Read on Both Sides of Current Issues

Do you sometimes feel unable to make some sense out of our crazy world? These are indeed “interesting times”, and this is something that’s been on my mind for the past while. Honestly, it’s a work-in-progress for me, but still, here’s my unsolicited advice on the matter:

Look for media sources outside your personal comfort zone.

The “echo chamber” effect–our tendency as human beings to seek information that we’re likely to agree with–is well known. It feels affirming to hear an opinion that reflects or reinforces our own.

However, I would suggest that in order to help mend the culture rifts around us, we need to engage positively with those who have a differing worldview. To converse well, we need listening skills and knowledge in order to enter into and sustain dialogue. To be well informed, we need to seek out and pay attention to sources of information that will offer new perspectives and challenge our own assumptions. This is easier (and ironically more difficult) than ever before, due to the enormous amount of news and analysis available on the Interweb.

The easiest way to move outside your information comfort zone is simply to range widely. Follow links in blogs you normally read, especially when they take you to sources that disagree with the author.

Whatever your worldview, you can find educated, articulate people who see things differently based on the same general facts. Sometimes they’ll have new facts that will persuade you that they were right; more often, no doubt, you’ll hold to the view you started with–but you may have more nuance on the matter.

Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh and other “conservative” pundits who believe in dictatorial government when it comes to security and personal liberty but have no patience for equal opportunities in life, infuriate me. Yet I regularly listen to and read their arguments, and occasionally learn something useful.

Going outside your comfort zone has many ancillary benefits. One of these is the knowledge that you can hold your own in a conversation with people who disagree with you. A very tangible added-value is the effort will help you to be intellectually honest with yourself, through this exercise in curiosity and self-challenge. That’s what learning is all about. You can’t understand the world, or even a small part of it if you don’t stretch your mind — even a little bit.

In no particular order, here are some of the most popular websites representing Liberal or Conservative ideology:

The 50 most popular liberal websites at RightWingNews

Top conservative websites listed at

Top liberal Political Blogs listed at FeedSpot

Top conservative Political Blogs listed at FeedSpot

  • cPaul

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Make America Canada Again

Tim Long | New Yorker

A beanie with the letters MACA on it.

Until 1776, America and Canada were practically the same. Then America went its own way and chose revolution, independence, and self-reliance. But Canada kept on its path—a path that has proved nicer, quieter, weirder, and, frankly, better.

One part of a sign points toward snow and kindness the other points toward selfreliance hot dogs and anger.

But now it’s time to reverse America’s tragic mistake, and MAKE AMERICA CANADA AGAIN. Why, you may ask? Well . . .


Two people sitting on opposite ends of a canoe.

Canada has more land than America, but only ten per cent as many people. For Canada, social distancing isn’t just easy—it’s a way of life!


A curling stone and broom talk about tidying up.

The beloved Canadian sport of curling is literally just sweeping up!


Ghosts saying thank you please and sorry to bother you.

In many parts of Canada, kids on Halloween don’t say, “Trick or treat,” with an implied threat of reprisals. Instead, they chant, “Halloween apples.” (THIS IS TRUE.) They don’t actually want apples—they want candy—but they’re way too polite to ask for it!


A seesaw with Joni Mitchell on one side and an overcooked steak on the other.

AMERICA: Ernest Hemingway, Elvis Presley, well-done steak.

CANADA: Margaret Atwood, Joni Mitchell, poutine.



A Canadian one dollar coin.

The one- and two-dollar coins are called “loonies” and “toonies,” respectively. VERY FEW Canadians dedicate their lives to the pursuit of the “Almighty Loonie.”


A star representing that other Virginia.

CANADA: Ten provinces, many with fun names like Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and a flag featuring one (1!) maple leaf.

AMERICA: Fifty states, many with ridiculous names like Virginia and West Virginia, and a flag featuring, like, eight thousand stripes and about a million stars.

Sometimes less is more, y’know?


A teen wolf hand and a raptor hand both reach for a basketball.

BASKETBALL was . . .

INVENTED by a Canadian (James Naismith).

DOMINATED by a Canadian team (the Toronto Raptors, the defending N.B.A. champions).

PERFECTED in the movie “Teen Wolf” by the basketball-dunking title character, played by Michael J. Fox—A CANADIAN.


A lighter.

Number of legendary prog-rock bands called Rush that will ROCK YOUR FACE OFF:




Milk in a plastic bag inside a mug.

AMERICANS: Dumped tea into Boston Harbor!

CANADIANS: Drink milk from clean, hygienic plastic bags!

ADVANTAGE: Probably Canada, but your mileage may vary. Also, your kilometrage. Which brings us to . . .


A person wearing glasses and holding a metric ruler.

Logical, nerdy, and in step with the rest of the world—like Canada itself!


The busts of Donald Trump and a Canadian man who stole buckets of tree sap.

In 2016, a group of bandits stole more than three thousand tons of maple syrup from the Canadian strategic syrup reserves. (THIS IS ALSO TRUE.) The thieves were quickly apprehended and brought to justice.

In 2019, the U.S. President pressured his Ukrainian counterpart to help him win the upcoming election. He was not removed from office.


The Stanley Cup trophy.


A maple leaf cheering.

Illustration by Jason Logan

Read the article here:

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(Somewhat of) An Explanation Why American Evangelical Christians Support Trump

As much of the world eye rolls and shakes their heads in disbelief at the daily news coming out of the States, many ask how so many evangelicals can profess the Gospel, and support Donald Trump at the same time. What is the appeal to people who profess family values for a man whose entire life includes a long line of business cheating and failures, who lies constantly, has had multiple affairs, and who tends to be crude, self-aggrandizing, and unpredictable?

In Trump, many saw a political outsider spending the bulk of his time articulating a conservative vision and lambasting the left’s rage and socialism. Trump’s perceived aggression continues to reinforce that he will always put up a fight against the left. They feel that the worse they treat him, the more he seems to come back fighting. He is seen as a “necessary tool for good”.

Many have said that Trump earned their votes in 2016 by articulating (and claiming to champion) many of their ideals fearlessly. This suggested that they felt that he might have actually followed through for them, unlike many who they have experienced previously who have called themselves “conservative” but are seen to move towards left once they get to Washington. Evangelicals have stated that if they got some policy wins out of Trump, all the better. However flawed Trump might be, he is seen to be obviously better for the country and for evangelicals than any Democrat would be.

Evangelicals argue that Trump has been strongly pro-life, strongly pro-American, strongly pro-Israel, strongly pro-capitalism, and he has pushed back against the so-called freedom-robbing regulatory state. They perceive that he has cut taxes and he left evangelicals alone. He didn’t sue the nuns. He doesn’t seize their guns.

For many, voting for Trump is not “trading Christian values for political power.” It’s seen as voting in self-defense against the “radical, evangelical-hating left and hoping for the best – and getting more than expected”.

I know. Far from mystery-solved… – cPaul

Jeff Sessions Explains Why Christians Support Trump

The former attorney general compared the president to a Middle Eastern strongman.

David A. Graham | The Atlantic

“In Christ there is no east or west / In him no south or north, / But one great family bound by love / Throughout the whole wide earth,” goes the old hymn.

But in Donald Trump, there is division among American Christians. On one side are those who insist that the president is a Christian hero who is standing up for religious rights. On the other are critics who counter that white evangelical Christians have struck a corrupt but convenient bargain with an immoral leader whose inclinations are dictatorial, not religious.

Into this debate strides former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, despite his excommunication from Trump’s good graces, remains a die-hard backer of the president and his ideological agenda. Yet in a masterful profile in The New York Times Magazine by Elaina Plott, he comes down solidly, if unwittingly, on the side of the skeptics. Sessions suggests that the president’s own religious convictions are irrelevant, compares him to the dictators Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Bashar al-Assad, and makes the case for choosing a strongman who can defend Christians over democratic politics.

Michael Gerson: Trump and the last temptation of the evangelicals

This isn’t reading between the lines; Sessions makes his views quite clear. When Plott asked Sessions, who is now running an underdog campaign to return to his old U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, how Christians could support Trump, he replied with a reference to Egypt and el-Sisi.

“It’s not a democracy—he’s a strongman, tough man, but he promised to protect them. And they believed him, because they didn’t want the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt. Because they knew they’d be vulnerable. They chose to support somebody that would protect them. And that’s basically what the Christians in the United States did. They felt they were under attack, and the strong guy promised to defend them. And he has.”

There are at least three astonishing elements of this answer. The first is Sessions’s favorable comparison of the U.S. to Egypt, even as he acknowledges that Egypt is not a democracy; it is, in fact, governed by a military junta that arose through a coup, and which now oversees a flawed regime. The second is the analogy between Christians in the U.S. and Egypt. Egypt’s Christians, most of whom are Copts, are a small and severely embattled minority, subject to political repression, terrorist attacks, and pogroms. Many American evangelicals believe they are also subjects of widespread discrimination. In 2017, the Public Religion Research Institute found that white evangelicals believe they face more discrimination than Muslims in America. The analogy to beleaguered Egyptian Christians underscores both the depth and the absurdity of that feeling.

Finally, the parallel between el-Sisi and Trump reveals a great deal about how Sessions sees Trump. El-Sisi is a Muslim, not a Christian, but has made some efforts to improve protections for the Christian minority since seizing power from an Islamist government. In this analogy, Trump’s religious views are neither relevant nor even the same as those of Christians; he’s useful as a protector, not as an exemplar.

This is not a single, ill-thought-out parallel. Sessions also praised the bloody Syrian dictator al-Assad, a member of the Alawite sect, for protecting Christians and fighting Muslim terror groups. “You know who we want to run Syria? Assad,” he said. “We are hoping that somehow he can get back in control. And there was no terrorism, no ISIS when he ran the place. He’d kill ’em. And if you didn’t cross him, he wouldn’t kill you. And he protected Christians; they were a part of his coalition.”

(As Plott notes, ISIS arose in Syria under Assad’s watch, but who’s keeping track?)

Read: White Evangelicals believe they face more discrimination than Muslim

The yearning for order, and for ordering minorities, in particular, courses throughout Sessions’s worldview. When Sessions, as the attorney general, came under fire for separating migrant families at the U.S. border (including taking criticism from many evangelical leaders), he cited St. Paul’s admonition to “obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” (“I was right about that,” he told Plott. “I wish I’d fought it.”) The fact that such a person could serve as the country’s top lawman speaks to how hard it is to take seriously the sense of discrimination among evangelicals. Sessions also praised Trump’s disastrous photo op at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., as a necessary step against “socialist leftists” and mocked those who questioned Trump’s motives.

Sessions’s view is telling because he is not merely a supporter of the president’s, but one of his clearest ideological antecedents, the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump’s 2016 presidential run, then his first attorney general. Trump eventually expelled Sessions from the administration because of tension over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, and the president’s endorsement of Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn University head football coach, is a top reason why Sessions may lose a July 14 runoff. But Plott notes that Sessions’s fervor for the project of Trumpism has not cooled: “Even in his exile, perhaps no one is as eager as Sessions to hold forth on why he likes Trump, why his party—why the country—so desperately needs him.”

A huge majority of evangelical Christians has lined up behind Trump, as have white Catholics. (A May poll by PRRI showed the president’s standing slipping among both groups.) Trump has repaid them with devoted attention to issues such as abortion, school vouchers, and religious liberty. There’s little outward sign of any kind of religious devotion on Trump’s part, and seldom any indication of inward reflection on any topic by the president, but leading Christian figures, writers, and ministers, including Jerry Falwell Jr., Eric Metaxas, and Franklin Graham, have defended his Christian bona fides and insisted that he is not only an ally of evangelical Christian causes but also a true believer.

Peter Wehner: There is no Christian case for Trump

A few prominent, though isolated, evangelicals have been highly critical of the president. They argue that Trump shows none of the signs of Christian devotion or morality, and that Christians who align themselves with the president are making a crude bargain with a flawed man in an attempt to obtain safe harbor. Michael Gerson, in a 2018 Atlantic cover story, criticized the habit of “evangelicals regarding themselves, hysterically and with self-pity, as an oppressed minority that requires a strongman to rescue it. This is how Trump has invited evangelicals to view themselves. He has treated evangelicalism as an interest group in need of protection and preferences.”

Sessions, in effect, is saying he agrees with Gerson’s description—but thinks that what he identifies is a perfectly fine arrangement. “There’s a difference between freedom and democracy,” he told Plott. “You need to understand this.”

The yearning for a strongman doesn’t necessarily end with religious issues. Sessions also mused on his childhood in Camden, Alabama. “It was an idyllic period,” he said. “Sort of a window. End of an age.” His memory is that things were “ordered and disciplined,” Plott writes.

Of course, the idyll depends on who is living it, as does the judgment of whether the dying age was good or bad; some people get to enjoy order, while others bear the brunt of discipline. Sessions’s childhood came during the waning days of Jim Crow, in a deeply segregated community where African Americans were starving, disenfranchised, and physically threatened. For this minority, a group that experienced genuine, rather than merely perceived, discrimination, there was neither freedom nor democracy.

Full article here:

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Astounding acoustic guitar cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”

To paraphrase one YouTube commenter, innovative acoustic guitar maestro Luca Stricagnoli is the only guy permitted to play a Zeppelin song at Guitar Center. Don’t miss his manipulation of the tuning pegs during the song.

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A Scheme of Heaven is a deep investigation of astrology from a scientist’s perspective

Fun book review at BoingBoing:

We humans are castaways on an ocean of uncertainty. Since the beginnings of history, our ancestors sought knowledge and understanding about their lives, their relationship with the cosmos, and perhaps take a peek into their future. In such effort—long before the answers of science—earthlings developed a rich variety of divination practices and systems. Many forms of divination survive to this day, and can’t be easily dismissed as irrational nonsense, or mere curiosities of a bygone age. On the contrary, divination seems to be essential to culture.

So much so, that perhaps our modern obsessions with predictive algorithms and numerical forecasts are best understood as a continuation of this ancient divinatory impulse. This is the provocative thesis of Alexander Boxer’s fascinating new book, A Scheme of Heaven: The History of Astrology and the Search for Our Destiny in Data

A Scheme of Heaven

Astrology is indeed the most historically relevant of all divination practices, its aim having been nothing short of a systematic account linking the nature of the heavens to our own human nature. Across civilizations, human beings have proven to be superb stargazers. Entranced by heavenly patterns and periodicities—through sheer naked-eye observation—our ancestors were able to crack with uncanny precision the workings of the cosmos. Exact geometric relationships and precise mathematical elegance spoke of divine design and transcendent beauty.

For a long time, astronomy and astrology were one and the same magical “enterprise.” Alexander Boxer, a data scientist, whose eclectic erudition includes a PhD. in physics from MIT and degrees in the history of science and classics writes:

“Astrology was the ancient world’s most ambitious applied mathematics problem, a grand data-analysis enterprise sustained for centuries by some of history’s most brilliant minds, from Ptolemy to al-Kindi to Kepler.”

In examining how ancient astrologers looked for correlations and extracted insights from vast quantities of raw, celestial data, A Scheme of Heaven throws a mirror at ourselves and our inescapable fascination with using numbers to predict the future. Astrology’s survival through the ages is a testament to a timeless seduction for seeing patterns in data, a seduction still very much alive and kicking. According to Boxer:

“Astrologers were the quants and data scientists of their day, and those of us who are enthusiastic about the promise of numerical data to unlock the secrets of ourselves and   our world would do well simply to acknowledge that others have come this way before.”

Boxer’s deep investigation of astrology from a scientist’s perspective introduces an unsettling question: Why is astrology considered unscientific, while economics—which also uses complex mathematical formulas to ‘predict’ the future—is regarded as a perfectly respectable field of study, despite its many failed forecasts? With the neutrality of statistical science, Boxer shows that today’s sophisticated models are, embarrassingly, often no better at predicting the future than the algorithms of astrology. Just think back to the 2008 housing crisis, the 2016 election, or, indeed, the wildly divergent, if not contradictory forecasts for the spread of COVID-19.

Mathematical models can appear to offer the solidity of a mathematical proof. We tend to believe in numbers: they offer “certainty” to our rational minds. But numbers still mislead, figures still deceive, and predictions still fail—sometimes spectacularly so. Put it differently, here’s the uncomfortable truth. Many modern disciplines that advertise themselves as purely rational (and especially those that rely heavily on numerical forecasting), actually contain elements from the domain of the magical, even if they don’t realize it or are unwilling to admit it.

Our modern forms of divination—based on AI and big data, with “corporate astrologers” dressed in suits—offer little from a purely rational perspective, given that their track records are hardly any better than astrology. Yet we are drawn to these forecasts. Evidently, there are deeper forces at play. Perhaps these modern forecasts, with their own peculiar esoteric symbols and mysterious jargon, serve to satisfy an essentially magical, divinatory need. Understanding this explains, in part, why astrology continues to thrive (despite every effort to eradicate it) alongside its modern, data-driven successors.

“And thence we came forth to see again the stars

Divination systems are sensemaking tools, which continue to fascinate, enchant, and nourish an archetypal need. Among these, astrology is the ur-example: a narrative art form of weaving stories out of numbers and data points.

For anyone interested in the history, and, indeed, the future of these ideas, A Scheme of Heaven is a deeply learned guide. Filled with fun charts, diagrams, and statistical tables, Boxer clearly explains the richly complex language and “science” of astrology in a refreshingly, readable manner. With its light touch and wonder-seeking tone, the book is a beacon shone onto the mysteries of the cosmos, rekindling our timeless capacity to marvel at the universe.

Read the article here:

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American Conspiracy Theories 2020

Excellent! –cPaul

America Has Always Been A Nation Of Conspiracy Theories — But It’s Worse Than Ever


As I write this, a pandemic has cost America over a hundred thousand lives, people are protesting in the streets over the police’s murder of more unarmed Black men and women — and the President of the United States is tweeting new conspiracy theories. Specifically, one that originated on an anonymous blog stating that an elderly protester pushed down by the police and left bleeding in the street was a crisis actor.

If only he were alone in thinking this. 

Instead, conspiracy theorists have a welcoming home in the Republican Party. Half of Fox News Viewers believe that Bill Gates wants to use a coronavirus vaccine to implant microchips into Americans in order to track them. While this is a pretty clear conspiracy theory because, hey, phones already have tracking devices, so why go to all the trouble of putting them in vaccines? Still, it’s believed by a significant portion of the population. 

And then, of course there are the people who believe that 5G Wireless towers are spreading COVID-19. Or that George Soros orchestrated the Black Lives Matter protests, rather than that they arose because police keep killing unarmed Black people. And then of course there’s Obamagate which no one — including the President tweeting about it — seems to have a clear handle on. 

In 2020, conspiracy theories are not reserved for your craziest uncle who thinks Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landings. (Obviously false, because, if Kubrick had, they’d have been better filmed). Now, they are the norm. 

That’s not entirely surprising. It’s naive to think that America wasn’t always a nation filled with conspiracy theorists. When Thomas Jefferson, who had many doubts about religion, ran for President, some people were terrified that he was going to outlaw the Bible. Like, they actually thought Jefferson would send people into their houses to take their bibles and burn them. But then, they also thought he was going to sell young white women into prostitution. Now, if they’d disliked Jefferson for being a slaveholder and thus actually participating in the selling of Black people into bondage, that would have been justified. But, unfortunately, that wasn’t a problem for most Americans.

Which is to say, since the inception of this country, people have been enacting some version of Pizzagate when it comes to political leaders, even while ignoring the actual problems these leaders have. 

There have been instances where the conspiracy theories have had wide-reaching impact in the fast, largely when they were shared by government officials. In the 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy (wrongly) believed that Soviet communist spies had infiltrated every level of the government and that it must be “the product of a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.” McCarthyism led to a Hollywood blacklist of writers believed to have any kind of “communist sympathies” as well as the execution of the Rosenbergs, who were believed to be acting as Soviet spies.  

The difference between then and now is that McCarthyism was — eventually — meticulously debunked by Edward R. Murrow in what is still considered “one of the greatest journalistic take-downs ever recorded.” It led to the censure of McCarthy from President Eisenhower, and his eventual decline in power. 

That would almost certainly not happen now. Even when conspiracy theories are debunked by responsible mainstream media outlets, faced with facts that contradict their favorite conspiracy theories, people would often rather reject the truth than the theory. That is likely due to the fact that the accessibility of reading material on the internet allows everyone the illusion of expertise. 

In part, that’s due to remarkable successes in society. The fact that 99% of Americans are now literate would have shocked Americans a hundred years ago. That’s to say nothing of the fact that we’re able to research anything we want on the internet, essentially any time we want. You want to know the name of an actor in a movie you liked? You can find it out in 10 seconds on IMDB. You want to know when Delaware became a state (December 7th, 1787)? You don’t need to trudge all the way to a library. You google it. 

Of course, that information goes beyond trivia. Finding out, say, “what caused the coronavirus” is not quite as simple as finding out “who played Han Solo in Star Wars.” Even just 30 years ago, when it came to information about diseases, you would have to get most of it from your doctor. That is not to say your doctor would have always been right, or that you necessarily would have liked the information they gave you. It simply means that it would have been more arduous to access what are now called “alternative facts.” If you wanted to know more about a disease, you would have, at the very least, had to go to a library, and find a book or medical journal (likely written by medical professionals, and fact-checked by editors) and begin a rather lengthy process of reading and learning. How much easier to merely click on a Facebook article that informs you in easy-to-follow language that coronavirus is caused by 5G towers. And hey, those people will tell you, they researched itBy which they meant, they read an article, perhaps even a few articles! (This is, as doctors will repeatedly tell you, not even close to actual research. Actual research would entail a sample set, trials, and much more.)   

Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, once noted that the American spirit could be summed up in the lyrics of the musical Oklahoma!, which states, “I’m not saying I’m no better than anybody else/ but I’ll be damned if I ain’t just as good.” That’s a noble notion when it comes to people thinking that they have a right to sit at lunch counters or not be murdered by policemen. It’s a foolish notion when it comes to people’s conviction that they know as much as doctors or scientists because they read three articles on

Though they will certainly feel like they know a great deal after reading a topic, as their knowledge will have increased dramatically in a short time. A person — perhaps a doctor, let’s call them Person A — who has read thousands of articles on vaccination may read one more article. Perhaps, if it is an extremely good article, it will end up comprising 1 percent of Person A’s general knowledge on the subject. Which is to say, their knowledge isn’t likely to increase that much from reading a single paper. Barring the possibility that it is a world-altering paper, they’re about as educated on the topic as they were before. A person who had never read an article about vaccination before, however, can read such one article and find that their knowledge has increased 100%. They feel far better educated than they were before, because they are. 

That said, they’re still terribly informed. They just feel like they know a lot. It takes a certain amount of intellect to know how dumb you are. 

Read there rest here:

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Fun With Republic Collapses

I just discovered Ian Johnston’s writing, and I’m loving his perspective! Here’s one he recently posted on Quora: – cPaul

If the US collapses, will the states become independent, annexed by a foreign nation such as Mexico or Canada, form their own unions, or just disappear?

Ian Johnston | Quora

So, a US collapse is different than each and every state becoming independent. The Soviet Union collapsed, but that didn’t make every Russian province an independent entity. Indeed, the overwhelming majority stayed with Russia, and it was the healthily developed and culturally and ethnically distinct regions that broke away from the Russian motherland. In the case of the United States collapsing, a similar thing would occur, such as this:

Let’s rattle off the new(ish) nations following a collapse, starting with the motherland herself.

The United States of America

Population: ~155,250,000
Capital: Washington, District of Columbia

Having lost twenty states entirely, and having had to partition another four, some consider the United States of America a rump state, though it does not fit that definition, as it is still retains much of its core territories, but it is drastically reduced. Cut off from the Pacific Ocean and most of the Gulf of Mexico, the US has been forced to drastically reduce its military size and reallocate most of its navy to the Atlantic. Economically struggling with the loss of its three largest economies, the US is now attempting to reindustrialize, but is quickly finding that the funds and geopolitical goodwill towards such an effort are evaporating quickly.

Republic of Canada

Population: ~62,000,000
Capital: Ottawa

The annexation of New York, New England, the northern half of New Jersey and Alaska has presented a massive economic boom for the new Republic of Canada, which was declared following the death of Queen Elizabeth II as part of Canada’s exit from the Commonwealth of Nations. Canada now controls New York City, the effective capital of the planet as the seat of global commerce and diplomacy. Expanding its already enormous and resource-rich western hinterland, Canada has nearly doubled its population, a fact which has led to a great deal of hand-wringing on the part of many traditionalists, who view the annexation as having the potential for the former Americans to overrun Canadian politics.

Commonwealth of Cascadia

(Credit to reddit user r0bbins for this flag)

Population: ~56,000,000
Capital: San Francisco

The Commonwealth of Cascadia was originally formed out of three states, Washington, Oregon, and California, however they rapidly annexed western Idaho and Nevada, and accepted a referendum held by Hawaii to depart the United States and join Cascadia. This has significantly soured relations between the two countries, meanwhile a warm relationship is forming with Canada, and as a major Pacific power, Cascadia is rapidly developing a large blue water navy to counter fears of Chinese incursions in the central and eastern Pacific.

Allied States of Dixie

Capital: Atlanta

Dixieland nearly broke out into a second rebellion, but by making a peace agreement with the US forfeiting the Atlantic seaboard and most of Florida, the Allied States of Dixie were able to peacefully depart with the others during the two year period of collapse of 2026–2028. Despite many stereotypes about the racist nature of the South, there is at least equality under law with regards to race, though many women’s rights, such as birth control and abortion are heavily curbed, with the latter being banned and the former unable to be covered by health insurance. Dixie is heavily developing its south coast and investing heavily in oil development in the Gulf of Mexico, much to the annoyance of many ecologically minded powers, such as Cascadia.

Republic of Texas

Capital: Austin
Population: ~29,000,000

The Republic of Texas was the first to depart the Union in 2026, and upon doing so, faced a hearty challenge on the part of an attempted territory grab by Mexico in the Rio Grade Valley, ostensibly to “protect ethnic Mexicans”. This resulted in a brief but bloody conflict known as the Second War of Texan Independence. The conflict ended in a humiliating defeat for Mexico, and the heavy militarization of the Rio Grande border. Possessing a large, diverse economy and decent relations with the former United States, Texas is internally rocked by schisms among its Latino population, as well as the increasingly polarized politics of the day. Theoretically starting out strong, the new republic is rapidly weakening, and may fall into its own civil war should it fail to turn things around.

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The Room Where It Happened

I just finished John Bolton’s latest book.

All I will say is that just when you think US politics can’t sink any lower, a whole new elevator to hell opens up.

I’ve sniped my thoughts about this guy several times here previously, and I’m certainly no fan of John Bolton’s views and his sordid career as a hawkish GOP blowhard — but I postulate that he has no reason to make any of this up. – cPaul

“Trump’s subsequent acquittal demonstrated yet another consequence of the impeachment malpractice committed by the House of Representatives. Democrats argued that impeachment itself would forever taint the Trump presidency, thus justifying their actions in the House. Inexplicably, they ignored the palpable reality that the inevitable consequence of a failed impeachment effort meant that Trump could claim vindication, and act accordingly, which is precisely what he did. This is the exact opposite of what House impeachment advocates purportedly intended, and yet they marched in lockstep off the cliff, thereby eliminating yet another “guardrail,” the term commonly used, limiting Trump’s misuse of governmental power. As Yogi Berra once asked about the hapless New York Mets: “Don’t nobody here know how to play this game?

Impeachment, of course, is, for the most part, only a theoretical guardrail constitutionally. The real guardrail is elections, which Trump faces in November 2020. Should he win, the Twenty-Second Amendment precludes (and should continue to preclude) any further electoral constraint on Trump. While liberals and Democrats focus on impeachment, conservatives and Republicans should worry about the removal of the political guardrail of Trump having to face reelection. As this memoir demonstrates, many of Trump’s national security decisions hinged more on political than on philosophy, strategy or foreign policy and defense rationales. More widely, faced with the coronavirus crisis, Trump said, “When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total, and that’s the way it’s got to be.”2 He threatened to adjourn Congress, wrongly citing a constitutional provision that has never been used.3 No conservative who has read the Constitution could be anything but astonished at these assertions.

Of course, politics is ever present in government, but a second-term Trump will be far less constrained by politics than he was in his first term. The irony could well be that Democrats will find themselves far more pleased substantively with a “legacy”-seeking Trump in his second term than conservatives and Republicans. Something to think about.”

Excerpt From: John Bolton; “The Room Where It Happened.”

Previous posts related to Bolton:

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Mysterious Structure Found Near Stonehenge

The monumental underground structures were discovered in a vast circle just two miles from Stonehenge, and fulfilled an unknown purpose.

Becky Ferreira | Vice

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The record-breaking jet which still haunts Canada

A decade after the end of World War Two, Canada built a jet that pushed technology to its limits. But its demise showed why smaller nations found it difficult to compete in the Jet Age.

In the early years of the Cold War, Canada decided to design and build the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world.

Canada is well known for its rugged bush planes, capable of rough landings and hair-raising take-offs in the wilderness. From the late 1930s, the North American country had also started to manufacture British-designed planes for the Allied war effort. Many of these planes were iconic wartime designs like the Hawker Hurricane fighter and Avro Lancaster bomber.

Ambitious Canadian politicians and engineers weren’t satisfied with this. They decided to forge a world-leading aircraft manufacturing industry out of the factories and skilled workforce built up during the war. Tired of manufacturing aircraft designed by others, this new generation of Canadian leaders were determined to produce Canadian designs. Avro Aircraft, the Canadian airplane maker created after the war, was the company that would deliver their dream.

Freed from the set ways-of-thinking of Avro’s more established rivals, the firm’s engineers were able to work on revolutionary jet fighters, commercial airliners, flying saucers and even a space plane. They placed Canada at the technological cutting edge of the new Jet Age.

In so doing, these engineers challenged notions of what small countries like Canada could achieve in the hi-tech industries of the day, even if convincing politicians to stump up the cash for them was an altogether trickier business.

Then came the Arrow. On 4 October 1957, 14,000 people watched a large hangar on the outskirts of Toronto open to reveal a beautiful, large, white, delta-wing aircraft. The plane was the Avro Arrow interceptor. A third longer and broader than today’s Eurofighter Typhoon, the Arrow could fly close to Mach 2.0 (1,500 mph, or the maximum speed of Concorde), and had the potential to fly even faster. It was Canada’s Can$250m (US$1,58bn today) bid to become an aviation superpower.

The project was genuinely ground-breaking. Avro’s engineers had been allowed to build a record-breaker without compromise. But Canadians would soon discover that the supersonic age had made aviation projects so expensive that only a handful of countries could carry them out – and Canada, unfortunately, wasn’t one of them.

The advert for Avro Aircraft celebrating the “first 50 years of powered flight in Canada 1909–1959” had only just been printed when on “Black Friday”, 20 February 1959, the loudspeaker of the Avro Aircraft factory on the outskirts of Toronto crackled to life. Thousands of workers heard the company president announce “that f—— prick in Ottawa” (the newly elected Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker) had cancelled the entire Arrow programme. Later that day, 14,500 skilled men and women lost their jobs. Many of these engineers joined the brain-drain to the United States. The “Avro group” of 32 engineers playing critical roles in Nasa’s Apollo programme, which – ironically – beat the Soviets in the race to land a man on the moon.

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The Thompson Company Competitive Advertisements Collection of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

The Ad*Access Project, funded by the Duke Endowment “Library 2000” Fund, presents images and information for over 7,000 advertisements printed in U.S. and Canadian newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1955. Ad*Access concentrates on five main subject areas: Radio, Television, Transportation, Beauty and Hygiene, and World War II, providing a coherent view of a number of major campaigns and companies through images preserved in one particular advertising collection available at Duke University. The advertisements are from the J. Walter Thompson Company Competitive Advertisements Collection of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History in Duke University’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Disrupting death: Could we really live forever in digital form?

Virtual reality, robots, chatbots and holograms could allow us to exist perpetually. Whether we should choose the option is a different story.

Alison DeNisco Rayome | c/Net

In 2016, Jang Ji-sung’s young daughter Nayeon passed away from a blood-related disease. But in February, the South Korean mother was reunited with her daughter in virtual reality. Experts constructed a version of her child using motion capture technology for a documentary. Wearing a VR headset and haptic gloves, Jang was able to walk, talk and play with this digital version of her daughter.

“Maybe it’s a real paradise,” Jang said of the moment the two met in VR. “I met Nayeon, who called me with a smile, for a very short time, but it’s a very happy time. I think I’ve had the dream I’ve always wanted.”

Once largely the concern of science fiction, more people are now interested in immortality — whether that’s keeping your body or mind alive forever (as explored in the new Amazon Prime comedy Upload), or in creating some kind of living memorial, like an AI-based robot or chatbot version of yourself, or of your loved one. The question is — should we do that? And if we do, what should it look like? 

In Korea, a mother was reunited with a virtual reality version of her young daughter who had passed away years before, as part of a documentary project.MBC

Modern interest around immortality started in the 1960s, when the idea of cryonics emerged — freezing and storing a human corpse or head with the hope of resurrecting that person in the distant future. (While some people have chosen to freeze their body after death, none have yet been revived.) 

“There was a shift in death science at that time, and the idea that somehow or another death is something humans can defeat,” said John Troyer, director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath and author of Technologies of the Human Corpse

However, no peer-reviewed research suggests it’s worth pouring millions of dollars into trying to upload our brains, or finding ways to keep our bodies alive, Troyer said. At least not yet. A 2016 study published in the journal PLOS ONE did find that exposing a preserved brain to chemical and electrical probes could make the brain function again, to some degree. 

“It’s all a gamble about what’s possible in the future,” Troyer said. “I’m just not convinced it’s possible in the way [technology companies] are describing, or desirable.”

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Major Study Finds the USA is An Oligarchy

Zachary Davies Boren | The Telegraph

The U.S. government does not represent the interests of the majority of the country’s citizens, but is instead ruled by those of the rich and powerful, a new study from Princeton and Northwestern universities has concluded.

The report, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” (PDF), used extensive policy data collected between 1981 and 2002 to empirically determine the state of the U.S. political system.

After sifting through nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted in that period and comparing them to the expressed preferences of average Americans (50th percentile of income), affluent Americans (90th percentile), and large special interests groups, researchers concluded that the U.S. is dominated by its economic elite.

The peer-reviewed study, which will be taught at these universities in September, says: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Researchers concluded that U.S. government policies rarely align with the preferences of the majority of Americans, but do favour special interests and lobbying organizations: “When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favour policy change, they generally do not get it.”

The positions of powerful interest groups are “not substantially correlated with the preferences of average citizens,” but the politics of average Americans and affluent Americans sometimes does overlap. This is merely a coincidence, the report says, with the interests of the average American being served almost exclusively when it also serves those of the richest 10%.

The theory of “biased pluralism” that the Princeton and Northwestern researchers believe the U.S. system fits holds that policy outcomes “tend to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”

The study comes after McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a controversial piece of legislation passed in the Supreme Court that abolished campaign-contribution limits, and record low approval ratings for the U.S. Congress.

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Pessimism is now clinically bad for you!

Pessimists have a higher chance of developing dementia later on in life, reveals new study.

A new study claims that negative thinking, especially fixating on negative thoughts can cause decline in one’s cognitive abilities, while increasing the load of two harmful proteins that cause Alzheimer’s disease.

“We propose that repetitive negative thinking may be a new risk factor for dementia,” said the author of the study, Dr Natalie Marchant, in a statement.

To reach this conclusion, the researchers took into account 350 people above 55 over two years. The deposit of “tau” and “beta” was measured in the subjects. These are the two harmful proteins responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease in adults.

People with more deposits of these proteins, clubbed with memory loss were susceptible to major cognitive decline, as opposed to people with happy thoughts.

Pre-existing enquiries posit that anxiety and depression cause cognitive decline among people, but with this new addition, it’s a triad of things that could lead to dementia in old age.

The researchers did note that the build up of harmful proteins did not increase among pessimists. “Taken alongside other studies, which link depression and anxiety with dementia risk, we expect that chronic negative thinking patterns over a long period of time could increase the risk of dementia,” Marchant said.

According to the researchers, activities that foster and promote positive thinking, eg meditation might be effective in reducing the effects of pessimism.

Earlier studies suggest that optimists don’t die as much as pessimists of cardiovascular disease. The study from 2019 claims that optimists have better protection against dying from heart attacks, strokes, or any other events of death.

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