A new way to catfish, and tragedy in Baghdad

Remember when being “catfished” meant that you were the victim of an online seduction hoax?

If you don’t, just ask Manti Te’o about it.

Well, forget that MTV-like kerfuffle, because thanks to one diabolical Nashville Predators fan, the term has taken on a whole new meaning.

In case you didn’t hear this story, for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, a hockey devotee named Jake Waddell, of Ohio, decided to:

  • Purchase a catfish
  • Refrigerate it to keep it from rotting
  • Transport it to Pittsburgh from Ohio
  • Flatten it with his truck to reduce its size
  • Store it in between two layers of underwear to gain entry with it into the arena
  • Wait for his opportunity to be near the glass surrounding the ice
  • Throw catfish

Catfish iceThrowing catfish onto the ice is a common practice at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. If you think it’s weird, note that in Detroit, they throw octopi.

The fan was then promptly ejected and charged with three misdemeanors.

But the conviction and dedication that this fan showed to complete his scheme is definitely worthy of rebranding the term “catfishing.” Especially when it’ previously accepted definition was pretty dumb to begin with. Bravo sir.

But let’s move from Nashville to Baghdad. The two epicenters of country music.

While everyone is still grieving and mourning the Manchester terrorist attacks, it’s easy to forget that terrorist attacks happen with even greater frequency in the East than the West. In the past several days alone, terrorist attacks by ISIS have caused double digit casualties in Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The attack in Baghdad on Tuesday occurred at a popular ice cream shop, where parents with their kids often visit, especially during Ramadan to break their fast. More than 30 people were killed.

Baghdad ice cream

This tragedy has barely been mentioned in the U.S., even though, like Manchester, it resulted in the death of innocent children who were just doing things that kids like to do. Instead of going to a pop concert, they were eating ice cream.

Now I’m not going to judge anyone for the fact that one attack received publicity over another, or scrutinize why that happens in the first place, I just wanted to make sure that people who didn’t get the chance to hear about it are now aware.

Speaking of Manchester, Ariana Grande has responded to terror in a big way, first posting an inspiring message on social media, and then announcing that she will beAriana Grande returning to the city this Sunday alongside Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Usher and more for a benefit concert for the victims’ families.

We will never stop terror. But we we can do is show that it will cause us to live in fear.

When terror happens, we come back with even greater kindness than we showed before the attack.

Terrorists may accomplish their goal of ending lives, but they will never achieve their desire of breaking us down as human beings.

And more importantly, they will never stop us from living in a world where a man can freely walk into a hockey arena and toss a catfish onto the ice.

Heroes live in Portland

Donald Trump did not invent bigotry. He did not create xenophobia. Or discrimination.

But what has been highly apparent during his rise is how he has emboldened people who do participate in these nefarious behaviors. By calling to make “America Great Again” and giving no single specific strategy about what exactly that means – he’s letting his supporters interpret it however they want.

And to many of our nation’s most despicable people, the time when America was at its “greatest” was when all laws and institutions catered directly for the white majority, while those outside of that group were basically left to fend for themselves.

Whether you like it or not, America is changing. It’s becoming more diverse. And that has always been our basis, ever since its founding nearly 250 years ago.

We are a nation of immigrants.

A girl leaves a message at a makeshift memorial for two men who were killed on a commuter train while trying to stop another man from harassing two young women who appeared to be Muslim, in Portland

And right now, those immigrants — especially those from Muslim-majority countries — are feeling extremely scared and vulnerable.

Are Muslim-Americans less protected under law than they were before Trump took office? No.

But do they harbor more fear walking down the street? Taking the train? Just entering a room, not knowing whose inside of it and what reaction they are going to get? Of course.

And this environment, fueled by Trump’s words and actions,, is what will be the man’s lasting legacy.

We do not know if yet if this is what directly led to what happened in Portland last week. In case you were totally consumed with your barbecues or your weekend getaway, three men rushed to the aid of two women who were being accosted with anti-Muslim insults.

Two of them were killed.

The three men — the last of whom is expected to live despite taking a knife slash to the neck — are being hailed as heroes.

And they are. Standing up to hate is what makes us heroic. We can all do it in our own way. These three men saw it before there eyes, and they intervened. Two paid the ultimate sacrifice. Their names are Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Rick Best.

Trump condemned the attack on Twitter … two days later.

After last week’s cowardly attack in Manchester, it’s easy for even the most tolerant of humans to become just a fraction of a bit more suspicious of people of Muslim faith.

But that’s what we have to fight against. What we have to remember is that evil and terror has no faith or creed. It is bound in nothing but pure hate and disillusion. And that we are all in this together.

Three people in Portland didn’t forget that.

Will you?

Mr. Trump goes to Riyadh

Every day that step further into the Trump administration feels more and more like we’re living in a bad dystopian fiction novel.

Seeing the man who at one point on the campaign trail called for “a complete and total shutdown” of Muslims entering the U.S. being presented with a gold medal by Saudi leaders in full hijab attire was as mentally puzzling as if you told me that Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner were getting hitched after meeting on Grinder.

It’s like the entire world has gotten together on one big practical joke, and the American people are the victims.

And no soon did my brain complete processing that image when I suddenly was presented with the visual of Donald Trump in a yarmulke praying at the Western Wall.

I normally refrain from using millennial vernacular, but … dafuq?

The most sacred site in Judaism being intruded upon by an orange-haired buffoon who thinks the generations-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians is as simple as solvable as a game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.

His next stop? The Vatican.

Trump Saudis

Trump, a man who lives a life so glamorous that the inside of his penthouse suite is literally made of gold, meeting with a man who empathizes so much with the poor that he voluntarily shunned the papal apartment to live in the more modest Vatican guesthouse. They should get along as well as Voldemort and Harry Potter.

(Someone teach Pope Francis two words quickly: Avada kedavra).

This “religion tour” was apparently designed to be a symbolic sojourn to bind the three doctrines under a call for peace, while joining together to combat terrorism.

It’s a noble message. Just not the right messenger.

This was one of my biggest fears when Donald Trump was running for president. The fact that he would be the one representing America on an international stage.

People can definitely scrutinize some of Barack Obama’s domestic and global policy initiatives. But one thing that is undeniable was that the man held himself with grace and dignity wherever he went. He respected foreign cultures and customs, he was well-versed in his host country’s history, and he had a nuanced understanding of the conflicts he was speaking about.

Trump, meanwhile, has shown a tendency to have his opinion changed in a single conversation with a foreign leader, and knows as much about history as my cat understands particle physics.

Everything just seems backwards right now. Donald Trump is our president (still), and The Rock might be our next president.

Which would mean that we may be able to live in a country where we can tell people our last two presidents were victims of a Stone Cold Stunner.

If you, like me, needed something — anything — to take your mind off these chaotic current events, then enjoy this viral video from today of a girl being pulled into water by a sea lion.

I’ll be out of town for most of the week through memorial Day weekend. i’ll try to check in at least one more time before then, but no guarantees.

Until then, enjoy the “Pope-Trump Happenin’ at the Vatican.”

You heard that name here first.

When your country no longer upholds its values

There once was a time – not too long ago – when the United States of America was the standard bearer for democracy. When we set the example for the rest of the world to follow.

Look around the globe. Pick any country. In nation after nation, you’ll find authoritarianism, corruption, inequality, crime, nepotism, oppression, racism. It’s rampant. Some countries contain all the above.

And we’re not immune from those evils. America has never and will never be perfect. We’re still an evolving process.

But very few countries have achieved what we have. The checks and balances we have in place to oversee our president are abundant, and they’re there for a reason — to protect the American people from a despotic leader.

Donald Trump is rewriting the book on 240 years of history.

Breaking-Up-U.S.-Flag.jpg

And while he’s raised many red flags, and alarmed not only the American public but members of Congress, not much has stood in his way. At least not yet.

People excuse Donald Trump’s behavior because they say he has yet to do anything illegal (yet). But what we fail to realize is that the goalposts of what we consider illegal actions from a president are becoming narrower and narrower.

What’s illegal and what’s not should not be the benchmark for our nation’s highest office.

It’s really the unwritten rules of governing, which Donald Trump has repeatedly torn to shreds, that we should be concerned about.

It’s not illegal to undermine a federal judge, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to discredit the entire press corps, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to share top secret, classified information with hostile foreign nations, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

It’s not illegal to fire the FBI director midway through his term while he’s investigating you, but no one ever does it. Except Donald Trump.

These are the boundaries that Donald Trump is destroying. And all those other countries who are guilty of all of those heinous actions I listed above, well, we can no longer tell them that they need to be more like us. Not if this keeps up.

Now, they can look at what’s going on here and say, “Hey, if they’re doing this, then we can do whatever we want.”

We used to look at backsliding democratic nations like Venezuela, Turkey and Russia and hold our head high. We’d say that this could never happen to us.

Now we’re the ones who other countries are laughing at.

And it will take a while to fix what Donald Trump has done. A significant portion of our credibility has been shattered. But it’s not irreparable.

At the end of the day, we must remember that we brought this onto ourselves. We voted.

We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our country’s history. But we’ve always learned from them.

Let’s just hope this is another learning experience.

1980s and 1990s sci-fi movies are lot less fictional than we thought

Ever since 1968’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” science-fiction films and books have carried a similar theme: computers gaining enough artificial intelligence to outsmart human beings.

For the majority of people who don’t live in the computing world, the idea of machines overtaking humans has always been an entertaining premise that’s only somewhat haunting. Because while it seems plausible, we don’t know enough about technology to ever believe it possible.

In other words, we have a hard time processing a threat that our brain doesn’t fully understand.

It’s a reason why few people legitimately fear the scientific dangers presented by global warming. In general, we know that climate change is happening, and it’s bad, but we don’t know why, and therefore we do little to stop it besides complaining about it on social media.

Take the 1983 film “WarGames” starring a young Matthew Broderick. In the film, he operates an oversized computer to discover a backdoor into the U.S. government’s defense systems. Simply by pressing a few buttons — which he thinks are harmless — he accidentally sets our computer systems onto an unstoppable path towards nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

That was 34 years ago.

The reason why this has been such a reoccurring topic in science fiction is because it was only a matter of time.

wannacry

Look how far we’ve come technologically since then. Now in the 21st century, the new arena for warfare is online.

And more people should be afraid. Or at least care.

Russian interference in our elections was not simply a hack, or an inconvenience, or “fake news” — it was an attack. We were attacked by a hostile foreign nation.

And last week, more than 150 countries were victimized by a “ransomware” attack that is believed to have been orchestrated by North Korea.

And this time, they ain’t just trying to stop a movie.

To avoid getting too technical, ransomware is basically a hack that scrambles your files with encryption, and then demands you pay a ransom to unlock the encryption — aided by the anonymity of Bitcoin.

The attack, performed with software by the name WannaCry, may have cost lives. Among the victims was the servers for the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, which relies on IT systems to perform urgent, life-saving operations.

WannaCry targeted Microsoft, taking advantage of a vulnerability that had recently been leaked by a hacker group in April after it obtained hacking tools compiled by the National Security Agency. Before that, Microsoft had released a software upgrade fixing the issue, which most people did not utilize. And now they’re screwed.

This is the era we live in. Everything is automated. And around the clock, hackers are trying to infiltrate these computers. Yes, groups are working equally as hard to safeguard computers simultaneously, but it’s an endless cycle. The fabrics of our world now lie within computer codes and operating systems.

And those who still naively believe that computers aren’t capable of bringing about our downfall, well, I suggest you pop an old Matthew Broderick flick into your VCR.

Then after you’ve watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, watch WarGames.

Come visit the Montana Glacier National Park. All we’re missing is the glaciers.

I think I’m going to start a new segment: “Obscure State Thursday.” Last month, I discussed Arkansas’s fervent desire to execute people as fast as they possibly could. They ended up killing four of the eight death row inmates they originally had planned.

After that, I officially put other states on notice. I’m looking at all of you. Just give me any reason and I will single you out. Even U.S. overseas territories are not exempt (Puerto Rico represent!).

This time, it’s Montana.

Although, it’s not for anything that they did wrong.

But it’s absolutely worth noting a harrowing development that’s occurred in the state’s Glacier National Park – its glaciers are disappearing.

Imagine walking into a zoo and seeing only empty fields covered in rhino poop. Or strolling into the Metropolitan Museum of Art and just seeing a homeless dude in the middle of the floor holding a cardboard sign asking for money.

As much as this administration chooses to ignore it, global warming is happening everywhere. But its impact is being more quickly evidenced in western Montana, where, according to state officials, temperatures have increased at double the global average.

Glacier Park2

Just over 100 years ago, the park had about 150 glaciers, which are defined as ice masses larger than 25 acres. Today, only 26 of them meet that benchmark.

But hey, when a Republican congressman brings a snowball onto the Senate floor, then it’s categorical proof that global warming isn’t really happening.

The park estimates that they will have no more active glaciers by 2030.

So if it’s a dream of yours to one day see a glacier in person, I’d recommend making arrangements sooner than later. Also polar bears.

You’d think that fighting climate change might be a priority for Ryan Zinke, the Trump-appointed Secretary of the Interior, who previously served as a U.S. representative from Montana. But, as we’ve learned, make one move that differs from this regime’s agenda and you’re out. Talk about using the bully pulpit against your own cabinet!

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the environment recently. On Thursday, the Senate shockingly — and pleasantly — rejected a resolution that would have scaled back an Obama-era regulation to control the release of methane from oil and gas wells.

Two Republicans, Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine, were expected to defect from their party to oppose the bill, but one more brave GOP dissident was required to obtain a “No” majority. Reportedly, Trump even sent Mike Pence to the Senate floor in expectation that he’d be needed to break a tie.

But in stepped John McCain.

The grizzled Navy veteran, former Vietnam prisoner of war and once presidential candidate emphatically pointed his thumb to the ground, voiced his dissent, and stormed off the floor.

A national hero.

Of course, Trump will probably hold up a binder in a few days demanding that the regulations be repealed anyway.

But hey, until then, environmentalists will take any win they can get.

Someone needs to get Trump to participate in another animated movie family screening, this time of the film Moana, a kids’ movie that basically was about the effects of climate change on our island nations.

Maybe then, we’ll know, how far Trump will go.

Moana joke!

Have a good weekend everybody.

I just met you, and this is crazy. Here’s my number, so Comey maybe

Well, it did not take long for another head of a major federal organization to be relieved under the nascent presidency of Donald J. Trump. And this time, it will have major ramifications.

Tuesday was otherwise a relatively boring day until breaking news dropped in the early evening, capturing every news channel’s full attention.

The resignation of U.S. Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson.

I take pride in knowing I’m maybe one of four people in the world who knows that happened yesterday.

Obviously, the dismissal I’m actually referring to was the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Arguably the most well-known FBI chief since J. Edgar Hoover, Comey will forever be remembered as the man who may or may not have influenced the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

His decision to disclose to Congress that the bureau was re-opening the Hilary Clinton email investigation – an extraordinary deviation from the bureau’s normal investigation protocol of maintaining confidentiality – without acknowledging that they were also investigating Donald Trump will forever go down in infamy.

Within one year, I predict that the words “Comey Letter” will have its own Wikipedia page.

James Comey fired

No one will shed any tears over the firing. In fact, some may look at is as long overdue. Doubts to his credibility from both parties was casting a dark cloud over the FBI.

But I don’t think there’s any question that the timing was extremely odd. It would have been commonplace if Trump removed Comey at the beginning of his presidency. It’s his turn at the helm, and it would have been understandable if he wished to start anew.

But why wait three months? Especially after he previously announced that Comey would keep his job?

If anything, it continues a pattern of unpredictability and spontaneity that makes his administration seem disorganized and incompetent. He also told Preet Bharara he would keep him on as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Weeks later, he fired him.

And now here’s the same story with Comey.

What’s the common trend? Both men were investigating Trump’s ties to Russia. That doesn’t look good for Trump. Saturday Night Massacre, anyone?

Trump cited Comey’s mishandling of the Clinton email investigation as his rationale, but it will take weeks to parse through the specific details of the events that led up to the firing. Already, it’s being reported that Comey had requested additional resources to further his investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.

At the end of the day, though, this is just another bad day for our democracy. You have one side calling this move “authoritarian” and “Nixonian,” and the other lauding it as a “decisive.”

It’s hard these days to be liked in Washington. James Comey learned that the hard way.

And now, Donald Trump must find a replacement to lead the agency that may or may not still be investigating him, while obtaining Senate approval.

That will end well.

It wasn’t hard to predict that we were in line for four years of chaos. Let’s just hope 2020 brings us a cast of inspiring figures who wish to make a run for the presidency, because we’re going to need something to be hopeful about.

And this time, James Comey, when October 2020 rolls around … keep your god damn pen to yourself.