Rutger Bregman hands Tucker Carlson his hat

The Fox News host invited the Dutch historian on his show to discuss his comments at Davos about the need for higher taxes on the rich went viral. Carlson apparently was attracted by Bregman pointing out the hypocrisy of people flying in their private jets to Davos to discuss climate change but the interview went off the rails when Bregman described how Fox News and its on-air personalities were millionaires who had been bought off by the billionaire class to not talk about the need for higher taxes and instead talk about immigrants. Carlson clearly did not like being told to his face that he is a mere mouthpiece for the oligarchy and went on profanity-laden tirade.
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Bruno Ganz (1941-2019)

The Swiss character actor died last week at the age of 77. Many people may not be aware of him. I myself saw him in only one film late in his career. But he achieved YouTube immortality because his serious role in the 2004 German film Downfall, where he played Hitler in the last days in his bunker, became a meme, with English ‘subtitles’ of his words made up to reflect current events.
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Positive signs of the zeitgeist

I am constantly on the lookout for signs that attitudes are moving in more positive directions and in the last week I came across two. One is that the Trump administration is starting a global effort to end the criminalization of homosexuality.

The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it’s still illegal to be gay, U.S. officials tell NBC News, a bid aimed in part at denouncing Iran over its human rights record.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort, which kicks off Tuesday evening in Berlin. The U.S. embassy is flying in LGBT activists from across Europe for a strategy dinner to plan to push for decriminalization in places that still outlaw homosexuality — mostly concentrated in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

“It is concerning that, in the 21st century, some 70 countries continue to have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct,” said a U.S. official involved in organizing the event.

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Amazon deal collapses and guess whom Amazon blames?

After much ballyhoo and getting cities all across the US to compete to offer incentives to locate their second headquarters in their region, Amazon finally chose New York City. The city and state had offered massive amounts of tax benefits to this company that has made its founder Jeff Bezos one of the wealthiest people in the world. But the local community was not pleased because the incentives offered to Amazon would come from money that would have gone to fund schools and other services and they organized protests.
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“They may have the money and power. We have the people.” Bernie runs!

Bernie Sanders announced today that he is running again for the Democratic presidential nomination and I immediately sent in a contribution. Within four hours of his announcement he had raised $1 million. He is also seeking to sign up one million campaign volunteers, and that would be great because the only way you defeat the big money contributors who run things is with people power. As he says, “They may have the money and power. We have the people.” I think that he is someone who can dish it out to Trump the way he deserves, with Sanders calling him a “pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction”.”

His platform, given below, consists of measures that I can fully endorse. When he ran four years ago, people dismissed many of his proposals as naïve and unrealistic. Now pretty much all the Democratic candidates have adopted them, showing how much he has changed the conversation. Sanders, like Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, has been fighting for these socialist values all his life, convinced that they would eventually resonate with voters and I think that time is near. If he does not win the nomination I am pretty sure that whoever does win it, especially if it is Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown, will have endorsed many of the same issues and ditch the neoliberal triangulation rubbish that the Clintons espoused. For that very reason, be prepared for the neoliberals in the Democratic party to wage all out attacks on Sanders and those who adopt that kind of platform, just like the neoliberal Blairite rump wing of the Labour party are attacking and undermining Corbyn. Bernie’s message echoes that of Labour’s campaign slogan “For the many, not the few”.
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That was a l-o-o-n-g return journey!

My return from visiting my grandson took much longer than anticipated. After arriving at the airport at 2:30 pm yesterday for my 4:40pm flight, the flight kept getting delayed and delayed until finally they cancelled it, after I had been at the airport for seven hours. Fortunately, they were able to book me on a flight early the next day and they gave me hotel accommodation for the night. But staying in a strange hotel room knowing that one must get up early usually results in poor sleep and that was the case with me. But then the next day, after arriving at the airport at 6:30 am, that flight was delayed another three hours so I came home pretty exhausted and crashed for a few hours.

But now I feel refreshed.

One thing I have noticed is that long delays and cancellations makes people at the airport much more sociable, with mutual tales of woe being a good conversation starter. I had enjoyable chats with many people who happened to be either sitting next to me or when we were standing in line to reschedule our flights, which confirms my view that people are in general nice and we miss out by not interacting more. I had a particularly long chat with a couple who, when they found out I was a physicist, asked me a ton of questions about physics involving dark matter and energy and cosmology in general. I essentially conducted an hour long tutorial.

Why is it that it seems like it is only adversity and problems that break down the barriers between people?

How Brexit happened and what lies next

Over the weekend I watched the film Brexit: An Uncivil War starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings, the brains behind the original Leave campaign. I must admit that I had not heard of Cummings before I saw this film. He seems to be someone who keeps a low profile and after running the campaign has largely disappeared again, leaving others to pick up the debris. The film highlights the use of data-mining people’s online activities to find out what drives them and targeting ads to exploit their fears, especially those who had dropped out of the system and no longer voted.
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Intellectual anti-intellectuals

I long ago stopped reading whenever the name Jordan Peterson came up because it usually consisted of the same old pseudo-intellectual tripe. I have a similar reaction to Thomas Friedman or David Brooks. Chauncey De Vega interviewed Matthew A. Sears, an associate professor of classics and ancient history at the University of New Brunswick, about the role that right-wing intellectuals like Jordan Peterson are playing during the Trump era. Here is Sears’s reply to the question: “Why is Jordan Peterson so compelling for a certain type of man with a very particular political and social worldview?”
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Now that’s a good apology

Shannon Gabriel, the West Indian fast bowler who was suspended from the next four international games, has issued a statement where he apologized for the behavior that led up to the suspension. What he had said was not picked up by the microphone embedded in the stumps, only the response by England captain Joe Root who told him that it was unacceptable, Gabriel gave a good apology where he described what he said, what had led up to him saying it, acknowledged that it was wrong, and apologized.
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‘First Amendment auditor’ gets shot

You may recall my post from a couple of weeks ago about people who deliberately use their First Amendment rights to taunt and provoke police officers in the hope that they will react against them, giving them fodder for their YouTube audiences. They claim that they are protecting the right of free speech by using it legally. I said that this was a dangerous practice since the police are armed.
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