March 4, 2018 in 3,042 words

Spineless politicos and the devolution of the NRA

School shootings, theater shootings, concert shootings, post-office shootings, nightclub shootings, restaurant shootings, work-place shootings. The U.S. has had hundreds of mass murders in the last couple of decades, and I think it’s safe to say that debating the legality of bump stocks is not going to bring this ongoing slaughter of innocents to an end.

In other words, anybody spending their time talking about bump stocks and other periphery gun issues in the aftermath of the most recent school shooting in Florida has no real interest in preventing such tragedies in the future. Bump stocks are to our gun problem what lighting farts is to global warming. Wasting our time debating such matters while more people die every day is callous, disingenuous and manipulative.

No one has ever been killed by a bump stock that wasn’t attached to the back-end of a semi-automatic assault rifle, which leads me to think our politicians are concentrating on the wrong end of the gun problem.

There are currently four proposed pieces of gun legislation in the U.S. Senate and two in the House. One deals with bump stocks, another with raising the legal age to buy an assault rifle, and so on and so forth. Only one suggests making owning semi-automatic assault rifles a crime. You can guess which proposal is gaining the least traction. That’s right, it’s that last one, the only one that might make any difference at all, that is going nowhere fast.

So why is that?

Watch Alec Baldwin lampoon Donald Trump on gun control

Saturday Night Roast


A day after Donald Trump threw a punch at Alec Baldwin on Twitter for his “dying mediocre career,” the latter devoted a six-minute cold open on Saturday Night Live to lampoon the president on a very topical subject.

The actor delivered a scathing speech mocking Trump’s ambivalent response to the Parkland shootings and stance on gun control. “It’s clear something has to change. We have to take a hard look at mental health, which I have so much of. I have one of the healthiest mental. My mentals are so high, but we have to respect the law,” Baldwin-as-Trump—with his signature mastery of the president’s facial expressions and lilting tone—said.

He went on: “Believe me, no one love the Second Amendment and due process more than me, but maybe we just take everyone’s guns, away, okay? Nobody is allowed to have a gun, not even whites… The youth of America deserve to feel safe and secure in their schools because, folks, I can only run into so many schools and save everybody. If I could I would run into all of them, even without a weapon, I’d burst through the doors and I’d be running so fast—I’m actually a very fast runner, people don’t know that—I’d be running so fast, the guy with the gun wouldn’t even know what hit him. So the schools would be safe now but I wouldn’t stop there. I’d run to North Korea completely unarmed, all over the Great Wall of Korea

A Bright Red Flag for Democracy

Survivors of the Parkland massacre are getting a crash course in civics, and learning that corporations are more responsive to customer concerns than lawmakers are to their constituents.

David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks at a rally.

A week after the fatal shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, some of the high school’s surviving students traveled to Tallahassee, Florida, and Washington, D.C., to protest lawmakers who failed to pass gun-control legislation. These teenagers have become passionate advocates for change.

Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, had a memorable explanation for why she and others had to speak out: “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving,” she said. “But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

Another group is speaking out, too: people who believe the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was staged, and that students like Gonzalez are actors, not victims. Far-right provocateurs have focused on David Hogg, a 17-year-old student who had the self-possession to interview his classmates while the shootings were taking place. Hogg’s composure in interviews, his criticism of President Donald Trump, and the fact that his father is a retired FBI agent have fueled a conspiracy theory that claims Hogg has been paid—by Hillary Clinton, George Soros, or favorite figures among conspiracy theorists—to promote an anti-gun agenda. Supported by media figures like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, the conspiracy theories have received a big boost from YouTube, with its algorithms that push videos targeting Hogg to the top of trending video lists.

It gets stranger. These two groups—the brave students demanding to prevent another tragedy, and those denying their very existence from behind computer screens—have something profound in common.

They’re both responding to the dominant condition of our nation today: mistrust.

Trumpocracy review: David Frum’s appalled analysis lacks fire and fury

The Bush speechwriter who coined the term ‘axis of evil’ has become one more Never-Trump Republican overtaken by the pace of the events he decries.

Donald Trump at a veterans rally in Des Moines, Iowa in January 2016. America’s Shithole.

The chaos that marked Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is a hallmark of his presidency. Decorum once associated with the Oval Office has been replaced by “modern presidential”, an amalgam of tantrums, tirades, and tweetstorms, all emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or Trump-owned properties. This break with the past is every bit as much about substance as it is style.

Trump’s legal brush-back pitch hurled at the author Michael Wolff, his firing of FBI director James Comey and his taunts of Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s dictator, are not simply poses. They graphically reflect Trump’s understanding of his powers and the deference to which he believes his decisions and person are entitled.

David Frum’s Trumpocracy is an attempt by the former speechwriter for George W Bush – author of the term “axis of evil” – and never-Trump Republican to come to grips with this. He laments what he views as “the corruption of the American Republic” and painstakingly catalogs the threats he sees posed by Trump to America, liberal democracy and Europe.

Frum is disturbed by Trump’s nepotism and tropism toward kleptocracy, citing a legal ruling obtained by Trump that the White House was outside the scope of federal anti-nepotism laws. More broadly, Frum is alarmed by Trump “disabling” the “federal government’s inhibition against corruption” and his disdain for the notion that the law should be insulated from politics. To prove his point, Frum cites Trump’s expectation of personal loyalty from federal prosecutors and his public comments that the FBI director “really reports to the president”.

Frum is not sanguine about a return to old norms in a post-Trump America. He observes that “it took a lot of work by a lot of people over a long time to build even America’s highly imperfect standards of public integrity”. Like Rome, which was sacked in an afternoon, Frum adds, “undoing that work would be a far easier task”.

Nine Notorious Dictators, Nine Shout-Outs From Donald Trump

The president of the United States America’s Shithole continues to heap praise on the world’s most reviled rulers.

The Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to allow President Xi Jinping to rule indefinitely set off harsh criticism in China, as well as international opprobrium. But the power grab appears to have at least one fan: Donald Trump.

“He’s now president for life. President for life. No, he’s great,” Trump said of Xi at a lunch and fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago estate, according to CNN, which obtained a recording of the remarks. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot some day.”

Context, of course, is everything. Trump may well have been joking (CNN hasn’t yet released the audio of the remarks), but his comments about Xi’s hold on power in China, a Communist dictatorship, add to Trump’s long history of offering support or even outright praise for dictators and strongmen the world over.

* * *

Russian President Vladimir Putin

What Trump said about him: “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader. I mean, you can say, ‘Oh, isn’t that a terrible thing’—the man has very strong control over a country. Now, it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system. But certainly, in that system, he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”

When: September 2016

Context: The remarks weren’t the first time Trump expressed his admiration for the Russian leader.

Trump’s new tariffs make perfect sense, if you look at the history of US trade policy

Steely Don

Part of the league of defenders.

The steel and aluminum tariffs Donald Trump proposed earlier this week have left economists, politicians, and chief executives around the world aghast and angry.

“None of this is reasonable, but reason is a sentiment that is very unevenly distributed in this world,” said European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who is vowing to hit the US back just as hard.

Paul Krugman, the Economics Nobel laureate and New York Times columnist, vented about the absence of “adults” in the Trump White House who could have saved the president from himself.

But expecting Trump to produce sensible, economically sound trade policy is itself unreasonable, and not just because of the president’s unconventional style and chaotic administration. US politicians have a long history of using tariffs and other protectionist measures to advance their political agendas. Protecting steel, specifically, is practically an American tradition.

A ‘political hit job’? Why the alt-right is accusing big tech of censorship

How far should free speech go? Looming legal battles will challenge tech companies’ power to ‘punish disfavored speech’

While politicians and anti-racist campaigners are asking tech companies to act more like publishers, and show some discernment about what they allow to be published, from the right, many are accusing them of censorious liberal bias.

In January, Charles C “Chuck” Johnson filed a suit contesting his ban from Twitter back in May 2015.

Johnson, an American rightwing provocateur, has a long history of smearing and hunting political opponents. He runs a scurrilous news site, GotNews, and another that crowdsources bounties for damaging information on his self-selected foes. He was eighty-sixed from Twitter following outrage from other users after a tweet appealing for crowdsourcing to “take out” Black Lives Matter activist, DeRay McKesson.

It was an early example of Twitter appearing to accede to user pressure in scrubbing rightwing accounts.

“In recent months, social media companies have been more ready to sideline certain views and the users who promote them. Changes to Twitter’s rules in late 2017 saw numerous far right accounts scrubbed. Medium recently banned “alt light” users like Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer. And this week, Alex Jones’s Infowars YouTube channel, with more than 2 million subscribers, has inched closer to a total ban after making allegations that CNN’s post-Parkland town hall was staged.

And as of Thursday, rightwing media was lamenting what they were billing as a “purge” of prominent conservative, alt-right, and “classical liberal” accounts.


Motherboard Fashion

The gold in the jewelry that Nikki Reed and her fashion company Bayou with Love makes is has an unusual origin story.

It’s recycled from computer motherboards. The Circular Collection is a collaboration between the computer-maker Dell and Reed, who is also an actress.

Here’s how it’s made: Consumers donate used computers—any brand—to Dell’s partner Goodwill. Those computers that still work will be refurbished and sold. Those that are irreparable are taken apart and recycled at Dell’s partner Wistron Green Tech.

As part of the process, motherboards are “mined” for gold, which is then turned into gold bars. The gold is either used in new Dell computers, or jewelry.

It takes about six motherboards to produce enough gold to make a ring, according to Dell. And the complete process can take months, because it’s not efficient to run small batches.

I had a good job, a loving family, and a white picket fence. This is how I lost it all.

I’ll Call You

The only thing left was my life insurance policy which, fortunately for my family, was pretty hefty.

This story is part of a series called Craigslist Confessional. Writer Helena Bala has been meeting people via Craigslist and documenting their stories for over two years. Each story is written as it was told to her. Bala says that by listening to their stories, she hopes to bear witness to her subjects’ lives, providing them with an outlet, a judgment-free ear, and a sense of catharsis. By sharing them, she hopes to facilitate acceptance and understanding of issues that are seldom publicly discussed, at the risk of fear, stigma, and ostracism. Read more here. Names and locations have been changed to protect her subjects’ anonymity.

Damon, 50s

Once, a very long time ago, I had a good job, a loving family, and a white picket fence. I started my own business, worked hard, and collected the toys that the wealthy have—a boat, a mansion, a few Harleys. I worried about the things you probably worry about—the stress of work every Monday morning, the bills that kept piling up, and the fact that the more we had, the more it didn’t quite seem like enough.

Then, following the financial crisis in 2007/8, I lost my business, my family, and my home. I lost everything.

After months of trying to dig myself out of a hole, I gave up. There was only one way out, I thought. One permanent, final solution. My uncle had done it years before. And as I swiped the rope like a rosary through my fingers, I thought about my wife or kids being called to the scene to identify me. I thought about the person who would discover me hanging from some tree, and about how maybe that would mess them up, too. But I had made up my mind.

I’d spent a few hours that day poring over my financial records. What the market crash hadn’t taken, I had spent on booze and weed and women. The only thing left was my life insurance policy, which fortunately for my family was pretty hefty. I read the fine print a million times: if I committed suicide, my family would still get the money as long as the policy was taken out more than three years ago. I looked at the date of the policy again, and again, and again, and again.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Robert Reich explains why Ayn Rand’s ideas have destroyed the common good.

“Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman talks about why the movie is resonating with audiences across the world and explains why so many different African accents are featured.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s another instalment of When Animals Fight Back. Cheers ya legends!

While bathing,Cloody was so relaxed that he actually fell asleep. It’s so beautiful and funny!
As for all the negative comments, I hold him in a baby position in my arms as well and it relaxes him to sit that way so he falls asleep. He also enjoys a body massage, except for his feet. After his baths he goes outside to dry off as usual. Rabbits rarely bathe because they can use their tongues to clean themselves, but since he can’t reach his back he likes the water.

Max checking out his new wooden toy kit.


5 Real Ways We’re Canceling The Apocalypse

There are so many apocalyptic threats out there that it’s almost exciting to think of all the possible ways Earth could be doomed. Will it be meteors? Global warming? Penguins? Fortunately, whatever calamity is looming nearest, rest assured that our top brains are on the case thinking of solutions. And sure, some of those plans might look like the kind of blue-sky thinking a particularly lazy fifth-grader would present as their science fair project, but that doesn’t mean they won’t save us from the end of days. For example …

5. NASA Wants To Fill The Yellowstone Supervolcano With Water

Turns out that those ravenous bears Yogi and Boo Boo aren’t the biggest threat to the picnickers of Yellowstone National Park. That honor goes to a supervolcano (not the most reassuring scientific name) under the area that’s due to explode … any time now — or in the past, if you’re reading this after the volcano has already erupted and wiped out everything but the WiFi. Fortunately, NASA has come to the rescue, and they’ve dusted off some old Armageddon scripts and decided to go Michael Bay on this motherlover.

Armageddon 2: Now It’s Firefighters, coming soon (we hope)

That’s right, the plan these geniuses have come up with is quite straightforward: Cool the volcano down. Obviously, supervolcanoes generate a lot of heat — the heat of six industrial power plants, to be precise. So NASA wants to drill down into it, pump it full of water, and turn it into a giant kettle, letting the water absorb some of the heat in the chamber and then float away as hot steam. Rinse and repeat forever, and the volcano should be able to let off enough steam (literally) to remain stable.

Unfortunately, this is going to require some sacrificing. We’re never going to live long enough see if it works; the process is estimated to take hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?