Hillary’s election causes Republicans to spiral into unhinged temper tantrum

Open threats of insurrection and “Second Amendment remedies” pile up along with non-violent legislative obstruction

The combination of Donald Trump’s anti-democratic strongman attitudes and long-running hate for Hillary Clinton has brought out the worst in the Republican Party.

Seeing an imminent defeat in the presidential race and the possibility of losing their majority in the Senate as well, Republicans have threatened violence and obstruction.

First we have former one-term Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, who wrote that if Trump loses he’s going to “grab his musket.” Coming, as it is, after Trump publicly refused to accept the election results and has warned for weeks about the election being “rigged,” it raises the very real threat that Trump’s supporters, many of whom buy into the idea that guns should be used to attack the government if they disagree with the government, won’t accept the results of the election and that B-list Tea Party influencers like Walsh will egg them on.

Already these kinds of messages about picking up your arms are common among the conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, whom Trump listens to. Other Republican nominees for high office before Trump have also used such threatening language. Failed 2010 Republican Senate candidate for Nevada Sharron Angle said the Second Amendment (which protects gun rights) is “to defend ourselves.

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Kayes recovering from injuries.

“Then they decided to kill me”: Shahed Kayes on his campaign against illegal sand mining in Bangladesh

The population of Bangladesh has increased by 60% since 1990. Its capital Dhaka is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world, expected to have a population the size of Shanghai’s current population within the next decade. This unstoppable growth is fueling an explosion in construction. Bangladesh isn’t alone. Countries throughout South Asia and South East Asia are growing at breakneck pace as well as urbanizing.

Dhaka traffic near Gulistan Crossing. Photo by Flickr user Twentyfour Students.

Dhaka traffic near Gulistan Crossing. Photo by Flickr user Twentyfour Students.

All of this construction needs massive amounts of concrete. And concrete needs sand. But where does the sand come from? Shahed Kayes is founder of the Subornogram Foundation, which established schools for poor and marginalized families like the fisherfolk who live on islands in the Meghna River. There, he found sand mining companies dredging sands from close to the islands, causing the islands to erode and disappear. When he began to protest the practice, getting Bangladesh to pass laws against it in 2012, he was met with threats–and nearly killed.

Shahed Kayes teaching a class.

Shahed Kayes teaching a class. Screen capture from video.

I met him in Gwangju, South Korea this summer, where he is working towards promoting democracy at the May 18 Memorial Foundation and studying at Chonnnam University, and then interviewed him. Following is an edited transcript and audio. The audio also includes conversation about South Korea’s historic democracy movement and the Gwangju Uprising of 1980, which was the impetus for the creation of the May 18 Memorial Foundation.

Here’s the audio:

Here’s the text:
Mitchell Blatt: Many people do not think of how much sand is used in the world. But when it comes to building towers or anything that uses concrete, it involves a lot of sand [also for glass, and expansion of landmass in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, and China’s east coast]. Can you give an introduction as to why sand mining is important?

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“Then they decided to kill me”: Shahed Kayes on Fighting Illegal Sand Mining

Shahed Kayes started the Subornogram Foundation to provide education for children of fisherfolk communities in Bangladesh who live on the islands in the river. When their home lands were threatened by illegal sand mining, he organized the fight against it, getting new regulations passed. Then the sand miners tried to kill him.

“So this is the first thing they did: they tried to harass us with false cases. The second thing they did was they tried to buy us. They offered our people big money if we stopped our protests. When I and our people denied their offers, they decided to kill me,” he says in this interview with Bombs + Dollars host Mitchell Blatt.

Kayes talks about the problems caused by illegal sand mining, corruption in Bangladesh, and, now that he is working for human rights in South Korea, the Gwangju Uprising of 1980, when citizens took up weapons to defend themselves against the military that had been sent to suppress their protests against martial law.

Note: This is just the audio version for the podcast. Read the transcript of the interview here:


The broad impact of Chinese hukou on education restrictions

Children of white collar workers, college graduates denied education along with migrant laborers

Mr. Li digs the tunnels for Beijing’s subway system, but Beijing won’t let his daughter attend school. Mr. Li is one of the over 8 million people living in Beijing without a Beijing residence permit.

On October 12, they were among a group of parents of children without Beijing residence (hukou) who gathered outside a courtroom to support a fellow parent who had sued over access to education. News of the court date was censored after spreading online.

Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the hukou system has regulated where Chinese citizens can live and work and allowed for the government to have a great level of control over the economy and labor. While the system has been relaxed since the pre-reform days of a control economy, it still impacts access to public services, including education.

It’s not just temporary migrant workers, who provide much of the labor needed to build cities and keep them functioning, who are discriminated against. Some who have lived in Beijing for decades, including white collar workers and graduates of top universities, cannot enroll their children in local schools.

This could be a growing problem as the economy becomes more and more service-oriented and the population more and growing share of the population obtaining higher education and moving to cities to work.

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Duterte’s embrace of China is the latest fruit of Duterte’s irrationality

Paul Mirengoff at the conservative blog Powerline has an article up blaming President Obama for Filipinian president Rodrigo Duterte aligning his country with China.

There’s a tendency among conservatives and Republicans to blame things on Obama, as he is a Democrat, and conservative critics of Obama have also been making a case that Obama hasn’t been strong enough backing up his words on some issues. There is a case to be made. But even the most hardcore Republican Obama critic would have a hard time making the case here.

Duterte, like candidate Trump, is a very unconventional politician and a tyrant. Since taking office he has waged an extrajudicial war on alleged drug users, killing over 2,000 with no due process, including many who aren’t drug users. He has praised Hitler, saying that if Hitler killed 3 million Jews, he would kill 3 million drug addicts. He called Obama a son of a whore.

Now he has unilaterally decided to tell America to go to hell because he wants to align himself with the totalitarian forces of the world, even as China is asserting claim to islands claimed by the Philippines, even as the Philippines just won a case against China in the UN Law of the Sea court. Duterte said:

America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow. And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.

If Trump wins maybe the U.S. could join the gang and get back in good graces with the Philippines.

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On evaluating claims of sexual assault against presidential candidates

A pornstar who claims that Donald Trump has offered to pay her $10,000 to go to return to his hotel room is just the latest of nearly a dozen women who have come forward this month accusing Trump of sexual improprieties.

Trump, naturally, denies all charges. At the same time, Trump has been hyping the affairs and allegations of sexual assault against Bill Clinton. This week a former Arkansas reporter came forward to allege the former president sexually assaulted her three times while he was governor of Arkansas in 1980. In a climate where stories of sexual assault or rape are fiercely scrutinized, how is one to evaluate the veracity of these claims?

The standards for evaluating claims of crimes having been committed are, of course, different inside and outside a courtroom. No one is asking the voters to throw Donald Trump in prison for sexual assault—or for violating sanctions on Cuba, or for self-dealing with his foundation, or for defrauding investors and consumers. If he is guilty of any of those crimes, it is up to investigators and prosecutors to pursue and for the accused to be able to defend themselves in court. What the voters are tasked with, however, is to decide whom they think is most qualified to be the next president of the United States of America. For that, there is no requirement of proving someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is a choice each voter can make on their own.

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My latest long essay for Quillette

Not a traditional subject for a light weekend reading. I apologise.


Psstt…it’s called “Bandwagoning”

Here’s what explains Manila’s Pivot to Beijing.


Here’s my article.

And here’s more on “Bandwagoning and Balancing” and Alliance Formations, in International Relations.


Trump supporters revive Nazi era smear of press

As Donald Trump has crashed in the polls following terrible debate performances and revelations about possible sexual assault, he has made his attacks on the press even more aggressively than before. Now he is calling the press part of a global conspiracy along with bankers and Hillary Clinton that is “rigging” the election.

His supporters make angry chants at reporters. It’s part of a strategy he has long honed. Trump points out the press at rallies and criticizes them. He calls them the “dishonest press” and calls individual journalists “bimbos” and “sleazes.”

Trump’s angry supporters have picked up the charges in their own way, invoking a Nazi-era slur. Trump supporters on Twitter are tweeting “#Lugenpresse.” According to the Economist, “Lügenpresse (‘liars’ press’), a loaded term once used by the Nazis, is a common chant at [Alternative for Germany] party rallies.”

The word has gained traction in Europe by right-wing critics of refugee policy. It won 2015 “non-word of the year.”


“Luegenpresse”, first used in Germany by critics of the free press during World War One, earned the dubious “Unwort des Jahres” (Non-Word of the Year) honor in the eyes of a panel of experts out of 730 terms submitted by 1,250 contributors.

“‘Luegenpresse’ is a word contaminated by the Nazis,” said Nina Janich, a professor at the Technical University Darmstadt and head of the six-member jury that selects such terms each year from the submissions.

Some tweets by Trump supporters on Twitter:

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How you can get addicted to Twitter, and how you can break an addiction

A few years ago I was at the park with my kids and I saw a dad swinging his baby daughter in a baby swing. The baby chuckled and looked engagingly at her father but he missed returning her happy look because he was looking at his phone.
A small moment in time with a powerful impact.

Guest post by Salma Saad

Self-esteem comes from internalizing parental attention. The baby who repeatedly gets the shaft in comparison to the cell phone internalizes shame and inadequacy instead of a sense of self worth.

What kind of impact will our technology addiction have on our children? I myself regret with sadness that I have not always been as present with my own children as I would have liked to have been.

I worked in advertising and all the big brands that I worked on were addictive substances: soft drinks, fast food, technology, tobacco to name a few. If you watch the documentary “Hungry for Change” you can see how the food industry adds addictive substances to almost everything we eat because this keeps us buying more even though it makes us unhealthier.

As a society we are highly vulnerable to being manipulated by addictive products.

What makes us vulnerable and why are some people easier targets than others?

I don’t have what most people think of as addiction but in therapy I realized that I use a great many mechanisms to distract myself from my emotions. These included chronic work/busyness, daydreaming, technology, caretaking, etc. Most of us know what emotional eating is but eating isn’t the only thing our emotions leave us vulnerable to.

Image by Flickr user Sam Wolff. Shared under CC2.0 license.

Image by Flickr user Sam Wolff. Shared under CC2.0 license.

Stuffed feelings are a marketers dream because this makes us prone to unconsciously seeking out all kinds of material things to distract ourselves from our inner pains. We check social media, or eat some French fries, and it provides us with some temporary pleasure. But this takes us down the slippery slope of becoming dependent on external substances to regulate our emotions and achieve validation.

Over-working and over-exercising are examples of addictions that are often viewed positively and social media/technology addiction, serial dating and unhealthy relationships are regarded as “less serious” than substance abuse.

The nitty gritty of what goes on in our brain and bodies

I know people who say quitting addiction is about will power. There are those who can simply quit smoking cold turkey, for example. But doing so is not the same as a real recovery.

“White knuckling,” as it is called, relies on pure will power without addressing the underlying problems that continue to cause the craving. In fact, it often results in one replacing one harmful addiction with another.

Someone who stopped smoking and became obsessed with Tinder instead didn’t become any healthier. Yes smoking has harmful health affects but becoming hooked on validation from a dating app can have a detrimental affects too, such as long term loneliness.

So what happens inside your brain and your body that makes you vulnerable to addictive products?

Under normal conditions when a person gets scared the sympathetic nervous system automatically increases their heart rate, and then when the threat recedes the parasympathetic nervous system calms their body down.

In people who have experienced chronic threats in childhood the calming affect doesn’t kick in and the body stays on alert longer that it needs to.

Then when the same type of threat comes up again the body doesn’t go into alert as it should. For example, a woman who experienced domestic abuse as a child will disassociate instead of getting angry in her adult relationship therefore allowing the abuse to happen instead of stopping it in the moment.

If your body is too tense/alert when it shouldn’t be and also not tense/alert when it should be then you are going to be an easier target for addictive products and processes.

How I got better

I have had a problem with being too submissive due to the culture I was raised in. I have become more assertive by simply noticing my lack of anger because his helps me to feel the anger and stand up for myself. This started out very hit or miss but after a few times this got much better. I’m finding my voice and my anger is showing up appropriately and I am very glad about this.

Becoming aware and changing the behavior rewires neurons in the brain so that the behavior becomes easier over time.
If you feel that people get away with treating you badly, or if you have trouble saying no, or if you fail to stand up for yourself then pay attention to the activation level in your body in the moment when this is happening to you. Noticing the internal lack of response (not getting angry when you should) will help you speak up.

As you become more assertive your relationships will become more authentic.

I also grew up in danger and so my body is often on high alert even when there is nothing scary going on. I often pause and feel my body and I notice tension, shallow breathing, accelerated heart rate and a closed throat.

You can calm your body down by visualizing tender moments with people you love, such as your children, when you feel a high level of fear or defensiveness in your body. I sometimes wake up at night and I feel restless. I know that my body is highly activated for no reason.

At these times I visualize emotional moments with my kids or my kitten cuddling into my neck. Doing this calms my internal state very quickly and I am able to fall back asleep. I even had success with the practice of visualization during a stressful negotiation not long ago, and the result was very favorable for me.

People whose bodies are in a state of over- or under- arousal are not open to deep emotional connection and tend to have troubled relationships. My life has improved tremendously with respect to my relationships since I started therapy and mindfulness.

I’m not all better yet, rewiring the brain takes time but so much has already improved for me. I hope that sharing my experience will provide some value to others who are struggling with similar issues to myself.

Salma works in technology and is a mother to two boys and two cats. She enjoys writing on many different topics including parenting, technology, her upbringing in the Muslim culture, PTSD from growing up in the third word and other life experiences. You can find more of her blog posts on Medium.

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