Hi, reading several. It’s been a less busy week now that both the ISF shows I’m in have opened. Find out how to go see them here if you’re living in or traveling to Western Washington sometime in the next six weeks and are of a mind to catch a show. The area is pretty and the weather’s been great for outdoor Shakespeare so far.
But enough happy talk, let’s get down to the infuriating, baffling, and otherwise painful news of the week that was with countdown of things I can do without.
1. Rutger Hauer Died.
True, it sucks harder for him than it does for me, but it still sucks. There are some people who are always too young to die, and he’s one of them.
Lots of people have been posting the “Tears in the rain” video in tribute. I’ll do likewise. Here it is.
2. House Democrats’ Overreliance on Mueller.
Robert Mueller did find lots of damning information in his investigation, including several acts of Trump’s that either are proven crimes or are only unproven crimes because Trump successfully stonewalled the investigation. It’s in his report. He’s now testified about it. We have it. But that’s not what House Democrats were after. They wanted a big moment, some giant revelation that’ll kick outrage into high gear and make impeachment possible. I share the goal, but I understand that to do this House Democrats need to do something they’ve been leaving to Mueller for too long.
They have the power to investigate. They were granted that power in the 2018 election. If they want bombshell new information, which is probably there–Trump is a rapist and fraud with business ties to domestic mobsters, dictators, and international criminals, so the I would think the trouble would be not finding crime–they have way more power than Mueller ever had to get it and a much broader remit. The oversight powers of the House of Representatives vastly exceed the remit of a special counsel in the Justice Department. He had to confine himself to one particular set of incidents (Russia–obstruction of justice). The House can look into any damn thing it wants to.
So, House Dems, want to know where the money foreign diplomats who stay in Trump properties goes? Find out. Want to bring in everyone connected with the Stormy Daniels payoff and get documents and testimony under oath. Do it? Want to press further into the Trump Tower meeting, or go into detail about how much federal money goes into Trump’s pocket whenever he takes a trip to Mar-A-Lago or one of his golf resorts? Get those records. Want to know the extent of Trump’s business relationships with Putin or his connection with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? Want to expose the decisionmakers who put kids in cages or discuss at length Trump’s connection to and encouragement of white nationalists. Want to dig into the boundless incompetence and venality of Trump’s officials? It’s yours for the taking. Right now, you guys are like Homer Simpson before he figures out something obvious.
Yes. Only member of congress like you can subpoena documents from agencies and call witnesses and get their testimony under oath with a view toward exposing Donald Trump’s lawlessness.
You’re members of congress like you! So stop waiting for other people to do your jobs for you, get organized, use the Mueller report as a launching point for some of your work, and begin.
3. Frat Boys (Particularly Ones From Mississippi)
Three students at the University of Mississippi were suspended by their fraternity on Wednesday after an Instagram photo surfaced of them brandishing guns in front of a bullet-riddled memorial sign for Emmett Till, whose brutal murder in 1955 served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement.
The photo of the smiling Kappa Alpha members was the subject of a bias complaint filed with the university in March, according to Rod Guajardo, a spokesman for the university, which is commonly referred to as Ole Miss. He said he did not have a copy of the complaint and was unsure if it was a public record.
So, how long before they get their jobs in the Trump Administration?
4. The Political Consequences of People Filling Their Minds With Poo
I strongly suggest not binge watching trash TV, but some of us just can’t help ourselves, and unfortunately, the damage it does is not contained to its viewers, as the Italian experience demonstrates. They fell into a hole, then fell out of that hole into an even deeper hole. It’s a warning for us. From the Washington Post.
This is a story about how the lowest common denominator of popular media paved the way for the lowest common denominator of populist politics. And it’s got data.
It begins with the opening of Italy’s airwaves, long the dominion of the highly regarded public broadcaster RAI. In the 1980s, an aggressive and unabashedly unsophisticated channel called Mediaset elbowed its way into the market and spread across the country, buying up small local channels and countering RAI’s educational mission with a heavy dose of cartoons, sports, soap operas, movies and other light entertainment.
By 1990, 49 out of 50 Italians could watch Mediaset — half of the country had gained access in just five years. These unusual events allowed a team of Italian economists to compare towns that initially had Mediaset with otherwise equivalent towns that didn’t get reception until later, and thus calculate how a few extra years of lowbrow TV can shape a society’s politics.
The results are bleak. In the American Economic Review, Ruben Durante of Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Paolo Pinotti of Bocconi University in Milan and Andrea Tesei of Queen Mary University of London analyze detailed broadcast-transmitter data to show that more exposure to Mediaset’s vapid programming was followed by an enduring boost in support for populist candidates peddling simple messages and easy answers.
5. Social Media Algorithms Shitcanning Valuable Channels.
I subscribe to Three Arrows, a YouTube channel devoted to debunking alt-right talking points on subjects ranging from Brexit to whether concentration camp is a fair description of ICE’s border detention centers (spoiler alert: it is). In his latest video, he let subscribers know why he’d been gone. Apparently YouTube deleted it for a bogus terms of service violation, and it took a major fuss by subscribers to bring Three Arrows back.
As I said when my Twitter feed was banned, it would be nice if social media outlets took genuine instances of harassment and bigotry seriously, but the fact that they’re leaving this to algorithms which can’t hope to parse why content creators are using particular words and images proves that they’re not taking it seriously. They’re choosing a cheap, easy option that allows them to pretend they’re doing something. Bigotry and harassment continue to thrive on social media while Three Arrows, which is so far from either of those things that the light from them takes a million years to reach it, gets nailed.
All for now. Until next week.