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The Composite Trump: Some Notes Toward Understanding Our President’s Level of Sanity

Mother Jones

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Bob Somerby has been oddly disparaging about people who say that Donald Trump is a liar. Today he explains why:

Is Donald J. Trump a liar? Or could an accurate diagnosis perhaps be more troubling than that?…Is it possible that Donald J. Trump truly is some version of unhinged/crazy?…When Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott told Richard Nixon he had to resign, Nixon succumbed to reality. What would Trump do in a situation like that?

A mere “liar” would know it was time to go. Do you feel sure that Donald J. Trump would react like that?

We don’t feel sure of that at all.

Let’s roll the tape. Trump is vain. He’s peculiarly unwilling to learn anything new. He feels endlessly persecuted. His attention span can be measured in minutes. He’s paranoid over the slightest sign of disloyalty. He is vengeful. He demands constant attention. He makes up preposterous fictions to sustain his worldview and shield his ego from the slings and arrows of reality. He desperately wants to be liked by everyone. He’s domineering. His personal relationships are almost entirely transactional. He never laughs. He can’t stand people poking fun at him. He’s often unable to control his emotional outbursts. And he likes his steaks really well done.

Does that mean he’s unhinged? I dunno. No single one of these things is debilitating, but what happens when you put them all together? Back when I was a kid there was a super-villain called the Composite Superman. He had the powers of, like, 30 different superheroes, and apparently that was enough to drive him mad:

Maybe this is Trump. Being, say, vain and domineering would make him a bit of an asshole, but nothing more. But put all of his bizarre personality traits together, stir in the pressure of being president, and that might be enough to qualify him as detached from consensus reality. Who knows?


The Composite Trump: Some Notes Toward Understanding Our President’s Level of Sanity

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Trump wants to start from scratch on the Paris climate deal

Trump wants to start from scratch on the Paris climate deal

By on May 17, 2016Share

Imagine for a second how tough it is to get 187 nations to agree on anything. The United Nations managed just that in December, with a largely non-binding climate change agreement that covers most of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution.

Donald Trump, naturally, thinks he could do better. The presumptive Republican nominee hopes to start from scratch on laying out a post-2020 roadmap for climate change, or so he told Reuters’ Emily Flitter and Steve Holland in an exclusive interview.

“I will be looking at that very, very seriously, and at a minimum I will be renegotiating those agreements, at a minimum,” he said. “And at a maximum I may do something else.”

Trump doesn’t consider himself a “big fan” of the existing agreement because he believes the United States — historically the world’s biggest polluter — got the worse end of the deal, while other countries, namely China, won’t adhere to their promises.

Look at the political situations in the two nations, however, and you’ll notice it’s the United States, not China, that’s currently overrun with politicians who think climate change is a foreign-manufactured conspiracy and want to pull out from the agreement.

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Trump wants to start from scratch on the Paris climate deal

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You can thank Warren Buffett for many of those exploding oil trains

You can thank Warren Buffett for many of those exploding oil trains

Asa Mathat / Fortune MPW

We’ve written a lot about the dangers of shipping extraflammable oil in flimsy rail cars that are prone to puncture and explode. Turns out you can blame a fair bit of the problem on billionaire investor Warren Buffett. As the Sightline Institute’s blog reports, “Arguably, he is the single most important person in the world of oil-by-rail.” More from the post:

Most people don’t realize it, but the tank cars that carry crude oil are not owned by the railroads that run them and are only rarely owned by the shippers who use them. In fact, roughly 80 percent of all the tank cars registered in North America are owned by companies that lease the tank cars to shippers. … These lessors … are the ones ultimately responsible for the fact that that the vast majority of oil trains today are largely composed of older models so riddled with obvious flaws that federal safety investigators have for years urged the entire fleet be retrofitted. …

Not only have they avoided pulling the hazardous DOT-111 tank cars out of service to retrofit them, but they have opposed and delayed meaningful federal regulation at every turn.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment group is the biggest player in the tank car leasing business with around 40 percent of the market … The next biggest player, GATX Corp, is scarcely more than half the size. …

Buffett is also a major player in the railroad side of oil-by-rail. Berkshire Hathaway has full ownership of BNSF Railway Company, and BNSF is the biggest railroad player in the Bakken oil region … And BNSF isn’t some side line business for Berkshire Hathaway; it’s a major part of the firm, making up 13 percent of revenues in 2012.

To protect that business, Buffett’s companies and the industry groups they belong to do a lot of lobbying against regulations — very effective lobbying. Sightline points out that other modes of transportation would never get away with such an abysmal safety record:

It doesn’t take much scrutiny to see that oil trains get special treatment. After all, if a jet plane has a battery fire problem, regulators immediately pull it from service and will ground the entire fleet until the manufacturer makes modifications to reduce the risk of fire. If an auto regularly bursts into flame upon impact, the feds issue a recall and mandate retrofits for all the cars with the defect. Yet despite explosion after deadly explosion — and safety report after federal safety report — government regulators, at the urging of the industry groups that represent Buffett’s holdings, have allowed unsafe DOT-111s tank cars to haul crude oil and ethanol.

Buffett admitted this week that “it’s more dangerous to move certain types of crude, certainly, than we thought previously,” but there’s no sign that he’s going to take action to make it any less dangerous.

You might think a man who is making so much money shipping oil by rail would oppose Keystone XL, but Buffett isn’t worried about the pipeline cutting into his business. From The Washington Post:

Buffett … said during a CNBC interview Monday he thought the controversial project was a “good idea for the country.”

Buffett, whose company has a major stake in the railroad company BNSF, said he did not see the pipeline’s construction as a major problem for rail firms. “It’s not that big a competitor,” he said.

Thanks to the epic oil boom, there’s plenty of crude to go around.

The Man Behind the Exploding Trains, Sightline Daily
Buffett and Shultz, allies of Obama and Steyer, endorse Keystone pipeline, The Washington Post

Lisa Hymas is senior editor at Grist. You can follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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You can thank Warren Buffett for many of those exploding oil trains

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Watch This Video of Louisiana’s 24-Acre Sinkhole Swallowing a Grove of Trees

Mother Jones

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For the current issue of the magazine (subscribe!) I wrote about the Bayou Corne sinkhole, a swampy, reeking, 24-acre hole in the earth that opened up near the site of an abandoned salt cavern in rural Assumption Parish, Louisiana. After the sinkhole first appeared (at about 1/24th of its current size) last August, Gov. Bobby Jindal ordered the 350 residents of Bayou Corne to evacuate. On August 2, Louisiana sued Texas Brine, the company that mined the salt cavern that experts have identified as the trigger for the sinkhole. Every few weeks the sinkhole burps—this is really the term the geologists use—and somewhere between 20 and 100 barrels of sweet crude bubble up to the surface. Really, it’s best explained in the piece.

I saw a lot of strange things in Louisiana, but on Wednesday, Assumption Parish emergency response office, which continuously monitors the sinkhole for burps and seismic activity, released perhaps the strangest video I’ve seen yet. It’s an entire grove of trees simply being swallowed up by the sinkhole—something that was known to happen but no one had managed to capture clearly on camera.



Watch This Video of Louisiana’s 24-Acre Sinkhole Swallowing a Grove of Trees

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Meet Your Local Farmer Bot

Photo: hobvias sudoneighm

Robots are taking jobs wherever you look, from light construction to energy infrastructure installation to stocking shelves. But one of the greatest transformations to come of the ongoing robot revolution may be in the effect they have on one of humankind’s oldest professions. Yes, that one, probably—but also farming.

The idea of the automated farm of the future is by no means novel, but only recently has it become feasible. In recent decades, some more experimentally inclined farmers have toyed with self-driving tractors and other ways of automating conventional farm tools. But the real rural robot revolution will likely be very different says Taylor Dobbs for PBS’ NOVA Next.

While the self-driving tractors make for a fantastic show, they are just the beginning. Precision agriculture is still in its early stages. If these were the early days of the personal computer revolution, Mulligan Farm would be a small garage in Silicon Valley in the 1970s. And like that moment in history, the possibilities for precision agriculture today are seemingly endless.

“The near future of American farming,” says Dobbs, “may, in some ways, more closely resemble the distant past.”

Instead of a massive machines slowly combing over vast swaths of land, scores of individual laborers will work their own small sections, one row, one plant at a time. The only difference is they will be robots, working day or night, continuously streaming data about growth rates, soil fertility, water usage, and more to the farm office.

Robotic tractors, says Dobbs, could be replaced by little crawlers and flying drones. New Scientist last year showcased a prototype of a little farmer bot.

New Scientist:

Whereas other automated systems are designed to replace people with electronics – tractors that drive themselves, for example – Dorhout’s approach is to improve the farming process. By providing assistance, a robot swarm allows farmers to focus on the science and business side of their operation. “The farmer is like the shepherd that gives the robot instructions,” says Dorhout. Robots are also able to transcend the limitations of farm equipment to maximise efficiency, for example by planting in a grid instead of rows.

Steady progress is being made in robot agriculture, says the Associated Press in a review of the nascent field. But, the AP writes, so far we’ve seen just the beginning: “Most ag robots won’t be commercially available for at least a few years.”

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Meet Your Local Farmer Bot

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Truth, Justice, and the Kryptonian Way

Mother Jones

Marian is in Virginia this week attending a class. Today, she emailed to let me know how things were going:

OMG. One of my co-students had no idea that Superman was from another planet. I thought that was universal knowledge.

Clearly our schools are failing us. I blame the teachers unions.

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Truth, Justice, and the Kryptonian Way

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Experts Foresee No Detectable Health Impact from Fukushima Radiation


Trident K9 Warriors – Michael Ritland & Gary Brozek

As Seen on “60 Minutes”! As a Navy SEAL during a combat deployment in Iraq, Mike Ritland saw a military working dog in action and instantly knew he’d found his true calling. Ritland started his own company training and supplying dogs for the SEAL teams, U.S. Government, and Department of Defense. He knew that fewer than 1 percent of […]

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Codex: Eldar – Games Workshop

Codex: Eldar is your comprehensive guide to wielding the deadly warhosts of the Craftworld Eldar upon the battlefields of the 41 st Millennium. This volume details the craftworlds of the Eldar, and the different types of army they field. The Eldar embody excellence in the arts of war, from their psychic might to their deadly aircraft, and their ranks co […]

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How to Raise the Perfect Dog – Cesar Millan & Melissa Jo Peltier

From the bestselling author and star of National Geographic Channel’s Dog Whisperer , the only resource you’ll need for raising a happy, healthy dog. For the millions of people every year who consider bringing a puppy into their lives–as well as those who have already brought a dog home–Cesar Millan, the preeminent dog behavior expert, says, “Yes, […]

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Cesar Millan’s Short Guide to a Happy Dog – Cesar Millan

After more than 9 seasons as TV’s Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan has a new mission: to use his unique insights about dog psychology to create stronger, happier relationships between humans and their canine companions. Both inspirational and practical, A Short Guide to a Happy Dog draws on thousands of training encounter […]

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Inside of a Dog – Alexandra Horowitz

The bestselling book that asks what dogs know and how they think, now in paperback. The answers will surprise and delight you as Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist, explains how dogs perceive their daily worlds, each other, and that other quirky animal, the human. Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draw […]

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Warhammer 40,000 Altar of War: Eldar – Games Workshop

Altar of War missions provide all the information required to play games inspired by the battlefield tactics of the different Warhammer 40,000 armies. This book contains six brand-new missions which you can use instead of the Eternal War missions in the Warhammer 40,000 rulebook if you or your opponent has an Eldar army. These battles sho […]

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The Honest Life – Jessica Alba

As a new mom, Jessica Alba wanted to create the safest, healthiest environment for her family. But she was frustrated by the lack of trustworthy information on how to live healthier and cleaner—delivered in a way that a busy mom could act on without going to extremes. In 2012, with serial entrepreneur Brian Lee and environmental advocate Christopher Gavigan, […]

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The Art of Raising a Puppy (Revised Edition) – Monks of New Skete

For more than thirty years the Monks of New Skete have been among America’s most trusted authorities on dog training, canine behavior, and the animal/human bond. In their two now-classic bestsellers, How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend and The Art of Raising a Puppy, the Monks draw on their experience as long-time breeders of German shepherds and as t […]

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World of Warcraft: Dawn of the Aspects: Part IV – Richard A. Knaak

A Simon & Schuster eBook. Simon & Schuster has a great book for every reader. […]

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Battle Missions: Death Worlds – Games Workshop

The Emperor’s realm encompasses a million worlds, each with its own potential dangers. Yet certain of these planets are so deadly that they are classified as death worlds. From man-eating flora and fauna to deadly poisonous atmospheres and many stranger things besides, on a death world it’s not just the enemy that your warriors have to worry about! Thi […]

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Experts Foresee No Detectable Health Impact from Fukushima Radiation

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Volunteers Rebuild Ocean Reefs in ‘Sweet Home Alabama’

Leuth Novotny


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Volunteers Rebuild Ocean Reefs in ‘Sweet Home Alabama’

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How the Demise of Antitrust Enforcement Affects Your Eyesight

Mother Jones

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The New York Times features a short video today about Warby Parker, the online eyeglass company that “wants to do everything themselves, from designing to manufacturing to selling the product.” I didn’t learn much about Warby Parker from this piece, but I question the Times’ claim that they truly “want” to do all that stuff. More likely, they simply have no choice because the United States government no longer bothers enforcing antitrust law. Luxottica’s stranglehold on the design, manufacture, and retail sales of eyewear is so strong that any wannabe competitor has no real choice except to do everything themselves. This is why a simple pair of replacement lenses now costs 300 bucks at LensCrafters, even though the technology existed to sell them for a hundred bucks two decades ago.

Anyway, good for Warby Parker, and I hope they manage to build a retail presence someday too. But their attempt to make an entrepreneurial buck is a lot harder than it ought to be. It’s just one small example of the demise of antitrust enforcement over the past few decades, which is itself a small example of the way that the rich have not just rigged the rules of the capitalist game for their own benefit, but convinced everyone it’s for their own good. We are all victims of economic Stockholm Syndrome these days.

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How the Demise of Antitrust Enforcement Affects Your Eyesight

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Fla. State Senator: We Need to "Vaccinate" Against Shariah

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As I reported in a piece for the print magazine last summer, Florida has emerged as sort of the Thunderdome of the anti-Shariah movement, with a host of lawmakers at the municipal, state, and federal level working hand-in-hand with a dedicated group of activists to combat the invisble spectre of Islamic law. Shariah isn’t coming to South Florida, but that hasn’t stopped the state legislature from trying—again—to ban it from being used in state courts.

On Friday, the South Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations blasted out this video, in which state Sen. Alan Hays, the bill’s Republican sponsor, compares stopping Shariah to getting a polio vaccination:

When you were a child, did your parents have you vaccinated against different diseases? That was a preemptive gesture on their part for which I would hope you’re very thankful. And this is very similar to that. Your mom and dad would not want you to get sick from one of those dreadful diseases, and I don’t want any American to be in a Florida courtroom and have their constitutional rights violated by any foreign law. That’s it. It’s not that complicated.

By all accounts, Hays considers the threat posed by Islamic law quite dire. The Miami Herald reported earlier in March that the senator had distributed anti-Shariah literature in the halls of the state capitol. Per the Herald, the fliers “present Islam as a threat to the United States,” and invoke lawmakers to pass legislation to “save us from an internal attack” and “protect our freedom.”

That is, if the pythons don’t get us first.

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Fla. State Senator: We Need to "Vaccinate" Against Shariah

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