hearts like he has," the pope told the children. "He was crying for his father and had the courage to do it in front of us because in his heart there is love for his father."

Pope Francis said he had asked Emanuele if he could share the boy's question and the boy agreed. "'A little while ago my father passed away. He was a nonbeliever, but he had all four of his children baptized. He was a good man. Is dad in heaven?'"

"How beautiful to hear a son say of his father, 'He was good,'" the pope told the children. "And what a beautiful witness of a son who inherited the strength of his father, who had the courage to cry in front of all of us. If that man was able to make his children like that, then it's true, he was a good man. He was a good man.

"That man did not have the gift of faith, he wasn't a believer, but he had his children baptized. He had a good heart," Pope Francis said.

"God is the one who says who goes to heaven," the pope explained.

The next step in answering Emanuele's question, he said, would be to think about what God is like and, especially, what kind of heart God has. "What do you think? A father's heart. God has a dad's heart. And with a dad who was not a believer, but who baptized his children and gave them that bravura, do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself?"

"Does God abandon his children?" the pope asked. "Does God abandon his children when they are good?"

The children shouted, "No."

"There, Emanuele, that is the answer," the pope told the boy. "God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much."

Pope Francis encouraged Emanuele to "talk to your dad; pray to your dad."
And I can't wait for the shoe to drop on these motherfuckers.

Here's one I only learned about recently - they've been running a secret "predictive policing" program in New Orleans for years now:

The relationship between New Orleans and Palantir was finalized on February 23rd, 2012, when Mayor Landrieu signed an agreement granting New Orleans free access to the firm's public sector data integration platform. Licenses and tech support for Palantir's law enforcement platform can run to millions of dollars annually, according to an audit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

In January 2013, New Orleans would also allow Palantir to use its law enforcement account for LexisNexis' Accurint product, which is comprised of millions of searchable public records, court filings, licenses, addresses, phone numbers, and social media data. The firm also got free access to city criminal and non-criminal data in order to train its software for crime forecasting. Neither the residents of New Orleans nor key city council members whose job it is to oversee the use of municipal data were aware of Palantir's access to reams of their data.

God, look at this fucking weasel of a lawyer:
In a public speaking appearance where he touted the efficacy of their work in New Orleans, Courtney Bowman, a Palantir civil liberties engineer heavily involved with the company's work with NOPD, acknowledged that excessive secrecy could deepen the rift between law enforcement and over-policed communities. During a May 6th, 2016 presentation at the UC Berkeley School of Information's DataEdge conference, Bowman said, "These sorts of programs only work if the community is comfortable with the degree to which this type of information is being applied and if they're aware of how the information is being used."

The city of New Orleans and Palantir both declined requests for comment about how their partnership was formed, and what sort of input other elected officials and the public had into the data-mining firm's predictive policing efforts.

Though the call-ins dropped off, emails obtained by The Verge indicate that the NOPD continued to use Palantir for law enforcement. Palantir declined repeated requests for comment, but the emails also show that the company was aware of the potential risks posed by predictive policing algorithms, and the negative publicity that comes with them. On May 23rd, 2016, Palantir civil liberties engineer Courtney Bowman responded to a request by NOPD crime analyst Zach Donnini about whether Palantir could help generate numerical rankings for individuals' risk for committing or becoming the victim of a shooting.

"I have some serious concerns about instituting a ranking or numeric scoring approach," Bowman wrote. "It's exactly this facet of Chicago's "heat" list model that has exposed CPD to a great deal of public scrutiny," the email reads, linking to two articles critiquing Chicago's predictive policing approach.

"The looming concern is that an opaque scoring algorithm substitutes the veneer of quantitative certainty for more holistic, qualitative judgement and human culpability," Bowman wrote. "One of the lasting virtues of the SNA work we've done to date is that we've kept human analysts in the loop to ensure that networks are being explored and analyzed in a way that passes the straight-face test."

"The only way it works is if the public is informed! Let's keep it all secret and avoid public scrutiny and publicity. But don't worry, we're still going to make sure it passes the 'straight face' test."
Politics and Current Events / Austin bombings

A 5th bomb went off today:
AUSTIN/SCHERTZ, Texas (Reuters) - A package bomb blew up at a FedEx Corp distribution center near San Antonio on Tuesday, officials said, and the FBI was investigating whether it was linked to a series of four homemade bombs that hit the Texas capital of Austin this month.

Officials did not say if the latest incident was the work of what Austin police believe could be a serial bomber responsible for the four earlier devices that killed two people and injured four others.

The blast at the FedEx facility in Schertz was the fifth in the state in the last 18 days. If it is linked to the others, it would be the first outside the Austin area and the first that involves a commercial parcel service.

Police discovered another package at the same location that they believe is also loaded with an explosive device, San Antonio Police Chief Bill McManus told reporters.

"There was one other package that we believe was also loaded with an explosive device that they are looking at right now," McManus told reporters in Schertz, which is about 20 miles northeast of San Antonio.

The blast knocked a female employee off her feet and may have caused a concussion, McManus said. Federal officials on the scene said she had ringing in her ears and was treated and released.

The package, filled with nails and metal shrapnel, exploded shortly after midnight local time at the facility, about 65 miles south of Austin, the San Antonio Fire Department said on Twitter.

Of course, when the White House finally chimed in, this is what they fucking said:
The bombings in Austin did not appear to be linked to terrorism, White House spokesman Sarah Sanders said on Twitter on Tuesday.

How is indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets literally not fucking terrorism?

There's more here about the prior bombings:
Has anyone been following this story?

It is fucking unbelievable how many people let this piece of shit get away with abusing so many girls and women.

I mean, look at this shit:

Boyce said she was uncomfortable with his treatments, which include vaginal penetration, and she and a teammate getting the same treatments went to Klages with their concerns.

"This could have stopped in 1997," Boyce said. "But instead of notifying authorities or even my parents, we were interrogated. We were led to believe we were misunderstanding a medical technique.

Unlike many Nassar victims who did not talk to others about his treatments, "I told somebody," Boyce said. "I told an adult. I told Michigan State University. Instead of being protected, I was humiliated and told that I was the problem."

Boyce said she didn't realize that Nassar and Klages were close friends. "If I had known, I would have never gone to her," Boyce told Nassar. "She choose you over me."

In fact, Boyce said, Klages told Nassar about Boyce's concerns, and at Boyce's next appointment with Nassar, "pulled up a stool and said, 'so, I talked to Kathie ..."

"I had to listen to you explain away your abuse," Boyce told Nassar in the courtroom. "I apologized to you. I apologized for the misunderstanding and said it was all my fault.


Klages could not be reached for comment. She retired from the university in February 2017, a day after she was suspended by MSU for defending Nassar to her team even after he was fired in September 2016. That included asking her team to sign a sympathy card for him, according to Lindsey Lemke, a MSU gymnast who is among the lawsuit plaintiffs.

Over 100 women have come forward to give witness impact statements, and that fucking monster had the gall to complain to the judge that he didn't have the "mental stamina" to listen to all of them.

All but 1 of the 5 gymnasts on the 2012 London team and half the 2016 team have come forward, and McKayla Maroney had apparently signed a confidentiality agreement with USA Gymnastics to keep quiet, but she spoke up anyway. Aly Raisman wasn't going to personally deliver her statement, but she ended up doing it:

It's just stomach-churning to think that while these girls were under tremendous pressure at the defining moments of their careers, at an event they spent their whole lives trying to get to, they were also being molested by a fucking monster, and their organization knew about it and decided to cover it up and let it keep happening, instead. They just protected one lousy fucking doctor over all of these girls to try to cover their own ass, but it's not like he was going to get away with it forever. Sooner or later, he was going to get caught.

To be honest, I'm also a little surprised this isn't getting as much attention as the Penn State Sandusky scandal, but we are living in interesting times where there's a ton of horrible news stories every single day all competing for attention.
Shocking, I know.  :ohmy:

urning Point casts itself as a grassroots response to what it perceives as liberal intolerance on college campuses. Kirk has called college campuses "islands of totalitarianism"; he and his supporters contend that conservatives are the true victims of discrimination in America, and he has vowed to fight back on behalf of what he has called his "Team Right." Kirk is a frequent guest on Fox News, and last summer he was invited to give a speech at the Republican National Convention. That was where he met Donald Trump, Jr., and "hit it off" with him, Kirk said. After the convention, Kirk divided his time between Turning Point activities and working for the Trump campaign as a specialist in youth outreach. "I helped coördinate some rather successful events with him," Kirk told me, referring to Don, Jr., "and I also carried his bags."

"And I also carried his bags." lololol

omg there are RACISTS in their group?!?!?:
As Turning Point's profile has risen, so has scrutiny of its funding and tactics. Internal documents that I obtained, as well as interviews with former employees, suggest that the group may have skirted campaign-finance laws that bar charitable organizations from participating in political activity. Former employees say that they were directed to work with prominent conservatives, including the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in aid of Republican Presidential candidates in 2016. Perhaps most troubling for an organization that holds up conservatives as the real victims of discrimination in America, Turning Point USA is also alleged to have fostered an atmosphere that is hostile to minorities. Screenshots provided to me by a source show that Crystal Clanton, who served until last summer as the group's national field director, sent a text message to another Turning Point employee saying, "I HATE BLACK PEOPLE. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story."

Clanton, who resigned after serving as the group's second-highest official for five years, at first declined to comment. "I'm no longer with Turning Point and wish not to be a part of the story," Clanton told me over e-mail. Later, in a second e-mail, she said, "I have no recollection of these messages and they do not reflect what I believe or who I am and the same was true when I was a teenager."

John Ryan O'Rourke, the former Turning Point employee who received the text messages from Clanton, requested that the messages "not be used in any article or background information concerning Turning Point" and declined to comment on them. Kirk said in an e-mail that "Turning Point assessed the situation and took decisive action within 72 hours of being made aware of the issue." Soon after, Clanton left the organization.

hahahahaha I love how these geniuses think that telling a reporter they don't want their shit to be reported on will accomplish something.

Former Turning Point employees say that the organization was a difficult workplace and rife with tension, some of it racial. Gabrielle Fequiere, a former Turning Point employee, told me that she was the only African-American hired as a field director when she worked with the group, three years ago. "In looking back, I think it was racist," she said. "At the time, I was blaming myself, and I thought I did something wrong." Fequiere, who now works as a model, recalled that the young black recruits that she brought into the organization suddenly found themselves disinvited from the group's annual student summit, and that when she herself attended, she watched speakers there who "spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock. It was really offensive." (Kirk, through a spokesman, denied that any such incidents occurred, and said, "These accusations are absolutely baseless and even absurd.")

The Origin Story:
Kirk grew up in Wheeling, Illinois, and was an Eagle Scout; in a 2015 speech to the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley, he said that his "No. 1 dream in life" was to attend West Point, but the slot he considered his went to "a far less-qualified candidate of a different gender and a different persuasion" whose test scores he claimed he knew. (Kirk said he was being sarcastic when he made the comment.)

Shocked to learn this big fucking baby is a mediocre resentful white guy who blames everyone else for his mediocrity.

Violating campaign finance laws by funneling shit through a 501(c)(3) is super cool:
Several former Turning Point employees told me in interviews that they felt they were asked to participate in activities that crossed lines drawn by campaign-finance laws for groups like theirs. Payden Hall, who worked for Turning Point during the 2016 Presidential campaign, told me that Clanton, who was her boss, e-mailed her at her Turning Point address to make arrangements for her to coördinate with Ginni Thomas, the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to help Ted Cruz's Presidential campaign. "That's where the ambiguity began," Hall recalled. Soon after, she said, Ginni Thomas, who was supporting Cruz's candidacy and is on Turning Point's advisory council, left a voice message for Hall and her sister, who also worked for Turning Point, saying that she was sending two hundred Cruz placards to them to distribute in the coming Wisconsin Presidential primary.

Crystal gave Ginni Thomas my private mailing address without my permission," Hall recalled. "They gave out employees' personal information to the wife of a Supreme Court Justice." The next thing she knew, she said, hundreds of Cruz placards arrived at her home. "We threw them out," Hall said. She was a Cruz supporter, but, she says, "We wanted to volunteer on our own terms, not to give in to pressure from a boss. I felt that if it wasn't crossing a legal line, it was crossing a professional one."

Susan Walker, who worked for Turning Point USA in Florida, in 2016, told me that the group did aid Republican political campaigns. Walker said that a list she created while working for Turning Point, with the names of hundreds of student supporters, was given without her knowledge to someone working for Marco Rubio's Presidential campaign. "That list had, like, seven hundred kids, and I worked my ass off to get it," she said. "I had added notes on every student I talked to, and they were all on it still." The Rubio operative, she added, "shouldn't have had that list. We were a charity, and he was on a political campaign."

E-mails and interviews from other former Turning Point employees in South Carolina and Ohio showed crossover between Presidential-campaign work and work for the charity, as well. In South Carolina, a chain of e-mails shows, Kirk asked a Turning Point USA employee to round up students to support Cruz at the behest of two officials with a pro-Cruz super PAC. In a January 25, 2016, e-mail, Drew Ryun, a Turning Point advisory-council member who was helping run one of the pro-Cruz super PACs, asked Kirk to get another Turning Point employee to "send" the super PAC "as many kids as possible." Ryun, a former deputy director of the Republican National Committee, explained that he needed "as many kids as you can generate for a WSJ piece on efforts in" South Carolina. After Kirk agreed to help, the e-mail thread shows, Kirk coördinated with Dan Tripp, Ryun's associate at the pro-Cruz super PAC, who headed its operations in South Carolina and is the founder and president of Ground Game Strategies.

"Yes!" Kirk answered Tripp when asked for help from Turning Point. "What part of SC?"

"Greenville, Spartenburg or Anderson Counties," Tripp replied.

"Time of day and how long?" Kirk asked.

"I'm thinking 2 hours late Sunday afternoon. Canvassing, training and pizza," Tripp responded.

"You got it, will recon shortly," Kirk e-mailed back. Kirk explained that a Turning Point employee in South Carolina named Anna Scott Marsh would be the point person, and added that "Anna will be helping. Let's rock this!"

ok lol maybe "send as many kids as possible" is not the best phrasing here

But where does their money come from?
In a phone interview, Kirk declined to identify the donors who have supplied his group's eight-million-dollar-plus annual budget, noting that many prefer to remain anonymous. But Kirk has spoken and fund-raised at various closed-door energy-industry gatherings, including those of the 2017 board meeting of the National Mining Association and the 2016 annual meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. In our interview, Kirk acknowledged that some of his donors "are in the fossil-fuel space."

Kirk's ties to fossil-fuel magnates are controversial because Turning Point has helped organize opposition on campuses to students calling for schools to divest from fossil-fuel companies. Turning Point distributed a guide for college students with a foreword by Kirk, titled "10 Ways Fossil Fuels Improve Our Daily Lives." In it, he argues, "Across the nation, college students are clamoring for their campuses to divest from fossil fuel . . . students are indoctrinated to believe the myth that fossil fuels are dirty and renewable energy is a plausible alternative . . . " Turning Point, which also runs an online "Professor Watch List" that targets professors it believes are liberal, blamed "leftist professors" in its booklet for having "perpetuated" these "myths." In the interview, Kirk told me that "We think targeting fossil fuels is rather unfair, and it is not really in the best interests of the universities to favor one type of political agenda over another." It's a message that "went great," he said, when he delivered it at energy-industry meetings.

Also I went to Pepsi's headquarters and told them that Pepsi cures cancer and it was a message that went great!

Oh, btw, they're also involved in poisoning higher ed directly:
Last May, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an investigative report on what it called Turning Point's "stealth plan for political influence." The story recounted accusations on multiple campuses that the group had funnelled money into student elections in violation of the spending caps and transparency requirements set by those schools. It detailed how student candidates backed by Turning Point had been forced to drop out of campus elections at the University of Maryland and Ohio State "after they were caught violating spending rules and attempting to hide the help they received from Turning Point." It also quoted Kirk saying in an appearance before a conservative political group in 2015 that his group was "investing a lot of time and money and energy" in student-government elections. (In the story, Kirk denied any wrongdoing and said it was "completely ludicrous and ridiculous that there's some sort of secret plan.")

A copy of a Turning Point brochure prepared for potential donors that I obtained provides a glimpse into the group's tactics. (A former Turning Point employee said the brochure was closely held, and not posted online so that it couldn't leak.) Its "Campus Victory Project" is described as a detailed, multi-phase plan to "commandeer the top office of Student Body President at each of the most recognizable and influential American Universities."

Once in control of student governments, the brochure says, Turning Point expects its allied campus leaders to follow a set political agenda. Among its planks are the defunding of progressive organizations on campus, the implementation of "free speech" policies eliminating barriers to hate speech, and the blocking of all campus "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movements. Turning Point's agenda also calls for the student leaders it empowers to use student resources to host speakers and forums promoting "American Exceptionalism and Free Market ideals on campus."


Kirk, in his interview, denied that any of these funds would directly pay for students' campaigns. "We do not directly fund any of these candidates," he said. Instead, he explained, "We will support them through levels of leadership," including training and what he called "leadership scholarships."

Hey next time you hear anyone take these dumbass campus free speech arguments from conservatives as being in good faith, you should probably slap them for being so fucking gullible.
Seeing this all over the place but no other information yet:

Here's to hoping someone fucked up and sent an alert by accident or that it's a hacker.
Identification of Pre-Existing Adaptive Immunity to Cas9 Proteins in Humans

The CRISPR-Cas9 system has proven to be a powerful tool for genome editing allowing for the precise modification of specific DNA sequences within a cell. Many efforts are currently underway to use the CRISPR-Cas9 system for the therapeutic correction of human genetic diseases. The most widely used homologs of the Cas9 protein are derived from the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Streptococcus pyogenes (S. pyogenes). Based on the fact that these two bacterial species cause infections in the human population at high frequencies, we looked for the presence of pre-existing adaptive immune responses to their respective Cas9 homologs, SaCas9 (S. aureus homolog of Cas9) and SpCas9 (S. pyogenes homolog of Cas9). To determine the presence of anti-Cas9 antibodies, we probed for the two homologs using human serum and were able to detect antibodies against both, with 79% of donors staining against SaCas9 and 65% of donors staining against SpCas9. Upon investigating the presence of antigen-specific T-cells against the two homologs in human peripheral blood, we found anti-SaCas9 T-cells in 46% of donors. Upon isolating, expanding, and conducting antigen re-stimulation experiments on several of these donors anti-SaCas9 T-cells, we observed a SaCas9-specific response confirming that these T-cells were antigen-specific. We were unable to detect antigen-specific T-cells against SpCas9, although the sensitivity of the assay precludes us from concluding that such T-cells do not exist. Together, this data demonstrates that there are pre-existing humoral and cell-mediated adaptive immune responses to Cas9 in humans, a factor which must be taken into account as the CRISPR-Cas9 system moves forward into clinical trials.

Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean any given CRISPR-Cas9 system would automatically fail. The Cas9 would need to be different enough to avoid recognition. And I doubt this would be a concern in any gene editing done at the embryonic stage.
Arts and Entertainment / Toast of London

Why didn't any of you Brits tell me about this show? :colbert:
This modified excerpt from Michael Wolff's book is a fucking doozy:

Most presidential candidates spend their entire careers, if not their lives from adolescence, preparing for the role. They rise up the ladder of elected offices, perfect a public face, and prepare themselves to win and to govern. The Trump calculation, quite a conscious one, was different. The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their worldview one whit. Almost everybody on the Trump team, in fact, came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president once he was in office. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump's opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. "Well, it would only be a problem if we won," ­Flynn assured them.

lololol how'd that work out for you buddy?

Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real-estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns. Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn't become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend -- Trump might actually win -- seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears--and not of joy.

There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon's not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.

Ann Coulter making sense here:
As much as the president himself, the chief of staff determines how the Executive branch -- which employs 4 million people -- will run. The job has been construed as deputy president, or even prime minister. But Trump had no interest in appointing a strong chief of staff with a deep knowledge of Washington. Among his early choices for the job was Kushner -- a man with no political experience beyond his role as a calm and flattering body man to Trump during the campaign.

It was Ann Coulter who finally took the president-elect aside. "Nobody is apparently telling you this," she told him. "But you can't. You just can't hire your children."

"He's a bomb thrower," said Ailes. "And a strange little fucker. But you need him. Who else is good on Israel? Flynn is a little nutty on Iran. Tillerson just knows oil."

"Bolton's mustache is a problem," snorted Bannon. "Trump doesn't think he looks the part. You know Bolton is an acquired taste."

"Well, he got in trouble because he got in a fight in a hotel one night and chased some woman."

"If I told Trump that," Bannon said slyly, "he might have the job."

I refuse to believe this is a real thing that happened but it probably is!:
After Jared and Ivanka joined them for lunch, Trump continued to cast for positive impressions of his first week. Scarborough praised the president for having invited leaders of the steel unions to the White House. At which point Jared interjected that reaching out to unions, a Democratic constituency, was Bannon's doing, that this was "the Bannon way."

"Bannon?" said the president, jumping on his son-in-law. "That wasn't Bannon's idea. That was my idea. It's the Trump way, not the Bannon way."

Kushner, going concave, retreated from the discussion.

Trump, changing the topic, said to Scarborough and Brzezinski, "So what about you guys? What's going on?" He was referencing their not-so-secret secret relationship. The couple said it was still complicated, but good.

"You guys should just get married," prodded Trump.

"I can marry you! I'm an internet Unitarian minister," Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.

"What?" said the president. "What are you talking about? Why would they want you to marry them when I could marry them? When they could be married by the president! At Mar-a-Lago!"

The secret of the hair is revealed:
Ivanka maintained a relationship with her father that was in no way conventional. She was a helper not just in his business dealings, but in his marital realignments. If it wasn't pure opportunism, it was certainly transactional. For Ivanka, it was all business -- building the Trump brand, the presidential campaign, and now the White House. She treated her father with a degree of detachment, even irony, going so far as to make fun of his comb-over to others. She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate -- a contained island after scalp-reduction ­surgery -- surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men -- the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump's orange-blond hair color.

President Angry Grandpa:
Trump, in fact, found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary. He retreated to his own bedroom -- the first time since the Kennedy White House that a presidential couple had maintained separate rooms. In the first days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there, and a lock on the door, precipitating a brief standoff with the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room. He ­reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor: "If my shirt is on the floor, it's because I want it on the floor." Then he imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. (He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald's -- nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.) Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done, and he would strip his own bed.

If he was not having his 6:30 dinner with Steve Bannon, then, more to his liking, he was in bed by that time with a cheeseburger, watching his three screens and making phone calls -- the phone was his true contact point with the world -- to a small group of friends, who charted his rising and falling levels of agitation through the evening and then compared notes with one another.

Or maybe President Toddler is more accurate:
As soon as the campaign team had stepped into the White House, Walsh saw, it had gone from managing Trump to the expectation of being managed by him. Yet the president, while proposing the most radical departure from governing and policy norms in several generations, had few specific ideas about how to turn his themes and vitriol into policy. And making suggestions to him was deeply complicated. Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn't process information in any conventional sense. He didn't read. He didn't really even skim. Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-­literate. He trusted his own expertise ­-- no matter how paltry or irrelevant -- more than anyone else's. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said Walsh, "like trying to figure out what a child wants."

This is some fucking amazing 48 dimensional chess here.
This is the dumbest thing I've read in a long time.

SAN FRANCISCO -- At Rainbow Grocery, a cooperative in this city's Mission District, one brand of water is so popular that it's often out of stock. But one recent evening, there was a glittering rack of it: glass orbs containing 2.5 gallons of what is billed as "raw water" -- unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized spring water, $36.99 each and $14.99 per refill, bottled and marketed by a small company called Live Water.

"It has a vaguely mild sweetness, a nice smooth mouth feel, nothing that overwhelms the flavor profile," said Kevin Freeman, a shift manager at the store. "Bottled water's controversial. We've curtailed our water selection. But this is totally outside that whole realm."

And Liquid Eden, a water store that opened in San Diego three years ago, offers a variety of options, including fluoride-free, chlorine-free and a "mineral electrolyte alkaline" drinking water that goes for $2.50 a gallon.

Trisha Kuhlmey, the owner, said the shop sells about 900 gallons of water a day, and sales have doubled every year as the "water consciousness movement" grows.

What adherents share is a wariness of tap water, particularly the fluoride added to it and the lead pipes that some of it passes through. They contend that the wrong kind of filtration removes beneficial minerals. Even traditional bottled spring water is treated with ultraviolet light or ozone gas and passed through filters to remove algae. That, they say, kills healthful bacteria -- "probiotics" in raw-water parlance.

The most prominent proponent of raw water is Doug Evans, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. After his juicing company, Juicero, collapsed in September, he went on a 10-day cleanse, drinking nothing but Live Water. "I haven't tasted tap water in a long time," he said.

Before he could order raw water on demand, Mr. Evans went "spring hunting" with friends. This has become more challenging lately: The closest spring around San Francisco has recently been cut off by landslides, so reaching it means crossing private property, which he does under cover of night.

"You have to be agile and tactile, and be available to experiment," he said. "Literally, you have to carry bottles of water through the dark."

At Burning Man, the summer festival in the Nevada desert that attracts the digerati and others, Mr. Evans and his R.V. mate brought 50 gallons of spring water they had collected. "I'm extreme about health, I know, but I'm not alone with this," Mr. Evans said. "There are a lot of people doing this with me. You never know who you'll run into at the spring."

lmao juicero guy hahahahahahahahahaha

The founder of Live Water, Mukhande Singh, started selling spring water from Opal Springs in Culver, Ore., three years ago, but it was a small local operation until this year. Marketing materials show Mr. Singh (né Christopher Sanborn) sitting naked and cross-legged on a hot spring, his long brown hair flowing over his chest.

lololol né Christopher Sanborn

Pure water can be obtained by using a reverse osmosis filter, the gold standard of home water treatment, but for Mr. Singh, the goal is not pristine water, per se. "You're going to get 99 percent of the bad stuff out," he said. "But now you have dead water."

He said "real water" should expire after a few months. His does. "It stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery," he said. "If it sits around too long, it'll turn green. People don't even realize that because all their water's dead, so they never see it turn green."

Mr. Singh believes that public water has been poisoned. "Tap water? You're drinking toilet water with birth control drugs in them," he said. "Chloramine, and on top of that they're putting in fluoride. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but it's a mind-control drug that has no benefit to our dental health." (There is no scientific evidence that fluoride is a mind-control drug, but plenty to show that it aids dental health.)


"Fluoride? It's a deathly toxic chemical," said Vanessa Kuemmerle of Emeryville, Calif., who does landscape design for large tech companies. She said she was an early adopter of raw water, and has noticed many of her clients following suit.

"They're health-conscious people that understand the bigger picture of what's going on," she said. "Everyone's looking for an edge: nootropics, Bulletproof coffee, better water."

The health benefits she reported include better skin and the need to drink less water. "My skin's plumper," she said. "And I feel like I'm getting better nutrition from the food I eat."

Getting better nutrition.


"I don't like 'raw water' because it sort of makes people think of raw sewage," Mr. Vitalis said. "When you say 'live water,' that's going to trigger a lot of people who are into physics and biology. Is it alive?"


I want to send all of these Silicon Valley idiot hippies to parts of the world where people have no choice but to drink "raw water" so they can experience the magical benefits of all of the awesome deadly bacteria and viruses and protozoa and assorted fucking parasites out there. Guinea worm disease is totally organic! And the worms eat all the toxins in your body as they tear through your flesh!
Back in the day, my dad had a sweet vinyl collection, and when 8 tracks and cassettes came out, he copied everything onto tape and got rid of almost every record he had.

When I was a teenager, I listened to a lot of those tapes, but after so many years and so many plays, they started deteriorating. My brother helped me get a few things on mp3 by recording it through the stereo system, but by that point, some stuff was damaged. And it was already a digital recording of a cassette recording of a previously used record so the equality was kind of iffy.

There was one set of songs in particular by Sacha Distel that I don't have and haven't ever been able to find. I've been intermittently looking for them off and on for over 15 years. One of them is this upbeat jazz interpretation of La vie en rose, and I've never been able to find out anything about it, though I think it showed up on a list in a discography once. Every so often, I'd come across another song of his in my library or something and try searching again, but I could never find anything.

Well, I was just reminded again for the first time in a year or so and looked again, and this time, I actually found one of the songs! :meeps:

And the kind soul who uploaded it listed the album title. The description linked there lists all of the songs on that goddamn tape, so this was probably the album that my dad had.


Except the only shit available anywhere is the EP which has nothing I care about on it.


Anyone have any ideas on where to look now that I have the album info? Is my best bet to bug the shit out of my brother so that he goes into record stores next time he visits his girlfriend in France? Based on my feeble attempts so far, it seems like the only way I'll ever get my hands on this is if someone literally finds it in a pile of random shit at a record store or if someone who has it uploads the rest some day.

It's driving me nuts that I finally fucking found the album but it still doesn't exist anywhere. Help me, nerds, you're my only hope.  :(

One of the top executives of a consulting firm that the Environmental Protection Agency has recently hired to help it with media affairs has spent the past year investigating agency employees who have been critical of the Trump administration, federal records show.

The firm, Definers Public Affairs, based in Virginia, specializes in conducting opposition research to aid Republican Party causes, meaning that it seeks to find damaging information on Democratic political candidates in an effort to undermine their election bids.

A vice president for the firm, Allan Blutstein, federal records show, has submitted at least 40 Freedom of Information Act requests to the E.P.A. since President Trump was sworn in. Many of those requests target employees known to be questioning management at the E.P.A. since Scott Pruitt, the agency's administrator, was confirmed.

Mr. Blutstein, in an interview, said he was taking aim at "resistance" figures in the federal government, adding that he hoped to discover whether they had done anything that might embarrass them or hurt their cause.

"I wondered if they were emailing critical things about the agency on government time and how frequently they were corresponding about this," he said. "And did they do anything that would be useful for Republicans."

Jahan Wilcox, a spokesman at the E.P.A., declined to comment on the information requests. He said the decision to hire Definers, which signed a $120,000 no-bid contract to monitor and collect news coverage about the agency, was solely financial. The E.P.A. previously contracted with Bulletin Intelligence L.L.C. for media services at a rate of $207,000 a year. That contract was open to other bids.

"Definers was awarded the contract to do our press clips at a rate that is $87,000 cheaper than our previous vendor and they are providing no other services," Mr. Wilcox said in an emailed statement. "If you have questions regarding how Definers operates, we encourage you to contact them."

The contract, which was awarded this month, is part of an unconventional news media operation that Mr. Pruitt has set up at the agency as he tries to get a handle on the coverage of him by newspapers, including The New York Times, and criticism by Democrats in Congress and environmental groups. The decision to award the contract was first reported by Mother Jones.

The founders of Definers, Joe Pounder and Matt Rhoades, are longtime Republican political operatives. Mr. Pounder was the research director for the Republican National Committee and worked on the presidential campaign of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in 2016. Mr. Rhodes managed Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2012.

Mr. Blutstein, in the interview, said that his series of information requests this year targeting E.P.A. employees known to be critical of the Trump administration was separate from the work that the firm was performing for the agency. Instead, he said that he filed the requests on his own, in an effort to try to undermine people who have been critical of policy changes taking place at the agency.

He described it as an "antiresistance" effort. "I am not doing mole hunts, or whatever," he said. "I am almost always doing that research on my own."

The requests focused on agency employees like Michael Cox, who worked in the E.P.A.'s Seattle office and had sent a retirement notice in March to colleagues that raised questions about Mr. Pruitt's management as well as agency employees who had participated in a public outreach program called "Why do you love the E.P.A.," which tried to build support for maintaining the agency's budget.

Other employees who were the subjects of such requests included Elizabeth Southerland, who has been an outspoken critic of Mr. Pruitt since her recent retirement; Michael J. Mikulka, a Chicago-based union leader; and John O'Grady, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238.


The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation's top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases -- including "fetus" and "transgender" -- in any official documents being prepared for next year's budget.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden words are "vulnerable," "entitlement," "diversity," "transgender," "fetus," "evidence-based" and "science-based."

In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of "science-based" or ­"evidence-based," the suggested phrase is "CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes," the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.

The question of how to address such issues as sexual orientation, gender identity and abortion rights -- all of which received significant visibility under the Obama administration -- has surfaced repeatedly in federal agencies since President Trump took office. Several key departments -- including Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, as well as Justice, Education, and Housing and Urban Development -- have changed some federal policies and how they collect government information about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

In March, for example, HHS dropped questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in two surveys of elderly people.

HHS has also removed information about LGBT Americans from its website. The department's Administration for Children and Families, for example, archived a page that outlined federal services that are available for LGBT people and their families, including how they can adopt and receive help if they are the victims of sex trafficking.

At the CDC, the meeting about the banned words was led by Alison Kelly, a senior leader in the agency's Office of Financial Services, according to the CDC analyst, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly. Kelly did not say why the words are being banned, according to the analyst, and told the group that she was merely relaying the information.

Other CDC officials confirmed the existence of a list of forbidden words.It's likely that other parts of HHS are operating under the same guidelines regarding the use of these words, the analyst said.

Okay, cool, so they can't even talk about the implications of Zika infection on a developing FETUS because it might make Mike Pence feel a little uncomfortable.

Those dogs' dinners could be swapped out for a plant-based food under a proposal before the Los Angeles City Board of Animal Services Commissioners. The change, which commissioners could decide Tuesday, would make the city's shelter system the first in the nation to feed its canine residents a vegan diet, according to its chief veterinarian.

Supporters, who include musician and animal rights activist Moby and the feminist lawyer Lisa Bloom, say that is one of the selling points: to make L.A. shelter dogs the vanguard of a meat-free movement.

"If we adopt this, it's one more thing that proves to the world that Los Angeles really is the progressive capital," Moby, whose real name is Richard Hall, testified at the board's meeting last month.


The idea was proposed by Commissioner Robert Wolfson, a Hollywood screenwriter who cited research that he contended shows vegan diets "eliminate" many health problems in dogs, which are omnivores. But he said rethinking the dogs' meals is about far more sweeping matters -- the environmental effect of a meat industry that produces the main ingredients in lots of dog food and the ethics of feeding animals to animals.


Also pet food uses leftovers from human food production, and it's the kind of meat that humans won't eat because no one wants to chow down on some delicious diaphragm or bone meal, so all of that food would basically go to waste with no change in food animal production because the humans will still be eating the same amount of meat YOU STUPID FUCKS.

And the ethics of feeding animals to animals? Are you fucking kidding me?

The city's chief veterinarian, Jeremy Prupas, was not convinced. In a report to the commission, he recommended rejecting the proposal, saying that it could deprive dogs of sufficient protein, calcium and phosphorus and that it could be inadequate for injured, pregnant or lactating pups. Prupas said he'd consulted three clinical nutritionists at veterinary medical schools, one shelter medicine specialist and a veterinary toxicologist who works with a pet food company. None endorsed vegan dog diets, he testified.

"We recognize that individual, privately owned dogs can do well on a wide variety of diets (Commercial,  Vegetarian, Organic, Grain-free, Gluten-free, Raw, and Vegan)," Prupas wrote in his report. "However, that is quite a different population than the group of dogs we encounter daily in our animal shelters."

For christ's sake, someone please listen to the goddamn experts for once.

That argument precipitated several diarrhea-related comments in nearly two hours of testimony at the commission's Nov. 28 meeting, where pro-vegan voices dominated. Several pet owners, including Bloom, insisted that their vegan dogs had never suffered from digestive problems.



seriously fuck these people
Sports / Winter Olympics 2018
Off to a great start with Russia being banned!

The International Olympic Committee has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee "with immediate effect," essentially banning the country from the upcoming Winter Olympics over Russia's system of state-supported cheating by athletes using performance-enhancing drugs.

Russian athletes can compete in the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the IOC said Tuesday -- but the athletes will have to pass strict scrutiny, and instead of wearing their nation's uniform, they will compete under the title "Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)."

"They will compete with a uniform bearing this name and under the Olympic Flag," the IOC said. "The Olympic Anthem will be played in any ceremony."

More on the doping scandal:

We now know how Mutko was able to achieve that jump, from 11th place to first, in such a short amount of time: an extensive, state-sponsored doping campaign. After a German documentary interviewed two Russian athletes who had fled Russia and had become whistleblowers about how systematically Russia dopes its athletes, key figures in the world of Russian anti-doping started turning up dead under mysterious circumstances. This prompted Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping agency, to flee, fearing for his life, to Los Angeles and to the director Bryan Fogel. The two had been working together on Fogel's riveting documentary, "Icarus," about how easy it is for an athlete to dope and test clean. Rodchenkov, who had been coaching Fogel in his quest to dope for a cycling event and dupe the tests, decided to confess to Fogel, on camera. He also told his story to The New York Times, and then went into U.S. government witness protection.

Rodchenkov ran the lab at Sochi during the Winter Olympics, and what he did there was essentially what he did for Fogel, but on a more massive scale: helping dozens of athletes dope all through the Games while testing negative on every single test. The story he told to the Times and to Fogel would strain the imagination, were it not independently confirmed by two investigations: one by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and one by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Here is the summary of the operation, from the Times:

    The director, Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran the laboratory that handled testing for thousands of Olympians, said he developed a three-drug cocktail of banned substances that he mixed with liquor and provided to dozens of Russian athletes, helping to facilitate one of the most elaborate--and successful--doping ploys in sports history.

    It involved some of Russia's biggest stars of the Games, including 14 members of its cross-country ski team and two veteran bobsledders who won two golds.

    In a dark-of-night operation, Russian antidoping experts and members of the intelligence service surreptitiously replaced urine samples tainted by performance-enhancing drugs with clean urine collected months earlier, somehow breaking into the supposedly tamper-proof bottles that are the standard at international competitions, Dr. Rodchenkov said. For hours each night, they worked in a shadow laboratory lit by a single lamp, passing bottles of urine through a hand-size hole in the wall, to be ready for testing the next day, he said.

    By the end of the Games, Dr. Rodchenkov estimated, as many as 100 dirty urine samples were expunged.

    None of the athletes were caught doping. More important, Russia won the most medals of the Games, easily surpassing its main rival, the United States, and undermining the integrity of one of the world's most prestigious sporting events.

All of this, Rodchenkov said, was overseen by an officer of the federal security services, the FSB, and had the approval of Mutko and Putin.
Meet (former) Oklahoma City state senator Ralph Shortley.

Graduate of a bible college, married with four daughters, virulent homophobe, staunch conservative, fucking idiot lunatic who tried to introduce a bill to ban the use of aborted baby parts in food (lol, no, really).

Until he got caught up in child prostitution with a 17 year old kid.

Ralph Shortey, 35, pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking in federal court last week; in exchange, child pornography charges were dropped.

Shortey, a former Republican state senator from Oklahoma City, was charged in federal court in September after a months-long investigation that started in March 2017 when he was found in a Moore hotel room with a 17-year-old boy.

The best part, though:
Shortey answered the door in a white t-shirt with the words Ephesians 5:22, a bible verse, written on it, as well as "now go make me a sandwich" written below an image of a sandwich. The bible verse is in reference to women submitting to their husband's will, as they do to the Lord.

lol okay the writers for this computer simulation are getting a little silly here.
Long read, but full of some pretty solid lols:

Shapiro's thoughts about Arabs are all along similar lines. Usually conservatives are careful to draw a distinction: they are not condemning an ethnicity, but rather adherents to an ideology, namely Islamism. Not so with Shapiro: for him, the problem is not Islamism or even Islam writ large. It's Arabs: "The Arab-Israeli conflict may be accurately described as a war between darkness and light. Those who argue against Israeli settlements--outposts of light in a dark territory--argue for the continued victory of night." Arabs "value murder" while Israelis "value life," and "where light fails, darkness engulfs." Arabs are therefore, as an undifferentiated unit, a people of darkness. Palestinian Arabs are the worst of all: they are a "population rotten to the core... Palestinian Arabs must be fought on their own terms: as a people dedicated to an evil cause." The "Arab Palestinian populace... by and large constitutes the most evil population on the face of the planet." Since they're "rotten to the core," there's no such thing as a good Arab: your evil is defined by your ethnicity, by being a member of the People of Darkness and Murder rather than the People of Goodness and Light. Again, it may just be my failure to understand Facts and Logic, but I am having trouble understanding how population-level generalizations about the moral characteristics of particular ethnic groups can be anything other than bigotry.

Shapiro once explained his actual preferred solution to the problem of the dark Arab hordes: mass expulsion. As he said, bulldozing Palestinian houses and subjecting them to curfews are insufficient "half-measures": the only solution is to drive every last one of them forcibly from their homes and take their land:

The Arab enmity for Jews and the state of Israel allows for no peace process. The time for half measures has passed. Bulldozing houses of homicide bombers is useless. Instituting ongoing curfews in Arab-populated cities is useless... Some have rightly suggested that Israel be allowed to decapitate the terrorist leadership of the Palestinian Authority. But this too is only a half measure. The ideology of the Palestinian population is indistinguishable from that of the terrorist leadership. Half measures merely postpone our realization that the Arabs dream of Israel's destruction. Without drastic measures, the Arab dream will come true... If you believe that the Jewish state has a right to exist, then you must allow Israel to transfer the Palestinians and the Israeli-Arabs from Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Israel proper. It's an ugly solution, but it is the only solution... It's time to stop being squeamish.

Alright, well, we may disagree over whether pressuring Congress to pass a jobs bill makes you literally Mussolini. But Shapiro says the anti-Semitism part is clear-cut. Why? Well, the first piece of evidence is that when the Israeli military stormed an aid flotilla bound for Gaza, killing nine activists, the Obama administration soon released a statement saying that "The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained." "How else are we to interpret [this] lightning-fast, knee-jerk anti-Israel response?" except as evidence of anti-Semitism, Shapiro asks. But perhaps you're not convinced. Well, Shapiro has more. In 2009, Rahm Emanuel went to speak at AIPAC and told the audience that U.S. efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear program would be conditional on successful resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict. This, Shapiro says, showed that Obama harbored a deep animus against Jews, because he holds Israel to a higher standard than he holds anyone else. And while it may have turned out that Rahm Emanuel never actually said anything like this, leading at least one other columnist to issue a correction, Shapiro stood firm. Not only did he not amend the story, but he later called Emanuel (who held Israeli citizenship for nearly two decades, whose middle name is literally Israel, and who even Jeffrey Goldberg thought made the idea of Obama being anti-Israel seem "a bit ridiculous") a "kapo," i.e. a Jew who does the Nazis' bidding. Shapiro said that any Jewish person who voted for Obama was not really a Jew at all, but a "Jew In Name Only" serving an "enemy of the Jewish people." They may "eat bagels and lox," but by supporting an "openly" anti-Semitic administration they are "disgusting" and a "disgrace," and the "twisted and evil" "self-hating Jews" who "enjoy matzo ball soup" and "emerged from a Jewish uterus" but nevertheless choose to "undermine the Israeli government" "don't care a whit about Judaism" and in fact hold "anti-Semitic views." (Those may be snippet-length quotes but go and read the columns if you suspect me of excising context or nuance.)

Shapiro isn't interested in discussing any of this seriously. Just look at how he distorted his questioner's response about moose: he says "Why aren't you a moose?" and when she replies "That's different," he interjects "That's right, men and women are different." She clearly said that species and gender are different (which they are, in that there's a good argument for revising one of the categories but not for revising the other). But he tried to convince his audience that she had essentially conceded his point, by seizing on and spinning the word "difference." (We call this "sophistry" rather than "logic.")

For a man who cares about Facts rather than Feelings, Shapiro doesn't seem to care very much about facts. There are plenty of minor mistakes that cast doubt on the Times quote that Shapiro "reads books." Some are just the little slip-ups that come from careless writing, e.g. the U.S. abolished slavery in "1862," "atheistic philosopher Gilbert Pyle" [sic]. Others are suspicious unsourced generalizations, e.g."Walk into virtually any emergency room in California and illegal immigrants are the bulk of the population." But there are also major embarrassing bloomers, like Shapiro promoting the false rumor that Chuck Hagel received a donation from a group called "Friends of Hamas." A New York Daily News reporter had made up the group's name, as something so ludicrously over-the-top that nobody could possibly believe it, but Shapiro credulous enough to think the organization could exist, and published an article demanding answers. When it was pointed out that there was no such group, Shapiro did not retract the story. Instead, he doubled down, insisting that because he reported that sources said there was a Friends of Hamas, and the sources did say that, his reporting was sound. (Note: this is not how journalism works.)

Shapiro mocked T.I. for naming his children "Zonnique and Deyjah." (It's not clear what the Rational basis for disliking black names is.) When Barack Obama said that "we need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs," Shapiro wondered why Obama thought anyone should "be rewarded for their sexuality." (I am curious how Shapiro did on the Logical Reasoning section of his LSAT if he believes "Don't punish X or reward Y" means "reward X and/or Y.") He thinks that criticisms of those who seem to love wars but decline to fight in them are "explicitly reject[ing] the Constitution itself, [which] provides that civilians control the military." (Go ahead and try to figure out the reasoning on that one.) He was strongly against a federal ban on using cellphones while driving, because it would take away drivers' freedom of choice, yet he believes it is "morally tragic" that we no longer use the police to stop people from making and watching pornography, because it follows the "silly" philosophy that "as long as what I do doesn't harm you personally, I have a right to do it." (Shapiro said that if pornography is legal, there would be no logical reason not to legalize the murder of homeless people, without addressing the potential meaningful distinctions between "having sex" and "killing a person in cold blood.") Shapiro may be The Cool Kid's Philosopher, but on the rare occasions when he actually dips his toe into metaphysics, the results are catastrophic: he argues that atheism is incompatible with the idea of free will because religious people believe that free will is granted by God. ("My beliefs say that your beliefs can't be true therefore they can't be true" is known as "assuming the conclusion.")

What's more, Shapiro doesn't believe that criticizing the American government during a time of war ought to be legal at all. The champion of Free Speech has literally called for reinstating sedition laws. When Al Gore told a Muslim audience that he believed the United States' indiscriminate rounding-up and detention practices after 9/11 were "terrible" and abusive, Shapiro called the statements "treasonable," "seditious," and "outrageous" and demanded that the law respond:

At some point, opposition must be considered disloyal. At some point, the American people must say "enough." At some point, Republicans in Congress must stop delicately tiptoeing with regard to sedition and must pass legislation to prosecute such sedition... Under the Espionage Act of 1917, opponents of World War I were routinely prosecuted, and the Supreme Court routinely upheld their convictions.... During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans, as well as allowing the prosecution and/or deportation of those who opposed the war.... This is not to argue that every measure taken by the government to prosecute opponents of American wars is just or right or Constitutional. Some restrictions, however, are just and right and Constitutional--and necessary. No war can be won when members of a disloyal opposition are given free reign [sic] to undermine it.

The Wilson administration's crackdown on critics of the war, and the imprisoning of dissidents, were actually a low point in the history of American liberty, and the legal decisions upholding these acts are now discredited. But Shapiro sees this, along with the even more disturbing mass internment of Japanese Americans, as a model for eliminating critics of America's wars. (Although elsewhere Shapiro has called the Supreme Court's decision upholding Japanese detention "evil and disgusting." Consistency, as I have indicated before, is not his forte.)

Politics and Current Events / The Paradise Papers
The group that released the Panama Papers teased a big new project the other day, and it just dropped:

I haven't looked at anything yet, but this should be interesting.  :hmm:
Arts and Entertainment / Harvey Weinstein

holy shit

Asia Argento, an Italian film actress and director, told me that she did not speak out until now--Weinstein, she told me, forcibly performed oral sex on her--because she feared that Weinstein would "crush" her. "I know he has crushed a lot of people before," Argento said. "That's why this story--in my case, it's twenty years old, some of them are older--has never come out.

The story, however, is more complex, and there is more to know and to understand. In the course of a ten-month investigation, I was told by thirteen women that, between the nineteen-nineties and 2015, Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them, allegations that corroborate and overlap with the Times's revelations, and also include far more serious claims.

Three women--among them Argento and a former aspiring actress named Lucia Evans--told me that Weinstein raped them, allegations that include Weinstein forcibly performing or receiving oral sex and forcing vaginal sex. Four women said that they experienced unwanted touching that could be classified as an assault. In an audio recording captured during a New York Police Department sting operation in 2015 and made public here for the first time, Weinstein admits to groping a Filipina-Italian model named Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, describing it as behavior he is "used to." Four of the women I interviewed cited encounters in which Weinstein exposed himself or masturbated in front of them.

Sixteen former and current executives and assistants at Weinstein's companies told me that they witnessed or had knowledge of unwanted sexual advances and touching at events associated with Weinstein's films and in the workplace. They and others describe a pattern of professional meetings that were little more than thin pretexts for sexual advances on young actresses and models. All sixteen said that the behavior was widely known within both Miramax and the Weinstein Company. Messages sent by Irwin Reiter, a senior company executive, to Emily Nestor, one of the women who alleged that she was harassed at the company, described the "mistreatment of women" as a serial problem that the Weinstein Company was struggling with in recent years. Other employees described what was, in essence, a culture of complicity at Weinstein's places of business, with numerous people throughout the companies fully aware of his behavior but either abetting it or looking the other way. Some employees said that they were enlisted in subterfuge to make the victims feel safe. A female executive with the company described how Weinstein assistants and others served as a "honeypot"--they would initially join a meeting, but then Weinstein would dismiss them, leaving him alone with the woman.

Four actresses, including Mira Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette, told me they suspected that, after they rejected Weinstein's advances or complained about them to company representatives, Weinstein had them removed from projects or dissuaded people from hiring them. Multiple sources said that Weinstein frequently bragged about planting items in media outlets about those who spoke against him; these sources feared that they might be similarly targeted. Several pointed to Gutierrez's case, in 2015: after she went to the police, negative items discussing her sexual history and impugning her credibility began rapidly appearing in New York gossip pages. (In the taped conversation with Gutierrez, Weinstein asks her to join him for "five minutes," and warns, "Don't ruin your friendship with me for five minutes.")

Peter Thiel is literally a fucking Bond villain:
Thiel's purview is as vast as his ambitions. He has homes or properties in San Francisco, the Hollywood Hills, New York, Hawaii, and New Zealand, where he acquired citizenship a few years back. (He is a keen fan of The Lord of the Rings, which was filmed there.) According to one of his friends, "Thiel has said to me directly and repeatedly that he wanted to have his own country"--even placing a dollar value on "owning" a sovereign state: $100 billion.

Through it all, Thiel, who guards his privacy, has become known for challenging conventions, including those as seemingly immutable as death, taxes--and tuition. To wit: he takes daily doses of human growth hormone to stave off the effects of aging. He has supported the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to build floating cities beyond the reach of traditional governance. And his Thiel Fellowship hands out $100,000 grants to budding entrepreneurs who agree not to go to college. Such maverick ideas make Thiel "something of a revered figure for his successes in the tech and venture-capital worlds," claimed author and biotech journalist David Ewing Duncan. "And despite what many see as his controversial backing of Trump, if you're a young entrepreneur you don't want to cross him because he has the power to invest in your next big dream. There is a case to be made that renegades should be defended."

It was Thiel, after all, who secretly funded the invasion-of-privacy lawsuit that pro wrestler Hulk Hogan brought against Gawker Media, resulting in a $140 million verdict for Hogan (since negotiated downward) and bankrupting the gossip-and-news franchise, whose blog (Valleywag) had earlier "outed" Thiel. Regarded warily for his stealth, single-mindedness, and tenacity, he is, in a way, a Silicon Valley Steve Bannon.

And yet a number of people who describe themselves as either Thiel's friends or longtime associates would speak with me only on the condition of anonymity, citing a variety of reasons: non-disclosure agreements they had signed with one or more of Thiel's entities, fear of retribution from Trump-administration officials, or reluctance to alienate Thiel or the PayPal Mafia. These individuals--including several in his inner circle--would only arrange a meeting or a conversation using tradecraft worthy of C.I.A. case officers. They communicated via encrypted apps (ones that do not register on a cell phone's call log). Two of them, to check my bona fides before agreeing to sit down with me, requested screenshots of Google searches about me--explaining that if they were to run the searches themselves, and someone combed through their search histories, they might be identified as a source for this article.

Some of these individuals insisted that there is a perplexing duality to the man. Said one friend and colleague who has known Thiel for nearly 20 years, "He exempts himself from the rules he applies to others. He's a hard-core libertarian who rails against state surveillance except when he's profiting off of it. He's a strong believer in personal privacy but is happy to kick-start and sit on the board of Facebook, which monetizes every ounce of Americans' data." He described three prime movers in Thiel's life: achieving immortality, resisting state control over his actions, and acquiring the money necessary to pull it off. Paradoxically, he added, Thiel distrusts authority: "That's [partly] what motivated him years ago to run headlong into the intelligence field. He understood that, in a technological world, power is wielded by the intelligence community. You can only trust that community if you trust--or better yet, if you are--the person at the switch."