The cruelty and inhumanity of the US

It is absolutely disgusting that the children of undocumented immigrants are separated from their parents for weeks on end with no contact. I would like to think that one day we will look back on this shameful episode and as a nation feel deeply embarrassed and try to make amends. But given how people manage to avoid doing so for past shameful acts (genocide of Native Americans, slavery and Jim Crow, internment of Japanese-Americans, massacres in other countries, and many more), I am not hopeful. Americans are absolutely convinced that they are a fundamentally decent, even exemplary, nation and people who hold such views can never be persuaded that they are just as capable of cruelty as anyone else.
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TV review: The Good Place

This is a pretty funny show that has a clever premise. It involves Kristen Bell playing Eleanor Shellstrop, a thirtyish woman who opens her eyes and finds herself facing Michael, an elderly man played by Ted Danson. Michael tells her that she has died but that everything is fine because in the afterlife she is in The Good Place. Who ends up in The Good Place is determined entirely by an algorithm that assigns a numerical score (positive or negative) for every single act on Earth and then computes the final tally. Only the people who have lived the most exemplary lives on Earth end up there. He tells her that The Good Place is divided up into communities of exactly 322 people with each community designed by an architect of the afterlife and this one is his first design. Each person is assigned a soul mate and hers is Chidi Anagonye (played by William Jackson Harper) who was a professor of moral philosophy when he was alive.
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We can’t say we weren’t warned about Alexa

Alexa is the name given to the voice that responds to your commands on the Amazon Echo device. In a recent post, I discussed the creepiness of having someone potentially listen to every conversation in its vicinity. As I understand it (not having one) the device is only supposed to be activated if you first say “Alexa” but apparently that is not the case.
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Michelle Wolf’s new show

I watched the first episode of Michelle Wolf’s new comedy series The Break that will air a new half-hour episode every Sunday on Netflix. It is clear that she is going to continue with her take-no-prisoners attitude that she showed in her speech at the White House Correspondents Association dinner recently. The show was biting and funny.

The one jarring note for me was the fat-shaming jokes she did of disgraced chef Mario Batali, who has been accused of multiple acts of sexual abuse. It is true that Batali seems like an awful person but my feeling is that she would have been better served by poking fun at his behavior than his looks. Fat shaming anyone seems wrong to me because however bad the target might be as a person, it inflicts collateral damage on other people who are quite innocent. Since she is very slim, it feels even worse.

Here is a promo for the show.

John Oliver on the addiction rehabilitation industry

Dealing with addiction to drugs and alcohol is extremely hard on the addicts and their loved ones who are willing to go to extreme lengths to try and wean them off it. In his latest close analysis, John Oliver says that there is no formal definition of what constitutes addiction rehabilitation, no standards for what constitutes proper treatment, and no proper measures of whether these organizations are succeeding. So it should not be surprising that a rehabilitation industry has sprung up that promises to cure addiction for a stiff fee with little or no evidence that what they do actually works.