May 15, 2018 in 2,860 words

Seth Meyers: ‘The phrase ‘drain the swamp’ is now devoid of all meaning’

Late-night comics discussed Trump’s support for down-ballot Republican candidates and John Kelly’s comments on immigration

Pictured above: Seth Meyers: ‘Trump didn’t drain the swamp. He bottled it and sold it as Dr Trump’s miracle healing elixir.’

Late-night hosts on Monday discussed John Kelly’s comments on undocumented immigrants, Donald Trump’s support for down-ballot Republican candidates, and the president’s remarks on Mother’s Day.

Seth Meyers

Seth Meyers discussed Trump’s efforts to elect a Republican to the Senate in Indiana.

“On Thursday, Trump was in Indiana campaigning for Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun,” Meyers said. “Now, Trump doesn’t exactly have a great track record campaigning for Republicans down-ballot, mainly because Trump’s schtick only works for him.”

Meyers then explained that, after Trump campaigned for GOP candidate Rick Saccone in the congressional race for Pennsylvania’s 18th district, Democrat Conor Lamb won in a seat that had been a Republican stronghold.

THANKS to NBC and Late Night with Seth Meyers for making this program available on YouTube.

Meyers went on: “Trump was apparently not deterred by Saccone’s loss because he was right back at it in Indiana, campaigning against Democratic senator Joe Donnelly.”

“You can send a really incredible swamp person back to the Senate, like Joe Donnelly, or you can send us a Republican like Mike Braun to drain the swamp,” Trump said in Indiana.

“After all your scandals, the phrase ‘drain the swamp’ is now devoid of all meaning,” Meyers shot back. “Trump’s cabinet has had one corruption scandal after another. And his personal fixer was literally selling access to the president. Trump didn’t drain the swamp. He bottled it and sold it as Dr Trump’s miracle healing elixir.”

At the rally, Trump said his administration is “fighting lobbyists, special interests and corrupt Washington politics”.

“He fought corrupt Washington politics and replaced it with the only thing that’s worse: corrupt New York politics,” Meyers said, showing photos of Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen. “Look at these guys: if they weren’t aides to the president, they’d have competing strip clubs outside of Secaucus.”

Donald Trump Is Driving Us on a Road to Hell in the Middle East

Rejecting the Iranian nuclear deal is just the beginning.

President Donald Trump America’s Shithole signs a Presidential Memorandum on the Iran nuclear deal in the White House, May 8, 2018.

With Donald Trump’s decision to shred the Iran nuclear agreement, announced last Tuesday, it’s time for the rest of us to start thinking about what a Third Gulf War would mean. The answer, based on the past 16 years of American experience in the Greater Middle East, is that it won’t be pretty.

The New York Times recently reported that US Army Special Forces were secretly aiding the Saudi Arabian military against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. It was only the latest sign preceding President Trump’s Iran announcement that Washington was gearing up for the possibility of another interstate war in the Persian Gulf region. The first two Gulf wars—Operation Desert Storm (the 1990 campaign to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait) and the 2003 US invasion of Iraq—ended in American “victories” that unleashed virulent strains of terrorism like ISIS, uprooted millions, and unsettled the Greater Middle East in disastrous ways. The Third Gulf War—not against Iraq but Iran and its allies—will undoubtedly result in another American “victory” that could loose even more horrific forces of chaos and bloodshed.

Like the first two Gulf wars, the third could involve high-intensity clashes between an array of American forces and those of Iran, another well-armed state. While the United States has been fighting ISIS and other terrorist entities in the Middle East and elsewhere in recent years, such warfare bears little relation to engaging a modern state determined to defend its sovereign territory with professional armed forces that have the will, if not necessarily the wherewithal, to counter major US weapons systems.

A Third Gulf War would distinguish itself from recent Middle Eastern conflicts by the geographic span of the fighting and the number of major actors that might become involved. In all likelihood, the field of battle would stretch from the shores of the Mediterranean, where Lebanon abuts Israel, to the Strait of Hormuz, where the Persian Gulf empties into the Indian Ocean. Participants could include, on one side, Iran, the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and assorted Shiite militias in Iraq and Yemen; and, on the other, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). If the fighting in Syria were to get out of hand, Russian forces could even become involved.

An Anti-Leak Squad Patrols the White House in Search of Staffers’ Secret Phones

The PC (Personal Communications) Police.

Despite its manifest desire to mislead the public about its activities and intentions, Donald Trump’s White House might well be the most “transparent” of any in our history. The administration allowed an adversarial reporter unfettered access to the West Wing for most of Trump’s first six months in office. And even after John Kelly evicted Michael Wolff, the administration continued to keep the public informed about every little piece of petty palace intrigue that transpired at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — including those generated by staffers keeping the public informed about every little piece of petty palace intrigue that transpires at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Thus, White House staffers leaked word last week that an administration aide had made an irreverent comment about John McCain’s impending death — and the White House responded by redoubling its efforts to crack down on leaks, which we know, because the details of said efforts immediately leaked.

On Thursday, administration staffers gave CNN an intimate look into how John Kelly’s ban on personal communication devices in the White House has been playing out. Specifically, they divulged that an anti-leaking squad — armed with devices that can detect the presence of non-government-issued phones — now patrols the West Wing in search of traitors:
Officials now either leave their personal devices in their cars, or, when they arrive for work each morning, deposit them in lockers that have been installed at West Wing entrances … Sources said it’s common to find several staffers huddled around the lockers throughout the day, perusing their neglected messages. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The ban isn’t based on an honor system.

Linguistic analysis shows oil companies are giving up on climate change


Changing the climate, but not talking about it.

Oil companies don’t like talking about climate change. As the prime movers of fossil fuels, they’d probably prefer not to mention it at all. But sometimes outside pressure forces companies to do things they don’t like.

That’s where “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) reports come in. Issued annually by many large companies, these reports assess performance on measures that go beyond the bottom line, like environmental protection or human rights.

Oil companies don’t have to release CSRs, but more than three-quarters of them do anyway. This is where they address the hairy issue of climate change, caused in no small part by their own products. It’s a topic they’d probably rather avoid, and increasingly, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

These companies are mentioning the phrase “climate change” less and less in their social responsibility reports, as the chart below shows. It’s the result of a new paper by Sylvia Jaworska, a linguist at the University of Reading in the UK.

Jaworska created a dataset comprising the CSRs of every major oil company that produces them, from 2000 to 2013. Altogether, it includes 294 reports, and nearly 15 million words from the likes of Gazprom, Exxon, BP, Sinopec, Norsk, and others.

The New Roseanne Takes Place in Another Dimension, Seriously

A lot of us made peace with the Roseanne saga ending back in the late ’90s, but since TV is now a spooooky graveyard full of reanimated sitcom corpses, Dan and Roseanne Conner are back for another season! And though its ratings have declined since the premiere, the new Roseanne is still racking up more viewers than Game Of Thrones — which hopefully doesn’t mean Daenerys and Jon Snow are going move to Illinois and open up a loose meat sandwich joint next season.

Of course, the most buzzed-about aspect of the reboot is how Roseanne Conner (like her actress) is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump. Now, no one’s saying that a fictional character can’t hold political beliefs that deviate from those of some segment of the viewing public, but in Rosanne’s case, it does seem kind of weird.

Why? Well, lot of Trump’s values conflict with those of the character we know from the original series. Roseanne Conner was decidedly pro-choice, while Trump said there should be “some form of punishment” for women who get abortions. Roseanne memorably threw her friends a gay wedding, while Trump compared same-sex marriage to “unattractive” golf putters (seriously), and his vice president is basically the Hans Gruber to the LGBTQ community’s John McClane. Even some of Roseanne‘s original writers are confused by the character’s switch from a socially liberal, pro-union feminist to someone who would vote for Trump. Roseanne‘s first season culminates with her standing up to a chauvinistic boss whose sexist comments are downright Disney-like compared to what Trump has said about women.

Well, it turns out there is an explanation to all of this, and it has to do with multiple realities.

Why introverts might actually be better networkers


When it comes to networking, talking to the most people is not necessarily the best approach.

“I’m an introvert,” someone inevitably tells me when I speak about building a professional network. “Networking is just not for me.” These people assume networking belongs solely in the domain of the extroverts.

Presumably, extroverts are more excited by going to mixers and events and meeting new people. But recent research from the world of network science suggests that introverts might actually be the better networkers.

To understand why, we first have to debunk a common misconception about introverts: They don’t hate people. They just prefer to interact with them differently than extroverts do. The series of small chit-chat conversations that are so common at networking events might, for an introvert, be draining. Instead, introverts crave deep and meaningful conversations. And this preference can actually be an advantage when it comes to networking.

Research from the domain of network science, psychology, and other social sciences implies that we prefer relationships where there is more than one context for connecting with other people. We want to know more about them than we learn from superficial questions such as “who are you and what do you do?” We want to know more than their thoughts on the weather. We want to know their back stories, their motivations, their passions, and so much more. We want multiple points of connection. In network science, relationships where there are multiple contexts for connection are referred to as multiplex ties.

Boston Dynamics will sell its terrifying robot dogs. What could go wrong?

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia toured MIT, including meeting Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini, in March.

Boston Dynamics might be on the cutting edge of robot technology, but the Waltham-based company is at least as good at making viral videos.

If you’ve been online at any point in the last several months, you probably caught a glimpse of SpotMini, the disconcertingly doglike robot that Boston Dynamics plans to start selling next year. In one clip, a SpotMini uses a strange claw thingy that vaguely resembles a face to open a door for another robot. The second robot darts through the open door.

Each new Boston Dynamics video is met with a mix of amazement and not-entirely-sarcastic gallows humor: “Boston Dynamics’ updated SpotMini can open doors with a creepy back appendage,” a headline on the website Techspot reported. “Our days are numbered.”

And soon they’ll be for sale.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: If you click on the embedded link for this article, then attempt to click on the first embedded link in the article, you’ll sadly find you’ve been paywalled by the Boston Globe for another month.

A woman is challenging Japan’s resistance to immigrants by helping foreigners find work


Trying to settle in.

They stack shelves in Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores, work on construction sites, even clean up radioactive debris at Fukushima—but officially, the blue-collar workers doing this work do not exist.

The Japanese government does not officially allow work visas for people to do low-skilled, manual jobs. Such workers instead enter Japan as foreign students who work on the side, or as “technical intern trainees” who are supposed to only stay temporarily and no more than five years. It’s a workaround that keeps the government from having to admit that it is, in fact, opening up the country—many in Japan remain deeply apprehensive about immigration even as Japan struggles with a severe labor shortage. But it’s also a workaround that leaves thousands of workers vulnerable to exploitation by employers and the brokers who bring them over.

Misa Matsuzaki, a 48-year-old entrepreneur, is trying to change that with an idea that sounds simple, but has yet not been tested in Japan—creating an app that directly connects employers with those blue-collar job seekers who are already in Japan. Work Japan, she explained, is one way to alleviate the problem of exploitation by creating a more transparent platform for workers to find jobs matching their interests, skills, and location, cutting out exploitative and expensive middlemen in the process.

Matsuzaki got the idea after attending a conference in Bengaluru in 2016, where she met the founder of Work India, an app that aims “to completely remove the significant information asymmetry that exists between the employers and employees” in the manual-labor segment.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

In Miami, wild macaws are regularly captured for the pet trade. Even though these parrots can live for 50 years or more, have the cognitive abilities of a human child, and form deep, decades-long social relationships with other members of their species, they are often destined to live a solitary life in a cage. Read more:…

“Parrots in Peril” is directed by Neil Losin. It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent creators, curated by The Atlantic.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly faces backlash after characterizing Mexican immigrants as uneducated and “overwhelmingly rural.”

Trevor proposes an idea to stop non-emergency 9-1-1 calls in the wake of a white woman calling the police on a group of people for barbecuing while black.

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

The President channeled ‘West Side Story’ while defending his hypocritical directive to help China’s phone giant, ZTE, to ‘get back in business.’

Before he calls it a night, the President often has conversations with Sean Hannity. (And not just him yelling at his bedroom TV.)

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

Citizen Journalist Laura Grey attempts to change the minds of a group of Colorado teachers protesting for higher wages and classroom funding, “Dangerous Minds”-style.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Opposition with Jordan Klepper for making this program available on YouTube.

Max wants to make sure his beak is nice and polished before he says hi to his friend at the garage.

Max was playing but ended up getting his toe stuck in the cage and I had to go help him. This is another reason to always watch him when he is out of his cage.


‘Reluctant Psychonaut’ Michael Pollan Embraces The ‘New Science’ Of Psychedelics

Author Michael Pollan had always been curious about psychoactive plants, but his interest skyrocketed when he heard about a research study in which people with terminal cancer were given a psychedelic called psilocybin — the active ingredient in “magic mushrooms” — to help them deal with their distress.

“This seemed like such a crazy idea that I began looking into it,” Pollan says. “Why should a drug from a mushroom help people deal with their mortality?”

Pollan, whose previous books include The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense Of Food, started researching different experimental therapeutic uses of psychedelics, and found that the drugs were being used to treat depression, addiction and the fear of death.

Then he decided to go one step further: A self-described “reluctant psychonaut,” Pollan enlisted guides to help him experiment with LSD, psilocybin and 5-MeO-DMT, a substance in the venom of the Sonoran Desert toad.

Each of Pollan’s experiences with psychedelics was proceeded by worry and self-doubt. But, he says, “I realized later that was my ego trying to convince me not to do this thing that was going to challenge my ego.”

Pollan’s new book, How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, recounts his experiences with the drugs and also examines the history of psychedelics as well as their possible therapeutic uses.

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