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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

A Very Serious, And Not At All Sarcastic, Report On North Korea’s Nuclear Test

It’s been an eventful week for North Korea. Not only did leader Kim Jong-un claim to have successfully tested his largest nuclear warhead ever, but he also banned sarcasm for his entire country out of concern that the North Korean people were only supporting him ironically.

It’s a lot to process given tight restrictions on international media in the country. Fortunately, we at The National Memo have intercepted an official report from the North Korean nuclear test. It proves that the operation was indeed an unequivocal triumph.

 

September 8, 105*

Dear citizens of the “Democratic” “People’s” “Republic” “of” Korea,

No, those weren’t air quotes. Why would you think something silly like that? Anyway…

What. A. Day. I mean, boy, when was the last time you ever saw such an astonishing nuclear weapon test? The underground explosion was so huge, I couldn’t even see the whole thing. Wow.

Here’s a quick recap of the launch itself; sorry if the details are a bit technical. First, we dug a hole super-duper deep in the mud, dropped our big boy bomb inside, and then it did a giant KA-BLAM! Sorry, that’s science talk for something that blows up. For those of you struggling to follow my jargon, just know that the weapon worked really well. Probably the best weapon in the history of weapons. I can’t wait to put the next one onto a missile. I bet it’ll go sooooo far.

Believe me, it totally happened just like I said. The other engineers and I watched the crystal-clear live footage on our state-of-the-art color TV.

Gee, I was so excited about the rise of our new superweapon that I completely forgot about my starving family. But that’s just Korea for you—always coming out on top! Sorry, United States. Looks like you’re not the big man on campus anymore. Maybe I’ll go out for drinks with all my friends to celebrate.

Who can complain? All hail our “Great Leader”—what a fascinating guy :P. He’s got all the looks, the brains, the power, and still manages to be so incredibly humble. So, Kim Jong-un, from one basketball fan to another, let me congratulate you on your latest “slam dunk.”

Chalk it up as another inspiring victory for the Korean people. See you all at tomorrow’s mandatory parade! I couldn’t miss it for the world.

Toodle-oo!

*We decided to restart our calendar in 1912, remember? What a super idea.

A Beginner’s Guide To Trump-ese

No one can deny that Donald Trump has a way with words—maybe not a way that is elegant or well informed, but one that is undoubtedly all his own.

The GOP candidate has leaned on a staggering number of buzzwords throughout his campaign, imbuing established terms with coded or even opposite meanings. In special cases, he’s even coined brand new phrases. It can be dizzying to wrap your head around this curious new dialect, so we at The National Memo compiled this handy dictionary of basic Trumpese to help you figure out what The Donald is really talking about:

 

America (noun) – a nation in the Western Hemisphere that used to be really great back before streetcars and universal suffrage were invented

 

Bald (adjective) – having little or no hair*

*(Editor’s note: This entry has been deemed unnecessary and deleted by official Trumpese linguists, who also request that you continue scrolling down and do not return to this particular definition.)

 

Bankruptcy (noun) – a clever financial tactic by which a very handsome businessman gathers up his failures and makes them someone else’s problem

 

Bigly 1. (adverb) – an indisputably real word meaning huge (alt: yuge) or to a large extent 2. (noun) – a more efficient way of saying “big league” that important businessmen use to save time

 

Birth certificate (noun) – an identifying document that all non-white Americans carry at all times, unless they happen to be secret terrorists

 

China 1. (noun) – a shifty-eyed country across the Pacific that sneaks into America at night and steals our jobs 2. (noun) a filler word, useful in speeches, when you do not have anything of substance to say

 

Crooked (adjective) – having all the proper experience and qualifications for an executive governmental position

 

 

Fire (verb) – to take away a loser’s job on national television because he or she, unlike you, is not the best

 

Hands 1. (noun) — a disgusting body part that you should never shake 2. (noun) an appendage at the end of the arm primarily used to measure one’s massive genitalia

 

Hero (noun) – an individual who makes it through a war without being killed or captured, oftentimes by never leaving the comfort of a penthouse apartment

 

Nuclear weapon (noun) – an apocalyptic device that the commander-in-chief can threaten to use whenever he wants in order to make the best deals

 

Politically incorrect (adjective) – a style of conscience-free language that uses Freedom of Speech to justify shouting racial slurs and mocking the disabled

 

Protest 1. (noun) — a stinky herd of jobless losers who deserve to get punched in the face 2. (verb) to express disapproval of the government in a way that will hopefully be illegal soon

 

Rigged (adjective) — describing circumstances that, for whatever reason, do not work out in your favor

 

Russia 1. (noun) the personal estate of all-around great guy Vladimir Putin 2. (noun) A really helpful IT service that specializes in digging up old emails

 

Sad! (adjective) – not being the best, because there can only be one best, and I have always been the best, meaning that you will never be the best, which is just plain sad

 

Sarcasm (noun) – an excuse for passing off a controversial statement as a joke even though you totally meant it

 

Second Amendment (noun) – the portion of the Constitution that upholds one’s unalienable right to encourage the murder of political rivals

 

Tax return (noun) – a detailed report of an individual’s income and expenses that you can ignore if you are rich and powerful enough

 

Truth-teller (noun) — a person who speaks authentically and from the heart by shouting out whatever malarkey* he wants to

*For more on malarkey, see The Comprehensive Guide to Bidenisms

 

Wall (noun) – a vertical barrier, costing the American public billions of dollars, along the U.S.-Mexico border designed to prevent the spread of melanin and hard workers

Imagining A More Honest Olympics Opening Ceremony

The 2016 Olympic Games are set to begin today in Rio de Janeiro, but the event is already mired in controversy and a sense of impending doom.

Tonight’s Opening Ceremony will no doubt be gushing with overblown displays of optimism, but what if we were to envision an alternate version, a pageant that addresses all the disasters that Rio is juggling?

Here’s a peek at how it would all play out:

  • The festivities kick off with an announcement over the loudspeaker that attending the four-hour ceremony may be unsafe for pregnant women, small children, or anyone who drinks water.
  • Protesters outside Maracanã Stadium quietly disperse while under fire of nonlethal bullets, made from shredded Brazilian reales.
  • Back inside, animal handlers release into the sky a massive flock of Brazil’s national bird: a seagull with a plastic six-pack ring wrapped around its neck.
  • A chorus of adorable children premieres the 2016 Olympic theme song, “Everything Is Fine (I Don’t Smell Any Human Sewage).”
  • Hundreds of dancers take to the field, dressed as exotic rain forest flora. A paper-mache bulldozer chases them off the Olympic grounds. Chinese dignitaries in the audience scoff at how any nation could allow such an environmentally unfriendly event to take place.
  • Supermodel Gisele Bundchen debuts her new line of designer mosquito repellent. Priced at a reasonable $90 US per bottle, it sells out within five minutes.
  • The Parade of Nations begins. The small Russian team carries in their flag mounted on a giant syringe.
  • A huge cheer erupts when American superstar Michael Phelps waves to the crowd. A dozen attendants surround him, constantly spreading a goopy layer of hand sanitizer over his entire body.
  • The Olympic Torch arrives at the stadium, grasped by a severed arm that washed up on Copacabana Beach.
  • Interim President Michel Temer makes a few final remarks and promises a very safe Olympic Games. Unfortunately, someone picks his wallet while he’s onstage.
  • The world’s best athletes return to the Olympic Village for a well-deserved rest. Their beds are warm and toasty, because all of the buildings are on fire.

If the actual event follows the same disastrous course, don’t expect Rio to place among the best Olympics of all time. For now, it would seem to be a win if the athletes and spectators could make it out of the Games in tact and healthy.

Photo: Jun 28, 2016; Omaha, NE, USA; Michael Phelps after the men’s butterfly 200m semi-finals in the U.S. Olympic swimming team trials at CenturyLink Center. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

EXCLUSIVE: A Late-Night Text Conversation Between Putin and Trump

As the old saying goes, politics makes strange bedfellows. But no political alliance today is as strange or frightening as that between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. With a mutual distaste for NATO, at least one shared political consultant, and huge amounts of Russian money poured into Trump’s businesses, their destinies are undoubtedly intertwined.

To top it off, there is considerable evidence that Russian hackers under Putin’s command carried out the DNC Wikileaks dump in an attempt to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Trump and Putin may very well be closer than anyone would like to think. Could they be texting each other to plan out their world domination… right now?!

 

[Monday, July 25, 3:03am EST]

DT: Hey. U up?

VP: Yes, Donald. I’m in different time zone. It is 10 in the morning here.

DT: Ah, I get it. You put your country closer to the sun to get more work done. Very smart—reminds me of something I would do.

VP: Indeed… is Manafort w/ you?

DT: He sleeps out in the kennel.

VP: Tell him I miss him when you get a chance. We should all get together in Ukraine really soon.

DT: Idk, Vlad. I think NATO might have something to say about that!

VP: LOL!!! U R 2 much.

DT: I’m dropping truth bombs like you are in Syria!

VP: Omg, stop it. I literally just blew vodka out my nose laughing.

DT: What can I say, I’m a funny guy. The funniest guy.

VP: Maybe the funniest president?

DT: As if #CrookedHillary has a chance… Btw — thanks again for the leak. Huge!

VP: It was my pleasure to take down the villainous Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I say never trust a woman with two last names. She’s almost as bad as Pussy Riot.

DT: 2 bad she quit. I would’ve fired her! U think anyone knows you guys are behind it?

VP: Some reporter got in contact with one of the hackers. He told him he was Romanian.

DT: Nice choice. Now the loser Democrats will think the vampires are behind it.

VP: I like you, Donald. You are strong leader. We should wrestle sometime!

DT: Yeah okay, just don’t mess up my hair.

VP: And could you do me a solid and make sure you pay back my friends? Some investors are getting nervous.

DT: They’ll get their $$$. They made a deal with me, and I make the best deals. The best. Therefore, they made the best deal. Besides, the Mexicans will pay for everything.

VP: Thx Don. Let’s Make Russia Great Again!

DT: It’s “America.”

VP: Oops, autocorrect.

 

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump gives two thumbs up as he stands in the Trump family box with his daughter Ivanka (R) awaiting the arrival onstage of his son Eric at the conclusion of former rival candidate Senator Ted Cruz’s address during the third night at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

New Campaign Songs For Donald Trump

Politicians using songs on the campaign trail without artist permission has long been a touchy subject, but few have earned as much scorn from the music industry as Donald J. Trump. At this point, he couldn’t play with “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” on stage without getting a phone call from Raffi’s lawyer.

Still, Trump and the RNC seem to have paid licensing fees for his campaign’s music, so irked artists don’t have much say in the matter. The National Memo wanted to help work the situation out, so we’ve assembled some alternatives for Donald — songs he can grow to love, but that are a better fit for the… tone of his campaign.

 

The Rolling Stones

What Trump played: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

The song is oddly appropriate, based on the millions of disappointed Republicans forced to vote for their party’s demise. Or maybe Trump picked it out for arch rival Ted Cruz. Either way, The Stones didn’t like it and filed a cease-and-desist letter.

Better option: “Sympathy for the Devil”

Trump’s conscience probably works a lot like those old cartoons: On his left shoulder he has a little devil, and on his right he has—well, nothing. He fired the angel that used to be there and refused to pay him for his work. But the Donald and his little red friend get along just fine, both being men of wealth and taste. 

Best Option: “Let It Bleed”

Given Donald Trump’s overblown speech on Thursday, he needs a track to reflect all the violence in our lawless streets. Plus, guitarist Keith Richards once pulled a knife on Trump back in 1989, so there’s no doubt he would’ve approved.

 

Queen 

What Trump played: “We Are the Champions”

When David Duke’s favorite candidate blasts a power ballad by a bisexual, non-white foreigner, everybody loses.

Better option: “I Want It All”

Trump already has a business empire, his own TV show, a skyscraper with his name on it, and he still wants to control the free world? Maybe it’s time to stop believing that this guy is running for the sake of the American people.

  

 

Neil Young

What Trump played: “Rockin’ in the Free World”

If Donald Trump took the time to listen to the song’s cynical lyrics, he’d quickly realize that it’s far from a patriotic rocker. Then again, details have never been the GOP nominee’s strong point. Just take a look at anything he’s said over the past year.

Better option: “Transformer Man”

A piercing mishmash of synthesizers and distorted falsettos, “Transformer Man” is often cited as Young’s worst song. Coincidentally, Donald Trump will eventually be recognized as America’s worst presidential candidate. It’s a match made in heaven!

 

George Harrison/The Beatles

What Trump played: “Here Comes the Sun”

The former Beatle’s family objected when Ivanka Trump marched out to the Abbey Road classic this week. Perhaps Donald chose it because Ivanka is the center of his world. Just watch out—if the sun weren’t 93 million miles away, he’d probably be dating it.

Better option: “I Me Mine”

Look, it’s Trump’s three favorite words, right there in the title! Make no mistake, however. Donald really is a humble man, the most humble. His publicist John Miller told me so.

Best option: “Beware of Darkness”

Far and away, this Harrison solo track is the best choice possible. Why, you ask? Because this suggestion came straight from the official Harrison Twitter account.

EXCLUSIVE: Ted Cruz’s Four Year Political Survival Guide

While Ted Cruz is set to speak at the Republican National Convention tonight, inside sources report that he will not endorse nominee Donald Trump. Instead, the Texas senator is slowly plotting — or so we assume — his next bid at world domination.

Until Cruz can rescue the country next election cycle, his team has developed a plan to keep his vision for conservative America alive and well. The National Memo has received exclusive access to his timeline for the next four years.

 

November 8, 2016

Hillary Clinton wins the presidency. Her first order of business: changing the national motto from “In God We Trust” to “Happy Holidays!”

December 2016

Donald Trump’s business empire collapses in a matter of weeks, leaving him with nothing but his multiple wives and his New York values.

February 14, 2017

This Valentine’s Day, I stand against the increasing sexualization of American culture by avoiding intimacy with my heterosexual spouse!

April 2017

The Clintons have transformed my America into an authoritarian state. Luckily, I am prepared for the worst with my large stockpile of Campbell’s Chunky soup.

July 2017

By now, the night air will be filled with the screams of infants, being mercilessly harvested at your local Planned Parenthood. I recommend drowning out their cries with classic film The Princess Bride.

December 2017

In one of the few highlights of her presidency, Hillary Clinton annexes Canada. I was American all along!

February 2018

Instead of wasting time on pointless theories like climate change, Republican scientists invent a time machine. I use it to go back to 1963 and prove that my father didn’t help assassinate JFK.

June 2018

30 days of intensive training in hand holding with Carly Fiorina. Next time, we’ll be ready.

September 2018

I boldly lead the Senate fight against ISIS by boycotting that halal place that just opened up down the street.

March 2, 2019

Fed up with Washington nonsense, Texas re-declares its independence. It will be an inspiring victory for us, just like The Alamo.

March 3, 2019

Texas rejoins the United States, because it’s a free country and we can do what we want.

September 2019

Without a dry eye in sight, I announce my 2020 presidential bid with the campaign slogan, “See? I Told You So.”

July 2020

Donald Trump knocks on my door with the intention of asking to be my vice president. I pretend to not be home.

November 2020

To nobody’s surprise, I knock the Clintons (both of them!) out of the White House. During my victory speech, I lick a little white booger off my lips, but everyone agrees that it’s pretty endearing.

 

Photo: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) talks to the media outside of his Senate office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Is Pokémon Go The Next Big Brother?

If you own a smartphone, there’s a decent chance you are one of the world’s nearly 18 million Pokémon Go players. Launched last Thursday, Pokémon Go is a GPS-synchronized augmented reality game that places the classic, colorful Nintendo creatures in the real world — or at least, against the live backdrop provided by your phone’s front-facing camera. Users are encouraged to “catch ‘em all.” But is there a chance the game is catching something of theirs as well?

Minnesota Senator Al Franken certainly seems to think so. Earlier this week he sent a public letter to Niantic, the company that developed Pokémon Go, requesting a full report on how they use players’ personal information. His letter stated that the app could threaten the right to privacy, as the game’s privacy policy states that user information “can be shared with The Pokémon Company and ‘third-party service providers.” Franken also described how Niantic treats this personal information as a “business asset,” that could be revealed or transferred to other companies that buy out or merge with Niantic. The Minnesota Senator asked for a response by August 12. Niantic has yet to answer.

Even before Senator Franken’s letter, however, some Pokémon Go users expressed concern about how Niantic required “full access” to their personal Google accounts in order to play the game: Theoretically, this means that Niantic had the ability to read and send emails from a personal Gmail account, but also to records calendar entries, directions, and notes. Earlier this week, Niantic issued an update and clarified that they only use the most basic account information to run the app.

On the other hand, even the most basic information is a valuable commodity for third-party companies. On iOS gaming news site Touch Arcade, an anonymous mobile game producer explained how apps so effectively dig up and sell user information — key facts like gender, age, location, and even interests.

“Every time you play a free to play game, you just build this giant online database of who you are, who your friends are and what you like and don’t like. This data is sold, bought and traded between large companies I have worked for,” the producer wrote. Even more alarming is that his experiences date back a few years, before huge mobile games like Angry Birds burst onto the mobile gaming scene. Data-mining techniques have only become more sophisticated since then.

Still, this doesn’t doesn’t necessarily mean Niantic is selling your personal information. Despite being free to play, Pokémon Go has a number of in-game purchases — small payments that can be made to quickly upgrade Pokémon and acquire rare items. This “freemium” model has proven to be quite lucrative, but Pokémon Go has taken it to the next level. For example, Think Gaming estimated the daily revenue for hit game Candy Crush Saga at $442,296. Business Insider reported Pokémon Go’s revenue might be as high as $2.3 million per day. Remarkably, these figures aren’t even coming from a large consumer base. Most people avoid in-game purchases, meaning that the bulk of the funds are from a very small number of players. In fact, mobile marking company Swrve found that over 60 percent of mobile game revenue comes from just 0.13 percent of users.

Pokémon Go has become a highly lucrative property in the short week it’s been available to download. Nintendo’s stock has soared by over 25 percent since the game’s release. At the peak of this spike, market analysts valued the game at a whopping $7 billion. Niantic CEO John Hanke has announced that they plan to open up Pokémon Go to digital advertising.

Of course, these developments don’t guarantee Pokémon Go any long-term financial success — the game has all the markings of a brief, furious fad. But for now, it’s the juggernaut of the gaming world. It has so much going for it that it doesn’t seem to need to depend on selling user information — though it certainly is collecting quite a bit about each and every player, even after Niantic’s update. Where exactly all that data ends up, however, remains a mystery.

So go forth and catch as many (or few) pokémon as you like. Just be aware of how much you reveal to companies like Niantic — if the game is free, you’re the one being bought and sold.

Comparing Trump’s Not-So-Super VP Candidates

Donald Trump is in the middle of a tough search for a vice president — any vice president. No one seems to want the job, and Trump is scrambling to show the world a ticket that makes him look like anything other than a crazy reality star who’s been wandering onto the wrong cable channels.

He’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel, so we at The National Memo decided to put together a little tip sheet to make his choice easier.

Newt Gingrich

Renamed by Trump: “Spanky”
# of Wives: 3. Can you believe it?
Likelihood of Hair Plugs: 85%
Relationship to White House: Has been waiting outside since the 1990s
Biggest Strength: That no-longer-relevant vibe that Trump supporters seem to love!
Biggest Weakness: He would be the “smart one.”

Chris Christie

Renamed by Trump: “The Quiet One”
# of Wives: 1, but he’d leave her in a second for Bruce Springsteen.
Likelihood of Hair Plugs: 28%
Relationship to White House: Kissed it goodbye forever after Bridgegate.
Biggest Strength: Loyalty and dead-in-the-eyes look of a very large dog.
Biggest Weakness: Ate all the M&Ms.

Mike Pence

Renamed by Trump: “Gary Indiana”
# of Wives: 1, unlike those dang homosexuals.
Likelihood of Hair Plugs: That’s between Pence and the Lord.
Relationship to White House: Recites Pledge of Allegiance in its direction whenever he has impure thoughts.
Biggest Strength: Fridge is full of cake confiscated from same-sex weddings.
Biggest Weakness: As a devout Christian, may not work well with the Devil.

Gen. Michael Flynn

Renamed by Trump: “Army Man”
# of Wives: Just his duty. Oh, and also Lori.
Likelihood of Hair Plugs: Classified
Relationship to White House: Already spent years there failing to solve the Middle East.
Biggest Strength: Has the wartime expertise to set up a military dictatorship
Biggest Weakness: Pro-choice. For real.

Ben Carson

Renamed by Trump: “Dr. Naptime”
# of Wives: 2 conjoined twins he keeps separating and sewing back together.
Likelihood of Hair Plugs: 3%
Relationship to White House: Believes it’s filled with grain.
Biggest Strength: Every Great American Hero needs a nerdy sidekick.
Biggest Weakness: Working with Trump might spoil their friendship.

Sarah Palin

Renamed by Trump: “The Midnight Rambler”
# of Wives: Does Alaska count?
Likelihood of Hair Plugs: All-natural pageant queen
Relationship to White House: Buried John McCain’s career on her way there.
Biggest Strength: Can defuse any political debate with a string of nonsensical folkisms.
Biggest Weakness: Even Trump’s afraid of her.

 

Photo: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks in a press conference at the State House in Trenton, New Jersey, March 3, 2016.  REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

Ivanka Trump: The Feminist Façade Of Donald’s Campaign

From the moment he announced his presidential ambitions, Trump has given pundits a hard time. They’ve called him a tyrant, a madman, a racist — all reasonably. This week, however, the candidate’s daughter Ivanka added a new term to the list: feminist.

Speaking with London’s The Sunday Times, Ivanka touted her father as a champion of women everywhere. She said Donald’s progressive views were “a big reason why I am the woman I am today,” in large part because he provided her with strong female role models ever since her childhood.

Good news, everyone — Donald Trump is leading the fight against sexism! At least, that’s what his Ivanka would have us believe. The notion is ridiculous, but make no mistake: These are not the thoughtless remarks of another bimbo heiress. Rather, Ivanka’s interview was another strategic maneuver carried out by one of the most important members of the Trump campaign.

Quite simply, Ivanka Trump can almost make it appear as if Donald Trump cares about women. She is always at Donald’s side, cheering him on at rallies and advising him behind closed doors. Undeniably intelligent and confident, Ivanka radiates the integrity that her father never had. As an independent woman who stands out in a movement for and by (white) men, Ivanka makes the Trump brand more palatable for party regulars.

She’s his feminist “beard,” the ostensible voice of compassion dedicated to toning down her father’s vicious machismo, if only on the surface.

Her presence is especially vital given Donald’s weak polling numbers among women. According to a July 5th USA Today/Suffolk University poll, a mere 38 percent of women nationwide supported him. Democratic rival Hillary Clinton boasts a commanding 50 percent.

Of course, as with most facts, Donald Trump prefers to believe that these numbers don’t exist. In his mind, women — whether female contestants on The Apprentice or ceiling-shattering construction workers — love him.

While there’s no proof that Donald Trump has made any contributions toward gender equality in the workplace, Ivanka has certainly established herself as a key player in the Trump Organization.

Aside from serving as the Executive Vice President of Development and Acquisitions for her father, she has spearheaded the #WomenWhoWork initiative since 2014. The website encourages women to pursue their career passions and helps them manage work-life balance with articles about cute spring prints and office hacks. Ivanka promotes it constantly, establishing an implicit link between the Trump name and quasi-progressive gender politics.

Beyond her pro-women message, Ivanka’s public persona is surprisingly apolitical, making her the ideal spokesperson for her father’s presidential bid.

Ivanka introduced her father when he declared his candidacy last June. Amid his long list of virtues, Ivanka professed, “My father is the opposite of politically correct. He says what he means, and he means what he says.” You don’t say.

She’s also accompanied her father on the campaign trail, nearly matching his frantic pace. While very pregnant, she spoke to crowds before the Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina primaries. In a sense, she was almost stepping in as Donald’s surrogate wife — not that Donald has any qualms about sexualizing his daughters. Ivanka drew all attention away from her father’s three marriages and countless rumors of his outside affairs.

Perhaps Ivanka’s most valuable contribution has been doing damage control for her father’s most disgusting outbursts. Last August, The Donald blasted Fox News host Megyn Kelly as a lightweight and sputtered, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her…wherever.” Ivanka publicly dismissed the outcry that followed as just another example of sensationalized television.

More recently, multiple women — most notably 1997 Miss USA Temple Taggart — have come forward with stories of Trump attempting to kiss and grope them. As soon as the accusations began to pick up steam, Ivanka made her way on CBS This Morning to stifle them. “He’s not a groper,” she promised, adding that Donald has “total respect for women.”

Ivanka has always been an apologist for her father’s misogyny — even when she’s the subject of it. Back in 2006, she was a guest on The View with her father, when he made the infamous crack, “Perhaps if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, I’d be dating her.”

Ivanka laughed along with everyone else on the set, beaming and shaking her head as if her dad had just told some corny joke. Still, her composure in the face of his paternal flirtation is remarkable. At the very least, you would expect a Caroline Cruz-esque flinch.

So what’s next for Ivanka? Well, her brother Eric appeared on this Thursday’s episode of Fox and Friends and said that Ivanka would make a “brilliant” vice president for their father. Of course, shortly after that statement, he had to refute accusations of anti-Semitism against the Trump campaign.

Just another day in the life of a Trump-spawn. Fortunately, Ivanka converted to Orthodox Judaism in 2009, which apparently makes the allegations “ridiculous.” Another disturbing glimpse at a Trump White House, another effortless dismal of concerns of white nationalism. If you listen to her for long enough, it might seem possible that Trump’s America really is great.

Activists Launch Satirical ‘Buy One, Give One’ Gun Website

Last week, a mysterious website popped up for a program called Share the Safety, described as a joint venture by the NRA and Smith & Wesson. According to the site’s home page, the organization supports a “Buy One, Give One” policy aimed at arming less fortunate families and individuals across the country. Like a perverse cousin of Tom’s Shoes, Share the Safety promises to match each purchase of a handgun by donating an additional weapon to an in-need neighborhood of the buyer’s choice. Fittingly, the program is set to go live on the Fourth of July.

If all this sounds just a bit too outlandish to be real, your instincts are right. Speaking to Buzzfeed news, an NRA representative confirmed that “Share the Safety” is a hoax and promised, “There’s no way that the NRA or Smith & Wesson would be behind a program like that.”

Soon after, artist-activists The Yes Men took credit for the website. Headed by Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos (also known as Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno), The Yes Men have been pulling elaborate stunts since 2000. A favorite subject of theirs is ring-wing corporate hypocrisy, and they have previously lampooned huge entities such as Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil.

Share the Wealth may be their pièce de résistance. Part of what makes the satire so believable is its understated appearance. At first glance, it looks like any other political site. It’s got email list sign-up boxes, rousing testimonials, and numerous photos of racially diverse Americans laughing and playing sports.

However, a closer look at the pictures reveals that many of the fun-loving subjects are carrying concealed weapons. The website’s map of outreach neighborhoods is sprinkled with data about intercity gun violence. Then of course there’s the glaring option to purchase one of three pistols with just the click of a button. It’s a brilliant satirical message, showing just how easy it is to acquire a deadly weapon in America.

Perhaps the satire’s only flaw is that it’s almost a little too close to reality.

The Yes Men even staged a live press conference for their program at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. The heavily bearded—and heavily fictional—Hensley Cocker, Director of Share the Safety, took to the stage in front of a small crowd, which included a local chapter of Young Republicans. He expressed the NRA’s new mission to better equip the United States’ most “fatally under-armed,” demographics, which included the elderly, women, and the LGBT community. In Cocker’s own words, “The only safe gay is an armed gay.”

“Share the Safety,” follows in the footsteps of other anti-gun stunts earlier this year. The Rachel Maddow Show featured faux New York City gun shop that opened the eyes of would-be buyers by sharing the destructive history behind individual weapons. In March, a user on Change.org started a facetious petition to allow the open carry of firearms at the 2016 Republican National Convention. For better or worse, the petition currently has over 55,000 signatures.

It’s hard to tell whether or not Congress will pass any effective gun control measures in the near future, but at least there are creators out there like The Yes Men to take the Second Amendment zealots down a notch. While NRA members are harping on about their rights, we can’t forget about our right to call out their bullshit.

 

Photo: Handguns turned in from the public as part of the “Gun Turn-in” event where a gift card is given for every firearm turned over to Chicago Police are seen in a box at Universal Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. May 28, 2016.   REUTERS/Jim Young

The Dark History Behind Donald Trump’s Hair

Presidential hair has long been a subject of intense public fascination. John F. Kennedy’s stylish part was an essential component of his youthful energy and led to the decline of hat-wearing in the 1960s. Abraham Lincoln grew a beard at the suggestion of eleven-year-old Grace Bedell, who said it would make him more handsome and electable. Some of the earliest Americans collected locks of George Washington’s hair, which became coveted relics after his death.

And Donald Trump is obsessed with his hair. Undoubtedly one of the engineering feats of our time, Trump’s golden coiffure swirls in improbable arches and with an ever-changing consistency — something that Rumplestiltskin wove during a particularly nasty hangover. His massive part is no less miraculous than that of Moses in the Red Sea, though who can say whether Trump’s version will lead anyone to the Promised Land?

The question of whether Trump’s follicles are real and natural is insignificant on its own, but the performance behind the hair is essential to understanding the Trump phenomenon. The legendary combover has become synonymous with the man himself, a symbol of his larger-than-life ego and vanity. It’s nearly impossible to turn on a news show or late night program without at least one crack about the presumptive GOP nominee’s scalp.

Why the obsession?

A Mane for All Seasons

Trump’s odd combover is unique in that he doesn’t try to hide it. At times, it even seems that Trump, like a veteran gladiator, savors challenges to his hair. Its authenticity clearly means a lot to him.

It’s also been a major talking point on the campaign trail. After trying on a coal miner’s hardhat at a West Virginia rally in May, Trump lectured the crowd about hairspray. He went off on a curious tangent about the unfair ban on aerosol spray products in the 1970s, which he then clumsily connected to environmental restrictions placed on the state’s mining industry. Rumors abound that Trump, when he first heard that the federal government would be cracking down on chlorofluorocarbon-emitting aerosols, hoarded a near lifetime supply.

On numerous occasions, Trump has invited doubters to feel his hair. Larry King famously touched it during a 2004 live interview and affirmed that it did not seem to be a wig or a combover. Even Megyn Kelly, fresh off her feud with Trump, recently admitted that she too could attest to the legitimacy of Trump’s tresses, having “shoved her hands up in [it]” herself. But take their assurances with a grain of salt: the hair-proving ritual is a highly-choreographed one, in which Trump covers most of his head with his hand, offering just the front of his hairline for inspection.

This habit is especially strange in light of Trump’s self-described mysophobia. He loathes shaking hands and pushing elevator buttons, and yet he gives strangers permission to tug right above his sweaty forehead.

To Pay, Or Not Toupee

Despite Donald’s constant attempts show off his natural hair, not everyone’s buying it. If you’ve ever seen the ghostly way Trump’s mop blows in the wind, you’d understand that skepticism. Critics hold different theories about what kind of trickery is going on behind-the-scenes.

Gersh Kuntzman, journalist and author of Hair! Mankind’s Historic Quest to End Baldness, posits that Trump’s style is most likely the joint result of a combover and hair transplant, which would explain Trump’s eagerness for people to grab a handful of his mane. It would be, after all, real hair.

Ashley Feinberg of the website soon-to-be-formerly-known-as-Gawker says that Trump may be the recipient of a weave of epic proportions. Feinberg connected the businessman to Dr. Edward Ivari, a little-known physician who has pioneered a nonsurgical means of hair restoration using strands of synthetic microcylinders. This technology, which attaches fresh hair strands to thinning ones, requires frequent tightening and costs roughly $60,000 dollars a year to maintain. That’s nearly double the Trump University premium package.

The Bald Truth

To a large extent, Trump’s insecurity is understandable. Balding is common among adult males, and there exists a definite stigma against the correction of that flaw. In secret, manly man Sean Connery donned a hairpiece in every James Bond film, and Ronald Reagan dyed his gray hair in the Oval Office.

Trump, on the other hand, has more than his career riding on his hair — he has his sanity.

Harry Hurt III’s 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump reveals just how desperate Trump is to keep up appearances. He underwent scalp reduction surgery in 1989, probably to correct a bald patch, but the surgeon botched the procedure. The infuriated mogul stormed home to confront then-wife Ivana Trump, who had recommended the plastic surgeon to her husband.

Barging into her bedroom, Trump screamed, “Your fucking doctor has ruined me!” He then tore fistfuls of hair from her head, ripped off her clothes, and forced himself on her. Ivana described the incident as “rape,” in their divorce deposition. She softened her account in later years, first claiming that her Trump had not violated her in any criminal sense, and then subsequently stating that the story was “totally without merit.” Trump, unsurprisingly, denied that any of it ever happened.

We can’t expect Trump to ever get his comeuppance for the assault, but his actions speak volumes about his character. He is a dangerous man when his pride is threatened, and his hair is the symbolic centerpiece of his fragile persona.

When he steps up to the podium, Trump knows: He is the smartest businessman, he has the most loyal supporters, and his country is the greatest in the world. His brand of exceptionalism relies on an oversized display of masculinity. No matter the occasion, he must be seen with a beautiful woman in tow; he has to show off the size of his massive hands. He needs his physicality to prove that he is an “alpha” male: the most fit to fight, to lead, and to breed.

Of course, American voters would have no problem electing a balding president. We’ve done it before. But Trump has a major problem confronting his balding reflection, one older and weaker than he’d care to admit. The assertion that his hair is real, true or not, allows Trump to bypass that vulnerability and create a version of himself more capable of fulfilling all the promises he’s been making to America. With a full head of hair, Donald can make himself great again.

 

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump poses for a photo after an interview with Reuters in his office in Trump Tower, in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., May 17, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson 

#EndorseThis: Sanders’ Campaign Manager Turns Tax Return Question On Chris Matthews

When Chris Matthews brought up Bernie Sanders’ refusal to disclose his tax returns on Monday night’s Hardball, the host never imagined it would get so personal.

His guest was Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, who was clearly tired of being hounded on the issue. In a brilliantly awkward turn of events, Weaver retorted that Matthews was in no position to criticize Sanders, based on his own failure to share tax information during his wife’s campaign.

“Oh, here we go,” Matthews says under his breath, as Weaver begins the rebuttal.

Weaver was referring to Kathleen Matthews, who earlier this year ran for the House of Representatives in Maryland’s 8th congressional district. Despite receiving the endorsement of The Washington Post and help from some of Hillary Clinton’s top donors, she lost to State Senator Jamie Raskin in the Democratic primary.

Sanders’ tax returns have become a point of controversy this election cycle, given that a pillar of his campaign is his crusade for financial integrity. While rival Hillary Clinton has released eight year’s worth of tax returns on her website, and many more years in previous elections, Bernie Sanders has been filibustering the matter for months now, at one point even falsely claiming that his records were available to the public.

During the interview, Matthews repeatedly responded with the excuse that it was an unfair question, as he had no involvement in his wife’s campaign. Weaver wrapped up the interview with the quip, “This is Hardball, Chris.”

Matthews thanked his guests as the show wrapped up — all of them, of course, except Bernie Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver.

Photo and Video: Crooks & Liars, MSNBC

Gary Johnson Makes Push for Third-Party Presence in Debates

Gary Johnson doesn’t have much of a realistic shot at the White House, but that’s not stopping him from trying. The newly-nominated Libertarian presidential candidate is betting the farm on the Super Bowl of political television: presidential debates.

That is, if he’s allowed in the building.

On Wednesday in an interview with Fox Business, the former New Mexico Governor, along with Libertarian vice-presidential candidate Bill Weld, laughingly refuted Donald Trump’s recent statement that the Libertarian was nothing but a “fringe candidate” — pot, meet kettle — but he did admit that he had no shot at winning the presidency without appearing in the debates, which have become one of the focuses of his campaign.

What’s stopping Gary Johnson from taking it to the Democrat and Republican nominees on national television? The Commission on Presidential Debates, a private, allegedly non-partisan organization that has produced the debates for every general election since 1988. In order for a candidate to qualify for these debates, Johnson has to poll at least at 15 percent nationwide.

This 15 percent rule often prevents lesser-known politicians from joining in the fray, as they aren’t included in polling in the first place. Since the establishment of the CPD, only one third-party candidate — independent Ross Perot, a truly self-funded billionaire’s campaign, in 1992 — has ever qualified for the debate stage. Also troublesome is the politically-charged leadership behind the CPD. Current co-chairmen are Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr., former chair of the Republican National Committee, and Mike McCurry, former press secretary for Clinton administration. Its Board of Directors largely consists of preeminent politicians and businessmen from both sides of the aisle.

Try as it might to remain impartial, the CPD’s membership reeks of a partisan duopoly, as instituted in its 15 percent rule.

That’s why last fall Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein filed a lawsuit against the commission, claiming that its exclusionary policies were violating federal anti-trust laws. According to the Libertarian Party’s website, this case posits debate participation should be determined instead by a candidate appearing on enough state ballots to potentially win a majority in the electoral college.

Johnson and Stein each brought forth a similar suit in 2012, but these cases were dismissed on a technicality. There is little evidence that this year’s outcome will be any different. Ultimately, Gary Johnson’s greatest hope is to qualify for the debates the old-fashioned way, through polling.

As of now, the only major poll that includes his name is Fox News, where he currently sits at 10 percent.

Photo: Flickr user Gary Johnson

Obama’s Statecraft in East Asia

In the waning months of his presidency, Barack Obama seeks to redefine U.S. foreign policy, most recently in his embrace of one of the biggest phantoms of the Cold War battlefield: Vietnam.

This week, Obama has traveled throughout the Southeast Asian country with the goal of strengthening the current United States-Vietnam partnership. Most notable so far was his announcement that the ban on the sale of lethal arms to Vietnam, a strict measure that has been in place since the Vietnam War, would be coming to an end.

The decision follows increased tensions in the South China Sea. Many countries in the region fear China’s expanding military presence in the region, known for long-standing territorial disputes and plentiful deposits of oil and natural gas. Vietnam is especially wary of Chinese encroachment, and has received many complaints from civilian fishermen about theft and harassment from the Chinese Navy. Last month, they struck back and seized a Chinese fishing ship that was secretly transporting oil through Vietnamese waters.

While Obama stressed the necessity of a peaceful resolution of the South China Sea conflict, his lifting of the ban strengthens Vietnam’s position in the conflict.

At the same time, the commander-in-chief showed no qualms about criticizing Vietnam. During a speech in Hanoi, Obama criticized the nation’s poor record on human rights. According to the Human Rights Watch, the Communist Party in Vietnam restricts basic freedoms of speech and press, prevents underpaid workers from forming unions, and often uses torture in state correctional and rehabilitation facilities.

“Upholding these rights is not a threat to stability, but actually reinforces stability and is the foundation of progress,” said Obama. His words were particularly relevant due to the unexpected absence of six political activists scheduled to attend the event. The White House later confirmed that the Vietnamese government did bar the activists from entering, but did not provide any further explanation.

Obama is also set to visit Hiroshima, Japan in a few days’ time, as part of the 2017 G7 Summit. This makes Obama the first American president to visit Hiroshima, site of the first wartime atomic bombing in 1945. He has already said that he will not apologize for Hiroshima’s bombing, but that he is coming to the city in order to “reflect on the nature of war” and celebrate the alliance that Japan and the United States have forged since World War II. It’s a smart move, tying historical memory to present events instead of sweeping it under the carpet. Obama follows in the steps of Secretary of State John Kerry, who made a similar stop in Hiroshima back in April.

Obama is clearly hoping that Vietnam can become as reliable a partner as Japan. Of course, his visit is not the first sign of the former combatants burying the hatchet. After the United States lifted a trade embargo on Vietnam in 1994, trade between the two countries skyrocketed and normal diplomatic relations have carried on since.

However, these events mark a new chapter in the relationship. President Obama is using the United States’ complicated history with Vietnam not as a crutch, but rather as a launching pad for a stronger alliance. In drawing upon that shared past while encouraging greater democratization, Obama is raising up Vietnam as a capable ally that will remain long after he leaves office.

Kasich To Bow Out Of 2016 Race

2016 GOP candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich is set to make a televised statement at 5pm this afternoon. The New York Times, CNN, NBC News, and others report that he will announce the suspension of his campaign for president.

Kasich tried throughout this bizarre election cycle to position himself as the reasonable moderate in a horde of seething right-wingers. On the debate stage, he cultivated an air of optimism and levelheadedness, but couldn’t help but be swallowed up by bigger personalities. Kasich’s best moments came across as boring, and at his worst, he seemed disingenuous. His nice-guy persona covered up a history of extreme social conservatism, most evident in his myriad efforts to block access to abortion in Ohio.

While perhaps Kasich deserves some credit for his perseverance, one has to wonder how he honestly expected to win in the first place. He often cited polls that indicated he was the only GOP candidate capable of beating Hillary Clinton in a general election, but he failed to garner much enthusiasm, even as the Republican establishment scrambled to find a viable alternative to Donald Trump. Triumphing only his home state of Ohio, Kasich’s attention turned towards winning on the second ballot at a contested convention. Just last week, he and Ted Cruz made an alliance of sorts to split their efforts in the remaining state primaries in order to stop Trump from reaching the magic number of 1,237 delegates. It didn’t work.

With Cruz ending his presidential bid after yesterday’s Indiana primary, Donald Trump is now the lone Republican in the 2016 race. It seems the Party of Lincoln is finally united, but this is hardly the sort of union that Lincoln imagined.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Governor John Kasich celebrates in front of his wife Karen (L) and daughter Reese (2nd L) after winning the Ohio primary Republican presidential election at a campaign rally in Berea, Ohio March 15, 2016.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein  

Sanders’ Celebrity Cohort Split Over “Bernie or Bust!”

After Hillary Clinton’s near-sweep of five states on Tuesday, the Bernie Sanders campaign is in dire straits. While Sanders is still fighting for the nomination, he now trails Clinton in the pledged delegate count by a convincing 327 votes. Still, even if the rest of the primary season goes according to plan for Clinton — as it most likely will — there’s no guarantee that Bernie’s impassioned fans will turn their support to the Democratic nominee.

Enter the “Bernie or Bust” movement, in which the most diehard Sanders fans have announced their intention to stay home on Election Day, or vote for someone else, rather than supporting Hillary Clinton. This crusade is picking up steam, especially among Sanders’ celebrity devotees.

Susan Sarandon was among the first of Sanders’ Hollywood spokespeople to push for this ultimatum. Back in March, she made headlines with a controversial MSNBC interview in which she hinted — though she disputed such accusations later — that Donald Trump might “bring the revolution” if Sanders failed to attain the nomination. Then, during an appearance last Wednesday on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, she said “I’m more afraid of, actually, Hillary Clinton’s war record and her hawkishness than I am of building a wall.” Though she also added, “but that doesn’t mean I would vote for Trump.”

Actress Rosario Dawson has been one of Sander’s leading advocates throughout this cycle. While she hasn’t aligned herself with the #BernieOrBust hashtag movement on Twitter, many recent posts criticize Clinton’s political record while boldly reaffirming Sander’s slogan #NotMeUs. Should Dawson throw a vote Clinton’s way come November, expect it to be cast with far less social media fanfare than we’re used to seeing from her, or maybe just a frowning emoji.

Still, not all of Sanders’ famous friends have pledged their undying loyalty to him. Last week on Real Time with Bill Maher, the brazenly liberal host tore into Sanders supporters who claim they’d rather vote for Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. After outlining key differences between a Trump and Clinton presidency, Maher proclaimed, “That’s your choice. Don’t be assholes about it.”

The original Star Trek’s George Takei, a self-proclaimed “fan of Bernie Sanders” posted a video on Wednesday to promote a new slogan, #VoteBlueNoMatterWho. Calling upon his fellow Democrats to be realists, Takei argued that Sanders had still won through his invigoration of the progressive left, and reminded viewers that the Vermont Senator himself had said that Clinton would be a far superior choice to any Republican candidate.

Author Anne Rice withstood a flurry of online attacks and insults Tuesday night after posting an anti-Sanders status on her Facebook page. Rice, who months ago touted Sanders as the superior Democratic candidate, wrote, “I’m very sorry I ever contributed a nickel to Bernie’s campaign. I had no idea his followers would become obstructionist and go to the depths they have with the politics of personal destruction. They’re worse than Republicans.” The post has since been removed.