The Sunday Post for September 4, 2016

Inside the Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns

There are a lot of guns in this country. And obviously a lot of shootings. And the only way to trace a gun, as Jeanne Marie Laskas uncovers, is through an amazingly inefficient system reliant on thousands upon thousands of boxes filled with records. Also, computers and searchable digital files are not allowed. Laskas’ interviews with Charlie Houser and his team at ATF show the fascinating and overlooked side of gun tracing.

We have more gun retailers in America than we do supermarkets, more than 55,000 of them. We're talking nearly four times the number of McDonald's. Nobody knows how many guns that equals, but in 2013, U.S. gun manufacturers rolled out 10,844,792 guns, and we imported an additional 5,539,539. The numbers were equally astounding the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that.

By law, the system must remain intricate, thorny, and all but impenetrable. Matching a firearm to a person — tracing a gun — is therefore a needle-in-a-haystack proposition that depends on Form 4473. To the people at the tracing center, locating that document is the whole object of the game. It's the holy grail. The form has the gun purchaser's signature on it, his or her address, place and date of birth, height, weight, gender, ethnicity, race, and, sometimes, Social Security number (“Optional, but will help prevent misidentification,” says box 8).

The Revenge of Roger’s Angels

Roger Ailes is paranoid, ultra-surveillant, and power-abusing. With about 12 self-admitted career train wrecks, this one is the biggest one yet, and Gabriel Sherman details it extensively. There are dozens of allegations dating back to the 60s from women who Ailes has sexually harassed. It’s about time someone called him out on his predatory behavior and the misogynistic atmosphere he created in and beyond the Fox News offices.

Off-camera, Carlson is a Stanford- and Oxford-educated feminist who chafed at the culture of Fox News. When Ailes made harassing comments to her about her legs and suggested she wear tight-fitting outfits after she joined the network in 2005, she tried to ignore him. But eventually he pushed her too far. When Carlson complained to her supervisor in 2009 about her co-host Steve Doocy, who she said condescended to her on and off the air, Ailes responded that she was “a man hater” and a “killer” who “needed to get along with the boys.” After this conversation, Carlson says, her role on the show diminished. In September 2013, Ailes demoted her from the morning show Fox & Friends to the lower-rated 2 p.m. time slot.
Hardworking, ticked off, ‘driven by rage and anxiety’: The Oatmeal isn’t who you think he is

Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal, is a local known for his online comics. Susan Kelleher discovers that the force behind these incredibly successful comics sits and creates for 12 hours, fundraises to spite attorneys, and organizes weird races around Seattle — among other talents.

Inman’s comics have won an Eisner Award, the Pulitzer Prize of the comics industry (he’s nominated again this year). Where other cartoonists struggle to eat, Inman owns a million-dollar home in Seattle with a captain’s view of Puget Sound.

In a different time and place, the trajectory of Inman’s life thus far would be positively freakish. But the former computer programmer occupies a rare intersection of art and technology, a social space where he can sit at home in his pajamas and watch in real time as his comics connect with millions of people around the world.

Would that it were so simple

A short and nerdy piece about the subjunctive “were” and a few cases against it. It’s worth a read if, like me, you’re the snob in your friend group who corrects people’s grammar (and should maybe reconsider). Would that English weren’t so weird.

The English “were” is the runt of the subjunctive litter, used on just one verb, just some of the time, and not by everyone. And some experts reckon this is not a subjunctive at all. “The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language”, by Geoffrey Pullum and Rodney Huddleston, calls counterfactual “were” the “irrealis”, rather than the subjunctive, and says that it is an unstable remnant of an earlier system.
Bridging the language divide in Thailand's strife-torn deep south

The issues that plague Thai education — especially surrounding language — reflect the more general underlying conflicts between various identities, as Adam Ramsey investigates and points out.

In an exhaustive 2012 report into the conflict in southern Thailand, the International Crisis Group highlighted the “marginalisation of [deep south] culture, history, religion and language” as a major force fuelling the violence.

The education policy has long embittered the majority Patani-Malay speaking community of Thailand’s four southernmost provinces. As well as consistently producing some of the poorest literacy scores in the country, families in the south see the enforced Thai-language curriculum as an attempt to further marginalise a key facet of their own identity: their own language.