Tag Archives: president

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : Will Obama …

Posted: January 14, 2017 at 7:42 am

Last week, as the mainstream media continued to obsess over the CIAs evidence-free claim that the Russians hacked the presidential election, President Obama quietly sent 300 US Marines back into Afghanistans Helmand Province. This is the first time in three years that the US military has been sent into that conflict zone, and it represents a final failure of Obamas Afghanistan policy. The outgoing president promised that by the end of his second term, the US military would only be present in small numbers and only on embassy duty. But more than 8,000 US troops will remain in Afghanistan as he leaves office.

When President Obama was first elected he swore that he would end the US presence in Iraq (the bad war) and increase US presence in Afghanistan (the good war). He ended up increasing troops to both wars, while the situation in each country continued to deteriorate.

Why are the Marines needed in the Helmand Province? Because although the foolish and counterproductive 15-year US war in Afghanistan was long ago lost, Washington cannot face this fact. Last year the Taliban controlled 20 percent of the province. This year they control 85 percent of the province. So billions more must be spent and many more lives will be lost.

Will these 300 Marines somehow achieve what the 2011 peak of 100,000 US soldiers was not able to achieve? Will this last push win the war? Hardly! The more the president orders military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the worse it gets. In 2016, for example, President Obama dropped 1,337 bombs on Afghanistan, a 40 percent increase from 2015. According to the United Nations, in 2016 there were 2,562 conflict-related civilian deaths and 5,835 injuries. And the Taliban continues to score victories over the Afghan puppet government.

The interventionists in Washington continue to run our foreign policy regardless of who is elected. They push for wars, they push for regime change, then they push for billions to reconstruct the bombed-out countries. When the liberated country ends up in worse shape, they claim it was because we just didnt do enough of what ruined the country in the first place. Its completely illogical, but the presidents who keep seeking the neocons advice dont seem to notice. Obama the peace candidate and president has proven himself no different than his predecessors.

What will a President Trump do about the 15 year failed nation-building experiment in Afghanistan? He has criticized the long-standing US policy of regime-change and nation-building while on the campaign trail, and I would like to think he would just bring the troops home. However, I would not be surprised if he accelerates US military action in Afghanistan to win the war once and for all. He will not succeed if he does so, as the war is not winnable no one even knows what winning looks like! We may well see even more US troops killing and being killed in Afghanistan a year from now if that is the case. That would be a terrible tragedy.

Read this article:
The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : Will Obama …

Posted in Ron Paul | Comments Off on The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : Will Obama …

Offshore drilling – Wikipedia

Posted: January 8, 2017 at 8:10 pm

Offshore drilling is a mechanical process where a wellbore is drilled below the seabed. It is typically carried out in order to explore for and subsequently extract petroleum which lies in rock formations beneath the seabed. Most commonly, the term is used to describe drilling activities on the continental shelf, though the term can also be applied to drilling in lakes, inshore waters and inland seas.

Offshore drilling presents environmental challenges, both from the produced hydrocarbons and the materials used during the drilling operation. Controversies include the ongoing US offshore drilling debate.

There are many different types of facilities from which offshore drilling operations take place. These include bottom founded drilling rigs (jackup barges and swamp barges), combined drilling and production facilities either bottom founded or floating platforms, and deepwater mobile offshore drilling units (MODU) including semi-submersibles and drillships. These are capable of operating in water depths up to 3,000 metres (9,800ft). In shallower waters the mobile units are anchored to the seabed, however in deeper water (more than 1,500 metres (4,900ft) the semisubmersibles or drillships are maintained at the required drilling location using dynamic positioning.

Around 1891, the first submerged oil wells were drilled from platforms built on piles in the fresh waters of the Grand Lake St. Marys (a.k.a. Mercer County Reservoir) in Ohio. The wells were developed by small local companies such as Bryson, Riley Oil, German-American and Banker’s Oil.

Around 1896, the first submerged oil wells in salt water were drilled in the portion of the Summerland field extending under the Santa Barbara Channel in California. The wells were drilled from piers extending from land out into the channel.[1][2]

Other notable early submerged drilling activities occurred on the Canadian side of Lake Erie in the 1900s and Caddo Lake in Louisiana in the 1910s. Shortly thereafter wells were drilled in tidal zones along the Texas and Louisiana gulf coast. The Goose Creek Oil Field near Baytown, Texas is one such example. In the 1920s drilling activities occurred from concrete platforms in Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo.

One of the oldest subsea wells is the Bibi Eibat well, which came on stream in 1923 in Azerbaijan.[3][dubious discuss] The well was located on an artificial island in a shallow portion of the Caspian Sea. In the early 1930s, the Texas Co., later Texaco (now Chevron) developed the first mobile steel barges for drilling in the brackish coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1937, Pure Oil (now Chevron) and its partner Superior Oil (now ExxonMobil) used a fixed platform to develop a field 1 mile (1.6km) offshore of Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana in 14 feet (4.3m) of water.

In 1938, Humble Oil built a mile-long wooden trestle with railway tracks into the sea at McFadden Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, placing a derrick at its end – this was later destroyed by a hurricane.[4]

In 1945, concern for American control of its offshore oil reserves caused President Harry Truman to issue an Executive Order unilaterally extending American territory to the edge of its continental shelf, an act that effectively ended the 3-mile limit “freedom of the seas” regime.

In 1946, Magnolia Petroleum (now ExxonMobil) drilled at a site 18 miles (29km) off the coast, erecting a platform in 18 feet (5.5m) of water off St. Mary Parish, Louisiana.

In early 1947, Superior Oil erected a drilling and production platform in 20 feet (6.1m) of water some 18 miles (29km) off Vermilion Parish, La. But it was Kerr-McGee Oil Industries (now Anadarko Petroleum), as operator for partners Phillips Petroleum (ConocoPhillips) and Stanolind Oil & Gas (BP) that completed its historic Ship Shoal Block 32 well in October 1947, months before Superior actually drilled a discovery from their Vermilion platform farther offshore. In any case, that made Kerr-McGee’s well the first oil discovery drilled out of sight of land.[5]

When offshore drilling moved into deeper waters of up to 30 metres (98ft), fixed platform rigs were built, until demands for drilling equipment was needed in the 100 feet (30m) to 120 metres (390ft) depth of the Gulf of Mexico, the first jack-up rigs began appearing from specialized offshore drilling contractors such as forerunners of ENSCO International.

The first semi-submersible resulted from an unexpected observation in 1961. Blue Water Drilling Company owned and operated the four-column submersible Blue Water Rig No.1 in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell Oil Company. As the pontoons were not sufficiently buoyant to support the weight of the rig and its consumables, it was towed between locations at a draught midway between the top of the pontoons and the underside of the deck. It was noticed that the motions at this draught were very small, and Blue Water Drilling and Shell jointly decided to try operating the rig in the floating mode. The concept of an anchored, stable floating deep-sea platform had been designed and tested back in the 1920s by Edward Robert Armstrong for the purpose of operating aircraft with an invention known as the ‘seadrome’. The first purpose-built drilling semi-submersible Ocean Driller was launched in 1963. Since then, many semi-submersibles have been purpose-designed for the drilling industry mobile offshore fleet.

The first offshore drillship was the CUSS 1 developed for the Mohole project to drill into the Earth’s crust.

As of June, 2010, there were over 620 mobile offshore drilling rigs (Jackups, semisubs, drillships, barges) available for service in the competitive rig fleet.[6]

One of the world’s deepest hubs is currently the Perdido in the Gulf of Mexico, floating in 2,438 meters of water. It is operated by Royal Dutch Shell and was built at a cost of $3 billion.[7] The deepest operational platform is the Petrobras America Cascade FPSO in the Walker Ridge 249 field in 2,600 meters of water.

Notable offshore fields include:

Offshore oil and gas production is more challenging than land-based installations due to the remote and harsher environment. Much of the innovation in the offshore petroleum sector concerns overcoming these challenges, including the need to provide very large production facilities. Production and drilling facilities may be very large and a large investment, such as the Troll A platform standing on a depth of 300 meters.

Another type of offshore platform may float with a mooring system to maintain it on location. While a floating system may be lower cost in deeper waters than a fixed platform, the dynamic nature of the platforms introduces many challenges for the drilling and production facilities.

The ocean can add several billion meters or more to the fluid column. The addition increases the equivalent circulating density and downhole pressures in drilling wells, as well as the energy needed to lift produced fluids for separation on the platform.

The trend today is to conduct more of the production operations subsea, by separating water from oil and re-injecting it rather than pumping it up to a platform, or by flowing to onshore, with no installations visible above the sea. Subsea installations help to exploit resources at progressively deeper waterslocations which had been inaccessibleand overcome challenges posed by sea ice such as in the Barents Sea. One such challenge in shallower environments is seabed gouging by drifting ice features (means of protecting offshore installations against ice action includes burial in the seabed).

Offshore manned facilities also present logistics and human resources challenges. An offshore oil platform is a small community in itself with cafeteria, sleeping quarters, management and other support functions. In the North Sea, staff members are transported by helicopter for a two-week shift. They usually receive higher salary than onshore workers do. Supplies and waste are transported by ship, and the supply deliveries need to be carefully planned because storage space on the platform is limited. Today, much effort goes into relocating as many of the personnel as possible onshore, where management and technical experts are in touch with the platform by video conferencing. An onshore job is also more attractive for the aging workforce in the petroleum industry, at least in the western world. These efforts among others are contained in the established term integrated operations. The increased use of subsea facilities helps achieve the objective of keeping more workers onshore. Subsea facilities are also easier to expand, with new separators or different modules for different oil types, and are not limited by the fixed floor space of an above-water installation.

Offshore oil production involves environmental risks, most notably oil spills from oil tankers or pipelines transporting oil from the platform to onshore facilities, and from leaks and accidents on the platform.[9]Produced water is also generated, which is water brought to the surface along with the oil and gas; it is usually highly saline and may include dissolved or unseparated hydrocarbons.

See the rest here:

Offshore drilling – Wikipedia

Posted in Offshore | Comments Off on Offshore drilling – Wikipedia

Ron Paul Says Obama Helped ISIS But He’s Better Than Bush …

Posted: December 31, 2016 at 2:41 pm

5398138

Former Republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul told The Daily Caller Thursday that the United States has been supporting the Islamic State, but he still thinksPresident Barack Obama has had a better foreign policy than former President George W. Bush.

The former Texas congressman said that the U.S. abroad isnt a peacemaker and is instead too often a mischief makers. Former Rep. Paul was a fierce critic of Bushs foreign policy andwas one of six Republicans to have voted against the House resolution authorizing military action against Iraq.

Paul told TheDC that President Obamas foreign policy has been better than Bushs, although it is miserable. He added, One thing I use is how many Americans died engaged in war duringeight years of Bush versus Obama.

More than 4,000 American troops lost their lives during President Bushs eight years in office, compared to less than 2,000 troops under Obama, according to a March report from The Atlantic.

Two things that Paul liked that the happened under Obama were improved relations with Iran and Cuba. He said, What he did with Iran is fantastic.

But he was cautious not to praise the president too much and criticized his policy in Syria. He said that in order to defeat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Obama had to ally with the Islamic State.

If hed stayed out of Syria it would haveended a couple years ago. Hes made himself look foolish and the Russians have came out pretty strong on this. Theyre the peacemakers, the former Texas congressman told TheDC. He said that Obama has supported ISIS in a similar way to howthe U.S. backed Afghan mujaheddin in their fight against the Soviet Union.

RENO, NV FEBRUARY 02: Republican presidential candidate, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) speaks during a campaign rally at the Grand Sierra Hotel on February 2, 2012 in Reno, Nevada. Paul is campaigning ahead of Nevadas caucus on February 4. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and President-elect Donald Trump have both previously said that the Obama administration has supported terrorists. If you or I gave money, weapons or support to al-Qaeda or ISIS, we would be thrown in jail. Why does our gov get a free pass on this?, the congresswoman from Hawaii wrote on Twitter two weeks.

President-elect Trump said on the campaign trail that President Obama was the founder of ISIS. Gabbard has pointed to a news storiessaying the United States is arming rebels allied with an Al-Qaeda affiliated groups. Rep. Paul told TheDC that the U.S. doesnt support ISIS directly but indirectly.I think Hillary was involved. The evidence is pretty good that weapons left Libya and some went south and some went to Syria. I dont think theres too much argument about that, the former congressman and two-time Republican presidential candidate said.

Ina 2013 speech Hillary Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs released by WikiLeaks, she said that American allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates are supporting Jihadists in Syria. Pauls son Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said the CIAs annex in Benghazi, Libya was used to ferry weapons to Syria among other places. Clinton told Sen. Paul during a senate hearing, I do not have any information on that.

Former Rep. Paulsaid arming extremist rebel groups has almost become tradition for the American government. We do that all the time. If we use radical Islam to get rid of Assad, we think we can contain that, he told TheDC.

Paul has not been known for being a pro-Israel politician, but he came out against Secretary of State John Kerrys Thursday speech in which he attacked Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Its an unnecessary mess, former Rep. Paul told TheDC. As a libertarian, we avoid these kind of things because you always have to pick sides, individuals can pick sides, but a country shouldnt go in there and decide what is best.

He said that that Middle Eastern peace wont be able to be settled by outsiders, and that he likes the idea of being more neutral on this but the emotions are so high, you cant possibly win.

Following the United Nations resolution condemning the Israeli settlements, on which the U.S. abstained voting, Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said, If UN moves forward with ill-conceived [Israel} resolution, Ill work to form a bipartisan coalition to suspend/reduce US assistance to UN.

Graham, war hawk, and Paul, non-interventionist, are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but Rep. Paul told TheDC he the abstaining might be the closest thing to not supporting the UN. He said that, maybe this reassessmentof the positive nature of the UN is what is necessary, but added that Grahams statement was pure political stuff.

Paul said he has hope that President-elect Trump will change the current foreign policy of aggression, but added a retreat from interventionist policies will only happen when we go broke.

Were close to that. Ill have my way someday, Paul added.

Read the original:
Ron Paul Says Obama Helped ISIS But He’s Better Than Bush …

Posted in Ron Paul | Comments Off on Ron Paul Says Obama Helped ISIS But He’s Better Than Bush …

Obama moves to split cyberwarfare command from the NSA

Posted: December 29, 2016 at 3:48 am

With weeks to go in his tenure, President Obama on Friday moved to end the controversial dual-hat arrangement under which the National Security Agency and the nations cyberwarfare command are headed by the same military officer.

It is unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump will support such a move. A transition official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the next administrations plans, said only that cybersecurity has been and will be a central focus of the transition effort.

Pressure had grown on Obama to make such a move on the grounds that the two jobs are too large for one person to handle, that the two organizations have fundamentally different missions and that U.S. Cyber Command, or Cybercom, needed its own leader to become a full-fledged fighting force.

[Obama to be urged to split cyberwar command from NSA

While the dual-hat arrangement was once appropriate in order to enable a fledgling Cybercom to leverage NSAs advanced capabilities and expertise, Cybercom has since matured to the point where it needs its own leader, Obama said in a statement accompanying his signing of the 2017 defense authorization bill.

Cybercoms mission is, when ordered, to disrupt and destroy adversaries networks. It is also to defend the nation against incoming threats to critical systems and to protect the militarys computers from cyberattack.

The NSA also has a defensive mission to protect the governments classified networks but is better known for its role in conducting electronic spying on overseas targets to gather intelligence on adversaries and foreign governments.

Cybercom, established in 2009 inside the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., has long depended on the spy agencys capabilities. NSA and Cybercom personnel sit side by side and use the same networks that were built by the NSA.

The two organizations should have separate leaders who are able to devote themselves to each organizations respective mission and responsibilities, but should continue to leverage the shared capabilities and synergies developed under the dual-hat arrangement, Obama wrote.

Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. earlier recommended to Obama that the two organizations have separate heads.

Obama had been on the verge of ending the dual-hat leadership in late 2013 but was persuaded to hold off when senior officials, including the NSAs director at the time, Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, argued that the two agencies needed one leader to ensure that the NSA did not withhold resources from Cybercom.

Others, including a presidential review commission, recommended that each of the two groups have its own leader and that the NSA director be a civilian. Since its inception in 1952, the NSA has been led by military officers.

The bill that Obama signed bars the splitting of the leadership role until the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff jointly certify that to do so would not diminish Cybercoms effectiveness.

Obama took a swipe at Congress for imposing that requirement on him.

The Congress … should not place unnecessary and bureaucratic administrative burdens and conditions on ending the dual-hat arrangement at a time when the speed and nature of cyber threats requires agility in making decisions about how best to organize and manage the nations cyber capabilities, he wrote.

Obama said that the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have planned a phased transition during which the NSA can continue to provide vital operational support to Cybercom.

Original post:
Obama moves to split cyberwarfare command from the NSA

Posted in NSA | Comments Off on Obama moves to split cyberwarfare command from the NSA

First Amendment Defense Act Would Be ‘Devastating’ for LGBTQ …

Posted: December 26, 2016 at 2:54 pm

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak during a USA Thank You Tour event at Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania, U.S., December 15, 2016. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

FADA would prohibit the federal government from taking “discriminatory action” against any business or person that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The act distinctly aims to protect the right of all entities to refuse service to LGBTQ people based on two sets of beliefs: “(1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

Ironically, the

On December 9, Sen. Lee’s spokesperson, Conn Carroll, told

“Hopefully November’s results will give us the momentum we need to get this done next year,” Carroll said. “We do plan to reintroduce FADA next Congress and we welcome Trump’s positive words about the bill.”

“During oral arguments in Obergfell, President Obama’s solicitor general admitted that if a right to same-sex marriage were created, religious institutions, including many Catholic schools, could have their tax exempt status revoked by the IRS,” Carroll told NBC Out on Wednesday. “The First Amendment Defense Act was created to make sure that does not happen.”

But while Carroll claims “FADA in no way undermines federal or state civil rights laws,” it would take away the government’s recourse in terms of punishing businesses, institutions or individuals who break civil rights law by discriminating against LGBTQ people.

Jennifer Pizer, Law and Policy Director at Lambda Legal, told NBC Out FADA “invites widespread, devastating discrimination against LGBT people” and is a deeply unconstitutional bill.

“This proposed new law violates both Equal Protection and the Establishment Clause by elevating one set of religious beliefs above all others,” Pizer said, “And by targeting LGBT Americans as a group, contrary to settled constitutional law.”

Pizer warned that the bill’s language also left room for individuals and businesses to discriminate against unwed heterosexual couples and single mothers, because of the clause stating that “sexual relations are properly reserved” to marriage between a man and a woman.

“There cannot be even one iota of doubt that this bill endorses one set of religious beliefs above others, and targets people in same-sex relationships, married or not, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples who live together,” Pizer said. “It’s an unconstitutional effort to turn the clock back to a time when unmarried mothers had to hide in shame, and LGBT people had to hide, period.”

RELATED:

FADA was first filed in the House and Senate in 2015, but was met with protests from Democrats and resulted in just one House hearing amid concerns that Obama would veto the bill. It is currently co-sponsored by 171 House Republicans and just one Democrat (Daniel Lipinski of Illinois.)

State-level legislation similar to FADA has failed in recent years, usually resulting from lawsuits and nationwide boycotts. When Vice President-elect Mike Pence passed a “religious freedom” bill as governor of Indiana in March 2015, it was met with

Mississippi’s

A lawsuit brought by Mississippi religious leaders alleges the state law actually violates religious freedom by determining that religious belief necessitates anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The group of ordained ministers suing the state said in the lawsuit,

Barber v. Bryant is currently at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, after a federal trial court ruled HB 1523 violates the federal Equal Protection and Establishment Clauses. Pizer said the case stands as an example of the legal explosion that would occur in reaction to FADA.

“If Congress were to pass the federal FADA as currently written, and the next president were to sign it into law, I’m confident heads would spin at how fast the constitutional challenges would fly into court,” Pizer said, adding “we’re likely to have a great many allies because these attempts to misuse religion for discrimination offend enormous numbers of Americans who cherish both religious liberty and equality for all.”

Follow NBC Out on

Read more:
First Amendment Defense Act Would Be ‘Devastating’ for LGBTQ …

Posted in First Amendment | Comments Off on First Amendment Defense Act Would Be ‘Devastating’ for LGBTQ …

EscapeArtist – Live, Work, Travel, Retire & Invest Overseas

Posted: December 15, 2016 at 7:03 pm

EscapeArtist is one of the world’s largest and oldest expatriate resources for living, working, traveling, retiring, and investing abroad and overseas. We also have international real estate listings, international jobs, and offshore events and conferences.

Australia has grown to be among the top countries that people move to for work or leisure. Are you living in Australia alone and would like to bring your family

The IRS is investigating all US bitcoin transactions. If youve been conducting business using a U.S. bitcoin account, your transactions are not private. All U.S. based bitcoin accounts are subject

Nicaragua beachfront real estate is an up-and-coming property market, yet undiscovered by the masses. Nicaragua is a land of immense natural beauty and rich culture. One can spend their days

Traveling abroad is one of the best experiences of life it expands your horizons, gives you new perspectives, and it sometimes takes you out of your comfort zone. When

Connie and I have been digital nomads for nearly ten years. In that time we have met hundreds of people all over the world. One of the most common questions

The IRS is investigating all US bitcoin transactions. If youve been conducting business using a U.S. bitcoin account, your transactions are not private. All U.S. based bitcoin accounts are subject

Youve been running your offshore business for awhile and have some accumulated earnings and profits. You want to invest these retained earnings in the United States and prefer they be

The following article is for U.S. citizens and describes the type of income that can be retained offshore in a foreign corporation. It also defines foreign source and U.S. source

According to Oxford Economics, President Donald Trump will either be a disaster or the best thing ever for the global economy. No one knows which the chips will fall, but

Tax year 2016 is coming to a close and its the time to do some year end planning for your offshore corporation. Miss out on the FEIE or transferring money

Whether you are considering moving to China or not, the events within the country will affect you all the same. It is too big of a power not to cause

Australia has grown to be among the top countries that people move to for work or leisure. Are you living in Australia alone and would like to bring your family

Traveling abroad is one of the best experiences of life it expands your horizons, gives you new perspectives, and it sometimes takes you out of your comfort zone. When

When getting married in Thailand, there are two types of weddings. There is the traditional Buddhist religious ceremony and the legal marriage registration. The ceremony is the wedding, however, the

Governments around the world use passports as a weapon against their citizens. Your passport can be taken from you for any reason at any time, locking you, your family, and

Those who have been following my chronicles from the very beginningknow that one of my very first adventures on the amazing Ambergris Caye was taking my beach cruiser bike all

If youre an American and have tried to open an offshore bank account in the last few years, you know how difficult it can be. About 85% of banks are

Chris is a fellow American living and working in New Zealand. He came here between high school and college to try and figure out life. I worked for the hostel

Europe : https://pixabay.com/en/world-europe-map-connections-1264062/ The Old Continent is one of the favorite destinations for people all over the world, especially those who are interested in history, architecture, and good old European-style

The rule against perpetuities in the United States makes it impossible to lock up your assets in a domestic trust beyond the lives of people living at the time the

Living anywhere in Latin America offers a lot of historical opportunity for those interested in exploring the area. When I moved to San Pedro, Belize, on Ambergris Caye, the first

Connie and I have been digital nomads for nearly ten years. In that time we have met hundreds of people all over the world. One of the most common questions

One important aspect of visiting or becoming part of a new community is finding ways to involve yourself and give back to the people, animals, and environment around you. In

Driving a motorbike in a foreign country is as crazy as you would imagine. The rules of the road differ, and many times people make up the rules as they

San Pedro is the small town situated on the southern side of Ambergris Caye island in Belize. This Caribbean destination provides a diverse variety of activities for visitors of all

Read the original here:

EscapeArtist – Live, Work, Travel, Retire & Invest Overseas

Posted in Offshore | Comments Off on EscapeArtist – Live, Work, Travel, Retire & Invest Overseas

The Daily 202: Ayn Rand-acolyte Donald Trump stacks his …

Posted: at 12:13 am

Ayn Rand, the Russian-born American novelist, is seen in Manhattan in 1962. That’s Grand Central station behind her. (AP)

THE BIG IDEA:Donald Trump has decided to risk a confirmation fight, officially nominating ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state this morning.Tillerson and Trump had no previous relationship, but the Texas oilman and the New York developer hit it off when they met face to face. One of the things that they have in common is their shared affection for the works of Ayn Rand, the libertarian heroine who celebrated laissez-faire capitalism.

The president-elect said this spring that hes a fan of Rand and identifies with Howard Roark, the main character in The Fountainhead. Roark, played by Gary Cooper in the film adaptation, is an architect who dynamites a housing project he designed because the builders did not precisely follow his blueprints. It relates to business, beauty, life and inner emotions. That book relates to … everything, Trump told Kirsten Powersfor a piece in USA Today.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin cracks a very rare smile as he signs a huge oil exploration deal with Rex Tillerson. (Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti via AP)

— Tillerson prefers Atlas Shrugged, Rands novel about John Galt secretly organizing a strike of the creative class to hasten the collapse of the bureaucratic society. The CEO listed it as his favorite book in a 2008 feature for Scouting Magazine, according to biographer Steve Coll.

Andy Puzderleaves a meeting with Trump in Bedminster, N.J., last month. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

— This has now officially become a trend. Trump is turning not just to billionaires but Randians to fill the cabinet:

Andy Puzder, tapped by Trump last week to be secretary of labor, is an avid and outspoken fan of Rands books. One profiler last week asked what he does in his free time, and a friend replied that he reads Ayn Rand. He is the CEO of CKE Restaurants, which is owned by Roark Capital Group, a private equity fund named after Howard Roark. Puzder, who opposes increases in the minimum wage and wants to automate fast food jobs, was quoted just last month saying that he encouraged his six children to read Fountainhead first and Atlas Shrugged later.

Mike Pompeo sits through a hearing on Capitol Hill. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

Mike Pompeo, who will have the now-very-difficult job of directing the Central Intelligence Agency for Trump, has often said that Rands works inspired him. One of the very first serious books I read when I was growing up was Atlas Shrugged, and it really had an impact on me, the Kansas congressman told Human Events in 2011.

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel arrives with his private security detail at Trump Tower last week. (Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

— Trump has been huddling with and consulting several other Rand followers for advice as he fills out his cabinet. John A. Allison IV, for example, met with Trump for about 90 minutes the week before last. As chief executive of BB&T Corp., he distributed copies of Atlas Shrugged to senior officers and influenced BB&Ts charitable arm to fund classes about the moral foundations of capitalism at a number of colleges, the Journal noted in a piece about him. Mr. Allisons worldview was shaped when he was a college student at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and stumbled across a collection of essays by Ms. Rand.

Trump Tower (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

— Ayn Rand was perhaps the leading literary voice in 20th century America for the notion that, in society, there are makers and takers, and that the takers are parasitic moochers who get in the way of the morally-superior innovators. Her books portray the federal government as an evil force, trying to stop hard-working men from accumulating the wealth that she believes they deserve. The author was also an outspoken atheist, something that oozes through in her writing. Rand explained that the essence of objectivism, as she called her ideology, is that man exists for his own sake, that the pursuit of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose, that he must not sacrifice himself to others, nor sacrifice others to himself.

— Some of Rands scenes also dont hold up well in a culture thats become more intolerant of sexual assault and skeptical of patriarchy. Roark, the character Trump says he identifies with, rapes a woman in The Fountainhead, for example.

— For many Republican elites, Rand is someone whose books they read one summer in high school or college and got super excited about but then grew out of once they were exposed to more sophisticated intellectual influences and/or tried to reconcile her world view with the precepts of the Christian faith. (Former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote about this rite of passage in a 2011 column for The Post.)

— Though many would agree that Christianity and objectivism are incompatible, this is not a consensus view: Theres no contradiction between raising my children in the church, and urging them to lead the kind of lives of achievement, integrity and independence that Ayn Rand celebrated in her novels, Puzder, the incoming labor secretary, argued on the Journal opinion page last month, adding that he also had his kids read C.S. Lewiss Mere Christianity.

— Remember that scene in Dirty Dancing when Baby tries to get that waiter who knocked up Johnnys dance partner to pay for her abortion? He refuses and instead pulls out a weathered copy of The Fountainhead, urging her to read it. Some people count, and some people dont, he tells her. Jennifer Greys character responds by pouring a pitcher of water on him. In popular culture, the Rand acolytes are that guy.

The fact that all of these men, so late in life, are such fans of works that celebrate individuals who consistently put themselves before others is therefore deeply revealing. They will now run our government.

Paul Ryan speaks very briefly to the press after his meeting with Trump at Trump Tower last week. (AudeGuerrucci/EPA/Pool)

— Speaker of the House Paul Ryan also used to be an outspoken booster of Rand, but he distanced himselfin order to advance his political ambitions.

In a 2005 speech, Ryan said that Rand was required reading for his office staff and interns. The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand, he told a group called the Atlas Society, according to a New Yorker profile by Ryan Lizza.

By 2012, looking beyond his safely-red House district to the national stage, the Wisconsin congressman claimed that the idea he was inspired by Rand is an urban legend. I reject her philosophy, Ryan told National Review. Its an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a persons view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas AquinasDont give me Ayn Rand!

Stephen Bannon and Jason Miller, the communications director of the Trump transition team, disembark from Trump’s plane in Hebron, Ky., earlier this month. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

— An interesting wrinkle: Stephen Bannon, who will be Trumps chief strategist in the White House, has been sharply critical of Rand. He outlined his world view in a 2014 speech delivered by Skype to a conference held inside the Vatican. In it, he said that there are two strands of capitalism which he finds very disturbing.

One is state-sponsored capitalism. And thats the capitalism you see in China and Russia, he said, according to a transcript posted by BuzzFeed last month. The second form of capitalism that I feel is almost as disturbing is what I call the Ayn Rand or the Objectivist School of libertarian capitalism. And, look, Im a big believer in a lot of libertarianism. I have many, many friends that are a very big part of the conservative movement However, that form of capitalism is quite different when you really look at it (compared) to what I call the enlightened capitalism of the Judeo-Christian West. It is a capitalism that really looks to make people commodities, and to objectify people, and to use them almost.

— In 2014, when no one anticipated that Trump would actually go through with running for president, John Olivers HBO show produced a four-minute segment making fun of Rands enduring appeal to so many conservatives and rich people. After sound bites of Rand ripping into Ronald Reagan and explaining why she supports abortion rights, the narrator asks: Why would conservatives hold up as their idol someone who says things like that? Especially when there are so many other advocates for selfishness they could choose, like Donald Trump

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Trump’s children at the Oct. 9 debate. (Tasos KatopodisAFP/Getty Images)

— Trump canceled his speech, promised for this week, on how he’ll deal with his many conflicts of interest. But last night in a pair of tweets he vowed vaguelyto make “no new deals” while he is in the White House and said he will hand over control of his businesses to his sons before inauguration. Elise Viebeck reports:Trumps tweets gave no indication that he will give up his ownership stake in his global real estate and licensing empire, which experts have advocated as the only way to ensure Trump could not profit from the impact of his own policies. [He also] gave no details on how his businesses would operate without embarking on new business deals, nor how transparency would be provided so the public could judge whether that pledge is being upheld.”

Rick Perry arrives at Trump Tower to meet with Trump. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

— Trump has settled on Rick Perry to be energy secretary, according to CBS News. He tapped the former Texas governor over a pool of contenders including Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and fundraiser Ray Washburne. Major Garrett has more: Perry sits on two corporate boards – one of them is Energy Transfer Partners – and that may present a confirmation issue. Energy Transfer Partners has a subsidiary known as Dakota Access LLC, which is attempting to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. Recently, the Obama administration blocked the Dakota Access Pipeline easement through Lake Oahe, a move that jeopardized the 1,172-mile underground pipeline. The incoming Trump administration has said it will review the decision. Mr. Trump once invested in Energy Transfer Partners and supports completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

Tom Perez speaks on Capitol Hill. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

— The DNC candidate that Team Obama hoped for: Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said he intends to run for party chairman, throwing his hat in the ring alongside Rep. Keith Ellison, who had emerged as an early favorite in the race. TheNew York Times Jonathan Martinreports:Mr. Perez, who had also been considering a run for Maryland governor, is expected to reveal his plan to seek the D.N.C. chairmanship this week. He has been wooed by prominent Democrats for weeks to seek the party post, a lobbying campaign that included entreaties from high-level allies of Mr. Obama. Mr. Perez, who has been on the phone with a number of Democratic governors and other party leaders, is expected to meet with the president himself to discuss the position this week. Mr. Perezs entry into the race could start a proxy battle between Democrats loyal to the Mr. Obama and those from the more liberal wing of the party represented by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is backing Mr. Ellison, a Minnesota progressive, for party chairman.The new narrative, via the AP: Ellisons star falling as Clinton, Obama allies seek DNC alternative.

A man carries a child with an IV drip as he flees deeper into the remaining rebel-held areas of Aleppo, Syria, yesterday. (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters)

THE WORLD NEEDS TO PAY ATTENTION TO THIS:

— Syrian forces, with the help of the Russians, have pushed rebel fighters to the brink in Aleppo, pinning them to just a sliver of remaining territory as they continuetheir push for full control of the northern Syrian city. Aleppos fall would deliver amajor setback to rebel factions, leaving them struggling for ways to keep the anti-Assad rebellion alive without theirterritorial stronghold. The humanitarian crisis continues to worsen. (Louisa Loveluck has more.)

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, said they received reports that government forces have killed at least 82 civilians, sometimes entering homes and killing people on the spot. Jens Laerke, U.N. humanitarian spokesman, said that it looked like a complete meltdown of humanity in Aleppo.

From The Posts Syria reporter:

On Monday night, the phones of most civilians contacted by The Washington Post appeared to have fallen silent, Louisa writes in her latest dispatch. Their fate remains unknown.

From the New York Times’s Beirut bureau chief:

Bana Alabed, a seven-year-old girl in Aleppo who has been called the Anne Frank of our era, tweeted that her father was injured shortly before her account went silent:

It is unclear whether Bana or her family survived the blasts:

A teacher and activist recorded his final words as Assads militia closed in. No place now to go now, he says, ducking to hide on a bombed-out street corner. It’s the last place.”

From a search and rescue volunteer group in the area:

Chaka Fattahexits the federal courthouse after his sentencing hearing in Philadelphia yesterday. (Matt Rourke/AP)

GET SMART FAST:

Rex Tillersontestifies before a House committee in 2010. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

THE TILLERSON ROLLOUT:

–The Trump team is planning an aggressive public relations campaign to win confirmation forTillersonand dispel what it sees as a false narrative about his ties to Russia,”Steven Mufson, Philip Rucker and Karoun Demirjian report: “Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker are planning to go public [this morning] with their support for Tillerson, as is former defense secretary Robert Gates. Former vice president Richard B. Cheney also is supportive and may advocate for his confirmation. Gates was the first person to raise Tillerson as a secretary of state possibility. … Trump did not know much about Tillerson but started chewing over the idea. He invited Tillerson for a meeting and the two global dealmakers hit it off. They recognized similarities in each other, and the more they talked, the more they liked each other.”

— At least four Republican senators have now publicly expressed their concerns with Tillersons Russia ties: Sen. Lindsey Graham called the fact that Putin gave Tillerson the Kremlins Order of Friendship award in 2012 unnerving, while Sen. John McCain questioned Tillersons judgment. I dont see how anybody could be a friend of this old time KGB agent, he said in a CNN interview, referring to Putin. (Marco Rubio criticized Tillerson in a tweet this weekend, and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said he has a lot of questions about the oil businessman.)

–ChrisCillizzaanalysis: What Trump offered in the course of the campaign was a radical change in the way of doing the business of the American public.That change included and, in many ways, was typified by the sort of people he said he would surround himself with if he were elected. He is, quite literally, making good on a central campaign promise by favoring people like Tillerson. And yet, there is a general sense of shock within the political establishment about the idea that someone with Tillerson’s background [was tapped to head the State Department] Much of this consternation is built on the political establishment’s inability to fully grasp that the old rules of how things are done in politics are simply not operative with Trump. As he has made clear over and over again, Trump simply see no rules or, if he does see them, he chooses not to acknowledge that he is governed by them.”

— Trumps long-time adviser Roger Stone acknowledged that the secretary of state job was dangled in front of Mitt Romney primarily to torture him for previously opposing the president-elect. During an appearance on InfoWars with Alex Jones, the conspiratorial media outlet that says 9/11 was an inside job and which has become a mouthpiece for the next president (hes appeared on the show), Trumps informal adviser called Romney a choker. Donald Trump was interviewing Mitt Romney for Secretary of State in order to torture him, Stone said. To toy with him! And given the history, thats completely understandable. Mitt Romney crossed a line. He didnt just oppose Trump, which is his democratic right, he called him a phony and a fraud. And a con man. And thats not the kind of man you want as Secretary of State. (Daily Beasts Gideon Resnick)

Vladimir and Rex shake hands at a signing ceremony of an agreement between state-controlled Russian oil company Rosneft and ExxonMobil at the Black Sea port of Tuapse in 2012. (RIA-Novosti/AP)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

— The CIA assessment that Russia waged a cyber-campaign to help elect [Trump] is based in part on intelligence suggesting that Moscows hacking efforts were disproportionately aimed at targets tied to the Democratic Party and [Hillary Clinton], Greg Miller and Adam Entous report.U.S. officials said that both parties were repeatedly targeted as part of a months-long cyber-operation linked to Moscow, but that Democratic institutions and operatives came under a more sustained and determined online assault. [They also] said the Republican National Committees computer systems were also probed and possibly penetrated by hackers tied to Russian intelligence services, but that it remains unclear how much material if any was taken from the RNC. U.S. intelligence officials said that the Russian government appears to have succeeded in penetrating computer systems associated with both parties, but prioritized Democratic institutions Other officials familiar with the CIAs assessment said there is high confidence that the RNC was targeted but less certainty that the Russians got inside the committee and stole material.

— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said his chamber plans to investigate Russias suspected election interference, but he stopped short of calling for a bipartisan select committee to investigate the hack. The Russians are not our friends, McConnell declared at a year-end news conference. This simply cannot be a partisan issue, he said, adding that the Intelligence Committee is more than capable of conducting a complete review of this matter. (Ed O’Keefe and Paul Kane)

— Paul Ryan also dismissed calls for a special panel, saying that the House Intelligence Committee is already working diligently on the cyber threats posed by foreign governments and terrorist organizations.

— House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), meanwhile, sent a letter to National Intelligence Director James Clapper demanding answers about why lawmakers werent told about conflicting CIA and FBI reports on Russian hacking before reports on the topic appeared in the press. Karoun Demirjian reports: Nunes took issue with the DNI over some of the details from [reports] accusing the CIA of changing its tune about Russias role in hacking emails from the DNC and Hillary Clintons campaign chairman . Nunes pointed out that Clapper himself had told his committee during an open November hearing that the intelligence community lacked strong evidence connecting Russian government cyber-attacks and WikiLeaks disclosures. He asked Clapper to brief the committee by Friday about the CIA and FBIs latest intelligence of what role Russia played in hacks related to the election, including a coordinated, written assessment of the intelligence communitys current position and update them on the presidents plans to review allegations of Russian hacking.

— Harry Reid accused Trumps campaign of colluding with WikiLeaks in the months preceding the presidential election. The outgoing Senate Minority Leader saidsomeone in the president-elects orbit was certainly aware of the activity. Someone in the Trump campaign organization was in on the deal. I have no doubt. Now, whether they told [Trump] or not, I dont know. I assume they did. But there is no question about that, Reid told theHuffington Posts Ryan Grim and Sam Stein. So there is collusion there, clearly. … Dont put blindfolds on. Here is the deal: We have a situation where during the campaign WikiLeaks was heavily involved in trying to hurt Hillary Clinton and it helped Trump. And you have Trump who said he likes Putin better than he likes Obama.

— Trump pushed back on Twitter:

(All the experts agree that Trump is wrong on this point.)

— Escalation: Last night on TV, Trump’s campaign manager questioned whether the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee (Rep. Adam Schiff) has actually been briefed on Russia’s meddling (which he, of course, has). That led to this back-and-forth:

The congressman from Los Angeles engaged:

To which Conway replied:

— Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta backed a group of Electoral College electors who are asking to receive an intelligence briefing on foreign interventioninto the 2016 election ahead of their December 19 vote. FromCNN: The 10 electors from five states asked James Clapper for information on “whether there are ongoing investigations into ties between Donald Trump, his campaign or associates, and Russian government interference in the election, the scope of those investigations, how far those investigations may have reached, and who was involved in those investigations.” They also asked for “all investigative findings” from the intelligence community on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election. (One of the signatories is Nancy Pelosi’s daughter.)

— Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden writes in a Post op-edabout why it is such a big problem that Trump isalready antagonizing the intelligence community: How does the intelligence community break through and explain itself to the incoming team? Can it convincingly make a case that an evidence-based description of Russian actions is not the same thing as an attack on the legitimacy of the president-elect? Can it explain that, unlike law enforcement that seeks to prove things beyond any reasonable doubt, the purpose of intelligence is to enable meaningful policy and action even in the face of lingering doubt? And can it demonstrate that the incoming administration should want rather than discourage this to better anticipate global trends and adversarial moves in time to reflect and decide on its own actions? As I wrote last month, intelligence should be called on to create the basis, and set the boundaries, for rational policy choices. Thats still true. The odds that it will happen, though, seem a little bleaker after this past week. And we are moving in the wrong direction.

— Michael Morell, the former acting director of the CIA, calls Russias interference “the political equivalent of 9/11. The first is, we need to see this for what it is. It is an attack on our very democracy, he said in an interview with The Cipher Brief. Its an attack on who we are as a people. A foreign government messing around in our elections is, I think, an existential threat to our way of life. To me, and this is to me not an overstatement, this is the political equivalent of 9/11. It is huge and the fact that it hasnt gotten more attention from the Obama Administration, Congress, and the mainstream media, is just shocking to me. But whats important to me is, its less important that they had picked the winner and loser, which I thought all along they had done. Whats most important is that they did indeed meddle. I think the implications of that are just absolutely huge

— We will never know for sure if Russian espionage caused Trump to win, Post columnist and former Bush adviser Michael Gerson writes. With Clinton losing by an 80,000-vote margin in three key states, everything her poor messaging, her consistently bungled response to the email controversy, [James] Comeys untimely letter can be posited as the reason she lost. A hypothetical outcome minus Russian involvement is not just unknown, it is unknowable. [BUT] Trumps blanket attack on the intelligence community for incompetence as though he were still going after Little Marco or Lyin Ted is an insanely dangerous antic that materially undermines American security. Given the extraordinary range of threats faced by the United States a mutual trust between the president and American intelligence services is essential. That relationship has already been seriously damaged.

Goldman Sachs COO Gary Cohn talks on his phone as he waits for the start of a meeting with Trump at Trump Tower. (Evan Vucci/AP)

MORE TRUMP STAFFING DECISIONS:

— Trump confirmed that he will appoint Goldman Sachs veteran Gary Cohn as director of the National Economic Council, adding another former Wall Street executive to his administration. From CNN Money: Trump, in a statement, said Cohn will design and coordinate his administration’s economic policy, working closely with the Treasury and Commerce departments. The post does not require Senate approval. Cohn, a 25-year Goldman Sachs veteran, made at least $123 million in total compensation since becoming the bank’s sole president and chief operating officer in 2009 He had been rumored to be a candidate for a number of jobs within the Trump administration, including to head up the powerful Office of Management and Budget.”

— Some of Trumps closest rural advisers are attempting to torpedo efforts to make Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) the next Agriculture secretary, telling him they feel betrayed even at the thought of a Democrat getting the position over a deep bench of Republicans who campaigned on his behalf in rural areas. In the past 48 hours, since Heitkamp was [reported as] the front-runner for the position, leaders of Trumps agricultural advisory committee say theyve been flooded with furious phone calls from influential farmers around the country, and have reached out to the transition team to fight the consideration of Heitkamp, Politicos Ian Kullgren and Catherine Boudreau report. I was blindsided, as was everyone on the Trump agricultural advisory committee whos contacted me, said Gary Baise, a Washington-based lawyer who helped the Trump campaign build a network of rural supporters. The anger is personal [and] Trumps rural allies say tapping Heitkamp would be a slap in the face to farm-state Republicans who stuck by the real estate mogul through the darkest days of his campaign.

— Michigan Republican Party leader Ronna Romney, niece to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is said to be Trump’s pick for RNC chair. CNN reports that an announcement is expected as soon as this week.

— Kellyanne Conway said she will not serve as Trumps press secretary, telling radio host Hugh Hewitt in a radio interview that she turned down the high-profile White House gig. “I have politely declined that job,” she said. “I think it’s an incredibly important position to fill.” She has floated the possibility of working outside Trumps administration to steer a network of political organizations supporting the president-elect and his agenda.

— Trump has begun to shift his focus from the cabinet to White House senior staff.Politicos Shane Goldmacher reports that some jobs are now seen as near-locks:

— The press is bulking up to cover Trump, as well: Fox News announced that John Roberts will be its White House correspondent, an important role because of the network’s influence and how much time Trump spends watching cable. Both The Post and the New York Times also announced yesterday that they will devote six reporters full-time to the White House beat, more than when Obama took office.(Erik Wemple)

Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions waves to reporters after meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Nov. 30. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

— The Boston Globes Annie Linskey exploresthe episode that brought Jeff Sessions and Trump together for the first time: The year was 2005, and Sessions was astonished by a sensational news report: A project to overhaul the United Nations headquarters in New York would cost more than $1 billion. He was just as stunned that a celebrity New York developer quoted in the article claimed it could be done for about half the cost. Suddenly the junior senator from Alabama took an interest in the New York billionaire. Mr. Trump is very outraged! Sessions informed his colleagues in an April floor speech that year. This would lead to a high-profile Senate hearing that, at Sessionss request, featured Trump as the star witness

Indeed, the July 2005 hearing was classic Trump: Some straight talk laced with braggadocio. The developer boasted about his nearby property, he bragged about his smarts negotiating with New York contractors (whom he called major slime), and railed against a decision by the UN to hire an Italian design firm to do the work. I love Italy. I love the Italians. How do you hire an Italian architect? Trump said. What happens? Every time he wants to check the building, he gets on a plane and flies for 8 hours, and he goes to the New York City Building Department and he does not even speak English? I mean it is ridiculous. Sessions loved it. Mr. Trump is a breath of fresh air for this Senate, Sessions said at the time. The UN ended up completing the project, about three years late and costing nearly $400 million more than its budget, even though the scope of the project was reduced vastly.

Flashback: What Ted Kennedy said during Sessionss last confirmation hearing before the Judiciary committee: He was rejected by the Senate judiciary panel in 1986 for a federal judgeship at the behest of opponents including Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy, who were both members of the panel. Kennedy, the Massachusetts senator, pilloried Sessions for indicting three well-known black civil rights leaders on counts of voter fraud. They were later cleared of the charges. Mr. Sessions is a throwback to a shameful era which I know both black and white Americans thought was in our past, Kennedy said in the March 1986 hearing. He is, I believe, a disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination.

Richard Nixon campaigns in Missouri in 1968. (AP)

— THE NEW NIXON? Trumps speech at the Republican National Convention was inspired by and modeled after Richard Nixons 1968 speech. Now Trump is going to hang a reminder of Nixon in the Oval Office. Politico has sources saying that Trump has told multiple people he plans to prominently display a 1987 letter that the former president, who resigned in scandal, sent him. Dear Donald, it reads, I did not see the program, but Mrs. Nixon told me that you were great on the Donahue Show. As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner!

Detectives are investigating a vandalism and theft that happened at a Silver Spring home in the 200 block of Williamsburg Drive. It is among numerous incidents of reported hate graffiti throughout Montgomery County, and in the schools, in recent weeks. (Montgomery County Police Department)

AMERICAIS DIVIDED, AND THE ALT-RIGHT IS ASCENDANT:

— When tyranny takes hold, by The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos: What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in an instant; it arrives like twilight, and, at first, the eyes adjust. Tyranny does not begin with violence; it begins with the first gesture of collaboration … Its most enduring crime is drawing decent men and women into its siege of the truth.

— Montgomery County educators report a massive spike in hate graffiti since Trumps victory. In the past month, officials said, theyve found more on-campus drawings of swastikas and other racist insults then they encountered during an entire one-year span in 2015. (Donna St. George)

— The grotesque slurs and threats that Jewish political journalists face has only increased since the election. The AP’s Lisa Lerer shared this one last night:

— When even Frosted Flakes are political, where does that leave us as a country? by Monica Hesse: Everything is political these days. Every single decision. Five weeks after the end of a bitter presidential election, it hasnt ended at all: Its merely reached a new phase in which the things we buy are seen as surrogates for the people we voted for. Consider: A new app, Boycott Trump, allows users to weed out businesses that have even loose ties to [Trumps] empire. Boycott Trump has a counterpart in the conservative American Family Associations Naughty or Nice list, which offers shopping guidance based on which retailers are Merry Christmas-friendly. Avoid PetSmart, the list suggests. Choose Banana Republic over the Gap. Setting aside whether these boycotts are effective in terms of sales one wonders whether they are effective in terms of our national future. In this fractured, limping mess of a country, whose inhabitants are struggling to not punch one anothers lights out, much less to have a civil conversation if we cant even eat the same cereal, then where does that leave us?”

Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, joins Hillary Clinton on stage after the Democratic candidate spoke to supporters of the group in June. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

— Planned Parenthood fears it may be first casualty of rekindled abortion war, by Sandhya Somashekhar and Katie Zezima: Planned Parenthood officials are scrambling to prepare for the likelihood that Congress next year will cut off more than a half-billion dollars in federal funding to the group, fulfilling the wishes of abortion foes who are planning an aggressive push to roll back abortion rights under [Trump]. Officials with the 100-year-old womens health nonprofit organization are leaning on donors, new and old, and preparing to lobby friendly lawmakers at the state and local level to stem some of the loss. They have started gaming out which communities might be able to withstand a loss of services. They are asking supporters to get their medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics to increase the proportion of privately insured patients. The federal dollars to Planned Parenthood make up more than 40 percent of its budget. Such a loss, Planned Parenthood officials say, would force them to close many programs and turn away many of the 2.5 million patients their clinics see annually.”

Harry and Terri Welch talk to the Postafter their son, Edgar Maddison Welch, was arrested in a “pizzagate” shooting in D.C.(Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

— The parents of pizzagate gunman Edgar Maddison Welch said they were stunned by the news that their son had driven to Washington and opened fire at a D.C. pizzeria, and they believe he may be showing signs of PTSD after a car crash he was involved in earlier this year. My heart just stopped and stomach just dropped, Terri Welch said in an interview with The Posts Keith L. Alexander and Susan Svrluga, recalling the moment she found out her son had been arrested. They also said they noticed a change in Welchs personality after he hit and injured a 13-year-old boy on his way to work earlier this year. Maddison, who hopes to be an EMT, stayed with the teen until help arrived and worried a lot about long-term effects for the child, they said. He was very traumatized. We feel that accident changed him, Harry Welch said, adding that his usually outgoing and energetic son became melancholy and quiet.

A man takes a selfie in front of placard with a picture of Melania Trump in her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia. The banner reads, “Welcome in hometown of first lady of U.S.” (Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters)

–MelaniaTrump appeared in a Maryland courtroom on Monday for a status hearing in her defamation case against a Montgomery County blogger and a British tabloid.Mrs. Trump was not required to attend the court conference but chose to do so to meet the judge, meet opposing counsel and show her commitment to the case, said her attorney, Charles Harder, adding that she looks forward to seeing the case to a successful conclusion. The case stems from false assertions that she had once worked as a high-end escort. (Dan Morse)

The Obamas pose for a family portrait on Easter. (Pete Souza/The White House/Getty)

OBAMA’S LEGACY — THREE GREAT WAPO STORIES ON THE FIRST FAMILY:

— The Obamas came from a place we all came from, byWil Haygood: If, at times, the everyday presence of a black American family in the nations mind-set has seemed to unleash forces both good and not so good, there are some things that will resonate and be spoken of for generations to come: A black father as president walked his girls hand-in-hand across the lawn of the most powerful address in the world. A black mother gazed at that tableau and took herself back to the stories of beaten-down slaves who once tilled the White House lawns where her husband and daughters loped As Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama depart the White House, it is worth looking back at their visage. What did it mean to have a black family, for eight years, astride the political and cultural colossus of American society? How much did the African in African American resonate? President Obamas post-presidency plans are bountiful. But his prayed-for attention to black America will be robust In a nation that has never had a candid conversation about race unlike South Africa after apartheid, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission he will find himself expected to play the role of shaman, poet, conciliator and statesman.

— How Michelle Obama became a singular American voice, by Peter Slevin: Obamas ascendance as mother, mentor, leader and critic carries many meanings in American culture, particularly as an African American woman For all the grief Michelle Obama took from critics who conjured radicalism, grievance or, bizarrely, racism from her finely tuned remarks, her messages were fundamentally timeless and conservative. More than anything, she used the strength of her own Chicago-to-Princeton-to-the-White-House narrative to urge kids to believe in themselves and never quit. In reaching the most rarefied of tables, she figured she had four years, maybe eight, to make something happen, to move the needle, as she put it. As the media made a fuss over a new hairstyle, she once explained how she saw the role of first lady: We take our bangs and we stand in front of important things that the world needs to see. And, eventually, people stop looking at the bangs and they start looking at what were standing in front of.

Obama, Biden and Claire Duncan, Arne Duncan’s daughter, watch a tennis match at Camp David in 2010. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Read more from the original source:

The Daily 202: Ayn Rand-acolyte Donald Trump stacks his …

Posted in Ayn Rand | Comments Off on The Daily 202: Ayn Rand-acolyte Donald Trump stacks his …

How Ayn Rands theories destroyed Never Trump conservatism

Posted: at 12:13 am

Who is Donald Trump?Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During the Republican presidential primary, the conservative columnist and talk-show host Ross Kaminsky, like many members of the right-wing intelligentsia, looked at Donald Trump with horror and dismay. Not only was the front-runner a near-certain loser with dubious loyalty to the party agenda, but he was something far more disturbing, an authoritarian bully, even arguably a fascist. One need not violate Godwins Law to recognize that theres something deeply troubling about a leading presidential candidate having no objection to his supporters roughing up a vocal dissenter, he wrote, bemoaning the noxious blend of bile and tripe that emerges, as so much political vomitus, from his big and always-moving mouth. Kaminsky identified Trumps campaign as being about bullying and xenophobia, and the man himself as not quite ready to be president of Delta Tau Chi, and warned Republicans thinking of voting for him anyway that they could never explain such a choice to their children.

As the authoritarian bully prepares to assume control of the powers of the presidency, Kamnisky has not exactly disavowed these previous sentiments as he has moved on to an even more serious threat to the health of the Republic: namely, the tax and regulatory policies of the Obama administration. Kaminskys latest column carries the headline, Trump Election Saves Us From the Evil Party. Evil a word that appears 13 more times in his column applies to such policies as Dodd-Frank, environmental regulations, and the partial expiration of the Bush tax cuts. This, not Trumps pee-wee strongman act, represented the more serious threat to liberty, justifying an alliance with a figure as noxious as Trump.

An honorable handful of conservative opponents of Trump have maintained their opposition since his election. The vast majority have returned to the party fold. The path taken by many of them has focused on the alleged hypocrisy or excess of Trumps liberal critics. Now that the man considered by many conservative intellectuals as a peril to democracy itself has assumed the most powerful position on the planet, once staunchly anti-Trump conservatives like Charles C.W. Cooke, Oren Cass, or David French (who so fervently opposed Trump that he considered running against him for president) find themselves preoccupied with what they see as liberal hysteria against him. As Trump himself gleefully noted, Never Trump conservatives are on a respirator now. Theyre almost gone.

The Never Trump movement, like the vast majority of the political elite, yours truly included, pegged Trump from the outset as a surefire loser. When they refused to support his candidacy after he locked up the nomination in the spring, they anticipated a period of exile from mainstream Republican politics lasting most of the year, followed by a return to the fold, where they would wage a contest for the soul of the party, bolstered by the I-told-you-so evidence of Trumps crushing defeat. Few of them bargained for a period of exile that would last four years, or eight, or perhaps even longer. Professional and personal incentives dictate a retreat back to the safety of the herd via mockery of the pro- and anti-Trump rights shared enemy.

But to dismiss the Never Trumpers mass surrender as nothing but mere cowardice or expediency is to miss the dead-serious ideas undergirding their behavior. To liberals, it may sound baffling and incomprehensible that ordinary political arguments about taxes and regulation could outweigh his authoritarianism. Liberals generally see economic policy as a normal disagreement, apart from and subordinate to larger questions about democracy and structure of government.

Most conservatives, however, do not see these issues this way. The conservative movement treats small government as a first-order question of liberty, alongside or even above political liberty. Liberals treat economic policy on pragmatic grounds the point of Medicaid is to help poor people get health care, and the point of the Clean Air Act is to create more breathable air. Expanding government is the means toward those discrete ends. Conservatives have discrete goals, like economic growth, but also larger ideological ones. As Milton Friedman once put it, freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself to a believer in freedom. While it may seem strange to liberals, for economic conservatives, the fight to slash down the size of government is itself tantamount to a fight against authoritarianism.

Wall Street Journal op-ed columnist William McGurn sneers at liberals who have raised alarms over Trumps authoritarian tendencies. Whats striking here is that the same folks who see in Mr. Trump a Mussolini in waiting are blind to the soft despotism that has already taken root in our government, he writes. This is the unelected and increasingly assertive class that populates our federal bureaucracies and substitutes rule by regulation for the rule of law. McGurn goes on to cite such injustices as the Environmental Protection Agencys wetlands laws or the departments deliberate attempt to destroy the market for coal and the Labor Departments overtime rule.

A liberal would consider McGurns suggestion, that theyre hypocritical to support wetlands preservation while opposing a strongman-president, insane. From McGurns standpoint, it makes perfect sense. McGurn isnt coming out and defending Trumps habitual praise for dictators who crush their opposition, or his calls to imprison his political opponents. He simply sees the struggle for liberty as being of a piece, and the governments eagerness to eliminate business regulations and taxes on the rich suggests to him that freedom on the whole is moving forward.

The most uncompromising theorist of this philosophy is, of course, Ayn Rand. And while Rand had many beliefs, the core of her vision is that politics consists of a class struggle between makers and takers. This is inverted Marxism politics pitting a virtuous class of producers against a parasite class that exploits the wealth they create, the difference being that Rand saw the makers as the capitalists and the takers as the workers. (The man at the top of the intellectual pyramid contributes the most to all those below him, but gets nothing except his material payment, receiving no intellectual bonus from others to add to the value of his time, explained her character, John Galt. The man at the bottom who, left to himself, would starve in his hopeless ineptitude, contributes nothing to those above him, but receives the bonus of all of their brains.) Also like the Marxists, her vision of a free society depended not on the strength of liberal institutions like fair elections and a free press but the triumph of the hero class.

Marxists have no important role in politics at the national level, but Randians do. Rex Tillerson, Trumps nominee for secretary of State, has listed her tome Atlas Shrugged as his favorite book. Andy Puzder, Trumps secretary of Labor nominee, has said the same. Trump has called himself a fan of Rands work, though it is fair to question whether he has actually made it through books of such length. Of course, Paul Ryan is a longtime devotee who once called Rand the reason he got into public service.

None of these figures is an Objectivist (the name for followers of Rands cultlike philosophy). They have, however, absorbed its central message of politics as a class war to liberate the makers from the takers. Shortly after the election, the president of the Atlas Society, a pro-Rand group, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed making the case for Randians like Paul Ryan to embrace her vision even if they didnt share all its idiosyncratic details, ending with this rousing conclusion: As John Galt says in the closing lines of Atlas Shrugged: The road is cleared. It is up to us, believers and nonbelievers, to take up her message and spread the news.

Trumps Team Reportedly Offered Ambassadorships To Talent Bookers In Exchange For Inauguration Singers

Michael Moores Next Prediction Is a Lot More Dire: Donald Trump Is Gonna Get Us Killed

Challenging the Electoral College Vote Isnt Futile, Though Trump Will Still Win

She will still keep her new job at The Atlantic.

Pro-government forces are reportedly blocking people from leaving.

The Russian presidents favorability rating has shot up among the GOP.

The Fed and its chairman bumped rates by a quarter point but didnt change growth forecasts.

A meteorologist on this weeks polar vortex, and why this December feels a bit chillier than you remember.

Highlights include Giulianis ego, Romneys non-apology, and Tillersons backers.

The youngest Americans love the outgoing president more than ever.

Its hard to build a great model. Its even harder to know when to ignore it.

Stigma and shaming can be effective ways to get people to do what you want, but theyre pretty complicated tools to wield.

But the GSA says it has not yet settled on a position in the matter.

The agency is no longer comfortable asserting that hydraulic fracturing activities have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.

Forget about this crazy scheme to flip the Electoral College.

The president of the Philippines doesnt just encourage vigilantism, hes done it himself.

Because we get under Trumps skin. Because Chumleys is back. Because weirdos, artists, and immigrants will never stop calling this city home.

The effort to deny Trump 270 votes can highlight election abnormalities and provide a boost to the opposition.

Well still sell them helicopters, provide intelligence, and help train their pilots.

The 30-year-old is a populist firebrand, and an outspoken conspiracy-theory booster.

The New York National Guard is claiming that the flight was part of a training exercise.

Other prospects were better known and more experienced, but this former Navy SEAL was more to Trumps liking.

View original post here:

How Ayn Rands theories destroyed Never Trump conservatism

Posted in Ayn Rand | Comments Off on How Ayn Rands theories destroyed Never Trump conservatism

Singularitarianism Wikipedia – euvolution.com

Posted: December 14, 2016 at 11:54 pm

Singularitarianism is a movement[1] defined by the belief that a technological singularitythe creation of superintelligencewill likely happen in the medium future, and that deliberate action ought to be taken to ensure that the Singularity benefits humans.

Singularitarians are distinguished from other futurists who speculate on a technological singularity by their belief that the Singularity is not only possible, but desirable if guided prudently. Accordingly, they might sometimes dedicate their lives to acting in ways they believe will contribute to its rapid yet safe realization.[2]

Time magazine describes the worldview of Singularitarians by saying that they think in terms of deep time, they believe in the power of technology to shape history, they have little interest in the conventional wisdom about anything, and they cannot believe youre walking around living your life and watching TV as if the artificial-intelligence revolution were not about to erupt and change absolutely everything.[1]

Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, author of the 2005 book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, defines a Singularitarian as someone who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life; he estimates the Singularity will occur around 2045.[2]

Singularitarianism coalesced into a coherent ideology in 2000 when artificial intelligence (AI) researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote The Singularitarian Principles,[2][3] in which he stated that a Singularitarian believes that the singularity is a secular, non-mystical event which is possible and beneficial to the world and is worked towards by its adherents.[3]

In June 2000 Yudkowsky, with the support of Internet entrepreneurs Brian Atkins and Sabine Atkins, founded the Machine Intelligence Research Institute to work towards the creation of self-improving Friendly AI. MIRIs writings argue for the idea that an AI with the ability to improve upon its own design (Seed AI) would rapidly lead to superintelligence. These Singularitarians believe that reaching the Singularity swiftly and safely is the best possible way to minimize net existential risk.

Many people believe a technological singularity is possible without adopting Singularitarianism as a moral philosophy. Although the exact numbers are hard to quantify, Singularitarianism is a small movement, which includes transhumanist philosopher Nick Bostrom. Inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who predicts that the Singularity will occur circa 2045, greatly contributed to popularizing Singularitarianism with his 2005 book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology .[2]

What, then, is the Singularity? Its a future period during which the pace of technological change will be so rapid, its impact so deep, that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Although neither utopian or dystopian, this epoch will transform the concepts we rely on to give meaning to our lives, from our business models to the cycle of human life, including death itself. Understanding the Singularity will alter our perspective on the significance of our past and the ramifications for our future. To truly understand it inherently changes ones view of life in general and ones particular life. I regard someone who understands the Singularity and who has reflected on its implications for his or her own life as a singularitarian.[2]

With the support of NASA, Google and a broad range of technology forecasters and technocapitalists, the Singularity University opened in June 2009 at the NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley with the goal of preparing the next generation of leaders to address the challenges of accelerating change.

In July 2009, many prominent Singularitarians participated in a conference organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) to discuss the potential impact of robots and computers and the impact of the hypothetical possibility that they could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the possibility and the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire any level of autonomy, and to what degree they could use such abilities to possibly pose any threat or hazard (i.e., cybernetic revolt). They noted that some machines have acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including being able to find power sources on their own and being able to independently choose targets to attack with weapons. They warned that some computer viruses can evade elimination and have achieved cockroach intelligence. They asserted that self-awareness as depicted in science fiction is probably unlikely, but that there were other potential hazards and pitfalls.[4] Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions.[5] The President of the AAAI has commissioned a study to look at this issue.[6]

Science journalist John Horgan has likened singularitarianism to a religion:

Lets face it. The singularity is a religious rather than a scientific vision. The science-fiction writer Ken MacLeod has dubbed it the rapture for nerds, an allusion to the end-time, when Jesus whisks the faithful to heaven and leaves us sinners behind. Such yearning for transcendence, whether spiritual or technological, is all too understandable. Both as individuals and as a species, we face deadly serious problems, including terrorism, nuclear proliferation, overpopulation, poverty, famine, environmental degradation, climate change, resource depletion, and AIDS. Engineers and scientists should be helping us face the worlds problems and find solutions to them, rather than indulging in escapist, pseudoscientific fantasies like the singularity.[7]

Kurzweil rejects this categorization, stating that his predictions about the singularity are driven by the data that increases in computational technology have been exponential in the past.[8]

See original here:

Singularitarianism Wikipedia

. Bookmark the

.

Continued here:

Singularitarianism Wikipedia – euvolution.com

Posted in Singularitarianism | Comments Off on Singularitarianism Wikipedia – euvolution.com

Sympathetic Sci-Fi – The New Yorker

Posted: December 7, 2016 at 7:55 am

In Sense8, the Wachowskis find another way out of the Matrix: empathy. Credit Photograph by Murray Close / Netflix / Everett

The defining scene of Sense8, the new sci-fi drama on Netflix, comes about halfway through the first season. It starts in San Francisco, where Nomi, a hacktivist and transgender lesbian, is making out with her girlfriend, Amanita. At the same time, in Mexico City, Lito, a smoldering actor, is lifting weights with his boyfriend, Hernando. In Berlin, Wolfgang, a safecracker, is relaxing, naked, in a hot tub. And in Chicago, Will, a police officer, is working out at the gym. The premise of Sense8 is that Nomi, Lito, Wolfgang, and Willalong with four other sensates in Nairobi, Seoul, Mumbai, and Reykjavikare telepathically linked. They are able to feel each others emotions, appear in each others minds, and even control each others bodies. In this instance, because theyre all feeling sexy, the sensates find themselves having an impromptutelepathic orgy. Theyre a little freaked out until they realize that they can all enjoy Wolfgangs hot tubsimultaneously.

All sorts of crazy things happen in Sense8. Theres a big conspiracy that may explain how the sensates came to be linked. Theres sci-fi theorizing about human evolution and psychic phenomena. There are euphoric action sequences in which Sun Bak, the Korean sensate, deploys heracrobatic martial-arts skills. (Two of the shows three executive producers, Andy and Lana Wachowski, were responsible for The Matrix.) When a car chase ensues, the sensates can take turns driving the same car. One episode includes aBollywood dance number. Other scenes, in which the sensatescombine their skills and consciousnessesto solve insurmountable problems, have a ludic, dance-like energy: in one of the shows best moments, all eight main characters find themselvessinging Whats Up, by 4 Non Blondes. In another scene, they allflash back to their own birthswhile listening to Beethovens Emperor Piano Concerto No. 5. (The Wachowskis havesaidthat they filmed live births for the show, and, watching the scene, you believe it.)

In sci-fi speak, Sense8 is about transhumanismthe idea that in the future, as a species, we might become more than we are right now. Julian Huxley, the brother of Aldous, coined the term in a 1927 book called Religion Without Revelation, in which he wrote that transhumanism was man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature. Huxley helped found the World Wildlife Fund and was the first director of UNESCO; he was also, for a time, the president of the British Eugenics Society. Like him,the transhumanist movementwhich now tends to focus on high-tech enhancementis both intriguing and scary.

Sense8, though, isnt really about the negative aspects of transhumanism. It makes emotionally expansive telepathic empathy seem like a great ideaits global, sexy, useful, and romantic. The sensates become friends and even fall in love with one another. (Will, the Chicago cop, gets together with Riley, an Icelandic d.j.) In one scene, set at the Diego Rivera Museum, in Mexico City, Nomi, the transgender hacker, helps Lito, who is closeted, come out. Sense8 is not subtlethis is sci-fi T.V.but their scene together issimple, direct, and moving: theres a lot of authentic emotion to go with all the artifice. (Slate has called Sense8 a queer masterpiece; Jamie Clayton, the actress who plays Nomi, is transgender, as is Lana Wachowski.) Some people dont like the sensatesan evil biotech corporation has it out for them, and some reviewers have found Sense8 to be cheesy, nonsensical, and slow. Fair enough, but if youre in the shows target audienceif you rooted for Neo and Trinitys romance in The Matrixyoull enjoy it. Despite its sci-fi premise, Sense8 is almost entirely about strong feelings. Its transhumanism for softies.

Sci-fi stories divide roughly into three categories. First, there are stories about regular people who just happen to live in the future, like Star Trek and Star Wars. Second, there are transhumanist stories, such asDuneandSense8, in which human nature is somehow altered. And third, there are robot stories, in which human nature is, for the most part, fixed, the better to be inherited by our technological replacementsthe Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, say, or Ava, the robot in Alex Garlands recent film, Ex Machina. Many great works of science fiction weave these mini-genres together. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL inherits our flawed human nature and goes mad. At the same time, the film is a transhumanist tale, in which the ships surviving astronaut ascends to a new plane of consciousness. Transhumanist stories and robot stories are mirror images of each other. Robot stories ask whether our spiritual flaws will trickle down to the new beings we create; transhumanist stories ask whether they will propagate up into the beings we become.

Recently, in awonderful essayin theNew York Review of Books, Daniel Mendelsohn wrote about the ancient roots of the robot story. He pointed out that there are robots in theIliad, and that robot tales address theological questions about creators and their creations. Today, though, stories about robotsparticularly human-shaped oneshave come to feel a little quaint. Technology has made the classic robot obsolete. In Humans, a new show on AMC, robots that look and act like human beings are shown tending tomato plants on a farm. Its a striking image, but we all know that, in real-life, agricultural robots arelikely to be weird-looking. In Ex Machina, Ava, the robot played by Alicia Vikander, is a compelling femme fatale; even so, you cant help noticing that, unlike every other piece of technology in the modern world, she isnt networked, and can communicate with other robots only by speaking. Samantha, the artificial intelligence voiced by Scarlett Johansson in Her, seems more in sync with technological reality: shes a cloud-based software program capable of realizing herself at many physical locations simultaneously, the same way Google appears on many screens at once. (Genisys, the evil A.I. in the new Terminator movie, operates on a similar principle.) This doesnt make Her better than Ex Machina, but it does mean that, while Her seems to present a plausible vision of the future, Ex Machina feels more like a fable.

For a while now, robot stories have been shifting to the cloud. In the CBS showPerson of Interest,two cloud-based A.I.s are locked in a power struggle, manipulating stock exchanges, operating shell corporations, and giving orders to acolytes who regard them with quasi-religious reverence. In Ann Leckies novel Ancillary Justice, a single intelligence, housed in a spaceshipa giant robot, in a sensemakes its presence felt through people, called ancillaries, whose bodies it controls remotely; in effect, its turnedusinto robots. This is a big reversal. Traditional robot stories tend to be Promethean: theyre about people who seize the forbidden and god-like power of creation. By contrast, artificial-intelligence stories are about people who invent their own god-like overlords. They know that the new gods are just complicated programs, but they end up subjugated by them anyway.

Theres always been some crossover between robot and transhumanist stories, because people, if they are transformed enough, can become posthuman. That process, too, has changed over time. In the 1965 novel Dune, the hero used a psychedelic drug to upgrade his consciousness; by contrast, in last years Transcendence, Johnny Depp uploaded himself into a quantum computer. But most transhumanist stories stop far short of total transformation, instead exploring the discrete consequences of highly specific transhuman upgrades. In Starfish, Peter Watts imagines a power station, located at a deep-sea vent, where physical modifications (replaced lungs, enhanced eyes) allow the workers to swim among the tube worms; some divers go native, developing a new sensibility suited for the sea floor. Liking What You See: A Documentary, a short story by Ted Chiang, takes place at a hyper-progressive liberal-arts college where the students have modified their brains so that they cant distinguish between beautiful people and ugly people. (For decades peopleve been willing to talk about racism and sexism, but theyre still reluctant to talk about lookism, one student complains.) Some professors think this is a great idea, because the hierarchy of personal beauty is offensive; others wonder how the new, beauty-blind student body is supposed to produce any great painters or sculptors. Theres a gleeful, brutal curiosity to these stories. They envision a future when our economic and cultural niches shrink and we change ourselves to fit within them. Today, we have subcultures; in the future, well have subspecies.

Many transhumanist stories have a circular structure: theyre about the rediscovery (or nostalgic appreciation) of old human virtues. The most optimistic transhumanist novel that Ive read recently is Ramez Naams Nexus. Naam is a programmer by trade; in a previous life, he helped develop Microsoft Outlook and Internet Explorer. In his book, billions of people take a drugactually a soup of nano-machinesthat allows them to network their brains together, so that they can experience each others thoughts, sensations, and memories. Then, usingmeditation techniquesthat theyve learned from Buddhist monks in Thailand, they synchronize their minds, merging into a single, vast consciousness. In this form, the transhumans must confront the menace posed by a posthuman: an intelligent Chinese computer system, based upon the mind of a gifted scientist, that controls weapons and other gadgets all over the world. On one level, Nexus is a libertarian techno-fable about how bottom-up innovation will win out over top-down systems of control. But its also wistfully old-fashioneda paean to Buddhist meditators, who, when you think about it, probably came up with this whole transhumanism thing in the first place.

If you read a lot of science fiction in one go, you notice that it has two weaknesses. The first is the future, which tends to be complicated, depressing, and fatiguing to read about; the second is the aesthetic of futurism, which is grim and predictable. Everything is big, scary, and metallic (or else small, gross, and biotechnological). The implicit message of futurism is thathuman progress is inseparable from suffering; often, the only kind of beauty is terrible beauty. Futurism is what gives sci-fi itsfrisson. The supposedly horrific vision of the future in The Matrix, for example,is also undeniably cool; the robots may have won, but the survivors look great in their leather and shades. This paradox makes the movie great, but its also a kind of trapan aesthetic cynicism.

Sense8, though, is joyful, in part because it shows us transhumanism without futurism. Its not a superhero show, in which a random individual is elevated into something better; it hints, science-fictionally, at a fundamental change in human nature generally. At the same time, theres no technological explanationand, therefore, no futurist costfor that change.(In one episode, its suggested that, in the distant evolutionary past,allhuman beings were once telepathic, but no one seems to care very much about this hand-wavey idea.) On some level, the sensates telepathic empathy is a metaphor for the Internet, which seems, in some ways, to be making us more open to others experiences (especially queer experiences). The show also evokes the joys of creative collaboration: people who watch the Wakowskis work together often say that they have two bodies, one brain. Really, though, the point of Sense8 is to revel in the broadening of empathyto fantasize about how in-tune with each other we could be. In its own, low-key way, therefore, Sense8 is a critique of sci-fi. It asks whether, in tying our dreams about human transformation to fantasies of technological development, we might be making an error. The show suggests another path to transcendence: each other.

More here:
Sympathetic Sci-Fi – The New Yorker

Posted in Post Human | Comments Off on Sympathetic Sci-Fi – The New Yorker