This Thanksgiving, Disagree Politically without Disrespecting Each Other
The amount of political disagreement in the nation is matched only by righteous indignation. But in order to disagree without disrespecting each other, we need to look hard at our own positions.
Van Jones is a social entrepreneur, CNN political contributor and host of The Messy Truth with Van Jones. Famous for his heart-felt election night coverage, Jones showed up as “the voice of reason” for people in red states and blue throughout the volatile 2016 political season. In response to much civil unrest and energy post-election, Jones launched the #Love Army -- a values-based movement that is working for an America where everyone counts.
Jones has founded and led numerous social enterprises engaged in social and environmental justice, including The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color of Change, and The Dream Corps.
Jones is a Yale-educated attorney. He is the author of two New York Times best-selling books, The Green Collar Economy (2008) and Rebuild the Dream (2012). The second book chronicles his journey as an environmental and human rights activist to becoming a White House policy advisor.
He was the main advocate for the Green Jobs Act. Signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, the Green Jobs Act was the first piece of federal legislation to codify the term “green jobs.” During the Obama Administration, the legislation has resulted in $500 million in national funding for green jobs training.
In 2009, Jones worked as the green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama. In this role, Jones helped to lead the inter-agency process that oversaw the multi-billion dollar investment in skills training and jobs development within the environmental and green energy sectors.
Jones has been honored with numerous awards and spotlighted on several lists of high achievers, including: the World Economic Forum’s “Young Global Leader” designation; Rolling Stone’s 2012 “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done”; TIME’s 2009 “100 Most Influential People in The World”; and the Root's 2014 "The Root 100." In 2017, Van Jones signed a management deal with Roc Nation, becoming the first political commentator & activist in their family. Jones lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife & two children.
VAN JONES: I think liberals have a very hard time understanding their role in creating the market for Trump. I think we have a view of ourselves that has a bunch of blind spots in it in terms of how we’re showing up.
I’ve gone all across the country, I got a chance to go to West Virginia, the red parts of Indiana and Michigan, even the red counties in California, I’ve gone to the border, and it gives you the chance to really kind of see the world from the other side as a liberal, as a progressive.
One of the things that I think that we don't understand and that we have a hard time getting our heads wrapped around is we often commit the same mistakes with people in the red states that we accuse conservatives of committing.
For instance, if you only listen to NPR, only watch CNN and only read the New York Times and say “I know what’s happening,” then you’re committing the same kind of mistake as somebody who only reads the Wall Street Journal, watches FOXNews and listens to Rush Limbaugh on the radio—which is not to say that CNN is as far left as FOX is to the right, it’s to say that there’s a particular set of assumptions that you’re being reinforced in, a particular set of ideas. And so you might assume then that any rational person would be outraged by what you’re outraged by and even have the same information that you have, but that’s just not true.
We can sometimes come across in ways that are offensive to people who are in the red states and who are conservative, which shocks a lot of liberals. “I’m not offensive and I’m not offending anybody; I’m liberal I’m up for everybody! I believe in diversity! I believe in inclusion!” But it sounds the same way. A lot of times you challenge conservatives and say, “Listen sometimes you guys sound really racist.”
“Oh my God I’m not – I don’t have a racist bone in my body. You’re nuts! Quit playing the race card on me!”
It’s the same basic thing. Listen to what folks are saying.
I listen to liberals, they say—they basically treat red states the same way that colonizers treat Third World countries.
“These are ignorant backwaters in the south, full of unwashed, uneducated dumb people, and what we need to do is convert them to our NPR religion and forcefeed them some kale so they can actually rise to our level! And once they rise to our level then they’ll be smart enough to quit falling for dumb tricks from their republican masters.”
And I’m like, do you hear yourself? Do you hear how you sound?! Nobody should follow anybody who thinks that way about them.
Just like most people of color will never follow a lot of the Republican Party as it talks about people today “because you don’t have any respect; you don’t understand what you’re talking about; you’re looking down on us and then telling us that ‘we’re dumb if we don’t vote for you.’”
No, we’re dumb if we vote for you, and it’s the same way in reverse.
Let me tell you the kind of stuff liberal say all the time, that liberals think it's perfectly reasonable, perfectly rational, and it’s offensive and wrong. Liberals say about conservatives, especially low-income white conservatives who vote for republicans, that these people are “voting against their own economic self-interest and it's because they're not well educated, if they really understood what was going on they would never vote for these people because they’re voting against their economic self-interest, which is stupid.”
Okay, let's take that apart. Do you know the white people who consistently vote against their own economic self-interest? I'll tell you who: rich, white liberals who vote for tax increases to pay for programs their kids will never use! They’re voting against their economic self-interest!
We don’t think that makes them ignorant, stupid doofs—we think that makes them awesome! “That’s the best thing about rich white liberals, is that they put their values over their money. Their values are more important than their money. They don’t just care about money, they care about their values.” …Interesting. Huh.
So if you put your values over your money you are a noble person, you’re not an idiot, you’re a noble person.
Well that low-income white guy who has been voting for Republicans the whole time will tell you “well guess what? I'm putting my values over money and I’m telling you I don’t want America’s government to go and rob some rich family and take their money and bring it over to my house and try to bribe me! I don’t want America’s government to rob a rich family and use the money to try to bribe me to be dependent on them or anybody else! I don't want America's government to take that money and undermine my parenting choices. If my kids are so stupid they drop out of school, get on drugs and have a bunch of babies, I don't want the government to bail them out. Let them learn a tough lesson that that's a dumb way to live your life. I'm putting my values of independence and common sense over whatever money the government might be able to give me. Even if it hurts me economically, my values are more important.”
Now listen, I would disagree with that guy. Is that a great strategy for building a middle-class? I disagree. But I wouldn’t say the guy is stupid. I can disagree without disrespecting.
See, we don’t have to agree, in fact the whole point of democracy is you get to disagree! Dictatorship, you can’t disagree. Democracy, you get to disagree. That’s called freedom. We like that. That’s good. But you don’t have to disrespect, and you shouldn’t disregard.
And these are the kinds of mistakes that liberals make every day, and you see them on TV, you hear them on the radio, you see them, and if you are that red state voter the one thing you know is “these people hold me in contempt. They look down on me, they don’t respect me, they don’t understand me, and now I can’t vote for them.”
And that’s a big part of what’s going on. We are not as good as we think we are with this inclusion thing, with this understanding thing, with this empathy thing. A lot of us grew up in neighborhoods or in circumstances where the straight white male had power and was abusing that power, and so we formed an opposition to that abuse of power. And it’s very hard for us to actually be able to go on the other side and say “wait, there may be some situational circumstances where maybe we’ve got some power that we aren’t using fairly, where we may have come to some assumptions or some conclusions or have some prejudices that in some circumstances we may be the ones who are mistreating people or misunderstanding people.”
That’s tough, because when you've been in that one down situation and been mistreated for so long and you still are being mistreated—as a woman, as a person of color, as an LGBT—and you're still being triggered every day and you're still being re-traumatized every day; for somebody to say “Yes, and the truth is messy. There may be some situations where maybe you’re reenacting some of the very things that you would never want and you may be showing some prejudices, even though you’ve been a victim of prejudice your whole life.” Nobody wants to hear that, but that’s a part of what’s happening.
And so, without ever relaxing our relentless fight for justice for the people who have been traditionally left out we also have to start opening our heart a little bit more and our ears a little bit more for people who may now newly be feeling left out, either because of their economic situation—it’s stagnant or declining—or maybe because they just don’t fit in to the new arrangement the way they used to and so they may have some hurts, they may have some ouchies, they may have some need for a hug and some understanding.
And that's the next level. Once we do that we’ll be fine. I believe we can peel off enough people who may have voted for Trump (or who may have stayed home) that we’ll be alright. But if we’re not willing to look in the mirror, we’re going to end up where we’re headed, and where we’re headed is very bad.
I think the fundamental thing that I would say to conservatives is that it appears that what we used to call conservatism has been replaced by something else, and a very sneaky set of maneuvers has given us not true conservatism but just anti-liberalism, and that that is a fundamental problem.
A conservative would defend America from all enemies, foreign and domestic, including any allegation that a foreign power tried to mess with our democracy.
We would expect our conservative friends to be at the forefront of defending American democracy, but that is no longer kosher because it would put you in bed with the liberals who are screaming about Russian interference.
“And so I’m not going to defend the country because I’ve got to stay anti-liberal,” they’ve got to be against the liberals.
There are so many conservative opportunities in unlikely communities, so many opportunities for conservatives to make real progress in unlikely communities, but for some reason they don’t do it.
Who is more passionate about marriage and adoption than Republicans (who are pro-family and anti-abortion) and lesbian and gay couples (who want to get married and adopt kids)? So the two biggest champions of marriage and adoption don’t work together because Republicans don’t see their ally—they literally don’t see that the LGBT community is actually the ONE community in America whose marriage rates are going up, as opposed to all the rest of us, and who understand the need for adoption and fight for it.
The Muslim community should be embraced and celebrated by conservatives, because look at the work ethic, look at the low-level divorce rate, look at the incredible premium on entrepreneurship and education, look at the commitment to family and faith.
The Muslim community should be ripe picking for conservatives, but instead they’re Al Qaeda, they’re all lumped into the most negative category.
The same with African Americans. The two strongest institutions in the black community? Hip-hop and the church. Churchgoers? That’s some Republican stuff.
Mostly Democrats are on a secular thing, or “spiritual but not religious.”
African-Americans incredibly strong churchgoers.
Hip-hop? Nobody is rapping about being on welfare, it’s about entrepreneurship, it’s about material access, and that’s very, very consistent with republican values.
But the only thing you hear about black folks on a lot of the conservative TV stuff is all negative. There’s no celebration of our religiosity or our entrepreneurial drive, it’s just all “look at these lazy criminals.”
Well, when you don’t find a way to connect with African-Americans, Muslims, LGBT stuff, the stuff you actually agree on? That’s when people start asking tough questions about “what is this?”
Conservatism? It seems to be marbled with a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with conservative ideas: Some anxieties, some maybe bigotries, some antagonisms, maybe some white solidarity identity politics or white grievance politics. Something else is in the batter than just conservative ideas, because conservative ideas can play very well across the demographic spectrum.
And so I don't want Republicans to stop being Republicans. I think I've never seen a bird fly with only a left wing or only a right wing, a bird needs two wings to fly, so you need conservatives, you need liberals.
But we need better conservatives. We need conservatives who really are willing to put the country first, who not only just saying, “Well I'm not prejudiced, I would've never...”
Well don't just say it! Then show it, do it. You’re concerned about what’s going on in Chicago and you want to say “look at those black people killing each other.” No: those are Americans dying in Chicago.
“Police are killing black people.”
No, police are killing unarmed Americans. American police are killing unarmed Americans.
Show up. Go to the funerals. Talk to the grandmas. Show how your conservative ideas can help. Jack Kemp did that. I haven’t seen a Jack Kemp Republican since he died.
So you asked the question, what I say to conservatives? I would say: “stay conservative.” I'm going to stay liberal. We can constructively disagree and make the country better.
I'm going to try to make the Democrats better, but you’ve got to try to make Republicans better.
It's not that you're conservative, it’s that you’ve now become—you’ve curdled into something that’s more anti-liberal than actually for ideals and ideas that can appeal to everybody and bring the country together. Get back to that and we’ll be better off.
The amount of political disagreement in the nation is matched only by righteous indignation. But in order to disagree without disrespecting each other, we need to look hard at our own positions, and Van Jones does just that. Exposing liberal hypocrisy on issues like economic self-interest and inclusion, Jones bravely crosses political lines that have come to define our comfort zones. Conservatives, too, need to look closely at where their party has departed from its traditional focus on family, faith, and work ethic. Disagreement is essential in a democracy, but disrespect is tearing at our social fabric. Van's latest book is Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart, How We Come Together.
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A study finds that baby mammals dream about the world they are about to experience to prepare their senses.
- Researchers find that babies of mammals dream about the world they are entering.
- The study focused on neonatal waves in mice before they first opened their eyes.
- Scientists believe human babies also prime their visual motion detection before birth.
Imagine opening your eyes for the first time as a brand new baby. The world is so mysterious, full of obstacles and strange shapes. And yet it does not take babies all that long to get their bearings, to latch on to their parents, and to start interacting. How do they do this so quickly? A new study published in Science proposes that babies of mammals dream about the world they are about to enter before being born, developing important skills.
The team, led by professor Michael Crair, who specializes in neuroscience, ophthalmology, and visual science, wanted to understand why when mammals are born, they are already somewhat prepared to interact with the world.
"At eye opening, mammals are capable of pretty sophisticated behavior," said Craig, "But how do the circuits form that allow us to perceive motion and navigate the world? It turns out we are born capable of many of these behaviors, at least in rudimentary form."
Unusual retinal activity
The scientists observed waves of activity radiating from the retinas of newborn mice before their eyes first open. Imaging shows that soon after birth, this activity disappears. In its place matures a network of neural transmissions that carries visual stimuli to the brain, as explained by a Yale press release. Once it reaches the brain, the information is encoded for storage.
What's particularly unusual about this neonatal activity is that it demonstrates a pattern that would happen if the animal was moving forward in its environment. As the researchers write in the study, "Spontaneous waves of retinal activity flow in the same pattern as would be produced days later by actual movement through the environment."
Crair explained that this "dream-like activity" makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, as it helps the mouse get ready for what will happen to it after it opens its eyes. It allows the animal to "respond immediately to environmental threats," Crair shared.
What is creating the waves?
The scientists also probed what is responsible for creating the retinal waves that mimic forward motion. They turned on and off the functionality of starburst amacrine cells — retinal cells that release neurotransmitters — and discovered that blocking them stopped the retinal waves from flowing, which hindered the mouse from developing the ability to react to visual motion upon birth. These cells are also important to an adult mouse, affecting how it reacts to environmental stimuli.
Graphic showing the origin and functionality of directional retinal waves.Michael C. Crair et al, Science, 2021.
What about human babies?
While the study focused on mice, human babies also seem to be able to identify objects and motion right after birth. This suggests the presence of a similar phenomenon in babies before they are born.
"These brain circuits are self-organized at birth and some of the early teaching is already done," Crair stated. "It's like dreaming about what you are going to see before you even open your eyes."
The non-contact technique could someday be used to lift much heavier objects — maybe even humans.
- Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound waves to move matter through a technique called acoustic trapping.
- Acoustic trapping devices move bits of matter by emitting strategically designed sound waves, which interact in such a way that the matter becomes "trapped" in areas of particular velocity and pressure.
- Acoustic and optical trapping devices are already used in various fields, including medicine, nanotechnology, and biological research.
Sound can have powerful effects on matter. After all, sound strikes our world in waves — vibrations of air molecules that bounce off of, get absorbed by, or pass through matter around us. Sound waves from a trained opera singer can shatter a wine glass. From a jet, they can collapse a stone wall. But sound can also be harnessed for delicate interactions with matter.
Since the 1980s, researchers have been using sound to move matter through a phenomenon called acoustic trapping. The method is based on the fact that sound waves produce an acoustic radiation force.
"When an acoustic wave interacts with a particle, it exerts both an oscillatory force and a much smaller steady-state 'radiation' force," wrote the American Physical Society. "This latter force is the one used for trapping and manipulation. Radiation forces are generated by the scattering of a traveling sound wave, or by energy gradients within the sound field."
When tiny particles encounter this radiation, they tend to be drawn toward regions of certain pressure and velocity within the sound field. Researchers can exploit this tendency by engineering sound waves that "trap" — or suspend — tiny particles in the air. Devices that do this are often called "acoustic tweezers."
Building a better tweezer
A study recently published in the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics describes how researchers created a new type of acoustic tweezer that was able to lift a small polystyrene ball into the air.
Tweezers of Sound: Acoustic Manipulation off a Reflective Surface youtu.be
It is not the first example of a successful "acoustic tweezer" device, but the new method is likely the first to overcome a common problem in acoustic trapping: sound waves bouncing off reflective surfaces, which disrupts acoustic traps.
To minimize the problems of reflectivity, the team behind the recent study configured ultrasonic transducers such that the sound waves that they produce overlap in a strategic way that is able to lift a small bit of polystyrene from a reflective surface. By changing how the transducers emit sound waves, the team can move the acoustic trap through space, which moves the bit of matter.
Move, but don't touch
So far, the device is only able to move millimeter-sized pieces of matter with varying degrees of success. "When we move a particle, it sometimes scatters away," the team noted. Still, improved acoustic trapping and other no-contact lifting technologies — like optical tweezers, commonly used in medicine — could prove useful in many future applications, including cell separation, nanotechnologies, and biological research.
Could future acoustic-trapping devices lift large and heavy objects, maybe even humans? It seems possible. In 2018, researchers from the University of Bristol managed to acoustically trap particles whose diameters were larger than the sound wavelength, which was a breakthrough because it surpassed "the classical Rayleigh scattering limit that has previously restricted stable acoustic particle trapping," the researchers wrote in their study.
In other words, the technique — which involved suspending matter in tornado-like acoustic traps — showed that it is possible to scale up acoustic trapping.
"Acoustic tractor beams have huge potential in many applications," Bruce Drinkwater, co-author of the 2018 study, said in a statement. "I'm particularly excited by the idea of contactless production lines where delicate objects are assembled without touching them."
Evolution proves to be just about as ingenious as Nikola Tesla
- For the first time, scientists developed 3D scans of shark intestines to learn how they digest what they eat.
- The scans reveal an intestinal structure that looks awfully familiar — it looks like a Tesla valve.
- The structure may allow sharks to better survive long breaks between feasts.
Considering how much sharks are feared by humans, it is a bit of a surprise that scientists don't know much about the predators. For example, until recently, sharks were thought to be solitary creatures searching the seas for food on their own. Now it appears that some sharks are quite social.
Another mystery is how these prehistoric swimming and eating machines digest food. Although scientists have made 2D sketches of captured sharks' digestive systems based on dissections, there is a limit to what can be learned in this way. Professor Adam Summers at University of Washington's Friday Harbor Labs says:
"Intestines are so complex, with so many overlapping layers, that dissection destroys the context and connectivity of the tissue. It would be like trying to understand what was reported in a newspaper by taking scissors to a rolled-up copy. The story just won't hang together."
Summers is co-author of a new study that has produced the first 3D scans of a shark's intestines, which turns out to have a strange, corkscrew structure. What's even more bizarre is that it resembles the amazing one-way valve designed by inventor Nikola Tesla in 1920. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
What a 3D model reveals
Video: Pacific spiny dogfish intestine youtu.be
According to the study's lead author Samantha Leigh, "It's high time that some modern technology was used to look at these really amazing spiral intestines of sharks. We developed a new method to digitally scan these tissues and now can look at the soft tissues in such great detail without having to slice into them."
"CT scanning is one of the only ways to understand the shape of shark intestines in three dimensions," adds Summers. The researchers scanned the intestines of nearly three dozen different shark species.
It is believed that sharks go for extended periods — days or even weeks — between big meals. The scans reveal that food passes slowly through the intestine, affording sharks' digestive system the time to fully extract its nutrient value. The researchers hypothesize that such a slow digestive process may also require less energy.
It could be that this slow digestion is more susceptible to back flow given that the momentum of digested food through the tract must be minimal. Perhaps that is why sharks evolved something so similar to a Tesla valve.
What is Tesla's valve doing there?
Above, a Tesla valve. Below, a shark intestine.Credit: Samantha Leigh / California State University, Domi
Tesla's "valvular conduit," or what the world now calls a "Tesla valve," is a one-way valve with no moving parts. Its brilliance is based in fluid dynamics and only now coming to be fully appreciated. Essentially, a series of teardrop-shaped loops arranged along the length of the valve allow water to flow easily in one direction but not in the other. Modern tests reveal that at low flow rates, water can travel through the valve either way, but at high flow rates, the design kicks in. According to mathematician Leif Ristroph:
"Crucially, this turn-on comes with the generation of turbulent flows in the reverse direction, which 'plug' the pipe with vortices and disrupting currents. Moreover, the turbulence appears at far lower flow rates than have ever previously been observed for pipes of more standard shapes — up to 20 times lower speed than conventional turbulence in a cylindrical pipe or tube. This shows the power it has to control flows, which could be used in many applications."
A deeper dive
Summers suggests the scans are just the beginning. "The vast majority of shark species, and the majority of their physiology, are completely unknown," says Summers, adding that "every single natural history observation, internal visualization, and anatomical investigation shows us things we could not have guessed at."
To this end, the researchers plan to use 3D printing to produce models through which they can observe the behavior of different substances passing through them — after all, sharks typically eat fish, invertebrates, mammals, and seagrass. They also plan to explore with engineers ways in which the shark intestine design could be used industrially, perhaps for the treatment of wastewater or for filtering microplastics.
It could fairly be said, though, that Nikola Tesla was 100 years ahead of them.
Australian parrots have worked out how to open trash bins, and the trick is spreading across Sydney.
- If sharing learned knowledge is a form of culture, Australian cockatoos are one cultured bunch of birds.
- A cockatoo trick for opening trash bins to get at food has been spreading rapidly through Sydney's neighborhoods.
- But not all cockatoos open the bins; some just stay close to those that do.
Dumpster-diving trash parrots
In a study about these smart birds just published in Science, researchers define animal culture as "population-specific behaviors acquired via social learning from knowledgeable individuals."
Co-lead author of the study Barbara Klump of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany says, "[C]ompared to humans, there are few known examples of animals learning from each other. Demonstrating that food scavenging behavior is not due to genetics is a challenge."
An opportunity presented itself in a video that co-author Richard Major of the Australian Museum shared with Klump and the other co-authors. In the video, a sulphur-crested cockatoo used its beak to pull up the handle of a closed garbage bin — using its foot as a wedge — and then walked back the lid sufficiently to flip it open, exposing the bin's edible contents.
Major has been studying Cacatua galerita for 20 years and says, "Like many Australian birds, sulphur-crested cockatoos are loud and aggressive." The study describes them as a "large-brained, long-lived, and highly social parrot." Says Major, "They are also incredibly smart, persistent, and have adapted brilliantly to living with humans."(Research regarding some of the ways in which wild animals adapt to the presence of humans has already produced some fascinating results and is ongoing.)
Clever cockie opens bin - 01 youtu.be
The researchers became curious about how widespread this behavior might be and saw a research opportunity. After all, says John Martin, a researcher at Taronga Conservation Society, "Australian garbage bins have a uniform design across the country, and sulphur-crested cockatoos are common across the entire east coast."
Martin continues, "In 2018, we launched an online survey in various areas across Sydney and Australia with questions such as, 'What area are you from, have you seen this behavior before, and if so, when?'"
Word gets around
Credit: magspace/Adobe Stock
Although the cockatoos' maneuver was reported in only three suburbs before 2018, by the end of 2019, people in 44 areas reported observing the behavior. Clearly, more and more cockatoos were learning how to successfully dumpster dive.
As further proof, says Klump, "We observed that the birds do not open the garbage bins in the same way, but rather used different opening techniques in different suburbs, suggesting that the behavior is learned by observing others." One individual bird in north Sydney invented its own method, and the scientists saw it grow in popularity throughout the local population.
To track individual birds, the researchers marked 500 cockatoos with small red dots. Subsequent observations revealed that not all cockatoos are bin-openers. Only about 10 percent of them are, and they are mostly males. The other cockatoos apparently restrict their education to a different lesson: hang around with a bin-opener, and you will get supper.
Thanks to the surveys, the researchers consider the entire project to be a valuable citizen-science experiment. "By studying this behavior with the help of local residents, we are uncovering the unique and complex cultures of their neighborhood birds."