America Resurgent @ProgressOutlook

The time has come for organized and overwhelming opposition. This week, the Senate will hold hearings on Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees even though the Office of Government Ethics has yet to thoroughly vet the nominees (and the Trump transition team has, of course, neglected to do so).

Trump’s nominees are also uniquely unqualified to hold cabinet positions. Rex Tillerson is a Putin fanboy — at a time when Russia actively seeks to undermine our democracy and influence our election, we cannot have a Russophile heading the state department. Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s desired Treasury Secretary, has been accused of “shutting our nonwhite borrowers.”

Rick Perry, tapped for the Department of Energy, cannot explain what the department does (nor could he remember he wanted it eliminated). Scott Pruitt doesn’t believe in climate change. He’s supposed to head the EPA.

Tom Price wants to see ObamaCare eliminated and 20 million left without healthcare coverage. Trump wants him for Health and Human Services. Betsy DeVos might head the Department of Education even though she is an adamant opponent of public education.

Ben Carson, who thinks the Egyptians used the pyramids to store grain, has somehow been nominated for Housing and Urban Development, a department for which he is eminently unfit.

Jeff Sessions, once deemed by the Senate as too racist to be a federal judge, may well become our Attorney General. We must resist these nominees. Please call your senators at each of their offices everyday and urge them to vote against Trump’s cabinet appointees.

You can find contact info here:

RIP Passamaquoddy birchbark canoe maker David Moses Bridges

Passamaquoddy birchbark canoe maker David Moses Bridges passed away. He was recognized as a Traditional Arts Master by the Maine Arts Commission. Following is a link the the Portland Press Herald’s obituary.

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BEST #TRUMP INAUGURATION @Folksong by Woody Guthrie against his landlord Fred Trump

BEST #TRUMP INAUGURATION @Folksong by Woody Guthrie against his landlord Fred Trump 

What Should Have Been  A Bernie Sanders Inauguration Day

This little bird is asking us for World Peace! No More Wars

THIS!! Koch Brothers pays, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation & Mercatus Center distorts Social Security’s purpose.


How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next


The ability of statistics to accurately represent the world is declining. In its wake, a new age of big data controlled by private companies is taking over – and putting democracy in peril

By William Davies
Jan 19 2017
In theory, statistics should help settle arguments. They ought to provide stable reference points that everyone – no matter what their politics – can agree on. Yet in recent years, divergent levels of trust in statistics has become one of the key schisms that have opened up in western liberal democracies. Shortly before the November presidential election, a study in the US discovered that 68% of Trump supporters distrusted the economic data published by the federal government. In the UK, a research project by Cambridge University and YouGov looking at conspiracy theories discovered that 55% of the population believes that the government “is hiding the truth about the number of immigrants living here”.
Rather than diffusing controversy and polarisation, it seems as if statistics are actually stoking them. Antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various “experts” that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016. Not only are statistics viewed by many as untrustworthy, there appears to be something almost insulting or arrogant about them. Reducing social and economic issues to numerical aggregates and averages seems to violate some people’s sense of political decency.
Nowhere is this more vividly manifest than with immigration. The thinktank British Future has studied how best to win arguments in favour of immigration and multiculturalism. One of its main findings is that people often respond warmly to qualitative evidence, such as the stories of individual migrants and photographs of diverse communities. But statistics – especially regarding alleged benefits of migration to Britain’s economy – elicit quite the opposite reaction. People assume that the numbers are manipulated and dislike the elitism of resorting to quantitative evidence. Presented with official estimates of how many immigrants are in the country illegally, a common response is to scoff. Far from increasing support for immigration, British Future found, pointing to its positive effect on GDP can actually make people more hostile to it. GDP itself has come to seem like a Trojan horse for an elitist liberal agenda. Sensing this, politicians have now largely abandoned discussing immigration in economic terms.
All of this presents a serious challenge for liberal democracy. Put bluntly, the British government – its officials, experts, advisers and many of its politicians – does believe that immigration is on balance good for the economy. The British government did believe that Brexit was the wrong choice. The problem is that the government is now engaged in self-censorship, for fear of provoking people further.
This is an unwelcome dilemma. Either the state continues to make claims that it believes to be valid and is accused by sceptics of propaganda, or else, politicians and officials are confined to saying what feels plausible and intuitively true, but may ultimately be inaccurate. Either way, politics becomes mired in accusations of lies and cover-ups.

CFP JOHNNY CASH Arts and Artistry from the New Deal into the 21st Century

Arts and Artistry from the New Deal into the 21st Century
October 19-21, 2017
Arkansas State University opens a call for presentations for a public symposium in conjunction with the inaugural Johnny Cash Heritage Festival to be held in Dyess, Arkansas, Oct. 19-21, 2017. The symposium, “Johnny Cash: Arts and Artistry from the New Deal into the 21st Century,” is co-sponsored by the Historic Dyess Colony: Johnny Cash Boyhood Home and the A-State Heritage Studies Ph.D. Program.
Symposium organizers particularly seek proposals that address how the New Deal era resettlement colony influenced the life and music of Johnny Cash. Many of his songs are stories of actual experiences in Dyess, while others reflect values shaped in Dyess, including love of family, a strong work ethic, and concern for the downtrodden and marginalized groups and individuals in society. Though the focus is on his early life, all Johnny Cash-related topics will be considered.
Additionally, we welcome presentations that provide insight in the New Deal heritage that shaped the life of Johnny Cash and those around him. Cash’s childhood spent in one of the New Deal’s greatest social and economic experiments placed him squarely in the center of New Deal cultural programs focused on common men and women. Cash not only experienced daily life in a federal colony, but other New Deal cultural programs were all around him: the mural painted in the nearby Osceola post office, the WPA film “Life On the Colony” presented at the Dyess Community Building, the WPA posters on bulletin boards in the Dyess Administration Building, the music coming over the battery-operated radio in the Cash home, the government photographers who roamed the colony capturing the faces of rural America, and numerous other such efforts to put Americans to work.
Organizers primarily are interested in presentations that break away from the standard format of reading research papers. Research and artistic presentations that incorporate music, images, film, computer graphics, and other interactive elements will be given first preference. The scholarly content also should be presented in ways that appeal to more generalized audiences and non-specialists in particular disciplines.
The symposium is a rare opportunity for participants to embrace the environment in which Cash grew up – with sessions taking place at the Visitors Center in his hometown of Dyess. For further information, contact the symposium chair or visit
Deadline for entries is June 16, 2017. Each entry should consist of:
Presenter’s name and affiliation and a 150-word abstract of the presentation as well as a current Vita (2 pages max). Please include your address, phone number, e-mail address, and the technical needs for your presentation.
Send to:
Johnny Cash Heritage Symposium Committee
c/o Dr. Gregory Hansen, Chair
Arkansas State University
Dept. of English and Philosophy
P.O. Box 1890 State University, AR 72467

Betsy DeVos’s 13-year ‘clerical error’ – #DeVosHearing #StopDeVos
the nominee for education secretary left senators puzzled by denying her documented involvement in a foundation that has funneled millions of dollars to anti-LGBT causes.

DeVos, from 2001 to 2013, was listed in tax filings as vice president of the Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, a nonprofit group founded by her mother that has been a generous donor to controversial groups like Focus on the Family and Family Research Council. Yet when pressed by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) to explain her role at the foundation, DeVos insisted her name should not have been included in any tax forms and that she had nothing to do with the organization.
“That was a clerical error — I can assure you,” DeVos said. “I have never made decisions on my mother’s behalf.”

How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument

How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument
Gary King, Jennifer Pan, and Margaret E. Roberts. Forthcoming. “How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument.” American Political Science Review, 2017.
The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim that these so-called “50c party” posts vociferously argue for the government’s side in political and policy debates. As we show, this is also true of the vast majority of posts openly accused on social media of being 50c. Yet, almost no systematic empirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime’s strategic objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analysis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime’s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to regularly distract the public and change the subject, as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime. We discuss how these results fit with what is known about the Chinese censorship program, and suggest how they may change our broader theoretical understanding of “common knowledge” and information control in authoritarian regimes.
This paper follows up on our articles in Science, “Reverse-Engineering Censorship In China: Randomized Experimentation And Participant Observation”, and the American Political Science Review, “How Censorship In China Allows Government Criticism But Silences Collective Expression”.
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Max Planck and Taylor & Francis Group sign open-access agreement

“The Max Planck Digital Library and Taylor & Francis Group have signed an agreement which enables researchers based in Max Planck institutes to publish open access in 2,390 journals, under a centrally funded arrangement. This applies to peer-reviewed papers in full and hybrid Taylor & Francis Group journals, including Routledge and Cogent OA titles. Max Planck Institutes will also have shared access to a set of Taylor & Francis subscription journals and can swap and add individual titles up to an agreed limit to meet reader demand.”
In order to make use of the agreement, please make sure to meet the following conditions when publishing with Taylor & Francis and Cogent:

  • The article has been accepted by a Taylor & Francis or Cogent journal offering a CC-BY license.
  • A Max Planck author must be the corresponding author of the article.
  • The author is affiliated with a Max Planck Institute and publishes under this affiliation.
  • The acceptance date of the article is between Jan 1, 2017 and Dec 31, 2019.
  • Eligible article types under this agreement are primarily article types with the nature of an original paper or review paper.

When submitting, a Max Planck email address should be used (if possible) and the Max Planck affiliation should be stated. During the production process, Taylor & Francis and Max Planck Digital Library will verify author eligibility.
Further information
Open Access Support by Max Planck Digital Library
Open Access at the Max Planck Society

Google and the Misinformed Public

Chronicle of Higher Education: Google and the Misinformed Public
Digital media platforms like Google and Facebook may disavow
responsibility for the results of their algorithms, but they
can have tremendous — and disturbing — social effects.
Racist and sexist bias, misinformation, and profiling are
frequently unnoticed byproducts of those algorithms. And
unlike public institutions (like the library), Google and
Facebook have no transparent curation process by which the
public can judge the credibility or legitimacy of the
information they propagate.  That misinformation can be
debilitating for a democracy — and in some instances deadly
for its citizens.

It sounds like there’s a market opportunity here for a search engine that explicitly provides context for search results: credibility, fact checking, bias (not as a value judgement), research articles vs. journalism reporting on them, etc. Could also incorporate some form of crowd sourcing, etc.
Would be an interesting technical challenge to make this applicable across a broad range of searches, and of course there’s the business case (or lack thereof) and going up against Google. On the other hand, it seems like there’s a real need for genuine innovation in the space, and some obvious candidates that would likely be interested in executing an buy out for a successful implementation prior to the company going to market.

Thomas Leavitt

Note to Tesla owners: Don’t forget your car keys

Note to Tesla owners: Don’t forget your car keys
Since some cars don’t even have a spot to put a key (I guess they assume everyone will carry the key on them) this is scary.  Going off without a key, using your cellphone to unlock, then losing reception.  Why is it so difficult to understand that there are still MANY areas without cell reception?