The bootstrap myth

Most of us are self-aware enough to know that whatever we managed to achieve in life, we did so with help from family, friends, teachers, other people, or the state. Even those who have overcome tremendous odds to get where they are, can usually point to the helping hands they received along the way. But there are those who seem to think that any achievement is largely because of one’s own efforts and such people tend to blame those who are having difficult lives on their moral failings, that they simply did not strive hard enough or lacked the innate qualities needed to succeed.

Michael Harriot writes that it seems to have become obligatory for Black Republicans to promote the myth that everybody can and should lift themselves up by their bootstraps, and that they have only themselves to blame for any failures.
[Read more…]

The idiocy reaches new heights

Samantha Bee talks about the latest obsession of right wingers and Republicans, that men are becoming less manly and more effeminate and that something needs to be done quickly to reverse the trend or the human race will die out. Or something like that. And one suggestion that they are advocating is a real doozy. She is all in favor of them going ahead and doing it.

I think that it would be far more productive for these men to stop worrying about their sperm counts and whether their genitals are getting enough red light and instead investigate why they are so insecure about their masculinity.

We are on the verge of yet another potential tragic miscarriage of justice

On his latest show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver discussed the problem of false confessions and the infamous ‘Reid technique’ that police use in order to extract confessions out of people, even if they are innocent. Police interrogators and prosecutors love confessions because it makes their lives so much easier. It saves them the tedious work of investigating crimes, collecting evidence, and building a case against a suspect. Furthermore, juries seem to think that confessions are powerful, almost watertight, indicators of guilt.

Given the determination of police and prosecutors to quickly close cases, and their seeming lack of interest in obtaining actual justice, one should not be surprised that they put so much effort into obtaining confessions from people even if there are indicators that they might be innocent. Among the many cases, he mentioned that of Melissa Lucio who in 2007 ‘confessed’ to killing her two-year old child and is now scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, despite the very real possibility that she is innocent and that interrogators coerced her to confess.
[Read more…]

Two awful liars talking to each other. Why would anyone watch?

The utterly smug and smarmy Piers Morgan has apparently launched a new talk show and he interviewed Donald Trump. That alone should be enough to deter any viewers but there is also a report that Morgan, in order to create buzz for the show, has misleadingly edited the footage to suggest that he had an angry confrontation with Trump.

Great. An utterly dishonest and unlikable interviewer speaks to an utterly dishonest and unlikable president. What’s not to dislike?

Mano, mono, what’s the difference?

It happened again.

I was at a party with a sizable crowd and where I did not know anyone other than my hosts. So I did the usual self-introduction thing and told them my first name. One woman said, “I remember when I can incapacitated by it in college”. She had, like so many others, thought my name was spelled and pronounced as ‘mono’, short for mononucleosis, the infectious disease sometimes referred to as ‘the kissing disease’ because the Epstein-Barr virus that causes it is spread through saliva and kissing is a common way of transmission.

Actually, there is a subtle difference in pronunciation between the two words but many people miss it and usually go to the first word they are familiar with. I then tell them that it is spelled and pronounced like the Spanish word for ‘hand’ and that clears things up, especially if they know some Spanish.

I sometimes wonder whether I should bother at all. It seems a little picky and suggests an elevated sense of self-importance to correct people on such a minor error as the pronunciation of your name, especially with people I am likely to never meet again. So why do I do it? Perhaps it is because I do not wish it thought that my parents were weird enough to give me a name associated with a virus.

Incidentally, I had never heard of this disease in Sri Lanka, likely because kissing on the lips is something that is only done within the context of marriage or extremely clandestinely between two intimate partners. So while in the US, it can spread widely on college and high school campuses, in Sri Lanka it was totally absent. At least, I did not know a single person who contracted it.

Trump Republicans just love Hungary’s leader

It is quite fascinating to see how quickly Trump’s followers latch on to authoritarian leaders around the world who pursue bigoted anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant policies, all wrapped up in the rhetoric of nationalism and patriotism and with a religious garnish. Their latest hero is president Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has been in power for 12 years and just won re-election.

Hungary’s authoritarian leader and longtime Russian ally, Viktor Orban, clinched a fourth consecutive term in power on Sunday, after a landslide election win that he touted as a rebuke of liberalism, the European Union and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Orban’s Fidesz party strengthened their position in Parliament despite forecasts predicting a tight race. It won 53% of the vote with almost all ballots counted, enough for a commanding lead over a united coalition of opposition parties.
[Read more…]

The scandal of false confessions

One of the big problems in the US (in)justice system is that often the zeal of police and prosecutors to get convictions overrides any desire to catch the actual guilty party. One of the many ways that innocent people end up in prison is when they ‘confess’ to crimes that they did not commit. Confessions have a powerful effect on juries because they, like many of us, cannot imagine why anyone would possibly admit to something they did not do, especially when it is a serious offense.

But false confessions are unfortunately not uncommon and the 1989 case of the Central Park Five where five Black and Latino youths aged 16 and under were convicted of the brutal rape of a young white woman who had been jogging in the park is one of the most egregious examples. Donald Trump paid for a full page ad in the New York Times calling for them to be executed. He still refuses to apologize, repeating the fact that they had confessed as his justification for continuing to think that at least some of them are guilty.
[Read more…]

Alex Jones files for bankruptcy protection

I wrote earlier about how the net was tightening around this spreader of all manner of false and malicious information, including some that made life a living hell for the families of the Sandy Hook massacre, who were already suffering because of the murder of their children. He was under increasing legal pressure and has now started the process by which rich people, like the Sacklers, try to avoid paying for their behavior, by declaring bankruptcy.
[Read more…]