August 14, 2017

Charlottesville and the Bigotocracy

Michael Eric Dyson – The New York Times:

This bigotocracy overlooks fundamental facts about slavery in this country: that blacks were stolen from their African homeland to toil for no wages in American dirt. When black folk and others point that out, white bigots are aggrieved. They are especially offended when it is argued that slavery changed clothes during Reconstruction and got dressed up as freedom, only to keep menacing black folk as it did during Jim Crow. The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin. And yet they remain depressingly and purposefully ignorant of what slavery was, how it happened, what it did to us, how it shaped race and the air and space between white and black folk, and the life and arc of white and black cultures.

Now is the time for every decent white American to prove he or she loves this country by actively speaking out against the scourge this bigotocracy represents. If such heinous behavior is met by white silence, it will only cement the perception that as long as most white folk are not immediately at risk, then all is relatively well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could more clearly declare the moral bankruptcy of our country.

Emphasis mine.

Americans have been content to let their sons and daughters fight the good fights on foreign waters and soil for hundreds of years. Race is indeed our nation’s original sin; it is our home-grown fight. Its battles happen here, in the 1860s, in the Jim Crow era, in the 1960s dawn of the civil rights era. They happen in 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, where armed clowns with Walmart tiki torches, enabled by the triangulated politics of our current president, brought a violence to the white community reminiscent of that in American black communities everywhere, since forever.

But for a brief decade in the 1960s, the white majority has managed to avoid the question of race in America. There’s always been an excuse. This time it’s “paid protesters” and the “alt-left.” There is no alt-left. There’s a fantasy of conservative citizens, hopeful of throwing a “but-what-about” on liberal politics to cover the shame of their own failed disaster of a movement.

There is no avoiding it, not among a decent, humane people. No avoiding it among the non-white citizenry, ever. Blood has been spilled and there will be more, because we have by omission and commission avoided racial truth in America for too long. If you consider yourself a decent and humane citizen of any political stripe, it is time to raise your voice.

#Charlottesville

August 13, 2017

∴ Charlottesville

A lot has been written and said about the events in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday. I was struck by a thought about it all while I took a long walk to visit an old friend today.

The narrative often begins by describing a planned “peaceful demonstration” by a group of neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, white supremacists and Klansmen. Klansmen. In 2017.

It usually continues, with self-righteous agreement all around, that they have a right to express themselves as protected by the Constitution of the United States.

That’s right, up to a point. Peaceful demonstration is a form of political speech, and it’s protected by amendment one of our Constitution. There’s just one problem with yesterday’s exercise of that right.

There is no such thing as a peaceful demonstration by white supremacists, by neo-Nazis, by neo-Confederates, or by the “Klan” who are bent on making our culture and our country look like their fever dreams, asserting the supremacy of white, privileged, usually Southern men. There is violence in their speech. It is on their flags, it is in their pointy Klan hats.

If you’re in any doubt about that ask a black man or woman, an older one if you can. Ask about their life – pre-1970s, when these pointy-hatted fools ran amok in the majority in the South and black families were segregated in their housing and their schooling in the North, too – and ask if they saw any inherent violence among the “peaceful demonstrators” before the crap hit the fan and a lunatic mowed down counter-demonstrators, killing a woman.

Then ask yourself if this is the bargain we thought we made when we elected the white supremacists’ validator and enabler last November. Did you get what you were looking for in that guy?

*

Someone I’ve recently met and am humbled to know wrote a comment about these events today. It’s written from a place of deep, first-hand knowledge that comes from putting oneself in immediate danger for the sake of others:

We just have to keep fighting the same battles over and over again. Some of us fight them as they erupt and many others of us fight them every hour of every day.

Did you notice who’s fighting the fight? Us, and us. There is only us. Us who are outraged occasionally, and us who live it every day, living in their skin, living in their faith, living in their gender, living their life.

*

Awakening comes in many forms. Sometimes it hits a white boy in the head during a long walk, after a thought got stuck in his head for a day, a day that began angry, ashamed, outraged. At other times it arrives when you learn the hard way that the universe isn’t wired the way you thought it was. When the backlash hits after a black man dared to be president of the United States for eight years.

Awakening is always good, always healthy. Sometimes it’s difficult. Imagine getting ‘woke’ the moment you pop into this world, and never being let to forget it.

What happened down the road from us Saturday was no different than many events in the 1950s and 60s, except the majority has changed. The guys in red and black and pointy hats, “sieg heiling” their way through Emancipation Park were in the minority this time.

Don’t let your awakening come when the majority swings the other way.

#Charlottesville

August 11, 2017

∴ A Week: Now, I Remember

Bodhi came to live with us a week ago today. All the memories of puppies past came back in a rush, as well. Funny how a puppy sitting up, watching you come down the stairs answering his barks, makes a 3am potty break not so bad. Especially when he makes it out the door and into the grass!

Bodhi (left) reminded me of that little girl on the right so much …

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever BodhiCream yellow Labrador Retriever Zele

… I had to find a photo of Zele’s first day with us to see why.

Their behaviors subtly differ, but the experiences of their joining our pack are very similar. Falling in love with both snuck up on us fast.

Stella, our senior Golden Retriever, has come into her own as a playmate for Bodhi. It took her a few days to warm up to him, but now they’re rolling around, tugging chew toys and sampling each others’ meals.

All-in-all it’s been a welcome week  of renewal around our home. Bodhi is going to become a very sweet boy, and a beautiful male Lab. Life with this guy is good.

#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

August 10, 2017

How America Lost Its Mind

Kurt Andersen – The Atlantic:

America was created by true believers and passionate dreamers, and by hucksters and their suckers, which made America successful—but also by a people uniquely susceptible to fantasy, as epitomized by everything from Salem’s hunting witches to Joseph Smith’s creating Mormonism, from P. T. Barnum to speaking in tongues, from Hollywood to Scientology to conspiracy theories, from Walt Disney to Billy Graham to Ronald Reagan to Oprah Winfrey to Trump. In other words: Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age. The result is the America we inhabit today, with reality and fantasy weirdly and dangerously blurred and commingled.

We need to adopt new protocols for information-media hygiene. Would you feed your kids a half-eaten casserole a stranger handed you on the bus, or give them medicine you got from some lady at the gym?

And fight the good fight in the public sphere. One main task, of course, is to contain the worst tendencies of Trumpism, and cut off its political-economic fuel supply, so that fantasy and lies don’t turn it into something much worse than just nasty, oafish, reality-show pseudo-conservatism. Progress is not inevitable, but it’s not impossible, either.

Thoughtful, long essay expounding on, as the article’s title indicates, how America lost its mind. It rings true, and may be the most cohesive long-term explication of our current American malaise. I highly recommend taking the time to read this and give it thought. It offers no solutions besides the final two paragraphs, cited above, but it does knit together a compelling view of how we got where we are culturally, politically, and economically. Perhaps its only glaring lapse is exclusion of the very long-simmering undercurrent of race in America, but then racism has always been built upon irrational thought, while those other aspects of American life were not.

The article also dovetails nicely with Asimov’s claim that “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”.”

So where do we go from here? Has the American experiment succumbed to its own success, devolving into hundreds of millions of individual belief-worlds? Where is the end of the fake reality saddling us with anti-science, anti-intellectualism, and Donald Trump?

#american #culture #individualism #fake #reality

August 9, 2017

∴ NFL Blackballing of Kaepernick is a Disgrace

Not that this is the stupidest or least humane response to an issue by the NFL. The way it handled Ray Rice’s beat-down of his girlfriend in an elevator in plain view of a security camera arguably ranks up there. But why rank sins?

William C. Rhodes – The Undefeated:

Kaepernick vs. the NFL is not a football issue and never has been. Anyone who believes that Kaepernick’s continued unemployment is about ability is being dangerously naïve.

Kaepernick’s protests last season are precisely why he remains unsigned today. Lesser players are already under contract. His unemployment is another tell that the NFL, as part of larger American culture, is unwilling to face America’s original sin. Doing so might tarnish the brand.

Dr. King was shot dead for doing this. John Lewis was bludgeoned nearly to death. Black and white men and women were beaten, terrorized, killed, buried, and forgotten. For decades. The list of those suffering the backlash of cultural denial is long.

Memory, for much of the American culture who repudiate Kaepernick and his supporters, is short.

Kaepernick made a conscious choice to draw attention to himself, which begged the question why he was taking a knee. We all know why. The fallout he’s seeing this season is part of that conscious choice, too. He knew he’d be not only excoriated, but sidelined, and then unemployed and unemployable in the NFL. We should continue to ask, why?

There’s an upside to this predictability. News of Kaepernick’s treatment this season will be reported, as here. A few more minds will ask why?, wake up, and decry the ongoing second-classness of being non-white in America.

Slavery. Jim Crow.  Segregationist housing and schooling. Mass incarceration. Racist policing. Economic oppression. Openly white supremacist activism after the election of Mr. Trump.

Tell me again how we’re all treated equal in America, because I don’t believe it.


There is a truth out there that will eventually make this problem, the sorest American problem since our founding, moot. Census data doesn’t lie. The tide of color in America is decidedly a multitude of shades darker than European white. And as multi-racial families grow in number, the coloring of America grows. That’s fact. You can look it up (page 9, table 2).

We shouldn’t have to wait for generations to die before the promise of America is brought to everyone.

#colin #kaepernick #nfl #blackballed

August 6, 2017

∴ How Quickly They Learn

Bodhi among the greenery

I’d forgotten how rapidly puppies learn. Problems quickly find solutions with a little coaching. It’s not so much training, yet, as it is herding and directing attention.

Coaching Bodhi through the basics of our home and routines has been a joy so far.

Two days in, Bodhi knows us well enough to scamper after, or search us out when we’re not in sight. We’ve become his people. Or: he’s adopted us. He’s learned his name, and, like Zele before him, the word “no.”

He’s also learned the two most important words for a puppy: poop and potty.

He can unknowingly be a mischievous little guy. We’ve managed to head off chewed furniture and plants with an abundance of hard and soft chew toys, and long memories of past disasters. My next task is to find and evenly distribute all of the toys between his kennel, the back deck, and the rest of the house. And keep them that way.

Zele’s bucket of tennis balls, both those intact and her beloved mower-slashed variety have also come in handy. Bodhi loves running after them and chewing the deflated ones. While they’re still a bit large for his mouth, he’s inherited a nickname from the old girl: bigmouth. He can wrap his jaws around that ball, just barely.

Bodhi’s not fond of his kennel, yet. I learned the best way to get him quieted and asleep within it is to lay outside and speak to him soothingly, while giving his ears and chest a scratch. He shortly follows my lay-down lead, and then nods off. That was today’s lesson, after a solid half-hour of barking and yelping while I worked on our cabinets. Bodhi’s not the only one in for training.

One thing has surprised me about this Labrador. He’s nowhere near as food-crazy as Zele was at his age. I think the reason might lie in how Jane fed Bodhi’s litter vs. how Zele’s litter ate. Jane put down four large bowls for the ten pups, providing plenty of food for all in measured quantity. Each pup ate, ranged to another bowl, and ate some more until its meal was finished. In that way they all got their allotment and no pup had to compete.

Similarly, the pups had no trouble getting access to their mama’s milk the first three weeks of their lives.

As a result, Bodhi knows his meal times and eats calmly. He even takes a break, walks around the kitchen, and comes back for the rest.

Zele probably had to compete for space – her breeder was an amateur, and likely didn’t spend the effort on the pups to make meals a calm event. Nor did she pay attention to nutrition on the level Jane did.

Zele was a maniac at her food bowl for the first year in our home, despite having a bowl all to herself. I’m not sure any more than 25% of her intake was actually chewed during that period. She eventually calmed when she realized that Maggie, our first Golden Retriever, wasn’t going to take her food. We actually had to make sure Zele didn’t glom Maggie’s meal.

I loved my Zele-girl, and despite our pre-occupation with our new family member I still miss her. None of this is to say she’s any less in my eyes or in my heart. I’m simply humbled by Jane’s wealth of knowledge and her love for these dogs. I can already see the difference it made having her work with our pup before he came home with us.

#Blackbirds #Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever #Jane #Kelso #Blackbird #Fly

August 4, 2017

∴ Blackbird's Bodhi

Bodhi first hour home

We brought home a new friend today.

There’s so much to say about this little guy. There are so many adventures ahead. As I’m fond of telling our dogs, I’ll always have him, for the rest of his life. So there will be many more posts of his story.

His mama’s name is Blackbird Fly, a beautiful, four-year old black Labrador Retriever bred by Jane Kelso. Our time spent with Jane, Chris, Fly and Jane’s other three Labs, our chats, and the general shape of my universe right now led me to name our new friend, a seven-week old yellow Lab the shade of parchment, Blackbird’s Bodhi after his mama. We’ll call him Bodhi for short.

Bodhi (bo-dee) is an old word, sometimes translated as “enlightenment,” but more accurately as “awakening,” from the Pali. It refers, for me, to the unconditional, in-the-moment love and affection I’ve awakened to with our dogs. And, in a couple of more personal ways, a cessation of suffering.

Bodhi’s middle name is, of course, Tiberius (the starship captain or the emperor? Yes.). He’s already earned one long nickname from Kelly: Bodhi T. Bodenheimer. Or Bodhi T. Odenheimer. Thor and the Allfather enter into this, too.

Bodhi laying inside

Tonight and for the next week we’ll just let him explore his new home without much interference, talking to him when he’s near, repeating his name, and generally making sure he stays out of trouble. We have a couple of kennels set up for him for when we’re not watching and he’s not snoozing. For the next three nights we’ll transition him from his pack of siblings to ours with a towel rubbed over his mama’s coat and laid upon our bed.

There will be photos, probably more than you want to see, posted here and elsewhere.

There are two dogs in our home again. There is a “white” Lab in our home again. There is a puppy in our home, an innocent little mind growing every day. There is happiness in my mind, and an abundance in my life. There is good fortune shining upon us today.

 


My world

Kelly, Stella, and Bodhi

#Labrador #Retreiver #Bodhi #Jane #Kelso #Blackbird #Fly

August 2, 2017

Finding Some Peace After War

Dave Philipps – The New York Times:

“This walk is for recentering,” he said. “I view it as my last deployment. I’m walking my way home.”

All over the country, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are on similar quests. By foot, boat, bicycle, even wheelchair, they are crisscrossing the land this summer, trying to cobble serenity from lives upended by combat.

So worth your time to read these multiple accounts of veterans walking off the effects of war. Do yourself a favor, and read. And maybe take a long walk now and again. It’ll do you good.

#walkItOff #veterans #mental #health

Battlestar Galactica was Originally Pitched as a Very Different Show

Dan Neilan – The A.V. Club:

By having its roots in episodic storytelling while purposefully evolving into a serialized format, Battlestar was able to give its audience engaging, action-packed weekly episodes while laying the groundwork for a complex, long-term narrative. As Moore notes, part of the danger of the recent move to exclusively serialized shows tailor-made for streaming services “is that you almost get into a monotone, where they all have the same beat and pace and it’s all one long thing— and when you can kind of do this interesting mixture of episodic and serialization, you can kind of take the audience on a more interesting journey.”

Part of the enjoyment of Battlestar was that you never knew what the next episode would bring. It wasn’t a binge-worthy movie-divided-thirteen-ways. Battlestar might move sets, even jump story lines, appearing on a planet or splitting an episode between Galactica, a squadron of fighters, and a Cylon basestar. You never knew what was coming next.

Throughout the series each season arc, and the even larger series arc moved along at slower and even glacial paces. It was like watching a clock within a clock within another clock, and each clockwork moved independently.

Battlestar was written so compellingly that Kelly got hooked early on, and we watched every episode together. Sometimes we’d watch three back-to-back, others we’d watch just one. Every installment had a different flavor. Our DVR died, taking with it the final episode, and it was months before we got to see it. We made sure we did.

Contrast with two of my current favorites, each exemplifying the monotone look and beat mentioned by Moore: Stranger Things and Fargo. Each is well-written, well-produced, and leads the viewer deeper into the story with each episode. Each episode does, however, have a very similar feel to all the others. You’d feel right at home knocking off an entire season in one day-long, perhaps holiday-spanning, marathon.

I could never do that with Battlestar. Too intense, and too diverse. My mind whipsawed after two or three episodes.

Contrast those with another current fav, The Expanse. The Expanse is written with a more episodic bent, not unlike Battlestar. Each installment might take you somewhere else in the story’s universe, but arcing over all is a season-long story, and above that, a series-long story line.

The Expanse is Battlestar Galactica for this decade.

If binge-worthy shows have a monotone patina in order to make them go down easier for a day-long, Cheetos-laden binge, so much more’s the loss of craft.

#battlestarGlalactica #episodicTV #binge #watching

July 29, 2017

Trump Ban on Transgender Service Members Alarms Some Military Officers

Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart – Reuters:

“I hope our commander in chief understands that we don’t transmit orders via Twitter, and that he can’t, either,” one said by telephone, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“Even if this were an order, implementing it legally would take considerable time, if it’s even possible.”

Huh. So there’s that.

GOP Congress: not playing ball. Pentagon: fuck you, Mr. President. White House staff: hack ratio increasing, surrounded by chaos, Titanically foundering. Suckers who voted for this chump: “You want to take away my what?” The rest of us: that you didn’t see this coming before he declared his candidacy should forfeit your voting rights.

America, today. Any questions?

#Trump #still #a #fraud #impeach #deny #destroy

July 28, 2017

How Much Transgender Troops' Medical Care Costs the Military

The president cites “medical costs” as the primary driver for his ban on transgender service members in the US military. Wrong.

Christopher Ingraham – The Washington Post:

Considering the prevalence of transgender servicemembers among the active duty military and the typical health-care costs for gender-transition-related medical treatment, the Rand study estimated that these treatments would cost the military between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually.

By contrast, total military spending on erectile dysfunction medicines amounts to $84 million annually, according to an analysis by the Military Times — 10 times the cost of annual transition-related medical care for active duty transgender servicemembers.

The military spends $41.6 million annually on Viagra alone, according to the Military Times analysis — roughly five times the estimated spending on transition-related medical care for transgender troops.

Penis pills cost the US taxpayer ten times more than the medical needs of transgender service members, yet there’s no mention of cutting those costs. I guess Mr. Trump has military plans for four-hour boners.

A good question is, why do health insurance policies, in general, cover transgender procedures and related care? The answer comes from the DSM-5: gender dysphoria is a coded diagnosis in the most recent update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for psychiatric disorders. If it’s in there, it’s recognized as a treatable condition and more often covered by insurance.

A little more digging might reveal that the Affordable Care Act includes it in its list of minimum covered ailments. Unlike, for instance, an elective nose job. You get the point.

#Trump #incompetent #fraud #military #transgender #medical #costs

July 26, 2017

∴ Almost There

Yellow Lab puppy tugging a towel

We paid another visit to Jane today. This was my fourth trip to her tucked-away home and the litter of puppies her Lab, Fly, whelped five-and-a-half weeks ago. One of those pups will come home with us a little over a week from now.

The puppies were spending their second full day in a picket-fenced play area outside. They’d grown in size and personality since my last visit.

The females were particularly interested in nibbling on my shoelaces, pockets, toes, fingers, wrists, elbows, wristwatch, and mala beads, while the boys were more reserved, loafing along the fence in the shade.

It didn’t matter. All ten were picked up, rolled over, scratched, talked-to, and generally handled by Kelly and me. We enjoyed lavishing attention, too on Jane’s older Labs Jack, Rudy, Lola, and Fly, the mama of these pups, and her very cool cat, Lester.

Afterward we enjoyed a couple of hours of Jane’s hospitality, talking the particulars of caring for a Lab pup. We’ve been down this road before with Zele, but Jane’s expert knowledge has become a welcome addition to what we know and think we know about raising a pup.

Yellow Lab puppy gnawing on my shoe

There’s been more to our talks than dog adoption. Enjoying conversation, learning her experiences training and showing field trial Labs, and particularly hearing about her younger years in the 1960s American South have made an indelible impression on me. I feel richer for having met Jane, and for the referral by our friend and veterinarian, Betty Myers.

Anyway, to the pups. Of the ten, four are females previously spoken-for, and one is a male previously spoken-for. The remaining five, all near-white yellow-coated males, are available. They were arrayed together when we arrived. While I haven’t chosen one, there were a couple that I had my eye on. One in particular. He’s among these photos.

Yellow Lab puppy looking at me

We’re preparing for our new friend. In the next week we’ll purchase a collar and have a name tag made. His kennel is already in place in our living room, and a penned bed set up on our back deck where we spend our summer evenings. The goal is to have him with us whenever we’re home, either playing, eating, out in the yard, or kenneled.

Up in the air are the first few nights of his life with us. Jane advises keeping him physically close, as he’s never known being alone. Having been raised in a house where pets weren’t permitted above the first floor, the idea of a pup on my bed is both intriguing and questionable. I suspect my heart will win out. This dog will grow into our home comforted by us day and night.

Yellow Lab puppy in Kelly's arms

My next post about these pups will be about just one of them, the one we’ve brought home, the one we’ll spend the rest of his life with. He’ll spend days in our quilt shop, “vacations” with Auntie Pam and Uncle Charlie (your dog should be so lucky), care by Dr. Betty (ditto), and many years with us, our Golden Retriever, Stella, our next dog or two or three, and whoever visits our home.

Some events in life carry more meaning than others. The experience of meeting and talking with Jane, seeing this pup and his siblings at just a week old, and watching them grow carries great meaning for me. I learned how much from the life and loss of Zele. You could call the experience of that life, the loss of it and the transition to where I am now an awakening.

There’s a clue in that.

#Labrador #Retriever #puppies

A Trump Tower of Absolute Folly

Ross Douthat – The New York Times:

But he is nonetheless clearly impaired, gravely deficient somewhere at the intersection of reason and judgment and conscience and self-control. Pointing this out is wearying and repetitive, but still it must be pointed out.

You can be as loyal as Jeff Sessions and still suffer the consequences of that plain and inescapable truth: This president should not be the president, and the sooner he is not, the better.

No wild-eyed liberal, Douthat.

At what point did we pass the tipping point for the American Right, or have we? And if we have, where are their goddamned voices? If Ross Douthat, a conservative, can write these words in The New York Times, why cannot men and women of greater standing speak them from the United States Congress, governor’s mansions, and statehouses? What greater allegiance do they have than to our Constitutions, federal and state? A set of party policies? They’re not even winning on them!

Rome is burning, people.

#Trump #fraud #impeachment #impairment

July 14, 2017

∴ Anticipation

Yellow Labrador Retriever puppies

We spent last weekend visiting family and friends, returning in time for me to pay another visit to the litter of Labrador pups from which ours will emerge.

This time around they were more active, their eyes open and their minds curious. They’ve been moved from the kiddie pool upstairs to a penned area in the basement, adjacent to the four adult dogs’ kennels.

As I sat down in the pen I was swarmed by ten energetic young dogs. I was in heaven. Along with laying on the floor with my own dogs, this is one of my favorite places in life.

The litter was fed while I sat among them. They’ve moved mainly to solid food and milk by now, their mom fairly pooped after three weeks of nursing. Afterward I had ten messy puppies back on me, nibbling at my fingers, crawling on my lap and sniffing all around.

They’re growing quickly, noticeably bigger than during our last visit.


Yellow Lab puppy sleeping

Black Lab puppy

Though we don’t know which it’ll be I know for sure I’ve had our pup in my hands, scratching its belly and whispering in its ear more than once. I think of all the experiences we’ll have after that one joins our home. The years of companionship and enjoyment, the challenges of training and the reward of a well behaved, loyal dog. All that potential is bottled up inside one of these pups and within my mind, about to unfold.

The anticipation of that next stretch of life is all-consuming at times. I need to remind myself to breathe and get back to my daily life for just a while longer.

Three weeks from today, these pups will be ready for adoption. One will come home with Kelly and me. Can’t wait.

Labrador Retriever litter

#Labrador #Retriever #puppies

Moral Vacuum in the House of Trump

David Brooks – The New York Times:

The Donald Trump Jr. we see through the Russia scandal story is not malevolent: He seems to be simply oblivious to the idea that ethical concerns could possibly play a role in everyday life.

Emphasis mine. This is the core failing of not only Trump Jr., but of Trump Sr., as well. What’s struck me about the man now holding our highest office is his lack of an apparent moral or ethical center. His motivation blows with the winds of profit.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.

This is not the core failing of Trump detractors. I’ve not heard or read anyone condemn the Trump family for their loyalty to one another. It is, in a word, expected. They are a tight-knit family. It may be their only endearing quality.

Brooks’ conclusion is sound: Trump’s central motivation is self-aggrandizement, whether through monetary profit, celebrity, or elected office. Donald Trump is a party of one, the party of “me,” and his oath of office was a lie.

#Trump #fraud

July 11, 2017

Poll: Most Republicans Say Colleges Have Negative Impact on US

TheHill:

A majority of Republicans in a new survey think colleges and universities have a negative effect on the U.S.

The Pew Research Center poll finds 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think colleges and universities hurt the country.

Just 36 percent of Republicans think they have a positive effect.

In contrast, a large majority of Democrats, 72 percent, say colleges and universities have a positive effect on the country.

Overall, slightly more than half of the public, 55 percent, thinks colleges and universities help the U.S., according to the survey.

Explains much.

We have become the Land of the Dumb.

#usa #usa #usa #dumb #dumb #dumb

July 3, 2017

∴ Today in Beer

Solace Brewing Company logo in etched glass

So we went here today. Solace Brewing of Dulles (Sterling), Virginia is a young buck of a craft brewer located under the departure end of Dulles International’s runway 30, with a large service space, a long bar, and a gorgeous brewhouse. They’re open but three weeks, yet sport six beers, with three more on short order.

Neal and I spent a few hours here sampling their beers, shootin’ the shit, and generally enjoying each other’s company. Our pal Alex and his family happened in mid-flight, proving great minds think alike. After sitting amid a pile of Labrador puppies, it’s one of my life’s true pleasures.

These folks present a simple, straightforward proposition: beer, t-shirts, glasses, and communal space. The beer spans styles from witbier to blonde ale to a pair of IPAs, with a tasty brown ale thrown in for good measure. They’ll drain three brite tanks in the coming two weeks to put up a third IPA, a stout, and a double IPA. Their brewers are working it.

Solace Brewing's beer engine

Here’s a couple shots of their brewhouse.

The blue thing is a heat exchanger. It cools the boiled wort from around 200 degrees to something that won’t kill the yeast. Brewers make sugar water. Yeast makes beer.

Notice not only a three-vessel brewing system, but duplication amid their tanking. They can effectively malt two-at-a-time, boil a kettle and keep hot liquor at the ready for sparging all at once.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of their finished beer is packaged off to kegs, and the taps are served from a cold room just off the side of the retail space.

Big Ass Fan

Of note, their cold room keeps the beer at a lovely cellar temperature. If you’re ordering an IPA, drink it now. The ambient air temperature is wind-chilled by two of these Big Ass Fans, and will warm your beer to stinky-feet aroma right quick if you wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 There’s room for another four brite tanks behind these guys.

Solace Brewing Company's brite tanks

If you’re in the Sterling, Virginia area and looking for a beer, this young brewery is worth a stop. Say “hey” to Holly behind the bar, and enjoy a Beach Bod blonde ale while you’re there.

Solace Brewing Company's beers

#beer #solace #brewing #sterling #dulles #virginia

July 2, 2017

∴ Moving Forward, Looking Back

White Labrador Retriever pup at two weeks old

We’re on a path to adopting a Labrador Retriever puppy. The litter turned two weeks old this morning.

Today brings our third visit with Jane, her pack, and Fly’s litter; the second with the pups at hand.

I’m excited for this visit. The pup’s eyes should be open this week, and that’s sure to spark their curiosity.

There’s a little anxiety attendant as well. It’s difficult to put words to why. We’re moving on from Zele – a process that began in March – and we’re unsure which of these pups will eventually come home with us. Saying goodbye to my sweet Zele-girl was one of the most difficult moments in my life. Saying hello to a new Lab puppy, whichever pup that will be, is deeply meaningful to me.

Our dogs are, for lack of eloquence, more than pets. They’re the closest we’ll come to children, they’re who we’ll come home to every day, they are who our lives will revolve around for years to come.

My plan for today is to bury myself in a pen full of pups and enjoy the time spent.

Here’s a sampling of what we found. I’m most at ease among a pack of dogs, so perspectives are mostly from the floor.

The sweet boy above found his way back to me twice while I was handling his brothers and sisters. I’d have left with him today had he been old enough.

The little one below enjoyed a scratch on the neck from Kelly.

White Labrador Retriever pup getting a scratch on the neck

A black Labrador Retriever pup snoozing away the day

The pup at left spent much of the time snoozing, being jostled awake once and again as we each handled the litter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Me, surrounded by the litter.

A pile of black and white Labrador Retriever puppie

All for now. We won’t see these guys again for ten days. The puppies should be significantly larger and more active by then. Their vision should resolve shapes, if not faces, and their ears will be open and able to hear us talking to them. Can’t wait.

#dogs #labrador #retrievers #puppies

June 26, 2017

∴ A Lumpy Little Puppy in my Life

A light yellow Labrador Retriever puppy, one week old

Kelly and I took a second visit with Jane this past weekend. Jane’s four year-old Lab, Fly, had a litter the weekend before. We weren’t sure we’d get a pup after our visit a month ago, being late to the crowd that Jane’s Labs attract, but Fly gave birth to ten pups. We’re in luck!

We spent a good three hours chatting with Jane the first time around, enjoying her home tucked away from the world and her Labs making a fuss over us. This time around we spent a couple of hours, having ten pups to handle and fuss over in return.

Jane has the pups gathered together in a small kiddie pool layered with dog beds and blankets. Just a week old, these babies still have their eyes and ears shut. They have no trouble tracking their mama around the room by scent, though.

One of these sweeties will come home with us six weeks from now, probably a boy - something different for us - and probably having a light yellow coat, something very familiar and well-loved in our home. Who knows, though? There are seven yellow, three black; six male, four female. We’ll see.

We’ll return to Jane’s home together at least once more in the mean time, if not more, and I’ll visit her place another couple of times on my own. This is how she places her pups, observing each dog’s behavior in the pack and again with prospective adopters.

A black Labrador Retriever puppy, one wek old

It’s the first time I’ve let someone select a dog for me. Admittedly it’s an act of faith. After five hours with Jane talking dogs, handling pups, and getting to know her, I’m comfortable with whichever we bring home.

#dogs #labrador #retriever #janekelsolabs

Trump Confirms he Called Health Care Bill 'mean'

CNNPolitics.com:

During an interview on “Fox and Friends” Sunday morning, Trump was asked about Obama’s Facebook post condemning the Republican health care plan, and the President responded by saying Obama used the descriptor after he originally did.

“Well he actually used my term, ‘mean.’ That was my term,” Trump said. “Because I want to see — and I speak from the heart — that’s what I want to see, I want to see a bill with heart.”

He was against it before he was for it, but after he was for it in the first place. Who’s on first, what’s on second, I don’t know is on third base. Back is white, up is down, and you’re a fool if you believe anything at all coming out of this man’s mouth.

The label “shithead” comes to mind. Despicable just doesn’t cover it.

#Trump #shithead #youOwnHim

June 23, 2017

Trudeau on Trump: ‘He Actually Does Listen’

Ian Austen – The New York Times:

Mr. Trudeau spoke in some detail about his relationship with Mr. Trump and rejected the widespread perception that the president does not listen to opposition views, prompting laughter from some in the audience. But he argued that, at least in his experience, Mr. Trump had remained consistent.

“I have always found that whenever he has made an engagement to me or a commitment to me on the phone or in person, he followed through on that, and that is someone you can work with,” Mr. Trudeau said.

But did his commitments and engagements ever come to anything? I doubt it. Mr. Trump is a victim of whatever the last person said to him. And then there’s the next person, and the next.

The shame of it is, I have more hope and trust in the leadership of Trudeau than I do in Trump’s. Hell, I trusted more in the leadership of G. W. Bush in his final two years than I do in Trump today. At least Bush was a decent man, and I never doubted that he worked toward his vision of what was best for America, Americans, and the world every day, including weekends.

Have a great weekend. I plan on nothing more than a long, hot, sweaty walk, a really good beer at my local brewery, and a half-hour or so look at a pile of puppies. There will be photographs.

I might read a book, too. And have dinner at the home of friends.

#trudeau #trump #weekend

Republican Senator Vital to Health Bill’s Passage Won’t Support It

Jonathan Martin – The New York Times:

Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, perhaps the most vulnerable Republican facing re-election in 2018, said Friday he would not support the newly-released Senate health care overhaul as written, dealing a blow to his party’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Using remarkably caustic language, Mr. Heller, who is seen as a pivotal swing vote, denounced the Senate-drafted health care bill in terms that Democrats swiftly seized on.

“I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans,” he said at a news conference in Las Vegas …

This is a problem for the GOP, and has been since the ACA was upheld by the Supreme Court. Sure, conservatives and libertarians want the legislation undone. Undoing this law, however, has a real, negative, and immediate effect on millions of Americans. Try taking that away and getting elected again. Try, please.

US health insurance goes one of two ways from here. Legislators tinker with the ACA plumbing, improving what’s already there, or we go to a single-payer system. We already have that for people over 65. On the one hand, costs will stabilize once our unpredictable president is swept from the White House. On the other, payroll taxes jump a great deal, and we join the rest of the West in cradle-to-grave guaranteed health care.

#ACA #AHCA

June 21, 2017

McDonald's Hits All-time High as Wall Street Cheers Replacement of Cashiers With Kiosks

Tae Kim – CNBC.com:

Andrew Charles from Cowen cited plans for the restaurant chain to roll out mobile ordering across 14,000 U.S. locations by the end of 2017. The technology upgrades, part of what McDonald’s calls “Experience of the Future,” includes digital ordering kiosks that will be offered in 2,500 restaurants by the end of the year and table delivery.

Another entry-level job out the window.

I experienced this very innovation twenty-five years ago in a Burlington, Massachusetts Taco Bell. Stepped to the front of the line and beheld a kiosk with touch screen ordering. It worked well. There were fewer employees. The meal was delivered as-ordered. It was a quieter experience.

Maybe someday we can go to a fast food place, order food, eat it and leave without speaking to anyone at all. Or just stay home. Forever. Now there’s an innovation.

#thinkAboutIt

What the Watergate Committee Taught Me

Lowell P. Weicker – The New York Times:

In President Richard Nixon’s efforts to hide the truth of the Watergate burglary, it was paramount to stop the F.B.I. investigation. So the president enlisted the C.I.A. director and his deputy to intercede. When the F.B.I. director pushed back and the intelligence officers refused to continue the White House scheme, the cover-up began its slow unraveling.

Weicker, the sole remaining member of the Senate Watergate Committee, pens a brief comparison of the scandal of his days, and of ours.

Laws are nothing if not enforced. Those who break them must be held to account. For that we need a judge. And for a president that begins with an impeachment committee.

Do not sit idly by when such is commissioned in the days ahead. Contact your Congressmen and Senators and advocate for the truth. Your country and its Constitution demand it.

#trump #impeachment

Saudi Arabia Rewrites Succession as King Replaces Heir With Son, 31

Ben Hubbard – The New York Times:

King Salman of Saudi Arabia promoted his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, to be next in line to the throne on Wednesday …

The decision to remove the previous crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, comes as some members of the royal family have chafed at the rise of the younger prince, who emerged from relative obscurity when his father, 81, ascended the throne in January 2015.

As deputy crown prince, he spearheaded the development of a wide-ranging plan, called Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to decrease the country’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and loosen some of the conservative, Islamic kingdom’s social restrictions.

The new crown prince reminds me of the “Prince Nasir” character in Syriana. He, too, fancied himself a cultural reformer, seeking the same changes.

Hopefully the same end doesn’t come to Prince Mohammed.

#saudi #arabia #syriana

June 19, 2017

Blew My Mind

These guys never fail to leave me thinking, “what did I just hear?” The second cut from the forthcoming Everything Now, by Arcade Fire:

#arcade #fire #creature #comfort

Senate GOP Considers Deeper Medicaid Cuts Than House Bill

Peter Sullivan – TheHill:

A leading option in the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace debate is to make even deeper cuts to Medicaid spending than the bill passed by the House, according to lobbyists and aides.

The proposal would start out the growth rate for a new cap on Medicaid spending at the same levels as the House bill, but then drop to a lower growth rate that would cut spending more, known as CPI-U, starting in 2025, the sources said.

That proposal has been sent to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for analysis, a Senate GOP aide said.

This is a savvy move by Senator Mitch McConnell. By making the Senate version of the health insurance bill so onerous that the CBO report damns it before a vote, Republicans can say they tried, but failed, and move on with the rest of their agenda. There is no way this, or the House bill, becomes law.

As for the rest of their agenda, well, a healthy debate would be nice. It won’t be over taxes, or foreign policy, or social programs. It’ll be over the removal of the fool we’ve elected president.

That’s a story for another day.

#mitch #mcconnell #senate #republicans #aca #ahca #obamacare #medicaid

June 17, 2017

Boeing's Two New Jets - Beautiful Aerial Photography

Easy to forget that these are passenger jets, particularly while viewing their full-throttle, lightly loaded runway departures. You’ll never experience a climb like this out of O’Hare!

Interesting that Boeing employs a larger version of Airbus Industrie’s long-used double wingtip extensions on the 737-MAX. You’ve probably seen similar on most jet aircraft – they detach wingtip vortices that increase drag, improving fuel mileage. In Boeing’s first-round test on the previous generation 737, single wingtip extensions paid for themselves in fuel savings within a year.

View this short video full screen for best effect.

#boeing #nextgen #aircraft #737-max #787-10

Arcade Fire: Everything Now

Imagine if the rest of the album rises to this poignancy. So great.

#arcade #fire #everything #now

Everything It Will Take to Get Faster Wi-Fi on Planes

Alexis Madrigal – The Atlantic:

A plane is a flying data-generating machine. Honeywell wants to tie all of these data streams together. They want to sell airlines components, the service for assessing the data that the sensors on those parts generate, apps for pilots, and a host of other services they have rolled under Slyker in a business they call the “Connected Aircraft.” And the charismatic avatar of their capabilities and the coming change is their next-gen internet technology, the Wi-Fi, which they have branded Jetwave.

Fascinating story about the next generation of airborne WiFi, right down to the aircraft antennae, space-based transceivers, and a ground station tucked away in Lino Lakes, Minnesota.

The test aircraft sports some amusing decals highlighting parts built by Honeywell, too. See the article for a photo.

#aircraft #wifi #airborne #high #speed #internet #honeywell #jetwave

June 16, 2017

Sources: GOP Shooter Had List of House Republicans' Names

NBC4 Washington:

The man who opened fire on Republican lawmakers in Alexandria, Virginia, on Wednesday was carrying a handwritten list of House Republicans’ names, NBC News’ Pete Williams reports.

According to officials briefed on the FBI investigation, the list included Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama and others who officials would not reveal.

This is the nut of our cultural argument: mental unbalance comes in many flavors; how do we preserve the rights of the law-abiding many and restrict the rights of the dangerous few?

U.S. Navy Destroyer Collides With Merchant Vessel in Japan

Aria Bendix – The Atlantic:

A U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer known as the U.S.S. Fitzgerald has been considerably damaged following a collision with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel on Friday at around 2:30 p.m. local time in Japan.

There are reports of injuries, but the extent and number of them are still “being determined,” according to the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Hawaii. Multiple sources have confirmed that the Fitzgerald’s captain is severely injured and the executive officer has taken control of the ship. A medevac for at least one injured sailor has also been carried out.

USS Fitzgerald

Bad news for the USN. Collision at sea in the middle of the afternoon begs the question, how?

Unusual that the commanding officer was injured.

#usn #ussfitzgerald #collisionAtSea

America’s New Tobacco Crisis: The Rich Stopped Smoking, the Poor Didn’t

William Wan – The Washington Post:

Americans have finally done what once seemed impossible: Most of the country has quit smoking, saving millions of lives and leading to massive reductions in cancer.

That is, unless those Americans are poor, uneducated or live in a rural area.

The last time Cassell tried to quit was three months ago, after a doctor’s test gave her a lung cancer scare. “It was like losing my best friend,” she said. “My cigarettes have kept me company for 40 years, longer than just about anyone in my life.”

Addiction is like that: it persists despite logic and reasoning.

The same people tend to die younger, too.

#smoking #education #health

June 14, 2017

Fox News Drops ‘Fair and Balanced’ Motto

Michael M. Grynbaum – The New York Times:

In the latest sign of change at the cable news network, the “Fair and Balanced” motto that has long been a rallying cry for Fox News fans — and a finger in the eye of critics — is gone. The channel confirmed on Wednesday that slogan and network have parted ways.

Say it ain’t so.

Maybe they realized the motto was more a source of mockery than a badge of honor.

#Fox #News

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is Investigating Trump for Possible Obstruction of Justice, Officials Say

Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Sari Horwitz – The Washington Post:

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation …

As though he’s following a “didn’t learn anything from Watergate” script: it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

The Post’s sources indicate Mr. Trump was not, as former FBI Director Comey assured him more than once, personally under investigation, until Comey was fired. The president has that authority, but terminating the lead investigator into his administration’s possible wrong-doing and then bragging about it to the Russian delegation is a de-facto admission of interference.

No wonder these jokers were trying to discredit Bob Mueller earlier this week.

Again, seems a big deal.

#trump #obstruction #of #justice #investigation #robert #bob #mueller #notTooBright

Wind and Solar in March Accounted for 10% of U.S. Electricity Generation for First Time

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA):

For the first time, monthly electricity generation from wind and solar (including utility-scale plants and small-scale systems) exceeded 10% of total electricity generation in the United States, based on March data in EIA’s Electric Power Monthly. Electricity generation from both of these energy sources has grown with increases in wind and solar generating capacity. On an annual basis, wind and solar made up 7% of total U.S. electric generation in 2016.

Seems a big deal.

#electricity #energy #alternative #fuels

June 13, 2017

Republicans to Trump: Hands off Mueller

Austin Wright and Kyle Cheney – POLITICO:

Late Monday, PBS’ Judy Woodruff reported that, per a close friend, Chris Ruddy, Trump himself is weighing the prospect of pulling the plug on Mueller’s probe. And one of the president’s lawyers said Sunday that Trump hadn’t taken that option off the table.

But that would be a huge mistake, Republican lawmakers said Monday.

“It would be a disaster,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) “There’s no reason to fire Mueller. What’s he done to be fired?”

There are, apparently, a few Republican statesmen left in DC.

#Trump #Mueller #Russia

June 10, 2017

“Above all I am completely gutted” - Tom Hardy Pens Long, Heartfelt Letter to his Dead Dog, Woody

William Hughes – The A.V. Club:

Tom Hardy has cut out a niche for himself as Hollywood’s latest go-to guy for playing tough, frequently filthy men. But even dirty badasses love their dogs, as Hardy recently reminded the world, penning a long letter of tribute to his beloved pooch, Woody, who died earlier this week at the age of 6.

“The world for me was a better place with him in it and by my side.”

Identify.

#dogs #are #a #grace #tom #hardy

Republicans are Predicting the Beginning of the End of the Tea Party in Kansas

Ana Swanson and Max Ehrenfreund – The Washington Post:

Kansas was at the heart of the tea party revolution, a red state where, six years ago, a deeply conservative group of Republicans took the state for a hard right turn. Now, after their policies failed to produce the results GOP politicians promised, the state has become host to another revolution: a resurgence of moderate Republicans.

Moderate Republicans joined with Democrats this week to raise state taxes, overriding GOP Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto and repudiating the conservative governor’s platform of ongoing tax cuts. The vote was a demonstration of the moderates’ newfound clout in the state Republican Party. Brownback was unable to successfully block the bill because many of the die-hard tax cut proponents had either retired or been voted out of office, losing to more centrist candidates in GOP primaries.

A promising start. I may be able to again vote for a Republican in my lifetime.

In the mean time, Brownback’s time has passed, and his policies have failed. Time for him to go.

#GOP #Tea #Party #hope #moderate #Republican

June 8, 2017

Mr. Comey and All the President’s Lies

The New York Times:

Confronted later with the sworn testimony of a dignified and affronted lawman, the White House press office, its own credibility in tatters, was left to feebly insist, “The president is not a liar.”

And Nixon was not a crook.

Who do you believe?

#Trump #notTrump #stillAFraud

June 6, 2017

Top Intelligence Official: Trump Asked Him if he Could Intervene with Comey on FBI Russia Probe

Adam Entous – The Washington Post:

[Director of National Intelligence] Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

The events involving Coats show the president went further than just asking intelligence officials to deny publicly the existence of any evidence showing collusion during the 2016 election, as The Washington Post reported in May. The interaction with Coats indicates that Trump aimed to enlist top officials to have Comey curtail the bureau’s probe.

Trump similarly approached Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to ask him to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign, as the Post previously reported, according to current and former officials. Like Coats, Rogers refused to comply with the president’s request.

Nixon did the same in 1972. The first article of impeachment against him was obstruction of justice.

#Trump #impeachable #offense

June 5, 2017

Naval Warfare History

Navy.com:

75 years ago, on June 4th, 1942, the fate of the Pacific rested on the shoulders of America’s Sailors at Midway. Find out how this inspiring story of bravery and sacrifice turned the tide of WWII, and forever changed the course of history.

I recall reading about the Battle of Midway as a boy. In a single day, the US Navy sank the four Japanese aircraft carriers sent to destroy the US’ forward base at Midway, and sent their battle groups hurrying back home for repair. It was perhaps our Navy’s finest day.

Navy.com has a thorough compilation of the precursors to that day, the battle, and the carrier-centric legacy our Navy embraces to this day.

#Battle #of #Midway #US #Navy #history #World #War #II #Pacific #Theater

The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

Ada Serwer  The Atlantic:

The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.

There is little truth in this. Lee was a devout Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.

But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. Lee’s elevation is a key part of a 150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. That ideology is known as the Lost Cause, and as historian David Blight writes, it provided a “foundation on which Southerners built the Jim Crow system.”

Excellent summation of the controversy surrounding Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy, and the whitewash called the “Lost Cause.” Lee was a very different man than his legend holds, and as such he was the epitome of the Southern white man before, during, and after the American Civil War.

Lee and his Confederacy belong in museums and history books, not in statuary and memorials. That war made the United States what we are still, one nation - at times for better or worse - of disparate sub-cultures. It also exposed an ugly truth about white America descended from Europeans. We talk a good game about individual liberty, but have great capacity for subjugation as long as it’s of someone else.

#American #culture #Civil #War #Robert #E #Lee #Confederacy #Lost #Cause

June 2, 2017

Trump Will Withdraw U.S. From Paris Climate Agreement

Michael D. Shear – The New York Times:

President Trump announced on Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, weakening efforts to combat global warming and embracing isolationist voices in his White House who argued that the agreement was a pernicious threat to the economy and American sovereignty.

Fool. Both our allies and Trump’s opponents have come out against his action.

The sooner Trump is removed from office, the better. The man is nothing but a toady for the baser instincts of his wealthy supporters. He knows nothing of the effect of his actions, and does not care.

#Trump #fraud #Paris #Accord #mistake

May 30, 2017

We Won’t Let Hate Win

Hannah Al-Othman – BuzzFeed:

“We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win … Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before.” Ariana Grande — joined by a growing cast of fellow artists — will return to Manchester this weekend to perform a benefit concert.

The future looks bright, because the young are still optimists. Tell me it ain’t so. Go on.

#ariana #grande #hope

Tiger Woods DUI -- Everyman

Kevin D. Williamson – National Review:

There is something in our puritanical national soul that is satisfied by the fact that those who fly higher have farther to fall. These episodes bring out something ignoble in us. But it isn’t just celebrities, of course: The high and mighty are just the ones we talk about. An astonishing share of lottery winners go broke, and it isn’t because people with low character or weak wills are just lucky with the numbers. People like Tiger Woods and Allen Iverson, who win life’s lottery, often have the same bad luck in the end: the bad luck of being human.

A brief, yet telling study of Iverson, Woods, and the American cultural infatuation with icons and their eventual falls. Frankly, I’d fail the “Iverson test,” as the author calls it, too.

Worth a read.

[Woods has claimed a mix of prescription drugs, not alcohol, led to his DUI arrest.]

#Iverson #Woods #American #icons #heroes #fall #from #grace

Merkel, After Discordant G-7 Meeting, Is Looking Past Trump

So’s the rest of Europe, Vladimir Putin must hope.

Alison Smale and Steven Erlanger – The New York Times:

Clearly disappointed with Mr. Trump’s positions on NATO, Russia, climate change and trade, Ms. Merkel said in Munich on Sunday that traditional alliances were no longer as steadfast as they once were and that Europe should pay more attention to its own interests “and really take our fate into our own hands.”

“The times in which we could rely fully on others — they are somewhat over,” Ms. Merkel added, speaking on the campaign trail after a contentious NATO summit meeting in Brussels and a Group of 7 meeting in Italy. “This is what I experienced in the last few days.”

Ms. Merkel’s strong comments were a potentially seismic shift in trans-Atlantic relations. With the United States less willing to intervene overseas, Germany is becoming an increasingly dominant power in a partnership with France.

One early verdict in what we had in President Obama, and what will become part of his legacy, was the last act of Pax Americana – the final act of the 20th century superpower. Mr. Trump will preside over the tipping point into a long, international US decline for his ignorance of America’s rightful place in the world.

Europe has awakened to not only its own strengths, but the necessity of them. In Donald Trump’s America they can no longer trust. This is a good thing in one sense: we as a nation may no longer see the need or the desire by others for our “world’s policeman” role. On the other hand, American influence will wane. That’s a clear danger not only to our own interests, but those of other liberal democracies, as well.

#Trump #long #term #consequences

May 28, 2017

Sunday Morning Read

Umair Haque – Medium:

It’s quite clear now that America is in the initial stages of collapse. Let me be clear about what that means.

A five-minute read, broken down into four points. I don’t know that I fully agree with Haque’s conclusion, but this column does naturally follow last week’s, and with that column I fully agree.

This is not a blame America first column. This is an America, working to fix the world, neglected to develop itself column.

We have, as a culture and a governed people, failed to move beyond the segregation that followed slavery by moving to an egalitarian society. Instead, we harbored resentments sprung from legislated change. We denied or scorned benefits enacted to help less fortunate and historically denied persons a hand up, or accused all of gaming the system given the example of a few.

Outcomes of this stagnation of thought mentioned by Haque:

Collapse means that America is broken in nearly every conceivable way. Go ahead, and pick an “indicator”, as the Vox types like to call it — any simple fact of social reality. Here are three of my favorites, because they determine people’s quality of life. Life expectancy, income, trust. All three are falling now.

You’d expect the beneficiaries of a stagnated culture, those in the privileged class, to show the least damage from it. No. Death by suicide is climbing among white men, outstripping other self-inflicted causes of death. The center is failing to hold.

Our contemporaries throughout the rest of the West matured, expanded the reach of what they’d fought for last century, and prospered, while our culture stagnated.

Think on this essay this Memorial Day weekend as you contemplate the sacrifice of so many American men and women in armed conflict. What did they fight for? What does the Constitution of the United States exist to achieve? How did their sacrifice benefit all of us when life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are still routinely denied to an increasing number of our citizens?

Don’t think so? How do you explain the outcome that is Mr. Trump, the haters, and the despaired of spirit and employment we saw supporting his campaign? How do you explain the wage and social stagnation that has gripped our economy and segments of our population since the 1970s?

Perhaps you’ll write about it.

#American #culture #politics #Western  

May 27, 2017

∴ Spectre Trailer Re-cut With Moore as Bond, via Daring Fireball

John Gruber posts a short piece and a link to the film trailer for Spectre re-cut with Roger Moore as James Bond. It’s an interesting watch for any Bond fan, so if that’s you, take a look.

I’m undecided about his conclusion, though. Gruber states “Makes me think the franchise could use some Moore-like suaveness when they recast the role post-Craig,” and as a well-known fan of the fictional character he’s welcome to his informed opinion. I lean toward disagreement, however.

The revelation of Craig as Bond wasn’t his blond hair, blue eyes, or his “perfectly-formed arse,” as Vesper Lynde put it. It was his grim, no-nonsense approach to Bond’s true job description: assassin. He’s no spy, not when he’s instantly recognized everywhere, as was Moore’s interpretation.

Craig’s intrigue is his matter-of-factness about his character’s work. I don’t know how suave – a manly-yet-feminine charisma –  fits into that when Bond’s hallmark, going back to Sean Connery, is “bang, you’re dead.” Or to quote Tuco’s law, “When you have to shoot, shoot; don’t talk.” Moore’s Bond had a wee too much cute dialog for me.

I’m likely seeing this through the lens of my preferred spy flick, the quieter, slower, and occasionally uglier type depicted in screenwriting based on le Carré, and The Good Shepherd. Call this my Bond preference, and cheers to Gruber’s take. I think we’d agree that the next choice of actor will be fascinating. Until then, I’m content with my spare, minimalist killer.

#James #Bond #Daniel #Craig #Roger #Moore #Spectre #trailer #recut

∴ An Adieu to Commander Bond

As many news outlets reported this past week, actor Roger Moore has died. A touching anecdote made the rounds, reproduced here.

More recently the NYT published a piece including brief video clips, a one-line review and a link to the full contemporaneous review of each of Moore’s outings as British secret agent James Bond. Please do click through for the videos and full reviews. My thanks to the Times for publishing their walk-through.

My friends know me as an inveterate Bond fan, and some know which Bond(s) I describe as “best.” I tend to be picky about what I like, and I’m often harsh on the parts of otherwise entertaining films that suck. I’m going to excerpt the Times article’s one-liners and drop in a comment or two about each, because it’s been quite a while since I devoted any time to watching a Bond film starring Roger Moore. These quickie reviews and the video clips brought back memories. Some were good.

I should begin by saying that Moore did not play my favorite Bond. Though he portrayed the character with a certain panache, his take on the role pales in comparison to Sean Connery’s dated, yet still bracing action hero or Daniel Craig’s brooding, contemporary killer. I’d put Moore’s Bond one hair below Pierce Brosnan’s first effort. Brosnan was widely anticipated as the next Bond after Moore retired from the role.

Remember Remington Steele? Brosnan’s television contract kept him out of the Bond role through Timothy Dalton’s two outings.

Brosnan’s Bond roles started out well enough with GoldenEye, but went downhill over the next three films. He looked a wee too aged by the time he was done, a fate shared with Moore.

I put Dalton’s Bond a hair above Brosnan’s. Dalton played Bond more in the mold of Daniel Craig’s grim killer, but suffered from a poor set of scripts to work from and a tired director. John Glen was on his fourth and fifth Bond films by then. Dalton’s take on the role was headed in the right direction, though.

George Lazenby took the role in the same direction as Moore: a bemused civil servant, who appeared surprised he’d been set loose with a gun and a paycheck. Refusing a multi-film contract, he was not to be heard from again among well-known film actors.

Of the role I’ll say that spies should not be known, or even suspected, lest they be offed or simply sent packing. Bond is an assassin, no more, no less. His mission is to kill in the name of the Queen. Moore’s Bond was far too well-known wherever he went, and far too public in his actions. Blame the screenwriters for that, though, not Moore. He played it as-written. So Bond films are not spy stories, they’re thrillers, or action films.

Despite all that, many regard Moore’s as their favorite rendition of James Bond. Reading through Moore’s epitaphs it dawned on me why. Though I don’t share their optimism for his portrayal of the character, I understand it now.

Moore’s tongue-in-cheek tone made for an action hero who could also amuse. Compare and contrast to Daniel Craig’s tone in each of his four outings as Bond – Craig knows he’s playing a government-sanctioned killer, and lets you know that he knows it – and it’s easy to see the appeal in Moore’s lighter approach. Most folks aren’t looking for ugly geopolitical truths in their fiction.

I prefer my spy stories more subtle and austere, more grim, more consequential. John le Carré’s George Smiley comes to mind. Edward Wilson, the protagonist of The Good Shepherd, too. I’m looking for intellectual stimulation more than action, and true-to-life characters more than cartoons. That said, I appreciate Moore’s Bond for what it was: an English version of Hollywood fluff.

Finally, a little gratuitous appreciation. Moore, quoted in 2012:

I loved Casino Royale and Daniel Craig. He is a wonderful actor, certainly the best actor to play Bond…

Well-put.

Now to the Times quotes:

Live and Let Die (1973)

Moore’s first outing as James Bond. Enough color and zing, if no house afire.

Nothing sticks in my mind more than self-sub-titling this film Bond v. the Black People. Bond’s antagonist is a crypto-strongman/diplomat known as Mr. Big (Yaphet Kotto), and Big’s entourage, all African-American, are wrapped around a beautiful, innocent-seeming tarot card-reading white woman (Jane Seymour).

Yes, there’s a plot that has not much to do with race, but after Bond’s initial scene riding a cab uptown through Manhattan into Harlem, and the sub-plot of every black character communicating his location to every other, it’s hard not to see the black v. white subtext. The story assumes the racist notion that all black folks know each other, which is one step away from saying, “you all look the same.” This script is racially tone-deaf.

That’s what screams out to me from this film. I couldn’t un-see it once I saw it. Your mileage may vary.

The best part of this film was its theme song over the opening credits, Wings’ Live and Let Die. It’s among my top-three favorite Bond themes. Kotto and Seymour are accomplished actors, and Kotto’s Mr. Big’s assistant Tee Hee (Julius Harris) amusingly fleshes out what’s an otherwise limited role. Watch for them, if nothing else.

The plot itself is forgettable – I’d forgotten it – and devolves into Bond working to ensnare Mr. Big, a heroin smuggler. My first thought about that angle was, ‘they needed a secret agent for that?’, but Mr. Big’s organization did try knocking him off in the opening scenes, so ….

Verdict: meh.

The Man With the Golden Gun (1974)

James Bond in Asia. No powerhouse but O.K.

Christopher Lee is mildly intriguing, if not questionably sedate as Francisco Scaramanga, the world’s greatest assassin, who charges an even one million dollars (say that in Mike Meyers-as-Dr. Evil’s voice) per hit. His next target is James Bond. Same writers and director as Live and Let Die, similar result. Basically, meh. Not even a memorable theme song from this one.

The one memorable character in this film is Hervé Villechaize as Scaramanga’s assistant, butler, and sometime antagonist, Nick Nack. The scene where Scaramanga pursues a simulated Bond through a hall of mirrors as Nick Nack shifts the scenery and verbally antagonizes him is, in retrospect, pretty well done and is re-interpreted in the opening credits for Daniel Craig’s turn as Bond in Skyfall.

The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

James Bond teams up with Russian agent. Still percolating at this point.

Karl Stromberg’s faux oil tanker is gobbling up US and Soviet nuclear submarines. Bond is dispatched to work with a Soviet agent and figure out what’s going on. The Moore-led plot is becoming well-worn as a standard action thriller, without much thrill.

Richard Kiel makes his debut as the villain “Jaws,” the man with a mouthful of steel teeth. I never liked this character.

Compare and contrast Jaws with Mads Mikkelsen’s villain Le Chiffre, or Le Chiffre’s largely silent, efficient flunky Kratt, or Christoph Waltz’s villain, Blofeld.

Meh, again.

Moonraker (1979)

James Bond goes intergalactic. Very zingy, though not the crest.

Or, Bond in Space. Ugh.

Michael Lonsdale was the standout in this one as the villain Drax, who lives in a castle and steals a space shuttle. Where do you land a space shuttle so that no-one sees? And how do you … oh, never mind.

Jaws makes a return and falls in love with a cute blond woman in pigtails, never to return. I wonder what their kids look like.

Ridiculous.

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Moore retains an ageless cool. Not the best of the series by a long shot, but it’s far from the worst.

Bond is dispatched to find the encryption device sunk aboard a British spy ship, and links up with Carole Bouquet’s Bond Girl Melina Havelock as she attempts avenging her parent’s death by the same villain who stole the encoder. The film ends with Bond tossing the device off a cliff as a Soviet general holds him at gunpoint. “That’s detente, comrade; *You* don’t have it, *I* don’t have it.,” he explains. Not bad.

At least I liked one of Moore’s outings.

Octopussy (1983)

Bond adventure No. 13, with fake Fabergé egg and threats of WWIII. Formula still working.

Or, Bond at the Circus.

A nuclear device is set to trigger at a NATO base by circus folk. No standouts. Double-meh.

Thus began the descent of Moore as Bond.

A View to a Kill (1985)

Wicked financier plans to destroy Silicon Valley. Moore’s last Bond, and probably just as well.

Wow, this one was bad, Moore’s least watchable Bond flick. 

The only stand-out was Christopher Walken as Max Zoren, because, Christopher Walken. I wish they’d written more into his one-dimensional character.

Zoren is plotting to do what so many modern right-wing whack jobs would love: detonate explosives along the San Andreas fault, plunging much of non-agricultural California into the sea. Or flooding San Jose’s Silicon Valley. Or something like that, allowing Zoren to corner the market in microchips. From his blimp.

Do not waste your time on this one. Triple-meh.

Moore made an iconic run as the British “spy” James Bond. As has been written elsewhere he was, for better or worse, the Bond of my generation, and his characterization epitomized the times. It’s not often an actor becomes an icon – think Leonard Nimoy as Spock – and even rarer that they embrace that cultural elevation. Moore played his lifetime role well, in that regard. Rest in peace, Commander Bond.

#Roger #Moore #James #Bond