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WesRecs

Vol. #51 - October 23, 2020

Hello you wonderful people. I hope you're all surviving, thriving, voting, enjoying, preparing, and staying healthy. We all need each othher to stay healthy, and hopeful, and strong and resolute because I assure you: however weird & stressful you think this year has been, the events of 11/3/2020 are not going to make them any less so, whatever the outcome happens to be. So take care of yourselves, find your joy, check in on your people, and be ready for whatever may come.


[Quick housekeeping note: If you're reading this in your email inbox please make sure that you've enabled images on this particular message. I include multiple pics and video thumbnails throughout each issue but a lot of email clinets automatically strip them out unless you enable them. OK back to WR!]

On my end of things it's been a busy but overall rewarding week.

I was once again back on set doing background work, which continues to be fascinating (and weirdly lucrative) in the COVID era. Productions are (rightfully and understandably) being extremely cautious about COVID safety precautions. I'm happy for it and I feel pretty safe because of it, but at heart this is an economic hedge. If a TV show's stars or production crew becomes ill that's weeks of shooting lost (and probably millions of dollars) so it's in their best interest to do everything possible to prevent that. As such every single production that I've been on since returning to work as an extra has required a COVID test 2-4 days before the actual job. Yes, this means another appointment to keep and another swab up your nose BUT it also means a C note just to go to a lab for 15 mins so I am totally here for it. That said, this week I had one of the most unpleasant medical experiences I can recall and as someone with a chronic illness who's been hospitalized multiple times over the past 20 years, that's saying a lot.

I got booked on a production and completed the standard COVID test on Tuesday of last week, nothing was amiss, all was well. I then got a notice from them that all background was to be tested again at a different facility last Friday. Slightly annoying sure, but hey another $100, so fine. I went to the Friday test and they had you create an account on a medical records website so that the production could track your results and notify the public health authorities if anything was up. Pretty standard, no biggie. But there was a problem with my login. Every time I'd make an attempt it would time out. We were getting nowhere so the nurse finally said that she'd just take down my info, enter it manually, swab me and connect my records to my test that way.  We did that, everything seemed fine, no worries.

I arrived on set this past Monday and learned that they couldn't find a record of my test (presumably due to the technical difficulties) and in order to work that day I'd need to do a rapid test there. I'm thinking "no problem!". At this point I've been tested like 8 times, none of them was "pleasant" but none of them was a big deal either. Prior to my very first test I was nervous because I'd heard tell of technicians sticking swabs into people's brains and other such hyperbole. But after my first test I'd found that the discomfort came from the length of time the swab was kept in your nose vs the depth. I'd done tests where they did one nostril, both nostrils, the technician inserted the swab, the technician handed me the swab for me to insert myself and it had always been fine. 15 seconds in there, but shallow, bearable. But on set that day, on a production where I'd already been tested twice within the week, they did some whole other technique where they drilled a swab into each nostril like they were digging for gold. I swear those things hit my eye-sockets. It was the more painful and stretched on longer than I could have imagined. It seriously ruined my day, I was in a bad mood for hours. Looking back I'm not sure if that was due to how bad it actually was or due to my annoyance at all that being precipitated by a software glitch. Anyway, I guess all that's to say that a COVID test is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.
I did however see this in the bathroom on set so my annoyance was temporarily replaced by confusion.
On the grilling/cooking front this week this ridiculous salmon recipe showed up in my Twitter feed and I was sufficiently intrigued and confident enough to give it a try and...

OH MY GOD did it pay off.

First, I'll say that the tech-bro aesthetic of this recipe video was a red flag but damn if this dude (Max The Meat Guy) didn't put it down.

I was skeptical of mixing so many flavors (salmon, cream cheese, dill, lemon, jalepeno, miso paste, maple syrup, charcoal smoke, etc) but the concern was unfounded. This came together like an absolute dream. It was my first time ever using fresh dill (what a physically beautiful herb), buying miso paste, or cooking salmon over charcoal. I was disappointed on no front. Salmon actually takes smoke more noticeably and more wonderfully than maybe any other meat protein I've worked with yet. It's been especially noticeable on the second day, it's like the smoke flavor got stronger overnight and damn is it amazing. Salmon is good pan fried with salt and pepper and butter. Over the coals???? GTFO, lights out amazing. (FYI: I skipped the candied bacon because...who has the time???)

Have you ever bought 4lbs of salmon before? It's kind of a rush and I would recommend it.

Here are some prep pics. I got to excited and neglected to take any shots of it on the grill or plated the night of but I threw some on an everything bagel this morning and...the paradise continues.
OK then, let's get into WesRecs Vol. 51, some great stuff for you this week. Like I said, take care of yourselves and find your joys and keep the people you care about close. I love you all.
WesRecs is the weekly newsletter where I (comedian/storyteller/TV Host) Wes Hazard recommend a bunch of cool content (recs) to YOU (the person reading this). There's no particular reason for this other than the fact that I love curating stuff and I'm always excited to share items that I personally have found worthwhile, exciting, or necessary. If you like what you see please be sure to subscribe to get each week's edition delivered straight to your inbox and if you know someone else who might be into it definitely share with them. You can check out all past issues HERE.

THE BEE'S KNEES

As this newsletter's title would indicate, I recommend everything you'll find below. It's all stuff which I've personally found rewarding this week and I think you will too! But for the benefit of all you skimmers out there here are links to a few items that I'm happy to briefly highlight for you. You can find more detailed commentary/context below:

Reality can no longer be taken for granted

You Cannot "Reform" a Vestige of Slavery

I Loved A Movie. Now I Doubt a Movie

 

WES Around the WEB

F O L L O W on F A C E B O O K F O L L O W on F A C E B O O K
F O L L O W on T W I T T E R F O L L O W on T W I T T E R
F O L L O W on I N S T A G R A M F O L L O W on I N S T A G R A M
VISIT my WEBSITE VISIT my WEBSITE

COVID Corner

Findings in Plagueland

How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest - Washington Post

As the pandemic was raging in much of America (but relatively absent from the upper midwest) South Dakota had no lockdown restrictions or mask mandates of any kind in place and allowed the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to proceed as normal. With nearly 500,000 attendees from all over the country this may have been the largest single gathering of people on Earth since the COVID-19 pandemic began. While much of the 10-day rally occurred outside attendees were routinely jam packed indoors at concerts, bars, tattoo parlors, & restaurants and the majority of people declined to wear masks. Predictably, with such blatant disregard for staying at home, social distancing, and mask use coupled with such a high number of visitors who then traveled back home to all parts of the country, this event has resulted in an avalanche of cases (with the numbers we do have likely being vastly under reported, partially due to a frequent refusal of attendees to be tested.)

This is so tragic and preventable and DUMB.

The rally attendee that they profile here was fully aware of the risks and his longtime girlfriend even urged him not to go (she stayed home herself despite being an avid motorcycle fan). As he was riding to the event he thought to himself "If I catch the virus and die, I will be a happy man. I have lived."

WHICH IS THE MOST INFURIATING DUMBASS SHIT EVER. How in the world is being cavalier with your exposure to Corona *STILL* being spun as personal choice issue??? At this point, 200k U.S. deaths later??? I saw some right-wing talking head with a platform spewing this b.s. just the other week. All of the "if you think it's dangerous then fine, you're free to stay home or wear a mask. But don't put your fear on me, I know the risks and I accept them B.S." is so basic, so ignorant, so ridiculously shortsighted that I can hardly believe it's still getting mainstream traction. But then I think if how little solid public guidance has come down on this on the city, state, and (especially) federal level on these points and...I'm still furious, but also a bit more understanding.

I'm sure, or at least hope, that it exists but I have yet to see a solid/viral PSA about why everyone needs to care about COVID and modify their behavior, no matter what their health status, location, or personal risk tolerance is. I've made this point in this newsletter before but for my own sanity:
  • A bad thing about COVID is that it's very easy to get. A single unmasked person in a closed and poorly ventilated space is able to spread it to several other people, who will then potentially go on to spread it to even more (especially given that symptoms may not show up until you've been contagious for several days.
  • A good thing about COVID is that most people who get it will make a full recovery. Yes, some people who get it will die (and at a higher rate than the flu), and some will be require hospitalization/ventilation, and some will be horrendously ill and bedridden, and some will linger with long-term symptoms that are not yet fully understood (#LongCovid). But most people who contract it will not die and not require hospitalization.
  • A bad thing about COVID is that you can have it and be contagious and have either minor symptoms or exhibit no symptoms at all. And HERE is where the "it's my life, I'll risk it if I want to" logic falls apart. Maybe you do feel healthy and robust, and maybe you are willing to risk your life to ride your motorcycle (or fly to Disneyland, or eat in a food court), and maybe you do fully accept the risks and are positive you'll have no regrets if you end up on a ventilator because of it. But are you willing & entitled to make that choice for the cashier, or server, or gas station attendant, or family member that you might be putting at risk by shedding virus particular while you're unaware that you're sick? It's OCTOBER. We've been doing this for over half a year. Cut the shit. You wear a mask to protect others, not yourself. You are reciprocally protected when others decide to act like they got some sense. Believe me when I tell you that I understand the allure of a death wish - but hear me when I say that you don't get to take others down with you. Wear your mask, and don't go to five-hundred-thousand person gatherings.
  • Side point: Hospital beds and doctors and nurses are all finite resources. If your local hospital becomes overwhelmed with COVID patients they are going to have far fewer resources to deal with all of the usual medical emergencies like flu admissions, car wrecks, heart attacks, etc. This goes beyond this specific ailment.
P.S. The biker that they profiled did get COVID at the rally and despite asserting that he'd be happy man if it happened, he did not die. He did however get his girlfriend and her sister sick. He did end up in the hospital and on oxygen. And he does now fully regret it and say that none of it was worth it. But hey, live your life.
 
In many ways, Sturgis is an object lesson in the patchwork U.S. response to a virus that has proved remarkably adept at exploiting such gaps to become resurgent. While some states and localities banned even relatively small groups of people, others, like South Dakota, imposed no restrictions — in this case allowing the largest gathering of people in the United States and perhaps anywhere in the world amid the pandemic and creating huge vulnerabilities as tens of thousands of attendees traveled back home to every state in the nation.

...

The rally unfolded in August as it always had. Bikers revved their engines on Main Street and filled highways leading to sites like Custer State Park and Devils Tower. Bands played to shoulder-to-shoulder audiences, and bikini-wearing bartenders sold beer by the bucket. Hardly anyone wore a mask.
Among T-shirts hawked by vendors were ones that made mention of the virus keeping many Americans at home: “Screw covid-19, I went to Sturgis.”

...

The day Cervantes sat up from the couch and asked Balcom to take him to the emergency room, doctors put him on oxygen. He had been worried about the tightness in his chest, but he hadn’t grasped how bad it was. Only when he was being hooked up to the oxygen machine did he realize he hadn’t said goodbye to his children.

“I was just laying there thinking, ‘This could be it. This could be it,’” Cervantes said. “And, am I going to get another chance?”

He spent eight days in the hospital before being discharged Sept. 4. He was still sick when he left, but the doctors said he could recuperate at home. Walking across the hospital parking lot, though, he was so winded he had to take a moment to sit down.

...

After weeks of missed work, his stint in the hospital and a return visit to the ER over a blood clot concern, he’s come to deeply regret his decision.

“I was naive,” he said. “I was dumb, you know? I shouldn’t have went. I did; I can’t change that, so I just got to move forward. But sitting here just the past few days, that’s all I keep thinking about. I’m like, Jesus, look at the hell I’m going through, the hell I put everybody through. It ain’t worth it. It wasn’t. It really wasn’t.”

America

What Are We Doing?

How a Road Trip Through America's Battlegrounds Revealed a Nation Plagued by Misinformation - Time

This article is essential and sobering and potentially depressing. It speaks to a problem in contemporary America that isn't as old as our racism, our economic inequality, or our violence, but which traps all of those (and many other ills) in a matrix that allows them to merge, mutate, amplify and spill over. That is our problem with reality.

Like most countries (or people for that matter) America has an idea of itself that frequently doesn't square with our actual actions. "Land of the Free!"...but slavery. "Liberty and justice for all" but the biggest prison system the world has ever known and a much higher likelihood of finding yourself in it if you're poor or melanated. "Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free"...but border walls, family separation, and bombs dropped on brown people for oil and Cold War positioning. You get the idea, none of these are secrets, you just need to hold up what we say against what we do. This kind of denial, this set of blinders, is old hat.

What I'm talking about now is a total breakdown of our consensus on basic facts and REALITY. The president and his enablers have spent every day of his administration attempting to delegitimize the trained/professional fact-based media class, the Internet in general and social media specifically have allowed cranks and charlatans to build platforms of unimaginable reach, and it's allowed each of us to live in information silos that just reinforce our own thoughts and opinions in a continual feedback loop. The "news article" you see on Facebook may have the form & the aesthetic trappings of legit journalism, but may have been written by a marketing department, or a political operative, or a bot. The public health expert with decades of experience and publications can be dismissed as a quack by your cousin who's "done research" on WebMD and Wikipedia.

I'm not telling you anything new here, you know and have seen all of this but it it is metastasizing at a rate and with a severity that I don't think most of us are recognizing and I'm hard pressed to think of how to check and reverse it, regardless if who the President is in January.

Millions of people think that COVID is "a hoax" manufactured by the left to hurt Trump's election chances. Or that it was developed as a bio-weapon in a Chinese lab. Or that Obama is a foreign-born Muslim. Or that vaccines cause autism and are a secret form of government control and tracking. Or that Nancy Pelosi & Bill Clinton drink the blood of abused children in Satanic rituals. Obviously these are some of the more extreme examples...but MILLIONS of people do believe them. And they are hardly all tin-foil hat cranks living in bunkers. Many of them are cashiers, and yoga instructors, and business owners, and teachers. And where years ago they'd have to trek to yearly conferences, or buy mimeographed newsletters in the backs of bookstores, or listen to some DIY tri-state radio broadcast that came on at 2a each Saturday, in order to feed their beliefs and meet others like them now they can just look at their phone while on the toilet at work and publish an ebook on Amazon that 20,000 people buy. Now those people can start successful lifestyle brands and run for congress.

Any evidence that contradicts your point is "fake news", anyone claiming a lived experience that proves your point wrong is a "crisis actor". With a few clicks you can marshal as many articles, books, YouTube documentaries, statistics, etc to counter any set that I present to you. And you never need to change or expand your mind or seek different sources because even if your family now thinks you're deranged you can just slip into a Reddit thread or discord channel or facebook group that affirms everything you say and tells you you're right and good and true.

The implications of this problem are so massive that it seems inappropriate to call it a "problem". This is a nation-shattering catastrophe waiting to happen. Like I said this is bigger than the election, but that is looking to be the catalyst for the biggest expression of this problem we've yet seen. If Trump loses we *know* that he and his millions of followers will dismiss it a rigged/fake/crooked etc. The line thus far for the left has been to "make it a landslide" so he has no obvious ground to do so on. OK, yeah, def vote. But I'm not sure landslide will do anything. For the mindset I'm talking about here, the bigger the loss, the greater the shadowy conspiracy that brought it about. And if he wins who on the left will not attribute it to voter suppression, foreign interference, and election tampering/intimidation (which YES we are seeing clear and unambiguous signs of...but we're seeing those in the media we consume). I'm not trying to both-sides Trump and Biden here. One is evil and inept and steeped in about a half dozen mental pathologies, one is an unremarkable but not demonic functionary. But the conviction that I have for the reality of Trump regularly committing (and bragging about) impeachable offenses is not any stronger than the conviction a massive chunk of the electorate has about Hillary Clinton being the Devil's handmaiden. One side might be "correct" but if the other side is just as sure that they are correct...and that side is heavily armed...and conditioned to believe that every opponent is implicitly supporting child sexual abuse well then....

We cannot have a functioning country when a big chunk of it believes in what, for lack of a better term, I have to call...modern witchcraft.
 
"I wasn’t surprised. Once again, history was unfolding in Washington; once again, voters seemed to be reacting with a collective shrug. If there is one constant in this extraordinary presidential election, it’s that every time the political class declares that a news event will permanently reshape the race, it usually seems to evaporate into the ether. The President could be impeached for abuse of power, publicly muster white supremacists, tear-gas peaceful protesters for a photo op, pay less than his employees in taxes, declare that he’d refuse to accept the results of the election, hold a possible superspreader event at the White House–and millions of Americans will ignore it. To half of us, all this is an outrage; to the other half, none of it matters."

...

"Most Trump voters I met had clear, well-articulated reasons for supporting him: he had lowered their taxes, appointed antiabortion judges, presided over a soaring stock market. These voters wielded their rationality as a shield: their goals were sound, and the President was achieving them, so didn’t it make sense to ignore the tweets, the controversies and the media frenzy?

But there was a darker strain. For every two people who offered a rational and informed reason for why they were supporting Biden or Trump, there was another–almost always a Trump supporter–who offered an explanation divorced from reality. You could call this persistent style of untethered reasoning “unlogic.” Unlogic is not ignorance or stupidity; it is reason distorted by suspicion and misinformation, an Orwellian state of mind that arranges itself around convenient fictions rather than established facts."

...

"Democracy, at least in theory, relies on a rational electorate acting in response to credible information. Since the dawn of mass media, elections have been shaped by voters’ reactions to the news. But as I drove through the three states that decided the 2016 election by a little less than 80,000 votes, I sensed a glitch in the information loop, like a scratch on an old-fashioned record. People kept repeating things that were false, and dismissing things that were true."

...

"The polls kept showing Biden with a sturdy lead, but you wouldn’t know it from driving through the neighborhoods that make up Biden’s path to victory. Out in the battleground states, Biden’s statistical advantage seems muted compared to the ostentatious displays of Trumpian devotion. After four years of mobilizing grassroots armies that helped elect Democratic governors in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and flip six House seats in those states, I expected to see more visible enthusiasm for Biden. Instead, everywhere I looked I saw Trump memorabilia: flags strapped to boats bobbing in Racine Harbor, trucks in Michigan parking lots with massive signs reading “Trump: No More Bullsh-t.” At a pro-Trump gathering in Kenosha, a week after the shooting of Jacob Blake, I saw a young woman, barely a teenager, in a T-shirt that read “Trump 2020: Because F-ck You.” I saw more Biden signs in one afternoon in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., than in eight days of driving through Michigan."
The Case Against Donald Trump - The Atlantic

I love The Atlantic as a publication but they have prematurely predicted and too-hopefully asked “is the end of the Trump presidency???” in response to nearly every innumerable scandal or gaffe or gross display of incompetence/corruption since like 2017. I mean yeah, in a just/sane democracy he would’ve never been elected, or been removed long ago, but we don’t live in that world and at this point it’s almost painful to see them predict justice and rationality in response to each new revelation and outrage. Here they're not making a prediction, just stating the obvious but DAMN did I really enjoy this breathless litany of just some of the reasons why this man is despicable.
What we have learned since we published that editorial is that we understated our case. Donald Trump is the worst president this country has seen since Andrew Johnson, or perhaps James Buchanan, or perhaps ever. Trump has brought our country low; he has divided our people; he has pitted race against race; he has corrupted our democracy; he has shown contempt for American ideals; he has made cruelty a sacrament; he has provided comfort to propagators of hate; he has abandoned America’s allies; he has aligned himself with dictators; he has encouraged terrorism and mob violence; he has undermined the agencies and departments of government; he has despoiled the environment; he has opposed free speech; he has lied frenetically and evangelized for conspiracism; he has stolen children from their parents; he has made himself an advocate of a hostile foreign power; and he has failed to protect America from a ravaging virus. Trump is not responsible for all of the 220,000 COVID-19-related deaths in America. But through his avarice and ignorance and negligence and titanic incompetence, he has allowed tens of thousands of Americans to suffer and die, many alone, all needlessly. With each passing day, his presidency reaps more death.
Unqualified Impunity: Amy Coney Barrett Once Ruled That a Cop Wasn't Responsible for a Black Teenager's Death Because Breathing Isn't a Constitutional Right - The Root

By the GOP's own 2016 logic the current SCOTUS nomination process is invalid. But we've long ago learned that whatever words they have to say about a given thing being right or appropriate or constitutional are mostly bogus to begin with. So allow yourself to step past the sheer hypocrisy of the current moment and take a look at the nominee.

It is not good.

Barrett's record is mind-mindbogglingly suspect and in no way whatsoever should you allow yourself to be fooled by her supposed "originalist" commitment to the intentions of our slave-owning founders. This analysis of her Federal court ruling on the death of a Black man in police custody is pretty muvhh waht you need to know about what she'll be like on the court.
 
While Judge Barrett has displayed a Mitch McConnell-like ability to evade direct questions about her legal opinions on a woman’s right to control her own body, whether or not poor people deserve to die if they can’t afford healthcare, or if Social Security is constitutional, we already know Barrett’s judicial positions in one important area of the law. As a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeal’s Seventh Circuit, the right-wing star of the literal handmaid’s tale has repeatedly joined her fellow conservative bench mates in asserting the right of police to do whatever they want—the Constitution be damned.

When it comes to police brutality, one does not have to speculate or engage in conjecture to know the opinion of the woman set to take Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on America’s highest court. Barrett may be able to duck and dodge questions about her well-documented anti-choice stance or her pro-death healthcare views, but her judicial record makes one thing obvious:

Amy Coney Barrett clearly does not believe Black lives matter.

...

Amy Coney Barrett is a right-wing radical.

Looking at Barrett’s judicial record, Five Thirty-Eight didn’t just categorize her as a right-leaning justice on one of America’s most conservative courts. They concluded that “Barrett is one of the more conservative judges on the circuit — and maybe even the most conservative.”

And considering the other judges, that’s quite a statement.

...
The court accepted every fact of the case but determined that Wooten shouldn’t even stand trial. They essentially ruled that Wooten was immune from the consequences of his actions because “the only right [Day] can assert would be the right of an out-of-breath arrestee to not have his hands cuffed behind his back after he complains of difficulty breathing.” However, the judges woefully admitted that they could “find no Seventh Circuit precedent clearly establishing such a right.”

They wrote that down on paper.

Race & Policing

Towards The Reduction Of Harm

Truth Bomb!
Ice Cube Isn’t Winning at Chess - He's Losing At Poker - Scott Woods (Medium)

Scott Woods is a poet, essayist, librarian, arts organizer, and the biggest Prince fan I know. He calls bullshit on Ice Cube's deal with the devil and backs it up with usual (and admirable) deftness and laser-focused perception.
 
"And yet criticism of the contract is unnecessary because the real problem is the deal. This is where all my chess heads are about to discover a little game called poker.

In a report released in September, Citigroup researchers determined that systemic racism has cost this country $800 billion since 2000. Wait, sorry, that’s $800 billion per year. In other words, not only does this imaginary check come up short, but it’s a one-shot deal. Cube is promising votes he can’t deliver for money he’s unlikely to get for change it can’t cover. In poker, that means someone called your bluff."

...

"In poker, you can try to affect the outcome of a given hand, but you can’t physically change the cards on the table. At some point everyone has to show their hand and the true measure of the player is revealed, and you’re either dealing with a gleefully racist administration or you’re not. With the Trump administration, that psychological aspect of that game falls away — you know what they’re going to do because they play with their cards facing up."

...

"There are a hundred ways to Black liberation, and Black people will need at least 50 of them to gain an inch of freedom. None of the right ways involve cutting deals with people who are actively pursuing your death as a matter of course. Some people you don’t deal with. Some deals you don’t make. You got to know when to fold ’em — and sometimes that’s because the ends don’t justify the means."
Leaked review of Met police body-worn video footage reveals officer errors - The Guardian

British police keep roughing people up, making lousy arrests, treating neighborhoods like occupied enemy territory, and abusing citizens. In response people have asked for police body cam footage of high profile incidents in order to verify the claims of victims and to publicly air proof of the official misconduct. London's Metropolitan Police Department reviewed the footage of hundreds of incidents...and are declining to release it on the grounds that it does indeed show high amounts of misconduct or at least a basic disrespect for the same populace police are allegedly serving  and that the footage might lead to public unrest.

So to be clear: Cops act like violent thugs against the people who are paying for them to exist with their tax dollars, these victims object and ask for the surveillance footage (that they also pay for) that will prove their claims, the cops look at the footage and think "Oh snap! We ARE behaving like they say we are", and then they deny the release of the footage by saying, more or less "yes, we are guilty but we can't release the proof of our guilt because our lawless violence & thuggery is so egregious that people will see it and act lawlessly and violently".

Yeah, let's put those tax dollars elsewhere.
 
"The Met has been plagued by a flurry of social media videos raising concerns about stop and search, use of force and racial profiling, prompting calls for footage from body-worn video cameras to be made public.

But in an internal memo seen by the Guardian, a senior Metropolitan police chief says incidents captured by cameras worn on officers’ bodies, recorded examples of “poor communication, a lack of patience, [and] a lack of de-escalation before use of force is introduced”."

...

"The internal memo says reviews of body-worn video (BWV) footage showed “exemplary” behaviour but it found “many more examples” which were not, in the judgment of Met senior officers.

The document was meant to explain why the Met was rebuffing calls from within policing for BWV footage to be released, which were made in the belief it would show claims of racism and heavy-handedness triggered by viral videos on social media were unfounded."
Reforms don’t work. The police must be defunded. - America Magazine

I'm not an atheist but I am definitely not Catholic and I can't properly call myself a Christian either. That said, I was educated by the Jesuits and I've got a firm respect for their (modern) values, their approach, and their commitment to knowledge. This is from America: The Jesuit Review and it is frankly one of the most direct, well-put, and empathetic arguments for Abolition that I have ever read. Does it make appeals to Christian values and the teachings of Jesus? Yes. Does it succinctly break down the capitalist/colonial/racist/oppressive origins of modern policing both in the UK + the northern and southern U.S.? Also yes. This is great for all to read but I think it's a particularly effective first step for Americans who grew up on a steady diet of valorising cop shows and a relentless demonization of "the other" who agree that police violence and staggering incarceration rates are bad things but who are consumed by fear and disbelief when terms like "defund the police" and "prison abolition" start coming up. Highly recommended.
 
The evidence does not support popular liberal reforms: Anti-bias training has no discernible impact on deterring police violence. A survey conducted by George Mason University researchers in 2016 found that 93 percent of state prosecutors had reported using body camera footage in cases against civilians, but only 8 percent had used such footage to prosecute police. Other studies have suggested that police officers of color are often harsher toward their own communities. “Community policing,” a model to which candidate Joe Biden promises $300 million, boosts petty arrests of poor people.

...

American policing, in particular, has its origins in a system that the church now regards as evil. In the U.S. South, “slave patrols,” aimed at quashing resistance to slavery, were among the first organized law enforcement bodies. In the North, policing expanded as a way to use violence to discipline disgruntled workers and the poor, and to prevent them from effectively organizing. Finally, police forces in the U.S. territories, including the present-day Western states, were used to advance colonial expansion and suppress Indigenous populations. The church’s moral vocabulary collapses under the weight of this history. There can be no reconciliation where there has only been violence. There was no Eden here.

...

Countless behaviors that poor people engage in for survival are illegal. To address visible homelessness, for instance, we do not invest in affordable housing or build public restrooms that would benefit us all. Rather, we use the police to harass and arrest the homeless to “solve” that problem. They enforce municipal bans on necessary human activities like sleeping in cars or on the street, effectively making homeless people’s lives illegal.

...

Those who have only recently encountered abolition or calls to radically redistribute police funds may be fearful. It is understandable: The expansion of our police state did not just happen. An ideological infrastructure had to be erected and maintained to justify the institution. Americans have been propagandized at an astonishing rate to believe that our current situation is reasonable. For instance, by one count, U.S. television networks have broadcast over 300 police procedurals since 1950. During that time, we have become the world leader in incarceration and among the most policed and surveilled nations in the world.

🎵To The Left! To The Left!🎵

On That Commie Pinko Tip

It’s not thanks to capitalism that we’re living longer, but progressive politics - The Guardian

An educated, healthy, and comfortably housed populace begets greater happiness, productivity, and stronger democracy for all...who would've thunk it????

 
Simon Szreter, one of the world’s leading experts on historical public health data, shows that industrial growth through the 19th century triggered not an improvement in life expectancy but rather a striking deterioration. “In almost every historical case,” Szreter writes, “the first and most direct effect of rapid economic growth has been a negative impact on population health.”

...

It wasn’t until the 1880s that urban life expectancies finally began to rise – at least in Europe. But what drove these sudden gains? Szreter finds it was down to a simple intervention: sanitation.

Public health activists had discovered that health outcomes could be improved by separating sewage from drinking water. And yet progress toward this goal was opposed, not enabled, by the capitalist class – libertarian landlords and factory owners refused to allow officials to build sanitation systems on their properties, and refused to pay the taxes required to get the work done.

...

Of course, social services require resources. And it’s important to recognise that growth can help toward that end. But the interventions that matter when it comes to life expectancy do not require high levels of GDP per capita. The European Union has a higher life expectancy than the United States, with 40% less income. Costa Rica and Cuba beat the US with only a fraction of the income, and both achieved their greatest gains in life expectancy during periods when GDP wasn’t growing at all. How? By rolling out universal healthcare and education.
Wall Street Bubbles. J.P. Morgan political Cartoon. Lapham's Quarterly.

Things Read

Worthwhile Words

Chess's cheating crisis: 'paranoia has become the culture' - The Guardian

More people are playing online chess than ever before during the pandemic. It's 2020 and humans and humans so that more people are cheating then ever. Interesting.
 
"“The pandemic has brought me as much work in a single day as I have had in a year previously,” said Prof Kenneth Regan, an international chess master and computer scientist whose model is relied on by the sport’s governing body, Fide, to detect suspicious patterns of play. “It has ruined my sabbatical.”"

...

"Chess.com, the world’s biggest site for online play, said it had seen 12 million new users this year, against 6.5 million last year. The cheating rate has jumped from between 5,000 and 6,000 players banned each month last year to a high of almost 17,000 in August."

...

"Such controversies have been replicated even in the lower-stakes world of junior play. Sarah Longson, a former British ladies’ champion who runs the Delancey UK Schools’ Chess Challenge, said at least 100 of 2,000 online participants cheated.

The cheating was blatant, she said, with mediocre preteens at the level of the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. “But only three of them admitted it, which is pretty disgusting.” After realising the night before the final that the top three qualifiers had all been cheating, she said, “we stayed up til 3am deciding what to do” and nearly cancelled altogether."

Things Seen

Watched Recently By Wes

"Ignorance Tone" is so funny and so painful to me. From the consistently entertaining Nathan W. Pyle.
It was all the rage on Twitter a few weeks ago but I missed the initial conversation about the marine documentary My Octopus Teacher. I got the sense that people really loved it overall, with some people expressing disbelief/discomfort with the level of intimacy developed between the filmmaker and the octopus he spent a year visiting. I didn't think much of it either way but I finally sat down and watched the film this week and...

I was amazed. I totally loved it. I was fascinated by the underwater world, the octopus itself, it's daily struggles to survive, the bond formed by filmmaker with it, and the emotional/narrative arc. I teared up a little, I resolved to spend more time in nature just appreciating it, my convictions about how I want to be a father to my unborn children were affirmed. It was a lot. I went in for this movie hook, line, and sinker.

HOWEVER, as I've started to dig deeper into people's reactions I realize that as I was watching I didn't ask myself a lot of questions that maybe need to be asked and I have to admit that while I love and appreciate the fairly tale relationship (weird, but fairy tale) presented in the doc it all does seem to rest on a fallacy. That being the continual and complete attribution of human characteristics and intentions onto an essentially unknowable consciousness. We do not, and 1000% cannot know what or how an octopus thinks. I mean, we can't even do that for a chimpanzee and that animal is several orders of magnitude closer to us in every way. When I see the Octopus in the doc "playing" with fish it really does look joyous, and as far as I know the activity is not serving any immediate survival purpose, but all I and the filmmaker are doing is taking a resolutely octopus activity, running it through our mental index to find a somewhat similar activity based solely on appearances, and graphing that human experience (again based only on superficial resemblance), onto the inner life of a being which, as far as we're concerned, might as well be an alien. There's nothing "evil" or "wrong" with that, it's kind of how humans process the world, but it doesn't make that interpretation accurate in any way. It is fine to look at an octopus and think "it's playing!" and find joy in that...as long as you always keep in mind that it can only be a nice thought and has no bearing on the needs/desires of a different species.

This excellent critique video discusses all of this at length (with some solid humor/sarcasm) and also dives into a whole slew of other contradictions, biases, omissions, problems with the film. Some of these are really important, esp with regard to colonial tendencies and environmental impacts. It's essential to keep these in mind because MOT is well-made and awe-inspiring and seductive and a lot of people, like me, will love it. I still love the way it made me feel and wonder is a beautiful thing. But its simply irresponsible to not consider the points raised here. I'm glad this was made. Watch the film and watch this. See how you feel for yourself.
One of the many things that My Octopus Teacher gave me to ponder was this very basic fact about crustacean locomotion.

I was born in Massachusetts. I've spent part of the summer in Maine for the last decade+. I've been eating lobster my whole life and until this week I had NO IDEA that lobsters swim...backwards? Like it's always been obvious that their giant tail is a flipper, but I never really gave any thought to how it would prac tically be used to propel them in their natural environment. I've only ever seen them alive in cramped tanks or in paper bags sitting in the sink waiting to be steamed so to the extent I've seen them move with my own eyes they've been walking or crawling, slowly. But in the sea these things can really book it and they do so by moving ass-first like a car in reverse with their claws trailing. It's a small thing but that is so wild to me.
I'm a man and present as one publicly. I don't experience street harassment, but I def see it happen and I know that a large proportion of the men who engage in it genuinely think that it's complimentary or harmless or funny. It is not. And worse, a large proportion of men who engage in it do know exactly what it is and actively revel in the fear/disgust/anger it causes in their victims. That's all it is, a power move. Entitlement embodied. No one needs your "compliment", your wisecrack, your encouragement to smile, your leer, and certainly not your hands on them. No one needs to be followed (stalked) around by you.

I remember a Twitter poll a while back where a popular feminist account asked women to respond with what they would do if men just vanished off the face of the earth for 24 hours. The first thing that struck me about the query was how she bent over backwards qualifying this obvious hypothetical by confirming that the men would not be killed or harmed, that they would return just as before after the allotted time, and that they'd either have no memory of being gone or they'd be totally comfortable wherever they went (I can't remember which) because she anticipated the hysterical/unfounded/ridiculous response from men who would see the question and immediately get sore about somehow being erased or harmed or devalued by this again...obvious hypothetical. The second thing that really struck me was how basic (and thus heartbreaking) the responses were. The overwhelming majority of women who chimed in said that they would... go running or walking alone that night. That's it. Just be out in public after sunset, enjoying a stroll or some exercise without the fear of being catcalled or followed or worse. If that kind of response doesn't convince men who still somehow don't understand the severity or pervasiveness of this problem then perhaps this will: very man women report their first recollection of this kind of harassment happening when they were 12 or younger.

It's gotta go guys. This kind of behavior harms women but it's a men's issue.
Random Viewing
  • One day you're just walking along, minding your own business, when a cat fall out of the sky onto your head and then a dog wearing boots shows up and gets into it with the cat while you're still lying unconscious. This will probably never happen to you but rest assured: it has happened to someone.
  • I swear this isn't turning into a "Funny Cat Videos!" section. I swear. But I have played this clip over and over so many times in the last few days. Yes, the meme about animosity between patriarchs and felines melting into a mutual lovefest has often proved true in my observation but mainly it's this music. This dude's drumming, his voice, and the beat: straight fire. I need Timbaland to sample this ASAP.
  • Is this ground beef and bacon monstrosity shaped like 2013 era Justin Beiber terrifying? It is. Would I like to see what this looked like cooked? I would.
This is a fun what-if retro mock-up from the Circuit Lords Instagram page. I don't know if there's a word for feeling nostalgia for a product that never existed but If Apple had actually made such a thing in the 90s I'd definitely be in danger of paying way too much for a non-functional one on eBay to display as a conversation starter in my place.

Word of The Week

Up That Vocab Game

anxiogenic, adj
[ anx - ee - oh - JEN - ic ]

Meaning: Giving rise to anxiety; (also) producing the characteristic physiological effects of anxiety.

Origin: anxi- (in anxiety n.) + -o- connective + -genic comb. form, after French anxiogène (1952 or earlier).

Fun Facts

Trivia To Bend Your Brain

  • All of continental South America lies east of Michigan
  • Los Angeles, CA is 86 miles east of Reno, NV.
  • Your fingernails don’t actually continue to grow after you die. Rather, the skin around your nails dehydrates and retracts, making the nails appear longer than they would have if you were still among the living.
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival has the distinction of having the most songs go to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 without any of them getting the #1 spot. (5)
  • Nearly every species to have ever lived on Earth is extinct.

     
Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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