Tag Archives: right

How can Pruitt sue himself? California wants to know.

During a Thursday interview on a Texas radio show the EPA administrator said his agency wants objective science to buttress its mission. Sounds like something Pruitt and scientists can agree on, right?

Not exactly. Right after endorsing peer-reviewed science Pruitt dropped this: “Science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Experts at NOAA, the Department of the Interior, and Pruitt’s own agency have said they think science is exactly what policy should be based on.

On air, Pruitt touched on his usual topics: Superfund, how the Paris Agreement is a bad deal for the U.S., and, of course, CO2. The radio station’s meteorologist asked Pruitt why the country has such a preoccupation with the greenhouse gas. “It serves political ends,” Pruitt said. “The past administration used it as a wedge issue.”

Besides the conflicting statements on science, it was a pretty classic Pruitt interview. But we can finally put one burning question to rest about our newish EPA administrator: Does he separate his trash into the proper bins? “I have,” Pruitt said coyly. “I have recycled.”

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How can Pruitt sue himself? California wants to know.

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Remember Flint? Bruno Mars surprised concertgoers with $1 million toward its recovery.

During a Thursday interview on a Texas radio show the EPA administrator said his agency wants objective science to buttress its mission. Sounds like something Pruitt and scientists can agree on, right?

Not exactly. Right after endorsing peer-reviewed science Pruitt dropped this: “Science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Experts at NOAA, the Department of the Interior, and Pruitt’s own agency have said they think science is exactly what policy should be based on.

On air, Pruitt touched on his usual topics: Superfund, how the Paris Agreement is a bad deal for the U.S., and, of course, CO2. The radio station’s meteorologist asked Pruitt why the country has such a preoccupation with the greenhouse gas. “It serves political ends,” Pruitt said. “The past administration used it as a wedge issue.”

Besides the conflicting statements on science, it was a pretty classic Pruitt interview. But we can finally put one burning question to rest about our newish EPA administrator: Does he separate his trash into the proper bins? “I have,” Pruitt said coyly. “I have recycled.”

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Remember Flint? Bruno Mars surprised concertgoers with $1 million toward its recovery.

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That’s It For Today

Mother Jones

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This is my last post for the day. Starting in a few minutes we’ll be replacing the guts of our website with something newer and better than what we have now, and no one at MoJo is allowed to edit the site until we’re done. That will be Tuesday morning according to our tech boffins.

I fully expect everything to go flawlessly during this conversion, because that’s how things usually go with computers. Right? Still, there’s an outside chance of something going wrong, which might mean I don’t show up for blogging duty on Tuesday. If that happens, don’t panic. Leave that to us professionals. We’ll get it all sorted.

In the meantime, I have important robot research to do and even more important vacation planning to do. See you Tuesday.

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That’s It For Today

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Trump Is Now Lying to His Own National Security Staff

Mother Jones

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In his NATO speech a week ago, Donald Trump declined to explicitly endorse Article 5, the provision that says an attack on one is an attack on all. I’m on record as suggesting that reaction to this was sort of overblown, but Susan Glasser provides some behind-the-scenes context to suggest it was quite a bit worse than I thought. It turns out that Trump’s entire national security team wanted him to offer a public endorsement:

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all supported Trump doing so and had worked in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode. They thought it was, and a White House aide even told The New York Times the day before the line was definitely included.

….The frantic, last-minute maneuvering over the speech, I’m told, included “MM&T,” as some now refer to the trio of Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson, lobbying in the days leading up to it to get a copy of the president’s planned remarks and then pushing hard once they obtained the draft to get the Article 5 language in it, only to see it removed again. All of which further confirms a level of White House dysfunction that veterans of both parties I’ve talked with in recent months say is beyond anything they can recall.

This is…astonishing. MM&T had to lobby just to get a copy of Trump’s remarks? And then, after getting the wording in, it was removed behind their backs? WTF?

“They had the right speech and it was cleared through McMaster,” said a source briefed by National Security Council officials in the immediate aftermath of the NATO meeting….“They didn’t know it had been removed,” said a third source of the Trump national security officials on hand for the ceremony. “It was only upon delivery.”

….The episode suggests that what has been portrayed—correctly—as a major rift within the 70-year-old Atlantic alliance is also a significant moment of rupture inside the Trump administration, with the president withholding crucial information from his top national security officials—and then embarrassing them by forcing them to go out in public with awkward, unconvincing, after-the-fact claims that the speech really did amount to a commitment they knew it did not make.

Holy shit. It’s one thing to lose a battle about what goes into a presidential speech—that happens all the time—but it’s quite another to agree to include something and then remove it without telling your top national security advisors. And then send them out to face the press.

This isn’t a case of Trump listening to the last guy in the room. It sounds more like Trump being unwilling to tell his national security team to their faces that he disagrees with them—and then screwing them behind their backs. How long can you keep working for a guy like that?

The bizarre thing is that what Trump did wasn’t entirely indefensible. It’s obviously not what I (or McMaster or Mattis or Tillerson) would have done, but Trump could have made the case that asking NATO partners nicely for increased defense spending hadn’t worked in the past, and he wanted to tighten the screws. The way to do it is to make everyone just a little nervous by saying nothing about Article 5 one way or the other.

MM&T would have disagreed, but Trump is president and he could have overruled them. Trump took office promising to disrupt the status quo, so they could hardly have been surprised if he had told them he wanted to play a little hardball and that they should be prepared for some blowback. At least then they would have known what to say afterward.

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Trump Is Now Lying to His Own National Security Staff

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Here Are the Results for Montana’s Body-Slamming-Marred Special Election

Mother Jones

Update 12:50am ET Friday, May 26, 2016: The race has been called for Republican Greg Gianforte.

On Thursday voters in Montana went to the polls in a special election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who left Congress in March. (See below for the results, beginning at 7 p.m. PT.) The race was marred by a fishing-hole dispute, a concert at a nudist resort, and, in the waning hours of the campaign, a misdemeanor assault by the Republican front-runner, Greg Gianforte, who “body slammed” a reporter. No one ever called Montana politics boring.

The race has major national implications: Although Republicans consistently carry the state at the presidential level, Democrats have won statewide races for senator and governor in Montana in recent years—and this contest offers the party’s most serious opportunity yet to chip away at the Republican majority in Congress and show that with the right candidate and message, it can compete and win in Trump Country. Gianforte, a businessman, has consistently led in the polls against Democrat Rob Quist, a country music singer.

After Gianforte narrowly lost his bid for governor last fall (largely on the basis of a decade-old lawsuit over fishing access), he kept a low profile during his comeback bid and sought to win election by avoiding taking a position on the most contentious issue in Washington: the Republican health care bill, which would leave an additional 23 million Americans without health insurance by 2026. Quist, an unabashed economic populist, campaigned aggressively on a single-payer platform and ran ads about his own preexisting condition (a botched gallbladder operation). Gianforte stalled for the final 21 days of the race, insisting first that he would wait to pass judgment until after a new Congressional Budget Office score had been released, and then after the CBO report was released, body-slamming the first reporter who asked his position. Win or lose, he’s due back in Bozeman in June for a court date.

Follow along with the results here, via Decision Desk:

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Here Are the Results for Montana’s Body-Slamming-Marred Special Election

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Productivity Is the Key to Economic Growth

Mother Jones

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Mick Mulvaney says the haters don’t know what they’re talking about:

In his remarks Tuesday, Mulvaney mentioned that the economy had often grown in the past at rates of 3 percent and called people’s objections to the Trump administration’s expectation of growth rates that high “absurd.”

“It used to be normal. Ten years ago, it was normal. In fact, it’s been normal for the history of the country,” said Mulvaney.

Mulvaney is sort of right about this. But there’s more to it. The basic formula for economic growth is simple: Economic growth = Population growth + Productivity growth. Population growth has been slowing down for decades, and Mulvaney isn’t going to change that. We know exactly what the population of the country is going to be over the next few years.

So that leaves productivity growth, which the BLS estimates here. Here’s what all three factors have looked like since 1960:

In order to achieve 3 percent economic growth, we need productivity growth of about 2.3 percent. This is decidedly not normal for the history of the country—not in the past 50 years, anyway. With the brief exception of the unsustainable housing bubble era, we haven’t hit that since the end of 60s.

Productivity growth is a real problem, and it’s something of a mystery why it’s been so low lately. But it’s a mystery to Mulvaney too, and it’s certainly not due to punitive tax rates or heavy-handed regulations. Despite this, Mulvaney is suggesting that Trump can more than double the productivity growth rate of the past ten years, reaching a target we haven’t hit in a normal, healthy economy for the past half century. There’s simply no reason to believe this, and Mulvaney hasn’t even tried to explain how he thinks Trump can accomplish it. Not even hand waving. He’s literally said nothing about productivity growth at all.

Until he does, nobody should believe his growth estimates. It all comes down to productivity, and that’s what Mulvaney needs to talk about.

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Productivity Is the Key to Economic Growth

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How Should We Respond to the Turkish Assault in Washington DC?

Mother Jones

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Last week, a bunch of security goons working for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan waded into a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Washington DC and started beating up the protesters. A few days ago, the Washington Post’s Philip Bump made a pretty good case that Erdogan did more than just watch as this happened. He actually ordered his guards to attack. Rich Lowry has the right response:

This is second offense for the Turks. A year ago, they beat up protesters and disfavored journalists outside an Erdogan talk at the Brookings Institution in Washington. One reporter wrote of that earlier incident, “Never seen anything like this.” If you hang around President Erdogan long enough, though, you’ll see it all.

….The Trump administration is obviously not putting an emphasis on promoting our values abroad. But it’s one thing not to go on a democratizing crusade; it’s another to shrug off an assault on the rights of protesters on our own soil. If nothing else, President Donald Trump’s nationalism and sense of honor should be offended. Not only did the Turks carry out this attack, they are thumbing their noses at us by summoning our ambassador over it.

The Turkish goons who punched and kicked people should be identified and charged with crimes. They are beyond our reach, either because they are back in Turkey or have diplomatic immunity. But we should ask for them to be returned and for their immunity to be waived. When these requests are inevitably refused, the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. (heard saying during the incident, “You cannot touch us”) should be expelled.

It’s obvious that Turkey is a delicate problem. On the one hand, they’re a NATO member, and their location makes them a critical player in the war against ISIS. On the other hand, Erdogan is steadily converting Turkey into a totalitarian state. In the real world, sometimes you overlook this because you need allies and you don’t always have the option of choosing someone who’s pure and unsullied. But even if you accept this, Turkey is on thin ice since the Kurds are also our allies and Turkey interferes pretty seriously with our ability to team up with them. Even from a strictly realist/strategic perspective, our alliance with Turkey comes with a price.

I won’t pretend to have the answer. It’s above my pay grade. But ordering your embassy security to attack protesters in the US who are lawfully and peacefully assembled is a whole different thing. That deserves a strong response even if it might cause strategic tension. Enough’s enough.

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How Should We Respond to the Turkish Assault in Washington DC?

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NYT’s Haberman: Donald Trump Known as the "Leaker-in-Chief"

Mother Jones

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From Maggie Haberman, Trump whisperer extraordinaire at the New York Times:

It’s good to know that everyone who works for Trump is well aware of the possibility that their boss might blurt out top secret information at any time to anybody. And since Trump is 70 and declining mentally, this will only get worse.

In other news, Trump defended himself this morning against charges that he blabbed top secret information to the Russian foreign minister—though “defend” might not be quite the right word. Like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, he took to Twitter to tell us that he damn well did blab top secret information and it’s totally OK because he’s the president. In doing so, he also seems to have blabbed a bit more about just what the secret is: something to do with explosives in laptop computers. And other evidence suggests the information may have come from Jordan or Israel. So now just about everything is out there. I’m sure Jordanian/Israeli intelligence is pleased.

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NYT’s Haberman: Donald Trump Known as the "Leaker-in-Chief"

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This Tech Company’s Anti-Censorship Stance Is Helping Hate Speech

Mother Jones

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This story originally appeared on ProPublica.

Since its launch in 2013, the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has quickly become the go-to spot for racists on the internet. Women are whores, blacks are inferior and a shadowy Jewish cabal is organizing a genocide against white people. The site can count among its readers Dylann Roof, the white teenager who slaughtered nine African Americans in Charleston in 2015, and James Jackson, who fatally stabbed an elderly black man with a sword in the streets of New York earlier this year.

Traffic is up lately, too, at white supremacist sites like The Right Stuff, Iron March, American Renaissance and Stormfront, one of the oldest white nationalist sites on the internet.

The operations of such extreme sites are made possible, in part, by an otherwise very mainstream internet company—Cloudflare. Based in San Francisco, Cloudflare operates more than 100 data centers spread across the world, serving as a sort of middleman for websites—speeding up delivery of a site’s content and protecting it from several kinds of attacks. Cloudflare says that some 10 percent of web requests flow through its network, and the company’s mainstream clients range from the FBI to the dating site OKCupid.

The widespread use of Cloudflare’s services by racist groups is not an accident. Cloudflare has said it is not in the business of censoring websites and will not deny its services to even the most offensive purveyors of hate.

“A website is speech. It is not a bomb,” Cloudflare’s CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a 2013 blog post defending his company’s stance. “There is no imminent danger it creates and no provider has an affirmative obligation to monitor and make determinations about the theoretically harmful nature of speech a site may contain.”

Cloudflare also has an added appeal to sites such as The Daily Stormer. It turns over to the hate sites the personal information of people who criticize their content. For instance, when a reader figures out that Cloudflare is the internet company serving sites like The Daily Stormer, they sometimes write to the company to protest. Cloudflare, per its policy, then relays the name and email address of the person complaining to the hate site, often to the surprise and regret of those complaining.

This has led to campaigns of harassment against those writing in to protest the offensive material. People have been threatened and harassed.

ProPublica reached out to a handful of people targeted by The Daily Stormer after they or someone close to them complained to Cloudflare about the site’s content. All but three declined to talk on the record, citing fear of further harassment or a desire to not relive it. Most said they had no idea their report would be passed on, though Cloudflare does state on the reporting form that they “will notify the site owner.”

“I wasn’t aware that my information would be sent on. I suppose I, naively, had an expectation of privacy,” said Jennifer Dalton, who had complained that The Daily Stormer was asking its readers to harass Twitter users after the election.

Andrew Anglin, the owner of The Daily Stormer, has been candid about how he feels about people reporting his site for its content.

“We need to make it clear to all of these people that there are consequences for messing with us,” Anglin wrote in one online post. “We are not a bunch of babies to be kicked around. We will take revenge. And we will do it now.”

ProPublica asked Cloudflare’s top lawyer about its policy of sharing information on those who complain about racist sites. The lawyer, Doug Kramer, Cloudflare’s general counsel, defended the company’s policies by saying it is “base constitutional law that people can face their accusers.” Kramer suggested that some of the people attacking Cloudflare’s customers had their own questionable motives.

Hate sites such as The Daily Stormer have become a focus of intense interest since the racially divisive 2016 election—how popular they are, who supports them, how they are financed. Most of their operators supported Donald Trump and helped spread a variety of conspiracy theories aimed at damaging Hillary Clinton. But they clearly have also become a renewed source of concern for law enforcement.

In testimony Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chief Will D. Johnson, chair of the International Association of Chiefs of Police Human and Civil Rights Committee, highlighted the reach and threat of hate on the Internet.

“The internet provides extremists with an unprecedented ability to spread hate and recruit followers,” he said. “Individual racists and organized hate groups now have the power to reach a global audience of millions and to communicate among like-minded individuals easily, inexpensively, and anonymously.

“Although hate speech is offensive and hurtful, the First Amendment usually protects such expression,” Johnson said. “However, there is a growing trend to use the Internet to intimidate and harass individuals on the basis of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, or national origin.”

A look at Cloudflare’s policies and operations sheds some light on how sites promoting incendiary speech and even violent behavior can exist and even thrive.

Jacob Sommer, a lawyer with extensive experience in internet privacy and security issues, said there is no legal requirement for a company like Cloudflare to regulate the sites on their service, though many internet service providers choose to. It comes down to a company’s sense of corporate responsibility, he said.

For the most part, Sommers said, a lot of companies don’t want “this stuff” on their networks. He said those companies resist having their networks become “a hive of hate speech.”

Jonathan Vick, associate director for investigative technology and cyberhate response at the Anti-Defamation League, agrees. He said that many of the hosts they talk to want to get hate sites off their networks.

“Even the most intransigent of them, when they’re given evidence of something really problematic, they do respond,” he said.

Cloudflare has raised at least $180 million in venture capital since its inception in 2009, much of it from some of the most prominent venture capital firms and tech companies in the country. The service is what’s known as a content delivery network, and offers protection from several cyber threats including “denial of service” attacks, where hundreds of computers make requests to a website at once, overwhelming it and bringing it down.

Company officials have said Cloudflare’s core belief is in the free and open nature of the internet. But given its outsize role in protecting a range of websites, Cloudflare has found itself the target of critics.

In 2015, the company came under fire from the hacker collective Anonymous for reportedly allowing ISIS propaganda sites on its network. At the time, Prince, the company’s CEO, dismissed the claim as “armchair analysis by kids,” and told Fox Business that the company would not knowingly accept money from a terrorist organization.

Kramer, in an interview with ProPublica, reiterated that the company would not accept money from ISIS. But he said that was not for moral or ethical reasons. Rather, he said, Cloudflare did not have dealings with terrorists groups such as ISIS because there are significant and specific laws restricting them from doing so.

In the end, Kramer said, seedy and objectionable sites made up a tiny fraction of the company’s clients.

“We’ve got 6 million customers,” he told ProPublica. “It’s easy to find these edge cases.”

One of the people ProPublica spoke with whose information had been shared with The Daily Stormer‘s operators said his complaint had been posted on the site, but that he was “not interested in talking about my experience as it’s not something I want to revisit.” Someone else whose information was posted on the site said that while she did get a few odd emails, she wasn’t aware her information had been made public. She followed up to say she was going to abandon her email account now that she knew.

“The entire situation makes me feel uneasy,” she said.

Scott Ernest had complained about The Daily Stormer‘s conduct after Anglin, its owner, had used the site to allegedly harass a woman in the town of Whitefish, Montana. After his complaint, Ernest wound up on the receiving end of about two dozen harassing emails or phone calls.

“Fuck off and die,” read one email. “Go away and die,” read another. Those commenting on the site speculated on everything from Ernest’s hygiene to asking, suggestively, why it appeared in a Facebook post that Ernest had a child at his house.

Ernest said the emails and phone calls he received were not traumatizing, but they were worrying.

“His threats of harassment can turn into violence,” he said of Anglin.

Anglin appears quite comfortable with his arrangement with Cloudflare. It doesn’t cost him much either—just $200 a month, according to public posts on the site.

“Any complaints filed against the site go to Cloudflare, and Cloudflare then sends me an email telling me someone said I was doing something bad and that it is my responsibility to figure out if I am doing that,” he wrote in a 2015 post on his site. “Cloudflare does not regulate content, so it is meaningless.”

Representatives from Rackspace and GoDaddy, two popular web hosts, said they try to regulate the kinds of sites on their services. For Rackspace, that means drawing the line at hosting white supremacist content or hate speech. For GoDaddy, that means not hosting the sort of abusive publication of personal information that Anglin frequently engages in.

“There is certainly content that, while we respect freedom of speech, we don’t want to be associated with it,” said Arleen Hess, senior manager of GoDaddy’s digital crimes unit.

Both companies also said they would not pass along contact information for people who complain about offensive content to the groups generating it.

Amazon Web Services, one of the most popular web hosts and content delivery networks, would not say how they handle abuse complaints beyond pointing to an “acceptable use” policy that restricts objectionable, abusive and harmful content. They also pointed to their abuse form, which says the company will keep your contact information private.

According to Vick at the ADL, the fact that Cloudflare takes money from Anglin is different from if he’d just used their free service.

“That’s a direct relationship,” he said. “That raises questions in my mind.”

Some companies offering other services vital to success on the web have chosen not to do business with Anglin’s The Daily Stormer. Google, PayPal and Coinbase, for instance, have chosen to cut off his accounts rather than support his activities. Getting booted around from service to service can make it hard to run a hate site, but Cloudflare gives the sites a solid footing.

And, by The Daily Stormer‘s account, advice and assurances. In a post, the site’s architect, Andrew Auernheimer, said he had personal relationships with people at Cloudflare, and they had assured him the company would work to protect the site in a variety of ways—including by not turning over data to European courts. Cloudflare has data centers in European countries such as Germany, which have strict hate speech and privacy laws.

Company officials offered differing responses when asked about Auernheimer’s post. Kramer, Cloudflare’s general counsel, said he had no knowledge of employee conversations with Auernheimer. Later, in an email, the company said Auernheimer was a well-known hacker, and that as a result at least one senior company official “has chatted with him on occasion and has spoken to him about Cloudflare’s position on not censoring the internet.”

A former Cloudflare employee, Ryan Lackey, said in an interview that while he doesn’t condone a lot of what Auernheimer does, he did on occasion give technical advice as a friend and helped some of the Stormer‘s issues get resolved.

“I am hardcore libertarian/classical liberal about free speech—something like Daily Stormer has every right to publish, and it is better for everyone if all ideas are out on the internet to do battle in that sphere,” he said.

Vick at the ADL agrees that Anglin has a right to publish, but said people have the right to hold to task the Internet companies that enable him.

“Andrew Anglin has the right to be out there and say what he wants to say. But the people who object to what he has to say have a right to object as well,” he said. “You should be able to respond to everybody in the chain.”

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This Tech Company’s Anti-Censorship Stance Is Helping Hate Speech

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The Instant Pot Is a Phenomenon—and Indian Cooks Are Using It in the Most Creative Ways

Mother Jones

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Perhaps you’ve heard by now about the Instant Pot, a slow cooker, rice cooker, food warmer, pressure cooker, sauté pan, and yogurt maker all rolled into one slightly unwieldy programmable metal contraption. Over the last few months, this kitchen gadget has garnered a lot of attention. It’s a bestseller on Amazon. The New York Times took it for a spin, as did NPR’s The Salt. Bon Appétit claimed it “will change your life.”

But there’s one group that applies exceptional creativity to the Instant Pot: people who cook Indian food. On a private Facebook group called Instant Pot for Indian Cooking, home chefs adapt traditional dishes—dals, biryanis, curries, and more—and post the photos and recipes to 70,000 members. They also poll each other for advice—questions like “How much paneer do you get from a gallon of whole milk” in the Instant Pot? and “Has anyone used packaged fried onion from the store for Instant Pot biryani?”

These folks are devoted to their Instant Pots. Many members boast that they’ve thrown away their traditional Indian pressure cookers. Someone recently posted a photo of her Instant Pot overlooking a scenic mountain vista. Yes, the Instant Pot went camping.

So what makes the Instant Pot so good for Indian cuisine? On the last episode of Bite, our food politics podcast, I had a quick lesson with Pooja Verma, who cooks a lot of Indian food for her family in Fremont, California. (The segment starts at 02:28)

Pooja told me she now does an impressive 80 percent of her cooking in the Instant Pot. One reason she likes it, she says, is that it’s great for recipes that usually only work in India’s hot climate. Take idlis—dumplings made from fermented rice and lentil flour. The key to making great idlis, Pooja explained, is that the batter must ferment without the addition of yeast. “So some smart people have figured out that the yogurt function in the Instant Pot emanates just the right amount of heat to get the batter fermented overnight.” For more Instant Pot cooking tips from Pooja, listen to our latest episode of Bite.

Bite is Mother Jones‘ food politics podcast. Listen to all our episodes here, or by subscribing in iTunes or Stitcher or via RSS.

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The Instant Pot Is a Phenomenon—and Indian Cooks Are Using It in the Most Creative Ways

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