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President Trump Is Mad As Hell and He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore

Mother Jones

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I missed President Trump’s press conference this afternoon, but Josh Marshall sums it up for me:

The only real consistency in Trump’s remarks are that he did nothing wrong and his anger at whomever he’s angry at at that moment. Everything else is mutable and up for grabs. He’s mad, mad at everyone, mad at Comey, also mad at Rosenstein and he made that anger clear in something like a million ways during this brief performance.

That’s our president. Mad at everybody, all the time—except himself. I wonder if he really lacks self-awareness so utterly that he has no idea he’s the one causing all the chaos? Or that he almost certainly broke the law pretty seriously when he asked Comey to kill the Russia investigation? Is he that clueless?

Probably. Trump always thought the business world was a lot tougher than politics, so being president would be a breeze. That was a level of cluelessness that’s truly mind-boggling. Leaving aside the fact that Trump never actually ran his business in any real sense of the word—and was never as successful as he thought he was—that world was patty-cake compared to big-league politics. In only a few months Washington DC has eaten him alive.

And the rest of the planet is even worse. Trump has already shown signs of being taken to the cleaners by foreign leaders, and this is almost certain to continue. That’s because despite his big talk, he’s never shown any real talent for negotiation. Dan Drezner makes the case here, and it’s not pretty.

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President Trump Is Mad As Hell and He’s Not Going To Take It Anymore

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4K Monitors Are Awesome

Mother Jones

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My new camera produces better, sharper pictures, but that doesn’t do me a lot of good if I can only view them on a standard 90 dpi monitor. So I went out last week and bought a 4K monitor.

It rocks. Everything looks better and sharper, as if I’ve just put on a new pair of glasses. The resolution is good enough that I don’t need to bother with ClearType on Windows anymore. In fact, text looks better without it. Here’s what the New York Times looks like:

No anti-aliasing, no nothing. It’s nearly as sharp as a retina display on a tablet.

The monitor installed with no problems. Windows auto-detect worked fine, and scaling was automatically reset to 200 percent. So far, I’ve only run into two problems. First, my email client looked terrible. I guess it renders fonts internally or something. However, I’ve been meaning to switch clients anyway, so this was a good excuse to do it.

The other problem was with Photoshop, which you’d think would be highly attuned to high-res monitors. But one of its functions just doesn’t work right anymore. I tried it on my tablet and it failed there too. So it’s clearly something to do with the pixel density of the display.

Most people aren’t resolution geeks, but I always have been. If you are too, a 4K monitor is very much worth looking into.

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4K Monitors Are Awesome

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Inflation Probably Won’t Be a Problem Until 2019

Mother Jones

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Earlier today I noted that core PCE inflation—the measure used by the Fed—has been rising very, very slowly over the past two years. “At that rate, it should hit 2 percent by about 2019 or so,” I snarked.

But that got me curious. How fast is core PCE rising? So naturally I put it into a chart:

It turns out that by 2019 it would actually hit 2.2 percent at its current rate. This is still not something we should be very worried about.1

Of course, inflation isn’t just a trend independent of everything else. If the Fed changes interest rates, or President Trump balloons the deficit, or the dollar weakens and imports get a lot more expensive, then that will affect the inflation rate. But none of those things have happened yet, and until they do we still don’t really have anything to be worried about.

1In fact, it would probably be helpful to see inflation rise to 3 percent for a year or two. If it rises above that, then it’s might be time for the Fed to act.

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Inflation Probably Won’t Be a Problem Until 2019

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Nine Things I’m Tired Of

Mother Jones

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To celebrate the Grinch version of Christmas, here’s my 2016 list of stuff I’ve gotten tired of over the past year. I’m not suggesting that nobody should use any of these memes in the future. Go ahead! Who cares whether I’m annoyed? Nor are they the the worst cliches or most overused examples in the world. They’re just things I’ve grown weary of. They are in no particular order. Enjoy!

  1. Side-eye tweets about “takes.” This is mostly annoying coming from people who all write takes themselves. Stop the self-hatred! Some people are makers (i.e. reporters) and some people are takers. You should revel in your role in the journalistic ecosystem.
  2. The madman theory. Yes, yes, we all know that Richard Nixon tried to make Russia and China think he was a madman who needed to be treated with kid gloves. This strategy lasted, what? A year? And it didn’t work. We’ve also heard it “explained” a thousand times by analogy to two cars speeding toward each other on a one-lane road, and one guy throws away his steering wheel. We get it.
  3. Correlation is not causation. If you’re a serious researcher making a serious point about a serious study, you’re fine. However, this usage is vanishingly rare. Most often it’s tossed off by someone who thinks it’s a brilliant riposte to anyone who demonstrates a correlation. Knock it off. It’s not nearly as smart as you think it is.
  4. Container shipping revolutionized world trade. This is a true fact. I know it’s true because people keep writing articles about it, as if it’s some kind of revelation. Maybe it was 20 years ago. Today, not so much.
  5. Van Halen’s brown M&Ms. If you don’t know what this is, Google it. As for the rest of you, please find some other example to make whatever point you’re trying to make.
  6. _____ is wealthier than the bottom 50 percent of the world. Look, the wealth of the bottom 50 percent of the world is zero. Everything is wealthier than the bottom 50 percent of the world. Headlines that use this format are nowhere near as amazeballs as many people appear to think they are.
  7. Ironic criticism of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner from people who go to it. I know: you think this shows that you’re a regular joe who’s in on the joke. It doesn’t. It just shows that you’re afraid of people thinking you’re part of the DC press corps.
  8. ____’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad ____. This is not the most overused cliche in the world, but it might be the laziest. You don’t even have to think of some kind of clever construction. You just fill in the blanks and call it a day. Let’s all give it a rest.
  9. Bloggers who complain about the press covering Donald Trump’s tweets even though they obsess over them too. These guys are the worst.

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Nine Things I’m Tired Of

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After a failed police crackdown, North Dakota now plans to attack activists with fines.

Amnesty International investigators interviewed laborers as young as 8 working on plantations that sell to Wilmar, the largest palm-oil trader. Palm oil goes into bread, cereal, chocolate, soaps — it’s in about half of everything on supermarket shelves.

Wilmar previously committed to buying palm oil only from companies that don’t burn down forest or exploit workers. Child labor is illegal in Indonesia.

When Wilmar heard about the abuses, it opened an internal investigation and set up a monitoring process.

It’s disappointing that Wilmar’s commitments haven’t put an end to labor abuses, but it’s not surprising. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate worker exploitation without addressing structural causes: mass poverty, disenfranchisement, and lack of safety nets.

Investigators talked to one boy who dropped out of school to work on a plantation at the age of 12 when his father became too ill to work. Without some kind of welfare program, that boy’s family would probably be worse off if he’d been barred from working.

The boy had wanted to become a teacher. For countries like Indonesia to get out of poverty and stop climate-catastrophic deforestation, they need to help kids like this actually become teachers. That will require actors like Wilmar, Amnesty, and the government to work together to give laborers a living wage, and take care of them when they get sick.

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After a failed police crackdown, North Dakota now plans to attack activists with fines.

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This nine-step program is like Alcoholics Anonymous for climate anxiety.

Amnesty International investigators interviewed laborers as young as 8 working on plantations that sell to Wilmar, the largest palm-oil trader. Palm oil goes into bread, cereal, chocolate, soaps — it’s in about half of everything on supermarket shelves.

Wilmar previously committed to buying palm oil only from companies that don’t burn down forest or exploit workers. Child labor is illegal in Indonesia.

When Wilmar heard about the abuses, it opened an internal investigation and set up a monitoring process.

It’s disappointing that Wilmar’s commitments haven’t put an end to labor abuses, but it’s not surprising. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate worker exploitation without addressing structural causes: mass poverty, disenfranchisement, and lack of safety nets.

Investigators talked to one boy who dropped out of school to work on a plantation at the age of 12 when his father became too ill to work. Without some kind of welfare program, that boy’s family would probably be worse off if he’d been barred from working.

The boy had wanted to become a teacher. For countries like Indonesia to get out of poverty and stop climate-catastrophic deforestation, they need to help kids like this actually become teachers. That will require actors like Wilmar, Amnesty, and the government to work together to give laborers a living wage, and take care of them when they get sick.

Link:

This nine-step program is like Alcoholics Anonymous for climate anxiety.

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Thousands have fled their homes as historic wildfires burn in Tennessee.

Amnesty International investigators interviewed laborers as young as 8 working on plantations that sell to Wilmar, the largest palm-oil trader. Palm oil goes into bread, cereal, chocolate, soaps — it’s in about half of everything on supermarket shelves.

Wilmar previously committed to buying palm oil only from companies that don’t burn down forest or exploit workers. Child labor is illegal in Indonesia.

When Wilmar heard about the abuses, it opened an internal investigation and set up a monitoring process.

It’s disappointing that Wilmar’s commitments haven’t put an end to labor abuses, but it’s not surprising. It’s nearly impossible to eliminate worker exploitation without addressing structural causes: mass poverty, disenfranchisement, and lack of safety nets.

Investigators talked to one boy who dropped out of school to work on a plantation at the age of 12 when his father became too ill to work. Without some kind of welfare program, that boy’s family would probably be worse off if he’d been barred from working.

The boy had wanted to become a teacher. For countries like Indonesia to get out of poverty and stop climate-catastrophic deforestation, they need to help kids like this actually become teachers. That will require actors like Wilmar, Amnesty, and the government to work together to give laborers a living wage, and take care of them when they get sick.

Originally posted here: 

Thousands have fled their homes as historic wildfires burn in Tennessee.

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Republicans Need to Abandon Angry White Guys

Mother Jones

What’s going to happen to the Republican Party after November 8? I’ve raised the possibility that if Trump loses massively, the party establishment might get serious about marginalizing the tea party caucus in Congress instead of being held endlessly hostage to them. Most of the responses to that suggestion have been skeptical. The more likely possibility is that tea partiers will increase their influence and the GOP will become even crazier and more obstructionist than ever.

That’s pretty much what apostate Republican Max Boot thinks:

Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan may hope that after Trump’s inevitable defeat the party will return to their brand of conservatism — in favor of free trade and American leadership abroad, cutting government spending and taxes, a balanced approach to immigration, and making deals where possible with centrist Democrats. But that’s not a safe assumption anymore.

….Perhaps Trump will fade away after the election and the Republican Party will return to its Reaganite roots. But…survey findings suggest a strong possibility that instead the GOP, or at least a substantial portion of it, could continue veering toward the fringe, muttering darkly about how Trump was robbed of his rightful victory. If that is the case, then the Republican Party may not survive the Trump takeover.

I want to make this easy. There’s basically only one thing that matters for the GOP: whether they double down on being the white men’s party, or whether they take the painful but necessary steps necessary to broaden their appeal. That’s it. Everything else pales in comparison.

If they continue on their current course, the presidency is going to get further and further out of reach. Eventually they won’t be able to hold on to the Senate or the House either. They’ve simply run out of ways to increase the white vote and suppress the non-white vote, and the demographics of America just flatly don’t support a party that’s increasingly loathed by women and minorities.

Lindsey Graham’s critique of four years ago is famous: “We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.” Republicans need to print this on a hat and start wearing it at all times. The Southern Strategy worked great for half a century, but nothing lasts forever. It’s time to abandon it.

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Republicans Need to Abandon Angry White Guys

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This chart shows the United States’ mind-blowing clean energy potential

This chart shows the United States’ mind-blowing clean energy potential

By on 30 Mar 2016commentsShare

The United States uses about 3.7 million gigawatt-hours of electricity each year. That’s an unfathomably huge number. But the next time someone tries to make the argument that 100 percent renewable energy is out of reach for the U.S., show them this image:

Environment America Research & Policy Center

All of U.S. electricity usage is down there at the bottom right. Everything else is the States’ renewable potential.

Earlier this year, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory released a report that said the United States’ upper ceiling on rooftop solar generation potential was around 39 percent of all U.S. electricity sales. That’s the tiny yellow circle in the middle. The potential of utility-scale solar? 350 times that li’l guy.

In a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center — where this image appears — researchers lay out the achievability of a U.S. transition to 100 percent renewable energy. “There’s no question of whether or not there’s enough renewable energy,” said Rob Sargent, a program director at Environment America, on a press call. It’s more a function of how to achieve such a transition.

The recommendations in the report will sound familiar. If we want to make it to a 100 percent renewable future, we need to start by ramping up solar and wind production, shifting toward electric vehicles, pumping dollars into energy storage research, and taking advantage of energy savings and efficiency programs.

But maybe more than anything, we need to take a good long gander at that bowling ball of renewable generation potential and convince ourselves that carving out a grape’s-worth is within our power.

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This chart shows the United States’ mind-blowing clean energy potential

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Yo La Tengo Is Here for the Long Haul

Mother Jones

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Yo La Tengo: Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, James McNew Jacob Blickenstaff

Coming out of the close-knit music community of late-1980s Hoboken, New Jersey, Yo La Tengo was the product of the romantic and musical relationship between guitarist and music journalist Ira Kaplan and drummer Georgia Hubley, the daughter of well-known animation producers John and Faith Hubley. With help from a rotating cast of supporting musicians, the husband-and-wife duo released four albums, including their 1990 breakout, Fakebook, before bassist James McNew came on board as a permanent and stabilizing member.

Last month, Yo La Tengo released its 14th album, Stuff Like That There, which serves as a companion of sorts to Fakebook. Both albums draw on an eclectic mix of covers as well as remakes of the band’s previously recorded songs. Guitarist Dave Schramm also returns to lend his guitar work.

Active for more than 30 years, the band owes its staying power to its ability to absorb and integrate a vast range of influences. Stuff Like That There singles out and connects some of those myriad points of reference—including The Cure, the outsider doo-wop of Sun Ra, and Yo La Tengo’s 1980s alt-rock contemporaries Antietam—to reveal the band’s musical center. I visited with the trio at their Hoboken rehearsal space.

Mother Jones: How did the thematic similarity between Stuff Like That There and Fakebook come to pass?

Ira Kaplan: We’ve been asked a lot over the years about doing another album like Fakebook. When people ask you to do stuff, it’s not your idea anymore, so it’s tough to get behind it. But over time, we started realizing that that didn’t make it a bad idea.

MJ: Reinterpreting and re-recording your own songs is something you’ve done on other albums, too. Do you think that’s unusual?

IK: It may be unusual-ish. James was just listening to Country Joe and the Fish—all the San Francisco bands were very free with the interpretations of their material. If you listen to Jefferson Airplane’s God Bless Its Pointed Little Head, the live versions of their old songs don’t sound much like the studio versions. The Velvet Underground’s live versions changed constantly. And as Beatles bootlegs keep surfacing, you hear all the different sketches and ways they approached things, so it’s always felt pretty natural for us.

MJ: When Georgia and Ira created Yo La Tengo, you guys were very much amateur musicians.

IK: I still feel like an amateur! I remember being in college and taking a class on classical music and getting a big laugh when I said very sincerely that I was not really into trained voices. Some of the greatest singers can transcend their technical perfection and still sound great.

Georgia Hubley: They have to get over that stumbling block of talent!

MJ: You seems always to be evolving, yet Yo La Tengo maintains a consistent core identity. Is that deliberate? Like, are there parameters that you follow?

IK: I don’t think there are really that many rules. We are willing to change, and we’re willing not to, but we just try to be listening. This has been a crazy year. Every time we play live, it feels diametrically opposed to how we played the last time. We’ve been playing with different people and different configurations, and just allowing those things to happen. At the same time, we’re consciously going back in time and playing with Dave Schramm again to just see what that would be like.

MJ: The band began as a duo, with other musicians coming in and out. How did James’ involvement change things?

IK: We thought we had a band, but when James joined, it was, “Oh, I see! This is a band!” Everything we do now, even though we had four records before he joined, traces back to when he joined. May I Sing With Me was the first record he plays on, but with Painful, I think that’s when we were really a band for the first time.

MJ: Did it feel natural when you began, James, or did you find it tough to integrate?

JM: There’s a Halloween episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes back in time. If he touches one thing and then flashes back to the present, everything is different. I didn’t want to do that in the band. I was a fan; I already thought they were doing great. It was like, “Don’t touch anything! Don’t ruin that band you like!” So I tried to find that spot where I felt, “I didn’t ruin things today? Let’s move it a little further.” I’m still toeing that line. But it was natural in a sense of our personalities. The first day we practiced together, we spent just as much time discussing Second City Television episodes as we did playing music.

MJ: Georgia and Ira, how do you keep your marriage from interfering with the business of the band?

IK: It’s pretty jumbled, and it is a challenge. But I feel like it has to be that way when you are passionate about your work—as opposed to waiting until five o’clock so you can do the things you really care about. Like James mentioned about SCTV, there is a gray line. Like, what is band practice? These things just work their way in. That goes back to being receptive, and being confident that the experiences you are having are going to find their way into what you’re doing. It’s not a matter of “We gotta learn that bridge today!” Things happen more formlessly.

MJ: How would you say your dynamic has changed since you first started playing?

IK: I think there’s less panic, and more acceptance that not everything is going to go the way that you thought it might. We are much more accepting of the days, or the weeks, when nothing we really liked happens. Or we’ll like something and try to play it again and find that it’s gone. I think there was a lot more anxiety about that in the past. Now it’s more like, “Oh well, that’s part of it.”

GH: We always are learning something, whether its, “Let’s not do that again,” or “How do we make that better?” Making music is really fun. Some of the other stuff can get to you, but I think we do a pretty good job of riding it out.

MJ: What other stuff?

JM: Everything but music!

GH: Everything else is terrible!

JM: There’s an actual physiological thing that happens to me on tour. There’s that moment where I sit in my seat and click the seatbelt, and five seconds later I fall asleep. There’s the excitement, and I guess anxiety, about what the shows will be like, but it’s overwhelmed by, “Thank God, here we go!” It’s letting go of all that other shit I had to do to get to this moment. It’s done—or at least it can’t touch me until we land.

MJ: So, to what do you attribute Yo La Tengo’s longevity?

IK: We managed to not ever be part of a movement. Even “indie” is a word we run from—that word is so amorphous. We’ve never been trendy, so consequently we’ve never fallen out of fashion. We didn’t have a hit, so we’ve never been locked into anything. As far as we know, maybe we are locked in somewhere from a few years ago in other peoples’ perceptions. Maybe we’re too stupid to know it.

GH: Or delusional? I think it’s probably a good thing.

MJ: Is there anything about your group temperament that allows you to keep going?

IK: We were never a group that thrived on volatility. We just don’t work well calling each other out, saying, “That sucks!” Some sports teams hate each other in the locker room and that’s what makes them great, but we’re not that team.

We did a show recently in Spain where the sound on stage was miserable and no one knew what to do about it. Georgia stopped a song that had begun, which is not the response anyone was expecting, even Georgia. There’s no question in my mind that if that had happened years ago, the band’s response and my response would have been so much worse. We just kept going. It didn’t derail the show in ways that it would have. It wasn’t even something I had to reflect on later.

JM: Mindfulness in action. When you’re in the audience and you’re seeing a band and shit’s falling apart, that’s thrilling! But when it’s happening to you, you think, “This sucks! I hope nobody is seeing this.”

IK: Even if we do look awful, it was a human moment. But it’s not always easy, seeing yourself.

GH: This trip we just did was fairly difficult. We were on this bill with a lot of bands, and it was very hard to connect to the audience. It’s a strange way to feel when you’re about to pour your heart out—to get on stage and feel like, “Does this matter to anyone?”

JM: I was reacting to the same feeling, that there are some people who aren’t watching the show. I thought, “Okay, so this is for us.” It was a really beautiful, emotional feeling—just joyful: I love doing this so much, and I hope you do too. I left with a smile. Or something close to a smile. I was very tired.

You can catch Yo La Tengo at their upcoming tour dates in the United States and Japan. They’ll also be appearing at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival and Big Ears Festival in early 2016.

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Yo La Tengo Is Here for the Long Haul

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