Mother Jones


We Already Have a Solution for the Robot Apocalypse. It's 200 Years Old.

Mother Jones

Fast-food workers, cashiers, cooks, delivery people and their supporters held a rally outside New York City Hall on May 24, 2017.Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press/Zuma From the window of his university office in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, philosophy professor Philippe Van Parijs--considered by many to be Europe's most prominent advocate for the idea that the state should provide a regular income to every citizen--can see the mailbox where he sent off invitations to the first "basic income" conference more than 30 years ago. "I'm quite amazed by the seed we threw on the ground now," he says. After decades of obscurity, the idea is suddenly in fashion. Politicians around the world are interested and a handful of governments, such as Finland and the Canadian province of Ontario, are planning or considering basic-income pilot projects. But the idea of basic income has been around for more than 200 years, rising on waves of political and economic turmoil only to disappear in calmer times.


Trump Administration Guts Obamacare Birth Control Rule

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The Trump administration officially issued a new rule Friday that weakens the Affordable Care Act's mandate requiring employers to provide free birth control as part of health insurance plans. To do so, they had to file paperwork with the government indicating their objection, in turn triggering separate contraceptive coverage for employees provided directly by the insurance company. The Trump administration's new rule expands this exemption, allowing virtually any organization, not just a religious one, to opt out of the mandate if they feel contraception coverage violates their religious beliefs or "moral convictions"--a much broader (and murkier) standard than before. But by eliminating the requirement that objecting groups inform the government when they opt out of birth control coverage, it's possible Trump's new rule will provide a defacto end to this litigation.



Without Mexican Workers, California's Ag Industry Is Relentlessly Mechanizing

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Immigration from Mexico--both legal and illegal--has been declining for over a decade. Driscoll's is so secretive about its robotic strawberry picker it won't let photographers within telephoto range of it. Vast areas of the Central Valley have switched from labor intensive crops such as grapes or vegetables to almonds, which are mechanically shaken from the tree. But if Donald Trump does build a wall and cut down substantially on illegal immigration, it's unlikely to have more than a marginal effect on low-wage native workers.


"My Guilt Will Never Go Away"

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Think of scenes from Tim O'Brien's iconic Vietnam War book, The Things They Carried, William Manchester's World War II odyssey, Goodbye Darkness, William Styron's Sophie's Choice, or films like William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives and Oliver Stone's Platoon. She was perhaps typical when she told the makers of the documentary film National Bird that, in helping carry out drone strikes which killed people across the globe by remote control, "I lost part of my humanity." This reality led me, as my book developed, to interview now-elderly Japanese who had experienced World War II as children. The Department of Veterans Affairs now acknowledges moral injury and its effects, and in 2014 Syracuse University created the Moral Injury Project to bring together vets, doctors, and chaplains to work on how to deal with it.


Somebody Built a Robot that Automatically Burns Donald Trump's Tweets in Real-Time

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As President Donald Trump continues to ignore bipartisan pleas to quit his Twitter habit, a newly-built robot is being tasked to confront each of the president's social media missives in a way many Americans would likely find cathartic: by printing all of Trump's tweets in real-time, only to immediately set them on fire. The accompanying Twitter account, "Burned Your Tweet," records each ignited tweet and sends them to the @RealDonaldTrump account. With Trump's Twitter rants unlikely to end anytime soon--yet another broken promise--be sure to enjoy these rare moments of relief.


Botched 911 Call in Tamir Rice Case Results in 8-Day Suspension

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Recordings of the initial 911 call and the radio dispatch to officers, released by the Cleveland police department in November [2014] showed that the details about Rice's suspected age and fake gun never reached [Officers] Loehmann and Garmback. But Hollinger refused to answer investigators' questions about why she did not input the details about Rice's suspected age and possibly fake gun, per the advice of her union-provided attorney. Hollinger declined to comment to Mother Jones about her role in the case, citing the ongoing investigation and the Cleveland police department's "stringent rules" about making public statements. Although a grand jury declined to indict the officers involved in the shooting, Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback, the two face an ongoing internal investigation into their conduct.


Trump's Plan to Slash Weather Forecast Funding Is Terrible News for Farms

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But to provide its forecasts, the Weather Service leans heavily on another NOAA program, the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which operates the satellite that deliver crucial data. In my time farming vegetables in western North Carolina, my co-workers and I relied heavily on weather forecasts to make decisions on when to sow seeds (best before a rain) or cover frost-vulnerable crops to protect them from an unseasonable cold snap. I asked a spokesman for the US Farm Bureau Federation, a Big Ag lobbying outfit that made a huge fuss over the EPA water rule that Trump recently rescinded, what the group thought of the proposed cuts to NOAA's satellite program. Trump's recent executive order protected farmers from an EPA crackdown that's purely imaginary.


Moscow Thanks You for Sharing Its Cute Cat Pics

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RT publishes stories that elevate fringe voices left and right--Michael T. Flynn, Trump's national security adviser, has been an RT commentator--with the apparent goal of sowing distrust in the American government. Should we happen to share that Binney story on Twitter, we compound the problem by enlisting the help of bots and fake accounts posing as real people. That's where we're headed: AI and machine learning algorithms will analyze your online habits, personal data (calendar, relationships, work history, places traveled), and communication preferences (say, that you like strong narratives over short informational pieces). Because our attention is increasingly sucked up by fake news and salacious headlines, we're excluding credible independent voices now.


Lyrical Genius John Darnielle Has a Scary New Novel

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Cult indie-folk band the Mountain Goats is known for having fans that are rabidly devoted--and you'd almost have to be like that just to keep up. Led by John Darnielle--a charmingly nerdy 49-year-old songwriter whose professed admirers include Stephen Colbert, and whom Rolling Stone recently dubbed rock's "best storyteller"--the Goats have put out 15 albums since 1994, using simple chord structures as a framework for Darnielle's complex lyrical narratives. Fans have even petitioned to make him America's Poet Laureate, so maybe it's no surprise that Darnielle recently stumbled into literary success as well. His debut novel, Wolf in White Van, about a reclusive, disfigured game designer who seeks refuge in a role-playing game, was a 2014 National Book Award finalist. Out February 7, Darnielle's latest, an enchanting horror mystery called Universal Harvester, follows a video store clerk in small-town Iowa whose customers begin complaining of disturbing footage spliced into their rented VHS tapes.