The Weekender, April 19, 2019

1) “Are X-Men (Legally) Human?” Another installment of the Now I Know YouTube channel is up! If you’re not familiar with the X-Men, the good guy mutants think that mutants are just innocent people with genetic mutations (and special powers); the bad guy mutants think that mutants are their own, non-human species. Basically.

Anyhoo, here’s why Marvel, the creators of the X-Men, sided with the bad guys — when it came to the U.S. legal system, at least.

3) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: The Swimming Pool That Was Literally Blacked Out — The word “literally” is important.

Tuesday: Why Do Escalators Have Those Brushes Along the Edge? — No, they aren’t there to clean your shoes.

Wednesday: The Recursive Candy Bar — How Kit Kats keep on keeping on.

Thursday: Meet The People Who Steal Garbage — At least you won’t miss it when it’s gone.

4) “Pilot lived a mysterious double life. Then a plane crash exposed aliases, falsehoods and questions” (Los Angeles Times, 7 minutes, March 2019). Thanks to reader John G. for sharing this — although I don’t really know what to make of this guy’s story. But I guess that’s the point.


5) “How Sovereign Citizens Helped Swindle $1 Billion From the Government They Disavow” (New York Times, 20 minutes, March 2019). I just learned about this oddball movement a week or so ago and then stumbled over this article.

Sovereigns, who sometimes call themselves “freemen” or “state citizens,” have no foundational document, but broadly they subscribe to an alternate version of American history. The tale can vary from sovereign to sovereign, but it goes roughly like this: At some point, a corporation secretly usurped the United States government, then went bankrupt and sought aid from international bankers. As collateral, the corporation offered the financiers … us. As sovereigns tell it, your birth certificate and Social Security card are not benign documents, but contracts that enslave you.

There is, they believe, a pathway to freedom: Renounce these contracts or otherwise assert your sovereignty. ([One notable “soverign,” Sean David] Morton said he once told the Social Security Administration, “I don’t want this number.”) Then no one — not the taxman, not the police — can tell you what to do. Not all sovereigns are con men, but their belief system lends itself to deceit. You might declare yourself a “diplomat” from a nonexistent country. (Mr. Morton represented the Republic of New Lemuria and the Dominion of Melchizedek.) Or start a fake Native American tribe. Or blow off a court case because the American flag in the courtroom has gold fringe. Some sovereigns have even lashed out violently at law enforcement officers, which is why they’re considered a domestic terrorism threat.

6) “Mr. Rogers Had a Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Children” (The Atlantic, June 2018). The subhead, if you need it to encourage you to click for some reason, is: “The TV legend possessed an extraordinary understanding of how kids make sense of language.”

Have a great weekend!