November 19, 2017

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Space Plane Aces Glide Test

Kenneth Chang – The New York Times:

The compact space plane carries no crew, but will transport cargo to the International Space Station in the years ahead and conduct other missions in orbit around the Earth. On Saturday, the vehicle completed an important milestone in its development.

A helicopter lifted Dream Chaser more than 2.3 miles off the ground, then dropped it. Over the course of one minute, the craft accelerated to 330 miles per hour, made a couple of turns and glided 10 miles to a runway at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It touched down at a speed of 191 miles per hour, rolling 4,200 feet before coming to a stop.

#DreamChaser #SpacePlane

Tesla Unveils an Electric Rival to Semi Trucks

Neal E. Boudette – The New York Times:

Mr. Musk said Tesla expects to begin producing the truck by the end of 2019. He gave no price but hinted that it would be costly. “Tesla stuff is expensive,” Mr. Musk said, drawing another cheer from the crowd, gathered at an airfield outside of Los Angeles.

But he also said the electric truck would be less expensive to operate, in part because it has fewer components that require regular maintenance (no engine, transmission or drive shaft). Instead, the truck, called the Tesla Semi, is powered by a giant battery beneath the cab. It has two rear axles, each outfitted with two electric motors, one for each wheel. Its acceleration and uphill speeds will allow it to cover more distance in less time than diesel trucks, he added.

As a result, Tesla is estimating it will cost $1.26 per mile to operate, compared with $1.51 a mile for a diesel truck. The cost can fall further — to 85 cents a mile, according to Tesla — if groups of trucks travel together in convoys, which reduces wind drag. “This beats rail,” Mr. Musk said.

This has been a few years coming. An autonomous diesel semi-truck made an Interstate-only beer delivery last year.

Piling on the efficiency of electric locomotion may be the beginning of the end of the long-haul truck driving profession, though. Economy of scale will make the per-mile cost of a fleet fall even as Tesla charges an arm and a leg for the equipment.

#ElectricTruck #Tesla

Mapping Police Violence

Mapping Police Violence:

Black people were 26% (265) of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.

There’s much, much more detail on this web site. Have a look if the headline tweaks your curiosity, or your conscience. Cops work for us, after all.

#PoliceViolence #BlackMurderByCop

Apple Delays HomePod

John Voorheen – MacStories:

Apple issued an official statement to TechCrunch and other news outlets today saying that the release of the HomePod would be delayed until 2018. Originally announced at WWDC in June with a promised ship date of December 2017, Apple’s statement says the HomePod will be released in ‘early 2018,’ and the smart Siri-enabled speaker will be available initially in the US, UK, and Australia.

Better right than not, but still a big miss for Apple. No doubt there will be many Amazon Echo devices gifted this holiday season, more than if Apple had hit their mark.

#Apple #HomePod

The Best OLED TV

Chris Heinonen – Wirecutter Reviews:

We researched all the latest OLED TVs and tested the top competitors to determine that the LG C7 is the best high-end TV. Although pricey compared to even the best LCD TVs, the C7 has the same OLED panel found in even more expensive models from LG and Sony, and saves you money by leaving out extra features that won’t noticeably improve image quality. Like all OLED TVs, the C7 gives you darker blacks and truer colors than LCD displays, making it a great option for videophiles looking for image quality above all else.

The only reason I’m even considering a purchase like this is the gorgeous visuals in Blade Runner 2049. We probably won’t have a new TV in time for the 4k release of the film, but this article starts the process of getting there, eventually.

#OLEDTV #BladeRunner2049

Comcast Wants to Get Bigger, Again

Jon Brodkin – Ars Technica:

Comcast and Verizon have each, separately, approached 21st Century Fox about buying part of the company, according to several news reports.

Comcast already owns NBCUniversal and numerous regional sports networks. Adding part of 21st Century Fox would give Comcast even more programming to pair with the nation’s largest cable broadband and TV network.

If approved, Comcast would own every aspect of “the pipe:” movie and television content creation, distribution, internet connectivity and telephony. Not sure that’s ultimately a good thing for consumers. The only saving grace for Comcast is the variety of content companies in competition with 21st Century Fox.

Denis Villeneuve's Dune Won't be Anything Like David Lynch's Version

Sam Barsanti – AVClub:

Speaking with Yahoo! Movies on Facebook (via IndieWire), Villeneuve explained that he has “massive respect” for David Lynch and that he was impressed by Lynch’s Dune and its “very strong qualities,” but it’s not the adaptation he has “dreamed of.” So, rather than acknowledge the other film at all, he’s going to go “back to the book” and resurrect the images that he created in his head when he first read it. Basically, it sounds like Villeneuve is politely saying that he wasn’t crazy about Lynch’s movie—which is hardly a controversial stance—and he’s going to make something that’s both more faithful to the book and more faithful to his own imagination.

I’m very glad to read this.

I loved Frank Herbert’s Dune, going as far as three books into the series before realizing it had turned into a soap opera. The first book, though, was mesmerizing, and my first experience with modern science fiction writing when I read it.

I did not love David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune. Admittedly it’s a difficult book to put on the big screen. So much of it takes place in Paul’s head as he lives through the story. How do you make a movie of what’s essentially the lead character’s inner dialog?

Denis Villeneuve’s been on a roll lately, directing two of what’ve become personal favorites – Arrival and Blade Runner 2049. His vision for those films clicks with me. They still resonate weeks and months after my last viewing. Here’s hoping his vision for Dune, informed by the novel’s text, is just as satisfyingly intelligent and engrossing.

#BladeRunner2049 #Arrival #Dune #DenisVilleneuve #FrankHerbert #DavidLynch

November 16, 2017

‘Al Franken kissed and groped me without my consent,’ Broadcaster Leeann Tweeden Says

Amy B. Wang, Michelle Ye Hee Lee, and Lindsey Never – The Washington Post:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately called on the Senate Ethics Committee to review the allegations against Franken, who issued a brief statement of apology.

By all means.

My, how quickly Senator McConnell responds when the alleged offender is a Democrat. Hmm.

#hypocrisy #GOP #sameShitDifferentDay

November 15, 2017

Fox News’s Shepard Smith Debunks His Network’s Favorite Hillary Clinton ‘Scandal'

Fred Barbash – The Washington Post:

Smith has deviated from the Fox and Trump line before, to the point that his Fox colleague Sean Hannity accused him of being “anti-Trump.”

Tuesday night, Twitter was brimming with outrage from people who appeared to share Hannity’s view.

Shep Smith, lone journalist at Fox “News,” suffers a predictable backlash for telling the truth. He’s not the only journalist who’s debunked the uranium conspiracy story, just the only one at Fox “News.”

What’s to be said of the Fox “News” audience? The kindest I can come up with is that the outlet serves the needs of those suffering an extreme right-leaning conspiracist confirmation bias.

Consider that the GOP holds thirty governor’s mansions, about the same number of statehouses, both houses of Congress, and the White House. The US Supreme Court is majorly conservative. The troubles in American politics are obviously, screamingly rooted in the majority party, which appears unable to produce at the federal level any of its promised results.

And at this late date, with all that’s become known of Mr. Trump, his cronies, and his behavior, why would anyone but the most cynically political self-describe as “pro-Trump?”

#Trump #GOP #confirmationBias #willfulIgnorance #shamefulVote

November 13, 2017

∴ Senate Candidate Roy Moore, Poster Boy for Trump's GOP

Jonathan Martin and Sheryl Gay Stolberg – The New York Times:

An Alabama woman accused Roy S. Moore on Monday of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, the fifth and most brutal charge leveled against the Republican Senate candidate. Senate Republicans are now openly discussing not seating him or expelling him if he wins the Dec. 12 special election.

“I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch,” Ms. Nelson said, growing emotional as she described the assault, which she said happened one night after her shift ended at a local restaurant, where she was a waitress.

Lovey man Alabama conservatives have made their nominee. Who’s next, an accused serial killer?

Conservative apologists continue attempting the yeah, but what about … argument to no avail, a sort of inverse appeal to power (appeal to depravity?) attempting to obfuscate the berserk descent of the GOP. The last one I read was about Senator Bob Manendez. Conservative Review portrays it this way. Not quite the sting of a thirty-plus year-old man groping and threatening teenaged girls, huh?

I used to say, “Republicans would defend a child molester if he had an ‘R’ after his name.” Who’d have guessed a decade ago my hyperbole would actually become fact?

Don’t be fooled by McConnell, either. He’s a master politician, who’s only thrown Moore under the bus because Moore is unrecoverable. If there were an angle that would bring Moore back into the fold, McConnell would be working it.

#GOP #digrace #USPolitics #politics

November 12, 2017

Cory Booker Loves Donald Trump

Michael Kruse – POLITICO Magazine:

“I hear Democrats often say this, that Republicans are so mean … we’ve got to stop being so nice,” he said. “I’m, like, ‘That’s 100-percent opposite to what we need to be.’ We don’t need to take on the tactics that we find unacceptable in the Republican Party. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to fight hard and make sacrifices and struggle and battle—but we do not need to take on the dark arts.”

What, though, if that’s what people want? After all, he was praised by his party when he broke with Senate tradition to rebuke his colleague Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearing. No one is going out of their way to praise him for being openhearted about Trump.

“It’s a natural human inclination,” he said. But he added: “It’s not what we preach in churches on Sunday mornings, in synagogues on Friday nights, in mosques during the call of prayer.”

I like this guy. His problem, though, is going to be the question, is he for-real?

It’s the impression I came away with after hearing a David Axelrod interview with Booker for The Axe Files. He sounds too good to be true – a modern day King, or Gandhi – when he talks about killing his opponents with kindness. There’s a need for leadership like this. I wonder if he has the needed toughness to go along with it.

#USpolitics #CoryBooker #politics

Johnstown Never Believed Trump Would Help. They Still Love Him Anyway.

Michael Kruse – POLITICO Magazine:

All this, perhaps, is not so surprising, considering polling continues to show that—in spite of unprecedented unpopularity—nearly all people who voted for Trump would do it again. But as I compared this year’s answers to last year’s responses it seemed clear that the basis of people’s support had morphed. Johnstown voters do not intend to hold the president accountable for the nonnegotiable pledges he made to them. It’s not that the people who made Trump president have generously moved the goalposts for him. It’s that they have eliminated the goalposts altogether.

Here’s evidence of what I’ve long suspected of some who voted for Mr. Trump. Their action was more a result of feeling than thinking. While sentiment is as much a part of politics as hard fact, that these voters have done so little reflection on their vote, and are so unaware of the year’s events since, indicates an abyss of ignorance among the electorate. This, then, is what we confront in next year’s mid-term election: these people know little, and are adamant about staying that way. And. They. Vote.

You’ll get a taste of what Mr. Trump’s election was really about near the end. You’ll know it when you see it.

#US #politics #elections #Trump #ignorance #Pennsylvania #Johnstown #voting #sentiment 

∴ Virginia Voting Trends

Here’s an interesting graphic showing county-by-county voting results in Virginia gubernatorial elections stretching back to 1961.

Virginia gubernatorial results from 1961 to 2017

What struck me is how Virginia immediately swung to the left in response to the Reagan years, back right during the Clinton years, returned somewhat left during the G. W. Bush years, and then more firmly to the right during the Obama years. Our most recent results show a strong east/west polarization; rural Virginia votes heavily Republican, population centers vote Democrat.

The upshot: Virginia is more contrarian than a bellwether of sentiment to the recently elected president. The state votes the other way when the White House changes party hands, and stays that way when the incumbent is re-elected. What this says about sentiment for our state leadership is anyone’s guess. It says more clearly that our voters love creating a backlash, then lose interest.

#Virginia #elections #trends #Republican #Democrat #contrarian

November 11, 2017

One of the Most Moving Parts of Stranger Things 2 is Hiding in Plain Sight

Randall Colburn – AVClub:

One of the most moving parts of the Stranger Things 2 (and that’s saying something, considering the season tugged mightily on the heartstrings) was the tender, yet strained, bond between Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) and Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown). More than just a surrogate father-daughter relationship, the union is colored by the loss of Hopper’s own daughter, who he mentions only in the most vulnerable of moments.

Read on for a very significant detail that’s been around since episode one of season one. I totally missed this.

#StrangerThings #STrangerThings2 #scifi

Roy Moore Response Shows Republican Party Deserves to Die

Max Boot – USA Today:

You may have thought that Republicans had sunk as low as they could possibly go last year when they nominated for the presidency a man who was singularly unfit, morally and mentally, for that post. But, no, once you start racing to the bottom you never quite stop. There is always another level of degeneracy to be plumbed.

So far, much to their eternal discredit, [Roy] Moore’s Republican backers in Alabama appear to be sticking by him. Paul Reynolds, the Republican national committee man from Alabama, told The Hill that he doesn’t trust The Washington Post: “If I’ve got a choice of putting my welfare into the hands of Putin or The Washington Post, Putin wins every time.” State auditor Jim Ziegler is willing to admit the charges are true, but he doesn’t care. He cited the Biblical story of Mary and Joseph — “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus”— and concluded, “There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

Emphasis mine.

Creating a false dilemma – since when is anyone’s well-being in the hands of a newspaper? – and hiding behind religion and ignorance are what passes for political leadership in Alabama. Please tell us more, so a wider audience can know exactly who you are.

Now would be a great time for moderate conservatives who’ve been ostracized by their “party,” and movement conservatives who find themselves alone in an intellectual and moral desert to form an American Conservative party. Grab two (and only two) of Reagan’s three legs of the stool and run on foreign and fiscal policy. Leave America’s moral choices in our hands. Give voters an alternative to old-school Democrats and the imploding Republican party.

#GOP #US #politics #corrupt #moral #degenerates

November 9, 2017

One Image is Worth ...

The most damning data revelation from Tuesday’s Virginia elections, in one image (The New York Times). All these blue arrows are vote margins shifting from Republican candidates in 2016 to Democratic candidates in 2017:

Virginia voting shift since 2016

#VirginiaElection #2017

∴ This is the Guy

If you, like me, left Blade Runner 2049 slack-jawed and in awe of its beautiful cinematography, there’re two people you should know about.

The first is the director of photography, also known as the cinematographer. He’s Roger Deakins. His is the eye that directs what the camera sees. He plays in color, shadow, angle, zoom. He creates photography of what the production designer dreams up. He’s painting in your mind.

His credits: Sicario, Skyfall, True Grit, A Serious Man, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, No Country For Old Men, Jarhead, A Beautiful Mind, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski, and more.

The other, the one who envisioned the stunning scenery so beautifully shot by Roger Deakins, is production designer Dennis Gassner. He’s the idea guy. He’s the one who, given 2049’s scripted scene where Luv calls out aerial bombardment of the trashman army as she has her nails done, has her gaze at the results through virtual reality glasses as she looks up, chin jutting at an angle just so. He envisioned the colors, the setting, the furnishings, the mood conveyed by light dancing yellow and watery upon the walls, floor, actors. He’s the guy setting the scene.

Look at Gassner’s credits. They’re a veritable connect-the-dots of beautifully arranged scenes, which were then well-shot by the cinematographer: Spectre, Into the Woods, Skyfall, Quantum of Solace, The Golden Compass, Jarhead, Big Fish, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Truman Show. This is the guy who sees the magic before it happens.

Like what you saw in Blade Runner 2049? Follow Gassner’s and Deakins’ careers.

#BladeRunner2049 #cinematography #productiondesign

November 8, 2017

Democrats Poised to Make Significant Gains in Virginia Legislature

Results from the top of the ticket were satisfying, but this was surprising. Fenit Nirappil – The Washington Post:

Democrats made significant gains Tuesday in Virginia’s House of Delegates, snaring at least 15 seats in an upset that stunned members of both parties and arrived with national implications.

Unofficial returns showed Democrats unseating at least a dozen Republicans and flipping three seats that had been occupied by GOP incumbents who did not seek reelection. Four other races were so close that they qualify for a recount, and the outcome will determine control of the chamber. The results marked the most sweeping shift in control of the legislature since the Watergate era.

Important detail:

The election signaled a major shift in the gender of a body long dominated by men: Of the 15 seats Democrats flipped, all were held by men and 11 were won by women. Several of those women made history.

One became Virginia’s first openly transgender person to win elective office, unseating an opponent of LGBT rights. Another became the first open lesbian elected to the House of Delegates, another the first Asian American woman and two, both from diverse Prince William County, are set to be the first Latinas elected to the General Assembly.

“This is an unbelievable night,” said House Minority Leader David J. Toscano (D-Charlottesville) in an interview an hour after polls closed. “There were districts we didn’t think we had much of a shot in.”

Emphasis mine.

Women carried the vote beyond my expectations.

This is my hope for the 2018 mid-term Congressional elections: voters having had a two-year-long taste of “conservative populism,” they spit it out.

#Virginia #politics #US #GOP #populism

November 1, 2017

Five Books to Make You Less Stupid About the Civil War

Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic:

On Monday, the retired four-star general and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly asserted that “the lack of an ability to compromise lead to the Civil War.” This was an incredibly stupid thing to say. Worse, it built on a long tradition of endorsing stupidity in hopes of making Americans stupid about their own history. Stupid enjoys an unfortunate place in the highest ranks of American government these days. And while one cannot immediately affect this fact, one can choose to not hear stupid things and quietly nod along.

Coates follows up his tweet-storm of yesterday with a quick, useful essay today, listing five volumes that raise the reader’s intelligence, rather than reduce it. Grant, in particular, has been well-reviewed since its publication this year.

My reading list is so damned long.

#Ta-NehisiCoates #CivilWar #USHistory

∴ When Politics Becomes Your Idol

David Brooks – The New York Times:

For years, the meritocratic establishments in both parties told an implicit myth. The heroes of this myth were educated, morally enlightened global citizens who went to competitive colleges, got invited to things like the Clinton Global Initiative, and who have the brainpower to run society and who might just be a little better than other people, by virtue of their achievements.

Donald Trump tells the opposite myth — about how those meritocrats are actually clueless idiots and full of drivel, and how virtue, wisdom and toughness is found in the regular people whom those folks look down upon.

Trump’s supporters follow him because he gets his facts wrong, but he gets his myths right. He tells the morality tale that works for them.

Brooks, a moderate conservative, touches on something written by Isaac Asimov years ago, and quoted here more recently:

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”.

Holding aside for the moment voters whose employment was off-shored or replaced by automation, and those whose conservatism makes voting for a Democrat unthinkable no matter the candidate’s qualifications, and even the racist white supremacists of various stripes, I’ve struggled to understand why anyone would cast their vote for Mr. Trump. Was it Asimov’s so-called “cult of ignorance?”

Trump had so many negative traits, and few, if any positive qualities visible to the naked eye. His opponent was more qualified for the office than any of the advisors coaching him through his campaign, and certainly more than the man himself. What she lacked in charisma he more than made up for in bombast. Uncharismatic people can govern. Bombast is for bamboozling suckers while picking their pockets.

Brooks’ explanation is as good as any for why otherwise capable, pleasant people would vote for an admitted sexual predator, a man so unqualified for the office he sought that, months after Inauguration Day, he remarked at how difficult the presidency is. Trump bamboozled the electorate.

Clearly, “wisdom” enough for the presidency is not to be found among second-rate real estate moguls or reality television stars. “Toughness,” well, we’ll see how Trump holds up in the face of criminal indictments landing all around him. It’s not worth putting the president’s name and “virtue” in the same sentence.

These three qualities are indeed found among “regular people,” but regular people don’t make for good presidents of the United States; they’d have no idea what to do if elected. That points directly at the fallacy of the Trumpian myth, that people who aspire to higher office, who spend their adult lives pursuing degrees, professional employment, and stature are to be demonized. To paraphrase Asimov, regular people’s ignorance of the difficulty of collaborating and leading is not as good as the knowledge had by those who actually do these things.

Taking the question one step further, I held aside for the moment the un- and under-employed, hard-boiled conservatives, and racists, to which I’d add voters who ignored the obvious by giving a sexual predator and racist a pass by voting for him. Is this all that’s left of the Republican party? Is this the company a “movement conservative” gladly keeps?

Brooks concludes his column discussing other pursuits that bind together a culture. This is a long-run concern for the United States, where generational change accelerated after the stagnation of the 1970s. We are, to coin a phrase, becoming faster than we can keep up. Technology has helped us silo into an ever-narrower set of face-to-face contacts, with less direct communication, and more physical isolation.

We’re all headed in different directions, it seems, and our national leadership is picking our intellectual and moral pockets while we anesthetize with social media. Unlike any short-term politician or political party’s actions, this long-term trend could be our eventual undoing.


A conversation occasionally arises in our home: upon broader revelation of who Trump is and what wrongs he’s committed, will his supporters be remorseful about their vote? Will those red hats be banished to the neighbor’s trash?

I don’t think so. As Brooks puts it, most Trump voters cast their lot with him as if worshipping an idol. They reveled in the Clinton-bestowed label “deplorable,” and proudly declared their acceptance of much the man said, no matter how ridiculous or despicable. They held Trump higher than the man deserved. They took him seriously, not literally.

I’ve heard only one regretful comment about voting for Trump in the months following the election. There’s not much introspection going on in Trumpland.

Mass regret will manifest, if it comes at all, as seething, angry silence. Trump bears one quality in spades. He is a confidence man. Conmen prey on marks, suckers. There’s no joy in realizing you’re the fool.

What will Trump’s supporters do, though, when investigators lay charges at his door, or those of his closest family or advisors? I haven’t read any backlash from Paul Manafort’s and others indictments on multiple felony counts, among them conspiracy against the United States. Stunned silence has descended upon the red hat brigade. Perhaps their thoughts, if any, run to it could all be true. Will the more honest among his millions of supporters (millions!) have the nerve to repudiate him?

Notably and predictably, Fox “News” attempted a smear of the arraignment and trial court judges assigned the Manafort case. Trump supporters religiously parroted Fox reporting about their idol until now. This is the likely vector of their opinion going forward.

Conspiring against the United States. How ‘bout them apples?

#Trump #GOP #disgrace #DavidBrooks #idolatry #PaulManafort

October 31, 2017

Ta-Nehisi Coates on John Kelly's Version of the Civil War

Concise tweet thread, with linked sources, derailing White House Chief of Staff John Kelly’s assertion that “the lack of ability to compromise led to the Civil War.” Head shaking ignorance from a former four-star Marine Corps general.

Perhaps a review of the Declaration of Causes of Seceding States would help, as well

#TaNehisiCoates #JohnKelly #CivilWar

Production on House Of Cards Has Been Suspended Indefinitely

Katie Rife – AVClub:

One day after announcing that the upcoming sixth season of House Of Cards would be its last, Netflix has suspended production indefinitely on its original original series.

That was quick. It was announced that season six would be their last, and that a spin-off was already in development just yesterday

I guess sometimes you don’t realize how bad the news is until someone tells you so.

#HouseOfCards #TV #AVClub

October 27, 2017

Orrin Hatch Tells Friends He Plans to Retire

McKay Coppins – The Atlantic:

Senator Orrin Hatch has privately told allies in Utah that he is planning to retire at the end of his term next year, and if he does, Mitt Romney intends to run for his seat, according to five sources familiar with the situation.

As Republicans go these days, I’d call this a minor upgrade, like trading in a car for a newer version of the same model. Hatch wasn’t a whack job, Romney isn’t either. Hatch was able to moderate his views on stem cell research when a family member stood to benefit. Romney, well, maybe he’ll come up with something better than “makers and takers.” He seems a decent man.

We need better descriptive labels for right-of-center politicians. Time was, we could call them Republicans and be correct. That labels has gotten tight at the seams and frayed at the edges. It’s fit to bust wide open.

#MittRomney #OrrinHatch #Utah #Republican #politics #US

∴ Busy Day

… making something new …


October 26, 2017

As GOP Bends Toward Trump, Critics Either Give In or Give Up

Jonathan Martin and Jeremy W. Peters – The New York Times:

the retirement of an anti-Trump Republican could actually improve the Republican Party’s chance of retaining a seat. Senator Jeff Flake’s decision on Tuesday to not seek re-election was greeted with quiet sighs of relief in a party anguished by his plunging approval ratings.

But such short-term advantages mask a larger, even existential threat to traditional Republicans. The Grand Old Party risks a longer-term transformation into the Party of Trump.

“There is zero appetite for the ‘Never Trump’ movement in the Republican Party of today,” said Andy Surabian, an adviser to Great America Alliance, the “super PAC” that is aiding primary races against Republican incumbents. “This party is now defined by President Trump and his movement.”

We’re witnessing a replay of history. The so-called “Party of Trump” is better referred to as neo-Know Nothing.

The Know Nothings, an informal reference for the American Party, was a mid-19th century nativist, virulently anti-immigrant movement angling for political authority. It stepped into the void opened by the collapse of the once-dominant Whigs. It was also avowedly anti-Catholic, nationalist, and populist, and sound a lot like today’s Republican party.

I believed that the GOP would distance itself from Mr. Trump as his chicanery became evident. It seemed inevitable, too, as he serially failed to accomplish any of his campaign promises throughout the first nine months of his administration.

Now, though, as moderate conservative members of Congress take their leave of elected office, I’m becoming convinced we’re in for a bad season of American politics and polity. None of it will serve the interests of the so-called “left-behind,” or movement conservatives, or rational thinkers, or the American people at large.

The 2018 mid-term elections will reflect how much Trumpism Americans are willing to bear. If Congress does not change majority then, we could see a second Trump administration.

The only things standing in his way are criminal indictment and voter turnout.

#GOP #Republican #Know #Nothing #American #Party

Why Joe Biden Didn’t Run ... And Why He’s Not Ruling Out 2020

David Kamp – Vanity Fair:

In a cruel twist, Joe Biden’s planned 2016 presidential campaign was upended by the death of its foremost booster, his 46-year-old son, Beau, from brain cancer. Will the former vice president make a run in 2020? With the publication of his book Promise Me, Dad, recalling that tragic period, Biden opens up about the emotional—and political—challenges he faces.

A captivating long-form piece about Joe Biden, his family, and his undecided plans for the future. Good read.

#Joe #Biden #Beau #politics #presidency #US

October 25, 2017

∴ How to Engage a Fanatic

David Brooks, who advocates engaging fanatics with love – The New York Times:

Second, you greet a fanatic with compassionate listening as a way to offer an unearned gift to the fanatic himself. These days, most fanatics are not Nietzschean supermen. They are lonely and sad, their fanaticism emerging from wounded pride, a feeling of not being seen.

If you make these people feel heard, maybe in some small way you’ll address the emotional bile that is at the root of their political posture.

Another option is simply letting the fanatic vent, unanswered. If it occurs on a medium like Twitter, re-tweet or re-post. Let his words speak for him. It’s a minimalist form of listening, and everyone gets him unfiltered and uncensored.

One of two outcomes obtains. Either the fanatic self-censors after publicly embarrassing himself, or he heedlessly stumbles ahead, a caricature of thoughtful discussion. Either way nothing remains to engage; there’s no reasoning with a fanatic, because the fanatic elides uncomfortable historical fact and ignores contemporary explication, while championing what gives him comfort.

Above all, the fanatic does not tolerate change.

Life can be seen as a series of choices, each engendering change in one way or another. Thoughtful choice occasionally leads down unexpected paths. This is the act of living rather than mere existence, self-determination rather than approximating the steel ball in a pinball machine. Where these paths lead is one of life’s joys; they help define us even as they require us to change.

The fanatic, then, is angry at life. Old man, meet cloud.

#fanatics #David #Brooks

US to Release JFK Assassination Documents

Ian Shapira – The Washington Post:

President Trump announced Saturday morning that he planned to release the tens of thousands of never-before-seen documents left in the files related to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

“Subject to the receipt of further information, I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened,” Trump tweeted early Saturday.

Imagine what this news dump will distract Americans from considering.

#Trump #deceit #disgrace

Jeff Flake Has Had Enough. What Does That Mean?

Senator Jeff Flake – The Washington Post:

How many more disgraceful public feuds with Gold Star families can we witness in silence before we ourselves are disgraced?

How many more times will we see moral ambiguity in the face of shocking bigotry and shrug it off?

How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled at a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of it?

How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage?

Nine months of this administration is enough for us to stop pretending that this is somehow normal, and that we are on the verge of some sort of pivot to governing, to stability. Nine months is more than enough for us to say, loudly and clearly: Enough.

I hear you, Senator Flake. We all hear you. And yet Mr. Trump maintains a devout base of followers who excuse him with ‘yeah, but what about …’ arguments. ‘What about Hillary, emails, Benghazi, birth certificates, college transcripts, jobs we knew would leave America twenty years ago,’ they whine.

These are the same people who supported the nomination and election of a moral degenerate, a man so noxious to decency that his wife will not hold his hand.

The House GOP caucus opened two new investigations into Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration yesterday. They’re looking at a retired secretary of State and failed candidate for president, and an administration a year out of power as of greater concern than the child president who presents a clear and present danger to the republic.

Yet Mr. Trump is the legitimate president of the United States, and until evidence of wrong-doing is presented there is little his party or his administration can or will do against him.

If you voted for this man, words attributed to Colin Powell apply. “You broke it, you own it.”

What, exactly, do you intend to do about this, Mr. Flake?

#Trump #GOP #disgrace

October 24, 2017

Jeff Flake, a Fierce Trump Critic, Will Not Seek Re-election for Senate

Sheryl Gay Stolberg – The New York Times:

But Mr. Flake, choosing the Senate floor for his fierce denunciation of the president, appeared to issue a direct challenge to his colleagues and his party.

“It is often said that children are watching,” he said. “Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?”

I know what I’m going to say. I’ve been saying it for a year.


#Trump #GOP #disgrace

∴ The White Line

A friend posed a thought-provoking question. “And what is white, anyway? Why was President Obama considered black when he had one white parent and one black? What do we really mean with “black” and “white” anyway? There is no such thing as racial purity, so again, why use that term?”

It’s incisive, because we toss around these wordsand memes such as whiteness and, extending that appropriately, blackness, as though everyone knows what they mean. That’s clearly not the case. The meaning of these words has changed over the last two centuries.

When Italian immigrants came to America in the 1800s they were considered other than white:

John Parker, who helped organize the lynch mob, later went on to be governor of Louisiana. In 1911, he said of Italians that they were “just a little worse than the Negro, being if anything filthier in [their] habits, lawless, and treacherous.” 

Swarthy was a commonly used adjective referring to Italians. American nativists, themselves descendants of European stock, reviled them. The first mass lynch mob in America murdered Italian immigrants.

Something happened after the time of the second World War, though, that changed Italian-Americans’ status. Perhaps it was the shared service of American soldiers of various ethnicities returning home, or close contact between American GIs and the Italian people they encountered at the end of the war. After battling against and occupying Italy, where many Italian-Americans fought and died, Italians immigrating to the US were transformed in the American consciousness: the line demarcating white moved to encompass them.

It’s difficult now to imagine this transformation.

The Irish lived a similar story, fleeing the potato famine for America. As researched and documented by Harvard lecturer Noel Ignatiev, their transformation took place over a century and a half.

Newly arrived into America, the Irish were scorned by nativist Americans, who complained that they displaced low-end workers. Left unmentioned was that these were jobs Americans such as they didn’t want and wouldn’t do. Sound familiar?

The same racial differentiation was argued: other than white.

Over time, the Irish, who became our cops and our domestic workers, made the same transformation in the American mind. The line demarcating who is considered white moved to include them, as well.

Not everyone agrees with this analysis.

The notion of immigrant-as-non-white was rebutted in this brief article by David Bernstein, which helps me to my point by separating white from whiteness. Bernstein homes in on what we mean by the latter term:

a stylized, sociological or anthropological understanding of “whiteness,” which means either “fully socially accepted as the equals of Americans of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic stock,” or, in the more politicized version, “an accepted part of the dominant ruling class in the United States.”

What we’re really talking about is power. Pejoratively referring to a group of people by the color of their skin is an intellectually lazy way of stating who has it, and who does not. Throughout American history the demarcation between those who are considered white and those who are not has changed, but of course no-one’s genes have. What’s really growing is the circle of whiteness: those who at least believe they hold privilege, if not in fact.

We use white and black as shorthand for whiteness, or the lack of it. Perhaps blackness is a good stand-in here. Unless there’s no other useful descriptor, why note someone’s color at all?

This begs a question: if past if prologue, will we see the demarcation between those considered white move again, and if so, to whom?

And to echo my friend’s question, what do labels like white and black mean in a culture where mixed-ethnicity couples and their children are the second fastest growing demographic?

Indeed, why is Barack Obama considered black when his mother was white, when he graduated an Ivy League school, when he was editor of that school’s law review journal? He possesses the phenotype of white in his genes, and the hint of whiteness in the privilege he gained by education and election.

Identity labels such as Latino, Irish-American, Italian-American, African-American increasingly have more to do with cultural experience than ethnic boundaries. They point directly at heritage more than class.

As each of these groups, save African-Americans, are drawn into the circle considered white, that demarcation holds less meaning. And that threat to status is enough to put a racist bigot over the top and win the presidency of the United States.

Given all that, isn’t now a good time to reconsider the opaque, politically charged, and increasingly useless labels white and black? How much more whiteness are we willing to tolerate before it tears our culture apart, or, more hopefully, leaves us looking at each other wondering, why the hell did it take us so long to figure this out?

#race #ethnicity #culture #white #whiteness #black #blackness #American #population

October 22, 2017

The Democrats in Their Labyrinth

Ross Douthat – The New York Times:

But the point is that a party claiming to be standing alone against an existential threat to the republic should be willing to move somewhat, to compromise somehow, to bring a few of the voters who have lifted the G.O.P. to its largely undeserved political successes into the Democratic fold.


#Democrats #American #politics

October 20, 2017

GE Misses on Earnings and Pares Back Lives

Charisse Jones – USA Today:

General Electric’s earnings tumbled in the third quarter, missing Wall Street’s expectations as the company said that it will pare $20 billion in businesses within the next two years to make its operations more efficient.

Miss a quarter, shed $20 billion in subsidiary businesses. What do you suppose happens to the people working in those subsidiaries? Do you believe anyone trading GE shares cares?

Shit like this is what got Trump elected.

(Yeah, I changed the headline. More to the point.)

#American #greed #GE #financial

October 19, 2017

Trump Offered a Grieving Military Father $25,000 in a Phone Call

Dan Lamothe, Lindsey Never, and Eli Rosenberg – The Washington Post:

President Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.

The Washington Post contacted the White House about Baldridge’s account on Wednesday morning. Officials declined to discuss the events in detail.

But in a statement Wednesday afternoon, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: “The check has been sent. It’s disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda.”

Having proven himself as both a liar and a cheat, there is no doubt Mr. Trump would never have sent the promised check.

There’s no media bias in this reporting, as can be seen in the paragraph directly after the one in which White House shill Walters bemoans the press. There is only the free press holding an elected official to account for his statements.

The White House spokespeople continually claim media bias, because reporting on Mr. Trump is, on balance, negative. What they’re not considering is that Trump is simply a vile, inhumane individual who has surrounded himself with cretins and lackeys. What we have, then, is a kakistocracy.

#Trump #kakistocracy #vile #inhumane

October 18, 2017

Dodging Russian Spies, Customers Are Ripping Out Kaspersky

Joseph Cox – The Daily Beast:

But one aspect of Russian-born cybersecurity company Kaspersky’s anti-virus product is threatening the sacred trust of its hundreds of millions of users around the world: the Kremlin’s intelligence apparatus can, if they feel like it, grab a copy of customer’s own files by leveraging Kaspersky’s software installed on computers across the world, according to reporting from The Wall Street Journal.

I used Kaspersky’s then-called AVP software in the early 2000s, when the company made its entry into the US market. An anti-malware application was (and is) a must-install software product on computers running Microsoft’s Windows operating system, a magnet for malware. After initial doubts about turning security of my systems over to a Russian company’s software I went ahead, because it was well-regarded among anti-malware products. It caused the least disruption, didn’t noticeably slow the operating system, and caused the fewest false-positive alerts. It also had one of the best success rates at finding actual malware.

Turns out my doubts were well-placed.

The company may have been unaware of what was going on with their product, but someone in the company was aware. Software code doesn’t write itself.

Not yet, at least.

#Kaspersky #Labs #AVP #anti-virus #FSB #intelligence #agencies #Russian

Kaepernick's attorney: We'll have a smoking gun


“I am going to predict right now that we will have a smoking gun,” Geragos told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360.” “There are people who are not going to get into an arbitration proceeding and they are not going to lie. They are not going to lie. They are going to tell the truth and they’re going to say what happened. They were told no, you’re not going to hire him.”

Hmm. This just got more interesting.

#Colin #Kaepernick #collusion #NFL

October 16, 2017

∴ Bodhi-Boy at Four Months

Sleeping Labrador Retriever pup
Two of this week’s photos show my pal Bodhi zonked. We’re tiring him out with longer walks, and something new. He’s reached an age when his inquisitive mind needs more occupation.
Obedience training has begun.
I took both Zele and Stella to Warrenton Kennel Club’s training sessions when they were pups, but the next scheduled classes don’t begin until January. Bodhi is ready now.
One thing I learned from working with Z, and then again with Stella years ago is that success comes from repetition.
I’d take each to an hour-long class one evening, then work with the dog for ten- to thirty-minutes each evening for the rest of the week. We began on the shorter end, and gradually increased time as attention spans lengthened.
The hour-long class was as much for training me as it was for training the dog. It communicated methods for teaching obedience while disposing of practices that don’t help her learn.
We learned to use positive reinforcement, and above all make it fun for the dog and simple enough for her to gain praise. Use single-word commands consistently. Speak the command in a firm tone of voice. Reward with praise and a training treat if she obeys on the first try. Reward with only praise if it takes two tries. Form the correct behavior with hands on her body while voicing the command if it goes to three. Gradually wean her from treats to praise-only. Mind the dog’s nose; where it points is where she goes. Her attention should be on me. Use minor corrections with a training collar to bring attention back to what we’re doing. Use significant corrections only when the dog has gone completely off the hook. Sometimes it takes one or two significant corrections at the outset of the first session to establish who’s alpha in the relationship.
Another shot of the same sleeping Labrador Retriever
We’d both take one evening off to make the seven-week stretch tolerable, but never the evening before the next class.
We had a well-behaved dog on the road to being a calm, happy member of our family by the end of the course. Another seven-week course was available for gaining Canine Good Citizenship certification, but by then I was satisfied with both dogs’ behavior, and frankly ready to cease training.
Bodhi and I began training this week in our garage. Absent our cars the space makes a comfortable training ring for a single dog. We’re doing maybe ten minutes of walking at heel, stopping randomly to sit. He does pretty well with this, parking himself at my side when I stop walking without being told.
He already has the “sit” command down pat.
I drop the lead, put him in a stay, and walk to the other side of the garage. He does well here, too, but he fooled me a few times responding to a “Bodhi, come!” right away. Eventually I realized he was coming not on command, but to the sound of my voice. Counting up to ten out loud with varying emphasis keeps him listening until he hears the right command. “Stay” is a work in progress.
There’s always much praise that goes with being a good boy.
It’s not all work for Mr. Bodhi. He spends three days a week at our shop, taking a few walks out to the Warrenton Greenway and up and down Main Street. He meets everyone who comes into the shop. The only thing I’ve seen him consistently shy from is an aggressively barking dog.
Labrador retriever sitting looking out the door
The new Warrenton dog park opens a month from now. There will be a ceremony, and the mayor’s “first dog” will take the inaugural romp. Bodhi will be close behind, and perhaps complicit in a covert inaugural romp of his own.
He still fits under my living room chair for a nap, though the end for that is almost upon us. It’s already a tight squeeze. We’re guessing he’ll clock in at forty-six or 47-pounds at his next vet appointment, a week from now.
I love this not-so-little guy, but more importantly, I like his personality. He’s a smart, happy dog, inquisitive, and above all he’s by our side always. Nothing makes him happier than to see one of us coming, not even food. Not. Even. Food. That’s quite a thing for a Lab.
He’s made a Bodhi-shaped place in my heart.
#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

Colin Kaepernick Files Complaint Against N.F.L.

Ken Nelson – The New York Times:

Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who last season started a wave of sideline protests by kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, has filed a grievance against the N.F.L., accusing all 32 teams of colluding to keep him out of the league.

Well this should prove interesting. Collusion is difficult to prove when communication of the many parties are conducted verbally, unrecorded.

Best of fortunes to Kap. I believe he’s been blackballed, but unless someone has the goods on the NFL’s billionaire owners, it’ll be a tough road to proving it.

#Colin #Kaepernick #NFL #collusion

October 15, 2017

The NYT Review of Ta-Nehisi Coates' We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy

Jennifer Senior – The New York Times:

In the election of Trump, Coates sees an affirmation of his bleak worldview. “To Trump whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power,” he writes in the final essay here, recently published to much attention in The Atlantic.

This sentence causes inordinate heartburn for some. A loose translation, if needed: ethnic privilege is neither theoretical nor a stand-in for other social ills, but rather the primary cause of Mr. Trump’s elevation to the presidency.

That’s arguable, but only as an academic exercise. Every day the only agenda our president makes progress on is the minimization of his (black) predecessor’s administration. Eight years of Trump will leave little trace of Obama, and those pleased to read that are legion, more-so than any collection of un- and under-employed workers, Hillary haters, movement conservatives, and GOP loyalists.

“Every Trump voter is most certainly not a white supremacist,” Coates writes. “But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.”

Coates does have a way of putting a period on a sentence.

#Ta-Nehisi #Coates #Eight #Years #In #Power #NYT #review #Trump

∴ The Rise of Antifa

Peter Binary – The Atlantic:

As the president derides and subverts liberal-democratic norms, progressives face a choice. They can recommit to the rules of fair play, and try to limit the president’s corrosive effect, though they will often fail. Or they can, in revulsion or fear or righteous rage, try to deny racists and Trump supporters their political rights. From Middlebury to Berkeley to Portland, the latter approach is on the rise, especially among young people.

Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

Emphasis mine.

A republic is built upon the rule of law. One cardinal principle of American democracy is defense of the right of peaceful assembly, no matter how odious. This includes address and demonstration of hateful speech, white supremacy, and fascism. In words apocryphally attributed to Voltaire, I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

If “Republicans” ally themselves with tripe, so be it. They abandoned the principled Lincoln long ago.

The rule of law, political process, and the long sweep of American cultural history will cure what is Trumpian. Consider him a half-assed Mussolini if you must. His ilk have risen and fallen elsewhere. We know the stink he brings and how to ventilate it. What we do not know is how to extricate ourselves from a joined battle of fools who disregard what we hold dear, what has sustained America for nearly one-quarter of a millenium.

Beware the friends you make; they may be your undoing.

#antifa #fascist #Trump #anarchists #fools #rule #of #law

∴ Orange is the New Black?

I came across a phrase while perusing an article in the September issue of The Atlantic magazine this morning: orange man. It’s often used to describe a certain one of Mr. Trump’s physical features; his skin possesses a tone reminiscent of exposure to early generation sunless tanning products.

Perhaps he does use a sunless tanning product; you’d expect a contemporary formulation to do a better job making white skin tan. That’s not the point I’m coming to.

What’s struck me every time I see the phrase orange man, because it’s applied not as a descriptive, but rather as a derogative, is how it can be any more acceptable to ridicule the man’s odd skin tone than is deriding black and brown people for the color of their skin, and all the racial baggage attending that.

Mr. Trump is very white, in the greater whiteness sense of the word. There is a racial component to that, too, and much baggage attends. Do we want our culture to continue carrying that baggage?

Did you answer no to that? Does orange man still give you a chuckle? Do you not feel cognitive dissonance right now?

The way we use language says much about us. Wielding certain words, including nigger, or kike, says much about the speaker’s attitude – not about religion, ethnicity or race, but about his or her attitude toward the subject group. They’re applied to invoke an otherness, to separate and objectify. It’s the first and most obvious expression of hatred.

Mr. Trump is known for his barely concealed supremacist attitudes, and his use of language to garner the non-thinking, hate-mongering component of his support. How does labeling him orange make the speaker any different than the hateful contingent of Trump supporters?

#America #race #orange #black #brown #white #language

October 14, 2017

Becoming a Steelworker Liberated Her. Then Her Job Moved to Mexico.

Farah Stockman – The New York Times:

Shannon and her co-workers had gotten the news back in October: The factory was closing. Ball bearings would move to a new plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Roller bearings would go to McAllen, Tex. About 300 workers would lose their jobs.

Long read, not well-placed for the short attention span crowd, but still demonstrative of an idea knocking around my mind. Note the divergence of attitudes and outcomes between black and white workers, once collegial, but torn by job displacement.

At a factory where black and white workers bowled together on Tuesday nights, where at least two romances crossed racial lines, a subtle divide emerged: Many white men like John refused to train and shunned those who did; many black men like Mark openly volunteered.

This reminds me of phrases I’ve heard the last couple decades, referring to Hispanic workers grooming lawns and cleaning bathrooms. “They do the work white Americans refuse to do.”

#employment #race #American #culture

∴ Into the Arms of America

Long, well-written and researched articles fly over heads.

Contrarian opinion, anything, really, that flies in the face of the received American narrative draws scorn and rejection.

Spare, direct prose, a form that leaves little room for error or misunderstanding and holds the shortened attention of minds weened on a diet of reality television and fast food, seems best. It’s a form I treasure, anyway.

Sympathy for the un- and under-employed whose work has departed for cheaper labor markets or has been supplanted by robotics, software, and engineered solutions abounds. We’re told it elected a president, even.

Black Americans have suffered un- and under-employment rates in greater measure than those displaced in recent years, in greater number per capita and for a longer time span than anyone else in America. It’s been a problem since before there was an America, because the black Africans hauled here in chains could have been doing more for themselves than picking cotton.

Where’s populist sympathy for them? Has it decided elections? Why not?

Spare enough?

#America #race #wake #up #stay #woke #politics

Sound of Mystery Attacks in Cuba Released

Beth Mole – Ars Technica:

On Thursday, the Associated Press released the first audio recording of the sound that some diplomats say they heard during mystery attacks in Havana, Cuba. Those attacks have so far left 22 Americans with a puzzling range of symptoms, from brain injuries to hearing loss.

The sound is high-pitched and grating. You can listen to it here (but beware: it’s unpleasant).

I listened to the sound five times through. During the first two passes I thought I wasn’t hearing anything at all. It was only when I raised my laptop’s volume to its maximum that I heard the grating, high-frequency sound. It’s very close to the frequency of my tinnitus, which has gotten louder this past year.

It strikes me unlikely that a Cuban intelligence agency is responsible for these sounds, unless, as speculated, they’re coming from malfunctioning bugging devices. Warming relations between Cuba and the United States benefit both nations. More likely the physically debilitating sounds are directed by an unfriendly government displeased the turn of diplomatic events, perhaps a government that once held great sway over the Caribbean island. A government led by a former intelligence officer rightly accused of operating both a kleptocracy and a murderous autocratic regime under the guise of democracy.

Anyone come to mind?

#Vladimir #Putin #Russia #Cuba #US #embassy #debilitating #sound #audio

∴ Culture of Violence

It is an act of violence to suspend health insurance subsidies to poor people who are covered by Affordable Care Act policies. Mr. Trump’s action sets the course for much higher premiums, making policies unaffordable for lower-income citizens and destabilizing the ACA exchange market.

This is an old political trick: when a party cannot eliminate a program, they de-fund and starve it to death. The tragedy in Trump’s act is that people’s health is at the extreme end of his action. The ACA will not be the only thing to die.

#cultureOfViolence #Trump #ACA

October 12, 2017

Trump Implies Hurricane Victims Are Ripping Off the Federal Government

Bess Levin – Vanity Fair:

To clarify, that‘s the president of the United States (1) doubling down on his claim that, really, the commonwealth brought this on itself; (2) suggesting that, despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of people are still without power and some may be drinking from Superfund sites because they don’t have clean water, the federal government is about ready to wash its hands of the situation; and (3) implying that the people of Puerto Rico are pulling a fast one on him, trying to take advantage to extract more aid than they really need. The House is set to vote Thursday on an aid package that includes roughly $5 billion for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands—structured, reportedly at Trump’s request, as a loan.

A loan, it’s worth adding, they likely can’t ever repay.

Way to go, Mr. Trump. Blame the victims, under-perform relief, then stick them with the tab. Despicable.

#Trump #Puerto #Rico #disaster #relief #with #strings #attached #blame #the #victim #despicable

This Will Not End Well

Gabriel Sherman – Vanity Fair:

At first it sounded like hyperbole, the escalation of a Twitter war. But now it’s clear that Bob Corker’s remarkable New York Times interview—in which the Republican senator described the White House as “adult day care” and warned Trump could start World War III—was an inflection point in the Trump presidency. It brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.”

In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.

Talk of employing the Constitution’s 25th amendment, refusal to execute nuclear strike orders, and sequestering Mr. Trump from the public gives me the feeling this presidency will not end well for him.

Contrary to Roger Stone’s remarks, a Trump departure will end not in civil war, but civil relief. That’s a good ending for us.

#Trump #administration #Vanity #Fair #unstable #unravelling #unfocused #removal

October 11, 2017

On the History and Rightful Demise of the Venerable "Martini" Glass

Wayne Curtis – imbibe:

The glass became a case study in what happens if something stays too long in the limelight. By the 1990s, the glass had eclipsed the drink—everything in a Martini glass began to call itself a Martini, no matter the color or content. Some of these were potable; many were not.

The Martini glass became the guest that wouldn’t leave. Its size continued to grow, as if overfed on Spanish olives, until the glass became obese. The 12-ounce versions were preternaturally top-heavy and unstable even when parked, easily toppled by a boisterous laugh or an errant knee. A full Martini glass on a small table is Chekov’s gun waiting to be fired in the third act.

Oversized glassware is a great way to warm a perfectly chilled cocktail to undrinkability, but that’s not the only downside to the eponymous v-shaped cocktail glass. Curtis tells the iconic glass’s backstory, along with his opinion on its place in a contemporary backbar. I found myself nodding agreement throughout.

As I read elsewhere, all a well-equipped cocktail bar needs are Collins glasses, rocks glasses, and the elegant coupe.

#cocktails #glassware #Martini #oversized #Collins #rocks #coupe

Crushed Ice Is the Easiest Way to Ruin a Glass of Anything

Alex Delany – Bon Appetit:

Now I see crushed ice for what it is: Crushed ice is a rapidly melting mountain of bullshit.

Alex has apparently been covertly listening while I fret over the quality of ice from our soon-to-be new refrigerator. His is an amusing, short read on why crushed ice is good only for swizzles and your dentist.

When it comes to shitty ice, just say no.

#cocktails #ice #crushed #watery #excessive #dilution

October 10, 2017

∴ Virginia Is for Haters (<--I Did Not Write That)

Paul Krugman – The New York Times:

Until recently, Virginia seemed to be emerging from some of the darker shadows of its history. The state is becoming more ethnically diverse, more culturally open; it is, you might say, becoming more like America. For the “real America” is more than small towns and rural areas; it’s a place of vast variety, unified — or so we like to think — by a shared commitment to universal values of democracy and human rights.

Not accidentally, Virginia has also become politically more like America, at least in national elections: Like the electorate as a whole, it supported the Democratic presidential candidate in the last three elections.

But is Virginia’s apparent moral progress an illusion? And if it is, what does that say about America as a whole?

So much to say. I’m fond of Krugman’s economic analyses, and on the political front I tend to agree with him more often than not. Here, though, he’s stretched a wee too far.

We’ve made Virginia our home for two decades. While it’s true we’ve handed an electoral victory to the Democratic candidate in the last three elections, and were the swing state reporting that handed Barack Obama his first presidency, on the whole our state is not by any means becoming more diverse, unified, or moderate in our politics. One look at the county-by-county map from the last three elections tells the story. Here’s the map from 2008, Obama v. McCain (Wikipedia):

2008 Virginia electoral map for the US presidency

Here’s the map from 2012, Obama v. the last respectable Republican, Mitt Romney (Wikipedia):

2012 Virginia electoral map for the US presidency

Finally, here’s the map from 2016, Clinton v. Trump (Wikipedia):

2016 Virginia electoral map for US presidency

As you can see, Northern Virginia is reliably blue. They report late. Drama queens. That’s where the 2008 surprise came from.

The Tidewater region at the mouth of the Chesapeake is also reliably blue. Some of those counties on the state line were heavy into moonshine back in the day. One is Franklin county, the setting of 2012’s Lawless. Terrifically acted film. Someone should do a study.

The blue bull’s-eye in the middle of the state is the county containing Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia. College town. Lots of liberal voters.

The other blue spot is at the east end of Virginia’s tail, and it contains Blacksburg, home of Virginia Tech. So, more college students and the liberal community surrounding and supporting the university.

My own county is just outside Northern Virginia and went pink, pink, and red on these three maps, respectively. Eric Cantor was our Congressman until Dave Brat defeated him in a primary challenge. We should have seen Trump coming way back then.

The rest is a sea of people who’ve been pulling the R lever since the Democrats gave up on segregation and decided to become decent human beings. Their voters had to go somewhere.

Krugman makes another false assumption. He equivocates moral progress with voting Democrat. While I believe the Democratic party stands more for basic human decency than the Republicans, as evidenced by the social and economic programs it’s espoused and enacted over the last fifty years or so, it’s a hazard to tie any political party with morals. Parties exist as marketing machines for candidates. They’d sell babies on the black market if it reliably got their candidates elected.

So, not much of a good argument by Kruggo for Virginia voting to the left.

My guess is Northam, the Democrat, does pull off a victory next month. Here’s a better column on the race by 538’s Harry Enten.

What does that tell you? I’m with Harry. Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial races, coming one year after a new party takes the White House, don’t mean dick.

#GOP #Democrats #Paul #Krugman #Virginia #politics #governor

October 9, 2017

The Most Political 'Star Trek' Episode: 'Past Tense,' From 'Deep Space Nine'

Robert Greene II – The Atlantic:

Behr also acknowledged the episode’s implicit racial commentary, noting for the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion book that Sisko and Bashir—being people of color—were treated more harshly than Dax. He also recoiled from criticism that the two-parter was too one-sided in its portrayal of a country dealing with homelessness, telling Star Trek Monthly magazine in 1996 that, “People are still even writing that we only presented ‘one side’ in ‘Past Tense’ and that we should have presented ‘both sides’ and not just the ‘liberal’ point of view—and I’m still trying to think what that means.

Emphasis mine.

I remember this pair of ST:DS9 episodes, which dealt with homelessness from the perspective of travelers arriving from the future. They viewed it in much the same way we look back at the overt racism of the past and the more insidious variants today.

The claim that both sides have valid arguments puzzles me. We live in a country and a culture built upon the subjugation of ethnic minorities, be they indigenous people, or black African, Italian, Irish, Chinese, Catholic, Jewish and other immigrants. Perhaps the only group not subjected to marginalization in America is the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

Let’s be clear. As they relate to racism in America, the two sides are those opposed to less-than-equal treatment of non-whites, and those who, through some intellectual gymnastics or outright ignorance, falsely equivocate the argument of the white supremacist with justice. Extrajudicial killing at the hands of furious white cops intent upon putting down an unruly black man is contemporary lynching.

As Behr, above, I’m still trying to think of how ethnic oppression is defensible.

#racism #in #America #ethnic #oppression #cultureOfViolence

October 8, 2017

∴ How Ta-Nehisi Coates Gives Whiteness Power

Thomas Chatterton Williams – The New York Times:

I have spent the past six months poring over the literature of European and American white nationalism, in the process interviewing noxious identitarians like the alt-right founder Richard Spencer. The most shocking aspect of Mr. Coates’s wording here is the extent to which it mirrors ideas of race — specifically the specialness of whiteness — that white supremacist thinkers cherish.

Excellent rebuttal to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essays, which are collected in his We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy. Any regular reader of my ramblings knows I disagree, but Williams’ prose is worthy of contemplation. These thoughts beg response if you’ve found yourself galvanized by Coates.

Williams’ oversight comes when he points out that Coates’ arguments are identical to white supremacists’ notion of white “specialness,” essentially making him but one more racist among many of paler skin. The critical difference is that Coates holds up this specialness, or “whiteness” in his expression, as a central vice, while the white supremacist holds it as a virtue.

This would be a critical error, methinks. Worth a read and a think, regardless.

#cultureOfViolence #Ta-Nehisi #Coates #Thomas #Chatterton #Williams #whiteness #contemporary #race #politics #racism #america

The Untold Story of Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination

Doug Bock Clark – GQ:

The crosshairs that Jong-nam always felt on his back, that Siti perhaps should have sensed on herself, that South Koreans have accepted, have finally settled on us.

Careful tick-tock reportage on the assassination of Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother and rightful heir to the North Korean dynasty. Well worth the read.

#north #korea #kimjongun #kimjongnam

America’s First Memorial to the Victims of Lynching

Kriston Capps – The Atlantic:

[O]n a six-acre site overlooking Montgomery’s Cottage Hill neighborhood, just a stone’s throw from the Rosa Parks Museum, the Memorial to Peace and Justice will serve as a national monument to the victims of lynchings. It will be the first such memorial in the U.S., and, its founders hope, it will show how lynchings of black people were essential to maintaining white power in the Jim Crow South.

Powerful, short story about a memorial now under construction in Montgomery, Alabama. You’ll be shocked to learn what this photo’s subject represents:

Artist's rendering of the Memorial to Peace and Justice


October 7, 2017

Guns and the Soul of America

David Brooks – The New York Times:

The real reason the gun rights side is winning is postindustrialization. The gun issue has become an epiphenomenon of a much larger conflict over values and identity.

That, and as one of the few I implicitly trust said, “we’re just mean people.”

It’s the culture, stupid.

#guns #American #culture #identity #politics #stupid

How America has Silently Accepted the Rage of White Men

Naaz Modan – CNN:

Mass shootings are a violent epidemic that have been met with fatal passivity for far too long. If mass shootings were perpetrated mostly by brown bodies, this would quickly be reframed and reformed as an immigration issue. If thousands died at the hands of black men, it would be used to excuse police brutality, minimize the Black Lives Matter movement and exacerbate the “raging black man” stereotype. If mass shooters identified as Muslim, it would quickly become terrorism and catalyze defense and security expenditures.

But this is a white man’s problem. According to an analysis by Mother Jones, out of 62 cases between 1982 and 2012 (a time period that would not include the actions of Dylann Roof or Stephen Paddock, among others), 44 of the killers were white men and only one was a woman.

Mmm-hmm. White male rage, and violence in general. Goes way back.

#Las #Vegas #massacre #white #male #rage

October 6, 2017

∴ Blade Runner 2049

I saw the premier of Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 last night. It was, simply, epic.

Well-directed, well-cast, and possessed of a gifted cinematographer’s art (Roger Deakins; Sicario, Unbroken, Skyfall, True Grit, A Beautiful Mind), this film is a worthy sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 Blade Runner. Scott executive-produced here. If you’re a devotee of the earlier film, you’ll likely love Blade Runner 2049.

Methodic pacing allows for exploration of what Deckard and Rachael’s world has become thirty years later, and what has become of them. You could uncritically call it slow, for its pace is intentional. Villeneuve takes his time. His pacing mirrors that of the first Blade Runner over its entire two-hour, 43-minute run time. There’s simply more story here to tell.

Both his Arrival and Sicario were told this way, though with shorter run times.

It’d be a shame to shorten this film – there’s already a bit of a disconnect when a late plot element enters the story – so I suspect there’s a Director’s Cut is looming in our future. 

2049 had me riveted throughout most of it, particularly in the last half-hour. A “cameo” by Sean Young’s Rachael had me leaning in, trying to detect whether it was CGI or cutting room fodder from the first film. Alas, she had green eyes then.


Ever-present menace and misdirection are familiar Villeneuve tropes. In previous work, whether it’s alien spacecraft overhead, or the threat of imminent violence, he keeps the viewer’s mind off balance until the story’s done.

This film’s conclusion fell in that line: unexpected. As my pal Neal remarked when the lights came up after 2049, there’s a lot to digest.

Menace here is helped along by a throbbing soundtrack, my one beef. Where Vangelis’ soundtrack to the original Blade Runner conveyed beauty, wonder, emotion, and danger, Ben Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer’s bass-heavy, grating throb is nothing but danger. There’s no wonder or beauty in 2049 Los Angeles. The soundtrack reflected that, but it was at times simply irritating.

Casting of 2049 is terrific. Ryan Gosling’s deadpan delivery as a cop and a replicant comes without any of Harrison Ford’s weary delivery from the first film. Gosling’s Officer K’s status as a replicant is established right up front; no spoiler there. Who better to retire the faster, stronger old-model replicants than a fast, strong replicant?

This implicitly argues for Deckard’s status as a replicant in the first film. Some of the dialog between him and Gosling can be taken in that way, as well.

Robin Wright stands in for the original police Captain as a hard drinking, stone-faced cop-in-command. There’s a fleeting bit of womanliness to her character during one brief dialog with Gosling’s character, over a bottle of vodka. A flash, and gone. She’s all business, all the time.

Harrison Ford appears in the final third of the film. The only bit of humor in the entire film’s dialog came from him in a throw-away line of wryness, and again it’s but a flash. This is not a pleasant story, nor is humor at home among the gray shades of its cinematography.

Jared Leto’s character Niander Wallace and his lieutenant, Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv exude a creepiness that adds to the overall menace. These two were perfect counterpoints to Gosling and Ford.

An early turn by Dave Bautista as a hunted replicant is another of his surprisingly spot-on roles.


I’m always leery of sequels. They’re most often a disappointing follow-up to a well-loved story. It’s easier to count the sequels that don’t disappoint. This is one of them, enough so that it requires additional viewings to unravel what it has to say.

Highly recommended.

#Blade #Runner #2049 #Ryan #Gosling #Harrison #Ford #Robin #Wright #Sylvia #Hoeks

October 4, 2017

∴ Thoughts on "Civil-Rights Protests Have Never Been Popular"

From an essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic:

Kaepernick did not inaugurate his protest in hopes of helping elect more centrist Democrats, or any kind of Democrat. That said, he was not immune to compromise. When his initial efforts were met with disdain and deemed disrespectful, he actually consulted a group of veterans to see how he might better pursue a protest. That is the origin of Kaepernick kneeling, and the fact that it too has been met with scoffs points to deeper problem. If young people attempting to board a bus are unacceptable, if gathering on the National Mall is verboten, if preaching nonviolence gets you harassed by your own government and then killed, if a protest founded in consultation with military veterans is offensive, then what specific manner of protest is white America willing to endure?

Emphasis mine.

The predictable, narrow-minded, and mostly white response to Colin Kaepernick’s protest is an echo of America’s civil rights past. Dr. King expressed disappointment with the white moderate majority’s similar response in his 1963 Letter From Birmingham Jail:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action

Emphasis mine.

When, then, and in what manner is protest acceptable? How should Kaepernick and those joining him bend to appease the “patriotic” white majority? Social justice should take precedence over flag-waving, false patriotism; false, because if the indignant were true patriots they’d care more for the freedom and dignity of every American than for a symbol of it.

Ignorance is believing the Civil Rights era concluded with equality for all, or that a colorful banner has more worth than a human life.

Freedom and dignity for all begins with the individual. YOU and me. Examine yourself. Have you said or thought, “I support people’s right to protest, but …?” What’s your first reaction to a group of non-white Americans gathering to protest? How does it differ from if they were white, protesting taxes or foreign aid or “reverse discrimination?”

One mind plus one mind plus one mind, and before you know it you have a culture. America’s culture is insular, violent, and bigoted down to its long ago-formed core. Negative attitudes toward the brown and the black, not to mention the Muslim and the Jew, are rubbed into the grain. But you and I are America. Change your mind, change your world. It begins with you and me, right now.

#Ta-Nehisi #Coates #MLK #Martin #Luther #King #racism #American #culture