Watching television, TV

5TtRT: Nerd Edition

I have a busy day ahead, so here’s a quick look at all the nerd news that’s come out in the last few days.

5 Things to Read Today

  1. EW: Brie Larson takes flight as Captain Marvel on this week’s EW cover – First “official” pics of Brie Larson as Captain Marvel!
  2. io9: Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who Will Premiere in October, on a New Night – Doctor Who debuts Oct. 7!
  3. Den of Geek: House of Cards Season 6: Release Date, Trailer, Cast, News, and Story Details – The sixth and final season of House of Cards, headlining my fav, Claire Underwood, drops on Nov. 2.
  4. SlashFilm: ‘Iron Fist’ Season 2 Early Buzz: A Vast Improvement Over the First Season But Still Not Great – Season 2 of Iron Fist drops this Friday, Sept. 7, so y’all know what I’m doing this weekend. I don’t expect it to be spectacular, but it sounds like it’ll be fun.
  5. TV Line: Supernatural Boss: ‘It’s Challenging to Write Episodes Without Dean’ – Sounds like they’re not doing that BS they pulled with “demon Dean” where it was only a thing for like three episodes. Michael’s apparently going to be the season’s Big Bad.
5 Things To Read Today

5TtRT: Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, Colin Kaepernick, Bob Woodward & More

I spent my long weekend basically ignoring the world while watching entirely too many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (stumbled over it on Netflix). ST:TNG debuted in 1987, 31 years ago, and man, does it ever show. The structure of the episodes is positively bizarre compared to how TV shows today are put together. I watched the first season and a few episodes of the second season, and it’s full of hour-long episodes where nothing of any particular import happens to much of anyone. Like, there’s plot and stuff happens, but the lack of any kind of over-arching, season-long plot, episode-to-episode character development, stakes, all that, really stands out.

TV from thirty years ago seems super dull now, which is weird, because I remember watching and loving this show when it was on back in the day.

Anyway, we’re back, and it’s time for real life again. Let’s see what’s happening out there.

Over the weekend Trump tweeted – well, he tweeted a bunch of things, but the big one was, “Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff…… ….The Democrats, none of whom voted for Jeff Sessions, must love him now. Same thing with Lyin’ James Comey. The Dems all hated him, wanted him out, thought he was disgusting – UNTIL I FIRED HIM! Immediately he became a wonderful man, a saint like figure in fact. Really sick!” (Tweets: 1, 2.)

In case you missed it, because parsing Trump’s jibberjabber is a bit of a trick, that’s the President of the United States yelling at his Attorney General on Twitter because AG Sessions didn’t stop the conviction of two Republican House members who got caught committing crimes.

Meanwhile, Nike picked up Colin Kaepernick, former NFL quarterback and activist who started the “kneeling during the anthem” protests, to head up their 30th anniversary “Just Do It.” campaign. Conservative Twitter immediately started burning their sneakers and cutting Nike swoops off their clothes and whatnot.

You may have heard a lot of BS about what the “kneeling during the anthem” protests are about. Just so you know, when Colin Kaepernick – and now other NFL football players – kneel during the national anthem, they’re protesting police brutality and the regular murder of black people by cops. It has nothing to do with the actual anthem, or military vets, or whatever other BS Trump and Fox News has been peddling.

In other news, the New Yorker does a big “ideas festival” every year that you’ve never heard of before because it’s kind of a “journalism nerds” type of thing. Big in certain circles, mostly unheard of outside of them. Anyway, this year they announced Steve Bannon as their headliner. As you might expect, Liberal Twitter promptly – and correctly – burned right the hell down. The backlash was immediate and huge, and other headliners like Patton Oswalt, John Mulaney, Judd Apatow and others, all announced they were backing out if the New Yorker put Bannon on stage. After a few hours of being eaten alive, the New Yorker dropped Bannon.

There’s no journalistic value in interviewing Steve Bannon or giving him a platform to spew his garbage. The dude’s a dumpy old white supremacist spouting white supremacist twaddle. He has nothing particularly new or intelligent to add to a conversation. We know what he’s up to, and we know what he has to say – we’ve covered that all already. By putting him up in the public sphere, you’re just amplifying and legitimizing his message, which is hateful. Don’t play that game, journalists.

Today’s news includes excerpts from Bob Woodward’s new book about the Trump administration, “Fear: Trump in the White House.” Bob Woodward, in case you’re forgetting where you’ve heard the name, is half of the Washington Post team whose reporting helped bring to light Nixon’s Watergate scandal. Apparently Trump flunkies willingly interviewed with the guy, and he wrote a book which is, somewhat shockingly, not titled “I Can’t Believe All These Guys Were Dumb Enough To Talk To Me.” Anyway, CNN got their hands on the book and published some of what’s said in the book. It’s not surprising. We already knew the Trump White House is a cesspool full of incompetent, backstabbing sharks, led by a rampaging lunatic child. But just in case you were curious about some of the details of the rampaging lunatic child, CNN’s got ’em.

Also, the Arizona governor, Doug Ducey, picked former Republican Sen. Jon Kyl, one of the guys who’s been shepherding Brett Kavanaugh through his SCotUS process, to replace John McCain. Yeah.

And speaking of Brett Kavanaugh, his hearings started today, and as you might expect, they’re a shitshow. Republicans are ramrodding him through the process, and barring some kind of miracle, Kavanaugh’s gonna be the next Supreme Court Justice. This is bad in a vast multitude of ways, and the GOP has been ridiculously shady about the whole process. All I can say is call your senators, particularly if you’ve got a Republican senator, and when you hang up, if you’re a woman or a minority, get your ass to a blue state as fast as possible and stay there. It’s gonna get ugly with a conservative Supreme Court.

Donald Trump, by Gage Skidmore

Only one thing to read today: the Trump administration is stealing citizenship away from Latino Americans on the border.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemöller

From the Washington Post: U.S. is denying passports to Americans along the border, throwing their citizenship into question.

Hospitals are expensive. In some states that border Mexico, it’s common for poorer populations to use a midwife when they’re giving birth instead of going to the hospital, because it’s cheaper. In the past some midwives were caught issuing US birth certificates to babies who were not actually born on US soil. There’s no real way to find out how often that might have happened. We briefly tried to go after and prosecute fraudulent birth certificates issued this way, under Presidents Bush II and Obama, but it turned out to be pretty much impossible, then there were lawsuits, which the administrations eventually settled.

Basically the government threw their hands in the air at the impossibility of sorting it all out and the resultant litigation of doing so, and said, “Fine, hell with it, whatever, it wasn’t that many anyway.”

Now, right now, the Trump administration is using the occasional fraudulent birth certificate discovered in the past to justify yanking citizenship from Latinos who live in Texas near the Mexican border, who apply for passports. And of course, once a Latino’s citizenship comes into question, authorities can detain and deport them pretty much at will.

His official American birth certificate shows he was delivered by a midwife in Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas. He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard.

But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen.

As he would later learn, Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question. The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown. [Source]

Juan up there was asked to supply some pretty obscure documents to prove his citizenship: “evidence of his mother’s prenatal care, his baptismal certificate, rental agreements from when he was a baby.”

Do you have any of that? I don’t. Maybe my mother has some of it. She keeps a lot of paperwork. I kinda doubt she still has hospital bills from when I was born, though.

Also, I’ll point out that I’m currently lucky enough to still have two living parents, who still live where I was born, and who are the type of people who keep documents in an organized fashion. The hospital I was born in still exists, but man, would they have records of billing from 40+ years ago? And if they did, what kind of hellish hoops would I have to jump through to get it?

If your birth certificate didn’t count, could you prove you were born here?

In some cases, passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings. In others, they are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to reenter the United States. As the Trump administration attempts to reduce both legal and illegal immigration, the government’s treatment of passport applicants in South Texas shows how U.S. citizens are increasingly being swept up by immigration enforcement agencies. [Source]

This administration has shown, well past reasonable doubt, that if you don’t meet their notions of what it means to be American, you are not. And if you are not, then they’re coming for you.

If you aren’t a straight white conservative male, or a straight white woman attached to a straight white conservative male, the Trump administration thinks you are not welcome here.

Do you fit that description? I could maybe pass for it in bad light if I had to, but I’ve been on the Internet spouting off my decidedly liberal opinions a lot, so I wouldn’t want to put money on it.

This is going to sound overblown. This will sound like hyperbole, hysterics. But people. This is it. The time is now. You better draw your line in the sand and stand by it, right here, right now, or this American experiment is over. You better march. You better get on the phone with your representatives. You better be raising all the hell you can. You better get your ass out and vote.

Either that, or you better get used to living in a fascist hellscape.

Twitter - Good Tweets

On the topic of Twitter likespam.

So, you may be aware, Twitter has a “like” thing, similar to Facebook. On a tweet, you’ll see a little heart you can click to “like” the tweet. Those hearts used to be stars, and they used to be called “favs,” and people used to use them basically like bookmarks. That changed a few years back, and no one was very fond of the change.

Twitter Likes

It wasn’t that big of a deal, but we’d all been using the feature one way and Twitter up and changed the whole thing, and it bunched up a lot of panties for awhile.

But, for the last couple of years, Twitter’s been doing this thing where if you “like” someone’s tweet, it’ll inject that tweet with a little note that you liked it into your followers’ Twitter stream.

Twitter Like Notes

Which is still… I mean, it’s annoying, but it’s not that big of a deal. “Likes” and “favs” were always public. You could always click through to someone’s Twitter profile and see their likes or favs if you wanted to. You just didn’t have to deal with them junking up your Twitter stream.

Here’s the thing though: If you follow a bunch of people on Twitter, it’s because you like or are interested in those people and/or what they have to say. And Twitter has a function called a “retweet,” where if you see a tweet that interests you for some reason, you can click “retweet,” and share that out to your followers. So if I’m following someone, and they retweet someone a few times and I like or am interested in what that new person says, I follow that new person, too. It doesn’t take very long for you to be following a lot of the same people as everyone else in your particular niche interests.

So, the retweet function tends to be pretty “in the moment” when folks on Twitter use it. You might see the same thing retweeted a few times, but it’s generally happening while that tweet is interesting or relevant, so it’s part of the topic of the moment. It helps you gauge interest.

“Likes,” however, get used differently. You “like” something because it’s funny or smart, or as a show of support, not because you necessarily want to show it to everyone else. Also, people like all kinds of random things, whereas they generally retweet on topic. So, you’re rolling through your Twitter timeline, and you generally tweet about politics or information security or fuzzy kittens or something. If you see something on your particular topic – politics or kittens or whatnot – you retweet it. Because it’s on topic for you. But as you’re scrolling, you may also like a bunch of things that have nothing to do with your usual topics.

And now suddenly your followers are being hassled with a bunch of off topic junk.

Worse, since your entire circle of followers are all pretty similar-minded, odds are good that they’re following a bunch of other similar-minded people who are all also going through their timelines, retweeting the relevant bits and liking random whatevers… but often all the same random whatevers. Because we’re all relatively similar, so we all think that little quip someone made was clever or funny.

The end result is that I spend the next three days with the same liked tweet showing up in my timeline over and over and over again as new people find it.

This doesn’t happen with retweets. It only happens with likes. It’s just a function of how people use the feature. And it is hella annoying.

There’s no real way to turn this off or stop it from happening. You can go through your timeline and use a dropdown menu on Twitter to tell Twitter that you don’t like a particular tweet. If you go through your timeline and do that for each of the liked tweets that have been injected into your timeline, Twitter will stop showing them to you for a few days. But they always, inevitably, like an outbreak of herpes, come back. I don’t know how it’s hitting everyone else, but I find it wildly frustrating.

There are a few workarounds to get rid of likespam (several methods listed here), but nothing that’s, y’know, user friendly for most folks.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that it points to an ongoing problem with Twitter management: The people who run Twitter have no goddamn idea how or why people use their service. They don’t listen to their users. They add features no one wants and refuse to add features everyone needs. They break functions everyone relies on, shift timelines to be algorithmic instead of chronological, and generally muck up everything related to how their users actually use Twitter.

Twitter is about news and conversations that are happening right now, in the moment, about a given topic. And every new feature, or removal of an old feature, that Twitter has instituted in the last few years, has been about breaking the thread of that conversation. It boggles the mind that Twitter CEOs can be so blatantly ignorant of what their service does and how it’s used.

And all of that is entirely aside from the fact that Twitter is doing nearly nothing to remove abusive users, allows their platform to boost nazis, and sundry other little issues that all lead directly to making Twitter the hellhole cesspool that it is.

11th Doctor

5TtRT: National Bow Tie Day Edition

11th Doctor - Bowties are cool.

It’s National Bow Tie Day, so I’m obligated by law to post this .gif. Also, I have the worst cold right now, so I’m not feeling up to much. Here are some things to read.

5 Things To Read Today

  1. CNBC: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team kept asking witnesses about Michael Cohen’s involvement with the 2016 Trump campaign, even after April FBI raid
  2. New York Times: Trump Attacks Google With Claim It Is Burying Conservative News
  3. CNN: GSA head silent on Trump’s role in FBI building decision, watchdog says
  4. Washington Post: North Carolina’s gerrymandered map is unconstitutional, judges rule, and may have to be redrawn before midterms
  5. NBC News: In closed-door meeting, Trump told Christian leaders he got rid of a law. He didn’t.
5 Things To Read Today

5 Things to Read Today, TGIF Edition

Smash Mouth’s All Star is almost 20 years old. Here’s five articles you can read while you sit around feeling ancient.

  1. New York Times: Kremlin Sources Go Quiet, Leaving C.I.A. in the Dark About Putin’s Plans for Midterms – For some reason, the CIA’s usual Russian sources have gone to ground. Possibly they don’t want to share anything with a government that’s all buddy-buddy with Putin?
  2. Bloomberg Opinion: Immunity for Trump CFO Is a Potential Game-Changer – Allen Weisselberg is the Chief Financial Officer for the Trump Organization, the conglomeration of scams and bullshit masquerading as a business that Trump funnels his money through. Weisselberg’s been in charge of Trump money for decades. He used to work for Trump’s dad, Fred. If anyone knows everything about Trump’s money, it’s Weisselberg. And New York just gave him complete immunity against prosecution in the Cohen case. Now, I suppose Weisselberg could just be tying up a few loose threads in the case against Cohen, but honestly, it sounds like they’ve got Cohen, with or without any testimony from Weisselberg. So the only real reason I can think of that he’d get such a sweet deal is because he’s giving prosecutors the inside scoop on Trump.
  3. Wall Street Journal: David Pecker, CEO of National Enquirer Publisher, Granted Immunity in Michael Cohen Case – Speaking of dudes who are probably flipping on Trump, here’s Trump’s best buddy, guy in charge of the tabloid rag The National Enquirer, and dude who also knows a whole bunch about Trump’s shady business because he’s been helping Trump cover it up for years, also getting immunity.
  4. NBC News: Volunteers found Iran’s propaganda effort on Reddit — but their warnings were ignored – Russia’s not the only country screwing with us online, by the way. Also, like, maybe don’t use Reddit. That site is a cesspool. If you do use Reddit, I advise heavily curating your subreddits and avoiding the comments like the plague.
  5. The Verge: The Oscar Wilde of YouTube Fights the Alt-Right with Decadence and Seduction – This article is a pretty good read, and also, I need to check this YouTuber out.

All right, that’s it. It’s Friday and I’m fried. Have a good weekend, y’all. Maybe spend it watching Mystery Men.