Hasan Minhaj on the lab leak and Dilbert stories

Minhaj returns as this week’s rotating host of The Daily Show where he was a correspondent for five years.

He argues that rich people like Scott Adams end up saying awful things because they are bored with their lives.

Minhaj said Adams is a prime example of “a certain type of rich person.” They have no problems of their own, so they invent new ones just to make their own lives interesting.

“I can guarantee you: J.K. Rowling had zero opinions about trans people when she was on welfare,” he said. He suggested a wealth tax would solve the problem.

“Rich people, this is for your own good,” he said. “The wealth tax is actually a shut-the-fuck-up tax.”

“Spend more time working, kissing your loved ones, getting groceries ― y’know, being a normal person,” he said. “Because normal people don’t hate Black people. We’re all too busy hating that one squeaky wheel on the shopping cart.”

The myth of the free market and the rising popularity of The Communist Manifesto

The radio program On The Media had an excellent show where host Brooke Gladstone talked with two authors about their recent books.

The first interview was with Naomi Oreskes about “The History of Free Market Fundamentalism in the US”.

For decades the so-called “free market” has been seen as a fundamental part of American society, often lauded in debates about the success of capitalism. But with wealth inequality in the U.S. at an all-time high, debates about capitalism have ramped up.  This week, Brooke sits down with Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard University and the co-author with Erik M. Conway of “The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market,” to trace the evolution of what Oreskes calls “free-market fundamentalism” back to a century-old public relations campaign that still impacts American politics.

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Dilbert comic being canceled all across the country

Dilbert creator Scott Adams has long been known to have racist and homophobic views but his recent tirade about Black people was even more extreme than in the past. As a result, newspapers across the country have decided to stop publishing the daily and Sunday strip.

Its creator, Scott Adams, recently denigrated Black people as a “hate group”, advising white people to “just get the hell away” from them.

The strip was founded in 1989, and at its peak about 2,000 newspapers across 70 countries carried it. Adams lit a fuse under the success of his own work in a recent episode of his YouTube show Real Coffee with Scott Adams.

In the course of the show, Adams misinterpreted a Rasmussen poll that asked people whether they disagreed with the statement “It’s OK to be white”. As the Anti-Defamation League has pointed out, the phrase originated with the extremist online forum 4chan as a trolling campaign and was then seized upon by white supremacists – but Adams took it literally.

On the back of it, he declared Black people “a hate group” and expressed his relief that he had managed to flee them by living in a neighborhood with a “very low” African American population.

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Encouraging increase in wind and solar power generation

It is encouraging that energy from wind and solar sources are increasing at a rapid rate in the US.

National wind and solar capacity grew 16% compared to 2021. All told, renewables generated enough electricity to power 64m American households. The report comes as the Biden administration starts to make billions of dollars available for renewable energy projects. The administration has committed to decarbonizing the grid completely by 2030 and getting the US to net zero emissions by mid-century.

In the past five years, the share of wind energy more than doubled from 15% to 34%. Over that same time, gas production has fallen from 49% to 34%.

The US generated 683,130 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from solar and wind last year, according to Climate Central’s findings, up from 588,471 GWh in 2021. The report shows that solar generation is understandably highest in the summer, while wind energy peaks in spring and fall.

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Combating junk science as evidence

Prosecutors in the US are notorious for trying to obtain convictions at the expense of justice. In doing so, they will resort to all manner of dubious methods and what has come to be known as ‘junk science’, evidence that seems scientific but has not been shown to be reliable or consistent, is one such technique, using such methods to persuade judges and juries to convict. These junk science theories are advanced by people who pose as expert witnesses in cases, usually on the side of the prosecutors, while judges and juries are not made aware that these methods are unreliable. These so-called experts make a living by being ‘expert witnesses’ in cases and providing ‘training’ to police and police officers.
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Some political news

The special election that was held in Virginia to fill the House of Representatives seat that had been held by Donald McEachin, who died soon after winning re-election in November, was won by Democrat Jennifer McClellan who becomes the first Black woman to be elected to Congress from Virginia. The district is strongly Democratic so the result was not a surprise. This means that the House of Representatives has no vacancies (until George Santos is kicked out for some or all of the many reasons that we have learned about) and is now split 222-213 in favor of Republicans.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to purge their party of anyone seen as deviating from the extreme right wing direction that the party has taken under Donald Trump. Take, for example, Mark Racicot, who would once have been considered to have sterling Republican credentials.

Former Republican Gov. Marc Racicot said over the weekend that the Montana Republican Party recently informed him of a resolution voted on and approved by party leadership declaring he is no longer considered a Republican.

Racicot was elected governor on the GOP ticket twice in Montana, and also was the chair of the Republican National Committee until he was appointed to chair the re-election campaign for former Republican President George W. Bush.

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This is not that much of a surprise

Civil rights activist Angela David appeared on the program hosted by Henry Louis Gates and was surprised to learn something about her ancestry.

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Dogs with seat belts

A Florida legislator has proposed a bill that would restrict dogs’ movements inside vehicles.

Lauren Book, the Democratic leader in the Florida senate, proposed the restriction in a bill, SB 932, filed last week. The measure would have made it illegal to “allow a dog to extend its head or any other body part outside a motor vehicle window while the person is operating the motor vehicle on a public roadway”.

It also would make it illegal to hold a dog in one’s lap while driving and require that any dog being transported be restrained.

Anyone who violated those provisions would be subject to a non-criminal traffic infraction, the bill says.

I approve of this.

Whenever they traveled in our car, our dogs were always put in a harness that had a loop that the center rear seat belt would pass through. The reasons for this were two-fold. In the case of a crash, it would save the dog from being flung forward and the harness would spread the impact force over their bodies to lessen the pressure. The other reason was to prevent them from wandering around the car or even coming to the front seat and distracting the driver, something that has been the cause of crashes.

Our dogs did not seem to mind. In fact, they would get all excited when we took out the harness because they knew it meant a car ride. The dogs were able to move around somewhat on the back seat to get comfortable and also sleep but not far enough to stick their heads out of the window. We were very particular that all the people in our car fastened their seat belts too.

The full extent of the rot at Fox News

David Corn provides the most exhaustive analysis I have seen of the public version of the legal brief filed by Dominion Voting Systems on February 16, 2023 in its $1.6. billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. The internal communications of the top people at Fox reveal the extent of the utterly cynical lying campaign that they waged in the wake of the 2020 election, where they went all in on promoting Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was rigged, even as they knew that it was not, since their own in-house election analysis team got the results right. Indeed, in response to a question as to whether Joe Biden was legitimately elected, Suzanne Scott, Fox News CEO, replied “Yes, I believe that.”

As Corn says:

No other self-proclaimed news organization has ever been so fully discredited as Fox has been with this one legal brief. (You should read the document.) This is not the case of one reporter, one editor, or one story going off the rails. This is an indictment of an entire outfit. The full barrel of apples is rotten to the core. What this filing demonstrates is that the Fox universe is racked with corruption, greed, fear, irrationality, cynicism, and ignorance—from top to bottom. That ought to be the ultimate takeaway.
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Measuring Christian nationalism in the US

The PRRI ((Public Religion Research Institute) conducts research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy. Along with the Brookings Institution, it recently carried out a survey to measure the extent that Christian nationalism has taken hold in the US.

To measure Christian nationalism, the PRRI/Brookings Christian Nationalism Survey included a battery of five questions about the relationship between Christianity, American identity, and the U.S. government. Respondents were asked whether they completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree, or completely disagree with each of the following statements:

  • The U.S. government should declare America a Christian nation.
  • U.S. laws should be based on Christian values.
  • If the U.S. moves away from our Christian foundations, we will not have a country anymore.
  • Being Christian is an important part of being truly American.
  • God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society.

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