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Category Archives: Seasteading

Discover the hilariously epic failure of a crypto-fueled libertarian cruise – Boing Boing

Posted: September 16, 2021 at 5:50 am

The Guardian has a wonderful chronicle of the rise and fall of an experimental libertarian society built on a cruise ship armed with little more than crypto-mining rigs. Yes really. Did I mention one of the founders was Milton Friedman's grandson? Here's how the journey began

In 2017, Patri Friedman and the "seavangelist" Joe Quirk wrote a book, Seasteading, in which they described how a seasteading community could constantly rearrange itself according to the choices of those who owned the individual floating units. (Quirk now runs the Seasteading Institute; Friedman remains chair of the board.) "Democracy," the two men wrote, "would be upgraded to a system whereby the smallest minorities, including the individual, could vote with their houses."

In the decade following Friedman's talk, a variety of attempts to realise his seasteading vision were all thwarted. "Seavilization," to use his phrase, remained a fantasy. Then, in October 2020, it seemed his dream might finally come true, when three seasteading enthusiasts bought a 245-metre-long cruise ship called the Pacific Dawn. Grant Romundt, Rdiger Koch and Chad Elwartowski planned to sail the ship toPanama, where they were based, and park it permanently off the coastline as the centrepiece of a new society trading only in cryptocurrencies. In homage to Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym of bitcoin's mysterious inventor (or inventors), they renamed the ship the MS Satoshi. They hoped it would become home to people just like them: digital nomads, startup founders and early bitcoin adopters.

Surely a bunch of Silicon Valley Tech Bros could hack their way into disrupting the regulatory apparatus of the ocean to create a Libertarian Utopia, right?

Welp, much like that libertarian community in New Hampshire that was overrun by bears, it seems their focus of hyper-individualism meant overlooking a few key details. For example, you couldn't cook your own food in your unit, not even with a microwave you were forced to engage in commerce with the ship's restaurant. And then of course, there was the issue of what to do with all the waste, both human and otherwise. Which, maybe there'd a solution between "No food" and "What do we do with this poop?" but the founders neglected to consider things like fuel costs and crew costs, too.

What's even more absurd is that this cruise ship was merely intended as a stepping stone to achieve a society of SeaPods little independent Jetson-like pods that sit on a pole above the ocean, where (according to their website) you just sip wine and Bitcoin-mine all day, for freedom.

If these men were more diabolical, they could have probably pulled off something akin to the Scientology Sea Org but alas, they did not. If you're interested in learning more though, the Seasteading website is still up and offering information on other aspirational libertarian communities.

The disastrous voyage of Satoshi, the world's first cryptocurrency cruise ship [Sophie Elmhirst / The Guardian]

Image: Rapid-fire / Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

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Five Doomed Attempts at Planetary Colonization –

Posted: at 5:50 am

Artist rendition of Lunar Colony exterior. (Credit: NASA; art by Rick Guidice)

Recently, there has been on Twitter a discussion of a cryptocurrency-driven seasteading effort so visionary, so unconcerned by petty questions of practicality, legality, and due diligence as to rival Scotlands Darien scheme. A cynic might focus on the entirely predictable outcomeabject failurebut where would humanity be without people willing to commit themselves to bold colonization schemes unburdened by any chance of success? Considerably less amused.

Science fiction, of course, is not restricted to the Earth. It can, when its authors so choose, provide readers with delightful tales of ill-considered and/or unlucky attempts to settle worlds that prove to be much more challenging than anything Earth might offer. Take these five classic examples.

Products of an implausibly successful eugenics project, the long-lived Howard families become the focus of the mayfly masses paranoia that the Howards lifespan is not thanks to inherent genetic gifts but some secret they will not share. Life on Earth swiftly becomes untenable for the Howards. Those who can flee commandeer a sublight starship and flee to the stars, hoping to find a new world they can call home.

Earthlike worlds prove to be surprisingly common. There is however a small catch: the planet the Howards first encounter is already occupied. The alien Jockaira appear roughly comparable to humans. They are in fact property. The planets true masters are godlike, and they have no place for humans. An act of functionally divine will sends the Howards on their way to a world whose gentle natives prove just as advanced in their way as the gods and even more disquieting to mortal humans.

With the right air, the right gravity, a thriving biosphere, and a Sun-like star around which it orbits at the right distance, Fenris appears to qualify as a Class III Earthlike world, a planet unprotected humans can easily settle. Fenris day is the worm in this particular apple. Two thousand hours long, it guarantees extremes of temperature humans cannot survive without advanced, expensive technology.

At its peak, the planet had a quarter million people. Now it is down to ten thousandthose too poor or too stubborn to emigrate to Class III worlds. Fenris rudimentary economy depends on the export of tallow wax. However, exports are controlled by the Hunters Collective, and the Collective is in turn controlled by Steve Ravnick. Ravnick insists tallow wax prices are falling. Is Ravnick lying and pocketing undeclared profits? Unclear. What is clear is that Ravnicks goons will do their best to kill anyone who asks that question.

Mishaps in space tend to produce corpses in abundance. The eight survivors who find themselves on an empty, alien world appear to be extraordinarily fortunate exceptions. They did not die with their starship. While rescue can be ruled out, at least the world on which they will spend the rest of their lives is comparatively habitable.

Eight people equipped with meagre supplies retrieved from a dying starship cannot reasonably expect to colonize an unfamiliar world. Their numbers ensure inbreeding, their lack of equipment leaves them vulnerable to misfortune. The castaways have not so much survived as fallen victim to a more protracted form of death. Not that the certainty of failure deters some from resolving to trying to establish a thriving community in the name of preserving a human species that is flourishingelsewhere.

The unnamed narrator has no desire to be some sort of castaway queen bee. Nor will she allow others to force her to comply. Pressing the point will prove, as her companions discover, quite fatal.

Faster than light travel comes with an insurmountable catch: hyperspace cannot be navigated without a hyperspace beacon at the destination. Such beacons can only be delivered at sublight speeds. By the 25th century, humanity knows of only a dozen life-bearing worlds, only two of which are habitable to humans, one of which is Earth and the other, Sule, is a world whose native civilization is equal to ours. Dreams of New Earth, empty and free for the taking, remain only dreams.

Now, however, a sublight probe proclaims Earth Three has been found. Even better, this pristine world has no cities, towns, or farms. There is no evidence that anything like Sule or Earths civilizations calls this world home. This is because, as unfortunate explorers will discover shortly before their painful demises, this world hosts something quite superior to their forms of life.

Despite incessant seismic activity, the planet Erna was too tempting to pass by. Earthlike worlds are rare. Frequent earthquakes are a small price to pay for a world on which humans can thrive without advanced life support equipment. As the first generation of colonists discovered to their considerable alarm, Erna has characteristics to which human technology is blind, characteristics that would have ruled out settling Erna.

Erna is home to the Fae, a mysterious force that transforms human whim into often horrifying reality. Mundane science and technology depend on natures predictable laws. Thanks to inherently unpredictably Fae, human technology swiftly regressed. Having lost the ability to flee Erna, the colonists distant descendants have no choice but to find some way to co-exist with the Fae or die trying.

No doubt there are far more recent examples of ill-fated colonization attempts, some of which are not Kim Stanley Robinsons Aurora. Feel free to mention them in the comments!

In the words of Wikipedia editor TexasAndroid, prolific book reviewer and perennialDarwin Award nomineeJames Davis Nicoll is of questionable notability. His work has appeared in Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times as well as on his own websites,James Nicoll Reviewsand the Aurora finalistYoung People Read Old SFF(where he is assisted by editorKaren Lofstromand web person Adrienne L. Travis). He is a four-time finalist for the Best Fan Writer Hugo Award and is surprisingly flammable.

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Asgardia: What the first space nation in human history wants to create – Market Research Telecast

Posted: at 5:50 am

Is Asgardia a cult or a sect?

The organization firmly rejects the accusation, which has been raised again and again. In fact, there is one element that all UFO cults have that Asgardia clearly lacks: the belief in being in contact with extraterrestrial civilizations. Asgardia does not support such a narrative. Even a self-proclaimed prophet or spiritual leader does not appear at Asgardia. Politically, the organization is therefore more in line with self-proclaimed micro-nations or libertarian projects such as Seasteading, which want to establish a free state on a platform in international waters that is only guided by entrepreneurial principles.

Is Asgardia a real state?

A state can only be recognized by other states under international law. The recognition of a state presupposes that it actually has the characteristics of a state within the meaning of international law, writes the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in an information leaflet on the subject of the recognition of states. According to the prevailing three-element doctrine, this requires a state territory, a state people and state power (ie an independent government that is effective against outside and inside as an expression of state sovereignty).

Both the items population and government are covered, at least in principle. Asgardia has a constitution and held its first elections in 2018. Critics accuse Asgardia founder and head of state Igor Ashurbeyli, it is more of a constitutional monarchy than a real democracy. Formally, however, the organization is actually open, democratic and self-determined: Everyone who pays a fee of 100 euros receives resident status, an identity document and is allowed to participate in political life. Whether the new state is a democracy or not is in any case irrelevant from a legal point of view.

As for the national territory, however, the situation is less clear. Asgardia launched a micro-satellite into space in 2017 that contains an SSD with 512 GB of data photos and messages from Asgardians. However, it is questionable whether this is enough to symbolically mark ones own national territory, so to speak.

Can Asgardia claim an area in space for itself?

The question has not been finally clarified from a legal point of view. Actually, the so-called Outer Space Treaty officially the Treaty on the Principles for Regulating the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Space is also known as the Outer Space Treaty. This treaty treats the universe in the same way as the high seas on earth.

This article is from issue 5/2021 of the Technology Review. The magazine will be available from July 8th, 2021 in stores and directly in the heise shop. Highlights from the magazine:

The aim of the 1967 treaty was to prevent the militarization of space through the establishment of military bases or the stationing of weapons. According to the treaty, space missions therefore serve all of humanity. According to the treaty, space, including the moon and other celestial bodies may not be occupied or occupied. In addition, every nation is formally legally responsible for objects that it sends into space. The Asgardia satellite is therefore subject to US law.

Whether it follows from all this, however, that no private property can be acquired in space or on celestial bodies, is a matter of dispute among lawyers. In 2015 the US government passed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. The law explicitly allows US citizens to commercially use resources in space. Similar laws are being discussed in other countries such as Russia, China, Japan and Luxembourg.

Is Asgardia the only private organization committed to the colonization of space?

No. Asgardia is the only organization that wants to establish a colony on a space station. The exploration and colonization of other planets is also supported by at least two other large international organizations: The Planetary Society and the Mars Society.

The Planetary Society was founded in 1980 by the American astronomer Carl Sagan, the planetologist Bruce Murray and the aerospace engineer Louis Friedman. Although it does not work directly on plans for alien colonies, it finances the development of novel space technologies such as solar sails as a propulsion system and does public relations and lobbying in support of space activities. The non-governmental organization Mars Society, founded in 1998, is committed to the exploration and colonization of Mars. To this end, the organization also runs its own research projects.

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So You Want to Be an Architect? – Sierra Magazine

Posted: September 12, 2021 at 10:15 am

When I was in college, I remember talking with another student who scoffed at the idea that architects have any effect on the worldthe real power, they said, lay with developers. In the years since, though, Ive seen architects get a lot done, both good and bad. So many factors (how a building is designed, who it is built for, what it is made of, how much energy it uses, how many parking spaces it has) go on to affect the people who live and work there, and the surrounding communityfor decades.

This is part of a series of interviews about what jobs involving the environment are actually likeas opposed to what people think they are like. In earlier installments,I interviewed an environmental lawyer and a wildlife biologist. This time around, Im interviewing Mark Hogan, a founder of OpenScope Studio and an architect who has worked on many different projects (including a visitor center in a forest that is also a cemetery) but has gone on to specialize in urban infill constructionthat is, the kind built within cities, as opposed to on the margins, where a lot of new development happensand accessory dwelling units (small apartments that are added to pre-existing buildings, most commonly known as ADUs).

We talked about youthful idealism, climate change, and what its like to help rewrite city planning code.

So Im wonderingdid your concern about the environment come before or after you were interested in architecture?

I had originally planned to go to architecture when I was in high school, and I was accepted to an architecture program. But then I changed my mind and decided to go into fine art.

I couldn't see past the idea that building more stuff was the problem, basically. I felt like architecture was by default going to be a negative thing for the world, or for the environment, more specifically. And then a couple years later I was living in Buffalo and became very interested in urban density and reversing sprawlthings that are more common in discussion now than they were 20 years ago.

And I realized that architecture was actually a major part of the solution. Architecture and planning didn't have to be the problem, unless you made them the problem. You can decide what type of projects you want to work on. Maybe not when you're fresh out of school and you just need to be able to pay your rent. But ultimately, in the course of your career, you can decide that you dont have to be a part of building more detached houses in the Central Valley or strip malls with 10,000 parking spaces.

For example, there's a fairly high-profile movement of architects who have chosen not to work on any kind of prison projects. There is a consciousness within the profession about thinking about what type of projects you're working on and whether they agree with your values.

So it sounds like you knew that climate change was happening early on. When did you figure that out?

We had to write one research paper in high school English class, and it had to be a topic that was controversial. I wrote about climate change, though this was in the '90s, and global warming probably is what we were calling it. I remember reading all the research and thinking, There doesn't really seem to be any actual debate to this. It was a controversial topic in the sense that, like, people don't want to believe it, but it didnt really seem like any of the scientists were disagreeing about any of this stuff. I was horrified, but there wasn't a very big discussion at the time. When Al Gore's movie came out, that was the first time that I really started hearing about it a lot in the US.

When you went to architecture school, how much did you learn about environmental or sustainable architecture in school versus what you were forced to learn on your own later?

I went to Berkeley, so there was definitely more of a focus on sustainability than you would get elsewhere. It was a core part of the curriculumone of the required classes we had to take was all facets of sustainable design, like installation and designing for solar and passive design strategies and things that a lot of schools don't talk about much.

What is some good advice that you've gotten in the past about your career?

Be intentional about where you work. But also understand when you get out of school that the first job you take probably doesn't really matter that much in the long term, because you're probably going to change jobs quite a few times in the first couple years of your career. It's pretty healthy to do that and figure out what you like and what type of environment you like working inwhether you like working in a bigger firm or a small firm and what type of work you're interested in. I think it's a good experience to try out a bunch of different things to figure out what you're interested in and not obsess too much about getting that perfect job right after graduation.

There's so much pressure to work for free. Its much worse in other countries because it's more clearly illegal now in the US. But it was common for people to take extremely minimally paid or unpaid internships to get stuff on their portfolio for their next job. That is something that's become much less common now.

Did a lot of the people you went to school with stay in architecture?

Not everyone. People who come out of undergrad architecture programs often choose to go into other fields. Berkeley has a huge undergrad architecture program, but it's not considered a professional degree like a master's. You can practice in California, but in most states you need at least a five-year degree to practice.

There is a degree called environmental design that actually prepares students for a wide variety of potential career paths. A lot of those students don't go into architecture, and the ones that do often end up going on to grad school for a two-year program. Once people get to grad school, most of them at least go on to practice for a couple years and then maybe find something else thats design related.

Is there anything you wish you'd known before you went into school for architecture?

I think I learned a lot more once I was in school about how very different programs are. You sort of know the reputations of people who are teaching, but you don't know as much about the day-to-day life and how you're selecting classes and some of those other things may be really different. Because I went to one school and then transferred, I got a firsthand look at how different that process can be depending on the politics of the department and just the whole philosophy around electives and charting your own path versus being handed a schedule.

Based on the experience of friends who've been in architecture programs, it almost seems like it's art school sometimes. But then those same people, once they have jobs, a lot of the actual work seems to be how far is your sink from the wall.

Right before I talked to you, I was having a conversation about sewer laterals. A lot of the day-to-day is figuring out either mundane things or complicated technical things where you're trying to coordinate a lot of other people.

One of the things you don't realize that much about architecture, even while you're in school, is how much of your job is actually coordinating other people's work versus doing your own work. It's such a collaborative field, and you're relying on a lot of consultants and specialists. Your job is often to integrate everything they're doing into a cohesive end product and then communicate that to the client and communicate that to the official who's reviewing the plans, etc. A major part of your work is getting everybody else to work together and interpreting what they're all doing.

It's the opposite of The Fountainhead.

Yeah, it's the direct opposite of The Fountainhead. The lone genius idea is just so stupid and not at all tethered to the way that anyone actually works. The only people who are doing something like that are maybe a two-person firm that's designing fancy private houses. But even then they're hiring a structural engineer and a bunch of other consultants to help them.

Do people who are structural engineers go to architecture school too?

They would go to an engineering program, and then they would have to choose engineering for buildings. That would be more practically focused. And they might be happier because theyd be probably doing more real projects in school.

How did you get involved in reworking San Franciscos standards for ADUs?

That was a research project and a guidebook for the planning departmentit wasn't any kind of binding, legal framework. When we started working on the handbook not even 10 years ago, ADUs could only be built within a very small radius of the Castro Muni station as part of a trial program.

We started to get invited in by a couple of the supervisors to have meetings about what we thought would work and what wouldn't work. So it was a great experience, where we were able to take a nonbinding research project and then have it be turned into almost an advisory role on ADU policy. And then eventually a lot of what was within those San Francisco ADU laws got picked up by state laws that went into effect last year.

How much did the politicians you were dealing with know about what it takes to actually build a building?

I think it was strategic on the part of the planning department to have the handbook produced because it was easy to understand for people who weren't familiar with construction.

The handbook was almost more of a tool to help ease the path for the legislation than to show homeowners how to add an ADU, because you're righta lot of politicians don't have any substantial experience with design or construction. Sometimes their aides came out of the background working for the planning department and could provide more context, but the handbook made it much easier, like, Hey, if this is legal in your district, like this is what it's gonna look like, page 20.

In terms of the jobs that are available to people after they graduate from architecture programs, who tends to be hiring the most?

Right now there are a lot of jobs, and people have more choice as far as what type of jobs they're taking. In a weaker economy, you might end up having to take a job, you know, doing tenant rollouts for Old Navy or something, even though you're not interested in that, because you really just need to put in some hours somewhere where they're going to pay.

Whats a tenant rollout?

There's a whole industry in architecture of firms that basically are just producing construction drawings for chain stores, figuring out how you're going to put like a new Old Navy into a mall somewhere. They are just doing these one after another. Even the Apple stores have fairly prominent architects designing big experiences, but then there's somebody else who's actually figuring out how to put all of those in malls all over the world.

Why do you think there's so many people hiring right now?

There's been a huge housing boom in a lot of parts of the country. So many people are rushing to build more housing now.

It's way too early to kind of make any predictions about where and how people are going to be working or living in another five years from now, given how much things have changed in just a year. But a lot of people have moved around the country. Housing prices in places like Montana went up dramatically, just in the course of the year. Interest rates are super low. So there's like a lot of incentives to start projects right now.

We are still in a housing crisis, though. What's some of the best policy that could happen for getting new housing?

The best things that can happen are changes at higher levels of government. The state ADU law that went into effect last year was great because it took away local control that a lot of cities were just using to prevent anything new from being built. There are arguments to be made for local control, but when it comes to allowing for things like bike lanes and affordable housing, there are a lot of cities that don't want to allow any.

Leveling the playing field statewide and saying you can't just arbitrarily say "you can't build affordable housing" is important. It helps local politicians and planning departments, because in many cases the staff recognizes the need for more housing or safer bike infrastructure, but there's community opposition saying, Don't take out any parking. But if the state says they have to do it, then it's out of their hands.

It hasn't been signed by the governor yet, but in California, there's legislation to officially eliminate single-family zoning and allow for two units per lot that can be sold separately. A separate piece of that allows for dividing parcels in half so that you can actually do four units on an existing lot. Thats not huge, but it's something.

But many of these things have to happen faster. People are hoping the infrastructure bill will help get more transit built, but the timelines for everything are multidecade. I am personally feeling like we don't have that much time anymore.

Figuring out how to build dense places is the most important way we can realistically address climate change. So many of the published solutions are crazy techno-futurist ideas about technologies that aren't even in existence yet as a way of solving for climate change, you know where you're going to build a seasteading community that has a solar power desalination plant or something.

Ah yes. There's a reason people dont build in the sea very often, and its because the sea destroys everything.

It's one of those ideas like building houses out of shipping containers that never goes away. You know, it's really about holistically figuring out how we build better, more sustainable, denser places where people want to live, so that we're not using as many resources and we're not driving as much.

Is there any real-world experience that you would recommend trying before going into architecture school?

An internship is good. There's a lot of architecture firms that will hire people for a marketing or an admin job as a way of trying out the profession. A firm that I worked at briefly had a habit of hiring people for admin positions who were interested in going to architecture school, and most of those people actually did go to architecture school.

I didn't even know this existed before I was in school, but there were people I went to school with that had gone to a pre-architecture school summer program that basically taught them how to make a portfolio to get into architecture school. I had gone to art school, so I had no problem assembling a portfolio, since its not necessarily an architecture portfoliojust things youve worked on. But if somebody was coming out of an English degree and decided that they wanted to go to school, they might realistically have to do something like that in order to have a portfolio to show.

Even simple things are good, like going to a planning commission hearing, honestly. That is a great look into the nuts and bolts of what a lot of architects actually do. People talk about a proposed building and what it's going to look like and how it's going to function, and then you get to hear what other people think about it. Even if you didn't go to architecture school, its fascinating to get that understanding of how local government works.


So You Want to Be an Architect? - Sierra Magazine

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The story of the first "cryptocoin cruise ship" is exactly as weird and dumb as all those words imply – The A.V. Club

Posted: September 10, 2021 at 5:26 am

Its not every day you find a Getty Images picture of the cruise ship youre writing a story about that also has an awesome paddleboarding dog in it. Photo: Brendon Thorne (Getty Images)

We here at The A.V. Club would never suggest that cryptocurrency as a whole is functionally a scam, one in which various participants take turns being con artists and dupes, all racing to be the next person to happily burn large portions of the planets resource in pursuit of a classic Get-Rich-Quick scheme barely obscured by a modern patina of memes and Reddit-friendly libertarianism. We would never suggest that.

Anyway: The Guardian has a fascinating piece this week about the Satoshi, the first hypothetically independent living community operated by a bunch of gullible get-rich dopes burning untold resources on a woefully optimistic scheme powered by their own purported genius who just happened to also be a bunch of cryptocurrency guys. That is, its the story of the efforts to operate a crypto-run cruise ship where people would live, forever, free from taxes, and also the burden of being allowed to cook their own food, because it was a cruise ship. It is, in case you were wondering,exactly as weird and circuitous and frankly dumb a story as all those words in the description make it sound

Written by Sophie Elmhirst, the article tracks the probably-inevitable collision between a trio of crypto dudes and the seasteading movement, the libertarian ethos that argues that the only possible freedom from all these dang governments that own all the dang land is to move out onto the ocean, and then, probably, drown. (Its the kind of theory floated by people who say stuff like Lets think of government as an industry, where countries are firms and citizens are customers! without snickering, to give you a mental picture.) Three such crypto-rich seasteaders ended up running one such venture off the coast of Panama, a few years ago and decided to goose things forward by buying a cruise ship on the cheap (COVID) in order to get some occupants on the books. (This, despite the fact that one of the tenets of the whole seasteading thing is that you can just pull anchor and float away if ad hoc governments start getting too restrictive, something typically seen as very difficult to do with an aft cabin thats two floors down from the lido deck.)

At the risk of venturing into spoiler territory, this was a terrible idea, with the Satoshinamed for the largely anonymous creator of Bitcointurning into a sort of elegantly crafted, floating metaphor for crypto itself: Kind of appealing from a distance, but ultimately disastrous to keep running, and financially ruinous for many involved. (There were also water slides.) At the same time, its a fascinating look at the kind of optimism that probably powers some version of the future, annoyinglyeven if, 99 times out of 100, its directed at trying to convince the Panamanian government that your cruise ship isnt actually a ship so that theyll let you dump your poop runoff without having to sail out into international waters.

You can read Elmhirsts whole story here.

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First Thing: DoJ vows to protect women seeking abortions in Texas – The Guardian

Posted: at 5:26 am

Good morning.

The federal government will take action to protect women in Texas trying to obtain an abortion in the wake of the strictest anti-abortion law in the US taking effect last week, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, announced on Monday.

The Department of Justice said it would not tolerate violence against anyone seeking abortion services in the state and that federal officials were exploring options to challenge the ban on almost all terminations, with the new state law also empowering the public to enforce it in a way critics decry as promoting vigilantism.

United Nations human rights monitors have strongly condemned the state of Texas, which they say violates international law by denying women control over their bodies and endangering their lives.

What did Garland say? He issued a statement that said the DoJ would protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services under a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (or Face) Act.

What did the UN say? Melissa Upreti, the chair of the UNs working group on discrimination against women and girls, condemned the Texas law, SB 8, as structural sex and gender-based discrimination at its worst.

The actor Michael K Williams, best known for his role as Omar Little in The Wire, has died at the age of 54.

Confirming his death to the Hollywood Reporter, Williamss representative said it was with deep sorrow that the family announces the passing of Emmy-nominated actor Michael Kenneth Williams. They ask for your privacy while grieving this unsurmountable loss.

Williams, who is believed to have been found dead at his home in New York, was also known for playing Albert Chalky White in the series Boardwalk Empire from 2010 to 2014. He received an Emmy nomination this year for the role of Montrose Freeman in the series Lovecraft Country, and had appeared in films including 12 Years a Slave and Inherent Vice.

David Simon, creator of The Wire, said on Twitter that he was Too gutted right now to say all that ought to be said. Michael was a fine man and a rare talent and on our journey together he always deserved the best words. And today those words wont come.

Actor John Cusack said Williams was an unbelievably talented artist and that his portrayal of Omar Little was among the greatest performances TV and film has ever seen.

Top Republicans under scrutiny for their role in the events of 6 January have embarked on a campaign of threats and intimidation to thwart a Democratic-controlled congressional panel that is scrutinizing the Capitol attack and opening an expanded investigation into Donald Trump.

Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House select committee into the violent assault on the Capitol, in recent days demanded an array of Trump executive branch records related to the insurrection, as members and counsel prepared to examine what Trump knew of efforts to stop the certification of Joe Bidens election win.

House select committee investigators then asked a slew of technology companies to preserve the social media records of hundreds of people connected to the Capitol attack, including far-right House Republicans who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

What have the Republicans said? The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy decried the select committees investigation as a partisan exercise and said a Republican majority will not forget.

How did members of the committee react? Congressman Jamie Raskin said that he was appalled by McCarthys remarks, which he described as tantamount to obstruction of justice.

Joe Bidens administration is facing mounting pressure amid reports that several hundred people, including Americans, had been prevented for a week from flying out of an airport in northern Afghanistan.

Marina LeGree, the founder and executive director of a small American NGO active in Afghanistan, said 600 to 1,300 people, including girls from her group, had been waiting near the Mazar-i-Sharif airport for as long as a week amid confusion involving the Taliban and US officials.

That number is understood to include 19 Americans, though none are with LeGrees group. Those waiting are being housed in various places in the city, she said.

Its been seven days and nothings moving, LeGree told AFP, adding that six chartered planes were waiting at the airport to evacuate what some officials are calling the NGO group.

The Taliban are simply not letting anything move, he said.

The education of hundreds of millions of children is hanging by a thread as a result of an unprecedented intensity of threats including Covid 19 and the climate crisis, says a report. As classrooms across much of the world prepare to reopen after the summer holidays, a quarter of countries most of them in sub-Saharan Africa have school systems that are at extreme or high risk of collapse, according to Save the Children.

In October 2020, three seasteading enthusiasts bought a 245-metre-long cruise ship called the Pacific Dawn. They planned to sail the ship to Panama, where they were based, and park it permanently off the coastline as the centrepiece of a new society trading only in cryptocurrencies. They hoped it would become home to people just like them: digital nomads, startup founders and early bitcoin adopters. It didnt work out.

In her 35-year career, Bassett seems to have done it all: stage, television, movies; drama, action, comedy, horror, sci-fi, documentaries, animation. She has played everything from civil rights icons and secret service bosses to triple-breasted circus freaks. I guess I am every woman, as Chaka [Khan] sings, its all in me, Bassett laughs. Coming from just about anyone else, this would seem like an immodest boast; with Bassett, it is almost a statement of fact.

Governments around the world gave 20% more in overseas aid funding to fossil fuel projects in 2019 and 2020 than to programmes to cut the air pollution they cause. Dirty air is the worlds biggest environmental killer, responsible for at least 4 million early deaths a year. But only 1% of global development aid is used to tackle this crisis, according to an analysis from the Clean Air Fund (CAF).

Want more environmental stories delivered to your inbox? Sign up to our Green Light newsletter to get the good, bad and essential news on the climate every week.

Nicolas Gentile, a 37-year-old Italian pastry chef, did not just want to pretend to be a hobbit he wanted to live like one. First, he bought a piece of land in the countryside of Bucchianico, near the town of Chieti in Abruzzo, where he and his wife started building their personal Shire from JRR Tolkiens fictional Middle-earth. Some time ago, I realised that books and films were no longer enough for me to satisfy my passion for the fantasy genre and, in particular, for the Lord of the Rings saga, Gentile said.

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First Thing: DoJ vows to protect women seeking abortions in Texas - The Guardian

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Beyond the culture wars – New Statesman

Posted: September 4, 2021 at 5:50 am

Half a decade on, Brexit and Trump remain shorthand for the rise of right-wing populism and a profound unsettling of liberal democracies. One curious fact is rarely mentioned: the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Remain in 2016 had similar-sounding slogans, which spectacularly failed to resonate with large parts of the electorate: Stronger Together and Stronger in Europe. Evidently, a significant number of citizens felt that they might actually be stronger, or in some other sense better off, by separating. What does that tell us about the fault lines of politics today?

Conventional wisdom has it that cultural divisions now matter most, and that plenty of people feel they have nothing in common with liberal, supposedly globalist elites. Yet that idea is not only empirically dubious; it also uncritically adopts a cultural framing of political conflict that plays into the hands of the right, if not the far right. The divisions that threaten democracies are increasingly economically driven, a development that has been obscured by the rhetorical strategies of a right committed to plutocratic populism.

Democracies today face a double secession. One is that of the most privileged. They are often lumped together under the category of liberal cosmopolitan elites, which is an invective thrown around by populist leaders, but also a term employed by a growing number of pundits and social scientists. This designation is misleading in many ways. While it is true that certain elites are mobile, they are not necessarily cosmopolitan or liberal in any strong moral sense if by cosmopolitan we do not mean folks with the highest frequent flyer status but those committed to the idea that all humans stand in the same moral relation to each other, regardless of borders.

Value commitments are not necessarily related to travel patterns; the worlds most influential cosmopolitan philosopher, Immanuel Kant, never left his hometown Knigsberg. While plenty of wealthy people make a big show of international charity work, one would search in vain for advocates of what in political philosophy might possibly be called genuine global justice. And we should not forget that, in the 1990s and early 2000s, globalisation was justified not by emphasising its beneficial effects on the world but the advantages it would bestow on individual nations.

Economic and administrative elites still follow education and career paths that are distinctly national. My students at Princeton University might go to work for a multinational company and be posted overseas, but they cannot go anywhere they cannot simply decide, for instance, to join the French elite. It is of course flattering for academics and journalists to think that democracys fate is in their hands, and that if only liberal elites somehow cared more for white working-class men in the American Midwest or the north of England, all might be well.

The point is not that cultural elites are not important of course they are. The point is that simplistic divisions of society into anywheres and somewheres famously put forward by David Goodhart in The Road to Somewhere (2017) and endlessly repeated by liberals eager to flaunt their capacity for self-criticism systematically obscure that actual decision-making elites remain far more national and far less liberal than is commonly thought.

[See also:How Raymond Williams redefined culture]

Globalisation has not brought the end of nationalism but opportunities to retreat selectively from society something from which economic and financial elites (again, not particularly liberal in their views) have especially benefited. They appear to be able to dispense with any real dependence on the rest of society (though of course they still rely on police, halfway-usable roads, and so on). With the globalisation of supply chains and trade regimes, workers and consumers do not have to be in the same country, and, as a consequence of the shift away from mass conscript armies, one also does not depend on ones fellow citizens to serve as soldiers.

An openly avowed, though also quite cartoonish, version of this secession of the economically powerful is provided by the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel self-identifies as libertarian (and ended up not only as an adviser to Donald Trump but as one of the figures trying to adorn Trumpism with a philosophy). In a programmatic statement published in 2009, he wrote that in our time, the great task for libertarians is to find an escape from politics in all its forms from the totalitarian and fundamentalist catastrophes to the unthinking demos that guides so-called social democracy. He put his hope in some sort of new and hitherto untried process that leads us to some undiscovered country. Since, alas, there appear to be few undiscovered countries, Thiel bet on cyberspace, outer space, and, in case none of those spaces work out, seasteading (as in: settling the oceans).

Thiels dismissive remarks about the demos provoked strong reactions in particular, his sentence that since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians have rendered the notion of capitalist democracy into an oxymoron. He later clarified that he did not advocate for disenfranchising citizens. Indeed, the whole point of his thinking was that the demos as such had to be written off as hopeless; the best one could do was to seek distance from ordinary folks or, put differently, secession.

Thiels pining for undiscovered countries corresponds with the sordid reality of transnational accounting tricks. As two distinguished economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman observe, US firms have in 2016 booked more than 20 per cent of their non-US profits in stateless entities shell companies that are incorporated nowhere, and nowhere taxed. In effect, they have found a way to make $100bn in profits on what is essentially another planet.

[See also:Penses by Bryan Magee]

These kinds of secessions are not undertaken by citizens of nowhere (the money does not really end up nowhere); nor does any of this have anything to do with cultural or moral cosmopolitanism, even if right-wing populists, ever ready to wage culture wars, portray things that way. But the populists critique does contain a kernel of truth: some citizens do take themselves out of anything resembling a decent social contract, for instance relying on private tutors and private security for their gated communities. In France, an astonishing 35 per cent of people claim that they have nothing in common with their fellow citizens.

Such a dynamic is not entirely new: writing about French aristocrats, the 18th-century political theorist the Abb Sieyes observed that the privileged actually come to see themselves as another species of man. In 1789, they discovered that they were not (just as some today will eventually discover that there are noundiscovered countries).

The other secession is even less visible. An increasing number of citizens at the lower end of the income spectrum no longer vote or participate in politics in any other way. In large German cities, for instance, the pattern is clear: poorer areas with high unemployment have much higher abstention rates in elections (in the centre of the old industrial metropolis of Essen it is as high as 90 per cent). This de facto self-separation is not based on a conscious programme in the way Thiels space (or spaced-out) fantasies are, and there is no undiscovered country for the worst-off. Tragically, such a secession becomes self-reinforcing: political parties, for the most part, have no reason to care for those who dont care to vote; this in turn strengthens the impression of the poor that theres nothing in it for them when it comes to politics.


How does all this relate to the rise of right-wing populism and todays threats to democracy? Like all parties, populist ones offer what the social theorist Pierre Bourdieu once called a vision of divisions: they provide, and promote, an interpretation of societys major political fault lines and then seek to mobilise citizens accordingly. That is not in itself dangerous. Democracy, after all, is about conflict, not consensus, or what James Mattis, Donald Trumps ill-fated secretary of defence, called fundamental friendliness (which, lamenting the lack of political unity in his country, he was sorely missing in the second decade of the 21st century).

The promise of democracy is not that we shall all agree, and it does not require uniformity of principles and habits, as Alexander Hamilton had it. Rather, it is the guarantee that we have a fair chance of fighting for our side politically and then can live with the outcome of the struggle, because we will have another chance in a future election. It is not enough to complain that populists are divisive, for democratic politics is divisive by definition.

The problem is that right-wing populists reduce all conflicts to questions of belonging, and then consider disagreement with their view automatically illegitimate (those who disagree must be traitors; Trumps critics were not so much wrong on merit as, according to his fans, un-American). Populism is not uniquely responsible for polarisation, but it is crucial to understand that its key strategy is polarisation. Right-wing populism seeks to divide polities into homogeneous groups and then insinuates that some groups do not truly belong or are fundamentally illegitimate.

In this world-view, instead of being characterised by cross-cutting identities and interests, politics is simplified and rendered as a picture of one central conflict of existential importance (along the lines of if the wrong side wins, we shall perish). Thus, disquiet about the double secession is channelled by right-wing populists into collective fear or even a moral panic that the country is being taken away from us. In the US in particular, that fear helps to distract from questions of material distribution; what the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson have called plutocratic populism combines relentless culture war with economic positions that are actually deeply unpopular even with conservative voters, but which are continuously obscured by conjuring up threats to the real that is, white, Christian America (or white Christian England, for that matter). While some Republicans speak out for a kind of working-class conservatism just as the Conservative Party has its advocates of red Toryism there is no way that the Republican Party in its present form will implement any such agenda. In this respect, Trump was typical: stoking the feelings of socio-economic-cum-cultural victimhood of his supporters, and then passing a tax cut of which 80 per cent went to the upper 1 per cent. While the jury is still out on Boris Johnsons levelling up agenda, the fact is that One Nation Toryism has also often remained mere talk.


Here, then, lies the gravest danger to democracy: in the face of what they perceive as an existential threat, citizens are more willing to condone breaches of democratic principles and the rule of law (it is easier, for instance, to portray judges as enemies of the people). The Yale political scientist Milan Svolik cites a revealing natural experiment in social science to make the point: on the eve of an election in Montana in 2017, the Republican candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed a Guardian reporter. Plenty of people had already voted by absentee ballot; only those going to the polls on election day by which time three major Montana newspapers had withdrawn their endorsement of Gianforte could directly punish the GOP politician for his behaviour. And what happened? In highly partisan precincts, party loyalty trumped respect for democratic norms. Populists seek to deepen a central division in society and simplify it into a question of whether you are for or against the leader. Thus they make it more difficult for their supporters to put democracy and the rule of law above their partisan interests.

So how should liberals and the left fight back? For one thing, they should resist an uncritical adoption of the anywheres-versus-somewheres frame. Whats more, they should resist the mainstreaming of the far right, or racism lite, that some European social democrats think promises a revival of their electoral fortunes. Some point at Denmark and the mostly symbolic measures adopted by a nominally left-wing party to prove its toughness on immigration and Islamism. But, as the French economist Thomas Piketty and others have shown, most of those who abandoned social democratic parties did not defect to the far right. Instead, since the 1970s, they stopped going to the polls altogether.

Getting people to re-engage in politics is fiendishly difficult. But in their contrasting ways Boris Johnsons former chief advisor Dominic Cummings and the strategists of the Spanish left-wing upstart Podemos proved that it can be done. You can bring citizens to vote who appear to have checked out of the political system entirely, if you offer them an image of their interests and identities that they can recognise. There is Trumps talk of finding votes in the sense of election subversion, but there is also the genuinely democratic practice of finding votes by seeking out those who consider themselves abandoned. And, once again, there is nothing undemocratic about drawing clear lines of conflict: criticising other parties is not the same as calling them illegitimate, populist-style.

Any social democratic programme that seeks to re-engage voters must not be neoliberalism lite, in which deregulation is the default, along with low taxation and disciplining of workers through harsh incentives to accept more or less any job (all policies adopted by Gerhard Schrder, for instance). It must also involve a serious effort to explain which basic interests are shared by those who ceased participating altogether and those who abandoned social democratic parties for Green parties, or even the centre right (in some countries such as Germany).

It is not a mystery what these interests might be: most obviously, functioning national infrastructure and an education system that puts serious resources into helping the worst-off (the vast inequalities of existing systems, where wealthy parents can simply bring in more tutors, was cruelly demonstrated during the pandemic, when even affluent parents faced realities they had never confronted before).

It is not naive to think that Joe Biden might be providing the right model here. He has resisted getting mired in debates about cancelled childrens books, critical race theory, and other topics relentlessly promoted by right-wing culture warriors. Instead, he is making a surprisingly serious effort to address the secession at the top of society, going after tax avoidance. He is even trying to drag countries along which have made tax avoidance a national business model, and, for good measure, he might be able to drag the Thiels, Musks, Bezoses and Bransons of this world back down to earth.

It would be wrong, though, to conclude that liberals must disavow so-called identity politics and leave minorities to their fate (or at least their own devices). The most prominent movements of our time Black Lives Matter and #MeToo are not really about identity in any substantive sense; they are about claiming basic rights which others have long taken for granted. They are also not just about resentment at indignities, as Francis Fukuyama claims as if these were all emotional issues where narcissistic folks should simply pull themselves together. Nor are they just about abstract values, as Adrian Pabst recently charged in these pages. There is nothing abstract about not wanting to be shot by police or be harassed by powerful men.


Less obviously, it is also not true that claims by minorities are somehow more likely to lead to polarisation and irresolvable political conflicts. It is conventional wisdom that one can negotiate over material interests more easily than over identity, as trade unions and employers reliably did during the heyday of postwar European social democracy. For many there is also a seemingly self-evident lesson from recent years: if you dont want populist-authoritarian white identity politics, you should shut up about the identity of black and brown people, for otherwise you are simply providing more ammunition for populist race and culture warriors.

Yet identity and interests cannot be so neatly separated. That is true today, and, if we didnt suffer so badly from historical amnesia, we would not claim that things were all that different in the golden age of social democracy. Socialist parties never fought only for wage increases and better working conditions; they also struggled for dignity and collective respect. Think for instance of Red Vienna, made by socialists into a showcase for working-class culture and uplift during the interwar period.

[See also:The West isnt dying its ideas live on in China]

Even when conflicts are about identity, this does not mean that compromise and negotiation are automatically impossible. We do not necessarily all assume that there is an inner, true, unchanging self, as a romantic conception of identity would suggest. People are able to rethink their political commitments and what really matters in both private and collective life; what is regularly ridiculed by the right as woke today is only one example of how political self-perceptions and hence identities can change.

Conversely, it is far from obvious that conflicts over material interests can always be resolved in a rational, amiable manner. We have forgotten to what lengths the owners of concentrated wealth might go to defend themselves from claims to redistribution (and we are not fully aware of what they are already doing today: the political scientist Jeffrey Winters refers to expensive lawyers and accountants specialised in tax avoidance as a powerful wealth defence industry).

One reason why we have forgotten this is that no political leader has seriously tried to take anything from secessionists at the very top; Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Barack Obama were part of a long historical arc of neoliberalism in which some progressive change was possible but the basics of the Reagan-Thatcher revolutions were never seriously questioned. In the United States, the Republican Party has been radicalised in recent years and is bent on undermining democracy through voter suppression and election subversion even though, economically, there hasnt been much of a threat to its backers yet. That is an ominous sign of what reaction a genuine liberal commitment to addressing the double secession might provoke.

Jan-Werner Mller is professor of politics at Princeton University. His most recent book is Democracy Rules (Allen Lane)

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Active Projects | The Seasteading Institute

Posted: June 13, 2021 at 12:34 pm

In 2017, the Floating Island Project in French Polynesia gained a lot of momentum when The Seasteading Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of French Polynesia. Our partners in the seasteading community formed Blue Frontiers to develop the project.

During the election that year, a small minority of French Polynesians spread misinformation about the project to discredit the President, douard Fritch. Despite the apparent opposition, the President easily won re-election. The political fighting did cause the Floating Island Project to be postponed indefinitely. A major crash in cryptocurrency that year did not help. Remaining funds for the project were returned.

Seavangelesse Nathalie Mezza-Garcia gave a presentation about the lessons learned from the Floating Island Project. You can read a transcript of her presentation on the Seaphia website.

We at The Seasteading Institute certainly know how risky it is to place ones hope in the political process. While this particular project was not completed, we gained many supporters and connections who are working on related seasteading projects in other locations. Blue Frontiers, in particular, has been in contact with other nations interested in special governance frameworks.

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Active Projects | The Seasteading Institute

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Seasteading: How Floating Nations Will Restore the …

Posted: at 12:34 pm

This energetic and enthusiastic book gives a fascinating glimpse of the blue revolution to come, as human beings experiment with more sustainable ways of managing the biology of the sea and experiment with more sustainable ways of living and governing ourselves as well, free from the constraints of land-based governments. -- Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything

Really disruptive, definitely visionary, and even more proof thattomorrowwill look nothing like today. Seasteading is a grand adventure in sustainability and possibility and its definitely a trip worth taking! -- Steven Kotler, author of The Rise of Superman, and coauthor of Bold and Abundance

"Seasteading provides some thought-provoking visions of the future. Messrs. Quirk and Friedman introduce us to some very interesting people experimenting with some very interesting technologies, all having to do with living and working on the sea. -- Shlomo Angel The Wall Street Journal

Seasteading is an enormous opportunity for humanity. Not only will these sea-based communities be able to try new sciences and technology . . . they will allow new forms of community with a fresh start, and an ability to experiment as to form. . . . Anyone willing to work for a living can come and go from a seastead. People can finally be citizens of the world. -- Timothy Draper, founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson

Passionate and convincing. The idea of individual sovereignty could finally come true with floating ocean cities. -- Titus Gebel, Founder & CEO of Free Private Cities Ltd.

Today a new set of futurists is envisioning the next iteration of the floating city. . . . Quirk and Friedmans book also serves as a manifesto for the movement. -- Rachel Riederer The New Republic

Patri Friedman founded The Seasteading Institute in 2008 with seed funding from PayPal founder Peter Thiel. He also founded the annual Ephemerisle floating festival. Friedman, the grandson of economist Milton Friedman, currently works at Google, runs a micro-venture capital fund, and lives with his family in San Jose, California. Visit him at

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Seasteading: How Floating Nations Will Restore the ...

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Floating Island Project | The Seasteading Institute

Posted: June 2, 2021 at 5:28 am

The Gulf of Fonseca, bordering three Central American nations, was chosen as a test case for the suitability of the design for protected, territorial waters this location selected was based loosely on the criteria we used for selecting host nations, such as proximity to cities and existing infrastructure, and location within an attractive climate, outside the path of hurricanes. However, site selection for this study should not be interpreted as suggesting that we have an agreement to develop a floating city in the Gulf of Fonseca. In a location like this, DeltaSync reports that the platforms could be completely solar-powered, and that this would in fact be more cost-effective than diesel generation, even including the costs of battery storage and distribution via micro-grid. This concept also assesses a scalable method of financing a breakwater, which could eventually surround the city and allow it to move out to the open ocean. Mobility of the individual modules is key from the perspective of guaranteeing autonomy for the city in the event that the relationship with a particular host nation no longer suits either party, the platforms could detach from their moorings and float to a different location. Modularity and mobility also enable dynamic geography and empower citizens of the city to rearrange into more desirable configurations as the population grows and evolves. While more in-depth engineering research is required, the preliminary analysis suggests that concrete platforms in the 50 x 50 meter dimensions strike the best balance between cost, movability, and stability in the waves of the representative region. Future research includes verifying the findings in DeltaSyncs report and honing the assumptions off of which the design is based.

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