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Welcome back to this week’s installment of the all-new What Just Happened?!, a semi-comical weekly digest of the most important news from the UK, US and the World from Will Marshall, and Alistair Simmonds-Yoo. Look out for us every weekend, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Artist Simon Weckert pulled a wonderful little prank on the streets of Berlin, by creating a ‘virtual traffic jam’. Google Maps plots live traffic by using data from the movement of Android devices along streets, including their speed and density, so Weckert rented 99 phones, opened Maps and walked slowly up and down the street with them! The trick worked, even starting to divert traffic around the affected roads. I wonder how many major cities you could do this in and not be mugged for your trolley full of phones?
No such thing as a dog-whistle
“Brexit has nothing to do with racism” people kept insisting, over and over again, despite, you know, all the racism. There have been some not-so-subtle indications, like the collosal uptick in reported hate-crimes (which to be fair had been increasing for some years previously, go Britain), and an increase from 58% to 71% of the ethnic minority population experiencing discrimination.
‘Brexit Day’ brought a fresh new perspective though, as the residents of one flat woke up to posters pinned to their doors. The posters instructed residents that they must speak English now, or else return to their own countries, and described ‘what was normality before you infected this once great island’. Yup, absolutely no link between Brexit and racism.
On the theme of the UK being full of simply wonderful people, Katie Hopkins, whose Twitter account was suspended recently, got pranked to a whole new level. Youtuber Josh Pieters created the ‘Campaign to Unify the Nation Trophy’ (read the acronym), alongside an actual limited company, with a board, and invited the racist-mouth-for-hire to receive their inaugural award at a ceremony full of actors in Prague.
If, somehow, you’ve managed not to see this video yet, please do watch it, it’s quite the rollercoaster: first you think “yes Katie Hopkins is awful”, then “oof, this might be going a bit far, then Hopkins makes her acceptance speech and any shred of sympathy you felt leaves your body. Highlights include: “epileptics are all weirdos, they’re up there with the Asians” and describes Greta Thurnberg as an “autistic fucking wench”, she truly rose to the occasion.
It may be information from the census 10 years ago, but the fact that 10% of women in Brazil are called Maria is pretty mind-blowing.
Took my Crown of Thorns
The doctor who cried dangerous flu, has tragically passed having caught the flu. Dr. Li Wenliang recognized several cases of the Coronavirus outbreak early in Wuhan and warned his fellow doctors that he was observing something similar to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses (taking their name from the latin word for ‘crown’ which infected cells, or virions, resemble) ranging from the familiar common cold to unknown evolutionary permutations likely emerging from markets containing lots of people, questionable hygiene and strange animals.
“Late last year, the Huanan market passed all sanitary inspections. It was officially closed down on Jan. 1 after 33 out of 585 animal samples tested contained evidence of the coronavirus, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Dr. Li Wenliang tried to warn his peers and was bullied by the Chinese police for ‘spreading dangerous rumours’. It would be hard to write a metaphor more poignant than this story for describing the dangers of adhering to political expediency in all forms (and authoritarianism in particular) over expert counsel (remember Gove and the experts?).
On the flip side, the Chinese are able to get their ducks in a row so well that a hospital can be assembled in little over a week: as is visible in this timelapse.
The Iowa Caucus: A botch of Democratic proportions
How do you fail to organize a booze-up in a brewery? I don’t actually know but I’m sure the Democratic Party of Iowa could manage it.
Rangle the populus into groups, count hands, release early national poll-type-thing… How challenging can it be? Apparently insurmountably.
It’s now Friday (as WJH goes to press) and the Associated Press have announced that they are unable to confirm a winner of the Iowa caucus due to apparently razor thin margins and general doubts about the most recently reported tallies. A bleak week for democracy indeed.
So once the votes had been counted once… or twice… or however many times was necessary to ensure that a left-wing candidate didn’t win, Pete Buttigieg appears to be the winner.
Despite Bernie Sanders appearing to have won the popular vote by a considerable margin (42,672 to 36,718 in the first vote and 44,753 to 42,235 in the final), Pete Buttigieg has the most delegates.
How did someone without the most votes end up winning (again)?
This margin is now so thin, at 26.1% to 26.2% of delegates to Sanders and Buttigieg respectively, after the votes have been fiddled with for a few days, that the Chairman of the National Democratic Party is calling for a ‘recanvassing of Iowa’. Personally I think never asking Iowa anything again is a more appropriate route forward.
Why are delegates not allocated proportionally to votes? Because there *is* such a thing as *too much democracy*? Who knows. What is apparent, however, is that some of the delegate allocations were determined by ‘coin-tosses’. In the event of an apparent tie (bearing in mind ‘votes’ are often a show of hands in a mall or gymnasium), a coin is supposed to be flipped to determine which candidate benefits (watch: how not to perform an important coin toss). What an inspiring moment for democracy – “everyone get together so your voices can be heard, once they’ve been heard we’ll toss a coin, because **** all of you and your irrelevant opinions”. Truly an echo of the Greek forum.
Also, when democracy doesn’t appear to work and/or one can’t be bothered to wait for all the coins to be tossed, why not just declare victory?
You’ve got to feel for Bernie on this one, with significantly more votes than Buttigieg, Sanders had the good grace to not declare victory before the official results were published (however late and incredibly), while the others felt no such obligation and declared victory preemptively.
So besides Iowans proving to be harder to count than sheep in a semi-lucid dream state, the mishap seems to have an application to blame. An app produced by a company called Shadow, just to ensure there’s no feeling of ‘swampiness’. The app is not technically secure, as experts warned, and the Russian’s are already sufficiently delighted with America’s hard work torpedoing it’s own democracy that they felt no need to intervene.
The app was not without criticism before the event.
The exact details of all this fuckery would be a fantastic target for properly resourced and connected investigative journalists…
We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto
Trump isn’t known for his love of Geography, hence Sharpiegate (the time he or an obliging staffer doodled on a hurricane projection in an attempt to help Trump map to reality), and describing the moon as part of Mars, and he cocked it up again this week stating how proud the state of Kansas were when Kansas City won the superbowl… Kansas City is in Missouri.
Too Legit To Quit?
The interesting bit of the story, however, was Mitt Romney: the only Republican Senator with the cajones to throw himself in front of a blaze of friendly-fire and vote against party lines. You might disagree with virtually everything Romney stands for, but to quote Dave Pell, he “did the right thing because it was the right thing to do.” In doing so, he knowingly opened himself to the wrath of his own party, the President, and his supporters. Pretty baller move, Mitt.