Tag Archives: politics

Errata: Megacity Fighting, EU Citizenship, Georgia v. DHS, South Korea,

Military Contingencies in Megacities and Sub-Megacities – “After elucidating the nature of urbanization and developing a typology in terms of smart, fragile, and feral cities, we give consideration to the kinds of contingencies that the U.S. military, especially the Army, needs to think about and prepare for. Understanding the city as a complex system or organism is critical and provides the basis for changes in intelligence, recruitment, training, equipment, operations, and tactics.” – I’m reading this later today.

EU negotiators will offer Brits an individual opt-in to remain EU citizens, chief negotiator confirms – As @ManMadeMoon said, “Step 1 to a new, non-geographical nationhood! This is getting really interesting.”

Georgia Secretary of State aggressively confronting DHS over a “penetration of [Georgia’s] firewall.”

Finally seeing a bill to impeach the South Korean president (this whole saga is fascinating to me).

From the International Spectator, the world’s most frequent flight paths.

NASA finally has its own Giphy page.

Via Karen James: “Hey neuroscientists & neuroscience-inspired artists, check out this pattern around a rock in a pond in @AcadiaNPS as it begins to freeze.”

And finally, via ars technica: Millions exposed to malvertising that hid attack code in banner pixels – “The malicious script is concealed in the alpha channel that defines the transparency of pixels, making it extremely difficult for even sharp-eyed ad networks to detect. After verifying that the targeted browser isn’t running in a virtual machine or connected to other types of security software often used to detect attacks, the script redirects the browser to a site that hosts three exploits for now-patched Adobe Flash vulnerabilities.”

Pirate Utopia: A Quick Review

Just finished Bruce Sterling’s new novel Pirate Utopia and it ended up being more than expected. I went into it naively expecting a post-modern, pre-millennium cyberpunkish politics romp. I instead received an absurdist realism novel, an alternative history constantly balancing romantic ideals, their execution and its evolution. It’s a book rich with surreal exaggeration and fantasy but using that to explore the more realistic and bleak practicalities of anarchism, communism and fascism – and democracy.

Pirate Utopia drops us into the Regency of Carnaro, the spontaneous self-government of the state of Fiume after it rejected Italy’s delivery of Fiume to Yugoslavia after World War I. Largely featuring Pirate Engineer Lorenzo Secondari it also introduces a maniacal manufacturist in the personage of Frau Pfiffer, a combat ace turned second-in-command the Ace of Hearts, all operating under the leadership of poet-statesman Gabriele d’Annunzio – otherwise known as the Prophet.

Secondari’s a fascinating protagonist to be sure. He’s presented as previously dead but now alive and self-charged with the mission of moving ownership from those that possess to those that make. He’s a stubborn, spontaneous anarchist maker of a sort though distinctly different from the type you’d see today. There’s no mention of his distributing either model or means – he doesn’t seem the type to upload notes, designs, schematics etc for the world to create his designs for themselves. His utopia is necessarily personalized and he can’t seem to conceive of one outside himself.

Ideals and actions are presented alongside each other constantly and both shift across the course of the story in interesting ways, as a sad exposition on how these things typically progress when people act as they do. It’s not a gradually sliding progress bar so much as Sterling slipping the characters and their organizations along the slippery, evolving surface of a self-justifying Moebius strip of power and violence. It’s hard to tell how or where one side became the other. A seamless transition in which all eyes are still on dragging the future towards them by way of the gravity of their personalities, but they’ve had time to polish their boots now and they’re the ones in control of the artillery on the hill.

The exception to this is Maria Pfiffer, Frau Pfiffer’s daughter and a favorite of Secondari. She’s an unnatural, shining, extrasystemic object – beautiful and consumptive, unprepared for spectacle, an unconcerned alien amidst clandestine conversations despite her polyglot intelligence.

Sterling also manages to sideline two historical devils in amusing ways. But the Moebius strip politics continue according to the realistic streak in Pirate Utopia: absent those two devils, others rise accordingly.

Pirate Utopia’s a short, fun read that doesn’t alternate between stark and wacky but manages to hold their continuing tension in exquisite and exacting fashion. It also comes with a great and timely introduction by Warren Ellis that came out before the election but seems spot-on after, and some supplemental materials at the end that explored Sterling’s writing of the book. This latter appealed directly to the process voyeur in me and I’d love to see it in more works.

Pirate Utopia: Highly Recommended Reading.

I Blame Zimbardo

People continue to be flabbergasted that the anger behind Donald Trump’s support has not burned itself out yet. It must, they often insist, consume itself and leave former supporters gripped by boredom, lackadaisical, having spent their energy in acts of political catharsis before averaging out and backing a candidate of more substance, closer to the aims of the Republican Party. This is true for observers on both sides of the aisles and they’re both thoroughly wrong. It’s the kind of thinking, oddly enough, that led to the hallucinatory 2008 and 2012 predictions widely circulated within the Republican party (though both parties are guilty of this at random times) that they were about to win the presidency – a disconnect from the ground-level reality behind campaigns.

To offer a more grounded view of Trump’s supporters than I did in my previous post (regarding philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, Trump and Dante’s Inferno) let me turn to one of the most basic parts of any Psychology 101 curriculum for decades.

The support behind Trump is the Stanford Prison Experiment writ large with all the ethical and methodological issues still intact.

In 1971 psychology professor Philip Zimbardo began a two-week experiment in the basement of a Stanford University building in which students were divided up into guards and prisoners. Guards were given uniforms, batons and mirrored sunglasses to avoid eye contact. Prisoners were forced to wear uniforms with their prisoner number on them, and referred from there on as that number. Guards policed the prisoners in their cells and a few other confined areas, ensuring they acted “appropriately” and punishing displays of defiance.

By the second day both groups began to assume their assigned roles in big ways. Guards became much more authoritarian and began to target and torment prisoners in various ways. Prisoners began to defy that authority, act out, block access and respond with anger, hostility and hopelessness. Steps such as the removal of clothing or the refusal to let prisoners empty the “sanitation buckets” in their cells were taken, stripping prisoners of essential dignity. The entire experiment spiraled into a mountain of increasing ethical violations until a graduate student assigned to interview prisoners objected to the conditions.

It took less 6 days for the experiment to go so badly that it had to be terminated. Both prisoners and guards identified so deeply with their roles that they treated each other savagely. Six days.

I spent a few hours looking at the Trump corners of twitter and facebook today (for two good samples, check Mitt Romney’s facebook page and then go search “Mr Trump” on twitter – diehard supporters love using the “mister”). Reviewing the rhetoric of Trump supporters brought me to a conclusion: this is the Stanford Prison Experiment inscribed on presidential politics, graffiti’d like a vulgarity scratched on a lamppost. Trump supporters see themselves as prisoners and want to be the jailers, but in the meantime assume the roles they feel they’ve been forced into.

Zimbardo’s instructions for guards before his experiment began are preserved publically and quite on point here:

“You can create in the prisoners feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to some degree, you can create a notion of arbitrariness that their life is totally controlled by us, by the system, you, me, and they’ll have no privacy … We’re going to take away their individuality in various ways. In general what all this leads to is a sense of powerlessness. That is, in this situation we’ll have all the power and they’ll have none.”

And this is exactly what you see in the complaints of Trump’s political base – they are both bored and fearful, and feel that the world has exacted some terrible price upon their individuality and personal agency. They bemoan the total control that they perceive the government to be exerting and at the same time identify with it, often wanting to exact similar or worse upon their own enemies. To repeat: they’ve assumed the roles of powerless prisoners but fantasize of themselves as the jailers, using sadistic violence, vitriol and privilege manipulation to control and punish those they see as weaker. Shows of force are highly extolled virtues – everything else is met with sneering contempt (I’m again reminded of the Warren Ellis character presidential candidate Bob Heller – you can find a few relevant panels at the bottom of this post).

They have the anger of those who feel their dignity is assaulted every day, and so take on the mantle of the Undignified. No amount of dialogue or statesmanship is going to make a bit of difference in that case – it’s why appeals to presidential dignity like Romney’s today will be met with Trump explicitly saying Romney would’ve given him oral sex for an endorsement in 2012, for instance, to the raucous applause of his supporters and enthusiastic approval from his political base.

The Republican leadership – any leadership, really, but the Republican in particular – has no idea what to do with this. This kind of self-identification isn’t just a sort of fad-anger that can be redirected or tamped. And surely bringing people like Mitt Romney to try and stamp it out only fans the flames – in him they see another captor, an establishment jailer who they nonetheless picture themselves in the role of. They want to be successful capitalist so badly, the Bain Capital executive, the man in the pressed suit. But that desire to be Romney can’t become conscious and so is sublimated back into the unquenchable anger of a population that feels it’s been forced into indignity and barbarism.

They’ve been given a role, and they will play it until the experiment’s over. That they don’t see Trump as another jailer – one that’s bankrupted numerous legitimate business and crushed countless people much closer to the level of the supporters – is an artifact of fantastic marketing on Trump’s part. As long as he feeds the anger he gives them the only sense of agency they have.

Trump in the Inferno

Just sent another newsletter out – the main article’s below, and you can subscribe here.

I’ve just started reading Eugene Thacker’s In the Dust of This Planet, the first in his Horror of Philosophy series and as recommended by Warren Ellis. In the Dust of This Planet considers horror as a vehicle through which to think about the unthinkable, from personal to climatological. Horror as a way to poke and prod at the limit of thought and immediate experience. It’s fantastic and engrossing so far and I was so caught by a particular point that’s stuck ever since.

Thacker proposes a few interpretations for the word black in the phrase “black metal” and in doing so addresses, separately, several ways to process darkness, evil and demons.

“In contrast to what Schopenhauer calls a private nothing (the nihil privativum; dark as the absence of light, death as the absence of life) there is a negative nothing (the nihil negativum; nothingness without any positive value).”

In other words, private nothing is an absence of something defined and has its own character on that basis. Compared to that, negative nothing is without character or definition – it is simply absence without any kind of light-or-matter transition to some positive state. Thacker goes on to discuss demons and typology, including a fantastic point – right on topic – that “Elaine Pagels’s widely-read The Origin of Satan makes the clearest point: the demon is inseparable from a process of demonization, and this process is as much political as it is religious.” And a bit later:

“The demon is not really a supernatural creature, but an anthropological motif through which we human beings project, externalize and represent the darker side of the human to ourselves.”

Mechanism established Thacker moves onto typology of demons in Dante’s Inferno and identifies at least three distinct types: Lucifer himself, personified, giant, brooding counter-sovereign; embodied demons such as the Malebranche that are found instituting various punishments and generally administrating the mundane tasks of hell; and the third type, which is what I’m concerned with here. Dante encounters a demonic atmosphere, a tempestuous and vile black wind driving the spirits back and forth, “eternal in its rage.”

“We soon learn that this tempestuous scene is not the backdrop for some new genre of demons, but that the wind, the rain and the storm itself is the demon. This “black wind” is at once invisible and yet dramatically manifest, coursing through the swarming bodies of the damned.”

Thacker describes this as a demon that is “fully immanent, and yet never fully present,” “at once pure force and flow,” but having no substance of its own “also pure nothingness.”

It occurred to me while reading that this seems a perfect corollary to the Trump Campaign. A fiery, rageful bombast who has yet to articulate any particular strategy or stance. Instead, Trump blows back and forth across what all involved seem to percieve as a doomed and decrepit plain, and they’re taken by the force he shows. He bellows from above about destroying this or that enemy or head of state, bellows about building a wall that he’ll force another country to pay for, bellows frenetically back and forth: he contradicts himself as much as he affirms himself. It isn’t direction Trump is concerned with, only force. He’s a political tempest with rage rather than form; his campaign is “fully immanent, and yet never fully present,” lacking hereness but “dramatically manifest.” Not the counter-divine but rather the political nihil negativum, an absence furiously insisting upon its presence.

I keep expecting Trump to burn out – to blow himself out, really. That at some point his energy has to expire and give place to something else. But there’s no energy to bottom out. Trump’s not the counter-anything, but rather that nothingness without a positive value. He’s that vile storm blowing across a landscape that doesn’t know there’s a positive value on the other side of rage. And he appeals so much to people who seem to view themselves as the damned – angry at being cast into a landscape they find existentially hostile and punishing, a population mad enough at their world that they’ve instead chosen the storm that’s as likely to turn on them as anything.

Errata: Racist Michigan Rep, Active Shooter Insurance, Academic Heist, Carson’s Still an Idiot

Raw StoryMich. Repub ripped after suggesting that making black students white would ‘fix’ school issues – ‘Footage posted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) shows Knollenberg saying during a state Senate committee meeting on Thursday, “You mentioned these school districts failing, and you mention economically disadvantaged and non-white population are contributors to that. I know we can’t fix that. We can’t make an African-American white. That’s just, it is what it is.”’ – also – ‘He denied citing race as a specific factor and pointed out that he has a black employee at his insurance company.’ – Horrifying.

CNBCInterest in active shooter insurance grows – “The insurance policy covers potential liability if an institution is deemed not to have taken the steps needed to prevent gun violence, according to Fortune.” – WELL now that insurers are set to make a profit off mass shootings I think it’s even safer to say legislators are going to do fuck all about the issue. The NRA profiting off putting the country at risk isn’t enough – now the financiers are in on it. I’m waiting for securitization of security-weakening legislation, a new derivatives market that lays bets on the specifics of the next shooting.

ReutersCzech MEP accused of trying to snatch 350 million euros from Swiss bank – “They include Miloslav Ransdorf, 62, an expert on Karl Marx and a former philosophy teacher who speaks about dozen languages and who has served in the European Parliament since the Czech Republic’s entry to the European Union in 2004.” – Can’t wait for the movie version of this.

MSNBCBen Carson to veterans: ‘Deal with the transgender thing somewhere else’ – ‘“If you can’t lift, you know, a 175 pound person on your shoulder and hoist them out of there, I don’t want you as my backup,” he continued.’ – I love that a guy who had the courage to direct an armed robber at someone else and brag about it finds himself fit to judge combat readiness.

NBCPresident Jimmy Carter Says Cancer in Brain Is GoneThe one good bit of news I’ve seen all December. So thankful for this.

Errata: In-game Nuke Disarmament,VR, Toy Hack, Smart TV hack, Trump & Heller

Ars TechnicaThe worldwide effort to disarm Metal Gear Solid V’s nuclear weapons – ‘As Konami recently officially announced, a “secret nuclear disarmament event” will be triggered for all players only when “All nuclear weapons on the regional server corresponding to your console or platform must have been dismantled. In other words, the amount of nukes on your platform’s server must be equal to 0.”‘ – This is going to be fascinating to watch play out – principle-driven or benefit-driven disarmament leaving parties at a tactical disadvantage, and how that’ll affect gameplay. Factions already rising.

Motherboard One of the Largest Hacks Yet Exposes Data on Hundreds of Thousands of Kids – “The personal information of almost 5 million parents and more than 200,000 kids was exposed earlier this month after a hacker broke into the servers of a Chinese company that sells kids toys and gadgets…” – Why you should rethink buying your kid internet-connected toys (they almost invariably require giving up personal information). Info included headshots of kids as well as their chat logs. Good god.

Motherboard Real Drugs, Virtual Reality: Meet the Psychonauts Tripping in the Rift – ‘ “Soon after dosing I had forgotten that I had the Rift on. The simulation was a grasslike landscape but I was too tripped out to actually walk around using the controller. I was sitting in my desk chair which has rubbery armrests. At some point I started to think I was a rabbit bunny thing, and started biting the rubbery armrests of my chair like a maniac thinking it was a carrot.”’

MotherboardSex Ed in VR Can Prepare Young Women for Actual Sex – “Using Oculus technology, users would enter dozens of lifelike scenarios to role-play consent, proper contraception use and other components of safe sex from a first-person perspective.”

Universe TodayEarth May Be “Hairy” with Dark Matter – “Prézeau used computer simulations to discover that when dark matter stream passes through a planet — dark matter passes right through us unlike ordinary matter — it’s focused into an ultra-dense filament or hair. Not a solo strand but a luxuriant crop bushy as a brewer’s beard.” – I always knew the universe approved of my beard. Now I have proof.

Security LedgerRansomware Works on Smart TVs, Too!Spent a chunk of this weekend (in a Manhattan hotel) pondering Smart TVs as a platform to eavesdrop on people using insecure hotel wifi and pass on infections. More to come later – maybe in fiction, maybe just pondering.

Finally, was reading the fantastic comic Transmetropolitan in some downtime and was reminded of just how much Ellis foresaw Trump and his fans through the guise of Bob Heller:



Thoughts on the First Democratic Debate

Watched most of the first Democratic primary debate last night in spite of planning not to. I did miss an opening statement or two as I turned it on just in time to see Bernie’s. Sanders came out damn strong and I was glad to see it – and I should note before going much further that I’m incredibly partisan for Bernie Sanders and that will no doubt inform my comments in a particular way.

I found Sanders to be the only candidate on stage who expressed passion for anything other than his own record. Clinton continuously reinforced the idea that she had been chosen for this or that role and the things she accomplished in them. O’Malley painted an incredibly whitewashed, inaccurate view of his time in Baltimore. Chafee emphasized his lack of scandals.

Wait – I missed one. Jim Webb expressed passion about something other than his record as he talked about killing a man. Right.

Right now the pundits are saying that Hillary Clinton won last night. I am flummoxed. Clinton hit mostly right notes but in a disconnected, dispassionate way. She seemed for all the world like a technically proficient pianist playing a master work note for note and yet without any understanding of the work or its accompanying emotion. Her debate answers consisted of a paint-by-numbers exercise that included none of the artist’s zeal. The performance underscored for me the idea that Clinton believes she should have the nomination in hand by virtue of her presence. Her answers on Snowden (lock him up) and capitalism (hey, we can make it good! and small banks are worse than big banks) struck sour notes with me. Her revisionist portrayal of Russian cooperation with Medvedev as president entirely pretended as if Putin didn’t exist or have any power at the time and ignored multiple atrocities Russia committed during that period.

One of the most interesting questions of the night also constituted Clinton’s biggest failure to me. “Which enemy are you most proud of?” elicited a list from her, ticking off boxes one after the other, well-rehearsed: “Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies…the Iranians…. probably the Republicans.” Clinton’s answer is incredibly problematic on a few levels: first of all, there are a hell of a lot of perfectly nice Iranians (nearly eighty million) that she’s lumping in together, rather than specifying the Iranian regime. That’s not the message to be sent – especially to a population with a median age of less than thirty years old that knows, as Tariq Ali once said, only the reign of the ayatollahs. The second problem with Clinton’s answer is that it betrays a worldview of enmity and aggression (largely consistent with her portrayal across news articles as well as several books I’ve read) that doesn’t seem to be serving us well in leadership positions. I don’t want a Commander-In-Chief that approaches most situations in a way eerily similar to George W. Bush’s “you’re either with us or you’re against us” crap.

I found Sanders’ answers to be consistent with views he’s held for a long time and consistent with mine as well. His answer to the enemy question: Wall Street and Big Pharma, two topics close to my heart. His answer on the biggest national security threat had me cheering: climate change. Sanders unflinchingly, unhesitatingly called for the end to bulk communications collection by the NSA. His exchange with Clinton over capitalism highlighted some of the major differences between them: Clinton’s established record of working with and getting money from Wall Street, and Bernie’s absolutely passionate defense of democratic socialism. Again, Clinton came off technical while Sanders reminded me of a career civics teacher passionately trying to get students to buy-in, learn and involve themselves in the process.

I wish Sanders had taken a stronger line on Snowden rather than agreeing with the “he broke the law” silliness and mumbling about the effect mitigating his crime a little. Snowden deserves to come home without charges.

Last night felt like O’Malley lobbied hard for a VP spot he’ll never get and doesn’t deserve. He answered several questions by talking about how good he had been for Baltimore, something I’ve seen challenged in every camp possible so far. O’Malley couldn’t even bring himself to refer to a homicide as such, instead explicitly referring to “Freddie Gray’s tragic death” in just those words. His anti-NRA stance felt underwhelming, perhaps in the midst of the credibility hit he took in my head over Gray and Baltimore.

Chafee felt like a non-entity, another smiling face behind a podium without a hell of a lot of substance or passion.

And then there was Jim. Jim Webb’s performance I can only interpret in perhaps the context that the burger I ate a few hours prior maybe had moldy cheese with psychoactive properties and caused me to hallucinate each time he appeared. Jim Webb is the kind of guy Hunter Thompson was built for: an old ghost trying to gather enough substance to be a Jungian archetype while half his mind is still back in a war decades past. At various points I found Webb repeating the sad, false Republican trope about gun control advocates all having bodyguards; advocating immediate military force against China; and complaining multiple times, bitterly, about not being in the spotlight. He struck me as the kind of guy I’d never want to sit next to at a bar, never want to have a beer with, and never want in my party. Indeed, as David Corn pointed out, I identified most of Webb’s stances with Rand Paul.

And of course there was Webb’s answer to the “which enemy are you proudest of” question: an enemy soldier from his old war that lobbed a grenade at him. Webb implied that the man’s death followed. We’ve got a “presidential candidate” in a Democratic primary debate bragging over killing a man in Asia mere minutes after advocating war with China. Whatever kind of debate prep Jim Webb engaged in should’ve involved psychotherapy.

As is clear from my comments above, I think Sanders won. Clinton had a strong technical showing that never the less reinforced why I don’t believe she’s a preferable or viable candidate. O’Malley made things up, Chafee stood there, Webb should’ve been in the other debate instead.

Feel free to share your thoughts below.

Countdown to Zero Day: Read it.

Spent a chunk of this week reading Kim Zetter’s Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World’s First Digital Weapon and found it to be a good, timely book. Zetter, a senior staff writer for Wired, spins a well-focused narrative relevant not only to Stuxnet but to one of the more active issues in US politics right now: the Iranian nuclear program. Zetter goes into deep but comprehensible detail about nuclear weapons production and Iran’s specific methods and capabilities.

Another place the book shines is the way it leads the reader through malware detection and reverse-engineering processes. Zetter maintains an active and involved storyline that feels not at all like a technical report about either a virus or uranium enrichment. Add that there was no discernible political agenda and you’ve got a pretty damn good read on the details and wider contexts of Stuxnet.

Highly recommended.

Kasich: Fiddling While Lehman Burns

GOP presidential candidate John Kasich was busy yesterday touting all he learned about business while working for Lehman Brothers, the financial services firm that failed spectacularly in 2008. (transcript)

You know, I — I — I left Washington and had a great time. You — you know, I was — worked at Lehman Brothers and learned about businesses, and I went to Fox News…

It should be remembered that Lehman Brothers was forced into bankruptcy after basically refusing to find another firm to buy it; Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson straight up told Lehman CEO Dick Fuld to find a buyer. Fuld made a few limp efforts, entirely convinced instead that a government bailout would come.

John Kasich was the Managing Director of a financial firm that failed because it sat idle in acute crisis and expected big government to come save it. Color me skeptical when he refers back to his Lehman-era business expertise.

Independence Day

Independence Day swings back around and I find myself, perhaps more intensely than ever before, a troubled patriot. Still in love with my country, still believing in its greatness and that it can be even greater, still wracked with doubt over some of its actions.

Last week brought me unmitigated pride: first the Supreme Court upheld Affordable Care Act subsidies. Then the court declared marriage equality nationwide. Not sure I can find a time in recent years I felt so proud of the progress my country made, no less that it happened in forty-eight hours. Two of my biggest issues, health care and equality – in the bag. My feelings almost extended into euphoria.

Other issues intervened. Especially that as we celebrated Supreme Court rulings people were burning black southern churches. There is little more horrifying to me, and not only had the fires become a trend but that they received so little coverage in the media. The progress, the amazing progress, gained against the Confederate flag in recent weeks heartened me but the battles left to fight will be long and dangerous – not the least because certain points will lend to despair.

The wider arc of politics concerns me just as much. A legislature behold to whichever private interests provide the most money and heavily populated with people interested in little more than obstructing the other side. A justice system gripped by an internal culture frightened of justice and change. A news media dedicated to views and clicks rather than investigation and truth.

An executive that seems utterly divorced from all but the few issues it chooses to engage with. That refuses to confront extremism except through the one tactic guaranteed to increase extremist recruitment. That justifies activity abroad and at home with classified courts, laws and legal interpretations. The top office of the land operating with flagrant disregard for freedom of information. Even its landmark trade deal is secret.

A government overall that appears to have accepted that we can no longer do big things. Infrastructure decays and mass transit across the country is constantly in budget crisis. Our astronauts catch rides to the space station with Russia. Gotcha politics and psychotically-strong fear of vulnerability turned greatness into a thing we can only feel nostalgia for. Somewhere along the line we began to perceive failure as an end-state rather than an indicator toward the right answers. We forgot the lessons of Edison and Curie and NASA. We forgot the way we learned to ride a damn bicycle, or walk, or love.

There is so much reason to hope. The acts I see every day – the individual kindnesses and courageous and innovative nature of so many – but we forgot somewhere these and more apply on the national level too, and the global.

At the end of the Revolutionary War George Washington delayed his triumphant re-entry into New York while soldiers stripped a single remaining British flag from a pole in Battery Park. Last week Bree Newsome scaled a pole herself to bring down an even more toxic flag. She didn’t have the Continental Army at her back and those hostile to her were surely not in retreat. She could’ve failed in dozens of ways. She did it anyway.

We are all capable of amazing things. History only tells us how amazing we’ve been so far, though. The present provides an opportunity to show how amazing we can be. As individuals and a country.

Happy Independence Day.