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Billionaire Beach Villain Vinod Khosla has a thought concerning Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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Vinod Khosla is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who chose to define his legacy through a spectacular legal battle to block access to the public part of a beach area he owns in California.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is the youngest woman ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, whose openly progressive positions (especially a proposal to tax rich people's incomes at 70% after the first $10,000,000 a year) have shocked conservatives into an all-consuming hysteria. Moreover, she's very good at Twitter.

Political analyst Anand Giridharadas remarked, this weekend, that the right's condescension and sneering at "AOC" threatened to expose its parochial instincts:

"If you think a freshman congresswoman who actually connects with people and actually understands new technology is the problem with America," Giridharadas wrote, "it may be that you are the problem with America."

Vinod Khosla, however, doubled down on the condescension.

"That is assuming she understands basic economics, actual humans and technology. I doubt if any of those are true."

This would be an unremarkable sentiment if its author had 22 followers and an 8-digit number in their Twitter handle. But in this case it's one of America's richest men. It's so wrong at each turn it only illustrates the hapless self-regard for which The New York Times mocked him as the "beach villain" this generation deserves—and an obvious proxy for the Valley's broader culture.

That is assuming she understands basic economics

Ocasio-Cortez holds a degree in Economics from Boston University and worked 18 hours a day to fend off a bank's attempt to foreclose on her family home. Khosla has a plan to 3D-print little houses for homeless people.

, actual humans

Ocasio-Cortez deposed the leader-in-waiting of the Democratic Party, was elected the youngest congresswoman in history, and instantly became America's second-most discussed politician. Khosla struggles to understand why blocking access to a popular public beach has made him unpopular.

, technology

Khosla is a successful tech investor, but his public endgame encompasses Twitter rants about the Times, defending his trade's record on sexual harassment, and saying mean things about women and "liberal bigots". AOC quotes Alan Moore to the men who say she should be reined in and crafts the laws that govern us. In this is a generational distiction – technology as a road, technology as abode. Who, here, lives with technology?

I doubt if any of those are true.

“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”
— William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

Photo: Shutterstock

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diannemharris
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satadru
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New York, NY
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TOGSolid
1 day ago
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"That is assuming she understands basic economics"

She literally has a degree in economics but, lol ok, sure Jan.
fxer
1 day ago
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If you feel like committing mental suicide for the day HackerNews comment sections are always filled with techbros defending Khosla
Bend, Oregon
TOGSolid
1 day ago
Techbros are inherently scumbags so it's not surprising they'd go to bat for Khosla. They all want to be just like him.

Border Patrol union deletes 2012 anti-border wall web page that argued walls waste taxpayer money

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A union that represents agents for the U.S. Border Patrol deleted a 2012 page from their website that said building walls or fences along the U.S./Mexico border to stop desperate migrants would be “wasting taxpayer money.”

VICE's Motherboard reports that the deleted web page was originally posted in 2012. It carried an argument against walls like the one Trump's pushing today, and said border barriers don’t tackle migration's root causes, and may encourage more migrants to enter the U.S. through visa overstay.

The Wayback Machine archives at archive.org show the page was deleted after the union's president supported building a border wall with Donald Trump in the White House Briefing Room on January 3, 2019.

Video of that stunt above.

From Motherboard:

That statement came from the official website of the NBPC’s “Media FAQ” page which argued at length against the policy of building border walls. The page, originally published in October 2012, was deleted on or after January 4, according to archives obtained through the Wayback Machine. This was the day after the press briefing, and four days before President Trump gave a prime-time television address arguing for Congress to spend $5.7 billion in order to build a larger wall along the US-Mexico border.

“Walls and fences are temporary solutions that focus on the symptom (illegal immigration) rather than the problem (employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens),” the now-deleted page says.

The Media FAQ page has not been replaced, and a link to the Media FAQ page has also been removed from the NBPC website. The NBPC did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment. Though the FAQ argues at length against building a wall, it does note that “as long as we continue to operate under the current [National Border Patrol Strategy] and ignore the problem that is causing illegal immigration, we realize fences and walls are essential.”

The deletion of pages on federally-funded, .gov websites—such as the Environmental Protection Agency pages relating to climate change—can be caused by top-down mandates from the Trump administration. But the NBPC website exists at a .org rather than a .gov web address, and it is unclear what specifically spurred the deletion of the Media FAQ page. The White House did not immediately return Motherboard’s request for comment.

Here's a screengrab, via VICE.

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diannemharris
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If ever you doubted the existence of media bias…

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Say “motherfucker” once, and the media melts down; but when a representative announces his allegiance to racist white supremacy, it’s business as usual.

I tried to rationalize this. Maybe “motherfucker” is more sound-bitey? But it’s also kind of generic, and lots of people have said far worse about various politicians. And you would think that a politician openly embracing a racist ideology would be far more newsworthy and would inspire a lot more discussion than a profanity, about which you really can’t say a whole lot.

I think it means the media, and our country, takes racism for granted. Add to that fact that Rashida Tlaib’s exclamation was an opportunity to exercise that racism by bashing a brown woman, and I think we’ve got the root cause of the discrepancy thoroughly covered.

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A medieval woman’s work left blue pigment on her teeth

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Archaeologists recently unearthed the skeleton of a woman they say was probably a skilled artist who helped produce the richly illustrated religious texts of medieval Europe. The woman lived sometime between 997 and 1162 CE, according to radiocarbon dating of her teeth, at a small women’s monastery called Dalheim in Lichtenau, Germany. And she died with tiny flecks of expensive lapis lazuli pigment still caught in her teeth, probably from licking the tip of her paintbrush to make a finer point.

There’s something in your teeth

During the Middle Ages, the vivid blue pigment called ultramarine was made with powdered, purified lazurite crystals, which come from the rare stone lapis lazuli. Because it’s only mined in northeast Afghanistan, the mineral had to travel thousands of miles by land and sea through far-flung trade networks to reach Europe. It was fabulously expensive, ranking alongside silver and gold, and it would have been used to paint illustrations in only the most lavish, ornate, and expensive illuminated manuscripts. That means that only the most skilled, experienced painters would have access to it. Obviously, this unnamed medieval woman must have been exceptionally good at her work.

She died somewhere between the ages of 45 and 60, and her bones suggest a life of very little physical work or disease, which is exactly what you’d expect from a woman who spent her days painting at an isolated monastery. Anthropologist Christina Warinner of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and her colleagues took samples of her fossilized dental plaque, or calculus, in 2014 to check for microscopic remains of plants, which would offer clues about the medieval woman’s diet. But when they dissolved the sample to extract the plant bits, the process also released hundreds of tiny blue particles.

“It came as a complete surprise,” Aniti Radini of the University of York, co-first author on the study, said in a statement to the press. She and her colleagues used spectroscopy to analyze the chemical composition of the mysterious blue flecks. It wasn’t hard to find a match; most blue pigments used during the Middle Ages contain metal—usually cobalt, copper, or iron. Only lazurite doesn’t; it’s rich in sulfur, instead.

The blue flecks of lazurite came with microscopic bits of a clear mineral called phlogopite, another ingredient in lapis lazuli. It’s rich in iron and magnesium, and it’s possible to trace the ratio of those two elements to specific mining spots in northeast Afghanistan. Using this, Warinner and her colleagues could eventually be able to tell exactly where Dalheim’s scribes and painters got their pigment.

The team found lazurite particles embedded in the calculus on several of the unnamed woman’s teeth, which suggests that licking the tip of her brush was a habit she practiced over a long period of time. It’s another reminder that your dental plaque will probably give future archaeologists a truly unnerving amount of information about your personal life, but it also means that this woman probably spent a long career painting illustrations into ornate manuscripts, working with the most valuable tools of the trade available at the time.

Putting herself back in the narrative

And that offers a glimpse into the mostly hidden work of “the modest and pious women who quietly produced the books of medieval Europe,” as Warinner and her colleagues write. Recent historical research suggests that for much of the Middle Ages, nuns were prolific producers of religious books, especially in Germany and Austria, where records as early as the 700s CE mention books transcribed and illuminated by women. In Germany, about 4,000 books produced between 1200 and 1500 CE can be attributed to 400 specific female scribes.

For the early Medieval period, when the unnamed illuminator of Dalheim lived and worked, it’s a different story. Fewer records—and fewer books—survive from those early days. And even at surviving libraries of women’s monasteries before 1100 CE, only about one percent of the books can be clearly connected with female scribes and painters.

But the woman from Dalheim tells us, through the telltale blue flecks in her mouth, that women were scribing and painting manuscripts in medieval Europe, even if history had forgotten them. Until the 1400s CE, most scribes and painters didn’t sign their work, as a mark of humility, and that has largely erased women from the record, leaving historians to assume all the scribes were men.

“The case of Dalheim raises questions as to how many other early women’s communities in Germany, including communities engaged in book production, have been similarly erased from history,” wrote Warinner and her colleagues. Warinner added in a statement to the press, “This woman’s story could have remained [hidden] forever without these techniques. It makes me wonder how many other artists we might find in medieval cemeteries—if we only look.”

Though archaeologists now know her story, the medieval illustrator’s name remains lost. A couple of centuries after her death, Dalheim burned to the ground, leaving behind no records, no books, and no markers on the graves in the small cemetery beside the church. As early 20th-century author Virginia Woolf once wrote, “For most of history, anonymous was a woman.”

Science Advances, 2018. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau7126 ;(About DOIs).

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diannemharris
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acdha
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Trump lies his way through a visit to Mexican border

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WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump lied his way through a visit to the Mexican border on Thursday, returning again and again to false claims as he attempted to promote his proposed wall project.

Trump has been consistently dishonest about immigration during the government shutdown that continued into its 20th day. It does not appear, though, that the tactic is working for him. Democrats remain unmoved by his insistence on $5.7 billion in wall funding, and polls suggest more voters blame Trump than blame Democrats for the impasse.

The Thursday dishonesty barrage began even before Trump left Washington. He told reporters that when he had promised during his campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, he had never said this would be a direct payment.

“Obviously I never said this, and I never meant, ‘they’re going to write out a cheque,’” he said, adding: “When I said ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously they’re not going to write a cheque. They are paying for the wall indirectly.”

He had not used the word “cheque” during the campaign, but he had, in fact, made clear he was talking about a direct payment. A document still on his campaign website promised he would threaten Mexico with financial harm until it made an “easy” decision: “make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion.”

Trump got more specifically dishonest on Thursday when he arrived in McAllen, Texas for an immigration roundtable at a Border Patrol station. He said he had never said Mexico would write a cheque “for $20 billion or $10 billion.” Ten billion, again, was a specific amount his campaign said Mexico might pay.

Trump claimed that the indirect payment he is now talking about would effectively be made by Mexico through the new North American trade agreement he has negotiated with Canada and Mexico. But that is simple nonsense. Even if the agreement is eventually approved — Congress might take years before voting on it — it will never create a funding stream that can be allocated to an infrastructure project.

In McAllen, Trump derided critics who dismiss walls as outdated and ineffective. He said some old technology, like the wheel, is timeless.

“A wheel is older than a wall,” he said. He repeated it a few seconds later: “The wheel is older than the wall. Do you know that?”

Defensive walls predate wheels by thousands of years. (Jericho’s famous wall existed around 8,000 BC; the wheel is thought to have been invented around 3,500 BC.)

Seeking to portray Democrats as divided on the shutdown, Trump described a “big article” in which he said newly elected Democrats broke with party leadership and described the party’s “no wall” position as “indefensible.” That did not happen. An article in Politico merely included two Democrats expressing mild concern about how voters would respond to the extended shutdown. Both of them continue to oppose the wall.

Trump again sought to use past presidents to bolster his case for the wall, suggesting that they too had wanted to build a wall: “They were going to build this wall in 2003, in 2006. They were going to build it 20 years ago. They were going to build it forever.”

Not true. While George W. Bush approved 700 miles of border fencing in 2006 — not the kind of giant concrete wall Trump campaigned on — Democrat Bill Clinton was president 20 years ago, and he made no effort to build a wall. Nor did Republican predecessors George H.W. Bush or Ronald Reagan; Reagan explicitly opposed the idea.

As he did in his Tuesday prime-time address, Trump offered a misleading description of Democrats’ position on the wall. This time, he said, “They said, ‘We don’t want a concrete wall.’ I said, ‘That’s OK, we’ll call it a steel barrier.’” Democrats have objected to the project on the whole, not to Trump’s choice of material.

Trump left the Border Patrol station and went to the border itself at the Rio Grande. There, he told reporters, “The nice part about the wall or the barrier is I can have that worked out in 15 minutes. We can start construction.” The construction process, which involves planning, study, contracting and contentious property acquisition, would not begin nearly that fast.

Trying to exaggerate the problem of illegal immigration, Trump said of the Border Patrol: “They have done a fantastic job. Never so many apprehensions, ever, in our history.” In reality, the number of apprehensions on the Mexican border in 2018, about 400,000, was not even a quarter of the total in 2000.

There have been fewer apprehensions during this decade than in any decade since the 1970s.

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8

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acdha
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Dear NYT: this is what honest journalism looks like
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Federal Workers’ Union Sues Over Forced Work Without Pay During Shutdown - Talking Points Memo

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A union representing 150,000 government employees — including workers at the IRS, Customs and Border Protection, EPA, FDA and other agencies — sued the government Wednesday, saying the Trump administration had too broadly interpreted a law that requires certain federal employees to work without pay during shutdowns.

“If employees are working, they must be paid—and if there is not money to pay them, then they should not be working,” Tony Reardon, the national president of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), said in a press release accompanying the suit.

Thousands of employees across several agencies have been working without pay as the partial government shutdown drags on.

The law in question, the Antideficiency Act, says the government may require employees to work during shutdowns in “emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.” It was later amended to clarify that “the term ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property’ does not include ongoing, regular functions of government the suspension of which would not imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

That latter category of work, the NTEU said in a complaint filed Wednesday, is exactly what the Trump administration — and specifically acting chief of staff and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who approved agencies’ shutdown contingency plans — has allowed to take place.

“Many of the employees designated as excepted, in accordance with the OMB directive, including many members of Plaintiff NTEU, are persons whose services involve only ‘the ongoing, regular functions of government, the suspension of which would not imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property,’” the complaint reads in part. “Their excepted status is thus inconsistent with the plain text of the Antideficiency Act.”

As an example, the union said the administration will likely force some IRS workers to help process Americans’ tax refunds.

“These employees would not be paid for the work that they perform during the lapse in appropriations,” the complaint reads.

The union asked the court to declare the Antideficiency Act unconstitutional, for bypassing Congress’ power of the purse, or, alternatively, to declare the Trump administration in violation of the plain text of the law because of its over-broad interpretation of who is considered an excepted employee.

The suit followed a separate legal effort from members of the union alleging that the administration has violated the Fair Labor Standards Act during the shutdown. The union held rallies across the country Thursday to highlight the impact of federal workers losing pay during the shutdown.

Read the suit below:

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acdha
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A good example of why we need unions
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