wonksplainer

WTF Is Happening In Belarus? Well, It's VERY TRUMPY.

Authoritarian shitbags are authoritarian shitbags.

Belarus had a big election Sunday. Or should we say "election," because Belarus, which some call Europe's last dictatorship — at least until Trump/Putin buddy Viktor Orban finishes destroying Hungary — does not have real elections. The same guy, a rightwing authoritarian populist named Alexander Lukashenko, has been president since 1994, and he doesn't plan to stop being that now. So, like authoritarian dictators do, he rigged the election.

A Loathed Authoritarian President Who Fucked Up His Country's Coronavirus Response And Is Very Thin-Skinned? TELL US MORE!

At this point, it's pretty clear that your average man-on-the-street in Belarus hates Lukashenko, kind of like how everybody in America hates Donald Trump. The gabillions of Belarusians protesting in the streets lately are visual evidence of that.

Vox has a couple other World Almanac-type facts about the political situation in Belarus:

A government-backed poll from April found only a third of Belarusians trusted him — one of the lowest ratings of his rule. While good polling is hard to come by in Belarus, that one made sense: The dictator both minimized and mishandled his nation's coronavirus outbreak, oversaw a collapsing economy, and struggled to keep an encroaching Russia at bay.

With such dismal approval ratings, most experts believe Lukashenko would've lost a free and fair vote. Which is why Lukashenko did everything in his power to make sure Sunday's election was anything but free and fair.

Solid support of a whole third of the country? Total fuckup on coronavirus and the economy? Letting Russia run roughshod? These authoritarians do seem to have certain things in common. Another poll put his popular support more like three percent, which the Washington Post reports turned into some JOKES in Belarus about old "Sasha 3%." Lukashenko did not like those jokes. He sounds pretty thin-skinned, like some people we know.

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Nice Time

Dinesh D'Souza Has Found A Hill To Thigh On

Maybe he just really thighed one on last night.

Yesterday, Donald Trump made one of his dumb little reading-off-a-teleprompter mistakes, accidentally mispronouncing "Thailand" as "thigh-land." He immediately corrected himself and went on to say he really likes the leaders of Thailand and Vietnam, who are constantly ripping off the USA and that's gonna end, just you wait and see, because international trade is a zero-sum game (which it kinda isn't really). So here's the next host of "Never-Reads Anything Rainbow" doing his thing:

THIGH-LAND: President Trump TELEPROMPTER PROBLEMS? youtu.be

Folks laughed, pointed out that Donald Trump doesn't read, and moved on, because it was just one more amusing but Mostly Harmless example of the leader of the Free World being a witless numpty.

At least that's what it was until convicted (but pardoned by Trump) felon Dinesh D'Souza started insisting on Twitter that Trump hadn't made a "mistake," because the proper pronunciation of the Southeast Asian nation really IS "thigh-land," at least in erudite corners of the British Empiah, and it's only you provincial American rubes (and Donald Trump in his second try) who think "Thailand" is pronounced with an initial /t/, not an initial /Θ/.

He's still at it today, in fact. We can only assume that, following his 2018 pardon, the smarmy little bumblefuck must have sworn a Wookie Life Debt to the Great Man.

Christ, what an athhole.

Still, since this is August, in the midst of what in the Before Times was called the Silly Season because there wasn't a lot of news going on, and even in election years the campaigning really only got going after Labor Day, everyone, linguists included, seems to be having a fine old time telling D'Souza he's a freaking idiot. Bhutan up your coats; this visit to the thighs of the internet will involve some cunning linguistics.


Reuters, in a piece that briefly mentions and then dismisses D'Souza's proclamation, notes that Thai news outlets had fun with the gaffe:

#Thighland became one of the top-trending Twitter hashtags in Thailand with 32,000 tweets and in the top 25 in the United States with over 156,000, according to the tracking site Twitscoop.

The English-language online newspaper Thai Enquirer changed its Twitter name to "Thigh Enquirer" early Friday morning and ran an article on the mistake. TNN Online also reported the news here as did Thailand's Voice TV, and Matichon newspaper.

We're glad we actually checked out the article at the Thai Enquirer, because the paper took the nontroversy exactly as seriously as it deserved:

The paper also tackled D'Souza's claim with a tweet of its own, which we'll screenshot here because we imagine they'll go back to the conventional name once everyone in the office stops giggling. The tweet even includes its own Thai-English joke.

"5555555555" it turns out, is not a reference to Interstella 5555, one of the most gloriously weird movies ever made, but is actually Thai internet slang:

555: Alternate version of lol or "hahaha" in online or text conversation, usually with someone who speaks Thai. The Thai word for 5 is pronounced "ha", so three of them would be pronounced "hahaha"

The more you know!

Despite D'Souza's insistence that it IS SO pronounced "Thighland" in British, Australian, and Indian varieties of English, scores of people from those countries showed up in his replies to tell him he was a Nidiot (the original spelling). Several noted that the Reuters piece had consulted an Actual Linguistics Expert on the matter:

Rikker Dockum, a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, told Reuters that Trump's second pronunciation - with an aspirated hard "t" instead of a soft "th" sound - is the widely used one in both Thai and English.

"Among English speakers around the world, this is not a disputed pronunciation," he added.

Then Rikker Dockum returned to his homeworld somewhere in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

The India-based English language website MEAWW had its own fun with D'Souza, highlighting a tweet that offered its own provincal take:

And thighing things up with a bow from another Indian speaker of Indian English, who speaks for us all:

And we'll let this find at the invaluable Language Log blog play the former felon off:

Still, we're looking forward to D'Souza's upcoming Star Wars fanfiction, in which the Empire's elite pilots chase after the galactic Rebels in Thigh Fighters

[Reuters / Thai Enquirer / MEAWW / Language Log / Photo: Exhibitors-Herald-World, Feb 8, 1930, via Paper Dragon]

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coronavirus

Trump Pretty Sure Schools Not Doing Enough To Spread COVID-19

Everyone must do their part, says leader of Death Cult.

After his White House declaration yesterday that schools must reopen in the fall, regardless of whatever local coronavirus outbreaks may be going on, Donald Trump took to Twitter this morning to yell that schools have to open, they just have to, or he will be quite cross indeed. Except he doesn't want schools to have to follow health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because what does the CDC know about controlling and preventing disease?

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Everywhere Else News

After 34 Years, Olof Palme Gets Very Own Lee Harvey Oswald

Prosecutors assemble clues with tiny hex wrench.

Sweden's prime minister Olof Palme was assassinated in 1986, right in the middle of Stockholm, as he and his wife left a movie theater. Now, after all these years, a prosecutor who's been leading the investigation since 2017 announced that the case is now closed. At a news conference early this morning, Prosecutor Krister Petersson named a pretty-much-nobody guy as Palme's killer, and it wasn't even Woody Harrelson's dad. The announcement isn't likely to satisfy Swedish conspiracy theorists, who would far rather find evidence that Palme was maybe murdered by the CIA, South Africa, Kurdish separatists, or possibly Ted Cruz, the Zodiac Killer.

The likely assassin, Petersson said, was Stig Engstrom, a graphic designer known to assassination buffs as "Skandia man," for the insurance company where he worked. The company had offices near the theater where Palme was killed. Petersson said that while there was "reasonable evidence" — enough to arrest Engstrom, if he were still alive — that evidence "would not, in itself, lead to a conviction" without further physical evidence that simply isn't available after all this time. Engstrom killed himself in 2000 (or so they want you to believe), and Petersson said, "Because the person is dead, I cannot bring charges against him and have decided to close the investigation." He offered no motive for the murder, although Engstrom was known to disagree strongly with Palme's politics.

Olof Palme was the leader of Sweden's Social Democratic party, and served multiple terms as prime minister, from 1969-1976, and then again from 1982 until he was assassinated. He's often credited as the architect of Sweden's modern welfare state, and he frequently offered verbal support to revolutionary movements around the world. The New York Times notes that earned him

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