Climate and the destiny of the species. (part 1 of 2).

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I generally don’t blog or even tweet about climate change for the same reason why I don’t blog about gamma-ray bursts.

For at least a couple of decades, establishment media outlets and climate researchers run their climate-change articles specifically with the agenda to push the ruling class to make changes. The hook of nearly all pieces on climate change running in mass media is the reporter waving their arms and yelling, “Somebody, do something!” From a random assortment from the last 24 hours alone, we have: “How limiting greenhouse gases would substantially benefit the US economy” (The Guardian); “…but Chinowsky said there is a real opportunity to start the conversation, for state leaders and agencies to enact change…” (a Denver ABC affiliate); “Wake up, Australia.” (news.com.au).

They even tipped their hand to this intentional massaging of climate articles after NY Mag ran a piece last year that didn’t hew to the usual cliches, drawing tut-tutting from some of the usual names. Don’t stray off the reservation, they said. Stay laser-focused on influencing people to change, to cut carbon emissions, to beat climate change.

Which is, and always has been, quite hilarious.

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Why are NFL ratings rising this season? Parity’s in remission.

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Revisiting this post from two NFL seasons ago:

“There are too few dominant teams, too few absolutely hopeless teams, and too many in the mushy, Tennessee Titans middle. Way, way too many…. By what I mean by “too much parity” is this. Fans in sports accept, even expect, the presence of a certain number dynasty teams on one hand, and perennial loser squads on the other.”

mahomesHappily, this trend has reversed itself, and the league is enjoying the resulting rebound in ratings. Two years ago, I argued that if Tom Brady had been suspended for the whole year over deflategate, there would not have been a single top-tier team in the league. Now, tier 1 cozily welcomes the Rams, Chiefs, and, as usual, the Patriots (out of a six-tier system). Tier 2 is also well-stocked with the Saints, Vikings, and Chargers(!) reporting for the “playoff contender” slot.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore RavensAnd just as importantly for the strength of the sport, the cellar is also populated. Perennial losers are almost as important to any sports league as the dynasties — partly for the bingo free spot on other teams’ schedules, partly because one of the most reliable sports stories is on the long-suffering fans of such organizations, but mostly because they provide a foil to the average teams and their bases. “Well, at least we’re not the Padres;” that sort of thing. Dynasties could not exist without anti-dynasties to balance them out.

And on that note, 2018 enjoys a bottom-tier populated by the Cardinals, Raiders, Giants, Niners, Bills, and Raiders. That’s six absolutely hopeless squads that cannot even be charitably described as “rebuilding,” out of 32. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more shit-soup teams in a single season, and the boost they provide to the morale of the other 26 is hard to exaggerate. I haven’t seen any pieces on how laugher teams are almost as important to any given league as the champs, but it’s true.

Add in the six tier 1+2 squads, and we’re left with only 20 teams this year in the muddled mediocre middle defined, as always, by the Tennessee Titans.

Because too many Tennessee Titan squads are a cancer on any sports league. The more .500-average teams, the worse the league suffers. This is sports. Fans rightly expect winners and they expect losers, not a grey morass of adequacy. Stories last year were written about the Patriots and also the Browns, but not the fucking Titans. People tune in to a sports league because, at the end of the day, it’s a TV or streaming series with winners and losers, heroes and villains, same as any superhero movie franchise. They don’t tune in for the point-of-view of just some random guy.

It’s not even midseason yet, and already, twelve NFL teams have carved out their narratives for the year — for better or worse, and it almost doesn’t matter which. That right there is why ratings are up.

The normalization of nativism

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The Proud Boys and their founder Gavin McInnes resurface in the news from time to time, thrown in typically in association with, or even as a synonym to, the hardcore white supremacists. “Neo-nazis and Proud Boys gathered in Charlottesville,” for instance, or “the SPLC-designated hate group held a rally today.” This technique puts McInnes and his thugs in the exact same toxic extreme as Richard Spender and Andrew Anglin — and badly misses the point.

As I’ve noted before, the media really needs to do a better job of differentiating between the white supremacist alt.right, carrying on the legacy of the older neo-Nazis and Klan, and the newer, far more media-savvy groups sometimes called “alt.light” or, in the words of Steve Bannon, “economic nationalists.” (I like to call them white nationalists, in order to make clear this term should mean something a bit different than white supremacists; alas, the two terms remain stubbornly the same thing.)

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Fox & Friends, huh. Well, good thing nobody important watches that show.

For while Gavin McInnes may be a complete degenerate and moral monstrosity who literally stuffs objects up his anus on video (don’t google it unless you want to lose your sanity), he is also well-versed in the modern-day media landscape as a co-founder of VICE. Like Bannon, he has taken lessons from European nativist parties like the Sweden Democrats and has learned to reject the worst and scariest of their racist propaganda. He won’t call for a banning of the free press; he’ll just say CNN needs to go. Unlike Anglin or Spencer, he won’t actually call for an ethnic cleansing. Instead, he’s just say white people should be proud to be white. Or, he doesn’t have a problem with Arabs; only the Islamic religion. He probably won’t be dumb enough to say whites are genetically superior; he’ll just say Western culture is superior.

McInnes, as with Bannon before him, is not actually out to create a Holocaust. They know this isn’t the 20th century and, more importantly in their minds, the Nazis were losers anyway. They aren’t out to create a revolution and overthrow the government a la the Turner diaries. They are out to corrupt the state from within, a strategy that the rageheads at the Daily Stormer could never have the patience or the intelligence for. Specifically, the alt.light (or whatever you want to call them) is out to permanently convert the Republican Party, and they have a two-pronged attack.

One is to move the oft-discussed racial “Overton window” in their direction by slowly merging white-nationalist (I’m still not giving up on changing how that term is used) discourse into normal conservative thought-shaping channels — and it’s working. Tucker Carlson is deliberately introducing language to FoxNews that even an asshole like Roger Ailes would have found a firing offense just four years ago. Tucker knows damn well what kind of people like to use the specific phrase “white genocide” — that’s exactly why he uttered it two weeks ago. Suddenly, the concept isn’t on the fringe with all those scary skinheads anymore. Now, it’s a legitimate topic of conversation on America’s most important mainstream conservative outlet. Tucker would not have been able to let that one fly if McInnes, Bannon, and others such as Milo (who was once a thing, remember) and even Trump had not laid the groundwork first. Similarly, Tucker’s colleague Laura Ingraham rants about “demographic change,” and everyone knows precisely what she’s getting at.

The other way McInnes sells his merry band is to lean heavily on a platform of owning the libs, which he knows gets the rapt attention from the GOP. It’s difficult to exaggerate how important the goal of making life miserable for average liberal-leaning Americans has become to the conservative establishment (easily its #2 guiding philosophy at this point, second only behind personal fealty to their Orange Julius.) The NRA has been transformed from a gun lobby into an own-the-libs lobby, with the typical rant from Dana Loesch or Dan Bongino having absolutely nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment. Charlie Kirk and his sidekick Candace Owens took Ben Shapiro’s schtick, stripped it of absolutely any and all ideological underpinnings, and now sell it as purified, high-octane owning-of-the-libs to young whites. All this going on after Mitch McConnell shredded the old rules and decorum of the Senate, partly to get judges confirmed but mostly for no reason other than just to drive the Dems batty.

In this setting, McInnes makes sure his street thugs won’t be trading blows with #BlackLivesMatter; instead, they hit the streets to fight Antifa, who exist as the great boogeymen of the Right, always one step away from setting the Reichstag Congress on fire in the imagination of your typical FoxNews junkie. This gets McInnes a rapturous audience with the GOP establishment, even among those not receptive to his white-pride message. With the far-left this close to instituting Communism (somehow), isn’t it great to have some rough-and-tumble dudes on our side? they’ll ask you.

I believe the media underplay what McInnes and his ilk are doing because liberals in NYC and DC remain completely horrified of him and therefore could not conceive of him going mainstream. Which suits the alt.light just fine. They have zero interest in changing liberals, or liberal institutions. That’s not who they’re converting.

It was never the Democratic party the alt.light was out to destroy.

What’s the end-game here? Once all remnants of the old Reagan establishment have been swept away, it will be time to invoke an Article V convention, legally dismantle the republic, and institute an authoritarian, racially conscious regime with someone named Trump as president-for-life. It won’t be hard with a base driven mad with lurid fables of fearsome masked Antifa assassins and dark-skinned Mexicans and Muslims, all funded by Soros of course, out to get them. If that requires a civil war against liberals along the way, so much the better.

We are in the middle of another 80-year crisis, and unlike the ones from 1941, 1861, and 1776, I’m not so sure the country will survive.

The Party of Trump

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Ramesh Ponnuru pushes back on the idea that the GOP, meaning the actual politicians in Congress as opposed to the base, is now the Party of Trump.

“He’s got a lot of [sway], no question,” Ponnuru writes. “But the extent to which the Republican party has become a cult of Trump is often exaggerated… Trump has wanted a lot of things that congressional Republicans haven’t given him: Obamacare repeal, action on infrastructure, immigration reductions. (In February, fourteen Republicans voted against the immigration legislation Trump favored, and none of them seems to be paying any price for it.)”

I see roughly five levels of Trump allegiance on the right these days.

  1. Trump fanaticism: This is where much of the base, and where the typical FoxNews opinion host, lies. It’s true that the fanatics who openly put fealty to Trump as their defining feature are a minority in the House and Senate, for the moment. And, happily, one of their number announced today that he’s quitting in disgrace. But on the other hand, #Cult45 members such as Devin Nunes don’t exactly fear any backlash from party leadership, no matter how badly they twist their jobs or the rule of law to favor and protect their lord and master. More importantly, the number of GOP primary candidates openly swearing fealty to Trump are growing, such as this specimen from Florida. And speaking of the Sunshine state, one of its more famously spineless products wilted under the pressure to bend the knee. I expect the cultists’ percentage in the House, Senate, and statehouses to swell after the midterms.
  2. Trump allies: This is where your garden-variety GOP politician finds himself. He’s had his job since before 2016 and was probably nonplussed at the rise of the Ochre Joker. But whatever his reservations about Trump’s moral character, he sees the Democrats as the far bigger threat, and spends his days attacking the liberal agenda, and playing whataboutism to move the conversation back to liberals whenever some fresh Trumpian outrage emerges. Thus, in punditry circles, this has become known as the “anti-anti-Trump” position. They’ll also point to Trump’s successes such as judges while preferring to ignore his failures and, especially, his tweets. There isn’t much material difference between these guys and category 1, although Trump allies won’t make a big show of being #MAGA on their campaign websites and, as Ramesh notes, a minority of them may sometimes feel brave enough to vote against his less popular proposals. Good examples are Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, and Ponnuru’s colleague Rich Lowry.
  3. Trump snarkers: At this level of dissidence, politicians and pundits no longer hide their disgust for Orange Julius’ moral character or his ridiculous tweets. Great examples are Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake, who will actually register their distaste at the latest bimbo eruption or racist tweet. Still, even they will shake their heads and say, at least he isn’t Hillary, and will eventually hold their noses and vote for him again in 2020. This is about as far as a GOP politician can go and still keep his job (and even then he may face trouble — just ask Bob Corker). Charles Cooke holds down the Trump-snarker fort at National Review. Some former Trump snarkers like Ben Shapiro have instead melted away into category 2.
  4. Trump skeptics: We finally reach a level of dissent where the conservative is no longer so sure Trump’s victory was the preferable outcome. Not that he’ll be sitting around pining for Hillary, either. Most likely, he didn’t vote for either, writing in Mitt Romney or something instead, arguing that both options were about equally repellent. Of course, he’ll still voice his appreciation for Justice Gorsuch and other conservative policy wins. Rep. Justin Amash will be the sole representative of this faction in the U.S. Congress after this year; Gov. Charlie Baker gets away with it in his deep-blue state of Connecticut. Rep. Mark Sanford was famously sent packing for this stance — while he had other, Appalachian-Trail-sized vulnerabilities, I believe Sanford himself is right and Ponnuru is wrong — it really was his public scoffing at Trump that cost him his job. Jonah Goldberg is the Trump-skeptic voice in Ponnuru’s magazine.
  5. #NeverTrump: Ah, the great bugaboo of FoxNews, the people that Hannity is convinced are a bigger threat to his master than actual liberals, despite NT’s lack of any representation in any level of politics. To qualify as NT, one must oppose this president as much as any Democrat does, yet still hold onto conservative beliefs — ex-conservatives like Jennifer Rubin or that one random dude on your Facebook timeline don’t qualify. As you can imagine, NT’s numbers are therefore quite tiny, despite their regular appearance on CNN. Their members such as Tom Nichols, Rick Wilson, Bill Kristol and David French may have great moral character, but they don’t seem to really have any meaningful impact in GOP electoral politics any longer. Even the term “NeverTrump” itself has become a snarl word for the right, as much as an invective as “snowflake” and “fake news.”

So what we have are a growing minority faction within the GOP that holds personal fealty to Trump as the most important conservative value; a Trump-allied majority that does nothing to oppose #Cult45, even if they aren’t wearing red ballcaps in public; and a dwindling number of Trump skeptics who either decide to go silent in the face of a threat of being primaried, or have actually been primaried (or have quit in the face of near-certain defeat). All the movement I’ve seen is in the direction of categories 1 and 2 from above; apostates going the other direction like Joe Walsh (who’s been out of Congress for years) are incredibly rare. Is there really any ideal, principle, or person more important to today’s GOP than Donald J. Trump?

In the end, they will always kneel

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Do soybean farmers hurt by Trump’s trade wars still support him?

FARMER 1: “I do. I’m a good American. I believe we all have to toe the line.”

Link. And: Ouch. So much for that rugged American individualism and traditional skepticism of authority. But that’s not the worst of it:

INTERVIEWER: “You’re willing to weather the storm for a certain amount of time; but how long is too long?”

FARMER 2: “Well, the Scottish in me says, to the death.”

<FARMER 1 beams in approval>

kneelersI know these farmers’ mindset; I know what they’re thinking. They are Owning The Fake News Liberal Media’s representative before them by shocking her with their diehard adherence to their insane mentality. It’s no different than anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers, and all the rest: the more contradictory logic and facts that they face, the more, and not the less, that they embrace their peculiar cult. In this case, the cult of Donald Trump.

But the most distressing part of all of this is not the insanity of these people. It is the need to be ruled. Or as Loki memorably put it in the original The Avengers:

“Kneel before me. I said… KNEEL! <crowd kneels> Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.”

And they do.

Before a man who makes Mussolini look like Augustus Caesar.

They kneel before Donald Trump.

Adoration and Rage

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A reasonable defense of Trump, from a conservative, might go something like this:


“You may ask why I like a son of a bitch like Donald Trump, and the answer is: hell no, do I like the lying cheating son of a bitch. He’s crooked, he’s racist, he has no idea what he’s doing with North Korea, and he went and made my local NFL team look like a bunch of flag-burning hippies all over one guy who isn’t even playing anymore.

Look, I didn’t vote for him in the primaries. I would have loved to see Cruz, Rubio, or Bush. But the voters in all their wisdom went with this guy instead, and well, all that said: he’s delivered on the three things most important to me:

  1. Nominating solid, Republican judges, and not just dipshits like Chris Christie who happen to be his lackeys or golfing buddies. I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by this.
  2. He signs whatever conservative legislation like the tax bill that Ryan and McConnell put on his desk, no questions asked. Sure, he falsely takes credit for it; but you and I both know it’s Mitch who’s really steering this train, and as long as the president doesn’t interfere, who cares what he tweets?
  3. He says the right things from the bully pulpit about abortion, Israel, and guns.

Look, between an adulterous, pussy-grabbing ragehead who does that, or a crook like Hillary who would put liberal pro-abortion judges on the bench, raise taxes, and funnel away just as much taxpayer money as Trump has to that corrupt “foundation” of hers? It’s not a pleasant choice, but still a no-brainer of a choice.

And it’ll be the same thing in 2020. Ok, I’m not looking forward to voting for him again. Honestly, I’ll be holding my nose all the way to and from the polls. But the Dems will either put up a crazy socialist like Bernie, or else another Hillarybot like Kamala Harris. I mean, if they actually nominate Mike Bloomberg, who’s a reasonable, pro-business centrist, I might change my mind. But we all know they aren’t going to do that.

Again, I’d much rather be re-electing Ted Cruz. But really, the voters had a reason to send a message to the establishment of both parties. They haven’t been doing a great job over the past 30 years. Hell, let’s just say it: the establishment sucks, pure and simple. Take any sector of the country you want. Health care. Universities. Jobs. Whatever. These people, these elites who run everything, make everything worse, cost more, and pay less. That’s what they do. And then they wonder how we got an adulterous cretin like Trump. Maybe stop blaming me, and start blaming the people who keep hiking tuitions and slashing your paycheck.”


But that’s not what you hear from conservatives, is it? (A few exceptions like Ben Shapiro, who would rather talk about anything besides Trump, aside.) An essay like the above would get you fired from the Federalist, wouldn’t it?

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Arguably understated compared to Ben Garrison’s ouevre. 

It’s a cult of personality, the likes of which America has never seen with a president. Take Obama. For all the conservative snickering about supposed liberal worship of “The One,” the most “cultish” thing I’ve seen the mainstream media say about him was when Chris Matthews said Obama gave him a “thrill going up my leg,” a remark which people laugh at to this day. Now compare that to the enforced worship from almost all media personalities at almost all major conservative outlets. People wondering why FoxNews has become state media should see the rapturous love their viewers have of this man, one that brooks not even the slightest dissent. Even the mildest of criticisms from a normally pro-Trump figure like Neil Cavuto leads to calvacades of hate mail. In addition, there is pressure on writers and anchors from the oligarchs who run conservative media, from the Murdochs to the cartoonishly evil Mercers to David J. Pecker to Sinclair’s David D. Smith: the pressure to choose between the party line or the unemployment line. With the fire coming from both sides, what would you do if you wrote for your typical conservative site?

Here’s just a few examples of this Maoist cult of personality at work, when loyalty to one leader takes precedence over almost anything else: Here. Here. Here. Here. Here. It’s all blind obedience, nurtured with regular infusions of hate towards the Non-Trump. You don’t get any attempts at logic from these people because they don’t bother to make any. They’ll blindly rage at whomever their Glorious Leader tells them to rage at, and cut themselves off from any friends or family who dares disagree. I mean that — everybody’s got a family member who chose to end contact with their own flesh and blood rather than entertain a cross word against Chairman Donald. Compared to that, the routine blocking of anyone they disagree with on Facebook and Twitter seems minor.

There is no rationality. It’s all Sturm und Drang, all the time. This does not end well.

It’s not about liberalism or conservatism.

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Not sure how much more clear he can get. What’s more, the president knows his followers want, no, need a strong dictator, to balance a fundamental moral weakness within themselves. These are not Americans who can fight and die for the Constitution and rule of law. These are “Americans” who must grovel before a King and rejoice when his enemies are caged, banished, or worse.

But forget Trump for the moment. He didn’t elect himself. His voters didn’t suddenly rise up out of the swamps in 2016. They were here all along. Who are these people? A representative sample of their thought leaders:

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By comparison, here is a representative sample of Americans who would rather live, and die, free:

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Not all of the latter people are exactly moral paragons. That’s not the point. The only thing they have in common is a shared disgust with autocracy and those who promote it. A strong instinct that they refused to suppress, that this is not right. They often suffered personally for it, too. Erick Erickson, despite being a perfect right-wing nutjob in every other way, was fired from FoxNews for refusing to kneel before Zod and now struggles to make ends meet. Amanda Carpenter, despite being a photogenic conservative bombshell perfect for Murdoch’s network, must make do with being Meghan McCain’s second fiddle on The View. Bill Kristol must someday answer to a higher authority for his zealous promotion of the Iraq war; yet in this world, he is ostracized only over Trump; a former partisan neither at home on the Right nor the Left. Joe Walsh there, despite being squarely in the target demo for #MAGA and who in fact was once on the Trump Train, refused to surrender to Trump’s assault on law and order (hard to believe the GOP used to be for that), and says he sleeps with his shotgun over death threats triggered by his heresies. Anthony Bourdain was neither liberal nor conservative, but hated bullshit and evil wherever he saw it… one may only theorize if this had something to do with his eventual passing.

And as far as Jessica and Nicki go, well, they are simply beautiful souls. Hell, Bourdain too. That’s the difference. The people in the last collage are sometimes beautiful, often damaged, often tainted yet never fully surrendered to the darkness of our worst instincts. And the people on top are some of the ugliest Americans to have ever disgraced our soil. Forget Trump. Forget the idiotic culture wars over something as spurious as the NFL. Take away the political zeitgeist, remove them from our time, pretend it’s 1860 or 1938 or 2101. Whatever the specific issues of the day, would you want to be included in that number?

Again, forget for a moment your own politics. Pretend they’re all Socialists or Whigs. Pretend this is all a feud among an association of furries in Utica, NY. Doesn’t matter. Would you like to be part of any movement that hails a misshapen Gollum like Dinesh as a hero? That mistakes a pathetic weakling like Charlie Kirk as a leader of men? That has as its electoral base, twisted older men like Schilling and Nolte who are comprised of nothing but seething, roiling, irrational hate? That thinks a cynical manipulator and political chameleon like Candace Owens is a woman of principles? That views circus acts like Alex Jones and Laura Loomer as prophets of our time?

This is not liberal vs. conservative. Ben Shapiro, for instance, does not belong in the rogues gallery of these people. This is something else.

I’ve long mourned how the concepts of “good” and “evil” are considered too trite, too comic-book simplistic for our urbane, morally relativistic times. Using such terms is considered more damning to one’s arguments than even Godwinning. Yet these concepts are not only valid, they are the most fundamental descriptors of a person’s soul. Good and evil render such descriptors as liberal, conservative, populist, globalist, promiscuous, prudish, young, old, white, black almost as irrelevant of a descriptor as whether one prefers Five Guys or In-and-Out. Yet those who wish to discuss moral character are dismissed as a sad parody of a father figure from a 1950s sitcom.

Moral character means doing what’s right even when it costs you personally, as it has conservatives who still oppose Trump. Now it’s easy for a liberal to oppose Trump; but would they oppose a liberal equivalent? Some anti-democratic, Communist tyrant who openly fantasizes about throwing capitalists into gulags? I have no science to back this up but I really believe Chastain, Minaj, and some other lefty figures would fiercely oppose such a bastard — at the cost of being blacklisted out of their entertainment careers. Rachel Maddow would oppose such a figure and probably lose her job; Joy Reid, on the other hand, would be such a figure’s own Sean Hannity. Piers Morgan would enjoy the distinction of being on the wrong side of history in both scenarios.

Good and evil are far too ancient and unchanging for the petty red-vs-blue politics of this time and date. It’s not about liberalism or conservatism. It’s about freedom vs. the yoke of tyranny, law and order vs. the law of man, tried-and-true principles vs. momentary pleasures and fears. And it’s not even about being pure good, as none of us are capable of coming even near that. When the stakes suddenly get high, and history turns in a matter of days or weeks instead of decades, does one overcome their baser nature, or surrender to it? Transport the above cast of characters to any critical moment in history, and they’d still shake down into the same two sides.

Which side would you be on?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Roundup: 5/30/2018

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  • Trump’s claims that the FBI, under Obama’s orders, surveiled his 2016 campaign with a “spy” got some pushback from retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC). Gowdy has repeatedly gone on TV as a “voice of reason” ever since announcing he would not be seeking reelection. He said the FBI was investigating Russia, not Trump specifically, and they were justified in using an “informant.” But as David French at NR noted, Gowdy also poured cold water on the #Resistance’s dreams of obstruction charges for Trump’s very public mistreating of Jeff Sessions (including yet another Twitter tirade this morning triggered by the Gowdy interview). Gowdy said that Sessions is to blame for not telling his future boss about the recusal until after he was confirmed as AG.
  • The fallout from Roseanne’s firing from ABC the day before continued. Roseanne blamed her racist tweet on Ambien, causing Ambien maker Sanofi to tweet (and then delete) “…racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.” Most conservative figures, remarkably including even Tomi Lahren, continued to keep their distance from the disgraced, racist actress, although some on the #MAGA right continued to harp about “double standards.” And, as expected, the president tweeted about the debacle: “Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that “ABC does not tolerate comments like those” made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn’t get the call?”
  • It’s been 20 days since First Lady Melania Trump has been sighted by anyone in the public. A tweet appeared today on the @FLOTUS feed: “I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I’m doing. Rest assured, I’m here at the @WhiteHouse w my family, feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!” This did little to ease concerns, coming from the White House-run account instead of her own @MELANIATRUMP one, and written in WH social media director Dan Scavino’s unmistakable style. The White House’s stated reason for Melania’s disappearance was medical, citing “an embolization procedure to treat a benign kidney condition,” although this is hardly the kind of major operation that would require extensive recuperation — more like an overnight thing. Conspiracy theories still rage, ranging from Melania actually getting a cosmetic procedure, to she’s simply psychologically overwhelmed and hiding in the East Wing, to she’s left the White House and his hiding incognito somewhere in New York, to whispers of something far more grim. Whatever the case, the White House’s handling of it has been very strange.
  • In a plot twist straight out of a best-selling thriller novel, “murdered” anti-Putin journalist Arkady Babchenko turned up alive and unharmed one day after his supposed grisly demise. He says this was all a ploy to draw out the real hit-men, who are presumably working on contract for Putin. It appears that he played dead even for his wife, who had discovered his “corpse.” No word yet on how his stunt may affect marital relations.
  • For the second time this decade, the EU exercised its influence to overturn an Italian election result, as the Italian president (and not the prime minister, the latter of whom supposedly, in theory, wields the real power in Rome) instead chose to install a Brussels-loyal technocrat as finance minister. Today, the backlash grew, markets are in turmoil, and the Euroskeptic parties, thwarted thus far from forming a government, are expected to make even greater gains at the next elections. Then the ball will be back in the EU’s court: do they commit to even greater violations of Italy’s sovereignty and democracy to keep that country in line? A lot of things have brought Italian voters to this point, but the two greatest have been the euro and the recent migration waves from Africa that Brussels is unable, or unwilling, to staunch. As with America, Italy may turn to anti-establishment firebrands to punish an establishment that it feels has failed it.
  • The big Trump/Kim Jong Un summit still lingers in the preliminary stage, as neither side has fully re-committed to meetings in Singapore after Trump cancelled them last week. Lower-level officials, however, continue to meet. The original summit was scheduled for June 12.
  • Speaking of summits with Kim, Mrs. Kardashian West appeared at the White House today, ostensibly to push for prison reform. Her husband, of course, notoriously took a pro-MAGA turn in recent weeks, perhaps partly in a marketing push for his new album. No photos of her with the president have yet emerged, although it would be uncharacteristic of Trump not to indulge. (Update: yep, right after this post went up, this happened:)kim trump
  • The epic beef between Drake and Pusha T escalated to Defcon 1 today. Pusha fired back with another diss track, which, all at once, and let me see if I have this straight, a) used a picture of Drake in blackface (?), b) questioned his ability as a father, c) spoiled the name of Drake’s upcoming shoe line with Adidas called Adidon and d) generally knocked out power to the eastern seaboard for most of the day. Whatever the case, it’s clear Pusha’s no Meek Mill. Aubrey’s not known for backing down either, so this feud will be measured in megatons before this is all over.
  • Bethesda teased the latest Fallout title today, and despite the trailer, it’s rumored not to be a classic Fallout RPG but instead a multiplayer survival/PvP game like Rust or Ark. It’s not yet known if there will be a persistent world with saved progress, or if it will be a brand new game each match, although the latter seems more likely if it’s being compared to DayZ. Perhaps Bethesda felt stung by criticism of Fallout 4’s writing and story and was like, “Then screw you all! Next game, no story at all!”
  • And finally, here’s Twitter summed up. Have a good evening. twitterboat

A typical morning

So I decided to leave the house with just a $10 bill and no wallet, to limit my spending during the day. A $3.50 bacon egg cheese in the morning, a $4 turkey sandwich for lunch and a buck 50 left over for a diet coke to meet my daily caffeine quota. Perfect!

But after I dropped the little one off, I realized: no wallet means no MetroCard. So I was going to have to UberLyft it. And they suck in my area. The first Lyft I tried kept slowly but determinedly kept moving in the… complete opposite direction. So I had to cancel that guy and try Uber.

So a cab driver saw me fiddling with my phone, correctly surmising what I was doing, and asked if I wanted a ride.

Normally I try to take yellow/green cabs whenever possible because, I know how hard they have it these days. They have six- or even seven-figure mortgages on hack badges that have cratered in value since 2012. But… remember, no wallet, no credit card, and not enough cash even if I went hungry.

But how on earth was I going to explain all this? So like an asshole, I naturally did the worst thing and mumbled something about not having enough cash to which he promptly replied he, like virtually all cabs these days, has a card reader.

Then, and I shit you not: some random lady on the corner pointed across the street and asked why I wouldn’t just go use the ATM?

At which point, I did the adult thing and literally hid behind a bus stop until my Uber driver finally presented himself. I dove into the back seat and ducked like I was under sniper fire to avoid the withering scorn of the cabbie and his volunteer advocate. For a fare costing more than the money in my pocket.

It’s not even 9 yet.

Did Wakanda have a real-life inspiration?

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I didn’t see Black Panther until this month, and seeing the ideal of an uncolonized African country was something else. The techno-utopia is clearly the most advanced Earth nation in the MCU, and will play a major role fighting Thanos and his minions in the Avengers movie coming out this week. We never see precisely where Wakanda is, but during the prologue of BP, it’s made clear it’s somewhere in East Africa, which raises the obvious question: are they talking about Ethiopia here?

Colonial_Africa_1913_map.svg

Africa after colonization, shaded by occupying European power. White means uncolonized. Credit: Eric Gaba.

After all, other than the special case of Liberia, Ethiopia, aka Abyssnia at that time, was the sole African power not overrun by the European pre-WWI colonization wave — and it’s awfully close to where the movie implied the fictional nation of Wakanda to be. And as with Wakanda in the movie, Westerners think of the real-life nation as just another backwards third-world basket case, when there’s clearly something more going on with the sole African nation, not counting the one with patronage from the United States, that survived the brutal age of pre-WWI colonization with its independence intact.

Not that Europe didn’t try:

“Italian defeat came about after the Battle of Adwa, where the Ethiopian army dealt the heavily outnumbered Italians a decisive blow and forced their retreat back into Eritrea…

This was not the first African victory over Western colonizers, but it was the first time such an indigenous African army put a definitive stop to a colonizing nation’s efforts. According to one historian, “In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia alone had successfully defended its independence.”

Now, the character Black Panther and his country were created by a couple of white dudes in the 1960s, so maybe this is all a coincidence. But some quick googling shows that lots of others made the connection, most of all Ethiopians:

“When I left the cinema, I thought, imagine if I saw this when I was 12,” [Ethiopian lawyer Blen Sahilu] said, noting as well the central debate in the movie between the Black Panther and his nemesis Erik Killmonger about how to respond to the crimes against Africans. “How do you bring about change? The battle between the Black Panther and Killmonger are two different schools of thought about how we respond to imperialism and force.”

Ethiopia did eventually fall to the Italians during the fascist colonization wave of the 1930s-40s, the one that triggered World War II; it should be noted that most of the other victims lay in Europe and Asia. And as with France and Austria, its occupation was relatively brief compared to that of, say, South Africa.

But either way, Ethiopia’s unique history really deserves more mention in the books.