Elizabeth Warren puts Chris Matthews in his place

After the debate, Chris Matthews of MSNBC kept badgering Elizabeth Warren about how much Medicare for All will raise taxes. That is the Republican talking point and the one pushed by the corporate mainstream media and the political establishment who are defenders of the private health insurance companies. Warren refused to accept his framing of the question and instead focused laser-like on the fact that she and Bernie Sanders have been emphasizing, that overall health care costs will go down and people will not go bankrupt or suffer serious financial hardship because of medical bills.

Mathews is a blowhard and a shill for corporate America.

Yesterday’s Democratic debate

I have been busy on a tight deadline with the book proofs and creating an index. These are two crashingly boring tasks, requiring close attention to detail and the only thing that keeps me going is because of my desire to make the end product as free from errors as possible. But as a result, I just could not spare the two hours or so to watch the first night of the second round of debates. So this post is based on second-hand information, so read at your peril!

However, from what I could read after the debate, it seemed to consist of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren staking out and reinforcing their progressive visions on major issues, while John Hickenlooper, Steve Bullock, Tim Ryan, and John Delaney tried to dismiss those as unrealistic and election losers. Trying to straddle the space in-between were Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, and Marianne Williamson. The impression was that O’Rouke needed a big night to boost his campaign and remain viable but he did not achieve it.

[UPDATE: Robert Mackey describes how Warren and Sanders effectively swatted away the right-wing framing of the questions that looked to him like a planned ambush by CNN to discredit especially their health care plans that threaten the private health insurance industry. Mackey’s piece is well worth reading.

Rolling Stone magazine also had a good breakdown of each person’s performances in the debate.]
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How English became the language of science

These days, pretty much everyone who works in science research is proficient in English. This is, of course, unfair to those scientists who grew up in places where it is not their native language because they are forced to learn a second language in order to read the literature and spread their own ideas. Fortunately, it is a little easier to read and write technical material because one does not have to deal with the pitfalls of metaphors and idioms and colloquialisms, as one might have in other areas. In science, one usually eschews flowery language in favor of directness and the crucial technical terms are usually unambiguous in meaning. In my own career, I have met many scientists from all over the world with whom it was difficult to have general conversations but with whom one could communicate on science quite easily.
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The weird world of social media: Part infinity

I have commented before about how some people make a living by being social media personalities and ‘influencers’, whom people contribute money to in return for them live streaming about themselves and/or companies paying them to push their products on their followers.

Now comes a weird story of a Chinese woman who used a filter to make herself look younger but a glitch in the filter resulted in her real face being revealed as a middle-aged woman and now she has lost a lot of followers.

There are so many lessons that can be drawn from this one single story, and one that is being debated is about the unrealistic standards of beauty that people seek to attain in order to attract a following, and the lengths that they must go to maintain that following, since China has strict controls on what people can do on the internet.

China has more than 425 million live-streamers and the use of face filters is something that is common across the myriad of social platforms.

[M]any live-streamers simply sing karaoke in their bedrooms, or eat snacks for hours on end.

And the highly lucrative industry is saturated by young female users, who will go to extreme lengths to stand out.

425 million livestreamers? How on Earth can one stand out in such a crowd simply by singing karaoke or eating snacks? There is a market for this?

It is now official. The world has passed me by.

This does not make sense to me

Yesterday we had another mass shooting in the US where a man went to a public food festival with an assault rifle and then opened fire indiscriminately, killing three people (including two children) and injuring 12 before being killed by security. The man had apparently referenced a white supremacist book on Facebook just before he went on his killing spree. This is just the latest in violence in the US that has been committed by people affiliated with white supremacists, who seem to be emboldened by Donald Trump’s coddling of them.
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How racist is America?

When something outrageous happens in the US, such as acts of mass murder or cruelty or racism, politicians and even members of the public tend to distance themselves from it by portraying them as irrational and inexplicable aberrations, commonly using the phraseology of “This is not who we are”. I have mentioned before how such a statement is deeply disingenuous. Given the long and deep history of racism, genocide, and violence in the US, to act as if such acts are contrary to wholesome values that have always been upheld cannot be justified. It would be better to say “This is not who we should be”, because rather than smugly adopting a mantle of righteousness, such a sentiment is at least aspirational and recognizes the need for improvement
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John Oliver on Boris Johnson

While we in the US are depressed at the thought of having such a blatantly racist president, let us spare a thought for our friends across the Atlantic in the UK who also have a nasty piece of work in their new prime minister Boris Johnson. The ‘special relationship’ between the US and the UK was always more of a meaningless slogan than reflecting a genuine reality, but it may be true for just these two unprincipled individuals who seem to be made for each other.

The one advantage that people in the UK have over us is that it is always possible that the government will collapse leading to new elections and a new prime minister, while we are stuck with this president at least until January 2021.

John Oliver delivers the bad news about Johnson. (Language advisory)

Trump doubles down on racism

Donald Trump has made it clear that his re-election campaign will be based on straight-up racist appeals. After telling four congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from, he then turned his fire on congressman Elijah Cummings and said that the city of Baltimore which is encompassed by the district he represents is ‘rat-infested’. Do I need to mention that the city is majority African-American?
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Film review: Hail Satan? (2019)

I recently watched this documentary on The Satanic Temple that I previewed earlier. It is an enjoyable film, informative and quite funny in parts, that looks at the origins of the group, what their aims are, and how they set about trying to achieve their goals. It seemed to have started out as a lark to troll religious conservatives, with stunts such as members dressed in what people think is appropriate Satanic dress holding a press conference on the steps of the Florida state capitol building to endorse right wing Florida governor Rick Scott, who clearly did not want their endorsement.
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Scam artists target conservatives for grifts

Donald Trump and his family have always been grifters, as should have been obvious to sentient being, and yet he managed to persuade large numbers of conservative voters that he should be president. So it should be no surprise that his presidency is just filled with grifters, from his family members to his cabinet members to other people in the administration. But his conservative base seems to be remaining devoted to him and because of that devotion, seem to be willing to overlook grifting or not even be aware that grifting is going on.
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