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The Billionaire Who Wants to Split California Into 6 States Has the Most Embarrassing YouTube Feed Ever

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 2:31 PM EDT

This is a post about Tim Draper. Tim Draper is a billionaire tech investor of no particular importance who has decided that he wants to disrupt geography. 

Draper is the man behind the "Six Californias" initiative, which today announced that it had secured enough signatures to put a measure on the 2016 California ballot that would split the Golden State in to six golden states. Should California be turned into six states? Maybe! I don't know. Probably not. It probably doesn't make any sense. But maybe it does? Who knows! It isn't going to be turned into six states, that is certain, but should it in a perfect world of perfection where Tim Draper rides around on a golden steed shooting piercing laser beams of logic out of his eyes? Maybe! Leave that question to the poets, because we're here to talk about Tim Draper, "the riskmaster."

Tim Draper is a partner in the VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which has invested in Hotmail, Skype, SpaceX, and a bunch of other tech companies. Silicon Valley has a well-known women problem. Tim Draper does not have a women problem, though! He loves ladies in tech! Can't get enough of them! He loves them so much that he uploaded a video to YouTube aptly titled "Tim Draper Shows His Appreciation for Women Entrepreneurs" in which he removes one piece of clothing for every female-led company he has invested in. Because if you're Tim Draper, the way you relate to women is through the language of erotic dance. (Spoiler: He hasn't funded enough female-led companies to get naked.)

Moving swiftly on, here is a video of Tim Draper wrapping up a keynote speech with a song about, well, how he, Tim Draper, is the "riskmaster." What is the riskmaster? The riskmaster is the name Tim Draper calls himself. Over and over. This song is one of the worst things I have ever heard in my entire life. I cannot stop listening to it.

The chorus appears to be:

He's the riskmaster.
Lives fast, and drives faster.
Skates on the edge of disaster.
He is the riskmaster.

How many Grammys will Tim Draper win? One? Three? Six? Zero? Probably zero.

But, Tim Draper, you do you! You have a better chance of winning six Grammys than you do of splitting California into six states.

(h/t Tim Carmody)

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Quote of the Day: Stone Tablets Will Defeat the NSA

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 2:28 PM EDT

From Patrick Sensburg, head of the Bundestag's parliamentary inquiry into NSA activity in Germany, on whether they are "considering typewriters" for the committee's work:

As a matter of fact, we have — and not electronic models either.

Well. I grew up with a house full of Adler typewriters, all of them fine products of German engineering. I think later on they became fine products of not-so-German engineering, but I'm sure it's still possible to find some of the old-school models. They should work a treat for creating documents that are safe from prying eyes, since we all know that spies were never able to steal documents prior to the digital era.

The IRS Scandal Finally Reaches Its End Game

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 12:41 PM EDT

Every few years the Republican Party goes on a jihad against the IRS. The most famous was probably Sen. William Roth's theatrical witch hunt in the 90s that regaled an eager public with stories about jackbooted thugs and "Gestapo-like" tactics. The most recent is the seemingly endless investigation into charges that the IRS targeted grassroots conservative nonprofits at the behest of its partisan masters. These charges have turned out to be almost entirely groundless—just like Roth's—but don't make the mistake of thinking this makes them pointless. You just have to wait for the other shoe to drop, as it did yesterday:

The House late Monday night adopted proposals by voice vote to cut funding for the Internal Revenue Service. Rep. Paul Gosar's (R-Ariz.) amendment to the fiscal 2015 Financial Services appropriations bill would cut funding for the IRS by $353 million. Specifically, Gosar's amendment would cut that funding from the IRS enforcement account and use it toward deficit reduction.

Gosar argued that funding for the IRS would be better used toward reducing the deficit than toward the agency caught in GOP crosshairs...."More directly than financial or condition of the country is the fact that this agency has shown contempt for the American taxpayer."

The Roth Hearings ended up with reduced funding for IRS enforcement, something that took over a decade to recover from. Now Gosar wants to cut IRS enforcement funding too. Coincidence? Not so much. If you want to reduce taxes on the wealthy, after all, there are two ways to do it. You can either reduce their tax rates or you can make it easier for them to evade the tax rates that already exist. Either way, it's a boon to anyone with lots of money and good tax planners. But I repeat myself.

In any case, this was always inevitable. The goal of anti-IRS jihads is always to reduce funding for enforcement. And despite what Gosar might want you to believe, very little enforcement has ever been aimed at middle-class taxpayers or small nonprofits. It's mostly aimed at the rich, for obvious Willie Suttonish reasons. Weakening enforcement actions against the Republican Party's core constituency has always been the end game for the IRS scandal, and now we're finally there.

Researchers Who Study Political Temperament Need to Watch the Condescension

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 11:42 AM EDT

Chris Mooney writes today about one of his favorite subjects: the hypothesis that underlying personality traits tend to make people either politically liberal or politically conservative. The latest news is that, apparently, virtually everyone who studies this kind of thing now agrees that it's true:

The occasion of this revelation is a paper by John Hibbing of the University of Nebraska and his colleagues, arguing that political conservatives have a "negativity bias," meaning that they are physiologically more attuned to negative (threatening, disgusting) stimuli in their environments....The authors go on to speculate that this ultimately reflects an evolutionary imperative. "One possibility," they write, "is that a strong negativity bias was extremely useful in the Pleistocene," when it would have been super helpful in preventing you from getting killed.

Well, yes, the Pleistocene. I suppose it would have been useful then. But I wish the researchers who study this stuff could learn to talk about it less condescendingly. After all, this sensitivity to threats might also be useful during, say, World War II. Or on a dark street corner. Or at a city council meeting discussing a zoning variance. If you pretend that it's primarily just a laughable atavism that a few poor primitives among us still hold onto, is it any wonder that conservatives don't think much of your research?

Plus, as Mooney points out in a tweet: "People, take note: To explain conservatives psychologically is basically to explain liberals as well." Yep. The flip side of the threat hypothesis is that liberalism flourishes among people with a naive sense of security.

But this is nothing new. As the old saying goes, a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. Liberals and conservatives argue endlessly about just how much security is necessary against outsiders: against the Soviets during the Cold War, against terrorists after 9/11, to protect ourselves against street thugs, etc. The idea that different sensitivities to threat are fundamental to liberalism and conservatism strikes me as something I barely even need research to believe in.

Happy Birthday, Twitter! Here Are 50 Things the Media Says You've Revolutionized.

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 11:03 AM EDT

Nobody Is Very Excited About Obama's Border Plan

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 10:48 AM EDT

The latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows vividly just how hard a time President Obama is going to have getting his emergency plan to address the border crisis passed. The good news is that Americans approve of his plan by 53-43 percent. The bad news is that this is a pretty thin margin, and suggests there's virtually no real passion in favor of it.

But the even worse news comes in a breakdown of the numbers. Among Republicans, disapproval reigns, 35-59 percent. So Boehner & Co. have very little motivation to act. What's more, Hispanics, who ought to be the core constituency among Democrats for any immigration-related legislation, are only tenuously in favor, 54-43 percent. The reflects sharp divisions within the Democratic Party about the core idea of deporting any of the refugees in any way.

So Democrats are split and Republicans are opposed. This is not fertile ground for any kind of compromise. The only thing Obama has going for him is that what's happening on the border really is a crisis, and at some point everyone might genuinely feel like they have to do something. But what? Even Obama's fairly anodyne proposal has already drawn significant opposition from both sides, and any proposal that moves further to the left or the right will draw even more opposition. This could take a while unless, by some miracle, both parties decided they're better off just getting this off the table before the midterm elections. But what are the odds of that?

For more of Mother Jones' reporting on unaccompanied child migrants, see all of our latest coverage here.

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In Defense Of Selfies: Rembrandt

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 10:16 AM EDT

Millennials get a lot of heat for the whole "selfie" thing. But what is a selfie? Most of the time the term refers to people taking photos of themselves—arms outstretched—with their phones. But the phone part really isn't important. I think most good people can agree that a selfie is any picture you take of yourself. But what if you put a camera on a tripod and use a timer? is that a selfie? I would venture, yes. What if we dispense with the camera entirely and talk straight self-portraits?

The truth is the selfie has a noble heritage in high art. Take Rembrandt for instance, who was born July 15, 1606. One of the greatest artists of all time, Rembrandt completed more than 60 self-portraits. (You can check out many of them and more of Rembrandt's works here.)

So anyway, the next time some stick in the mud tells you that selfies are what's wrong with America just be all, "What about Rembrandt, man? What about Rembrandt?" Then float away up into the clouds.

Have a nice day.

We're Still At War: Photo of the Day for July 15, 2014

Tue Jul. 15, 2014 10:08 AM EDT

A US Marine builds an obstacle course in Belize. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brett Cote.)

The Sad, Danceable Pop Songs of Bleachers' Jack Antonoff

| Mon Jul. 14, 2014 4:29 PM EDT

You might not have heard of Jack Antonoff, the mastermind of the indie-pop project, Bleachers, but he's definitely made you dance. The 30-year-old, best known as the lead guitarist of Fun (and Lena Dunham's boo) has co-written a number of addictive hits, including Fun's Grammy-winning "We Are Young" and Sara Bareilles' "Brave." Now he's turning his attention to his solo project, Bleachers, with the aim of making you dance and cry at the same time. "I lost my sister when I was 18, and I felt it was the monumental thing that happened in my life," Antonoff told me. "Now I'm 30, I write from that time, in the perspective of how it's affected me now." He tries to "find ways to move about the world and not feel broken all the time."

Antonoff says he wrote Strange Desire—his new album out this week—while driving alone at night, up and down the New Jersey Turnpike. His listeners, he believes, are excited when they get to hear, "more intense concepts than what might be going in the radio." On that note, he takes pains to attend to his fans. He announced the album through a Craigslist ad, asking people to do their own remixes of one of the singles. He later unveiled the album art by delivering it on a chocolate birthday cake to a group of fans. "What fanbases don't need is another obnoxious hash-tag campaign," he jokes.

On the surface, Strange Desire is a dance-party album, but it's the kind of party you're having alone, in your room, after everyone has gone home and your crush is making out with someone else. On the song "I Wanna Get Better," Antonoff sings, "Standing on the overpass screaming at cars / Hey, I wanna get better!" My favorite track is "Rollercoaster," a love song soaked in regret.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Antonoff likes Swedish pop star Robyn, of "Dancing on My Own" fame. More generally, he's a fan of songs that feel "epic and larger than life" while also making "you want to curl up and die." (He cites Bruce Springsteen, ABBA, Tom Waits, and Neil Young as artists who can fall into that category.) His album title, Antonoff says, comes from the feeling that he's "motivated by a strange desire. It pushes you, it fulfills you in a strange way. But it kind of kills you at the same time."

Here's How You Can Help Unaccompanied Border Kids Without Giving to Glenn Beck

| Mon Jul. 14, 2014 4:15 PM EDT
A Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Nogales, Arizona, last month

Glenn Beck has announced that he intends to head to the border town of McAllen, Texas, on July 19 with tractor trailers containing food, water, stuffed animals, and soccer balls to distribute to some of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended at the border each year. "I'm getting violent emails from people who say I've 'betrayed the Republic,'" he said on his TV program. "Whatever. I've never taken a position more deadly to my career than this—and I have never, ever taken a position that is more right than this." He's asking people to donate to (surprise!) his own charity, MercuryOne.

But suppose you wanted to help support those children without feeding Glenn Beck's ego. There are plenty of do-gooders to choose from. Our own Ian Gordon, whose recent feature story on the solo immigrant kids helped catapult the issue into the national limelight, has been hearing from people with alternative suggestions, and tweeting them out…

1. Michelle Brané, who runs the Women's Refugee Commission's Migrant Rights and Justice program, suggests donating to national groups such as Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and the American Red Cross. The Women's Refugee Commission advocates on behalf of unaccompanied children and families, conducts research, and monitors detention facilities and border stations. KIND also advocates for and provides legal services to these children, and USCCB provides services for the kids after they are released from detention.

Brané also suggests that residents of Texas border communities look around for local organizations that are helping the kids and their families. Annunciation House in El Paso is one example. "Also," she writes, "as these children are reunited with family or sponsors, they will be entering communities throughout the country and will be (I hope) enrolling in school. In would be great for people to support them in their local communities. Schools and churches are a good place to start."

2. Nora Skelly from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service suggested that people volunteer as foster parents or support Texas orgs such as the Refuge and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), which has been doing legal orientations for children in federal custody.

3. Ofelia de los Santos, the jail ministry coordinator for Catholic Charities in South Texas, has been interacting directly with the kids and their families. "One lady brought in knitted wool caps for the babies and small children, many of whom have colds from being in those freezing Immigration detention facilities," she said. "We quickly ran out. The adults started asking for them and we had no adult size knitted caps. Also needed are sweaters and light jackets for adults and kids, and inexpensive sneakers for women and children—"like Keds, not the fancy expensive kind." Current needs are posted daily here.

4. Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar studying unaccompanied migrant kids, points to the following suggestions from the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

5. Finally, here's another detailed roundup by Vox's Dara Lind.

For more of Mother Jones' reporting on unaccompanied child migrants, see all of our latest coverage here.