Tanzania, like US, lets anyone run to not become president

The 2016 Republican Presidential field here in the United States is indeed filled with a dozen people who will never be elected president, will never be close to being elected president, and could never be president. But it’s easier than ever to run for several months, get a lot of attention, and get a media and publishing deal out of it.

That classic American spirit might be one of the few American concepts currently still being exported overseas. In this case to Tanzania.

Aiming to preserve single-party rule there, Tanzania’s ruling party and state media have suddenly (and very probably only temporarily) elevated an unknown farmer to rockstar status because he filed to run in their 30 candidate presidential primary against far more experienced and affluent candidates, including more than one former prime minister.

Eldoforce Bilohe is a 43-year-old farmer with a primary class seven level of education, who wants to be the next president of Tanzania.

Supporters of the CCM will argue that the fact that an ordinary party member of humble means is able to vie for the party presidential nomination is evidence of true and inclusive democracy within the party.

Meanwhile, the Tanzanian opposition may be nearing its first real chance of victory as it unites under one umbrella. Stay tuned!


6 out of 5 dentists agree: Ethiopia is in no way totalitarian

According to the US State Department (full story➚), Ethiopia’s “democracy” improves with each election.

That must be why the ruling party in this year’s election took 546 out of 546 seats in parliament, significantly improving over last election’s 544 out of 546. Those extra two votes in the chamber should make it easier to buy more state surveillance tools to monitor the population.

Let freedom ring!


During a civil war, “never remember my password,” dear browser

Another twist in the Libya crisis (background report), reported by Reuters via the Oman Tribune:

A self-declared government set up by an armed group that seized the Libyan capital in August has taken over the websites of the state administration and the national oil company, adding to confusion over who is running the country.

With Libya’s official government and parliament now operating from towns hundreds of miles east of Tripoli, the armed group, from the western city of Misrata, that has seized ministry buildings in the capital now controls their websites.

The website of Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni – who now sits with his cabinet in the eastern city of Bayda – shows the picture of the man the Misrata rebels have declared as prime minister, Omar Al Hasi, and lists the names of his team.

The group, which calls itself the National Salvation government, has also taken over the website of the National Oil. Next to tender offers, the website features the picture of the self-declared government’s oil minister.

Sounds like they might have literally just walked in to abandoned government ministry buildings in Tripoli, turned on the computers, and started updating the websites.

And that’s why you sign out of accounts, clear browser caches, and don’t save your passwords anywhere, when you’re working on a government computer in the middle of a civil war!


Thailand’s food-robot army is nearly ready

Pre-coup and post-coup, Thailand’s leadership can agree to remain committed to one thing: Shaming overseas restaurants for insufficiently authentic Thai food. And now their food-tasting (killer?) robot is doing well in testing and may soon be sold to high-end restaurants in southeast Asia and beyond:

The government-financed Thai Delicious Committee, which oversaw the development of the machine, describes it as “an intelligent robot that measures smell and taste in food ingredients through sensor technology in order to measure taste like a food critic.”

In a country of 67 million people, there are somewhere near the same number of strongly held opinions about Thai cooking. […] But there does seem to be some agreement on one point at least: Bad Thai food is a more acute problem overseas.

Thais, who can establish an immediate bond discussing where they will get their next meal or the merits of particular food stalls, complain that Thai restaurants overseas cater to non-Thai palates by pulling punches on spice and not respecting the delicate balance between sweet, sour, salty and four-alarm spicy.

For designing and building a robot from scratch, the project has a very low price-tag overall and will supposedly be earned back by sales of the robot.

Anyway, the way it works is that it performs a rapid chemical analysis of a food sample, teasing out both the constituent ingredients used and the ratios used, and then it compares it to a database of ingredients and ratios used in a sample “ideal” recipe for that meal — with the ideal as determined by the ratings of a small research study with a hundred or so ordinary Thai people (not food critics).

But I’m pretty sure we all know it’s going to end up chemically analyzing mankind and find us insufficiently spicy to remain alive. And just as Thailand was one of the few countries in the world to resist Western colonialism (more or less), Thailand’s robots will no doubt be the first to take on humanity successfully.


The unbearable wifeness of being Mrs McDonnell

Bob-McDonnell-by-Gage_SkidmoreAh, Bob McDonnell, the once and former future Vice President of These United States. Now a retired Governor of Virginia and (as of today) 11-times-over Federal convict. His wife was also convicted soundly on similar charges.

You may recall past highlights from his corruption trial proceedings included refusing to take an amazing plea deal that would have spared his wife altogether from joining him in 14-indictment hell:

The Feds were even willing to offer an extremely generous — perhaps overly so — deal to former Gov. McDonnell that would have protected his wife entirely, even though she seems to have orchestrated much of the corruption and solicitations. All he had to do was plead guilty to one felony count and serve time (probably very little considering who he is). Yet he said no.

And so down she went with him. But, we were told, it was all part of a cunning plan! This marriage needed to look so awful (for the jury) that refusing to spare her the investigation was just the final step.

Ah Bobby McDonnell, your masterful and foolproof “my wife is so horrible and I hate her and she was only taking bribes because she was in love with the briber” defense strategy worked like … whatever the opposite of “a charm” is. Just how low did you go in an effort to slime her for your own failed exculpation? Let us consult the New York Times:

Mr. McDonnell, who carried his wife over the threshold of the Executive Mansion the day of his inauguration, portrayed her in his testimony as a harridan whose yelling left him “spiritually and mentally exhausted,” and who was so cold that after he sent her an email pleading to save their marriage, she did not reply.

BOBBY. FOR SHAME. You made the New York Times editors break out the word “harridan.” They probably nearly asphyxiated from the dust of opening their expanded-volume dictionary just to find that word which could so perfectly summarize your cold-hearted view of your longtime wife and the mother of your five children.

BOBBY, I HAD TO LOOK THAT WORD UP JUST TO READ ABOUT YOUR DEFENSE. That is how mean you were to your wife.

And how, pray tell, did you brace yourself for your multitudinous convictions, good sir?

Leaving the courthouse at midday Tuesday once the jury began deliberations, Mr. McDonnell said the past 18 months had been tough on his family, but he said he drew strength from his 38 years of marriage and the five children he shared with his wife. “I think we’re stronger than we’ve ever been.”

And the shackles of their love will only grow in strength, no doubt, while they are both shackled in respective Federal prisons. Being apart from an unloving, backstabbing, corrupt spouse can only make the heart grow fonder. That’s in Proverbs.

The Purge amendment is poorly drafted, doesn’t go far enough


You may have heard about the very silly but also popular and also confusing violent movie franchise that consists so far of 2013’s “The Purge” and this month’s sequel, “The Purge: Anarchy.”

I and many others on the internet have tirelessly committed ourselves to knowing as little as possible about the movies while simultaneously speculating at as great a length as possible about the legal and constitutional ramifications of the premise — a near-future dystopian constitutional amendment that allows once-yearly killing sprees and other random acts of violence and mayhem (see below for full text).

The first movie was, I’m told, extremely unclear on the actual mechanism by which this was supposedly achieved, since the filmmakers were deeply committed to making a movie where everyone’s instinct in the brief absence of a legal system is to kill people instead of committing wire fraud and forging checks, and they didn’t really want to justify why this would be the case or how it came to be. (Look, I know they’re trying to tell a different story and start at a point of action; it’s just a stupid way to set it up. Even if yes, I want to watch C-SPAN tapes of ratification hearings. Moving on…)

However, the second movie — Wikipedia tells me — and the promotional materials I’ve been able to find apparently go into more detail about the backstory, to the point of, it would seem, actually revising the few meager details given in the first movie, such as the date of the titular event each year. Here’s the text of the amendment:


SECTION 1: The Annual Purge shall begin each year on June 20 at sunset, officially starting at 7PM, and ending at sunrise, June 21, at 7AM.

SECTION 2: During the time of The Purge, any and all crime, up to and including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours. Police, fire and hospital aid will be unavailable until The Purge concludes.

SECTION 3: The following weapons cannot be used during The Purge: weapons of mass destruction, fragment-producing explosives higher than a hazard class HC/D 1.4 and viral contagion projectiles. Recommended weapons: A.R. rifles and handguns of caliber 6.2 and all bladed weaponry.

SECTION 4: Government officials of ranking 5 and higher have been granted immunity from The Purge and shall not be harmed.

SECTION 5: Non-compliance with any of the aforementioned rules will result in death by hanging.

Ok, first off, what kind of government tyranny b*@#$hit tells me which weapons they recommend I use during my annual unmotivated mass crime wave? If I want to hack the stock exchange, nobody can make me use a bladed weapon. I want a lawyer. I know my rights.

Second comment: Date changes from first to second movie aside, this is at least a much clearer explanation of the mechanism. The basic rule is that once a year “any and all crime, up to and including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours.”

This is much simpler at least than the first movie’s confusingly implied premise that all laws were suspended, which would include removing all civil law and basically formally disestablish the whole of society for a 12 hour span. Still, now we need a whole damn army of attorneys who are on call one day a year to tell you if you’re about to commit a crime (no consequence) or a civil violation (still punishable or liable).
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