August 10, 2018 in 3,654 words

The White Nationalists Are Winning

Fox News anchors and high-profile politicians are now openly pushing the racism of the alt-right. The fringe movement’s messages have permeated the mainstream Republican Party.

The year since the white-supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been difficult for the rogues gallery of Nazis and pseudo-Nazis who championed it.

Jason Kessler, one of the organizers, was practically run out of town and faces a lawsuit that could force him to name his funders and ideological comrades. Christopher Cantwell, who put on a tough-guy act for Vice cameras but spent a lot of time crying on YouTube after a warrant was issued for his arrest, has turned state’s evidence. The anti-Semitic gadfly Tim “Baked Alaska” Gionet was banned from Twitter and has had difficulty reconstituting his online presence. Richard Spencer, the white-nationalist who lives off his family’s largesse and government subsidies, and is best known for being punched in the face, says his miniature Nuremberg rallies are no longer “fun” because of the leftist militant group Antifa. Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker Party was arrested for assaulting his wife and stepfather-in-law after the latter caught Heimbach sleeping with his wife. Andrew Anglin’s website, The Daily Stormer, has had trouble finding and maintaining a host in the United States and abroad. One by one, several of the white nationalists who participated in the cowardly assault on the black counter-protester DeAndre Harris have pleaded guilty or been convicted.

From the looks of it, the Nazis lost the battle of Charlottesville. After all, Donald Trump’s handling of the aftermath of the rally, in which he said there were “very fine people” on both sides of the protest, drew bipartisan condemnation. The attempted rebranding of white nationalism as the genteel and technologically savvy alt-right failed, the marketing campaign faltering after the murder of the counter-protester Heather Heyer and the attempted murder of several others revealed to the nation the logical conclusion of alt-right beliefs and arguments. The bloody outcome of that day foiled the white nationalists’ attempt to garner sympathy from the mainstream right, and in doing so, make themselves respectable.

But the alt-right and its fellow travelers were never going to be able to assemble a mass movement. Despite the controversy over the rally and its bloody aftermath, the white nationalists’ ideological goals remain a core part of the Trump agenda. As long as that agenda finds a home in one of the two major American political parties, a significant portion of the country will fervently support it. And as an ideological vanguard, the alt-right fulfilled its own purpose in pulling the Republican Party in its direction.

One year after Charlottesville, the alt-right is gathering again — in Washington

Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the alt-right are rallying outside the White House.

White nationalists and neo-Nazis encircle counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville on August 11, 2017.

At last year’s Unite the Right rally, hundreds of members of the alt-right and white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, purportedly to defend a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, as it faced removal approved by the City Council. The event was supposed to be the alt-right’s zenith, coming into its own as a real political force with real political power — and, tangentially, grabbing the ear of the president.

The event began with a torchlit rally where attendees shouted, “You will not replace us!” (some replacing “you” with “Jews”). The next day, the event attracted a counterprotest, during which a self-avowed Nazi sympathizer drove a car into a crowd, killing a young woman. Afterward, President Donald Trump famously remarked that there were “very fine people on both sides.” The events weren’t the high point of the alt-right but the beginning of the end of the alt-right’s real or imagined political effectiveness.

And on August 12, they’re doing it again — this time, outside the White House.

It’s not clear how many people will attend Unite the Right 2 — many white nationalists have already said they have no interest in going, while others who might otherwise attend are enmeshed in legal troubles stemming from last year’s rally. Meanwhile, organizers of the coalition DC Against Hate have told at least one outlet that they expect at least 1,000 counterprotesters to attend events aimed against Unite the Right 2 under the banner “Shut It Down DC.”

A year ago, members of the alt-right felt strong enough to venture off the internet and into the real world. Now, the movement has largely been broken — by the law, by widespread disapproval, and mostly by their own actions — and Unite the Right 2 could represent its last stand.

Soybeans are stranded at sea in the US-China trade war


That ship has sailed, but it never stopped.

Cargo ship Peak Pegasus became a bit player in the US-China trade drama on July 6 when it raced against the clock to deliver US soybeans to China before retaliatory tariffs kicked in. Users on the social media site Weibo cheered Pegasus and its cargo on, with one user writing, “You are no ordinary soybean!”

Alas, the ship arrived 30 minutes too late to the port of Dalian, and has been sailing in circles ever since.

The 299-metre bulk carrier is carrying 70,000 tons of soybeans, worth about $20 million. Michael Magdovitz, an analyst at Rabobank, told The Guardian that Pegasus’ soybeans aren’t the only ones adrift; another carrier named Star Jennifer has also been waiting for a fortnight.

The Amsterdam-based trading company Louis Dreyfus is reportedly paying about $12,500 per day, to keep Pegasus afloat in an attempt to wait out the trade war. But commodities experts actually think this is a smart move, and keeping the carrier at sea for months might even make financial sense. Offloading the cargo in China would incur a 25% tariff, adding another $6 million in costs, and diverting the vessel to another port might be even more expensive.

5 Terrible Excuses For Racism (That People Keep Using)

Despite how civilized we all think we are, racism is as pervasive and insidious as ever. And with dumb, ugly racism comes even dumber excuses for racist outbursts. As it turns out, the human brain reacts to accusations of racism in the same way you’d react if you found a live bat in your shorts — with incoherent babbling and insane rationalizations.

5. “Drugs And Alcohol Make Me Racist!”

Earlier this year, Roseanne Barr, star of Roseanne and lover of the stupidest conspiracy theories imaginable, tweeted an insult at former Barack Obama advisor Valerie Jarret, comparing her to a Planet Of The Apes ape. Given that Jarret is part black and there is a long, storied history of racists likening black people to monkeys, people were naturally pretty pissed. To counter the backlash, Barr claimed that she’d been Tweeting on Ambien at two in the morning. This prompted the makers of Ambien to reply that racism is not a side effect of their medication.

But Barr is in no way the first person to climb aboard the Magic Bigot Bus and claim that they bought their ticket while hammered. In fact, she was only following in the footsteps of racism excuse pioneer Mel Gibson, who once proclaimed to police, apropos of nothing, that Jews started all the wars in the world when he was pulled over for drunk driving. Considering that, fuck no, the Jews didn’t, it was a questionable, left-field statement. It was also one Gibson blamed on alcohol.

He also blamed booze for tapes of him dropping the N-word and racial slurs against Latinos. But you know the old saying: Candy is dandy, but liquor … makes you believe in the genetic and cultural superiority of your race over others.

Eric Clapton, whom you might know for being every baby boomer dad’s favorite musician, had one of history’s most epic racist breakdowns. In front of an entire concert audience in 1976, Clapton went on a hate-bender, saying England was a white country and needed to send black people back to Africa, all amidst a cornucopia of racial slurs. He later revisited this episode in his life and claimed he regretted being a “semi-racist” — which must be like semi-sweet chocolate, in that it is fully shitty. He has blamed his issues with alcohol and drug addiction for the outburst, because that sounds more sympathetic than “I had shit in my brains.”

How the Space Force took over Washington


The vice president and an obsolete spacecraft.

With US soldiers still fighting in the Middle East after 17 years, the White House obsession with creating a “Space Force” may seem odd. But in a speech at the Pentagon today, vice president Mike Pence confirmed that the administration plans to do just that. It’s a decision that, however bizarrely timed, is being driven by a potent mix of national security concerns, space spectacle, and pork-barrel spending.

Space is vital to US national security and military power, even if very little of what you might consider “warfighting” goes on there now. America’s orbiting military computers are an incredible asset, providing communications and surveillance on a scale that its adversaries can’t rival (to say nothing of how important they are to the US economy).

What’s protecting those orbital computers is mostly that they are tens of thousands of miles above the earth, orbiting at nearly two miles per second. But that’s not the comfort it used to be. Russia and China are demonstrating increasing abilities to get to space and take military action there, as a broader technological revolution makes it easier for small organizations of all kinds to disrupt space. On earth, jamming techniques used by countries like Iran are growing more sophisticated, while the maturing weapons program in North Korea requires new surveillance tools to protect Americans.

A number of lawmakers, particularly Alabama representative Mike Rogers, have been pushing for the military to do more in space. In response, the US Air Force, currently responsible for most space missions, revamped its command structures. But these lawmakers want a dedicated military branch focused on space, an organization that would also be well positioned to pour money into the coffers of defense contractors like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and SpaceX.

The next major innovation in batteries might be here


Doubling a drone’s battery life, quadruples the area it can cover.

Lithium-ion batteries were first introduced to the public in a Sony camcorder in 1991. Then they revolutionized our lives. The versatile batteries now power everything from tiny medical implants and smartphones to forklifts and expensive electric cars. And yet, lithium-ion technology still isn’t powerful enough to fully displace gasoline-powered cars or cheap enough to solve the big energy-storage problem of solar and wind power.

Dave Eaglesham, the CEO of Pellion Technologies, a Massachusetts-based startup, believes his company has made the leap beyond lithium-ion that will bring the battery industry to the next stage of technological disruption. He and his colleagues have accomplished something researchers have been struggling with for decades: they’ve built a reliable rechargeable lithium-metal battery.

Though other startups have for years made various claims about lithium-metal batteries, none yet have gotten past the development or testing phases; Pellion has already been selling their battery to at least one buyer since February.

Pellion’s battery can pack nearly double the energy of a conventional lithium-ion battery, making it able to, for example, double the time a drone can spend in the air. That 100% increase in energy density is a step change compared to the annual 10% or so improvement the battery industry currently averages. If Pellion overcomes early limitations, its batteries have the potential to power a Tesla car for 800 km (500 miles) on a single charge, rather than today’s upper limits of 400 km.

Taiwan man rigs bike with 11 phones to play Pokemon Go

Chen San-yuan learnt about the game from his grandson

If you’re going to catch them all, you need to have the right kit.

Grandfather Chen San-yuan has rigged 11 smart phones on his bicycle to play the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go. He plans to add four more.

The Taiwanese man, affectionately known as Uncle Pokemon, learnt about the game from his grandson, and can play up to 20 hours straight before he runs out of battery power for his devices.

He currently spends more than £1,000 ($1,290) a month on his habit.

He powers his phones using battery packs kept in his basket, and can play for 20 hours straight

The grandfather has become a local celebrity, and is known as Uncle Pokemon

Mr Chen uses portable battery packs to power his multiple devices, enabling him to stay out late at night to catch Pokemon in the capital city, Taipei.

He was unaware of his popularity until Taiwanese news channel EXP.GG found him and interviewed him, when he was only using nine phones to play.

DEGREE OF OPPORTUNITY: He says the game has helped him to make friends and to fend off Alzheimer’s disease.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

In the summer of 2017, the alt right was an internet movement, and its rally in Charlottesville was intended to prove they could operate in the real world. It proved the opposite. The marchers had promised there would be more to come — but that’s not what happened. ​

“There’s not big alt right demonstrations at present. And that is largely due to Charlottesville,” Chris Cantwell told VICE News, a year after the rally. Cantwell had been home about two weeks. He’d been charged with a felony for macing people in the 2017 torch march, and that kept him in Virginia for almost a year, either in jail or under GPS monitoring. In late July, he pled guilty to misdemeanor assault and battery, and was banished from the state for five years.

“There was a lot of violence, a lot of chaos, a lot of lawfare — guys went to prison over this. And that understandably caused a lot of people to reconsider whether they wanted to have anything to do with it,” Cantwell said of Charlottesville. “And there wasn’t a whole lot of agreement about how to go forward, and that, to put it charitably, left us fractured.”

The aftermath of the rally has put a crushing pressure on the alt right. It’s been booted from mainstream social media. Its leaders can’t raise much money online, because crowdfunding sites reject them, and companies that process credit card payments keep kicking them off. (Cantwell said he’s been kicked off four payment processors, and has applied and been rejected from nearly 100 more.) Marchers who showed their faces in Charlottesville were doxxed, and when their identities were posted online, many were fired.

Antifa are a menacing presence at nearly every white nationalist public event. The anti-fascists have been able to do that by infiltrating white nationalist communications networks.

Over the last year, VICE News followed several alt right figures as they tried to push the movement into the mainstream. Both Richard Spencer and Matthew Heimbach went out on college tours to reach out to young people, and ended up speaking to nearly empty rooms. Both quit soon after.

Cantwell lives alone, in an apartment with very dark curtains. His shelves are filled with protein powder and nutritional supplements, he has a room full of exercise equipment, and he’s taped up signs reminding him to “STOP SAYING FUCK” on the fridge and in the bathroom. His sole source of income is his racist content business. He wants the alt right to learn how to organize, meet each other in person, and keep secrets. “I try not to look at the world in terms of regrets or whatever. What I try to do is look at it in terms of lessons learned,” Cantwell said. “I learned that the alt right, for all this talk of order, is not all that orderly.”

Cantwell says that whatever the social cost of being a white nationalist, it’s worth it. The cause has given him purpose. “I already am celebrated by more people than most people are. I mean, I matter, right? Most people don’t matter,” he said. “Most people will go through the world mostly unnoticed, and they’re happy with that. I have more people who care about me than almost anybody else.”

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

66 million years ago, a six-mile-wide asteroid, larger than Mount Everest is tall, slammed our planet with the force of ten billion atomic bombs, unleashing giant fireballs, crushing tsunamis, continent-shaking earthquakes, and suffocating darkness. This was the cause of the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, which drove the dinosaurs off the planet almost overnight. Or so we thought.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Franklin being introduced as the first black “Peanuts” character, Trevor and Roy Wood Jr. break down his most cringeworthy appearances.

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

Vice President Mike Pence successfully gave a serious speech about Space Force while keeping a straight face.

Donald Trump’s most impressive score over his vacation wasn’t registered on the golf course. It’s the 132 verified lies he’s told.

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

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

Here’s me commentary on an exclusive clip from The Meg with that legend Jason Statham. Plus a little trailer footage. Cheers to The Meg and Roadshow AU for sponsoring this commentary.

GH5のスローモーションと6Kフォトを使ってみました。I used slow motion and 6K photo of GH5.


Looking for Life on a Flat Earth

What a burgeoning movement says about science, solace, and how a theory becomes truth.

On the last Sunday afternoon in March, Mike Hughes, a sixty-two-year-old limousine driver from Apple Valley, California, successfully launched himself above the Mojave Desert in a homemade steam-powered rocket. He’d been trying for years, in one way or another. In 2002, Hughes set a Guinness World Record for the longest ramp jump—a hundred and three feet—in a limo, a stretch Lincoln Town Car. In 2014, he allegedly flew thirteen hundred and seventy-four feet in a garage-built rocket and was injured when it crashed. He planned to try again in 2016, but his Kickstarter campaign, which aimed to raise a hundred and fifty thousand dollars, netted just two supporters and three hundred and ten dollars. Further attempts were scrubbed—mechanical problems, logistical hurdles, hassles from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Finally, a couple of months ago, he made good. Stuff was leaking, bolts needed tightening, but at around three o’clock, and with no countdown, Hughes blasted off from a portable ramp—attached to a motorhome he’d bought through Craigslist—soared to nearly nineteen hundred feet, and, after a minute or so, parachuted less than gently back to Earth.

For all of that, Hughes might have attracted little media attention were it not for his outspoken belief that the world is flat. “Do I believe the Earth is shaped like a Frisbee? I believe it is,” he told the Associated Press. “Do I know for sure? No. That’s why I want to go up in space.”

Hughes converted fairly recently. In 2017, he called in to the Infinite Plane Society, a live-stream YouTube channel that discusses Earth’s flatness and other matters, to announce his beliefs and ambitions and ask for the community’s endorsement. Soon afterward, The Daily Plane, a flat-Earth information site (“News, Media and Science in a post-Globe Reality”), sponsored a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than seventy-five hundred dollars on Hughes’s behalf, enabling him to make the Mojave jump with the words “Research Flat Earth” emblazoned on his rocket.

To be clear, Hughes did not expect his flight to demonstrate Earth’s flatness to him; nineteen hundred feet up, or even a mile, is too low of a vantage point. And he doesn’t like that the mainstream media has portrayed things otherwise. This flight was just practice. His flat-Earth mission will come sometime in the future, when he will launch a rocket from a balloon (a “rockoon”) and go perhaps seventy miles up, where the splendor of our disk will be evident beyond dispute.

If you are only just waking up to the twenty-first century, you should know that, according to a growing number of people, much of what you’ve been taught about our planet is a lie: Earth really is flat. We know this because dozens, if not hundreds, of YouTube videos describe the coverup. We’ve listened to podcasts—Flat Earth Conspiracy, The Flat Earth Podcast—that parse the minutiae of various flat-Earth models, and the very wonkiness of the discussion indicates that the over-all theory is as sound and valid as any other scientific theory. We know because on a clear, cool day it is sometimes possible, from southwestern Michigan, to see the Chicago skyline, more than fifty miles away—an impossibility were Earth actually curved. We know because, last February, Kyrie Irving, the Boston Celtics point guard, told us so. “The Earth is flat,” he said. “It’s right in front of our faces. I’m telling you, it’s right in front of our faces. They lie to us.” We know because, last November, a year and a day after Donald Trump was elected President, more than five hundred people from across this flat Earth paid as much as two hundred and forty-nine dollars each to attend the first-ever Flat Earth Conference, in a suburb of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Look around you,” Darryle Marble, the first featured speaker on the first morning of the conference, told the audience. “You’ll notice there’s not a single tinfoil hat.” He added, “We are normal people that have an abnormal perspective.”

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