September 13, 2018 in 2,859 words

America Is Living James Madison’s Nightmare

The Founders designed a government that would resist mob rule. They didn’t anticipate how strong the mob could become.


James Madison traveled to Philadelphia in 1787 with Athens on his mind. He had spent the year before the Constitutional Convention reading two trunkfuls of books on the history of failed democracies, sent to him from Paris by Thomas Jefferson. Madison was determined, in drafting the Constitution, to avoid the fate of those “ancient and modern confederacies,” which he believed had succumbed to rule by demagogues and mobs.

Madison’s reading convinced him that direct democracies—such as the assembly in Athens, where 6,000 citizens were required for a quorum—unleashed populist passions that overcame the cool, deliberative reason prized above all by Enlightenment thinkers. “In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason,” he argued in The Federalist Papers, the essays he wrote (along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay) to build support for the ratification of the Constitution. “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.”

Madison and Hamilton believed that Athenian citizens had been swayed by crude and ambitious politicians who had played on their emotions. The demagogue Cleon was said to have seduced the assembly into being more hawkish toward Athens’s opponents in the Peloponnesian War, and even the reformer Solon canceled debts and debased the currency. In Madison’s view, history seemed to be repeating itself in America. After the Revolutionary War, he had observed in Massachusetts “a rage for paper money, for abolition of debts, for an equal division of property.” That populist rage had led to Shays’s Rebellion, which pitted a band of debtors against their creditors.

Madison referred to impetuous mobs as factions, which he defined in “Federalist No. 10” as a group “united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” Factions arise, he believed, when public opinion forms and spreads quickly. But they can dissolve if the public is given time and space to consider long-term interests rather than short-term gratification.


JPMorgan is the new welfare

WE ALMOST LOST DETROIT


A turnaround is needed.

America’s biggest bank is stepping up where governments have failed.

JPMorgan Chase is today unveiling a $500 million initiative called AdvancingCities, designed to revive growth in as many as 30 cities over the next five years (paywall). The focus will be on job training, neighborhood revitalization, growing small businesses, and consumer’s financial insecurity, the Wall Street Journal reported. Examples of society’s ills that the bank will work to address include building more affordable housing and getting commercial businesses into empty buildings.

The bank is taking applications from cities until November and will announce the winning cities by the middle of next year. In that, JPMorgan follows in the footsteps of Amazon, which turned location-hunting for its second US headquarters into something more akin to America’s Next Top Model, forcing US cities to bid against each other to land the $5 billion complex.

If you’re wondering why US governments—city, state, or federal—aren’t taking care of this stuff, good question. Remember that this is a nation where, despite historically low unemployment and a booming stock market, 17% of the population still get support from food stamps (paywall) and where Donald Trump wants to make it harder for millions of Americans to get access to basic welfare.

Many states have huge budget surpluses in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, while cities are crumbling to pieces (paywall). Cities are being forced to borrow more to fund everyday services and repairs, meaning that the costs of servicing debt are taking up more and more of their annual budgets. And pensions and the cost of providing public services are not exactly coming down. In Los Angeles, for example, almost 30% of the budget is taken up by all of these legacy costs combined, according to Merritt Research Services.


Samantha Bee’s Voter Turnout Game App Was Way Too Popular For Its Own Good

“Normally we love it when something goes down on us, just not our own app.”


It was a victim of its own success.

Late-night TV show “Full Frontal” launched its new “This Is Not A Game” app to great fanfare Wednesday, with host Samantha Bee dedicating two segments to the HQ Trivia-style game she hopes will boost voter turnout in the November midterm elections.

But the app, which offers real cash prizes, proved a little too popular. It crashed within minutes of going live.

“Full Frontal” humorously addressed the issue on Twitter, and promised to have the app back up and running Thursday.

Check out the first segment explaining how the app came about here:

And the second part here:



THERE’S A NAME—AND A LAUNDRY PRODUCT—FOR THAT PILE OF LIGHTLY WORN CLOTHES IN YOUR BEDROOM

THE ARMPIT-SNIFF TEST


Hopefully your chairdrobe isn’t quite as big as this sculpture made with used clothes.

Unilever knows a lot about how you do laundry—or don’t.

For example, you know that pile of clothes draped over your bedroom chair? It’s the one made up of stuff you’ve worn once, that isn’t quite dirty yet. It doesn’t need washing, but it’s too much of a hassle to put away, so it’s all sitting there, getting slightly wrinkled.

It’s known as the “chairdrobe,” and research by Unilever finds that there’s one in about 60% of millennial bedrooms, Reuters reports. To target that time-starved clothes re-wearer, the consumer-goods company has developed a laundry product to let you keep wearing your chairdrobe with confidence.

Day2 is an aerosol spray that does three things: gets rid of odors, removes creases, and softens fabric—sort of like wrinkle-release spray meets Febreze, except specifically for clothes. It’s not a substitute for washing if your clothes have gotten grimy, despite saying “dry wash spray” on the bottle, and doesn’t remove stains. But it freshens up garments enough to let you postpone the full soap-and-water treatment.

Full disclosure: Mine’s a Rocking Chairdrobe.


5 Surprising Ways Your Genes Are Secretly Ruining Your Life

We’re all at least a smidge restricted by our genes. Five-foot people aren’t going to play in the NBA, less conventionally attractive people aren’t going to win beauty pageants, we feel a strong compulsion to eat lint and no doctor can explain why — some parts of our lives are simply out of our control. But while we all know the basic genetic restrictions of body types and hereditary medical conditions, your programming is also messing with you in some far weirder ways. Like how …

5. There’s A Gene That’s Probably Responsible For Bad Drivers


For decades, it was a staple of hack comedians to complain that women and/or various minorities made for terrible drivers. But it turns out that their low-key eugenics streak was right; they were just focusing their complaints in the wrong direction.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, is secreted to whatever area of the brain is responsible for the task you’re currently performing. It helps brain cells communicate, and it also shores up memory retention. But about 30 percent of Americans have a genetic variant that limits the secretion of BDNF, and previous studies have found that smaller portions of their brains are stimulated (they also don’t recover from strokes as quickly). So researchers decided to test out their driving ability to determine the practical repercussions of all this.

“H-how?! We didn’t even give a you a physical car! It was a simulator!”

And indeed, over two tests done over the course of four days, participants with the variant both performed worse and remembered less. There are some caveats, as the study used a simulator and only involved 29 people. But researchers were still surprised that there was a clear connection between the genetic variation and poorer performance, given the incredible complexity of basically everything your brain ever does. Just keep in mind that it’s not like the people with the BDNF deficiency are mouth-breathing morons. In fact, the variant helps people resist neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and MS. So adjust your hilarious routine to “most people drive and get brain diseases like this, but people with fewer brain secretions drive and get sick like this” accordingly.


Amazon Confuses Bob Woodward for L. Ron Hubbard, Sending Reviews for Fear Tumbling

A mysterious (hilarious?) bug appeared to temporarily drag down the Amazon customer rating for Bob Woodward’s new book about the Trump administration’s first year in office.

On Wednesday, reviews on Amazon for the just-released Woodward book Fear became intermingled, somehow, with reviews for an L. Ron Hubbard novella by the same name. A significant number of the negative reviews attached to Woodward’s book—orders for which have outpaced Amazon’s supply—referenced the Church of Scientology founder’s psychological thriller, as seen in the screenshot below:

“I found FEAR to be the biggest piece of garbage I have ever read,” wrote one Amazon customer, who, while claiming not to be a Scientologist, swears he’s no “Hubbard-hater” either. The review was one of dozens temporary coupled with Woodward’s book on the website.


Rat in Broth Wipes $190 Million Off Restaurant Chain’s Value

阅读简体中文版 閱讀繁體中文版


A small rat was discovered last week in a hotpot restaurant in eastern China. Images and video were widely shared on Chinese social media.

At hotpot restaurants in China, most of the ingredients are relatively inexpensive. Customers dip pieces of raw meat and vegetables into a big vat of simmering broth until everything cooks and bubbles to the surface.

For one Chinese restaurant chain, however, an item found by a customer at one of its outlets has proved to be particularly costly: a rat.

A video of a small, dead rat — boiled, gelatinous and with its stunned arms outstretched — fished out of a vat of bubbling broth has shocked China, and sent shares of a popular restaurant chain plummeting.

The rat was found last week at a branch of the chain, Xiabu Xiabu, in Weifang, a city in the eastern province of Shandong. A local newspaper reported the incident on Friday and video footage of the customer picking the rat out with chopsticks circulated on Chinese social media all weekend.

By the close of trading on Tuesday, shares in the chain’s parent company, Xiabuxiabu Catering Management, had fallen almost 12.5 percent, at one point dropping to their lowest in nearly a year. In all, the discovery of the rat had knocked about $190 million off the market value of the business, which is publicly traded in Hong Kong. The company’s shares recovered somewhat on Wednesday, gaining around 3 percent.


Novelist who wrote about ‘How to Murder Your Husband’ charged with murdering her husband

Nancy Crampton Brophy, author of “How to Murder Your Husband,” was charged Sept. 5 in connection with the death of her husband Daniel Brophy.

Nancy Crampton Brophy seemed to have a knack for writing about the murder of spouses.

The Portland, Ore.-based romance novelist wrote books about relationships that were “wrong” but “never felt so right,” often featuring bare-chested men on the cover. In “The Wrong Cop,” she wrote about a woman who “spent every day of her marriage fantasizing about killing” her husband.

In “The Wrong Husband,” a woman tried to flee an abusive husband by faking her death.

And in “How to Murder Your Husband” — an essay — Crampton Brophy wrote about how to get away with it.

She wrote the post on the blog “See Jane Publish” in November 2011, describing five core motives and a number of murder weapons from which she would choose if her character were to kill a husband in a romance novel. She advised against hiring a hit man to do the dirty work — “an amazing number of hit men rat you out to the police” — and against hiring a lover. “Never a good idea.” Poison was not advised either, because it’s traceable. “Who wants to hang out with a sick husband?” she wrote.

“After all,” Crampton Brophy wrote in the post, which was made private after inquiries from The Washington Post to the site’s administrators, “if the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail.”


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

When Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy ten years ago on Friday, the question on everyone’s minds was simple: “Who’s next?”

If a pillar of Wall Street worth hundreds of billions of dollars just months before couldn’t be trusted with the public’s money, then nowhere was safe. Panicked investors rushed for the door, banks refused to lend to each other, and money market funds began to collapse.

“I describe it as an economic Pearl Harbor,” Warren Buffett, the legendary investor of Berkshire Hathaway, told VICE News. “It was something we hadn’t seen before. Even the 1929 panic was nothing like this. I mean, the system stopped.“

Buffett had a front row seat to the global crisis even before the Bush Administration took up the struggle. He had been approached by Lehman’s CEO Dick Fuld for emergency capital earlier in the summer, and after it failed, he found himself courted by other teetering investment banks desperate for capital. His $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs saved the firm, and netted him billions.

He credits the Bush administration, led by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, with helping to prevent a second Great Depression. “When they realized the gravity of what was happening, we were having a run on the United States, maybe a run on the world, they stepped up,” Buffett said.

He’s not convinced, however, that the financial community’s takeaway from its brush with financial Armageddon will prevent future disaster. “Humans will continue to behave foolishly and sometimes en masse. And that doesn’t change. We get smarter but we don’t get wiser,” Buffett said.

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


Ahead of Hurricane Florence, which Trump calls “tremendously big and tremendously wet,” news surfaces that the president took $10 million from FEMA’s budget to pay for immigrant detention centers and is now backing a new EPA rule that makes it easier for oil and gas companies to release methane.

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


Stephen warns people in the path of Hurricane Florence to stay safe, while reminding the president that Stormy Daniels is headed right for him.


Stephen looks into allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh may have money problems linked to gambling.

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


In 2010, Republicans picked up their art supplies to redraw maps that have allowed them to win elections despite being in the minority. How can we keep them from getting crafty again in the future?

THANKS to TBS and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee for making this program available on YouTube.


Seth takes a closer look at Trump bragging about his handling of the hurricane in Puerto Rico while it becomes clearer that there are no “adults” around the president to control his worst impulses.

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


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

Here’s me commentary on classic Takeshi Castle moments. I’ve been wanting to make this for ages. The day has come!


アウトドア用の椅子が入っていた黒い袋が気に入ったまる。Maru likes the black bag which is for chairs and desk for the outdoor.


FINALLY . . .

‘A new life’ for Mexico City’s oldest house as restoration begins

The structure, built between 1570 and 1600, was set to be torn down until researchers studied old maps and realized its age.


A man stands outside 25 Manzanares Street in during a work break in Mexico City on 10 September.


The plain, one-story structure sat hidden in plain sight for hundreds of years behind generations of street vendors hawking goods from stands outside its thick old walls. But experts have now concluded the building at 25 Manzanares Street is the oldest house in Mexico City – and one of the oldest in all of North America.

Its survival is a testament to the largely poor residents who inhabited it for centuries and to the builders who used a savvy mix of pre-Hispanic and Spanish construction techniques when they constructed it sometime between 1570 and 1600.

The nondescript house on Manzanares Street survived dozens of magnitude-7 earthquakes and repeated floods, including one following a 1629 rainstorm that lasted five years.

Up until a few years ago, the old, sprawling home was used just about the same way it had been for 450 years: one family lived in each of the dozen rooms that opened onto a central patio. A stone wash basin was used to store water and for cleaning clothes.


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