Posts about things that happen in the news. Sometimes light, sometimes cynical. Often critical.

Dear America, Fergie isn’t the problem, here.

Dear America,

Of course. In the wake of yet another deadly shooting, there’s an uproar in the States. The uproar is, yet again, not what you would expect. Survivors of the shooting are making an effort to get there, but America wouldn’t be America if there wasn’t Something Stupid.

Something Stupid is a song, but in this case we’re not referring to Frank and Nancy, nor to Robbie and Nicole. We’re referring to the national anthem of the USA: the Star-Spangled Banner. Fergie performed it at the NBA all-star games half-time. The rendition was very non-traditional and that didn’t go over well. Of course, the anthem at a sports game, its full lyrics referring to rockets, bombs in the air, havoc of war, the terror of flight and gloom of the grave, was the source of outrage.

Fergie can’t help it, though. Every body sings the anthem. It’s learned in school and the author of this piece has sat in a pub in Ireland looking around emberassedly as a New York police officer was called upon to sing a song. She sung the anthem. The American crowd joined in.

Singing the anthem is the worst possible gig for a reputed performer. It’s catch 22. You can’t win. Think about the number of beginning guitarists you’ve heard attempting Wonderwall, or the number of female singing-contest candidates covering something by Adele. The anthem is like that, except boring. Everybody’s done it, and unless your game is being really good at traditional hymns, as an artist you can’t make a difference without drawing ire. From Roseanne Barr, of all people.

Fergie risked that. Was it a succesfull attempt? No, it wasn’t. Her voice was too dominant in the soundmix for the effect she probably intended. That made the entire thing sound forcedly different. But it wasn’t bad, or off-key. It just, well, failed. The way you can lose a baseball game. Shoot and miss.

And with that and the blood from the latest shooting no doubt still drying up, perhaps it was fitting. Except when it comes to shootings, the US isn’t trying and failing. Just failing. Maybe if Americans had a little more concern for children dying than they would for the anthem and the flag being respected during a game of sports, they would have started solving gun violence.

In fact, we have a proposition to make. If the anthem at sports games is that important, we present to you the lyrics to sing for as long as the gunmade streams of blood keep flowing.

O! say can you see
by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we shot
at the twilight’s last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched,
full of holes still was streaming?
And the beacons’ blue glare,
flashlights lighting the air,
Gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there;
O, say, does that blood-spangled
banner yet wave
o’er the land of the guns
and the home of the grave?

Why people don’t need nationalism

Quite a lot of countries are headed into a bit of a nationalist streak, where populists are on the rise and traditional parties respond in kind by becoming more nationalist and xenophobic. The popular mantra of the nationalist is that the country should fend for its own needs, rather than be part of the world. America first, let’s pay for our NHS and the likes of that.

Quite apart from wether or not this succeeds in economic growth, there’s another thing that should worry the average voter who is considering the merits of the nationalist doctrine. And no, it’s not wether nationalism in the west is or is not Putin’s agenda. It probably is, because a less united West is in his interest.

The worrying part about countries reverting to nationalism is this: corporations aren’t bound to a nation, but they are part of nations. Corporations pay taxes and need to adhere to rules. States and governments have a purpose: to facilitate the lives of people. They do so using taxes and rules.

Governments are for people

Now, in democracies, people elect their government. All people are different, but in principle people generally want the same: food, housing, safety, love, physical health, sex, mental health, a disposable income, something to do and a little bit of luxury (or a lot, as it happens). The list goes on or varies, but it starts with the basics. The government’s job is to harmonize and facilitate these basics. It’s not an easy job, but one that has to be done, nevertheless.

Companies aren’t people

Companies, on the other hand, do not want food, safety, love, health or sex. They want profit. Not necessarily because they started out that way, but as they grow that is what it comes down to. Profit, and usually the freedom to make said profit the way they want. They need factories, offices and data centers. Warehouses and shops. And paying customers. They’ll take a monopoly if they can get it. The list goes on or varies, but it starts with the basics. The government’s job is to harmonize and facilitate these basics, while making sure these do not conflict with the interests of their primary stakeholder: the people.

A conflict of interests

In principle, these do conflict. Time and again, we’ve seen corporations fighting regulation that directly contributes to the quality and availability of food, housing, safety, physical heatlh, mental health, and disposable income of the people. Bad food is cheap to make and easy to sell, so corporations oppose quality regulations. Housing is scarce, so corporations could profit off them more without social housing. Safety costs money because safety regulations are expensive. Hence, companies oppose safety regulations. Health can get very expensive if left to a scarcely regulated market (as we can see in the US, for example), so companies advocate deregulation or self-regulation. The list goes on or varies, but these are the basics. The reason the people put up with companies is threefold:

  1. Companies also provide the things they want, even though they try to maximize their profits.
  2. Jobs: people want something to do, and jobs provide part of that opportunityand
  3. Disposable income. The most important one, for how would people pay for their needs without money from jobs?

Because of this, it is in the interest of governments to keep corporations happy. Large corporations provide lots of jobs and goods and services. However, in today’s world, corporations grow very large. Very, very large. Google is one of the tech giants of today. It’s revenue in 2017 was over one tenth of the UK tax revenue in total. That makes it a very powerful negotiator for most states: if Google wants to persuade a state to do something, the bargaining chip Google holds is very strong: it can give, or take away, lots of jobs (and therefore disposable income).

Saying ‘no’ to a corporation that has one tenth of the income your treasury has, has to be hard. But that is the UK, and in terms of absolute tax revenue, the UK is the 4th country in the world. Effectively, even Japan (number 2 in terms of tax revenue) wouldn’t be a very strong negotiator. A company like Google has a lot of strong stakes when it comes to negotiating with governments, but on the list of companies sorted by revenue, it’s not even in the top 30 in the world.

Tax cuts, tax cuts everywhere

So with all these companies that have that much power, governments are competing for the benefits of adhering to their wishes. The US gave big companies a huge tax break. The Netherlands did the same thing, giving away 1.4 billion euros in tax revenue just because companies asked for it. The reason? They might move their business elsewhere.

But the people will still want health, housing, food and safety. Along with other necesseties, like infrastructure. These all need to be paid for. But if governments are all being nationalistic and competing with other governments for the graces of the big corporations, where will the money come from for the services the government provides for its people? That’s correct. Out of the pockets of the people themselves. Essentially, governments are giving away tax money from their people to pay for the profits of big companies in the name of sticking up for their own people.

Instead of competing with tax breaks, governments should be unionizing to form a block that can hold up to these ever-growing companies. So that they can facilitate the people’s food, housing, safety, love, physical health, sex, mental health, a disposable income, something to do and a little bit of luxury (or a lot, as it happens). Can’t we just change the countless varieties of the nationalist mantra to something that would actually be good for something? Why not? Sure we can.

Humans first. Make people great again.

 

 

Fake Melania

Fake Melania: Trump has a stand-in first lady

We can’t decide whether to laugh or cry at the latest in a series of many, many, many, many things that would’ve been a months-long media scandal. That is, had Trump not decided to try and get them ALL done in his first year as president.

We’re not going to list them, as there’s just too damn many of them. Just yesterday Trump tried to attack Comey for lying. Again, without providing evidence. He continued his row with the NFL and got driven into a defensive stance on his call to a Gold Star widow. He had told her ‘your guy’ (apparently not knowing Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s name) knew what he signed up for. And now, apparently, there’s Fake Melania.

Yes, you read that right. For some reason, Trump thought it’d be a great idea (the best, the very best) to bring in a fake First Lady on TV.

Twitter user Joe Vargas was apparently the first to notice Fake Melania after Trump called attention to the presence of Melania, apparently trying to reïnforce the idea that it was, in fact, Melania. Vargas got suspicious and started comparing faces.

Here’s Fake Melania

Well, he’s right. That is definitely not Melania. Hey, Donald, care to explain why you have a fake wife strolling about? Kind of reminds us of Saddam Hussein or Moammar al-Qadhafi and their body doubles. What gives?

That leads us to something else though: could we have a fake Trump? One who, like Fake Melania, looks kind of like the real deal, but isn’t? Don’t worry, the orange and fake hair can stay, but skip on the insanity, the narcisissm and such. And maybe give him a couple of IQ points extra, while we’re at it. We could probably all benefit from a Fake Donald Trump.

Dragnet is watching you and your neighbours

A dragnet intelligence law is under attack by Dutch citizens

For the second time in history, a Dutch citizen-initiated referendum will take place. Last time, a blog initiated a referendum as soon as the law had passed. Using the very first opportunity, they requested a referendum about the EU association agreement with Ukraine.

This time the subject is a little different: the Netherlands has a new intelligence law that would allow secret services to spy on their own citizens. They’d be using a dragnet, regardless of any wrongdoing or suspicion on a cabinet minister’s say-so. It is by far the most drastic implementation of digital surveillance the Netherlands has ever seen. Resistance against it is all over the place. Yet, the government persists.

Most civil rights associations and digital rights movements speak out against it. At least one of those is now trying to get judges to overrule the law, which is supposed to enter into effect in January.

Dragnet intelligence

The new law would approve intercepting communications of an entire neighbourhood. If Secret Services believe a suspect is or was in that area, everyone can be spied on. Citizens wouldn’t have to be in contact with a suspect or suspected of anything themselves. There would not be a need for a judge to approve: just the approval of a cabinet minister would be required. Also, the rules detailing when these measures would be appropriate have been kept vague. The oversight committee in charge of evaluating the minister’s conduct complains, because they are unable to do so. They can’t evaluate the adherence to rules if the rules are too vague. There is no clear frame of reference. And so they can’t determine if the rules apply if the rules aren’t clear.

Doctor-patient-spy confidentiality

On top of these measures, the Dutch intelligence law makes no exception for medical society. Therefore, conversations that are supposed to be under doctor-patient confidentiality could be intercepted as part of an investigation into your neighbour’s affairs.

Today, the initiators of this referendum collected the necessary 300.000 signatures to initiate the referendum. The four students have done an impressive job of mobilizing hundreds of thousands. Also, the not-yet instated government has released plans to kill the law that allows citizens to request referenda at around the same time. This, again, would be subject to a referendum. Some party’s have already announced they intend to make use of that option.

Thailand

On trial for doubting a long dead king. Thailand makes no sense.

Thailand is a peculiar country for many, many reasons, some of which have penises. This story is about something else, though. An elderly man is currently on trial for, drumroll,doubting whether King Naresuan killed the Burmese crownprince in a duel. On an elephant. In 1593. The 85-year old Sulak Sivaraksa uttered his doubts about this event in a speech in 2014.

He is on trial, facing 15 years in prison for doubting something that may or may not have happened over 400 years ago. Really, Thailand?

Offending monarchy

Insulting the monarch is known by the term ‘lese majeste’. In a lot of countries offending the monarchy is a punishable crime, because… reasons. Yes, we get that. Obviously someone shóuld be thrown in prison for voicing an opinion about the monarchy. *cough* Makes perfect sense. It’s the law and the law is the law. So there.

Insulting the monarch in Thailand is punishable by three to 15 years in prison, which is, by itself, a high level of crazy, in our opinion. However, this particular law only mentions the top members of the royal family. As in: people who are alive. Putting this 85-year old man on trial for the ‘crime’ of doubt makes absolutely no sense, a monkey can see that. Why is doubting something a king did over 400 years ago even a problem? He can’t feel insulted, because, you know, he’s extremely dead, as are his children, his children’s children and so forth. We can only hope that judges will see it the same way and acquit.

vulcano

Sex and menstruating causes vulcano eruption (according to priest)

The beautiful island of Bali is holding its breath for vulcano Agung to erupt. According to a priest in a neighbouring village the cause for the ‘anger’ of this vulcano is… tourists having sex on it and menstruating while walking on the mountain. They are to blame, even the other locals say so. Wait, what?

So having sex, a physical act of love, lust or both, angers a mountain, according to these guys? Anything erupting because of sex shouldn’t take anywhere near that long anyway, in our opinion. And having your period, a physical and involuntary discomfort of 50% of earths population, angers it as well? Yeah, that makes sense. This vulcano probably said something like: “What, you’re monthly bleedingtime is now and you have the nerve to walk all over me? That’s it; I’m going to erupt very soon, because your menstruation displeases me.” You can’t argue logic, can you? We guess not building your villages near a damn vulcano would be too easy.

Blame the tourists

Bali is a popular holiday destination, but the blaming of tourists for vulcanic eruptions sadly is nothing new. Two years ago four backpackers were thrown in jail and given a heavy fine because they had the audacity to make some nudes on mount Kinabalu. This mountain was very displeased by these sinful hijinx, apparently, because there was an earthquake, killing 18 people. The vice-premier of Malasia, where the incident happened, said the violence of nature was punishment for the behaviour of the tourists. A mountain punishing people for making nudes on it? Because reasons? Incidentally, Bali is stimulating tourists to still come to the island, because money, but a lot of countries have sharpened their travel advice. Maybe advice women to curb their rampant menstruation while you’re at it, heaven forbid another mountain gets upset by it…

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus was diagnosed with breast cancer and calls for universal health care

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the actress famous for her role as Elaine in ‘Seinfeld’, announced that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. And she added a bit of good news: her health insurance is fine.

Her announcement on Twitter was in the form of the following image and clearly includes a political signal. It could be Julia Louis-Dreyfus aimed this at the US politicians currently trying to reform health insurance in the States.

 

Jared Kushner fits right into the Trump family (if only this were reality TV, it would have been funny)

President Trump’s son-in-law is married into exactly the right family, according to us at Reasonish. Apart from rich and morally flexible, he fails to grasp simple concepts. Much like his father-in-law when recently asked to explain some detail about his decisions concerning the travel ban.

No, that is the travel ban for people from Muslim countries, not the actual ban that prohibits the use of state-owned private airplanes for private purposes of which (so far) three of Trump’s cabinet have been accused. Nor is it the ban for any non-US ships to help dying Puerto Rico citizens under the Jones act which Trump refuses to waive (for Puerto Rico, he did so for Houston and Florida), citing that the people making a profit off this act should be heared rather than dying citizens. At some point they start being incoherent in their cries for help anyway… so about that Travel ban:

How is this reporter not asking him why he’s just blurting out random words? He’s not answering the question in any way and his failed attempts at forming a full sentence are just pathetic at this point. Which brings us to the point that Kushner fits exactly into the Trump family. Not only did he fill out his disclosure form three times to edit out errors (among which his graduation date) in order to get his security clearance: in 2009 he registered to vote as a woman. And, as you can see from the form below, has had trouble getting the concept of a date (month, day, year in US notation) right in the past as well.

It’s a good thing Kushner is fucking his boss’s daughter, because if he weren’t, that guy hadn’t made it past the initial application form. Just imagine him going through that form and having to fill in the date of application. “4, 2016, why can’t I do this via my PRIVATE E-MAIL?”

Oh, yes, we almost forgot about him and 5 other people using private e-mail to handle White House affairs.

Florida residents told to prepare for evacuation. All of them.

Yes, that’s right. All of Florida’s residents are supposed to prepare for evacuation. Twenty. Million. People.

Of course, it makes sense: Irma is huge. As Governor Rick Scott points out: Irma is wider than the entire state of Florida. Looking at the devestation it caused in the Caribbean (we’re told Jack Sparrow and his Kraken were quite impressed Irma did that without even a single drop of rum), it makes a lot of sense to not be there when the full force of this agent of destruction is projected to hit Florida head on!

But how on earth can Florida prepare and evecuate everyone in less than two days? Is there some teleportation there we don’t know about? And if so, couldn’t it just… beam up Irma?