Conan O’Brien gets a new family

Readers may remember when I wrote about this business in Japan founded by Ishii Yuichi that will supply you with a fake family or friends that will meet your specific needs.

So far, Yuichi has amassed about 800 employees to fulfill just about every role imaginable. Yuichi himself has been keeping up elaborate lies for years. Since the early days of the business, he has been pretending to be the father to a young girl, whose biological father left when she was just a baby. The girl believes Yuichi is her real dad.
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The Jeffrey Epstein case is a perfect example of how plea deals favor the rich

I have written before about how plea bargains are used against poor people to get them, even if innocent of the crime were originally arrested for, to plead guilty to some other charge and accept a lower penalty, even if it includes jail time. Poor people do not have the resources to mount a vigorous defense and do not have access to the top prosecutors who make the decisions about who to prosecute and how vigorously. With rich people, it is the other way around, as I have described before with the way that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. treated leniently the wealthy and influential and well-connected and those who contributed to his campaigns (like Harvey Weinstein and members of the Trump family) but went after the poor and Chinese immigrants.
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Film review: BlacKkKlansman (2018) (no spoilers)

I just watched this film, based on a true story, that is set in the town of Colorado Springs in 1978. John David Washington plays Ron Stallworth, the town’s first black police officer who, pretending to be a white man, responds by phone to a newspaper advertisement placed by the Ku Klux Klan for new recruits. For actual meetings with the local KKK branch members, he sends in his colleague Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver) who is Jewish. The two of them continue to play their parts as Stallworth, once the KKK people were satisfied that did not “have any Jew in him”, rises in the organization and he even becomes friends over the phone with David Duke, then the Grand Wizard of the KKK (played by Topher Grace).
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How the peace symbol came to be

I am always on the lookout for interesting pieces of historical trivia and how the famous peace symbol came into existence certainly qualifies. It turns out that it was created in 1958 by Gerald Holtom by superimposing the international semaphore alphabet signals for ‘N’ and ‘D’ so that the symbol represents ‘Nuclear Disarmament’.

On Good Friday 1958, thousands gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to protest nuclear weapons. They were responding to a string of test blasts conducted by the United Kingdom, the third nation to join the nuclear club after the US and USSR.

For the next four days, the bravest among them marched to Aldermaston, a small village 50 miles west of London where British nuclear weapons were designed and stockpiled.

On the protesters’ signs and banners, a new symbol was making its first appearance. Gerald Holtom, a designer and a pacifist, had developed it specifically for the march just a few weeks prior. He believed that a symbol would make the message stronger.

He was right: The symbol was adopted soon after by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and went on to become one of the most widely recognized designs in history.

“It’s a minor masterpiece with major evocative power,” said design guru and cultural critic, Stephen Bayley, in an email. “It speaks very clearly of an era and a sensibility.

“It is, simply, a fine period piece: the ordinary thing done extraordinarily well.”

The symbol has a strong similarity to the Mercedes Benz emblem (that has resulted in some satire about how people mistakenly used one for the other) and I wonder if the car company ever considered suing for copyright infringement. Of course, this was in 1958 not long after the Nazis had been defeated in World War II and a German company’s efforts to suppress a peace symbol may not have been viewed as the wisest public relations move.

The new political template based on Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia

To no one’s surprise, Cindy Hyde-Smith won the run-off election for Mississippi’s senate seat over Democrat Mike Espy by 54-46%. So if you are keeping score, it is not enough for a candidate to be a stone-cold racist to lose the backing of Republican voters in a deep-red state. You have to be a stone-cold racist plus a religious nutcase plus a borderline pedophile to even barely lose, as was the case with Roy Moore in Alabama.
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Science, schmience

Earth scientist Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, reveals how she was recently invited to appear on CNN’s Anderson Cooper show to talk about climate change and then her taped segment was omitted altogether to give more time to stupid former senator Rick Santorum to bloviate once again about how it is all a hoax manufactured by greedy scientists. She said that this is not the first time this kind of thing has happened to her. It shows how these so-called news shows, even those that claim to be pro-science, would rather have an ignorant famous person than a knowledgeable expert.
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“There is always a well-known solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong”

I like to keep the above quote by H. L. Mencken always in mind because it is a useful caution whenever one is weighing in on weighty issues on which one is not an expert. Like pretty much everyone else, I sometimes have a brainwave about some deep or complex problem (usually in a field that I am not that familiar with) in which a simple solution suddenly stares me in the face. I then wonder why no one else has thought of this ‘brilliant’ solution before and the usual answer is that people who do know a lot more about this topic are well aware of this proposed ‘solution’ and also know why it will not work.
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Why do news shows invite non-scientists to talk about science?

Trevor Noah asks the right question but the answer is obvious. These shows are not interested in informing the public but in pleasing their sponsors and getting ratings and they know that stupid people who reinforce ignorant views draw audiences, Donald Trump being the prime example. It is just a human version of David Letterman’s ‘stupid pet tricks’ segment on his former show.