March 12, 2018 in 4,344 words

Watch: John Oliver captures truly cringey Women’s Day happenings

Watch and cringe

International Women’s Day seems like an occasion it’d be hard to mess up.

“That one special day a year, for half the population of earth,” John Oliver called it on Sunday night. “Knock yourself out, 3.5 billion people.”

And yet, some men—a lot of men, it seems—manage to make it about themselves in ways that surprise and horrify.

John Oliver’s HBO show captured some incredibly cringe-y happenings from the day, from Brawny paper towel’s “Sheros” to reactions the new Frida Kahlo Barbie doll.

I’m taking my Trump-loving cousin, age 93, to meet him – will you help?

Close friends despite our differences, we’re planning a drive across the US to Washington. We want to meet people who will challenge each of our beliefs/

Can you help Frances meet her idol, Donald Trump?

My cousin Frances once said she’d “drive clear across the country to shake Donald Trump’s hand”, so I’ve offered to drive her myself.

She’s 93 and I’m 43, but we’re practically best friends. Frances and I are like a lot of families these days: her politics veer right, while I veer sensible (“Oh please!” she says). She thinks Trump is saving America, while I think he’s selling it to the highest bidder. After the 2016 election, I said some nasty things and we didn’t speak for weeks, something we both regretted.

We vowed never to let toxic politics divide us again. And now that it’s tearing apart families and neighbors across our country, it worries us both.

That’s why on 18 March, we’re renting a car and driving 1,700 miles from Big Spring, Texas (our hometown), to the White House to try and meet with President Trump.

We’re stopping at many places along the way, talking with a broad spectrum of people who make up this country. We’ll stop at truck stops, bars, and ice cream parlors. We’re set to talk to reporters, local activists, and clergy.

We’re calling it the #AcrossTheGreatDivideTour – and we also need your recommendations. We want to meet rightwing radio hosts, imams, evangelicals, gun lovers, activists, teachers, and anyone else who can challenge our respective ideologies and spark conversation.

‘We Can’t Make Our Elections About Being Against Trump’

Cory Booker on the 2020 presidential race, Star Trek, and why it’s Gen X’s turn to save the day.

Cory Booker

As Democrats position themselves for the 2020 presidential election, one name is mentioned again and again: Cory Booker. Before becoming New Jersey’s first black U.S. senator, in 2013, Booker was the mayor of Newark for a controversial six years. As mayor, he earned national attention for his crusading style and daring stunts—at one point he saved a woman from a burning building—but was criticized by some constituents for his neoliberal approach to policy, particularly his embrace of charter schools. In 2016, he was a contender to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Since then, he has taken a series of very public stands against Donald Trump’s administration, including his unprecedented testimony against Trump’s nominee for attorney general, his colleague Jeff Sessions. He is a vegan and an ardent Trekkie.

This interview has been shortened and edited for clarity.

Cory Booker: Every morning I’m trying to get as much exercise as possible. I’m more biking.

JI: Spinning?

CB: My chief of staff has the Peloton bike, but you have to have special shoes to do it. I have a bike that has a video screen, so I ride courses.

JI: Let me ask the “running” question a different way. There was talk that you were under consideration to be Hillary’s running mate, and we saw what happened in Alabama [in December’s Senate election] when the black vote was mobilized. If she had picked you, would the outcome have been different?

CB: I really have no idea. Donald Trump has been president a full year. I’m not sure how healthy it is to continue to ask what-ifs.

The Last Temptation

How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory

One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics—really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history—is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received.

Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. Trump’s past political stances (he once supported the right to partial-birth abortion), his character (he has bragged about sexually assaulting women), and even his language (he introduced the words pussy and shithole into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservatives toward exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly publicized his infidelities, made disturbing sexual comments about his elder daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Yet religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.

Trump supporters tend to dismiss moral scruples about his behavior as squeamishness over the president’s “style.” But the problem is the distinctly non-Christian substance of his values. Trump’s unapologetic materialism—his equation of financial and social success with human achievement and worth—is a negation of Christian teaching. His tribalism and hatred for “the other” stand in direct opposition to Jesus’s radical ethic of neighbor love. Trump’s strength-worship and contempt for “losers” smack more of Nietzsche than of Christ. Blessed are the proud. Blessed are the ruthless. Blessed are the shameless. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after fame.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: According to Jerry Falwell Jr., evangelicals have “found their dream president,” which says something about the current quality of evangelical dreams.

Tim Berners-Lee: we must regulate tech firms to prevent ‘weaponised’ web

The inventor of the world wide web warns over concentration of power among a few companies ‘controlling which ideas are shared’

Tim Berners-Lee: ‘What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms.’

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, has called for large technology firms to be regulated to prevent the web from being “weaponised at scale”.

“In recent years, we’ve seen conspiracy theories trend on social media platforms, fake Twitter and Facebook accounts stoke social tensions, external actors interfere in elections, and criminals steal troves of personal data,” Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter marking the 29th anniversary of his invention.

These problems have proliferated because of the concentration of power in the hands of a few platforms – including Facebook, Google, and Twitter – which “control which ideas and opinions are seen and shared”.

“What was once a rich selection of blogs and websites has been compressed under the powerful weight of a few dominant platforms,” said the 62-year-old British computer scientist.

These online gatekeepers can lock in their power by acquiring smaller rivals, buying up new innovations and hiring the industry’s top talent, making it harder for others to compete, he said.

Google now accounts for about 87% of online searches worldwide. Facebook has more than 2.2 billion monthly active users – more than 20 times more than MySpace at its peak. Together, the two companies (including their subsidiaries Instagram and YouTube) slurp up more than 60% of digital advertising spend worldwide.

Trump plans to arm teachers but drops pledge on gun purchase age limit

Florida survivor says president ‘no better than other politicians’ after plan to ‘harden’ schools against mass shootings retreats from confrontation with NRA
Fred Guttenberg will not sit down: Florida father demands gun reform

A memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida where 17 students were killed in February.

The Trump administration will use existing justice department funding to help train teachers and other school personnel to use firearms in an attempt to “harden” schools against mass shooting attacks, the White House announced on Sunday.

But in a watered-down school safety plan, the White House backed away from other proposals the president had endorsed, including raising the legal age to buy certain guns.

The president had clashed with the National Rifle Association over the issue of raising age limits to purchase rifles such as the one used in the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida in February, in which 17 people were killed.

“It should all be at 21,” Trump said in late February. “And the NRA will back it.”

But the NRA remained firm, filing a federal lawsuit on Friday challenging the legality of Florida’s newly passed age restrictions on buying rifles and other long guns.

The president then backed away from the issue, assigning the question of whether age limits should be raised on some gun purchases to a new federal commission on school safety, chaired by education secretary Betsy DeVos.

Forget Wall Street – Silicon Valley is the new political power in Washington

It used to be banks, but now it is tech giants that dominate the US lobbying industry. Can money buy them what they want: less competition, less tax … and more data?

The scholar Barry Lynn worked at the New America Foundation, a Washington thinktank, for 15 years studying the growing power of technology companies like Google and Facebook. For 14 of them, everything was, he says, “great”.

This week, he was fired. Why? He believes it’s because Google, one of the thinktank’s biggest funders, was unhappy with the direction of his research, which was increasingly calling for tech giants including Google, Facebook and Amazon to be regulated as monopolies.

Leaked emails suggest the foundation was concerned that Lynn’s criticism could jeopardise future funding. In one of them, the organisation’s president, Anne-Marie Slaughter, wrote: “We are in the process of trying to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely key points … just think about how you are imperiling funding for others.”

Slaughter denies that Lynn was fired for his criticism of Google. It’s a difficult story to swallow, given that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, along with its executive chairman Eric Schmidt, have donated $21m to New America since 1999. Schmidt even chaired the thinktank for years and its main conference room is called the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab”.

A 1980s study on juvenile crime in Japan sheds light on American gun culture


Everyone can use a gun.

In 1982, John Beck—a strategy advisor and former business professor at Harvard and UCLA—was a 22-year-old Harvard student working on his thesis on juvenile crime in Japan. In the 1980s, Japan had seen an uncharacteristic increase in juvenile crime, which was associated with bōsōzoku (暴走族), or biker gangs. These groups, Beck says, comprised between 20 and 50 youth, under the age of 21, who would have standoffs that involved beating and sometimes knifing each other.

Once the gang members turned 21—the age at which criminal records become permanent in Japan—the vast majority of them went through a solemn ceremony and returned to lawful citizenship. But a small percentage continued their criminal careers as part of the yakuza (ヤクザ).

Beck had been exposed to the phenomenon several years prior, while living in Japan as a Mormon missionary between the age of 19 and 21. He was fascinated by what he described to Quartz as a “nonconforming group within such a conformist society.” By 1980, according to the data he collected, nearly 15 minors every 1,000 were arrested—compared with an adult arrest rate of 3 every 1,000.

Beck spoke and read basic Japanese, which made him a curiosity among a couple of bōsōzoku gang members. Also, an asset: Many of them were dropouts, so they allowed him to ride along during their excursions so he could read street signs. (Beck did not know how to ride a motorbike, so he would catch a lift with the gang members who drove cars).

6 Reporters Who Didn’t Do The Research (And Paid The Price)

Interviewing a celebrity might seem exciting, but for media reporters, it’s just another exhausting day. There simply isn’t enough time to confirm exactly which superhero your subject is playing, what they’re known for, or even who they are. Sure, that’s a journalist’s entire job, but it’s so much easier to assume Reddit got it right. These folks thought they could skate by without doing the research. They were wrong.

6. CNN Mistakes A Gay Pride Dildo Flag For ISIS

Nowadays, ISIS has been relegated to a few isolated pockets in the Middle East, but back in 2015, they were a major threat across the region. That’s why CNN freaked out when they thought they saw an ISIS flag in London. They called in an “international terrorism” expert, and for ten minutes discussed whether or not it represented an actual threat. Somehow, none of them realized the flag in question was a gay pride flag. An explicit one.

Now we’re wondering if there’s a font that’s all dildos.

To be fair, the flag is a deliberate parody of the ISIS one, created by an artist who specializes in subverting the symbols of homophobic groups with homosexual imagery. It’s fine if your average Joe mistakes it for an ISIS flag, but these were international journalists who’d been covering the Middle East for years. They should know that Arabic script and cartoonish renderings of sex toys bear little resemblance to one another. Honestly, their first clue should have been that the flag was being flown at a gay pride event …

Building better men: how we can begin to redefine masculinity

My friend’s story proves men can change. Now educators are working with young boys to help them escape gender roles at an early age.

‘We have to get a lot more deliberate if we want to transform masculinity into a healthy identity.’

I have a friend – let’s call him Dave, though that’s not his name – who is active in his church, a loving and supportive husband, and a hilarious dinner companion. He’s also a former rapist.

He confessed this to me in fits and starts, over dinners and phone calls and late-night drinks, after we’d known each other a couple of years.

His story matches much of the research my work relies on, but it still forced me to re-evaluate some of my core assumptions about rapists and about the role of men in ending rape.

Dave’s former MO is familiar to anyone who thinks about sexual violence for a living. He picked victims he knew. He got them alone, encouraged them to have conversations that made them feel vulnerable, and pressed a lot of alcohol on them. And then, when they were too drunk to consent, he “had sex” with them. (That’s how he thought about it at the time, though today he will tell you straight up it was rape.)

The research is very clear: most rapists know they don’t have consent, and they rape an average of six times each. Before Dave told me his story, I thought that meant that most rapists were essentially sociopaths. I worried for a long time that Dave, too, must be a sociopath. But I’ve done a lot of thinking and searching on that idea, and I just don’t think he is. I think he’s a guy who grew up with some very toxic ideas about what it means to be a man.

While Dave’s violence is inexcusable, his story also gives me some hope. It shows that men can change. Even men who’ve already done terrible things.



Netflix’s revamp of the classic makeover show Queer Eye, originally called Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, has received rave reviews. In this eight-episode season, the “Fab Five”—gay men who are experts in grooming, fashion, culture, design, and cooking—pile into a new pick-up truck to scour the Atlanta area for lonely and messy men.

The show adapts to current social realities. Bravo’s classic Queer Eye for The Straight Guy aired in 2003 and was considered daring simply by displaying gay and heterosexual men interacting on television.

This Fab Five address a wider range of issues including racism and religious differences. Recent reviewers say the show does a good job of teaching heterosexual men how to display emotions and develop self-acceptance. By so doing, Queer Eye becomes “an antidote” to contemporary forms of toxic masculinity that narrow men’s self-expression to aggression and anger.

These are lofty goals for a reality TV show that also offers tips for do-it-yourself exfoliating body scrubs. Indeed, the show’s focus on consumerism and outward appearance threatens its high ideals.

Viewers are directed towards a singular concept of who the show’s made-over men, called “heroes,” are supposed to be: flawless, self-made entrepreneurial men. This is a problem, not only because perfection is unattainable, but also because it erases the diversity of backgrounds and life experiences that the show purports to embrace.

When daylight saving time was put to a vote

Time for a change.

Daylight savings time is not inevitable.

In 1992, the people of Queensland, Australia were posed the following question: “Are you in favour of daylight saving?” The answers would decide the future of time in the state.

Queensland, which didn’t have daylight saving time, had just undergone a three-year trial of pushing forward their clocks an hour during the summer months. It was only intended for one year. But the task force assigned to monitor the experiment thought it would be best for it to go on for another two years, and then for a referendum to be held.

People were divided. The arguments for and against daylights saving were basically the same ones people have had the world over since Germany became the first country to adopt the practice about 100 years ago, during the first World War.

Those in favor argued that later daylight hours in the summer would be good for the economy and public health (pdf). More sunlight after work leads to more shopping and people doing recreational activities outside. It would also decrease energy use, they said, because people could use more natural light in the evening (research suggests the actual impact on energy usage are minimal).

John Oliver and Keegan-Michael Key rain on your Bitcoin-raining dreams on Last Week Tonight

Keegan-Michael Key, John Oliver

At the beginning of his extended main story about the financial “Wild West” that is the burgeoning, huckster-crawling landscape of cryptocurrency on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver showed a clip of a guy in a blinking Bitcoin suit explaining what this new economic paradigm actually is. And, while Oliver wanted to make fun of someone in a silly costume breaking down the details of an impossibly complicated issue, he had to concede that, not only was shiny coin costume guy doing a decent job, but that that strategy could also describe “literally the entire business model of this fucking television show.” (Mr. Nutterbutter approves.) Still, Oliver took a shot at explaining the volatile commodity/sort-of legal tender that is cryptocurrency, or “everything you don’t understand about money combined with everything you don’t understand about computers.”

And while Oliver didn’t bring out his own cryptocurrency mascot (Coiny the Magic Bitcoin?), he did—noting the irrationally lucrative effect even the willy-nilly addition of cryptocurrency language has had on various companies’ stock—rechristen his show Last Bit Tonight With Block Chainover, if only for the moment. Indeed, Oliver did a decent job himself of breaking down the risks, possible system-changing rewards, and colorful/ludicrous personalities involved in this wildly speculative financial system. (He suggests that investing with anyone from The Mighty Ducks franchise—or Steven Seagal, for that matter—might be worth a second thought.) So go ahead and watch the clip as opposed to a third-hand attempt at dumbing down the subject. Especially since Oliver did eventually bring out, well, not a mascot exactly, but another of his celebrity guest stars in the form of Keegan-Michael Key. Key, exuberantly imitating one Carlos Matos of the extremely “dodgy” cryptocurrency concern BitConnect, co-opted Matos’ meme-worthy bombast in order to attract possible investors to the concept of, as he put it,

Tesla is seeking a valet mastermind to solve its office parking nightmare

Perfect fit

Nice job, jerk.

If you’ve dreamed about working at a high-end car company and have a knack for life-sized Tetris, Tesla has the job for you.

On Friday (March 9), Elon Musk’s car and solar panel company posted an opening for an entry-level position at its factory in Freemont, California. Or, just outside it. The company desperately needs a valet and parking manager to organize its parking lots.

Tesla’s parking situation—both at the the factory and its headquarters in Palo Alto—is notoriously disastrous. The Palo Alto space has about 600 parking spaces for an undisclosed number of employees, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall), while the Fremont location has 4,500 spots for 6,000 employees.

It’s gotten so bad that some employees arrive early to grab a spot, and nap in their cars before work. The lots themselves even have an (unofficial) Instagram account, whose creator solicits submissions of the worst offenses.


A post shared by Tesla Parking Lot (@teslaparkinglot) on

#tbt the good ol' dayz

A post shared by Tesla Parking Lot (@teslaparkinglot) on

According to the Journal, Tesla has tried implementing shuttles to and from the offices. Last year, Musk also wrote in a memo about a forthcoming “electric pod car roller coaster (with an optimal loop the loop route, of course!) that will allow fast and fun travel throughout our Fremont campus, dipping in and out of the factory and connecting all the parking lots.

Astronomers may have found the best place on Earth to look into space

Halfway to space

Look up.

Antarctica. The name evokes images of bitter extremes, an environment unkind to humans. Stories of polar explorers battling with the weather and perishing on their way back to safety. Why would astronomers choose to go there?

To get the best views of space, space itself is the best place to be. Here on Earth, one can escape the grip of our zest for luminescence and seek out a remote corner of the world where nights are still black except for the distant stars. Or one can climb a mountain, to leave below much of the bubbly air that blurs images of space, and especially humid air that blocks our view of space altogether.

This is where you can find the most powerful telescopes, on the summits of mountains, islands in desert or ocean. Chile. Hawaii. But Antarctica? Surely not?

In fact, the continent is ideal. And one of its coldest and most remote spots of all, a featureless place named Ridge A that sits near the high point of a vast polar desert, might just be the best place on Earth to look into space.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

This is Max’s verion of ABC 123.


Star gazing: why millennials are turning to astrology

In this time of uncertainty, millennials are asking the cosmos for answers. But is it more than just another fad?

Signs of the times: astrology and horoscopes have become hip again.

When people contact the women’s website Broadly, to ask why it runs horoscopes, as it has done since its launch in 2015, the UK editor Zing Tsjeng directs them to a video she uses as a catch-all response. It’s the figure skater Adam Rippon, discussing his unexpectedly good run at the Winter Olympics. A reporter asks him why he’s now skating better than ever before. He shrugs gently, with a glint of mischief in his eye, then says: “I can’t explain witchcraft.”

Many people over the age of 35 will have grown up with astrology as a form of light entertainment: big, cartoonish, campy personalities like Mystic Meg and Russell Grant, hidden away in the back pages of newspapers and women’s magazines, picking lucky numbers and promising the intervention of tall, dark, handsome strangers. But the women (and men) who Broadly speaks to may have a different grasp of astrology. That’s why traffic to the site’s horoscopes is growing so rapidly. At The Cut, a site focused on fashion and trends for a similar, millennial audience, staff say that a typical horoscope post got 150% more hits last year than in 2016.

There is a growing familiarity with the patterns and positions of the planets, and it’s not uncommon to hear people in their late teens and 20s talking about, say, “Mercury in retrograde” and “Saturn returns” with confidence and authority. They know that a “star sign” is a sun sign, and that for any half-decent attempt at a reading, you need to know your exact time and place of birth, so you can discuss, with equal reverence, the influence of your rising sign and moon sign, too.

It’s part of a broader shift, one that finds magic and mysticism referenced regularly in popular culture. In the fashion world, labels such as Vetements and Valentino have featured zodiac signs, constellations and cosmic patterns. The high street has followed the trend. An episode of TV show Broad City used a coven of witches in Central Park as its way of digesting the election of Trump – it makes more sense if you watch it. Especially if you’re one of the estimated 800,000 Wiccans in the world. In the UK alone, 60,000 people identify as pagan.

Far away from light pollution and high up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite National Park’s stunning views of the night sky and majestic natural wonders attract astronomers, photographers and city dwellers from around the country.

And remember, if you look good you’ll feel good, you feel good you’ll play good, you play good they pay good, they pay good you live good, you live good you die good.

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