The Lofty World of Hot Air Balloons

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In some areas during the spring, summer, and fall, you might see a hot air balloon or two effortlessly floating in the sky.  Though you may not see them often in the sky, you might see them in decorations and in many postcard worthy pictures like the one above. Still, these lighter than air aircraft consist of a large envelope bag containing heated air which makes it buoyant, usually with an open flame. Invented by the Mongolfier brothers in the 1780s, the hot air balloon was the first successful human-carrying flight technology with the first manned flight taking place in 1783 Paris. Though unmanned ones have existed in China since the 3 Kingdoms era. Today modern hot air balloons are mainly used for advertising and recreation. Yet, they can fly at extremely high altitudes and long distances if need be. Unlike other aircraft, hot air balloons can come in various shapes, sizes, and colors. There are even hot air balloon festivals from around the world which can include races, evening “night glows,” rides, and other activities. But here, I bring you a treasure trove of these fabulous flying machines for your unique reading pleasure.

  1. You’d almost think this balloon is out of this world.

Though the space shuttle seems quite out of place among balloons. Yet, it’s quite awesome to look at.

2. “I tawt I taw a puddy tat.”

You can guess that this balloon has attributes of Tweety Bird. Though you’d probably never saw him up that high before.

3. A balloon like this is reserved for high flying celebrations.

Must be honoring someone or some establishment’s 100th birthday. Yet, I don’t think the candles add up.

4. Now that’s what I call a fly ball.

Okay, “fly ball” is a baseball term and this is a football balloon. Still, football season’s coming up soon.

5. There’s something magical about this castle in the air.

This is for Disneyland. Guess they have their own hot air balloon festival for the tourists.

6. Never thought I’d see a perching bird that huge.

Don’t worry, it’s just a hot air balloon. Not the result of a nuclear power plant accident. So just relax.

7. How about a nice cold pint in the sky?

Yes, apparently, they have beer shaped hot air balloons. But I suppose this is for an advertiser.

8. Watch our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ ascend into the heavens.

May not be like the lauded paintings from the Renaissance. But it’s close enough. And kind of hilarious.

9. Who says that pigs don’t fly?

Though the wings are quite small on this one. Yet, I like the cool shades.

10. Since it’s the Trump administration, I’d have to add a zebra.

The zebras were a bunch of people in costumes in La Paz, Bolivia to calm down traffic. Yet, this kind of resembles one of them.

11. A bouquet of tulips always looks stunning in the air.

Sure they’re not real. But you can’t help but admire them from hundreds of feet. Guess these are for spring.

12. Hope this blue clown can put a smile on your face.

On second thought, that’s kind of creepy. Don’t know why we have clowns stuff like this.

13. Nobody can resist this cute balloon penguin.

Looks a little sad. Still, it’s so adorable that you’d want to hug it and keep it for your very own.

14. The cactus looks as if it’s about to get high right now.

Well, it’s wearing sunglasses. But I’d watch the arms if I were you.

15. Seems like this little bee is quite flighty.

After all, this bee is about as sweet as honey. Seeing it fluttering in the sky is an absolute joy.

16. Wells Fargo sure enjoy their piggy banks.

So much so that they were involved in a scandal pertaining to savings accounts. Though you have to love the hearts on its cheeks.

17. Wonder how this shoe house will get off the ground.

This is perhaps a rendition of the “Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.” But in this case, it’s a Timberland.

18. A star-spangled balloon never fails to please.

It’s blue with white stars on top. Yet, the rest of it consists of red and white checks.

19. Seems like you can find this happy Jack in a box.

Well, it’s a jack-in-the-box. Though it’s not as creepy as some of the real things.

20. Tesco is the supermarket with the great large shopping carts in the sky.

Well, that’s kind of clever. Yet, I’m sure this isn’t a for a US chain store. Because I’ve never heard of the company.

21. You’d almost think you can fly when you’re on this balloon.

It’s supposed to depict Disney’s Peter Pan. Though considered a classic, it’s one of my least favorite Disney movies.

22. There’s a no more American hot air balloon than one of Uncle Sam.

This one has an Uncle Sam face and hat. But at least he seems happy to take to the skies.

23. This one of a kind hot rod is powered only through hot air.

Yes, you can have hot air balloons of cool stuff like this. Though you’d have to use a lot of canvas or nylon.

24. How about a balloon with a more prehistoric flair?

This T-Rex in the sky doesn’t really look like much. Yet, aerial photography isn’t always the best.

25. I’m sure you’ll have it easy getting this Humpty Dumpty over a wall.

Even if it’s Trump’s wall which would do absolutely nothing to keep undocumented immigrants out. But this is cute.

26. Tonight, I hear you can watch a cow jump over the moon.

This is from another nursery rhyme called “Hey Diddle Diddle.” Let’s just say its lines make no sense whatsoever.

27. You’d almost think this hot air balloon came from outer space.

Well, at least the default shape is perfect for the alien head. Hope it doesn’t land in Roswell, New Mexico.

28. This cute little clownfish may not be Nemo but it’ll do.

This one seems to have a little curious grin on its face. Yet it seems to take sailing the skies like swimming in the ocean.

29. These sky carrots apparently belong in their own patch.

Looks like we have a lovely bunch of nylon carrots. Too bad they’ll be devoured by rabbit balloons later.

30. You might find this hot air balloon quite finger lickin’ good.

Yes, there’s KFC hot air balloon, too. Yet, whatever’s in it won’t be good for your blood vessels. I guarantee it.

31. A Lisa Frank hot air balloon shows your girly rainbow pride.

Man, I loved Lisa Frank when I was a kid. Still, this has enough rainbow and glitter to spare.

32. Apparently, this balloon is filled with the luck of the Irish.

Well, it’s a shamrock balloon. So it’s perfect for flying over your local Saint Patrick’s Day parade.

33. A windmill hot air balloon has a fine country touch.

Seems like this one’s from the Netherlands. Mostly because the blades have the Dutch flag. Also, it’s a windmill.

34. With this balloon, the stars and stripes surely fly.

Yes, that’s a big hot air balloon. But at least it has all the stars and stripes.

35. Never though a house in the sky could be this haunted.

This one is for Halloween. Nevertheless, you’ll find hot air balloons for all sorts of occasions.

36. Is there a fire somewhere in the sky?

Seems like this fire truck balloon has a little face on it. Hope it can put out the fire in time.

37. Famous Footwear really put their foot on this one.

Yes, you’ll see a lot of advertiser balloons at a festival. Still, Famous Footwear’s one is perfect.

38. Wonder what creature head this one belongs to.

Resembles a green pointy eared antenna space alien to me. But yes, that’s a very gruesome show of fangs.

39. You might want to take a cue from a pink elephant.

Of course the whole expression of “pink elephant” is totally lost on kids. And yet, this guy looks wasted.

40. Care for a bouquet in the clouds?

This just consists of a bunch of balloons on a pile to make it resemble flowers. Yet, it also looks a bit like rainbow ice cream.

41. Wonder how much a lighthouse can see if it can fly.

A lot more than a regular lighthouse. But this lighthouse balloon is right on the money.

42. A Mardi Gras clown balloon is perfect for a high flying carnival.

As you can see, it has a yellow, green, and purple hat with jingles. Still, not scary as the previous clown.

43. Thought you’d never see a hot air balloon shimmer in the night life.

Yes, this is a hot air balloon in neon lights. And boy, do those lights dazzle like an electric sign?

44. This princess really has her head in the clouds.

She wears a golden crown and has on a pearl necklace. So pretty.

45. With this hot air balloon, adventure awaits at Paradise Falls.

You can bet I had to include the Up house in this hot air balloon post. Still, the house is the basket.

46. Is that a gambling bug flying around?

Well, it has card suites, antennae, and 6 digit.s Yet, it seems to be quite handy with a full deck.

47. The King has made landfall.

But I have to tell you that Elvis has been dead since 1977. Not kidnapped by aliens. But enjoy this hot air balloon in his likeness in the meantime.

48. With this hot air balloon, you’ll have a sea fantasy on a snowy day.

Consists of a happy octopus with a smiling fish and starfish. So adorable but more appropriate at the beach.

49. Celebrate American independence with this hot air balloon.

It’s decked in American flag colors with the Declaration of Independence. Another piece of Americana I had to include.

50. Why modernize when you can just copy an original?

This is a modern rendition of the Mongolfier balloon they used in the 18th century. Strangely it has a Belgian flag instead of the French one in that basket.

51. This rocket balloon will always soar in American glory.

Sure it won’t take you to outer space. But you’ll certainly take to the skies.

52. This hot hair balloon has become this dragon’s true domain.

Okay, it doesn’t look scary. But it goes around the balloon and breathes fire.

53. Someone has to keep law and order in the skies.

Well, this sheriff balloon has a rather quaint look to it. Even has a bobby hat and a sheriff star.

54. I guess this hot air balloon has a medical disposition.

This one has the caduceus insignia on it to symbolize medicine. Guess a simple red cross was already taken.

55. A polar bear hot air balloon is filled with Arctic might.

Guess this was to spread more awareness on climate change. Still, it’s huge when you look at it from the ground.

56. A sky high panda bear is always a wondrous sight to see.

Because what’s cuter than a bear balloon is a panda bear balloon. So adorable you want to cuddle it.

57. Apparently, balloon isn’t meant for the whole family.

Is this to advertise condoms, vibrators, or dildos? At any rate, wouldn’t want to see it from a mile away.

58. This pot seems to have its lid screwed on just right.

Yet, it doesn’t seem to be worried in the open air. From here on, it’s smooth sailing.

59. You’d almost imagine little green men coming out of this one.

Well, it’s a UFO hot air balloon. But some people might not see it this way and perhaps wish whoever’s operating it to take them to their leader.

60. This basset hound is always on the trail up in the air.

This hound is of orange, black, and white. But you’d never find a dog in the skies like it.

61. The Orient Express now offers air service.

Okay, it doesn’t provide air service because it’s a train. But still, this balloon is a near perfect likeness of a steam engine.

62. This skyward barn has much to offer.

Sure it looks like what you’d see in a kiddie’s play set. Even has a cow sticking out of it.

63. This alarm clock balloon will always tell you the time of day.

Well, it’s surely happy to tell you the time. Seems to sport such a happy face.

64. “She keeps a Moet et Chandon in  a pretty cabinet…”

It it’s a kind of wine. But the balloon of it here only consists of the cork.

65. “The Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin’ down the street…”

Well, a stage coach like this is a Wells Fargo icon. So it’s only fitting I include it here.

66. Someone’s got their mind up in the air.

Well, that’s quite a brainy balloon. I know it’s kind of sick but I’m sure some readers will find it pleasing.

67. While the United States has the stars and stripes, Canada has the red maple leaf.

Still, living in the Trump administration, I have to envy them for having a good looking prime minister like Justin Trudeau. Nevertheless, I’ll probably hear more about them come hockey season.

68. A caravel always sails effortlessly through the skies.

Though a real wooden ship wouldn’t look as pretty as this outside the movies. But it’s surely lovely to behold.

69. Now here’s a fire extinguisher that could put out a wildfire.

Okay, I’m kidding on that one. But I’m sure the people of California could only wish this was a real fire extinguisher instead of a balloon of one.

70. Of course, you can’t have a hot air balloon festival without including Noah’s Ark.

Because it’s a big boat with all the animals on it which kids can enjoy. Sure they were on there to wait out a flood. But nobody cares when it’s a balloon festival.

71. No hot air balloon festival is ever complete without a butterfly.

This one has especially colorful wings. And an adorable little face to go with them.

72. Perhaps you might want to see EPCOT fly these days.

Now EPCOT is a part of the Walt Disney World in Florida. Also, I’ve actually been there back in 2008.

73. Even in the sky you’ll bound to behold a tasty chocolate sundae.

This one includes a cone and a cherry on top. But don’t bet on them serving ice cream there.

74. This turtle is always ready to take off from anywhere.

Too bad he has his shoes untied. Then again, he’ll probably still beat the hare anyway.

75. Never thought I’d see a green Jaguar in the air.

I’m sure people attending the festival would later buy a Jaguar. If they happen to possess a Swiss bank account or a yacht.

76. Even at a hot air balloon festival, Mr. Peanut always knows how to make an entrance.

And even after so many years, he’s as dapper as ever. Only difference is that he’s voiced by Bill Hader.

77. In case of a blaze, you can always count on this guy.

Okay, he won’t actually put out fires. But you have to love him in his large, red fireman hat.

78. Now here’s a hot air balloon that keeps going and going…

Because that’s what the Energizer Bunny does. Well, until the batteries inside it die.

79. A US spaceman takes it to infinity and beyond.

Sure it has an over-sized head and short limbs. But I’m sure space geeks will adore it.

80. A jack-o-lantern hot air balloon is pure Halloween delight.

I guess this is for a fall hot air balloon festival. Wonder if it lights up at night like the real thing.

81. A Remax house always makes for a happy home.

Too I can’t see more of this thing. Then again, it’s sometimes hard to take pictures of hot air balloons that do justice.

82. Not sure if this is the kind of atmosphere for a deep sea diver.

And this one is dressed in a black and yellow suit. Cute but not sure if the sky is the best place for it.

83. There’s nothing more fluffy in the sky than a small cottage

This is for bread, I recall. Yet, the home appears rather quaint and cozy like a Keebler elf house.

84. A macaw in the sky is a colorful parrot to behold on a ledge.

Yes, it’s in a perching position. But the bird itself really can fly. Guess sitting is more regal in a hot air balloon form.

85. The sky is a wonderful place for a peacock to spread its wings.

Well, doesn’t seem to have much of a train. But a colorful tail like that will surely do for me.

86. A lofty hot air balloon can depict a symbol of the nation.

Though I’d much rather like a bald eagle attack Donald Trump. Because he’s an illegitimate president and narcissistic sociopath with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

87. This hot air balloon seeks to raise awareness and fight for the cure.

Then again, I kind of wish the Breast Cancer Awareness should focus on prevention. But yes, we should talk about it more. And not just in October.

88. Horton the Elephant will always be faithful 100% in flight.

Nice to see a hot air balloon of Horton from the Jungle of Nool. Yet, I have no idea where his clover is which has the speck of dust of Whoville.

89. Seems like this hot air balloon comes straight from the Dark Side.

I can almost hear the notes to the “Imperial March.” Still, this Darth Vader balloon is pretty damn cool.

90. If you liked Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc., then you’ll like this hot air balloon.

Yes, he’s everyone’s favorite cyclops. Though you’d have to hear him and Sully sing, “Put That Thing Back Where It Came From or So Help Me.”

91. Odd to see a pair of pants in the air. Wonder who put them there.

I know you’d think it’s a strange hot air balloon shape. But at least it’s an original design.

92. This penguin is all ready for fun in the sun.

It even has sunglasses, sandals, a hat, and Hawaiian shirt. So adorable.

93. Perhaps you’d want a bottle of wine for the skies.

Not sure what the wine is. But it sure has a lovely bottle design. Quite distinctive.

94. Not sure how a forklift operates in the sky.

Well, it’s for a forklift company. Still, you’d have to give kudos for this balloon design.

95. Large green balloon, Yoda is.

Little wrinkled and green man, Yoda is. But balloon amplifies his head tremendously, it does.

96. You wouldn’t expect Santa Claus to show up in a balloon of his own likeness.

Yes, they have hot air balloon festivals all year long. Even around Christmas. And this Santa is huge.

97.  Wonder if this scarecrow can frighten the crows this high.

Probably since it’s so high. But on the other hand, it’s so adorable with its smile.

98. Oust will always keep the air fresh, even in the skies.

Though I’m not sure this will help you ward off odors of cow manure. Because it’s a hot air balloon.

99. Christ the Redeemer rises in Rio.

Bet this was for the Olympic Games in Rio. Still, have to admire Jesus’s jersey.

100. You can never have a great balloon fest without including Ben and Jerry.

Though this balloon doesn’t have any of its wacky flavors. Still, it soars.

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The Funerary World of Coffins

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It is often said that funerals are more meant for the living than the deceased since it involves saying goodbye to a loved one. Of course, this year, I had to attend my grandfather’s funeral on the week of my birthday back in January. Now while it’s hard to deal with his loss for me and anyone else in my family, his death wasn’t much of a shock since he was 89 years old. Nevertheless, funerals are often big business since death is an inevitable part of the human existence. I mean sooner or later we’re all going to die. So we might as well get used to it. Funerals are a ritual in which we celebrate a recently dead person’s life before we send them on their way to the great beyond. Oftentimes this would involve embalming the person’s body and sticking them in a ludicrously expensive box known as a casket or coffin. For the next few days that body is on display for a viewing until just before the funeral in which they’re often shipped away to a place of worship and later the cemetery and six feet under. Normally a coffin is a long rectangular (or hexagonal) wooden (or metal) box which often contains a cloth liner and a pillow. Yet, there are some custom coffins out there which can be a little creative, which is where I come in. So for your reading pleasure, I give you an assortment of crazy coffins you’ll probably never see at anyone’s funeral. Enjoy.

  1. If your late nana always wanted to take a cruise but couldn’t, you might want to bury her in this.

There is a place in Ghana where they make custom made coffins like this. I guess this is for someone who worked on a cruise ship.

2. With a coffin like this, your dead pilot can reach the heavens in no time.

So what if it doesn’t actually fly. It’s just perfect for that one co-pilot on a flight to that great destination in the sky.

3. For a departed ballerina, a slipper casket will do.

Might be for Nina from Black Swan after she fatally stabbed herself. But it’s more likely for a dance teacher or choreographer.

4. Seems like John was a snooker man.

Because the balls here are all one color. Had he played pool, he would’ve been in more trouble a lot earlier.

5. Looks like this casket is bent over.

It’s actually a sitting coffin designed by surrealist Rene Magritte. You know him for his freaky paintings with the guy’s head behind an apple.

6. If you’re in a casket like this, it’s always hammer time.

That or it’s a perfect sendoff for a someone who was a real tool. Still, you don’t want to nail it in too hard.

7. Now this is a perfect send off for a real mother hen.

This is weird looking chicken. But I guess the deceased was a farmer. Though you can’t count them until they hatch.

8. This pink fish coffin is designed for those who let the big one get away.

Well, I guess there are pink fish in Africa. Still, talk about a fish out of water.

9. Of course, these coffins can give you the “fun” in funeral.

These one stand up and have faces on them. Not sure if they help ease the grieving process.

10. Your Uncle Stan may not be able to take his hot rod with him, but this is the next best thing.

I guess this casket didn’t come cheap. Then again, none of these do.

11. I’m guessing this was custom made for a woman.

Because it has boobs on it. Still, women have been buried in regular caskets for like ever.

12. For a funeral in Aspen, may I recommend an Alpine sendoff.

Well, this doesn’t seem too expensive. Just put the corpse in a bag and tie them to a sled with skis.

13. Now poor Charlie is literally in the jaws of death.

Yes, this is a shark coffin. I know what you’re thinking. But come on, I had to include one of these on my post.

14. Seems like this casket is someone’s key for the afterlife.

Though you’d be press to find a door it can unlock. Yet, it’s quite clever and simpler than some of the other designs.

15. A fancy car coffin should send you to that high end club in the sky.

Yes, there are coffins of cars, too. And this one’s windows are lined to give the dead person privacy.

16. There’s nothing like one last smoke before final departure.

Ever want to guess what killed this person. I think I have an idea. I mean it’s shaped like a cigarette so it’s practically obvious.

17. Before you go to the great beyond, remember to give us a call.

Turns out this Blackberry coffin has its own cover. Though the deceased is never calling back.

18. You’d find this casket rather reflective.

Well, it’s made from mirrors. Then again, light might bounce off of it if it’s a particularly sunny day.

19. How about be buried in a fancy eco-coffin?

These are cardboard coffins that disintegrate with the corpse over time. And they come in a variety of patterns.

20. If you’re on the highway to hell, why not have flames on your casket?

Yes, it certainly looks badass. Yet, you’d have to wonder who’d want to be buried in this.

21. Seems like fins are sticking out.

Actually the shark fins are part of the casket. Gives a more badass touch so to speak.

22. A Nintendo fan wouldn’t leave without their controls.

Sure the controls won’t work. But that doesn’t matter where this guy’s going.

23. He always wanted to go out with a bang.

Let’s hope that whatever this coffin looks like didn’t get him there. Because we all know what guns do to people.

24. How about you take your final trip in a convertible?

Well, you may not be able to get dates in it. Unless they happen to be among the choirs of angels.

25. You can say Brad lit up everyone’s lives.

That or he was a renowned electrician. Then again, even electricians will eventually burn out.

26. This eagle casket will certainly send your loved one soaring.

I have to admit, it has really nice feathers. Still, it’s more of a totem figure than anything.

27. For this deceased, it’s all 7s.

I guess this guy never had this much luck at a slot machine. Because no one ever does.

28. I guess who’s ever in there was a real basket case.

This is a wicker coffin and yes, it’s said to be eco friendly. Wonder if the Israelites put a dead Moses in one and sent him down the river. Oh, wait, they were in the desert. But it would’ve been an appropriate funeral for him.

29. If you’re in this coffin, chances are you’ll meet the Doctor at another time.

Well, I’m sure Doctor Who fans would want to be buried in this. Hope they don’t run into any Daleks along the way.

30. Your loved one will be camping forever in this one.

After all, people did camp in such trailers back in the day. And the windows have striped curtains.

31. Guess this woman is doing a solo on someone’s casket.

Well, it’s shaped like a large guitar. Yet, it’s a perfect sendoff for any well-known rock star.

32. Perhaps you might want a perfect picture of the afterlife.

This is a Canon. I’m sure it doesn’t work. But it certainly looks state of the art.

33. Send off your dead loved one in a casket of luxury.

By the way, this is what Michael Jackson’s coffin looked like. I’m sure it didn’t come cheap.

34. A boat motor coffin is perfect for whatever floats your boat.

Why a motor? Doesn’t make sense to me. Also does it float when you put it on the water?

35. A glass coffin always makes death transparent.

For some reason, I find the glass coffin idea kind of creepy. Must be due to Snow White, I guess.

36. If you want to make a statement, get buried in neon.

Now that’s my kind of coffin. Love the metallic stripes on it. So pretty.

37. Seems like a late DJ can drop a few beats.

Yet, I’m sure the club in the sky will have a very good selection. In fact, many of the musicians themselves are there.

38. Who’s said that a coffin should fit one when this fits 3?

There’s actually a sad story behind this one. So I won’t recall it. But yes, these do exist.

39. If you want a custom made coffin, this seems like a good fit.

Seems more like a containment chamber than a coffer. But hey, to each his own.

40. With this coffin, you can play video games for all eternity.

I’m sure plenty of people would want that. Yet, how can you play video games if you’re dead?

41. Instead of just a box, how about add a box kite?

After all, death should be a time when one should fly. Because death is always forever.

42. Perhaps it’s best to bury him the way they found him.

I guess they have a crime scene coffin, too. Not sure if that’s right. But it looks pretty funny.

43. For those who love beer, it’s an honor to be buried in a Pabst blue label.

Hope this person didn’t die from liver cirrhosis. Because alcoholism is a major problem right now.

44. This coffin was made for a real NASCAR sendoff.

Yet, if you want the real thing, make sure it crashes and burns into another coffin just like it. Not sure if that’s possible though.

45. This Twix coffin was built for 2.

Because Twix come in packs of 2. Hope you can get the picture here.

46. Lie in this coffin and nobody will forget you.

This is another Ghana coffin. Notice that it’s more in a traditional style.

47. You’d almost think this coffin was somebody’s dream house.

Well, sort of. But it certainly has a nice roof and porch to it. Love it.

48. This guy must’ve been a real monkey wrench back in his day.

Well, at least that one was easier to make than the hammer. But I wonder how you’d bury it.

49. Nothing makes a great send off than lying in a flamboyant lizard.

Well, if you can’t get buried in a dinosaur, then this must be the next best thing. But it’s still pretty cool.

50. Now this is how you pay tribute to an American hero.

Too bad the military just sticks with regular wooden coffins and draped flags. This seems more appropriate.

51. A dead piano player has to lie in this classy coffin.

This one even has keys on the side. Sure they don’t work, but it’s quite grand.

52. Looks like this coffin has received a lot of signage.

Though signing one’s casket isn’t usually a funerary tradition. Then again, to each his own.

53. An ocean lover would certainly would like to lie in this squid.

Then again, they’s probably prefer fish. But this seems like it can float one’s boat.

54. How about the porcelain treatment?

It’s just a wooden box with porcelain designs. Seems more appropriate for a china closet than 6 feet under.

55. This Nikon coffin is very state of the art.

Even resembles a real camera. May not take pretty pictures. But doesn’t look half bad.

56. Any last concessions?

I mean it’s a concession stand casket. But Quaker is the only brand I recognize.

57. How about a call back with this Nokia coffin?

This one even has a video screen. And I also hear it’s rather indestructible, too.

58. Ever wish you can be buried in your yacht? Now you can.

Well, sort of. Doesn’t quite resemble a yacht. But it’ll probably cost you an arm and a leg.

59. Bet you’re sure where this train car is going to take you.

Well, it more or less resembles a passenger car, not an engine. Because I couldn’t find the train engine. But this works.

60. Wonder how well this coffins projects this person’s life.

Then again, it seems this person worked at a movie theater. Though the reels don’t have film.

61. Seems like the fine wine has gone to vinegar in this casket.

Still, it’s kind of strange to have a bottle in the cask. Like the guy is a bottle.

62. He who’s buried in the remote controls all.

And this is for a Philips DVD player. All right, but you can’t push the buttons.

63. If you can’t be buried in your luxury ride, this luxury coffin will do.

Sure it might be real nice on the inside. But the only trip this thing will take you is 6 feet under.

64. Never thought you could be buried in a vise.

After all, a vise isn’t among the cool tools out there. Still, I wonder if it has any adjustments.

65. Wouldn’t necessarily call it a walkman. More like a lie-man.

Well, it’s in the shape of a walkman which people haven’t used for years. It’s kind of like an obsolete mp3 player.

66. Imagine yourself lying dead inside this scary lobster.

Well, that’s a gruesome lobster coffin. Definitely don’t want to be buried in that.

67. You’ll probably burn being buried in a red hot chili pepper.

You’d think this place in Ghana would make coffins of just about anything. Not surprised by this.

68. If you’re holy, you’d might want a coffin of biblical proportions.

Even has gold leaf on the pages and title. Just like a Bible should. But you’ll only find a body in this one.

69. In this coffin, you can write your own eternity.

Heard they have one that’s specifically for her. As if women haven’t been using these for decades.

70. Perhaps you might opt for a Venetian sendoff.

Because in Venice, they travel through canal boats since a lot of their streets are waterways. Though don’t ask for a gondola to sing for you there.

71. I guess this guy lying here was a bit of an old timer.

After all, it’s the kind of car you’d see on Downton Abbey. Still, whoever’s in that coffin better be old.

72. This gives a whole new meaning to “one foot in the grave.”

And it seems to be a Nike sneaker in this case. Even has its own laces.

73. The iDie brings the latest in funerary technology.

Something tells me that Steve Jobs was buried in this. I mean he invented the thing.

74. Now this coffin appears as pretty as a peacock.

Well, it certainly has a vivid feather train. And the man who made it is very proud of himself.

75. This turtle coffin takes the slow course to the cemetery.

Though you have to admire the shell shades on this one. Colors really go together.

76. How about a beer coffin by the bottle?

Guess this is a Ghana brand. Yet, “Club Beer” is hardly an original name if you ask me.

77. This coffin seems to have money all over it.

Guess this will be Donald Trump’s coffin when he dies. Because money seems to be among the few things that matter to him.

78. Uh, isn’t that bag a bit too large for carry-on luggage.

Caption: “Student Kirsten stands next to a coffin looking like a travel bag in a museum in Kassel, central Germany, Thursday, June 9, 2005. The exhibition called “crazy coffins” contains 16 different coffins and is open from June 9 to September 4.”

79. You’ve heard of rolling in Benjamins. How about lying in them?

Yes, this coffin is a stack of money. Only meant for the 1% who basically take it from the rest of us day in and day out.

80. A fallen deer hunter should always receive this special treatment.

Bet my neighbors will get a kick out of this. It even includes camo coffin liner.

81. May you lie in your final resting spot well grilled to perfection.

Now this’ll make your next summer barbeque an awkward experience. But I think it’s quite amusing.

82. Sometimes one might want to go with a more concept coffin design.

Basically it says that one’s deceased loved one was basically like leftover restaurant food. Come on, that totally is styrofoam.

83. Even in death you should always put your best foot forward.

This one is a more manly shoe. And it has been shine you can see yourself in it.

84. Hop aboard this plane for great luxury seating arrangements.

Too bad it only sits one. But at least the pink lining goes with the blue paint.

85. Perhaps you shouldn’t mind lying exposed sometimes.

Not sure why they have a coffin like this. Still, you can open it behind the boobs.

86. A dead fisherman should be sent off in this big beauty.

Yes, it’s my third fish coffin on this post. And yes, it’s pink. But it a white stripe on its belly.

87. How’d you like to be in this bottle of Coca Cola?

It even stands up on its own, too. Anyway, wouldn’t want to be in there.

88. This Hello Kitty coffin is a rather girly delight.

Actually it’s kind of creepy. I mean Hello Kitty is for little girls. Little girls stuff shouldn’t be on coffins.

89. For a majestic soul, you might want to lie in this lion coffin.

This one seems to take a lot of craftsmanship. Check out the detail on that mane.

90. This coffin was brought to you by Ghana Air.

Yes, I had to include this one. Because that’s where a lot of these outrageous coffins were made.

91. If you’re in Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, try this coffin for size.

Bob must’ve been a die hard Beatles fan to be buried in this coffin. Yet, 2 of the guys on the side are still alive.

92. With this Viking boat coffin, you can give your loved one a send off fit for a warrior.

Just make sure you set it on fire as you set it on the water. Because that’s what happens at a Viking funeral.

93. How’d you like to be buried in a bottle of Jack Daniels?

Bet that would be fine with people who’d eventually die from Jack Daniels. Like Frank Sinatra for instance.

94. Well, since your funeral is a final sendoff, you might as well go with this.

Sure it depicts Da Vinci’s Last Supper. But c’mon, it’s a Renaissance masterpiece for God’s sake.

95. May this Tupperware coffin always keep your remains fresh.

After all, Hannibal Lecter has given these good reviews on Amazon. Okay, I’m getting a little too weird here.

96. This Panasonic coffin can always capture the moment.

Well, it would certainly give you a moment you’d remember. Because most coffins aren’t shaped like cameras at all.

97. Be buried in a way that’s fitting to any Starfleet officer.

Notice that it’s yellow for a command officer. Because redshirt bodies are normally left behind on the planet.

98. Seems like someone was murdered in here.

Actually that’s part of the casket. I know someone has a very sick sense of humor.

99. Seems like this nurse has had her last shot.

And they’re apparently burying her in a hypodermic needle. Quite fitting if you ask me.

100. You can easily sit on this casket if you want to.

It’s made to resemble a bench. Even has a leather lid you can sit on. Imagine that.

Fantastic Amazon Reviews Well Worth Your Time

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In the age of the internet, Amazon has emerged as the default retail outlet offering everything from books, gadgets, toys, and what have you. It also helps that before you make your purchase, you can read what other people have to say about a product in its review section. Each review can come with a 1-5 star rating along with an explanation. Most of these reviews can provide rather useful information even if they tend to be boring to read. Though they may not always be reliable since everyone has an individual bias. But there are some merchandise on Amazon that have rather entertaining reviews you can read just for kicks. Of course, some of them aren’t meant to be taken seriously, especially if they’re written by a person who didn’t purchase the product at all, perhaps to point out a fault and mock it. Yet, there are always some who might not simply understand the product’s purpose at all. So for your reading pleasure, I give you a grand treasure trove of Amazon reviews that will be well worth your time. I insist. Some of these might not be safe for work, by the way.

  1. This gas mask might not be ideal gear for an armed robbery.

Of course, it wouldn’t. The product description makes it perfectly clear it’s for a Halloween costume and isn’t supposed to function like a real gas mask. But this reviewer didn’t get the memo.

2. If you don’t have strawberry jam, this lube will do just fine.

However, strawberry lube isn’t a viable substitute for jam. Because lube isn’t made for human consumption. Well, it is, but I can’t get into that.

3. A stainless steel tongue cleaner is perfect for any dirty mouth.

It’s only fitting that many of these reviews are for ridiculous products. This one says how great their tongue has been since they tried it.

4. Can’t afford this $120,000 TV, you might qualify for financing.

Okay, this guy is just making fun of how this TV costs more than a car. Like what he says about the box he now lives in.

5. Dexter Morgan rated this stainless steel prep table 5 stars.

Still, if you’re a guy like Dexter Morgan, you shouldn’t review products on Amazon. I mean he’s basically giving himself away here.

6. For a Florida photographer, everything about this Sigma zoom lens is great except for the color.

Since it weighs 40 lbs and resembles a missile, you can clearly see why. Still, you would think it would come in black or gray like most camera gear.

7. You know you have good noise cancelling headphones, if you can’t hear your neighbor getting stabbed when wearing them.

Nevertheless, I’d be even more impressed if it pertained to someone getting shot. Because even with noise canceling headphones it would be hard not to hear a gun go off.

8. Uh, I don’t think I’d drink that Tuscan Whole Milk if I were you.

Actually, I think this review is a joke on how ridiculous it is to buy food online. The milk is obviously spoiled that it’s practically cheese. Disgusting.

9. Unfortunately, this Playmobil security checkpoint set doesn’t capture the real life experience.

The fact toys like this exists today really says a lot about our culture. Still, it’s funny how this kid wants a Playmobil neighborhood surveillance system.

10. Apparently, this account of Wagner’s Ring Cycle will satisfy any opera fan.

I think this person writes this review in order to put in a few sex jokes. Yes, “Penetrating Wagner’s Ring,” really?

11. Aspiring to be a dictator of a 3rd world country? Amazon has just the tank for you.

Actually this is just a $20,000 toy because civilians aren’t allowed to even own a real tank. Nor should they.

12. This classic cremation urn is perfect for storing your loved one’s ashes or brown sugar.

However, storing brown sugar in a cremation urn to play jokes on your friends is just sick. Also, I can tell ashes and brown sugar apart, thank you very much.

13. A pair of Zubaz pants can always make  you feel like a man.

I don’t know about you, but I find these zebra pants outrageously tacky. Seriously, this guy has no idea how ridiculous these look.

14. For the love of God, don’t ever buy this zombie garden gnome.

I’m sure this zombie garden gnome is perfectly harmless. Why? Because gnomes are sculptures that don’t come to life.

15. According to this guy, using this toilet brush was absolute agony.

Uh, I don’t think he understands that people use a toilet brush to clean their toilet. Not wipe their butt with it.

16. Sometimes a Rubbermaid ice cube tray can make all the difference.

Okay, this review might come from someone who may have a problem. Even said how they threw away their old trays into an active volcano.

17. When using this no-crow rooster collar, proceed with caution.

From reading this, it appears this thing actually chokes the rooster wearing it for a long period of time. Talk about a device that’s cruel to animals.

18. Barbasol shaving cream is perfect for corporate espionage operations.

The review seems to come from a guy straight out of Jurassic Park. Also, I’m sure he’ll probably regret transporting those dinosaur embryos.

19. Mace brand bear pepper spray isn’t always 100% effective.

Uh, are you sure you aimed at the bear correctly? Because according to HowStuffWorks, bear spray is effective about 92-98% of the time. However, you have to spray the bear in the face.

20. Avery Durable Binder is great for storing women away.

This is a play on the Mitt Romney comment of “binders full of women” back in 2012. Yes, good times.

21. A lined cat muzzle will sure keep your kitty from staring at you awkwardly and eating.

Other than being possibly cruel to animals, this guy gave it a positive review. Though he might want to let his cat eat and breathe once in awhile.

22. Apparently, this watch doesn’t tell the time like this user wants it to.

For God’s sake, 1.3 milliseconds is nothing. Also, this guy seems to resort to really sick means of timekeeping which I can’t describe right now.

23. Sorry, but a coat rack won’t solve your relationship issues.

Seriously, this guy needs to move on. Also, what the hell does he think a coat rack is supposed to do?

24. A plastic desktop fan does a wonderful job keeping a man’s junk cool.

Still, I don’t think it’s this fan’s intended purpose. Also, why would a guy need to keep his junk cool? I don’t understand it.

25. Speaking of a man’s junk, best to avoid using veet on it.

I think this was made for men’s faces, not their private parts. And this guy just had to warn everyone.

26. Cheeseburger earmuffs will surely keep you warm.

I’d like to see a picture to get some idea on what the hamburger earmuffs looked like. But the description is fine by me.

27. Easy bake oven doesn’t bake anything right.

For God’s sake, is this person an idiot? The Easy Bake Oven is a toy, not an appliance! You can’t bake a loaf of bread in it.

28. Seems like someone’s complaining how this case can’t contain their pelican.

They don’t seem to get that Pelican is a brand name. It doesn’t say it’s a case for pelicans which it isn’t. But this person didn’t see it that way.

29. This $22,000 camera cost this person everything, but it was worth it.

$22,000 for a camera, that’s insane. User said it cost them 4 years rent and now has a restraining order against their kids due to gross negligence. Well, no shit.

30. Forever Lazy suits are great for couples who can’t get their hands off each other and those who gave up on life.

I can’t see why a fleece onesie would be sexy. Though the notion it can almost set a house on fire doesn’t surprise me.

31. According to this guy, this Bible doesn’t work at all.

Apparently, this person doesn’t get the idea of prayer. Sure he might want a Porsche or a burger. But you can’t take Scripture literally for God’s sake. Jesus Christ!

32. This $90,000 Zenith watch is a real bargain.

I’m sure this is a person who has more money than God. Because a normal person wouldn’t blow $90,000 on a watch and be able to afford a car or a vacation.

33. This book basically spoils everything on the cover and isn’t fun to read.

That’s because it was written for babies. Of course, you wouldn’t find it of any literary value.

34. Blowing all your money on these Nike foam sneakers is well worth the wait.

I know this is a joke. But spending $3,000 for shoes is obscene, especially if it provides the same kind of comfort as a pair costing $60.

35. These Bic Pens for Her have made this housewife a whole new woman.

I guess this is a play on Bic’s ridiculous idea as if women couldn’t write until they got their own pens. Besides, as a woman, I’ve used regular Bic pens for years.

36. This UFO Detector doesn’t work and isn’t worth the money.

I’m sure this UFO detector is more of a toy than anything. Because if it was used to detect UFOs, MIB would already have one.

37. Seems like sugar free gummi bears are a perpetual nightmare.

Uh, I’ve probably ate about 20 of these myself at one point. Nothing like that has happened to me at all. This is just insane.

38. For a 21st century workout, try this smart floor exerciser.

The mention of the NSA in this review cracked me up. But yes, this is a ridiculous product.

39. I’m sure you’re not supposed to go camping in this pyramid.

Because it’s not a tent. It’s for meditation in the outdoors. But try telling it to this guy.

40. Seaweed extract can rid you of house ghosts and cure your cat’s autism.

I guess this person knows this is a scam product that’s full of shit. But the review is funny.

41. This Kindle waterproof case cover does its job.

However, this customer didn’t seem quite satisfied with using it. Because they didn’t expect it to work so well.

42. This chastity device will keep your boy from jerking off when he hits puberty.

Look, I know men talk about their junk too much. But I totally understand if they think it’s a torture device.

43. Seems like this guy had no idea there were cheaper TVs available.

I’m like “no shit,” since my parents have a smart Samsung one that cost considerably less money. So I can’t blame the guy’s wife for kicking him out.

44. These Rubbermaid ice cube trays can change everything.

For some reason, people seem to view these ice cube trays as a lifesaver. Not sure why.

45. This banana slicer has saved this woman’s marriage.

For God’s sake, it’s a freaking banana slicer! It’s not a miracle device! It’s just used for slicing bananas like no big deal.

46. This USB cable works too fast.

Funny, cause excessive speed in a cable wouldn’t be what I’d complain about. Though the user gave the product 2 stars.

47. This horse head mask has saved lives.

Really? This is for looking silly, not for witness protection. Besides, it’s inspired by a key scene in The Godfather.

48. With Veet for Men, his farts are louder than before.

I guess Veet for Men is as ridiculous as a ballpoint pen for women. Still, I’m sure its Amazon page is fun to read.

49. If you need to learn English as a second language, this is the book for you.

I don’t think this is written by a real Russian. But it’s quite funny as hell.

50. Why waste toilet paper, when this bidet spray clean your butt better?

Sometimes you have to wonder if people are too open about their bodily functions. Still, not sure if I’d want this.

51. With a Swiss Army knife like this, a woman can turn into a man.

I wouldn’t go that far. But I see this woman’s point. Yet, no one could fit that in their pockets.

52. Apparently, a dinosaur T-shirt can get a guy to go too far.

It’s even funnier when you find out that the person’s son is a 29-year-old man. But yeah, don’t stick eggs up your ass. Please.

53. While this product works, you’d think this guy should’ve left his wife a long time ago.

Reading this you’d have to wonder about this guy. Tattoo remover or not, this guy’s wife was going to kick him out either way.

54. This lighter fluid review just states the obvious.

Well, at least it states what you can find in the product information. Not much else I can say.

55. Hulk hands won’t get you out of a life or death situation.

People don’t buy Hulk hands for fighting. Though it’s funny to know that the reviewer describes a schoolyard bullying scene and he’s in college.

56. This stun gun will defend you from potential muggers in the Walmart parking lot.

When you actually read this, you realize this guy is a real asshole. I mean he tried to electrocute a bunch of Girl Scouts.

57. Now here is a cookbook for those who give up on life.

I guess when people read this book, they think of those who’ll probably die alone. Yeah, kind of depressing.

58. This waterproof bluetooth speaker sure lives up to its description.

And this person says it’s quite indestructible, too. Because they said their father-in-law’s survived a tornado.

59. This penguin mask will surely scare the kiddies.

Yes, it’s kind of creepy. But what the hell, it could be fun if you like scaring people.

60. A bottle of glitter can be used for more than arts and crafts.

Apparently, from this review, it makes a handy security system. But this guy’s roommate wasn’t impressed.

61. A USB port for multiple devices can solve a lot of problems.

Yet, crippling alcoholism and an unhealthy obsession with Dakota Fanning will certainly wreck this relationship. This couple is really screwed up.

62. This silent wired mouse has saved at least one relationship.

Uh, I don’t think this guy should celebrate yet. Seriously, his girlfriend is literally cheating on him.

63. No, The Wolf of Wall Street didn’t have anything to do with wolves.

Still, if there were, it would’ve been a way better movie. At least a lot of the Wall Street characters would get what they deserved.

64. Unfortunately, Sunshine isn’t a movie about daylight savings time.

Also, this guy seems to have crazy expectations of this film. Maybe he just didn’t understand it.

65. This Furby is such an obnoxious toy you don’t want to get your child.

Well, furbies are annoying toys since they were a fad in the 1990s. But I don’t think it will turn your son into a hipster.

66. According to this guy, Good Will Hunting is a good movie ruined by excessive profanity.

Boy, this guy is sure going to hate The Wire. Besides, I didn’t think the profanity in this movie was that bad.

67. With a Bic pen for women, you can be a super woman.

Yes, Bic for Her is a ridiculous product and this review shows this. And no, I’m afraid she won’t end up with Robert Pattinson.

68. Unicorn meat is highly unethical.

They recommend you stick to dragon meat instead. Still, the unicorn meat isn’t real.

69. This horse head mask won’t fit on horses.

That’s because it was made for humans. So of course, it wouldn’t fit on a horse.

70. Fiji water is liquid ice.

This person is making fun of the concept of bottled water. I mean why buy it in a bottle when you can get it through pipes?

71. Guys, want to do other things while drinking beer? Behold, the black leather beer holster.

Of course, he does list some activities you’d rather not try while holding your beer in the holster. Yet, he rates it 5 stars.

72. Uh, I don’t think that wolf urine is meant for human consumption.

Actually, I think it’s for warding deer off your yard. Still, tasting it yourself is pretty disgusting.

73. This large Snickers bar is the best way to contract diabetes.

As to why you’d want that, I don’t have the slightest idea. But this guy does have a point.

74. Nothing can bring you joy like a bottle of face paint.

Though if you’re white, don’t go out with the brown one on. I hope I need not explain why.

75. Now if they had paper for women, this woman can finally learn to write.

Another slam on the Bic for Her. Because women have used the regular pens for years.

76. To avoid nuclear meltdowns, this tape is highly recommended.

No, this kind of tape probably wouldn’t be good for a nuclear power plant. But the review is very funny.

77. Hope teenagers can learn their lessons on avoiding huge ships.

Reading this, you’d almost think this person was talking about drugs. Yet, you can’t help but laugh.

78. This ancient humidor contains phenomenal cosmic powers.

Still, I think this review is full of crap or a complete joke. And no, I don’t think it was made by aliens.

79. The iPotty makes potty training easier.

Yet, I can see why this man isn’t the custodial parent. Also, letting your boy read “gentleman’s magazines” isn’t great parenting.

80. With a can of uranium ore, who knows what would happen.

There’s even a TMNT reference in it. Also, someone now types with 6 fingers. These are great.

81. For those attending an alt-righter’s Halloween party, have I got the mask for you.

Seems more like a lawn jockey mask. But if your friends like to dress in white robes, cut holes in sheets with conical tops, and burn a cross in the yard, go for it.

82. Grandpa’s pine tar soap makes a guy smell like a man.

Well, at least it’s not Axe. Still, don’t you enjoy reading Amazon reviews on men’s hygiene products?

83. The mangroomer gets rid of that pesky back hair.

You see, it’s rather easy to reach. But some guy got caught up in a lawsuit over it for some reason.

84. Be an invisible force in the night with this ninja mask.

So this thing can turn you into a badass? I don’t see how it’s possible.

85. Make your home look great with a Wallmonkey stock photo decal.

I can understand decals of superheroes, Harry Potter, or sports. But this is ridiculous.

86. If you’re a cop, equip yourself with some Blue Brand Pepper Spray.

Here this person is mocking how law enforcement treat campus protestors. Yes, I know it’s pretty appalling. But they make a point.

87. Start them young in counterterrorism with this toy predator drone.

I know drones are controversial. But I’m sure this is a toy that won’t hurt anyone.

88. This Samsung Framed TV is the best thing ever!

Seems like this guy really loves his TV despite how expensive it is and doesn’t fit in their house. Not sure if it’s worth it.

89. This Nicholas Cage pillow is a real national treasure.

No, I don’t think Nic Cage pillow is something I’d want to own. Besides, he’s a practical washout nowadays.

90. This portly frog is an artistic masterpiece.

But to me it’s a tacky lawn ornament you can buy almost anywhere. Though to each his own.

91. These shoes are great when you’re being chased by a dog.

This review is straight from The Sandlot. It’s one of those movies about baseball that’s based in the 1960s. Great for preteens.

92. The wife may take everything, but the man controls the thermostat.

Enjoy tormenting your ex-wife while it lasts, buddy. Cause you won’t be controlling the thermostat for long.

93. This Tri-bladed hand claw is perfect for getting syrup from a tree.

Makes me wonder why sap producers don’t use it very often. Also, you don’t get much sap from a tree to put on pancakes anyway.

94. A binder like this is great for office professionals, awful for caterers.

Once again, the binders full of women joke from 2012. Some can’t seem to get enough of these.

95. This guide is handy if you have adult children or a lot of them.

The second comment seems to make no sense whatsoever. Parents must’ve misread the title.

96. These sponges always put a smile on this user’s face.

But this person says they never use them and draws faces on them. Hope this person understands what sponges are for.

97. Clive Christian Imperial Majesty perfume will almost sweep any woman off her feet.

Well, if you’re talking about perfume for men, this is a good review to advertise. An interesting read.

98. If you love vultures, this mask is for you.

Though this person seems to be out for revenge. Also, unless it’s a California condor, a disguise wouldn’t be very effective.

99. If you live in LA, then wheelmate is just for you.

Though to be fair, I can’t blame people for wanting to do other things while stuck in traffic. Still, it has a potential to be a driving hazard when it comes to some people.

100. This patriotic tank top will make you a real American hero.

Sorry, but this isn’t going to make you into an American superstar. Also, kind of tacky as hell.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Shit Has Hit the Fan

Recently, it has come to our attention that the New York Times has revealed that Donald Trump Jr. welcomed a meeting with a Russian government-connected lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya after learning she had information that “that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] … and would be very useful to your father” and that it was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. has confirmed the meeting took place in June 2016 at Trump Tower (despite initially denying it) which also had his dad’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and his brother-in-law Jared Kushner in attendance. But he has downplayed the meeting’s significance claiming it was over adoption laws and later that the woman wasn’t a government official who provided anything useful. On Tuesday July 11, 2017, he has disclosed a series of e-mails of him corresponding with a British music publicist named Rob Goldstone at behest of the Agalarov family in order to prevent another NYT scoop. Except he totally didn’t and now that e-mail chain has been retrieved and released for the public and prosecutors to see. Furthermore, the chain basically debunks every lie he’s made, erodes his credibility, and confirms he’s hiding something all along.

For months, Donald Trump and his team have denied and disparaged reports that the Moscow tried to help his candidacy and that there was any collusion between the two. In fact, Trump has publicly claimed he didn’t believe that the Russian government wasn’t behind the hackings and leaks of prominent Democrats’ e-mails, which US intelligence agencies have resoundingly confirmed. Since January of 2017, reports of suspicious behavior between Trump and his team around Russia emerged  though we still lacked outright proof whether there was any behind-the-scenes collaboration between them. Though it remained theoretically possible that there was a multifaceted Russian effort to help Trump win without anyone from the Trump team knowing about it.

However, that is no longer possible since the Trump Jr. e-mail chain provides indisputable proof that people close to Donald Trump such as his son, his son-in-law, and then-campaign chair not only knew about but also encouraged a Russian government effort to help him win the White House. Seriously, Goldstone sent Trump Jr. an e-mail saying his information would be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” as if Russia’s support for Lord Cheetohead was an unremarkable fact. Instead of being confused or asking what Goldstone means, Trump Jr. cheerfully answers, “If it’s what you say I love it,” tries to get the details, and forwards the whole thread to Kushner and Manafort. Any other American who knew what Goldstone was getting at would’ve turned him down and notify the candidate and the FBI. Because that is what campaign workers are supposed to do since getting help from a foreign government to win an election goes against federal law. Yet, there’s no way you can read these e-mails and not conclude that the Trump campaign’s top guys knew Russia supported their man but were willing to help. And I’m sure that President Pussygrabber knew about this going on all along.

Why? Well, how can he not? Sure the White House claims that Donald Trump knew about his son’s meeting recently. But he’s complained about the Russia investigation for months and fired his own FBI director in May, possibly to stop information that could expose him or his team to criminal charges from turning up. We should also note that Trump has often seen himself as above the law and has gone to great lengths to avoid responsibility for his actions his whole life. Not to mention, he and his team constantly lie in public about anything that makes him look bad.

What the Trump camp talked about with the Moscow-linked parties that June day at Trump Tower may never be known. But even if that meeting did lead nowhere, it still raises questions of what else Manafort and Kushner and ousted National Security adviser Michael Flynn may have said or done with the Russians. Yet, what’s clear is that we can no longer dispute the investigations into the Trump campaign and that Russian collusion is a serious mater. Robert Mueller must proceed unimpeded in his inquiry while congressional investigators need to work as well. Because the US needs to get to the bottom of this.

But why should we care about Trump’s ties to Russia? Because the Trump team’s habit of publicly lying about its contacts with Russia government emissaries is very problematic on its own terms. But it’s especially troubling since it raises a possibility that blackmail fears can influence American foreign policy. For instance, take the bombshell from US government surveillance that then Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak revealed he and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn discussed sanctions during the Obama-Trump transition period, which Flynn lied about. Acting Attorney General Sally Yates warned White House Counsel Don McGahn that “the national security adviser essentially could be blackmailed by the Russians.” Meaning, that if you lie about meeting a Russian official in public, then the Russian government will know and could threaten to release embarrassing and personally damaging information unless you take positions they like. When the press got a hold of this, Flynn was fired. Still, Russian intelligence knows exactly what went down between their government and the Trump campaign. Their knowledge of the facts along with the Trump team’s relentless dishonesty as well as the high consequences of getting caught, means a potentially large swath of Trump’s inner circle has been (or still may be) exposed to blackmail. This in turn makes it hard for the nation and our allies to trust that American foreign policy toward Russia serves American interests rather than in service of keeping Trump’s people out of legal and political trouble. This might be easy to ignore if Trump’s attitude and policies toward Russia was typical for an American politician. But his contempt for NATO and his unwillingness to punish Moscow for election meddling shows they’re not.

Thus, we should understand while the Donald Trump Jr. scandal is new to us, it’s not to the Russians. Keep in mind that before releasing the e-mail thread pertaining to his meeting with Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr. had publicly denied meeting Russian government representatives for months. And he called allegations that anyone on the Trump team might’ve worked with the Russians as “disgusting” and “phony.” Not to mention, his dad and many of his spokespeople have maintained what Trump Jr. said was true through the entire campaign. His e-mail messages to Goldstone show that it wasn’t. At minimum, Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with Veselnitskaya under the impression that she’d provide them incriminating information about Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” But while revelations and e-mails about the meeting caused a sensation in the States, Veselnitskaya knew it all along. And if she knew it, the Russian government probably did, too. And it’s something they could’ve used to increase the legal and political jeopardy facing both father and son at any moment. Still, information is power. Since Russia has the info about the Trump/Russia contacts and because the Trump team keeps lying about them, the Russia government have a lot of power. And Trump’s team knows that Russia has the goods.

So far in the Trump/Russia contact, we know that members of Trump’s campaign team met with the Russians. We know that then Alabama US Senator Jeff Sessions met Kislyak at least twice during the Trump campaign which he lied about under oath during his confirmation hearing for Attorney General. We know Jared Kushner met with Kislyak on multiple occasions. And that one of these meetings was an effort to set up a secure backchannel for Trump to communicate with the Kremlin using Russian equipment and facilities. Yet, Kushner didn’t list that foreign contact on his clearance form. Then there’s Blackwater founder and Trump backer Eric Prince who made an effort to set up back-channel communications to Russia via a meeting in Seychelles, it’s not clear what came of that. Or take Paul Manafort who was fired months before the election over receiving Russian front money in Ukraine. But he continued to advise the Trump campaign, including on the post-election Russia investigation. Or adviser Carter Page whose meeting with the Russians I know absolutely nothing about. Yet, the Russians have known all of this before the US did and then some.

Then there’s the matter with Donald Trump’s finances. We all know he still hasn’t released his tax returns and probably never will. But we all remember back in January when he erupted over the “Steele Dossier” with its wilder allegations that a secret Russian kompromat is blackmailing him over a tape depicting hookers peeing on him. However, it also contains much more boring allegation that Trump paid bribes in St. Petersburg “very discreetly and only through affiliated companies” while exploring some business deals there. Now paying bribes to Russian officials isn’t particularly shocking, especially for a real estate man like Trump. But paying bribes in pursuit of a business deal is technically illegal under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Trump has called the FCPA a “horrible law” that “this country is absolutely crazy” to have on the books because it puts American businesses at a “huge disadvantage.” His business philosophy has long been a willingness to plow ahead legal gray areas as he had once dispensed with normal FCPA compliance procedures and basically go away with it. He probably did the same thing in St. Petersburg. His new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission is a longtime FCPA critic. So Trump pretty clearly believes that American businesses should be allowed to bribe foreign officials. Nevertheless, while American authorities have little incentive to heavily scrutinize Trump’s FCPA compliance in Russia, Moscow is well-positioned to know a great deal about this. They’re also in a good position to know if the surge in Trump condo property purchases through anonymous shell companies involves any Russian citizens.

Since his inauguration, Donald Trump’s actual policy toward Russia has remained extremely idiosyncratic and friendly toward Moscow. His former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn lied about meeting with Kislyak along Sessions and Kushner. His Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has an extremely unusual resume for a top American diplomat, which featured zero military or diplomatic experience. But he has spent some time lobbying against sanctions on Russia and received the Order of Friendship award from the Russian government. Trump also appears to have explored relaxing Russian sanctions and was strikingly reluctant to affirm America’s commitment to NATO. He’s repeatedly seemed to side with the Russian government over American intelligence agencies over Russian culpability on hacking. He briefly suggested a joint Russia-US cybersecurity initiative. Furthermore, he’s made clear that Russia won’t face any repercussions for its election meddling, something lawmakers of both parties see as a direct assault on American democracy. There are plenty of explanations for his behavior, but it’s reasonable to suspect that Trump wants to keep Vladimir Putin happy so the Russians won’t release embarrassing information.

Nevertheless, a responsible administration would’ve taken Sally Yates seriously in the first place. It would’ve fired Flynn right away or forced him to come clean and apologize at once. And it would’ve learned that despite the awkward political scrutiny on Russia-related matters, lying about it would’ve been even more troubling. But the Trump administration didn’t learn that lesson as Washington remains swamp with new stories and revelations time after time. Each time, their defense consists of “this new undisclosed e-mail or meeting hardly proves wrongdoing.” But Yates points out that under the circumstances, the very lack of disclosure itself was the problem. A reluctance to come clean can reflect blundering, stubbornness, or simply blindness to a problem’s extent. Yet, the Trump crew could be hiding the truth because the truth is very bad. Thus, lying to the public to avoid Russian exposure might be the Trump administration’s best strategy. However, by repeatedly and publicly committing itself to false narratives about Russian government interactions, the Trump administration has put themselves under Russia’s thumb. Under normal circumstances, letting a president have this kind of threat hanging over him would be seen as completely intolerable. But since congressional Republicans control the federal government and do what they want, they’ll probably rationalize the matter. Like they’ve done with tolerating an admitted sexual predator in the White House and accommodating his desire to run his businesses in a way that makes it easy to bribe him. After all, H. R. McMaster and Jim Mattis will be along to babysit him except when Trump leaves them out at key summit meetings, unexpectedly drops text from a major speech, or otherwise needs to respond in real time to a crisis. Nevertheless, this puts our allies in an uncomfortable situation and our foreign policy at a downright catastrophic one. Partly because nobody has any idea about the extent of exposure and what kind of pro-Putin policies Trump might pursue in the future. Even worse, congressional Republicans apparently decided they’d rather not know and treat the Trump-Russia story as an endless series of annoying White House mistakes instead of a potentially crippling national security risk it certainly is. And if you have a former Bush ethics chief say Trump Jr.’s e-mails contain what’s “borderline treason,” then Republicans really need to wake up.

To the Honorable United States Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania

Dear Senator Toomey:

I am writing to you today to strongly urge you to oppose the Better Care Reconciliation Act which will gut the Affordable Care Act, slash Medicaid by $800 billion, leave 22 million uninsured, and roll back protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Drafting of the BCRA was conducted through a highly partisan, secretive, and undemocratic process despite being one of the most consequential pieces of legislation. There is no state where a majority support it. Healthcare is a fundamental right which the federal government should guarantee to all Americans. Legislation to deprive people of healthcare and lower their quality of life is unconscionable. To vote for such an atrocious bill that will only hurt most Pennsylvanians on so many levels. Your unwillingness to even meet with your constituents on the BCRA only highlights your cowardice on this piece of legislation. You can say that recent Medicaid growth is unsustainable (it’s not). You can claim that the ACA is collapsing (contrary to what most experts believe). But even if both were true, to support the BCRA is inherently inexcusable regardless what you believe in.

Senator Toomey, I know your mind is made up and you will more than likely vote for this morally indefensible healthcare bill. After all, you have never been keen on government intervention in providing healthcare for all Americans. I agree the Affordable Care Act does not cover everyone and does not do enough to make healthcare more affordable. But there is no doubt that the ACA has expanded coverage to 20 million more Americans and improved coverage for millions more. It has also saved lives. The BCRA does nothing to fix the ACA’s flaws and even significantly weakens many of the law’s provisions such as essential health benefit requirements, a ban on pre-existing conditions, and barring lifetime or annual caps. Furthermore, the bill would drastically reduce Medicaid funding and other subsidies. All of this will significantly raise premiums, deductibles, and out of pocket costs as well as leave millions of Americans with no access to adequate care. In addition, these provisions will lead to almost a million Americans losing their jobs, medical facility closings, and widespread economic ruin in communities nationwide. Statewide 731,000 Pennsylvanians will lose their insurance while countless more will be left with more expensive but inferior coverage. Without the coverage they have, thousands will die because they couldn’t receive the care they needed including the elderly, children, people with disabilities, the chronically ill, women, veterans, substance abusers, the mentally ill, and the poor. Many of them are Medicaid recipients who may not be able to get coverage through their employer or the individual market. And despite what you think about it, it’s an indispensable program and possibly their only lifeline. Nobody should be denied healthcare regardless of who they are, especially if receiving medical treatment is a matter of life or death. And for many, without healthcare, they may be able to get a job or live an independent life with dignity.

Senator, you were elected to the US Senate to represent the interests of your constituents first and foremost. But your recent cowardly behavior suggests you’re more willing to throw Pennsylvanians under the bus for the good of the party. If you’re willing shut people out of a town hall for fear of your constituents protesting over legislation that will have a damaging impact on their lives, then perhaps you shouldn’t be a US Senator. You have a duty to vote against a wretched healthcare bill that most people in your state don’t want and will certainly ravage the state. People will die. People will lose their jobs. People will get sicker. Hospitals will close down and put communities in economic ruin. Our state’s problem with opioid addiction will exacerbate because more people won’t be able to afford treatment. Vote for the BCRA with your party and I guarantee you will have blood on your hands if it ever becomes law. I sincerely hope your name is dragged through the mud for your advocacy and support for the BCRA which will only provide worse care for Americans or no care at all. And I hope that Pennsylvanians will remember what you did within the next 5 years so they can kick you out of office by the time your term is up.

I absolutely do not care what your or your party’s views on healthcare are. Nor do I care about your negative perception of the ACA as an extension of big government. Because despite what you think, for profit healthcare is an American travesty that discriminates against the poor and must die. There is nothing you can do to convince me that free market healthcare is the best system since I’ve known countless cases where it has failed. And as someone on the autism spectrum, I will cling to my Medicaid coverage so tight that you’ll have to pry it from my cold dead hands. To support such a system that denies people access to the healthcare they need is inherently morally indefensible and violates Americans’ right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And all that matters much more to me than any of your free market ideas you prize most highly. Well, your free market praises can go straight to hell for all I care. It deeply horrifies me that politicians like you could ever craft, let alone campaign for legislation that consists of nothing but heartless cruelty to those most vulnerable. And in the least transparent as well as most partisan and undemocratic way possible, I might add. I’d like to think my government representatives would at least have a heart not to play politics with mine or anyone else’s healthcare, especially a sick child’s. But I know full well, it’s certainly not the case. And I know it’s not the case with you which is a shame. However, if you are willing to support legislation that will only lead to pain and suffering, then may that be on your soul for the rest of your days. And may your vote for the BCRA ruin your career and reputation. Because I don’t think you’d deserve nothing less.

The Matter of Gerrymandering

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Every ten years after the census, each state in the US is required to redraw its legislative districts in order to accommodate changes in population. Now redistricting is supposed to be fair and proportional. But since most states in the US have their legislatures control redistricting, this isn’t always the case. As result you have a practice known as gerrymandering. Named after an early 19th century governor of Massachusetts, to gerrymander is to manipulate an electoral district’s boundaries so as to establish a political advantage for a particular party or demographic. The primary goal for this is to maximize the effect of supporters’ votes while minimizing opponents.’ Recently, gerrymandering has become a major problem in the United States mostly due to a dominant political party wanting to retain power in the state. So much so that the US Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear arguments on a partisan gerrymandering case. Nevertheless, though the practice is mostly perceived as bad for democracy through court rulings and anti-discrimination laws, it doesn’t seem to go away any time soon.

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Gerrymandering Tactics:

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Here are common ways states gerrymander districts for representatives. Cracking and packing are the most common. But sweetheart gerrymandering exists, too so incumbents can stay in.

 

Cracking: consists of spreading voters of a particular type among districts in order to deny a sufficiently large voting bloc in any particular district. For example, a state might split urban area voters among several districts of mostly suburban voters. Such arrangement would be on the presumption that the two groups would vote differently and the suburban voters far more likely getting their way in elections. You can see this in action by looking at Austin, Texas in the state’s congressional map where parts of 5 districts are but not one of them contain a majority of its residents or voters. And it’s very clear the Texas Legislature drew these districts that way to curb Austin’s liberal political influence within the Republican dominated state.

Packing: To concentrate as many voters of one type into a single electoral district in order to reduce their influence in other areas. In some cases, legislatures may do this to obtain representation for a community of common interest (like a majority-minority district), rather than to dilute that interest over several districts to the point of ineffectiveness (and to avoid likely racial discrimination lawsuits if minority groups are involved). You can often see this in congressional districts pertaining to urban communities of color. When the party controlling the districting process has a statewide majority, packing is usually not necessary since the minority party can be “cracked” everywhere. Though it’s often employed by parties to pack voters together into a minimum number of districts and don’t have enough representation in others to win the majority of the House’s seats. Because by forfeiting a few districts packed with the opposition, cracking can be used in shaping the remaining districts.

Hijacking: Redraws 2 districts in such a way as to force 2 incumbents of the same political party to run against each other in one district, ensuring that one of them will be eliminated. Meanwhile, this would leave the other district to be won by someone from a different political party. A good example of this happened in my own congressional district during the early 2000s, when Congressmen John Murtha and Frank Mascara had to compete against each other. And my district ended up with a representative from Johnstown.

Kidnapping: Aims to move areas where a certain elected official has significant support to another district, making it more difficult to win future elections with a new electorate. This is often employed against politicians representing multiple urban areas, removing larger cities in order to make the district more rural.

These tactics are typically combined in some form, creating new “forfeit” seats for packed voters of one type in order to secure more seats and greater voter representation of another type. This results in candidates of one party (usually the one responsible for the gerrymandering) winning by small majorities in most of the districts and another winning by a large majority in only a few.

Gerrymandering Types:

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Prison-based gerrymandering is when they count urban prisoners in their rural corrections facilities as residents despite that they can’t vote or they don’t live there. Here is a map of what states and localities have done to handle the problem. As for those who don’t, well, it’s very clear they benefit from it.

Partisan Gerrymandering– When districts are redrawn in order to increase a political party’s power in legislatures. This is the most general form of gerrymandering that it’s just referred to as “gerrymandering.”

Incumbent or Bipartisan Gerrymandering– When the districts are redrawn in order to protect incumbents in both parties in order to keep the status quo, regardless of what voters want.

Prison-Based Gerrymandering– Counting incarcerated people who aren’t allowed to vote in the district where the prison is located instead of their home district.

Negative Racial Gerrymandering– Drawing districts to prevent racial and ethnic minorities from electing their candidates. White Southern Democrats used this from Reconstruction to the mid-20th century to reduce black people’s voting impact if efforts to effectively disenfranchise them had failed. Prohibited thanks to the 1965 Voting Rights Act and subsequent amendments.

Affirmative Racial Gerrymandering– Drawing district lines in order to favor ethnic and racial groups. Though whether it benefits minorities is very hard to say since the practice is controversial that there are several Supreme Court rulings on this. Because this type has been known to both increase and decrease minority representation in federal and state governments. Since the Civil Rights Era, it’s been difficult to determine since most minorities vote Democrat while white conservatives have shifted Republican during the last 4 decades. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has ruled in the North Carolina case that partisan gerrymandering along racial lines is unconstitutional.

Signs of Gerrymandering in Your State:

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One key sign of gerrymandering is that the election outcomes don’t reflect the votes cast. Now while the South is mostly Republican now, there should be more Democratic representatives as you can see. But gerrymandering skews the results so Republicans can send more representatives.

  1. The shapes of the congressional districts makes no logical sense. – This is an easy one to spot but it’s not always a guarantee. Sometimes districts can be drawn in ridiculous ways for a very important reason like adhering to the Voting Rights Act. The VRA ensures that minority voters can’t be unfairly packed or cracked in ways that reduce their chances of electing representatives representing their communities. But the vast majority of the time a contorted looking district is a warning sign of gerrymandering.
  2. Your community has virtually little in common with most of your fellow constituents in the district.– You might feel good about living in a district where your congressman shares your views. But you might think it odd that your fellow supporters don’t even live in the same city or school district. You and your Republican friends have been “packed” together into a conservative echo-chamber. Everyone shares the same ideas and generally agrees with each other. And you start feeling like you don’t need to be involved. Or the communities in the district just don’t simply belong together. For instance, in Pennsylvania, my district, the 18th, is lumped together with most of Washington and Greene Counties along with a good chunks of Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties. But the 9th District includes Fayette and Indiana Counties which don’t have much to do with each other at all. Whereas, residents in Westmoreland and Fayette County have known each other for years, especially where I live. Their high school sports teams play against each other. The state government and other organizations usually has them in the same jurisdiction. People even have friends and family living in both counties. And don’t get me started on the 12th District which is just a sliver stretching from Lawrence County through Beaver, Allegheny, Westmoreland, Somerset, and Cambria, which seems to defy all explanation. Meanwhile, the 14th District is basically crammed into a Democratic pocket in Allegheny County.
  3. Election outcomes don’t match votes.- This is the surest sign of gerrymandering. One way to measure this through the efficiency gap, computing the difference in wasted votes from the 2 political parties summed all over the districts in the state divided by the number of votes. When parties win elections in rough proportion to their electoral popularity, the efficiency gap is near zero with both parties having an equal wasted vote distribution. But if the gap exceeded a certain threshold, then you can surmise the party with fewer wasted votes could control the state as long as the district map was valid. They used this measure to determined gerrymandering in Wisconsin. In the 2012 Election, Republicans in that state had 48.6% of the 2 party votes, 61% of its 99 districts in the state legislature. Thus, its efficiency gap was 11.69% to 13%. The Supreme Court is expected to hear a case on Wisconsin’s gerrymandering in the fall of this year. Yet, in 2012, Republicans in state legislators also received a minority of the statewide vote in Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and my home state of Pennsylvania, but still ended up controlling the state legislatures. And scholars estimate that gerrymandering has helped congressional Republicans control 10-15 more seats in the House even though Democratic congressional candidates received more votes in 2012.
  4. Your district has been changed and you feel like you can no longer make your voice heard.– Now this has happened to me a couple times in my life since mine was switched from Murtha’s to Murphy’s while I was in college. So let’s say you’re a Democrat who’s voted for Democratic candidates during the last few elections. Then you and other Democrats get “cracked” away from your neighbors and put you into a Republican majority district. That Republican representative in your district doesn’t need to listen to your voice on your concerns because they know all their Republican supporters will re-elect them year after year. Your Democratic voice gets lost in your district’s Republican majority. This might leave you feel hopeless and disenfranchised. Or like you shouldn’t even bother voting because Tim Murphy will always win unopposed.
  5. Your representative skipped a town hall to go golfing with a lobbyist.– As taxpayers and voters, our politicians are supposed to work for us. Having politicians manipulate voting maps to keep themselves in office turns democracy on its head. When your district’s drawn to avoid outside competition and to ensure only one party’s candidate wins, chances are your representative doesn’t need worry about what their constituents think of them. Thus, they could spend more time hanging out with lobbyist friends and cater to their wealthy donors’ needs. Even if you might belong to the advantaged party, you’re still not going to get good representation because our elected official knows that reelection is in the bag, whether they listen to you or not. You see this a lot with Republican representatives voting for the American Healthcare Act which most of their constituents don’t want at all. It’s very clear, the House couldn’t have passed that bill if gerrymandering wasn’t involved.
  6. You feel like you don’t need to vote because the candidate who won the primary will win the election anyway.- When one party has manipulated the system to ensure they hold the majority in specific districts, the election itself becomes a mere formality.
  7. The dominant party’s candidates are more worried about a primary challenger than the opposition candidate.- When elected party officials pay more attention to the primary than the general election, they become more extreme since their focus is scoring points against the other party than solve problems most important to Americans. We should also understand that primaries are held on many different dates, generate less attention, and attract disproportionate shares of hardcore, ideological party activists to the polls. In 2014, only 14.6% of eligible voters participated in congressional primaries which was a record low. This means a tiny fraction of voters who are the most hardened partisans are essentially electing 90% of Congressional members.
  8. Your representatives support policies most constituents in your district oppose.- Despite that political polarization is strong in America, there are still plenty of issues most voters can agree upon. One recent example of this is Republican healthcare plan to replace Obamacare which faces strong opposition from the American public across the political spectrum and in all 50 states. However, that didn’t stop congressional Republicans from passing the American Healthcare Act in May. They were able to pass such egregious legislation because they either didn’t feel they needed to listen to their constituents’ viewpoints and/or knew that voting the way their constituents wanted them to would result in their party or donors throwing their support to a more extreme primary challenger. The fact so many congressional Republicans avoided holding townhalls when the AHCA was up for debate strongly suggest the latter.

Why Gerrymandering Is Bad:

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In recent years, Republicans have greatly benefited from gerrymandering as seen in this graph. And because of this, many cities aren’t well represented at all.

  1. Undermines the democratic process by putting the majority party at an unfair advantage.– With gerrymandering, your representatives pick the voters most likely to reelect them again and again. That’s not how democracy is supposed to work. We the voters should choose our politicians, not the other way around. We deserve fair elections and a transparent process for determining our districts. If not, then elections just become mere formalities.
  2. Takes power away from voters to hold their representatives accountable.-When districts have been drawn to avoid competition and to ensure one party’s candidate wins, our representatives don’t really need to worry about listening to constituents with differing political viewpoints Because they’re virtually guaranteed reelection simply because of their party affiliation and ideology. This can be very frustrating if your representative isn’t in your party and doesn’t support the same views as you do.
  3. Significant vote wastage from the other side which leads to partisan distortion.– The advantaged party will have voters in packed districts whose votes go for naught. And they will have more than 50%+1 in cracked districts to be reasonably sure of winning. 55-45% or a 10 point partisan advantage is often the target but it can be more. And sometimes it may turn out to be less. Wasted votes are almost always expected in elections. But significant vote wastage in several district may result in representatives that may reflect the interests of slightly more than 50% of their district’s voters. This might not seem much, but when you take the votes altogether, it can really add up. But a high amount of wasted votes means that vast swaths of the American electorate aren’t being represented in Congress or state legislatures at all.
  4. Reinforces and increases hyper-partisanship and polarization in government.– Forming districts to ensure high levels of partisanship often result in higher levels of partisanship in legislative bodies. Manipulating and stretching congressional districts also pushes incumbents to extremes of the political spectrum. Mostly because fear of a primary challenger drives incumbents focus on maintaining ideological purity than legislative pragmatism. If a substantial number of districts are designed to be polarized, then their representatives will act in a heavily partisan manner, creating and perpetuating partisan gridlock. Nevertheless, redistricting has become a major front in the permanent campaign between parties. Party members, Congress members, and state legislators find their own interests in reelection and majority status importantly connected to these redistricting efforts. This makes them even more inclined to cooperate with partisan team play that it drains the policy-making process of its capacity to negotiate and compromise. Thus, even well-meaning politicians can’t do their jobs representing spread-out communities with different needs and priorities, effectively maintaining offices across wide geographic areas, or solve problems that affect us all.
  5. Fewer competitive districts and more safe incumbents.– Incumbents are far more likely to be reelected under gerrymandering and are more likely to be of the majority party orchestrating the gerrymander. Thus, incumbents are usually easily renominated in subsequent elections, even if they are in the minority party. California’s 2000 redistricting effort redrew congressional district lines in ways that all but guaranteed incumbent victories. As a result California only saw congressional seat change hands between 2000 and 2010. Not to mention, if districts become increasingly stretched out, candidates must pay increased costs for transportation and campaign advertising. The incumbent’s advantage of securing funds will certainly give them a significant advantage. In many districts, some representatives could run unopposed.
  6. Reduces political power in minority groups.- Gerrymandering may be advocated to improve representation within legislatures among otherwise underrepresented minority groups by packing them into a single district. But the practices is controversial for good reason. First, being confined to a single district may lead minority groups to remain marginalized because candidates outside their district no longer need to represent them to win elections.
  7. Emboldens politicians to enact unpopular policies.– Whenever gerrymandering ensures guaranteed victories to your representative, they will have less incentive to represent their constituents’ interests, even when those interests have majority support across the electorate. And they’re much more beholden to their party establishment and wealthy donors. After all, why go to a town hall while reelection’s already in the bag? As a result, your representative more likely to support bills you won’t like whether they belong in your party or not. The passage of the AHCA by congressional Republicans is a perfect example of this since most of the American public strongly opposed it. And even now, it’s very likely many of Republicans who voted for this morally indefensible bill will be reelected anyway.
  8. Encourages redistricting practices that create inaccurate pictures of community populations.– One practice that exists today is prison-based gerrymandering. Now the Census Bureau counts incarcerated people as residents of towns where they’re confined which is used to draw legislative districts. This interferes with equal representation in virtually every state and skews demographics. This phenomenon violates the idea of one person, one vote for 3 reasons. First, these prisoners are disenfranchised in 48 states and can’t vote in local elections anyway. Second, prisons are disproportionately built in rural areas while most incarcerated people call urban areas home. Counting urban prisoners as “residents” of rural districts artificially inflates political representation in rural districts containing large prisons at expense of voters in all other places without them, especially communities bearing the most direct costs of crime. Third, counting large populations of prisoners as local residents leads to misleading conclusions about community size and growth.
  9. Drives down voter turnout.– Since gerrymandering often results in incumbents able to win elections either lopsided or unopposed, many people get disenchanted with the electoral process and not vote. After all, your vote from the opposition will probably be wasted anyway.
  10. Allows outside money and influence control parties’ agendas.– This makes representatives more beholden to party ideology and wealthy donors as well as makes it easier for extremists to gain control of the party. What happened to the GOP during the 2016 Election is a perfect example of this.

How to Detect, Handle, and Prevent Gerrymandering:

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Here’s a rough map on what the United States would look like if the districts were redrawn for compactness. By the way, this is done by a computer.

  1. Calculating the Efficiency Gap to determine whether either party enjoyed a systematic advantage in turning votes into seats.– This is the difference of the wasted votes between political parties summed all over the districts divided by the number of votes expressed by this equation:
  • Efficiency Gap = (Total Democratic Wasted Votes – Total Republican Wasted Votes) ÷ Total Votes

When each party wins a district election in rough proportion to its popularity, the efficiency gap is near zero. But if a district plan is above a certain threshold a gap of 2 or more seats in congressional elections or a gap of 8% or greater for state legislature races, then there’s a constitutional problem.

  1. Ensure that each plan must meet neutral redistricting criteria.- The US Supreme Court has held that if a jurisdiction’s redistricting plan violates the Equal Protection Clause or the Voting Rights Act of 1965, then a federal court must order the jurisdiction to propose a new redistricting plan that remedies the gerrymandering. If that jurisdiction fails to do so, then the court itself must draw a redistricting plan that cures the violation and use its equitable powers to impose the plan on the jurisdiction. At the state level, courts may impose redistricting plans on jurisdictions where legislatures have to follow standards such as partisan fairness.
  2. Establish non-partisan redistricting commissions instead of politicians.– After all, if elected legislators want to increase their own political influence, then state legislatures shouldn’t control redistricting. After all, you wouldn’t let athletes serve as referees during their own games. So far, states like California, Hawaii, Washington, New Jersey, and Arizona have resorted to creating standing committees for redistricting since the 2010 census. These commissions’ new maps don’t have to be approved by state legislatures. Yet, they’re not necessarily non-partisan per se since they all have seats for Democratic and Republican appointees. Yet, some have additional seats reserved for independent and non-partisan figures. Letting computers to redraw districts more fairly based on the recent Census.
  3. Stop counting prisoners as residents like the Census Bureau does for redistricting state and local legislatures.– Counting prisoners as residents leads to prison-based gerrymandering which gives certain communities disproportionate representation. States can correct this by creating a special state-level census collecting home addresses of people in prison and then adjusts the US Census counts prior to redistricting. Legislation in part modeled after how Kansas changes where the US counts students and the military has also been passed in California, Delaware, Maryland, and New York. Another thing states can do is standardize collecting home address information when people are shipped off to the state pen. Over time, this will generate a complete home address information dataset for use in future redistricting or the Census Bureau to use directly. States can also prohibit state, county, and municipal legislative districts from using prison populations as padding. Those at correctional facilities should be declared as living as “addresses unknown” and not included in the redistricting data, except where the home address data exists and a state agency can adjust the Census Bureau’s redistricting data to reflect those counted at home. Such solutions can eliminate electoral harm caused by prison-based gerrymandering and provide a complete solution counting everyone in the correct location by next Census.
  4. Increase transparency regulations in the redistricting process.– When a single political party controls both the legislative houses in a state during redistricting, both Democrats and Republicans have displayed a marked propensity for conducting the process in secrecy with no oversight or standards of fairness. A 2012 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity reviewed every state’s redistricting processes for both transparency and potential for public input, assigning 24 states grades of either D or F. So the need for transparency in redistricting is clear. In response, redistricting legislation has been introduced to Congress a number of times in recent years, including Redistricting Transparency Acts of 2010, 2011, and 2013. The merit on increasing transparency in redistricting is based largely on the idea that lawmakers would be less inclined to draw gerrymandered districts if they had to defend such districts in public.
  5. Outlaw voter profiling.– In recent years, advancements in technology have led to elaborate voter datasets and special districting software has made gerrymandering a more precise science. Using such databases, gerrymandering politicians can predict voting behavior of each potential district with an astonishing degree of precision, leaving little chance for accidentally creating a competitive district. If we want redistricting based on neutral criteria, then this practice should be done away with since it’s basically the representatives choosing the voters.
  6. Experiment with alternative voting systems.– The predominant voting system in the US is a first-past-the-post system requiring single member districts to exist. Various alternative district-based voting systems that minimally rely on redistricting or not at all. These typically involve at-large elections or multimember districts. Examples include the single-transferable vote, cumulative voting, and limited voting. There are also proportional voting systems used in most European countries no districts are present, and the party that gets, for example, 30% of the votes gets roughly 30% of the seats in the legislature. Since the US has a 2 party system, that threshold could be about 45-50%. However, proportional voting systems might break the strong constituency link that’s an American election cornerstone.
FairDistricts_2.21.17

And so I end this post with a rough guide to gerrymandering in Pennsylvania. Still, this is a major problem in American democracy that affect us all. We need to do something about it.

The Anthro World of Furry Costumes (Second Edition)

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Once again, Pittsburgh has paid host to world’s largest furry convention, Anthrocon. I know many people might see it as a strange fetish. And for many people it is. But as far as Pittsburgh is concerned, as long as these animal costumed fans spend their money for food and lodging. Also, they seem to be a hit with the kids as far as the news reports make it. Still, you have to wonder how they’d put up wearing an animal costume in scorching heat is the question. I mean they’d have to be roasting in these outfits. After all, many of the character costumes at Disney World are equipped with fans for obvious reasons, not the least that the resort is located in central Florida. But still, furry culture can seem quite weird as you see in the picture above. So for your reading pleasure, I give you another treasure trove of furry costumes.

  1. That bighorn yak sure wields an axe.

Though I almost thought it was a bat until I saw the horns. Still, he has a nice suit of armor.

2. Seems like we have a spiked deer in our midst.

Even has a necklace in his likeness. Must be a character from a book he’s read.

3. Bet you’ve never seen a blue dog before.

Yet, he seems to have brown hair on his head. Not sure how to explain that.

4. This blue dog has some fins and a tail to match.

Well, a lot of furries do consist of mix and match critters. This one has a shark fin and tail.

5. You might give a paw to this scruffy animal.

Not sure whether I’d say they’re a fox or a dog. Either way, they must be hot under that thing.

6. Long ears never go out of style.

Helps if you wear a shirt that matches your black and purple fur. Though that might be stretching it.

7. Blue fur is always great at the playground.

Doesn’t hurt if they can show of their long tail. Though what’s with the blue bandanna?

8. This white snow leopard just wants to say hello.

Well, she she surely has a nice coat and tail. Hope she can catch the escalator.

9. Teal and orange never go out of style.

Though I have to admit, the bandanna goes quite nicely. Still, there’s a lot about furries I don’t understand.

10. Seems like nobody expected a white wolf in the city.

Interesting how a lot of these furry costumes depict dogs. Yet, this one is almost all white for some reason.

11. Sometimes natural earth tones are best.

Well, he’s flexing his muscles to look like a tough guy. Not sure if it helps his case.

12. Who are you calling spotted?

This one has orange and black spots on their back. But they really seem quite the character.

13. Don’t mind this horned dog hanging out.

Yes, I know dogs don’t wear horns. But some of these furry costumes are simply fantastical. Also, are those hooves?

14. How about you greet this cool black cat?

Even has their own collar. But don’t worry, they won’t give you bad luck if they cross your path.

15. Anthrocon is always a great place to spread one’s wings.

This guy came dressed as a fuzzy dragon. Though why they have fur instead of scales, I have no idea.

16. Sometimes a wolf may feel content in their own skin.

Bet they’re just waiting for their pack to return. Or they’re just a lonely wolf tired of howling.

17. Might want to check out this kitty’s jet pack.

Well, the flames are mostly made from tissue paper. But the rest of it almost resembles a the real thing.

18. Now this guy is quite the tiger.

Though when they say, “Be a tiger,” they usually don’t mean it literally. But this is a pretty cool costume nonetheless.

19. You can always stand out in red stripes.

This guy even has a red nose to match. Though the fur composition is quite a combination.

20. But you can always use some blue now and then.

Seems to resemble a husky of some sort. Then again, there’s much about furries I don’t understand.

21. You dare not to mess with this horny bobcat.

Well, she has horns. But she’s also dressed as a fantasy character to let you know her animal originally existed in her imagination.

22. These dogs just want to keep things casual for now.

Well, at least their clothes make them seem less freaky. But yes, the furry thing is pretty weird.

23. Seems like someone has their paws out.

Though the fur pattern is quite intricate. But I’m sure it’s not meant for camouflage.

24. This panda bear has left the building.

Not every day you see a panda walking around. Hope he can get plenty of bamboo before he leaves town.

25. You can always wear a scarf with red and gold.

Well, this guy knows how to stand out in a crowd. Yet, I’m sure you’d freak out if you saw a dog like this.

26. Check out this cool dog in black with yellow stripes.

Almost thought this was a horse until I saw thedog nose. But pretty snazzy if you ask me.

27. This perky dog is eager for anything.

Well, she’s wearing a lovely top and jeans. But the bow is kind of bland.

28. Never thought I’d see a minotaur up close before.

Also, I’m more used to seeing a minotaur in a stone Cretan labyrinth. And I heard he’s not great around people outside his family.

29. Perhaps it’s best to leave that fox alone in the woods.

Funny how they’re wearing a leather jacket. Wonder where they got that from.

30. It would be a mistake to ignore these furry girls.

They’re also wearing dresses that come best with their fur. So sweet.

31. Get a load of this red dragon.

Doesn’t hurt he has spikes on his knees. Though I don’t see the practically. Then again, it’s just a costume.

32. Might want to take a look at this horned cat’s long tail.

Yes, mix and match critters is at play here. Still, wonder how this cat gets around dragging that thing.

33. You’ll certainly know it if you ran into this bright tiger.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy sells highlighters when not in his furry costume. Then again, he may wear it on the job.

34. This big horned sheep is all ready for battle.

Then again, this sheep might be some kind of sorcerer or something. But I know what they use those horns for.

35. That goat sure has long horns.

Well, at least this person dresses as a bipedal goat. But I’d sure wouldn’t want to be on the horns’ receiving end.

36. Never thought this snow leopard would whip their sword out.

Bet you wouldn’t want to mess with this furry badass. Else you may learn the hard way.

37. This wadling osprey is slow to take off the ground.

Kind of reminds me of a bird of prey I saw in a cartoon. Was it Fern Gully?

38. How about a jump onto a fluffy bed?

Because any dog likes a nice soft bed. Though a furry in this pose is kind of freaky.

39. This bunny always enjoys a colorful sweater.

Love the hoodie jacket. Very colorful with rainbow sleeves and pockets. That rabbit’s got style.

40. Get a load of this foxy selfie.

Kind of reminds you of the selfies you might see on online dating profiles. Though this girl is more of a vixen.

41. Want to play fetch?

Not sure to drive the point with a ball in your mouth. Seriously, this is just freaky.

42. Nobody could resist purple fur in the winter time.

What the hell is this dog wearing? Is that a swimsuit? Well, at least there’s a fur suit underneath.

43. No dog wants anything more than a large juicy piece of meat.

Well, a plush steak will do. After all, this green dog only plays a role during the furry convention.

44. How about a shirtless leopard pic?

Then again, you can probably get away with this. Looks more freaky but in a different way.

45. Seems like this dog can really strike a pose.

Costume seems like it’s modeled after a real dog. Australian cattle dog, perhaps? Nice fur though.

46. These deer antlers come with white tips.

Bet it’s a reindeer. Though this guy is most likely brown in the back.

47. This blue dog has a star in their hands.

Well, you have to like the blue fur. But as I have to say, furries are a weird bunch.

48. This guy looks a bit husky.

Though chances are you wouldn’t see him pulling a sled. Yet, it won’t stop him from trying.

49. Nothing makes fur fun like some blue designs.

You have to wonder why people dress in animal costumes. It just seems to defy all explanation for me.

50. With this fox, just act casual.

Well, just a fox head and some baggy clothes. What more can you want?

51. This Canadian cat has a pair of high horns.

And this guy has the maple leaf flag on their belt to show nationality. Not sure why the costume includes horns.

52. This bunny knows the way of the samurai.

This one has pants and armor to boot. Too bad he didn’t bring a katana. Bet the convention center has a weapons policy.

53. May I introduce you to Lemonade the Angel Dragon?

Yes, many of these furries have original characters to their costumes. I know it’s weird. But I don’t understand it either.

54. Seems like this vixen can be kinky at Christmas.

Here she is in a Santa dress and leather corset, boots, and gloves. Guess this is for a Christmas card.

55. This black and white dog is jumping for joy.

Well, this guy isn’t as flashy as some of the other dogs. But I hope they don’t hit the water.

56. This blue dog can’t help but show off their long spiky tail.

Also has some yellow spikes on their ears. Looks good in jeans and a shirt.

57. “How do you like my portrait?”

Well, it’s more of a stylized likeness. But it’s better than what I could’ve drawn.

58. Hope you run into this friendly grizzly in the park.

Don’t worry. He won’t steal your picnic basket. Oh, well, if he’s not hungry.

59. With these two dogs, it’s pure puppy love.

One is a green dog holding the bag. The other is a white dog with flowers in her ears and a scarf around her neck.

60. This tough deer is all leathered for action.

Though isn’t leather made from deer. Oh, wait, they make it from cows nowadays. Still, freaky.

61. This vixen steps out in a sexy dress.

Well, she might have a certain type of outfit. But she certainly looks quite fabulous in it, as far as some furries are concerned.

62. Someone has to be top dog around here.

Guess this is a German shepherd. Though you won’t find him sniffing around any time soon.

63. Sonny Pup can’t help himself sometimes.

He even has a nice collar. But outside a furry convention, you’d freak out if you run into him.

64. Cacti never wants to be hugged. So don’t.

You see how freaky this furry subculture can be? Yes, this guy is Cacti. Don’t ask me.

65. This white dog can’t leave without wearing her pink dress.

Okay, that’s kind of strange. I don’t know what to think of this. Seriously, she’s freaking me out.

66. A yellow goat has to carry a red fan.

I bet this guy fancies himself a samurai. Though it just seems a bit creepy to me.

67. It takes a lot to maintain long fur.

And I’m not sure how this person take care of their costume. But some might find it amazing.

68. Looks like this cat has an evil plan.

This guy seems like a character from something. I’m not sure where though.

69. This dark horse always uses the latest Mane and Tail.

And this horse poses for a picture like a model. Show off.

70. These two are just foxing around.

Yes, dance at the water fountain. Then tell me how it was like to fall into the water. Sucks, right?

71. Seems like this dog decided to go casual.

Well, when in doubt, casual is where to go. Though the fur costume makes it a bit more awkward.

72. A zebra always has to know how to dress.

Though the stripes and plaid kind of clash. Seriously, a zebra should just bare it all out.

73. Bet you’d never get a load of this pink dragon.

This costume consists of fur and scales. Like either would go together save on an armadillo.

74. You can always love a dog in bright yellow.

He also has bright green paws and a blue bandanna. Can see him from several miles away.

75. Now that is one funky rabbit.

The bunny even has their ears pierced. But your eyes would be sore looking at this one.

76. This blue feline always enjoys the winter.

Though they don’t seem to be perfectly camouflaged. Though the coat’s kind of cool.

77. Someone’s feeling batty today.

But at least this bat doesn’t suck blood or eat bugs. Also has a nice medal around neck.

78. Ever saw a rainbow dog before?

Neither have I. But you’d probably see a dog playing with a balloon.

79. Rainbow sleeves never go out of style.

Nor do they need to go with a shirt. Because we all need rainbows in our lives.

80. This griffin always wears their heart on their chest.

This one even has small wings to go with their white body. But they stand proud.