August 31, 2018 in 2,839 words

Pictured above: America’s Shithole, uncharacteristically shut.


Donald Trump blinked. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last.

He blinked because he’s a bully, and bullies, we were told as kids, are actually cowards – a theory, by the way, that in my experience hasn’t always held true. But in this case, it works perfectly.

And he blinked because — and this may be a bit of a revelation — he apparently actually understands the concept of human decency even if he routinely rejects the concept of practicing it.

He blinked on the matter of Sen. John McCain and the half-staff flag — which Trump had prematurely raised to full staff as the rest of Washington continued to honor McCain — and he blinked on the matter of his refusal to say anything remotely generous about an iconic senator who happened to be a (yes, captured) war hero.

The non-base national revulsion persuaded him to back down. Oh, and the anger directed at him from the American Legion and other veterans groups who felt that dishonoring McCain was dishonoring all veterans. You have to like the irony here, knowing that Trump has falsely accused NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem of disrespecting the flag and those in the military when, as the protesters have clearly stated, their protest is meant to bring attention to police brutality and unequal justice.

It’s a normal political move to retreat as gracefully as possible when you’ve done something to offend much of the country. But, at the risk of repeating myself, nothing about Trump is normal. And I swear I could almost see McCain wink as Trump was forced to blink.


The Dangerous Myths of South African Land Seizures

Reactionaries on either side of the Atlantic are empowering one another.


A farmer inspects his crop in Limpopo, South Africa.

Last week, President Donald Trump watched Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News and got mad. That’s not exactly news, but what happened next was news. The president tweeted a message of support for South Africa’s hard-pressed white farmers.


I have asked Secretary of State @SecPompeo to closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers. “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.”

Trump’s tweet had the usual effect: It has swung liberal-minded Americans to exactly the equal and opposite point of view from the president’s. Trump thinks it’s bad for South Africa to seize land from white farmers without compensation? Then it must actually be good!

But the tweet also had a second effect, this one much less usual: It seems to have actually changed real-world policy for the better. On Tuesday, South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) party withdrew “for further consideration” a bill that would have authorized uncompensated land confiscations.

The issue is not yet dead: The bill—not yet enacted into law—was withdrawn for reasons of procedure, not principle. The new South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, maintains he will soon introduce new land laws of his own. Yet there’s no mistaking Ramaphosa’s extreme discomfort with uncompensated land seizures. The day after Trump’s tweet, Ramaphosa published an op-ed in the Financial Times that handled the issue with sugar tongs:


It Turns Out Mike Pence Has Been Working on Being Unlikable for Decades

Your vice president once turned in his fraternity brothers for—gasp—drinking beer.


Mama, of course, she said, hi/ Have you heard the news, he said with a grin. The vice president’s gone mad/ Where? Downtown. When? Last night. Hmm, say, that’s too bad. Well, there’s nothing we can do about it, said the neighbor/ It’s just something we’re gonna have to forget.
—Bob Dylan, “Clothesline Saga.”

The late great Indiana political blogger Doghouse Riley used to call Mike Pence “the Choirboy,” and hipped us all to the fact that this was a walking haircut stuffed with piety, ignorance, and not a whole lot else. Comes now CNN with a profile, and we learn from the people with whom he went to college that Pence has been practicing to be an unlikable and thoroughgoing prig for decades now.

Narc on your frat brothers? You bet.

As a college freshman, he was elected to head his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta. He also took command of a fellowship group, Vespers, which met in the campus chapel every Tuesday evening. At the frat he turned in his brothers for drinking beer. At the chapel he passed judgment on his peers.

A fun date? Absolutely.

Vespers was organized around songs and testimonies of faith. It offered community to students who were adjusting to the emotional challenge of leaving home. It also gave the guitar-playing Pence the opportunity to preach with the zeal of a new convert to right-wing Christianity. His schoolmate Linda Koon recalls a charismatic fellow who turned cruel when she failed to meet his definition of true faith.

Koon’s problem was that she couldn’t recount a dramatic come-to-Jesus tale of Christian conversion. “He acted like he had been struck by lightning,” she said. “I had just grown up in the Lutheran Church and had always been a Christian. That wasn’t good enough. He told me that wasn’t good enough, ‘God doesn’t want your kind.’ It was a very narrow view of an infinite being.”…As she told us in an interview, Pence’s evaluation of her fervor was followed by a recitation of her supposed sins, including her attendance at a wild party at the fraternity where Pence was in charge. Koon says she left the session in tears, and was subsequently shunned by the members of the prayer group. After a temporary loss of faith, she undertook a new religious journey that led her to a more open-minded perspective. But the pain of the loss she experienced at Hanover remains. “There’s a part of me who is still 18,” says Koon, “and I still feel it.”

Judging a peer who came to you in confidence with an immense personal problem? Just the way Jesus would have done it.


5 Ridiculously Implausible Things The Alt-Right Is Afraid Of

Inside every hateful person is a scared person. If you want to know what they’re scared of, don’t worry, they’ll tell you. In the case of the far right, we actually have a single book that explains it all in the most unintentionally ridiculous way possible.

The book is called Forbidden Thoughts. It’s a collection of short stories by a bunch of right-wing science fiction writers, complete with a foreword by professional dickhead Milo Yiannopoulos. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone read it, ever, even ironically, but it does serve as an easy guide to the grossly implausible things these guys claim to fear. For instance …

5. “If We Allow Abortion, It Will Soon Be Legal To Murder Grown Children”


The Story:

The key to being a terrible person is to always assume everyone else is much, much worse. The problem is that if you’re part of what polite society considers a hate group, then it takes some serious mental leaps to get there.

So let’s kick off by looking at the story “At The Edge Of Detachment” by A.M. Freeman, a cautionary tale about a 12-year-old boy who tragically breaks his arm after falling out of a tree. Luckily for his mother, the legal age for aborting a fetus in the United States has been extended to, uh, 13 years after birth. You know, that thing that liberals are always saying they want?

Anyway, his mother decides that it is cheaper and easier to simply have her son killed than treat him for a minor ailment, so she applies to the government to obtain an extremely late-term abortion. The story consists of the child protagonist’s inner monologue on his very short life before he is dragged away by government agents while screaming that he’s a living person.

The Fear:

If there’s one thing that the folks on the extreme right know, it’s that liberals LOVE dead kids. In 2015, right-wing blogs started stirring up a panic storm about the imminent abortionpocalypse when they discovered an article published way back in 2012 for the Journal Of Medical Ethics titled “After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?”

Holy shit, right? The article dared to present the question: if it’s generally acceptable to terminate a pregnancy upon learning that the fetus has some kind of severe genetic defect, then why is it not acceptable to terminate a baby for the same reason? The right went apeshit about this being the smoking gun that proves this is what liberals actually want!


The Most Dystopian Marketing Stunt Ever?

KFC is promising $11,000 to the first baby named after Colonel Sanders and born on his birthday.

The name Harland hasn’t been in fashion for quite a while. The last time it cracked the top 1,000 names for American baby boys was about 70 years ago. Even in 1918—the year in the 20th century that produced the most Harlands—there were only 155 of them born.

The name would likely have maintained its obscurity for decades, perhaps never to return. But Harland might soon make a comeback, thanks to the efforts of, strangely enough, Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Harland is the first name of the fast-food company’s founder (and now mascot), Colonel Sanders, and the company announced on Wednesday that it will award $11,000 to the first baby born on September 9, Sanders’s birthday, bearing the name Harland. Per a press release, the gift of $11,000 is “in honor of KFC’s 11 herbs and spices” and is intended for the newborn Harland’s college tuition.

In other words, there might soon be a child whose naming rights were effectively purchased by a company that sells fast food. Surely KFC intended for this stunt to get attention and press, which is a disappointing confirmation of the lengths to which corporations will go to set themselves apart in the churn of the social-media age.


‘Like nicotine’: Bees develop preference for pesticides, study shows

Insects’ acquired taste for pesticide-laced food is similar to nicotine addiction in smokers, say scientists.


Controversial neonicotinoid pesticides are chemically similar to nicotine.

Bumblebees acquire a taste for pesticide-laced food that can be compared to nicotine addiction in smokers, say scientists.

The more of the nicotine-like chemicals they consume, the more they appear to want, a study has shown.

The findings suggest that the risk of potentially harmful pesticide-contaminated nectar entering bee colonies is higher than was previously thought.

In a series of studies, a team of British researchers offered bumblebees a choice of two sugar solutions, one of which was laced with neonicotinoid pesticides.

They found that over time the bees increasingly preferred feeders containing the pesticide-flavoured sugar.

Dr Richard Gill, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial College London, said: “Given a choice, naive bees appear to avoid neonicotinoid-treated food. However, as individual bees increasingly experience the treated food they develop a preference for it.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

In Los Angeles, celebrities are constantly pursued by camera-wielding photographers snapping photos and yelling questions. Things are a bit more tame in Washington, D.C. when it comes to the political celebrities who regularly walk the streets of the district.

High level Cabinet officials and politicians are mostly left alone when they are out in public. While the corridors of the U.S. Capitol can be a media gauntlet, outside of predetermined media availabilities high-powered officials can usually go about their business without worrying too much.

So VICE News decided to make things slightly more uncomfortable for the people who make some of the country’s most important decisions by taking the LA-based paparazzi and bringing them to Washington. The photographers found out that while you can find these people in D.C., it’s still hard to get them to answer any questions.

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


Adam Schiff of the House Intelligence Committee talks about the Russian interference in the 2016 election and the modern war between democracy and authoritarianism.


Connecticut Congressman Jim Hines explains why Congress shouldn’t observe moments of silence after mass shootings and why universal background checks should be a simple issue.

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


“Good Mythical Morning” is the most popular daily show on YouTube, and it’s getting even bigger.

With over 12 million subscribers, and 3.7 billion total views, the show’s hosts Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal are an integral part of their fans’ weekday mornings. And thanks to YouTube funding, the show has recently transformed from 10 minutes of the hosts sitting on chairs made out of marshmallows and eating weird food to a much bigger variety show production.

Each morning’s show is now about 25 minutes of musical performances, celebrity guest stars, and even more weird food. That shift makes McLaughlin and Neal attractive for advertisers, especially because their content is family-friendly — assuming you’re okay with watching people eat congealed blood and scorpions.

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


If you want to be a real MAN’S MAN, you better shut down all your feelings! Live your life terrified of showing any weakness! Clench your jaw literally your entire life!


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

Here’s me critical analysis of Theresa May’s sensational dance moves.


ソファで寝るまるを色々な角度から。This is the various angles video of Maru who sleeps on the sofa.


FINALLY . . .

Can the Manufacturer of Tasers Provide the Answer to Police Abuse?

Axon’s body cameras are reshaping how video evidence is collected—and who controls it.


Body cameras are changing police work, creating new businesses and new debates.

Rick Smith, who made a fortune selling conducted-energy weapons—stun guns—likes to say that he is a “techno-optimist.” Human beings create problems, technology solves them, and a few bold thinkers get phenomenally rich in the process. Forty-eight years old, with a coplike, jacked physique, Smith is a co-founder and the C.E.O. of Taser International, which supplies police departments with weapons that are less lethal than firearms. “A hundred years ago in New York, they had a major problem,” he said. “Horse manure was spreading disease. You can imagine if you’d gone around New York and told people who love their horses, ‘We’re going to take your horses away.’ There’s the same dynamic with Americans and guns. What happened a hundred years ago was that we had a technology shift.” He paused, dwelling for a fraction of a second on the implication that cars had saved the world. “Now, that introduced some other problems,” he continued breezily. “And hopefully now we have some new technology to solve the carbon problem.” Solutions that create problems in need of solutions: that, he told me, is the definition of business.

For twenty-five years, Smith said, his mission—rarely expressed, for fear of alienating customers and irritating the National Rifle Association—has been to make the bullet obsolete. “Today, would you keep a sword by your bed?” he asked me. “No! It’s ridiculous. But firing hot projectiles of lead shrapnel at people—we want to make that a ridiculous concept, because it’s a brutal, outdated, terrible thing to do.”

Critics argue that, in the wrong hands, Tasers can be equally brutal. Civil-liberties and anti-torture groups have long complained that police officers, rather than resorting to Tasers strictly as an alternative to deadly force, often use them in situations that would never warrant firing a gun. Two years ago, after police in North Carolina Tased a mentally ill man five times in two minutes while trying to pry him off a stop sign—he was pronounced dead at the hospital—the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that using a Taser against someone resisting arrest was “unconstitutionally excessive.” A recent Reuters investigation found that, since 1983, a thousand and five people had died in the United States in incidents that involved Tasers, as part of a “larger mosaic of force.”

Tasers are carried by some six hundred thousand law-enforcement officers around the world—a kind of market saturation that also presents a problem. “One of the challenges with Taser is: where do you go next, what’s Act II?” Smith said. “For us, luckily, Act II is cameras.” He began adding cameras to his company’s weapons in 2006, to defend against allegations of abuse, and in the process inadvertently opened a business line that may soon overshadow the Taser. In recent years, body cameras—the officer’s answer to bystander cell-phone video—have become ubiquitous, and Smith’s company, now worth four billion dollars, is their largest manufacturer, holding contracts with more than half the major police departments in the country.

The cameras have little intrinsic value, but the information they collect is worth a fortune to whoever can organize and safeguard it.


FINALLY . . . FINALLY . . .


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