Beautiful Stuff Feed

Happy Things for the Crisis #1


Someone Tweeted yesterday that they know two people who had died of heart attacks in the previous five days. Of course this may have been completely unrelated to the current situation, and may have happened anyway. But we do know that nearly everyone is under a lot more stress than they were even a few weeks ago.

With that in mind, I am going to try to post something every day aimed at giving people tools to help them to deal with their stress in these times. Today, I have two:

1. Alternate-nostril breathing. It really helps. Try it.

2. This movie. 

You'll have to find it for yourself - I have it on DVD, but it may also be availble on Amazon Prime Video or iTunes or someplace. Maybe someone can let me know if they find it?

Anyway, this is one of the very best films ever made. And one of the funniest. It will make you laugh, and it might even help to restore some of your faith in humanity, and in our own power to overcome the things that seem impossible.

Please enjoy: Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald!





A Doctor's View on the Vaccine Debate


Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a GP in Scotland, writes:

When it comes to the science, it does amuse me that vaccination began before anyone understood any of the science – of anything to do with microbes and the immune system. It all began, so it is recorded, with the observation that milkmaids were much less likely to get smallpox.

This led to the idea that you should deliberately infect people with a bit of cowpox, to prevent them getting smallpox. Bold.

‘The terms vaccine and vaccination are derived from Variolae vaccinae (smallpox of the cow), the term devised by Jenner to denote cowpox. He used it in 1796 in the long title of his Inquiry into the Variolae vaccinae known as the Cow Pox, in which he described the protective effect of cowpox against smallpox.’ [from the website that cannot be named… Wikipedia actually]

This was suggested at a time when all doctors thought infections were spread by Miasma. Basically, a nasty smell. No-one had the faintest idea that there were bacteria, or viruses. Somewhat ironically, vaccination – giving a small amount of a substance to cure/prevent a nasty disease – became the underlying principle of homeopathy – which most doctors now angrily dismiss as ‘woo woo medicine.’

Clearly, vaccination did not start as science. It basically started as a hunch, based on no comprehension of the science at all. Of course, that doesn’t make it wrong, but you can hardly suggest it was founded on a thorough understanding of the human immune system. Edward Jenner did not know that such a thing existed, and nor did anyone else. It was just a good guess.

The science of vaccination then became, what I call, backwards rationalisation. ‘It works, now let us work out how the hell it actually works.’ Again, nothing wrong with this. The best science often starts with observation, not a hypothesis. Graphene is a recent example. Two scientists larking about in the lab with Sellotape and pencils.


The whole thing is worth a read.



Daily Log: My Favorite Thing in the World




...for today.

Sometimes I am shocked by something that I already knew, but hadn't directly experienced in a while. Like this: The Japanese totally get comfort food. Like, at a level that is kind of superhuman. Beyond the biggest pile of mashed potatoes and Thanksgiving stuffing you can imagine. Way better than that. And even better: Comfort food that doesn't leave you feeling as if you've just swallowed a tub of grease and starch that will be oozing out your pores over the next few weeks. Superhuman.

So it looks like CBD is legal in Japan. I almost wept when I learned it. What that means is that it is POSSIBLE that my family could go and live there for a few  months. Our daughter takes CBD for seizures, so it's deal breaker if someplace we want to go won't allow it. But now... I have dreamed of going back to Japan for - wow, almost 20 years now. The last time I was there was in 1999 or 2000, when my parents visited me in Hong Kong and we took a short trip to Kyoto. Before that, I had lived there for a couple of years. 

It's hard for me to express what is so incredible about that country. But one big part of it is simply that it is civilized. Civilized in a way that most Americans have never experienced. Civilized like: Not having to worry about getting mugged or raped; not having to worry that an encounter with the police might end with your death; not being barked at and treated like cattle in airports... I could go on. 

And sometimes I am so tempted to just pick up and go live there again, this time with my family, for a year, or two years... until... what? Until "this" blows over? Until the US regains its sanity? But who thinks that is ever going to happen? And the scariest part about it is that the people around me don't seem to mind what's going on all that much. They seem, for the most part, to accept this authoritarian police-state culture as normal. But I know it's not. I've been to Japan.



Africans Are Poor and Dying Because of Unreasonable Obstacles to Business?



That's the title Magatte Wade requested for her incredible TED talk, below. The TED folks insisted on this much more milquetoast and vague title:



The title change is only part of what Magatte's husband Michael Strong says is an effort to sabotage her message:

There are people within the TED organization who are actively working to sabotage Magatte Wade's TED talk about the importance of economic freedom in Africa.

I am furious about this.

Action items for supporters of African prosperity and dignity:

1. Share this post explaining how Africans are being screwed over by TED staff due to their sabotage of Magatte's talk.

2. Comment on this TED talk informing others of this egregious sabotage.

In August 2017, Magatte Wade gave a talk at TED Global in Arusha. After the standing ovation, TED founder Chris Anderson told her "Amazing talk. It was so intense we could not have eight talks in day like that.” A few weeks later he wrote in an email, “We loved the passionate talk Magatte gave and suspect it will be among the first dozen to be released.” Many Africans in the audience came up to her and agreed at the absurd obstacles to business in Africa.

The first talks from TED Global in Arusha were released in October 2017. Despite Chris Anderson's enthusiasm, Magatte's talk was not among them. We waited and waited, month after month for it to be released. Finally, in June 2018, instead of being promoted on, her talk was finally released only in TED archives.

Someone within TED had delayed the release and then buried her talk in the archives instead of a main TED page release. As of this evening the archive version had 201 views. Talks released on the main TED page typically receive at least 500K view or more, often more than a million.

In addition, TED chose to release it at the archives with the title “Small Business Solutions for a More Robust Economy,” a banal title that in no way reflects the moral intensity of her talk.

Since June we have been fighting to get her talk released on the main TED site, contacting Chris Anderson to get his support. He initially said he was reluctantly to overrule his staff, but ultimately we prevailed and the talk was released today (link below). That was a victory.

Once she knew that her talk would finally be featured on the main TED page, in response to a request by TED, Magatte had proposed as a more appropriate title, "Africans Are Poor and Dying Because of Unreasonable Obstacles to Business?"

For those who listen to her talk, the answer is clearly "Yes."

TED did not accept her proposed title for the talk. This is TED's explanation for sticking with their banal title,

"So sorry for the misunderstanding about the headline. While we ask for speaker feedback and ideas for titles and copy, we reserve the final say for all copy associated with talks on I'm sorry if this wasn't properly communicated in advance.

Our team writes and tests copy with our audience each day, and we pitch each talk with the lessons we've learned from this process in mind. With that, we think the current title will give the talk the best chance to succeed. Thank you for your understanding!"

Her talk is also on the main TED page only from 9 p.m. Eastern tonight (Oct. 4, 2018) until 9 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning. If that is not an attempt to bury the talk I don't know what is. Someone at TED seems to be thinking, "If we can't keep it buried in the archives, let's only put it on the main TED page when most people are sleeping!"

So much for giving her talk "the best chance to succeed."


At what point does one decide that someone is acting in bad faith?

I also looked both at the earlier version of the talk released at the TED archives,

along with this one that was finally released at After listening to both all the way through, I listened minute by minute to each of the two talks and compared the flow of each.

I encourage those who really care about African poverty to listen to the original - though I predict they'll take it down soon. I ripped a copy and can email it to you if they do take it down.

I'm not prone to conspiratorial thinking, but I find this version to be chopped up in a way that reduces coherence and undermines much of the passion of the original one. I believe that this edited incoherence is deliberate. Either that or the editor had such a poor understanding of the substance that he or she made a mess of it through sheer incompetence.

In addition to being less coherent, this one eliminates the intensely passionate audience response throughout. Part of what makes her talk so compelling in the original version, even for those of us who were not there, is the extent to which she rouses the audience. Many TED talks include applause. Eliminating the applause strikes me as part of the deliberate effort of someone at TED to undermine the impact of her talk.

Of course, editing her talk to make it less coherent is a really nasty, insidious way to undermine her. 99% of the viewing audience will assume that maybe her talk was a bit confusing. "Okay, but what was the message?"

Do you see why I'm furious?

Thanks to Chris Anderson for pushing his staff to release a version of her talk. Now we need to keep pushing so that whoever at TED is working to keep a billion Africans loses his or her job.

To repeat: Action items for supporters of African prosperity and dignity:

1. Share this post explaining how Africans are being screwed over by TED staff due to their sabotage of Magatte's talk.

2. Comment on this TED talk informing others of this egregious sabotage.

And, yes, I am Magatte's husband. I am furious both on behalf of my wife and on behalf of the billion or so Africans who are being screwed by this attempt to prevent her message from reaching a broader audience.…/magatte_wade_small_business_solutions…



As an aside: I wish the creators of Black Panther had consulted with Magatte Wade before writing their ridiculous script. What Africa needs is not magic technology metal from outer space, but freedom. As she says, it's pretty damned simple.




Is this the Best Way to Stop Abortion?


I am NOT, NOT, NOT engaging in the abortion debate here. Just not.

But for my pro-life friends, or for anyone concerned with reducing abortions, this is probably the best idea I've ever seen. And according to the Save the Storks folks, it is VERY succesful: 8 out of 10 of the women who board their busses end up deciding against aborting.

How do they do it? NOT by protesting or using shame, guilt, anger, but by approaching these women with love and support, by introducing them to resources to help them care for their babies, and by showing them their babies' heartbeats.

According to Save the Storks, 64% of women who have abortions feel some kind of pressure to do so.

It seems to me that if you're serious about ending abortion, donating to folks like this is going to have much more of an impact than donating to any political campaign or standing in front of a clinic with inflammatory signs.

Check it out:





War and Terror: the Hypocrisy Is Not the Point




Every time there’s a terrorist attack in a Western city, people like me start reminding everyone of all the brutal (and ongoing) attacks Western governments have waged on the countries the terrorists come from. We’re predictable that way. And maybe it gets old. Maybe it even seems petty to be pointing out hypocrisy at a time like this.

But the hypocrisy is not the point. The point is that all around us, people are responding just as predictably, with their immediate, reflexive, emotional appeals: Either to “come together and heal”, and “just get along”, or “throw out all the Muslims!” The two world views smash against each other over and over again and create the impression that the question of how to stop terrorism will be resolved by adopting the correct attitude towards Islam and Muslim immigrants.

Yet all the compassionate hand-wringing, and all the racist bellowing in the world will not solve the problem of terrorism because none of it addresses what is at its root. Those on both sides of the reflexive left-right spectrum resist digging at its roots. Like cats scrambling to avoid a bath, they grasp at whatever platitudes serve their world view, and absolutely refuse to consider that perhaps it is not just a matter of “good people” vs. “bad people”, or society as a whole not being “enlightened” enough. Perhaps it has something to do with a long history of violent intervention by Western governments who became accustomed to not suffering any consequences for their actions.

That this is even controversial to anyone is bizarre. The connection between military intervention and terrorism is well established, most notably in the 2006 study by Robert A. Pape. Pape compiled a database of every suicide terrorist attack in the world, beginning in 1980. He found that:

“The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions…

“Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland. Religion is rarely the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in other efforts in service of the broader strategic objective.”

And yet the debate still rages. Most mind boggling to witness is the blind rage of those who blame “Islam” and want to deport all Muslims, who they blame for the attacks – yet cannot fathom that people in countries brutalized by Western governments might be capable of feeling (and acting on) that same rage.

As long as enough people cling to their beloved nation states, then we will continue to see more of the same: Unrestrained, violent, military adventurism on the part of powerful states, and the much smaller, but every bit as brutal, violent responses of those lashing out against them in whatever ways they can. And what neither left nor right wants to acknowledge is this: When society allows for an institution to hold a monopoly on violence, on justice and its enforcement, it unleashes a monster into the world. We can pretend that “we” control that monster, either through Constitutional restraints or through the magic of Democracy. We can even pretend that the monster represents our interests and not its own. But the reality is that none of that is true.

The attachment that so many adults have to the nation states they happen to live under is hard to explain. But it is deadly, and this is nowhere more apparent than in war and the violence that ongoing war perpetuates. If you’re not willing to confront the evils of the state – including the specific state you happen to live under – then expect to see more of the same for a very long time. No well-intentioned pleas for compassion, changing your FaceBook status, or deporting all the Muslims from your country is going to change that.



Where Hope Grows


I'm looking forward to seeing this:




Says Mike Porath:


As a parent of a child with special needs – in our case, a daughter with Dup15q syndrome – it’s often hard to explain to others how our family dynamic works.

Yes, our daughter has challenges, but she also brings so much good out of us and those around her.

“Where Hope Grows” shows how a young grocery clerk with a pure heart impacts those around him. Oh, and he happens to have Down syndrome. The film did such a nice job of showing the person, not the disability.

When I got home, I emailed my friend Milan Chakraborty, who produced the movie. There was a specific line in the film I really liked, and I couldn’t remember quite what it was. He wrote back:

“I don’t know it exactly, but it goes something like this…

“You look around (a cemetery) and on every tombstone you see two dates. A birth date and a date of death. You’re guaranteed those two dates. But in between those dates is a dash. It’s what you do with that dash that counts. Make your dash count.”


I encourage you to take an hour and a half to go see this film while it’s still in theaters. No matter what you may be dealing with in life, watching this film will help you turn your attention to what really matters – making your dash count.