“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
This Could Actually Work...
Petition for the Establishment of the Ronald Reagan Super-Presidency
I think every Rational Person can agree that half of this country has lost its damn mind—and I'm not talking about the Good Half! It's time we forced the Elites in this country—again, not the good ones—to pay their fair share! If they really think that we should raise the top marginal tax rate—which affects everyone equally!—they should prove it by putting their unearned billions of dollars to good use.
By establishing the official, fully-funded position of RONALD REAGAN SUPER PRESIDENCY, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, George Soros, and Warren Buffett will be demonstrating a commitment to start being patriotic and working to MATA—Make America Truly Amazing. For only a quarter of a billion dollars each, they can create a new Executive Position that would have some Real, Actual Power in this country—unlike the regular presidency that, a lot of people don't realize, was basically RUINED by Obama, and doesn't let you do anything without a bunch of Very Partisan, Very Crooked judges getting in the way.
With that in mind, the following are the enumerated powers and privileges that the Super-President would wield:
1)The Super-Presidency, Super-President and all Derivatives are always Capitalized, and should actually be in ALL-CAPS as often as possible, because He—not to be sexist, but who are we kidding?—deserves our respect.
2)Upon unanimous selection by everyone on Cable News and the Met Gala guest list—who are generally Snooty Jerks, but will make the right call on this one, because it's Important—the Super-President shall be awarded A BILLION DOLLARS, up-front, no questions asked. Not that he needs it. I mean, even being qualified for this kind of position probably means He's already a Billionaire (but there's obviously no need to look too closely into His finances).
3)He will have his own social-media platform that's like Twitter, but with more Free Speech and fewer Haters. It will be called the Super-President's, Listen Up, Time To E-learn Respectfully—or SPLUTTER for short.
4)Everyone on cable news has to say one flattering thing about the Super-President every day, unless they want to be officially CANCELED, and de-platformed from SPLUTTER, or possibly executed—we'll work out the details later.
5)Once a week, He gets to force someone who's been rude to Him to APOLOGIZE or, again, be de-platformed/executed.
6)Once a month he gets a full Military Parade, with real Hollywood military weapons and vehicles like you see in the movies, and a lot of really Handsome Generals straight from central casting. And also a free tour of Universal Studios.
7)Once a year, His official title will be amended to reflect his achievements. Like, say that Billion Dollar bonus gives him the momentum he needs to quickly become the richest man in the world—as long as a Close Associate vouches over the phone and has a different name (though some overlap in the names is no big deal), we won't need to check too closely—then His official title will be lengthened to THE RONALD REAGAN SUPER-PRESIDENT, _ _ _ _ _ _ _. _ _ _ _ _, THE RICHEST AND THEREFORE SMARTEST MAN IN THE WORLD. And if he wants to replace the part about Reagan with his own name, that's also allowed—it's really just a place-holder.
8)He can have a Second Wife if he wants to, because He's EARNED it—unlike the regular president, who only gets one.
9)Free McDonald's for life, including if he wants to feed like a whole sports team, as long as they aren't Anthem-Kneelers.
10)His own version of the American flag with His name on it, and extra padding for flag-hugs.
11)It's a Lifetime Appointment, so He doesn't need to waste his time on re-elections, and He can never be IMPEACHED OR WITCH-HUNTED OR LYNCHED.
12)Rallies whenever He wants, and also Meetings for very High-Level, Important deals with very Handsome and Important Men, straight out of central casting.
Obviously this is way too much POWER to give to just anyone, so we better talk about the Requirements For Qualification, which are pretty tough, let me tell you, but should be no big deal as long as you're not a loser.
1)He should already be RICH, like really loaded, and not embarrassed to show it off, because that makes Him smart.
2)He should have gone to a really good school, like the Wharton School of Business, and any really established Jesuit School should be fine for undergrad. He also needs to have gotten really good grades, as verified by another call from a Close Associate with a BELIEVABLE name.
3)He has to resign from any Political Office He is currently holding, and can never hold another office, but there's obviously no Shame in it, because this is basically a PROMOTION, and we wouldn't want a politician-type having this much power in the first place—this is a job for a Real Man.
4)He has to pledge to Make America Truly Amazing
5)He should have made his Fortune in something Real and Important, like Real Estate or Branded Marketing.
6)He should definitely be tall, like at least 6'2"—not that we're getting out a tape measure.
7)He should be a truly great golfer, since most DEALS happen out on the links these days. Any plaque that lists Him as a Champion at a prestigious Club/Resort should be proof enough.
8)Must be a Real American, and no I will not explain.
10)He will probably already be very important and respected, as measured by how many times He's been on the cover of TIME magazine—at least 20.
So, please sign here if you want these rich, Lefty Elites to pony up and give someone a REAL chance to fix this country. And if you don't sign, that means you hate America and you hate Trump. Oh, and feel free to nominate anyone you think might Qualify.
Is biohacking as scary as it's been made out to be?
Keoni Gandall, an 18-year-old research fellow at Stanford, has eschewed video games and team sports in favor of using advanced lab equipment to perform DIY gene editing. Using the widely available CRISPR/Cas9, Gandall wants to clone DNA and eventually make full genomes at home. The availability of this technology represents a new democratization of science, a science that can be performed anywhere by anyone relatively cheaply. That said, there's always a price associated with this type of freedom.
As barriers to entry to the scientific community are torn down, the world is exposed to the ideas and experiments of people outside of genetic science's traditional university setting. That said, more ideas don't necessarily mean better ideas. Biotech firm Ascendance Biomedical seemed committed to proving this point when their CEO Aaron Traywick injected himself with a DIY herpes medication in front of a crowd in Austin this February. This is the same company that urged Tristan Roberts to inject himself with an untested gene therapy to treat his HIV. Neither of these experiments worked, but they do paint an interesting picture of what we can expect in the future. Ease of access combined with relatively lax FDA standards about testing experimental medicines on oneself will eventually give rise to more companies like Ascendance Biomedical. Sure, this may present a sort of minor competition with Big Pharma with regard to curing certain diseases, but the danger of injecting oneself with a mystery cocktail created by someone with a few thousand dollars worth of gene-editing technology cannot be overstated.
Traywick injecting himself with his DIY herpes medication.
Still, incompetent gene editors like Traywick are a bigger danger to themselves than others. The real concern with the dissemination of this technology is the potential for it to be used in the manufacturing of homemade biochemical weapons. Recently, researchers at the University of Alberta were able to recreate Horsepox, an extinct relative of the smallpox virus. It only cost them $100,000, and it took about six months. While this price point will keep hobbyists like Gandall from reproducing extinct diseases, the lack of government oversight regarding the University's experiment is frightening. Genetic science is improving at a rate faster than legislation regulating DNA experimentation can be churned out. In the wrong hands, the dangers associated with viral editing are incalculable.
Back in 2016, researchers at MIT invented a programming language that allows them to design and edit DNA. Supposedly, anyone fluent in this language is able to generate and edit a DNA sequence from their computer. Before this language was invented, advanced gene editing required years of experience. According to scientists at MIT, now anyone with some programming skills can create, edit, and model DNA. According to MIT professor Christopher Voigt, "it is literally a programming language for bacteria." The medical applications are seemingly endless, but there are concerns regarding accessibility. If every person with a computer has the ability to design new genetic material, biological attacks won't just increase in number, their origins will also become more and more difficult to trace.
Analysis of DNA's nucleotides
While the growing anxiety surrounding biohacking is certainly warranted, there are plenty of professional geneticists out there who don't seem to be worried, and most of them don't believe that DNA sequencing is anything like a computer language. Synthetic biologist Sarah Richardson believes that this line of thinking has given bioengineers unrealistic expectations saying, "any analogy that ignores or downplays the fundamental rule of biology — that a cell makes imperfect copies of itself — is going to lead down a frustrating and unproductive path." According to her, we haven't even learned what some of our genes actually do, and that those worrying about the rise of biohacking are being tricked into fear. Scientists are quick to admonish the risky and often outright stupid Garageband biohackers out there, because as of right now, there's still a ton that our top geneticists don't know. We only finished mapping the human genome 15 years ago. Hell, it's only been 65 years since we discovered DNA. We're just not at the point where people with little-to-no real lab experience can accurately sequence and edit DNA from their basement. Still, the time is coming when this type of DIY genetic editing will be possible and accessible, which is why many in the bioethics community are arguing that t we need to start having the conversation now–while biohacking is in its infancy–so we can draw up preemptive legislation. One can only imagine the damage Aaron Traywick's could do if this technology were more advanced.