May 26, 2017

For Army Infantry’s 1st Women, Heavy Packs and the Weight of History

Dave Philipps – The New York Times:

In the woods, after hours of mock raids, Pvt. Kayla Padgett rested her rifle against her rucksack and turned to her platoon, assembling them in three neat rows.

It was 90 degrees. A tick crawled along the back of her shirt. The night before, the platoon had slept in the dirt. Everyone was dog tired. Many were covered in ant bites. But as platoon guide, it was her job to make them ready.

“All right, hustle it up, let’s count off,” she said.

One by one the platoon of mostly men each shouted until all were accounted for.

“O.K., good,” Private Padgett said, scanning the group with her blue eyes. “If you haven’t done so, keep loading up ammo, all your magazines.”

“She’s a hoss,” her drill sergeant, Joseph Sapp, said as he watched her. After a tour in Iraq and four in Afghanistan, he has served with his share of soldiers. “Forget male-female; she’s one of the best in the company. She’s one you’re happy to have.”

Great article, worth your time.

Next we need to incorporate women into registration for the draft.

#women #in #the #military #combat #roles #US #Army

May 25, 2017

A Russian Slot Machine Hack Is Costing Casinos Big Time

Interesting, geeky piece by Brenden I. Koerner for WIRED about a scam successfully bilking casinos of cash, using an iPhone and an internet connection back to St. Petersburg:

casinos can be certain of how much they’ll earn over the long haul—say, 7.129 cents for every dollar played. But on June 2 and 3, a number of Lumiere’s machines had spit out far more money than they’d consumed, despite not awarding any major jackpots, an aberration known in industry parlance as a negative hold. Since code isn’t prone to sudden fits of madness, the only plausible explanation was that someone was cheating.

And the scammers are getting craftier as the federal cops close in.

#Russian #scam #slot #machines #casinos #Wired

Appeals Court Will Not Reinstate Trump’s Revised Travel Ban

Adam Liptak – The New York Times:

The federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., on Thursday refused to reinstate President Trump’s revised travel ban, saying it discriminated on the basis of religion. The decision was a fresh setback for the administration’s efforts to limit travel from several predominantly Muslim countries.

Mr. Trump had narrowed the scope of his first executive order, issued in January, in response to an earlier appeals court decision halting it. But the basic flaws in his approach remained, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled.

The case is now likely to go to the Supreme Court.

… where it will be struck down one final time.

The United States is not a corporation. “Businessmen” have no place in the chief executive’s Oval Office.

It would appear Mr. Trump’s supporters will get nothing that he promised, either by law, popular will, or his own apathy.

#Trump #fraud #greatChoiceForPresidentThoughBecauseBenghaziEmailsSheMakesMeFeelAllIckyInside

GOP Candidate Charged With Assault on Reporter as Newspapers Pull Endorsements

David Weigel – The Washington Post:

Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte was charged late Wednesday with misdemeanor assault after witnesses said he “body-slammed” a reporter for the Guardian who had been trying to ask him about the GOP’s health-care bill.

After so much excuse-making and apologia for Donald Trump, the GOP should find defending Representative Gianforte’s behavior easy going. What’s a little body-slamming when the target is a fake-news spewing, America-hating liberal?

I’m practicing my irony. The GOP has fallen so far down it must be hard to see daylight from where the party now stands.

#GOP #Gianforte #assault

May 24, 2017

Even Some Republicans Balk at Trump’s Plan For Steep Budget Cuts

Kelsey Snell, Damian Paletta, and Mike DeBonis – The Washington Post:

President Trump’s proposal to cut federal spending by more than $3.6 trillion over the next decade — including deep reductions for programs that help the poor — faced harsh criticism in Congress on Tuesday, where even many Republicans said the White House had gone too far.

While some fiscally conservative lawmakers, particularly in the House, found a lot to praise in Trump’s plan to balance the budget within 10 years, most Republicans flatly rejected the White House proposal. The divide sets up a clash between House conservatives and a growing number of Senate Republicans who would rather work with Democrats on a spending deal than entertain Trump’s deep cuts.

Too far. Damned right.

Apparently most Republicans with a shred of decency were elected to the Senate.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #ransack #the #poor

What a Terrific Story About Roger Moore

Marc Haynes (@marchaynes):

What a great guy …

a tweet about Roger Moore by Marc Haynes

May 23, 2017

∴ Getting my iPad Off my Lap in the Car

Here’s a useful, easy project that took all of a half-hour to complete, and yielded a handy car mount for my iPad.

We use an iPad for navigation when Kelly and I take to the road. Whichever one of us isn’t driving has Waze running for traffic updates, ETA, and the occasional peek at a weather radar, social media, and email. The downside is that one of us winds up with an iPad in their lap for the trip.

I use Waze on my daily commute, too. It’s saved me from waiting through more than a few traffic jams. Until recently, though, I’ve used it on my iPhone mounted under the rearview mirror. That works ok, but the small screen makes it difficult to see much further ahead.

Installed tablet tray

I bought a floor-mounted tablet tray to resolve these shortcomings. The idea is simple enough – a long, flexible connecting rod with a foot on one end and a spring-loaded tablet mount on the other – but the installation depends on the vehicle it’s going into.

I was wary about how much room this arrangement would take up, how imposing it would be on the passenger, and how sturdy it would prove. We were about to set out for Galveston, Texas, for a cruise – perfect test case!

The tablet mount I chose is made by Arkon, and sold on Amazon. It has an open-foot mounting bracket at the bottom and a swivel-mounted, spring loaded tray at top. The long rod connecting the two is 18-inches of aluminum and takes a little elbow grease to bend to the right shape, ensuring a sturdy mount with a tablet attached. They also make a 22-inch model, for vehicles with a taller center console.

Installation was easy. The kit comes with a bracket and screws if attachment to the floor pan or center console is necessary. In my case, though, my first effort was to locate the front-left bolt securing the passenger seat rail to the floor. There are usually four such bolts, one at each corner of the seat. The bolt was exposed in the car we were driving to Texas, which made installation a snap. I later moved the tablet mount to my car, where a trim piece had to be removed to gain access to the bolt.

Open-toe foot bolted into place

A ratchet and socket had the bolt and washer backed out a quarter-inch in a few seconds, enough to slip the open-toe mounting bracket under the washer. I hand-tightened the bolt, then went about bending the connecting rod.

I put a bend in the bottom to bring the rod up against the center console, and another at the very top to allow the tray more tilt toward the driver. I wanted the iPad to directly face the driver to eliminate reflected glare coming in through the windshield.

I put one more bend at the bottom, tilting the tray toward the front console as far as I could without interfering with any controls. A little more tweaking of the bend near the top had the iPad right where I wanted it.

Removing the entire mount once I hade the basic shape, I gave the foot a little more bend toward the driver so the flexible connecting rod would lay more firmly against the center console. Re-mounting it, I secured the bolt with the ratchet and socket.

Mounted unit with power cable attached

One last detail: power. I have a two-port USB power adapter that plugs into the twelve-volt accessory socket, with an Apple Lightning cable. Using a single-hole punch I put a small hole about a half-inch from either end of the flexible covering that slides over the connecting rod, facing about halfway between the driver and the rear of the car. I popped the small Lightning connector end of the cable into one hole near the foot of the installation, threaded it up through the flexible covering and popped it back out the hole near the tray. I drew out enough cable to make a strain-free loop into the edge of my iPad, leaving the rest neatly looped alongside the center console.

The result is a mildly obtrusive plastic tray laying close to the front console, but out of the way of the passenger’s legs. The electrical connection is tucked neatly away, particularly with a tablet installed.

Our trip to Galveston proved the tablet mount a handy addition to the vehicle. We were able to use Waze much easier on the iPad’s larger display. The tray swivels and turns, so the passenger (we swapped back and forth several times each day to avoid fatigue) was able to use the tablet for mail, browsing, and texting, as well. Vibration at the top of the mount was minimal due to the passenger seat pressing against the connecting rod.

INstallation complete with passenger seat pulled into normal position

I’ve since transferred the tablet mount to my car for my daily commute. Using the tablet for Waze in this position is no more a distraction than changing the radio station, and given Waze’s voice warnings, a glance down is all that’s needed to verify traffic or road trouble ahead.

This was a simple, inexpensive project that’s proven useful. It’ll be unbolted and moved to my next car when that day comes.

#tablet #tray #car #mount #iPad #project

Transcript of New Orleans Mayor Landrieu’s Address on Confederate Monuments

The clearest statement of truth on the subject of removal of Confederate symbols and monuments I’ve read, by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu – The Pulse:

The historic record is clear: the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered.

As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history. Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause.

Virginia, you should be next.

#American #civil #war #confederate #monuments

May 22, 2017

Trump Asked Intelligence Chiefs to Push Back Against FBI Collusion Probe After Comey Revealed its Existence

This is a bombshell.

Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima - The Washington Post:

President Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.

I’m fifty-two years old. Watergate happened when I was 7, and President Nixon become ex-President Nixon by his own hand when I was 9. Despite my young age at the time, I’m hearing echoes of Richard Nixon putting the squeeze on CIA Director Richard Helms to do exactly the same thing, begging the FBI off its investigation of the Watergate break-in and possible cover-up by the Nixon White House.

We do not learn from the past.

#Trump #fraud #impeachment #obstruction #of #justice

Clinton-Era White House Investigations May Preview Russia-Trump Inquiry's Effect on Staff

Russell Riley - The Atlantic:

It is reasonable to expect that the current investigation will not be brief.  In part this is because Russian election interference is a weighty, sprawling matter—much more so than Whitewater. But it’s also because Mueller, like Starr, is tenaciously thorough. In a recent Politico story, Garrett Graff described his handling of a 2015 investigation for the NFL on running back Ray Rice’s domestic-violence case. “Mueller’s subsequent lengthy report oozes thoroughness and the unique gravitas of an experienced prosecutor,” he writes. “His team, some of whom will now be working alongside him in the Russia investigation, devoured millions of documents, text messages, and emails; tracked down nearly every person who had been in the building; and called all 938 telephone numbers that called in and out of the league headquarters during the period in question.” Graff’s conclusion? “That thoroughness and Mueller’s strong independence should terrify the Trump White House.”

Mueller’s appointment is the first good news emerging from this administration’s. Popcorn time.

#Trump #fraud #impeachment #Bob #Mueller #special #counsel

May 21, 2017

The Relentless Bias Against Donald Trump

Dave Pell – Medium:

Even after the performance of the last week; the avoidable gaffes, self-inflicted wounds, bad decisions, poor judgment, and utter incompetence, there are still some who argue that there is a vast bias against Donald Trump. Well I’ve got news for them.

They’re right.

I agree with every word of this.

Dave Pell edits a daily email newsletter, NextDraft, and offers an iOS app that delivers the same news distillation, if that’s your preference. Endorsed.

#Trump #bias #dave #pell

Did America Ever Really Work? – Bad Words

Umair Haque - Medium:

Rather than looking at America through the lens of the present — “oh my god, what did he do today!! “— I want to ask the question: has American society ever worked?

By “worked”, you can think that I mean two economic criteria. First, according to its own standards of life, liberty, and happiness. Second, a little more formally, whether its economy has ever really been capable of delivering rising living standards broadly.

Another thought-provoking essay by Haque. This one will jar you, I think.

Ask yourself, is he wrong? Slavery, segregation, stagnation. No grace period between.

Read. Think. This is the reasoning for fundamental change in America.

#Umair #Haque #American #Dream #prosperity #egalitarianism #politics

The Purpose of a Constitution

A thought provoking essay by Umair Haque. Worth the time and some extended thought.

#umair #haque #constitutions #purpose #politics

Trump to Propose Big Cuts to Safety-net in New Budget, Slashing Medicaid and Opening Door to Other Limits

Damian Paletta - The Washington Post:

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

I sure hope all those out-of-work folks who voted for Mr. Trump like what he has in store for them. I sure hope so, but I don’t. Not one damned bit.

The “wealthiest nation on Earth,” as some like to say, and this is the best we can do to govern ourselves.

#Trump #budget #Medicaid #cuts #health #care #for #the #poor

May 20, 2017

Trump Signs ‘tremendous’ Deals With Saudi Arabia on His First Day Overseas

Philip Rucker and Karen DeYoung - The Washington Post:

President Trump made a splashy debut on the world stage here Saturday, ushering in a new era in U.S.-Saudi Arabian relations by signing a joint “strategic vision” that includes $110 billion in American arms sales and other new investments that the administration said would bring hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“It was a great day,” Trump said. He cited “tremendous investments in the United States . . . and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

While initial details were scant, the agreements signed included a U.S. letter of intent to “support Saudi Arabia’s defense needs” with sales of a number of items — naval ships, tanks and other vehicles — that were the subject of agreements under earlier administrations, as well as some new items that had never passed the discussion stage, such as sophisticated THAAD missile defense systems.

I guess they’re all full up on AWACS.

Moving on, we have a lovely selection of cruisers, destroyers, Abrams tanks, and the antimissile system that pissed off the Chinese - THAAD!

First, though, a spot of reality from Bob Baer, via Hollywood.

What are they thinking? They’re thinking that it’s running out. It’s running out, and 90% of what’s left is in the Middle East. Look at the progression: Versailles, Suez, 1973, Gulf War 1, Gulf War 2. This is a fight to the death. So what are THEY thinking? Great! They’re thinking keep playing, keep buying yourself new toys, keep spending $50,000 a night on your hotel room, but don’t invest in your infrastructure… don’t build a real economy. So that when you finally wake up, they will have sucked you dry, and you will have squandered the greatest natural resource in history.

Jobs where, exactly? And does this “deal” really benefit both parties, or are we just sucking dry our erstwhile allies, the Saudis?

#Trump #ohWhatTheFuckImOutOfInvectiveForThis

What’s the Matter With Republicans?

Paul Krugman - The New York Times:

Why did Marine Le Pen, often portrayed as the French equivalent of Trump, lose by a huge margin? Because France’s conservatives were only willing to go so far; they simply would not support a candidate whose motives and qualifications they distrusted. Republicans, however, went all in behind Trump, knowing full well that he was totally unqualified, strongly suspecting that he was corrupt and even speculating that he might be in Russian pay, simply because there was an “R” after his name on the ballot.

And even now, with the Trump/Flynn/Comey story getting worse by the hour, there has been no significant breaking of ranks. If you’re waiting to find the modern version of Howard Baker, the Republican senator who asked “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” you’re wasting your time. Men like that left the G.O.P. a long time ago.

As I’ve privately remarked of many a self-identifying Republican, some would defend a child molester if he had an “R” after his name. Or, as Anderson Cooper phrased it yesterday, “if he took a dump on his desk you would defend it.”

The GOP is a corpse that continues moving only by inertia. It is, as a political party, intellectually bankrupt and morally corrupt.

#GOP #fraud #corrupt

∴ It's a Hell of a Thing

"This time is different.” How many times have we heard that? The dot-com bubble was different, the housing bubble was different, Bill “the boy king” Clinton was different, “compassionate conservatism" was different, Barack Obama was different. The sequence of events following each remained predictably the same as previous, similar events. Bubbles burst. To paraphrase Mamet, old age and treachery rise to obstruct youth and exuberance. Conservatism is not compassionate.

What did we learn from these events? We learned that no time is different. We learned how short our memory is.

It used to be said that change was the only constant in life, but now we should add to that “failure to learn from the past.” Richard Nixon and Watergate were not so long ago; my generation has had plenty of time to digest what occurred and what was learned from it. We apparently did not.

The current presidential trip abroad appears to be different. Perhaps the Democrats will remain mum about politics, as is the tradition. Politics, we like to say, ends at the water’s edge. Perhaps the Republicans will stay under the rock they’ve used for cover as Trumpian shame has rained upon them. But something odd is happening back home, happened just as the president departed.

We learned there are investigative footsteps approaching the Oval Office, even as the president is away.

An active inquiry into the president’s campaign antics and his people’s connections to Russian agents has swung into high gear. Committees of the United States Congress that should have been dedicating full-time personnel to their own investigations are suddenly clamoring for a waning bit of spotlight, as Special Counsel Bob Mueller, by all accounts an honest, well-regarded leader and investigator, gets about his business.

Appearances are deceiving. These machinations of government are not different, not really. They're the normal course of responding to the outrage of citizens and rising Congressional worry that this man Trump may truly be a danger to the republic.

It’s a hell of a thing to bring down a president. It’s an act not approached in haste. And yet the word “impeachment” was heard just days after Trump’s election last year, from people more familiar with the Donald Trump of the eighties, nineties and oughts. The Donald Trump who sidestepped and handed off responsibilities just in the nick of time, leaving someone else holding a bag full of failed development, worthless investment, and unpaid labor.

Certainty of Trump’s epic demise emerges from study of his previous acts. The man cannot help himself from helping himself and lying about it. Combine that with the power and prestige of the presidency, and the exposure of the campaign leading up to it, and the result can only be catastrophic. There’s no-one to whom he can hand off responsibility or culpability this time.

Truman was right; the buck really does stop at the president’s desk.

So here we are. The president is abroad on his first diplomatic trip, a nine-day odyssey that would tax any previous chief executive, one that he tried in vain to pare down to five. Bob Mueller is organizing, beginning his investigation all the while.

Bob Mueller will learn what the FBI already knows, perhaps what the intelligence community already knows. Bob Mueller will, eventually, produce a report, and with that, hopefully, the bad ship Trump will burn and sink, and we will have a new and unexpected entry in our history books. Or Bob Mueller will be fired, or ordered fired, and the attorney general, the deputy AG, or anyone else left breathing at the DoJ will have a choice to make: president or country.

An oath to the Constitution of the United States is no small thing. “Preserve, protect, and defend.” Every soldier, sailor, marine, airman, guardsman, civil servant, senator, representative, president, and Supreme Court justice utters those words. Time to make them count.

This time is not different. The Constitutional oath has been taken in vain, the republic would be, in the hands of a more competent thug, in peril. Time to right the ship of state and throw this bastard overboard. Men and women of good will and clear conscience demand it.

#Trump #fraud #impeachment

Check Out This Beautiful Inversion Filling the Grand Canyon With Cloud

It’s easy to forget that air, like water, is a fluid …

#Grand #Canyon #cloud #inversion #fluid

Trump-Russia investiigation: Coverup is Now Part of it

Matthew Schofield and Lesley Clark - McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Investigators into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential elections are now authorized to probe whether White House officials have engaged in a cover-up, according to members of Congress who were briefed Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

A Justice Department official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic, confirmed that Rosenstein told members of the House of Representatives that the special counsel in charge of the probe, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, “has been given the authority to investigate the possibility of a cover-up.”

Cliché: it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

A cover-up. Does anyone working in the office of the president read? Is there no-one there with a memory longer than a few years? Or are these people so focused on their own agenda they fail to recognize that we can all see them?

There is no hiding in plain sight, Jared. You are accountable to us, Donald.

#Trump #investigation #impeachment #Bob #Mueller

Quite a Pair of Stories, Published as the President Heads Abroad

Matt Apuzzo, Maggie Haberman, and Matthew Rosenberg - The New York Times:

President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky - The Washington Post:

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

Mr. Trump acknowledges his relief to the Russians after firing the chief investigator into his campaign’s possible collusion with the Russian government, while a high official within the White House is identified as a subject of interest in that same investigation.

Obstruction of justice, much?

Justice is coming for you, Donald, and for all Americans. You will not overcome this.

#Trump #FBI #investigation #James #Comey #Russians #collusion #impeachable #offense

May 19, 2017

Volvo Says no More Diesel Engines, the Future is Electric

Volvo may have made this decision in response to impending regulation, but I have to wonder if the discovery and resulting fallout over VW/Audi’s gaming of tighter particulate emissions wasn’t what got them started thinking about ending diesel production. Just as well (Ars Technica):

But the outlook farther ahead involves regulations that will also severely limit nitrogen oxides (NOx). As a result, the company will devote its energy to electrification instead.

Nitrogen oxide from diesel vehicles killed a lot of people in 2015, study says As we reported earlier this week, NOx are noxious and linked to 38,000 premature deaths in 2015 alone.

#diesel #Volvo #VW #Audi #electric #emissions #particulate #sulphur

May 18, 2017

Bobby Moynihan is leaving SNL · Newswire

William Hughes - The A.V. Club:

Deadline reports that a high-profile comedy departure that’s been rumored for some time is actually coming true: Bobby Moynihan is leaving Saturday Night Live.

That’s too bad. For the few times I watch SNL each seasonMoynihan is one of my favorite performers.

That show goes through waves of good and bad seasons. Perhaps it’s in a downward slide again.

#SNL #Bobby #Moynahan #leaving

Roger Ailes: Fox News founder Dies at 77

BBC News:

The ex-chairman and founder of Fox News Roger Ailes has died aged 77, his family says.

Condolences to his family; good riddance for the rest of us. Ailes is most directly responsible for the abomination to truth in journalism that is Fox “News.”

The wheels continue to come off the US conservative bus.

#Roger #Ailes #Fox #News #death #journalism #conservative #fraud #fraud #fraud

Chris Cornell, Soundgarden and Audioslave Frontman, Dies at 52

Christopher D. Shea and Caryn Ganze - The New York Times:

Chris Cornell, the powerful, dynamic singer whose band Soundgarden was one of the architects of grunge music, has died at 52.

Mr. Cornell died Wednesday night in Detroit, said his representative, Brian Bumbery, in a statement that called the death “sudden and unexpected” and that said the singer’s family would be “working closely with the medical examiner to determine the cause.”

Dontae Freeman, a spokesman for the Detroit Police Department, said in an interview that at about midnight officers responded at the MGM Grand casino to an apparent suicide of a white man, born July 20, 1964, who was pronounced dead on the scene. He would not confirm the victim’s name; Mr. Cornell’s date of birth is July 20, 1964.

Farewell to a talented, driven, flawed man. Among his other music successes, he composed and performed my favorite Bond theme, You Know My Name, for Casino Royale.

#Chris #Cornell #Soundgarden #music #Bond #Casino #Royale #death

May 17, 2017

House Majority Leader to Colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump

Adam Entous - The Washington Post:

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

There are many forms of payment. Some involve tangible assets, like money. Others, harder to see and track, involve intangibles such as long-term favors or the abstention of malice. Or a well-timed leak of distracting, potentially damning emails just before a national election. Who knows which Trump benefited from? Maybe Majority Leader McCarthy can explain, now that his comments are out in the open.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #start #to #finish #McCarthy #comments #payment #Russians

Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation

Rebecca R. Ruiz - The New York Times:

Mr. Mueller is viewed by members of both parties as one of the most credible law enforcement officials in the country. He served both Democratic and Republican presidents, from 2001 to 2013, and was asked by President Barack Obama to stay on beyond the normal 10-year term until Mr. Comey was appointed.

Perfect. Mueller will get to the truth, “though the heavens fall."

#Trump #fraud #impeachment #Comey #Mueller #FBI #Russian

‘I think we’re in impeachment territory,’ Says David Gergen, Former Aide to Nixon and Clinton

Derek Hawkins - The Washington Post:

“I think we’re in impeachment territory.” Those were not the words of a left-wing political blogger with high hopes, nor a hyperactive Twitter maven spouting conspiracy theories. They came from David Gergen, the typically moderate, mild-mannered CNN analyst and former aide to four presidents, both Republican and Democrat.

If he’s lost David Gergen, Mr. Trump’s lost the presidency. Nominally a counselor to Republican presidents, Gergen is the guy Bill Clinton brought in after the Monica Lewinski scandal to help right his presidency. He’s the closest you’ll find to a statesman outside elected office, and he not only sees what we all see, he’s willing to make the hard (for a Republican) call.

Gergen’s stature is such that his words may in hindsight constitute the tipping point for the Trump presidency. Senators and Congressmen should take note.

#Trump #fraud #impeachment #hes #gotta #go #country #above #party

May 16, 2017

Trump Acknowledges ‘facts’ Shared With Russian Envoys During White House Meeting

Ashley Parker - The Washington Post:

President Trump appeared to acknowledge Tuesday that he revealed highly classified information to Russia — a stunning confirmation of a Washington Post story and a move that contradicted his own White House team after it scrambled to deny the report.

It’s ok. Mr. Trump often shoots himself and his administration in the foot.

It’s ok, too, because when the president does it, it’s not a crime. That’s true.

^^^sarcasm. It’s not ok, regardless of legality, but maybe believing so makes people feel better. Maybe it makes those “patriots” across America who support Trump feel we’re not being sold out by this treasonous, criminal clown.

Maybe they'll keep telling themselves that when articles of impeachment are drawn up, and debated, and voted in the affirmative, and he’s tried in the Senate. After all, Trump’s supporters will say pretty much anything to justify their poor choice last November, including ranting that “the Russians are our friends."

With friends like Vlad Putin, who needs enemies?

Maybe all those people who said “the election’s over, why do you keep writing and complaining about Trump” should read a newspaper and wake the fuck up. Time to speak out, people. It's your country that’s at stake.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #treasonous #impeachable #offense #wake #up

Trump, Irked at Cabinet and Staff, Mulls Sweeping Shake-up

Mike Allen - Axios:

At the urging of longtime friends and outside advisers, most of whom he consults after dark, President Trump is considering a "huge reboot" that could take out everyone from Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon, to counsel Don McGahn and press secretary Sean Spicer

Not a bad idea. As was remarked about the Reagan administration in relation to a Pentagon purchasing scandal, the "fish rots from the head first.” Mr. Trump should replace himself, while he’s at it.

Trump’s problem isn’t any more his advisors than it is himself. Few of them have any experience doing politics “for real,” as opposed to intra-party maneuvering, and his expectation was that he’d act as CEO of the USA. None of those experiences or expectations have proven out. They all need to GO.

#Trump #fraud #impeach #remove #unqualified

Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

Michael S. Schmidt - The New York Times:

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

The existence of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia.

Why not a little more obstruction of justice to sweeten the pot?

#Trump #GOP #fraud #impeachable #offense

May 15, 2017

A Seven-point Rundown of Why Trump's Intelligence Giveaway is Critical

Head on over to LawFareBlog for a succinct summary of the Washington Post’s blockbuster story.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #treason #impeachable #offense #go #on #keep #defending #him

Trump Revealed Highly Classified Information to Russian Foreign Minister

Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe - The Washington Post:

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” Maybe that’s what he was thinking. A GOP tradition. Yeah, that’s it.

It wasn’t all that long ago (October, 2016 to be exact) that many of the rest of us said this Trump guy was going to be a disaster for the United States. Since January 20, 2017 he’s been nothing but. The only silver lining is that he’ll likely wreck the Republican party for a decade or two hereafter.

As for those who went ahead and voted for him anyway, you own him, as he sells out every last one of us. You will never live this fucker down.

Go ahead, bring it full circle and tell me, “the Russians are our friends.”

#Trump #GOP #fraud #treason #only #hes #too #ignorant #to #know #but #you #should #have

May 10, 2017

Tesla Starts Pre-orders on Solar Roof for $1,000, Rolls Out Calculator For Costs

Megan Geuss - Ars Technica:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Twitter on Wednesday that the company’s solar roof panels would be available for pre-order that afternoon. In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Tesla and SolarCity executives said the roof would be cheaper, on the whole, than installing a regular tile roof (although not cheaper than an asphalt roof). Pre-orders require a $1,000 payment to secure a place on the list.

Intriguing idea. Click through for a close-up photo of the tiles - they’re claimed to be all but indistinguishable from ground level.

A customer’s roof would be populated by both solar and non-solar tiles. Customers with greater energy needs - say, one who charges an electric car daily - would have a higher ratio of solar-to-non-solar tiles. The mix would generate an aggregate energy production suited to the customer’s needs.

A roof-full of tiles, installed, runs over $35k in the example given. Steep, but as with every technology, the price will decline as production and installation increase.

If I’m building a house six or eight years from now - around the time I give up my career habit - these will be in my sights.

#solar #roof #tiles #Tesla #home #installation

Your Up-to-date Summary of WTF Happened Today in Trump's Slow-motion Train Wreck

If you're looking for an up-to-the-date summary of the current administration's efforts to govern, sure to be titles we'll find in the non-fiction aisle and theaters for years to come, head on over to What the Fuck Just Happened Today. The day's top headlines are arranged in a numbered list, latest day at the top. It's a useful resource.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #news #WTF

Indeed

IMage of a tweet by former AG Eric Holder urging DoJ/FBI hands to stay the course

#Trump #GOP #investigation #FBI #James #Comey #Russia

Days Before He Was Fired, Comey Asked for More Resources for Russia Investigation

Matthew Rosenberg and Matt Apuzzo - The New York Times:

Days before he was fired, James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, asked the Justice Department for a significant increase in resources for the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the presidential election, according to three congressional officials who were briefed on his request.

Mr. Comey asked for the resources last week from Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who also wrote the Justice Department’s memo that was used to justify the firing of Mr. Comey this week, the officials said.

Mr. Comey then briefed members of Congress on the meeting in recent days, telling them about his meeting with Mr. Rosenstein, who is the most senior law enforcement official supervising the Russia investigation.

You don’t say. Almost as if Comey had a body of evidence in sight, and needed more people and funding to investigate.

Elsewhere (CNN.com):

Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year's election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey.

Comey goes to the DoJ for more people and money to pursue the connection between Mr. Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. He's fired on the same day subpoenas are delivered in that same investigation. Connect the dots.

The Trump administration is clearly, and beyond any doubt, the most crooked and conflicted presidency in my lifetime. That’s long enough to dimly remember Watergate, and to read thoroughly on that 1973-74 scandal in later years. My gut says Trump will exceed Nixon’s sins.

I can’t see Trump stepping down, but I’ve seen him sidestep responsibility in his business failings several times, leaving suckers holding the bag. Trump’s main problem: there’s no-one to leave holding this bag. He's the top of the pile and cannot delegate responsibility. There’s no bankruptcy court to save his bacon today.

It won’t happen today, or next week, or in a month. At some point, though, this fucker Trump is going down, whether by his own submission or by successfully prosecuted articles of impeachment.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #investigation #FBI #Russia #Comey #subpoenas #Flynn

John McCain on Comey Firing: ‘There will be more shoes to drop’

Josh Rogin - The Washington Post:

President Trump’s sudden firing of FBI Director James B. Comey is bad for the country and will not be the end of the Trump-Russia affair, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told a group of foreign diplomats and experts Tuesday night.

Although McCain did not directly accuse the White House of firing Comey to thwart the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible Russia ties, he did say that if that was the intention, it would fail.

“This scandal is going to go on. I’ve seen it before,” McCain told a meeting of the Munich Security Conference core group. “This is a centipede. I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop"

He’s right, of course. True scandal does not simply go away. I’d feel better about Mr. Trump’s action yesterday if Senator McCain forthrightly stated the need for a special prosecutor or an independent counsel today, but I have faith in our strong Constitutional separation of powers and what we all learn by experience: the truth will always emerge.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #impeach #Comey #FBI #fired #Russia #investigation

May 9, 2017

F.B.I. Director James Comey Is Fired by Trump

Michael D. Shear and Matt Apuzzo - The New York Times:

Mr. Trump cited Mr. Comey’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails to justify the dismissal, even though the president was widely seen to have benefited from that inquiry.

The trouble with speaking and tweeting foolish nonsense for years is that now no-one can believe anything Mr. Trump says.

Trump kept Comey on the job despite the facts of the Clinton email investigation. Now he fires Comey for the same. Up is down, black is white.

Tell us another lie, Mr. Trump.

He’s an even bigger fool if he believes this will derail the investigation into his campaign and the Russian government.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #lies #deceit #Comey #FBI

∴ Enjoying Our Cruise When We Couldn't Avoid the Cruise Hoards

I wrote about how to avoid the Cruise Hoards on port-call days In my last piece about our recent cruise. The key was making the ship our destination, while most of the guests disembarked for excursions or walkabouts.

During at-sea days, however, cruising is basically locking yourself into a thousand-foot-long ship with a few thousand strangers all looking for something to do. Many spend the day lined up like sardines in the sun on the top two decks, or swimming among the crowd in the pools. Avoid. There are lounge chairs available on the bow and elsewhere, away from the crowds, and less crowded activities to enjoy the time at sea.

Our cabin steward placed a copy of Cruise Compass on our bed each evening. This is a four-page guide to the next day's things-to-do, dining room dress code, items of interest if a port-of-call is scheduled, and general ship's information. At-sea days usually have a longer list of things-to-do, while port-call days are short on these, as guests are expected to leave the ship for a few hours.

Kelly first found mention of a Martini-making class during an at-sea day on our first cruise.

The idea is to gather six or more guests at an otherwise under-used bar and, in exchange for a nominal fee, put on a class about making cocktails. On our recent cruise it was called a "mixology" class, but the content was the same. A bartender or, in this case the ship's mixologist, sets up and mixes five different cocktails, explaining each as he goes.

Groups of three guests were invited behind the bar to muddle fruit and shake each of the cocktails. The basic recipe for each was muddled fruit, vodka, and a modifier or two such as fruit syrup, liqueur, or ice cream.

Each of the drink's ingredients were explained, including particular brand and expression choices and why they work together, as the bartender was working.

Finally, each guest has set in front of them an array of five miniature Martini glasses into which each cocktail is poured, one at a time. The process is build, shake, and let the bartender pour out a sample-sized cocktail for everyone's consumption before moving to the next.

Enough ingredients to pour two full-sized glasses of each cocktail were included. At the end of the class a name was chosen at random from the Sea Pass cards collected at the start. That guest got to choose which of the full-sized cocktails they wanted, and then chose the next name at random. In that way everyone received a miniature of each cocktail and one full-sized drink. Lucky guests got their first choice, while those called out later in the drawing got what was left.

The class ran an hour and provided entertainment and a handful of good cocktail ideas for home, without being overly boozy. When offered, Royal Caribbean typically makes these a two-part affair, so there's something to do on the last at-sea day heading home. Each class features a different set of drinks.

It was a treat for me - I do a fair amount of drink-making at friends' parties, but I've never scoped out the view from the other side of a professional setup.

All the shortcomings of a home bar are resolved: ice for the shaker is in a freezer directly in front of the bartender, and the cover slides shut to form a work surface. A small sink is just off to the side for rinsing out jiggers, mixing tins and glasses. A drip strip is laid across the back edge of the bar top for draining rinsed mixing tins and glasses. All commonly used tools are stood on end in a tall container to dry. The floor is covered in a rubberized mat riven with drain holes - I was literally standing on a grid of holes. An ample trash receptacle is tucked into the bar back.

I look for this class on every cruise we take, and I've managed to learn something new about ingredients and technique in each. It never gets old.

Although the Cruise Compass doesn't mention it, guests interested in the class should stop by the bar the day before and ask if the bartender prefers sign-ups. Our first attempt attending the class failed, as Dave and I were the only participants. Somehow nine people showed up the next day for a re-try.

The other gem for avoiding the cruise hoards, and a particularly pleasant escape in the evening when the pools are closed, the sun is down and there's nowhere else to be is the Card Room. This little hideaway is usually tucked near the forward or aft elevators. On Royal's Freedom class and larger ships it resides on an upper deck, adjacent to one end of the promenade.

The room is stocked with tables and chairs, a couple dozen board games, and a glass wall and door to keep out much of the ship's noise.

We spent a few hours with friends playing games we'd brought along. Others played bridge, or other card games. One table brought a boom box playing old-school Motown music one night. It was better than a lounge for casual hanging-out.

There are other hide-aways here and there around the ship. Royal Caribbean's site includes detailed deck plans of every ship in their fleet. If you're headed out on a cruise, make an effort to look over your ship's layout. You'll find nice places away from the cruise hoards. Deal with the crowds on your own terms when necessary.

Next time I'll write about a hideaway high atop the ship, where the view is spectacular and the hoards are in short supply at the right time of the day.

#vacation #cruising #royal #caribbean #bars #passengers #escape

May 7, 2017

Jack Ma to World: Prepare for Decades of Pain

Maya Kosoff - Vanity Fair:

Over the weekend, the executive chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, added his voice to the dystopian chorus. “In the next 30 years, the world will see much more pain than happiness,” the Chinese tech billionaire said at a entrepreneurship conference in Zhengzhou, Bloomberg reports. “Social conflicts in the next three decades will have an impact on all sorts of industries and walks of life.”

Ma warned attendees that the education system must change to account for seismic advancements in technology—including artificial intelligence, robotics, and manufacturing automation—that will disrupt the labor market and create massive societal upheaval. He also cautioned against giving robots too much autonomy. “Machines should only do what humans cannot,” Ma argued. “Only in this way can we have the opportunities to keep machines as working partners with humans rather than as replacements.”

Ma’s talk goes to the heart of recent political upheaval and deception in the US.

Ma spoke about the rise of online retail supplanting bricks-and-mortar shopping years ago, before it happened in earnest.

Today businesses large and small struggle with customers “show rooming” their store before heading online to make their purchase

He speaks now about the effects of robotics we’re already seeing: witness a modern automobile manufacturing plant, or what’s left of the coal mining industry. Much of what was once done by hands is now handled by specialized robots assembling and welding, or heavy equipment moving massive volumes of rock and coal.

All of this automation must be tooled, programmed, and maintained by people with specialized knowledge. These are generally well-paying jobs, but jobs unavailable to workers without the right education. The days of finding employment, working steadily for decades, and retiring to a livable pension on a high school degree left us decades ago. The notion of doing all this while remaining in one's hometown is a fleeting memory.

In short, Ma speaks about evolving our education system to produce students qualified for work in our evolving economy, because the jobs that have been replaced by automation are not coming back to human hands. That’s the message we should be getting from our elected leaders. Those are the policies we need to put tax dollars behind, or in just a decade or two we’ll have far more “left behind” communities across the country, populated by defeated, unemployed Americans. And that, more than anything else, will lead to true social upheaval making our recent election look like a mild dust-up.

#employment #automation #technology #politics

May 6, 2017

Rogue One, Second Time Through

A better Star Wars than, well, any Star Wars. I like this one better than all seven in every way. It's grittier, with colorful, self-redeeming characters, a more complicated, less hopeful plot until the characters ultimately succeed, and people die. All of them. The story has consequences. It has a sense of being real.

Best of all, it ends. One. And. Done.

#Star #Wars #Rogue #One

The Extent of Republican Dishonesty

The GOP-offered AHCA bill that passed the the House May 4, 2017 was posted for twenty-four hours prior to voting. It was passed out of zero committees. It was available for public comment for zero days. The CBO has yet to get to the bottom of it, two days later. Yet here’s what the press secretary for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan claims today:

Tweet showing an outright lie about review of the House AHCA bill

Buddhists call this sort of thing “direct learning:” elect lying creatures with the moral courage of hyena, suffer a greater suffering in future days. Not because of any cosmic justice, but rather because volition draws in that direction. Suffering begets more suffering.

Americans have another way of phrasing this concept: you reap what you sow, or, what goes around, comes around. It’s a little early for a victory lap.

#GOP #fraud #dishonest #lying #morally #depraved

Measles Outbreak Rages After Anti-vaccine Groups Target Vulnerable Community

Beth Mole - Ars Technica:

Minnesota is experiencing its largest measles outbreak since the 1990s following a targeted and intense effort by anti-vaccine groups there to spread the false belief that vaccinations cause autism.

As of Thursday, health officials reported 41 confirmed cases, nearly all unvaccinated children from a Somali immigrant community in Hennepin County. The community has for years been a target of anti-vaccine groups, aided by Andrew Wakefield, a fraudulent former physician.

It used to be that our greatest battles were between good and evil, wealth and morality, haves and have-nots. What we have here, as is so well epitomized by the ascendancy of Donald Trump and his toadies, is a battle between knowledge and ignorance.

Isaac Asimov’s statement never held truer: “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’.”

Don’t be fooled: no, it is not.

#knowledge #ignorance #dull #minds #make #fertile #ground #for #abuse

An Alternative Take on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Annalee Newitz - Ars Technica:

If there’s anything wrong with this movie or its cast, I’m afraid to say it’s Kurt Russell. I love me some Snake Plissken as much as the next ’80s kid, but Ego feels very one-note. Unlike pretty much every other character in the movie—including the bad guys—he never has any funny lines or zany bits. Of course he’s supposed to be a grandiose egomaniac (duh), but that doesn’t mean his whole part of the film has to be draggy and ponderous. He does a lot of unnecessary infodumping, and even his evil moments feel kind of blah. We get more snap and pizzaz in the brief cameo from David Hasselhoff than we do out of 15 minutes of Ego.

Still, the film overall is both a visual treat and surprisingly thoughtful adventure. It’s about accepting your friends for who they really are and forming family where you find it. Oh and also? It’s about blowing stuff up. Lots and lots of stuff. And exploding. And fire. Yeah, it’s about fire, too.

Annalee’s take is spot-on, though she forgives or simply overlooks the overabundance of dialog in this otherwise fun story. I suspect that’s what you get from a review written by someone whose tone is more fanlike of the material than a critic.

#Guardians #of #the #Galaxy #Vol #2 #Marvel #Cinematic #Universe

Every Republican Who Voted For This Abomination Must be Held Accountable

Paul Waldman, The Plum LineThe Washington Post:

I won’t mince words. The health-care bill that the House of Representatives passed this afternoon, in an incredibly narrow 217-to-213 vote, is not just wrong, or misguided, or problematic or foolish. It is an abomination. If there has been a piece of legislation in our lifetimes that boiled over with as much malice and indifference to human suffering, I can’t recall what it might have been. And every member of the House who voted for it must be held accountable.

Click through for a point-by-point rundown of what’s in the House’s “health care” bill.

As an added measure of hypocrisy the bill was described as relief from the “rammed through” Affordable Care Act. The ACA was debated and subject to public discussion for a year. This garbage was itself rammed through the House before the Congressional Budget Office had a chance to score it for cost and efficacy, and more than one Member voting in favor later confessed to not knowing what was written into it.

Backlash from this bill, if passed into law, will be severe and well-deserved. The bill makes clear where today’s American GOP stands on safeguarding Americans: pay-for-play. Those with enough money get what they want, including decent health insurance, and the hell with less fortunate citizens.

How telling that Congress exempted itself from this bill’s effects. Disgusting.

#GOP #fraud #payback #is #a #bitch

Go, Team

Impeach the Motherfucker Already logo

#Trump #fraud #impeachTheMFAlready

May 5, 2017

In Rare Unity, Hospitals, Doctors and Insurers Criticize Health Bill

Reed Abelson and Katie Thomas - The New York Times:

It is a rare unifying moment. Hospitals, doctors, health insurers and some consumer groups, with few exceptions, are speaking with one voice and urging significant changes to the Republican health care legislation that passed the House on Thursday.

The bill’s impact is wide-ranging, potentially affecting not only the millions who could lose coverage through deep cuts in Medicaid or no longer be able to afford to buy coverage in the state marketplaces. With states allowed to seek waivers from providing certain benefits, employers big and small could scale back what they pay for each year or reimpose lifetime limits on coverage. In particular, small businesses, some of which were strongly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, could be free to drop coverage with no penalty.

At this point the only people standing on the side of this bill are the very wealthy and their Republican lackeys. Not a good place to be standing come November, 2018.

In the mean time, see you in the Senate.

#GOP #fraud

It Looks Like Amazon’s Video App is Finally Coming to Apple TV This Summer

Peter Kafka and Jason Del Rey - Recode:

Amazon and Apple may have reached a truce.

The tech giants, who are increasingly competing for customers’ time, eyeballs and money, are close to an agreement to bring an Amazon video app to Apple’s Apple TV set-top box, according to people familiar with the two companies.

Amazon employees expect the app to show up on Apple’s hardware in the third quarter of the year.

That move would allow Amazon Prime Video subscribers to easily watch TV shows and movies from the service using Apple TV.

This is great news, if and when it happens. We have a Prime membership, yet have never streamed movies from the account, because we prefer watching movies together on our wide-screen tv and the only way to get content off our laptops, iPhones, or iPads is with Airplay.

I’ve had mixed results streaming over Airplay. A native Apple TV Amazon video app would neatly solve the problem.

#Apple #TV #Amazon #Prime #Video #apps

∴ 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' Is Almost as Great as the Original

(Stress on the headline’s “almost.” Almost almost.)

We went to see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last evening. The film’s predecessor, Guardians of the Galaxy, has become cherished comfort viewing for me, so much so that I was chagrined when I heard there’d be a sequel. Leave well enough alone, I thought. Apparently no good fun can be had one-and-done when there’s money to be made, though; there must be sequels. 

The trouble with a sequel to a well-loved film is that the writers, director, and actors often, though not always, end up trying too hard to bring the magic that made the first film terrific. I got that feeling last evening. The Atlantic’s review encapsulates where it fell flat for me:

The Guardians sequel and latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe certainly has its moments—quite a few in fact—but too often it finds itself weighted down by just the kind of portentous themes and overwrought drama the first film was so careful to avoid.

In particular, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 breaks the “show, don’t tell” rule of good story-telling. There’s a lot of navel-gazing dialog between Peter Quill and his father, Ego, and to a lesser extent between Gamora and her sister, Nebula. In the latter case there were at least a few long, side-eyed glares in place of dialog, enhancing their intense story-wthin-a-story.

The band-of-misfits-as-family we were encouragingly left with at the end of the first film (“we’ll follow your lead”) morphed into Kurt Russell’s long digression into who and what, exactly, he is and what, exactly, he’s been up to for millennia, which was, well, kinda gross. Quill spends much of the second act torn between the Guardians and Ego, to no good effect.

The revelation of Ego as Quill’s father was disappointing for how very early it appeared. I was stunned speechless when, after the first film’s long build-up about Quill’s male parentage, we met Ego in the first five minutes of this film. It was practically the whole reason for the sequel, and it zipped past in the first scene.

My other beef with Vol. 2 is that, unlike its predecessor, it lets almost all the air out of the balloon by its end. There are fewer mysteries left to beg the audience back for more next time. Most inter-personal issues are resolved.

In the wake of this film’s story are the gold-hued people bearing a grudge, and Sylvester Stallone’s Ravager navy getting the band back together. As Kelly said, ”I guess we know what the next film is about.” Let’s hope the golden folks and the Ravagers don’t resolve their issues in the first few minutes of the next film.

All of this is not to say the film was without charm. The CGI didn’t break my suspension of disbelief, the live action was shot in 4k, creating gorgeous visual detail, and the story, when not bogged down in dialog, was fun.

My favorite characters from the first film were good-to-great in this one. Drax was a riot. Nebula’s character developed out of one-dimensionality and, while still fiercely angry, came off vaguely “human.”

Alas, Yondu Udonta does not live through the end of the story, but becomes more interesting through his bonding with Rocket along the way. His knife missile weapon is well-used throughout, and is passed down to his first mate, Kraglin, to mine humor near the film’s end. There’s much to like in this story.

I’ll rent it for another viewing and see if it grows on me like the first one did. I just wish writer/director James Gunn had left 30 - 40 minutes of digital “film” on the virtual cutting room floor.

#Guardians #of #the #Galaxy #Vol #2 #Marvel #Cinematic #Universe

May 4, 2017

Does Trump Even Understand the Health-Care Bill He Helped Pass?

Abigail Tracy - Vanity Fair:

Donald Trump, who told Face the Nation on Sunday that “pre-existing conditions are in the bill” and “we cover it beautifully,” either does not understand the policy he promoted or else he is being dishonest about its effects.

It’s both. Mr. Trump is both unaware and dishonest. But you knew that.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #AHCA #healthInsuranceThatIsnt

Canada Recalling Bombay Sapphire Gin That Contains "Dangerous" Amount Of Alcohol

Mary Beth Quirk - Consumerist:

The agency warns consumers not to drink the stuff, but instead throw it out or return it to the store where it was purchased. There have been no illnesses reported associated with the gin yet.

The recall was initiated after the discovery that, during production, one batch wasn’t diluted correctly, ramping up its alcohol content.

This poorly-researched article is the result of re-writing a press release rather than practicing journalism. While the liquor in question should be recalled due to mislabeling, or more correctly mis-production, it’s not strictly dangerous. It’s very strong, which might lead a consumer to an unpleasant result.

Liquor pours out of a still at between 120 and 160 proof, or 60%-80% alcohol by volume. It all emerges clear, too.

Whiskeys and other brown liquors go into a barrel and up on a rack, where the aging process lends it a brownish color. Alcohol, being lighter than water, is the first component to evaporate through the wood, leaving a barrel strength of between 110 and 145 proof. The resulting liquor is either dumped, bottled and sold at that high proof (sometimes referred to as “cask strength” or “barrel proof”), or diluted with spring water to a more consumer-friendly 80-100 proof a few years later.

Vodkas, gins, and other white liquors are diluted, bottled, and sold right away. This batch, apparently, missed the dilution phase. So, not dangerous, just very strong.

#liquor #distilling #over-proof

Republicans Get Their Health Bill. But It May Cost Them

Jennifer Steinhauer - The New York Times:

by leaning on members to vote for a bill that many fear will take too much health care from too many people, Mr. Ryan has exposed moderate Republicans to withering political attack, especially in the roughly two dozen districts where Hillary Clinton prevailed, but also in places where the Affordable Care Act’s popularity has been increasing.

“If you’re in a very moderate-to-Democratic district, yeah,” Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, said of the potential risk to Republicans, conceding it is a worry for his entire party.

Pyrrhic victory, by one-half. If the Senate votes down the bill and reconciliation doesn’t work out, these Congressmen will have exposed themselves to a huge potential backlash in 2018, with no short-term upside. And the people most affected by this health care bill, so poor in its provisions Congress exempted itself from it, are largely backers of Mr. Trump and his cronies in Congress.

Good luck. You’ve earned this.

#GOP #Trump #fraud #health #insurance #ACA #AHCA

Family Booted From Delta Flight and Threatened With Jail

Lindsey Beaver - The Washington Post:

A Southern California father said he and his family were booted from a Delta flight after they declined to give up a seat they had bought for their teenage son and were attempting to use for his 2-year-old sibling.

This time the airline has it right: passengers cannot transfer a ticket from the original ticket holder to someone else.

This ticket was purchased in the name of the family’s teenaged child; it cannot be used for the 2-year-old.

Ya gots ta follow the rules. Or take a bus.

#airlines #delta #passenger #family #ticket #transfer

May 3, 2017

A Look Inside Airbus’s Epic Assembly Line

A wealth of gorgeous photography following an Airbus 321 through assembly in Mobile, AL, and this very telling paragraph about how American manufacturing jobs have changed over the years (The New York Times):

Almost a third of American factory workers now hold four-year college degrees, a trend that reflects the increasingly cerebral nature of the work. At the Airbus factory, few end the day with dirty hands or tired muscles. Even the physical work requires care more than force; it’s in the fingers, not the shoulders. The final assembly-line hangar at the heart of the Airbus campus in Mobile is flooded with light and eerily quiet. When I visited in March, I could hear a worker whistling all the way from the other side of the vast hall.

#US #manufacturing #jobs #skilled #labor #college #degree

May 1, 2017

This is Not a Normal President

Jennifer Rubin - The Washington Post:

President Trump remains an angry, irrational figure, someone who still must stir up hatred — against the press, against immigrants, against Democrats — to enliven his base. Rhetorically, he is still the candidate of the resentful America First crowd, not the president of the entire country. His rambling, incoherent and factually deficient remarks in Harrisburg, Pa., remind us of the pathetic emptiness of the message — I’m with you because I hate the same people you do.

And yet Republicans in Congress and in the commentariat ignore, minimize or don’t care about all that. Great job! Give him an A! Hey, there’s Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, you know! Whatever standards — Constitutional, personal, ideological — Republicans once upheld have been thrown overboard. They cannot bring themselves to enforce the emoluments clause or compel Trump to disclose his taxes or crack down on the blatant conflicts of interest throughout his administration.

During the first 100 days the Republic has survived, but the GOP, permanently we think, has been morally compromised and intellectually corrupted, just as many of us warned. “Everything Trump touches dies,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson is fond of saying. Trump’s victims now include a respectable Republican Party.

RIP, American GOP.

Mr. Trump’s rhetoric appears less appealing as the days roll by. Witness the empty seats at his “record attendance” rally in Harrisburg.

I will so enjoy watching this administration burn when the FBI’s and the IC’s evidence is presented before the courts and the House.

#Trump #GOP #shameful #fraud

April 30, 2017

James Gunn, Guardian of the ‘Guardians’ Franchise

Dave Itzkoff - The New York Times:

On the original film, Mr. Pratt said, “we benefited from people’s lowered expectations. We could sneak in and be this movie that they didn’t see coming. Now they’re waiting in line for this.

Indeed.

I had to stop reading after this paragraph, as there are no spoiler horns in The Times and I detected the start of give-it-away reporting. The first two-thirds of the article, though, inspired confidence that Mr. Gunn will not squander the good will his last effort engendered.

No film has moved so quickly for me from “no-fucking-way” (that’s a quote because I uttered those exact words after I saw the original cinematic trailer years ago), through this-is-fun, to Saturday-night-with-a-cocktail comfort entertainment as Guardians of the Galaxy. Hell, I bought the soundtrack album on iTunes, which come to think of it is one of the main reasons the film gelled so well with me.

I have such high hopes for Volume 2, but also trepidation that this fun, tiny corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to join the Ironman-Avengers megalith. I like most of the films of the megalith, yet I do not like the idea or feeling of inevitability of the megalith.

(It is, in a way, why I love Rogue One. The characters are not of the Star Wars pantheon, not really, can’t be, and don’t need to be. They are real and absorbing and enchanting all on their own, for as long as it lasted.)

Example: I enjoyed Ant-man. I didn’t want Ant-man to join the Avengers. I wanted Ant-man to do his own thing, on his own. Another example: I didn’t like Spider-man. I don’t want Spider-man to join wth the Avengers, anyway. A third example: I so dig Black Widow. I want to watch a Black Widow film. I want to see Black Widow, devoid of Bruce Banner and bereft of her loss, to depart for solo films. Scarlett can carry a film (see: Lucy). Final example, gratuitous as it may be: I so despised Deadpool that for the coming sequel I want nothing more than a very heavy object to fall, with finality, upon Deadpool and end the abomination that is this character’s existence. I am, apparently, in the minority.

I don’t want Guardians to become part of that. In a few days we’ll find out how it went.

#Marvel #Cinematic #Universe #Guardians #Galaxy

America, From Exceptionalism to Nihilism

Pankaj Mishra - The New York Times:

Generalizing about the world at large on the basis of personal success, or proclaiming that life has never been so wonderful, can be politically disastrous, it turns out, especially when loss, decay and fear sum up the experiences of many other people. We will have learned nothing from Mr. Trump’s victory if we do not examine today how and why American elites came to indulge in ressentiment-generating boosterism just as economic and cultural inequality was becoming intolerable to so many, and how their loss of intellectual credibility and moral authority brought about the post-truth era.

A long, thoughtful essay on what amounts to the rise and fall of “the American Century,” and how the United States has lost its moral and intellectual authority. It’s not pleasant news for Americans, but rather a hard truth about where and what we are. Raise your intellect by giving it a read and some thought.

#American #Century #post #fact #era #intellectual #political #elite

April 29, 2017

Climate of Complete Certainty

Bret Stephens - The New York Times:

As Andrew Revkin wrote last year about his storied career as an environmental reporter at The Times, “I saw a widening gap between what scientists had been learning about global warming and what advocates were claiming as they pushed ever harder to pass climate legislation.” The science was generally scrupulous. The boosters who claimed its authority weren’t.

I read this column, Stephens’ first for the Times, while wearing a “Science doesn’t care what you believe” t-shirt. The only point worth considering about climate science is the science itself. What you think, what you believe, what you desire to be true does not matter a whit.

We can see the polar ice melting, we can measure the sea ice extent annually. Two-thirds of Americans care not at their own peril.

If you live near a coast, you’ve been warned. Move.

If you live in Tornado Alley, you’ve been warned. Move.

If you deplore high temperatures, humidity, and wildfires in the forests, well, you’re pretty well SOL. Ask your Republican Congressmen what to do.

Hillary Clinton’s hubris and failure is not linked in any way to the “debate” over global warming. Repeat that to yourself if you don’t believe it, while the world warms until you can no longer deny the obvious.

#climate #science #politics

∴ Fans Feel Robbed of Bill O’Reilly, but Stick With Fox

Sydney Ember - The New York Times:

[Alyce Bradley] delivered her verdict. “I think the left is just out to get him — they won,” she said. “He’s never been convicted, and I feel like he has been shut down.”

Her husband was more circumspect. “I like him, but I don’t like what he did, all the sexual harassment,” Bill Bradley, 57, said. “He could be innocent,” he added, “but why did he resign or whatever?”

Two paragraphs that say much about the phenomenon that was Bill O’Reilly. His fan base was largely uncritical of him. And I admit, I’ve agreed with a few opinions he’s espoused. Not everyone buys the non-thinking righty “I’ve been robbed” meme, though.

Alyce gives voice to the less thoughtful “conservative” crowd’s hobby horse. I put conservative in quotes, because the less-thoughtful brand of righty politics is largely driven not by economic or foreign policy ideas, but rather by fear of the other - xenophobia - verging on racism. Her theme is “the left won.”

What Alyce fails to say, fails to understand, probably doesn’t know is that the Republican party holds most of the statehouses, most of the governor’s mansions, both houses of Congress and the White House. How, Alyce, did the left “win?” Your guy, O’Reilly, is a hired stooge. He holds no sway in our politics.

Alyce is an example of what the rest of us charitably refer to as not too bright. Her husband does better, though.

Bill Bradley doesn’t have a fine bead on the O’Reilly transgressions. “Why did he resign or whatever?” At least he doesn’t like “all the sexual harassment.”

Let’s focus: O’Reilly was fired, Bill. Fired. He went on “vacation,” because he was white hot bad news for Fox and they needed to pull his shit out of the news cycle, and once he was out of circulation it was adios, amigo. Well, more adios, less amigo.

O’Reilly’s fans may feel robbed. He didn’t get to bid them farewell, and although I don’t give a shit, I do understand the emotional loss of a big player in the daily soap opera that is Fox “News.”

For Alyce and everyone else who misses O’Reilly, I offer this: adjust your perspective and view the long-running Fox “News” product as a soap opera. How many soap actors have “died,” only to rise again? Bill may rise again. Your intellect, eventually, will rise again. Not until you stop your thoughtless, unintelligent, intellectually bankrupt mode of thinking, but one day, before you die. Maybe.

Consider this a bracing warm-up. Your suffering, as you discover what you’ve done and where your mode of non-thinking has lead us, will increase. Or you’ll continue the “I’ve been robbed” meme and, eventually, rise up. That will be a bad show. Do not do that. You will not be pleased with the result. The sneaky people with the technology and the boys and girls with the guns swore an oath not to you, your clown president, or your favorite boob tube star. The Constitution prevails. You will not. Suck it.

#Fox #News #Bill #OReilly #adios #dont #let #the #door #hit #you #on #the #ass #on #the #way #out

Fact vs. Fiction

“The first one-hundred days of my administration have been just about the most successful in history.” - Donald Trump

Factcheck.org crowned Trump “King of the Whoppers” in 2015. He’s held to that practice through the first fraction of his presidency:

In 2015 when we dubbed Trump the “King of Whoppers,” we said: “He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.” So far, Trump is no different as president.

It’s rarely a bad bet to immediately doubt anything coming out of Mr. Trump’s mouth. He lies as easily as he breathes, usually more-so in relation to himself and his presidency.

#Trump #fraud #GOP

April 28, 2017

Trump: ‘We may terminate’ U.S.-South Korea Trade Agreement

Philip Rucker - The Washington Post:

President Trump threatened to terminate the U.S. trade agreement with South Korea in an interview Thursday night, declaring that the five-year-old accord with a key ally was “a horrible deal” that has left America “destroyed.”

During an Oval Office interview about trade policy in North America, Trump served notice that he is looking to disrupt an important partnership in the tumultuous Asia-Pacific region as well — even with Seoul on edge because of North Korea’s escalating military provocations.

Donald Trump is an unwise man. Let’s count the ways …

He threatens to terminate an important trade agreement with a close ally at the same time he dares the loose cannon government along that ally’s northern border to start a nuclear war, giving the appearance that the United States is willing to abrogate treaties with that ally. The loose cannon government may feel free to move on into the ally’s territory as a result of this seeming weakness in our relationship.

He describes the United States, whose military he leads and whose people he must rally to support his efforts, as “destroyed.” Two birds go down with this stone: a “destroyed” America is a weaker adversary, and its people are likely demoralized and either unwilling to support the president’s actions, or willing to go along with anything. Either way, we appear weak and helpless.

Hang your head in shame if you voted for this blockhead.

#Trump #fraud #disgrace #sellout

∴ WiFi of the Seas, and How to Escape the Cruise Hoards

We spent a week sailing the western Caribbean last week. It was a great escape for both Kelly and me, kicked off with a two-day drive south to the Galveston cruise port. While I don’t recommend book-ending a cruise with a pair of twenty-four hour drives, I do recommend spending a week afloat.

There are a couple of practices we’ve come to enjoy while cruising. One is finding a largely unused pool and bar to lounge at. The trick is modifying how we think of the cruise as a vacation.

Four of the five cruises we’ve taken have been working vacations for Kelly, where she’s paired with our friend and quilt pattern and fabric designer Susan Emory of Swirly Girls Design, hosting quilt retreats at sea. Kelly’s three at-sea days are spent in the ship’s conference room assisting the quilters as they work through making Susan’s custom-designed quilt, providing give-aways, and running a small pop-up version of Kelly Ann’s Quilting.

It’s on these days that, aside from a handful of shipboard activities, the only thing to do is relax around the ship’s pools and populate the bars along with everyone else. In a word, they’re crowded. Our last three ships sailed with a passenger capacity in excess of 3000, and everyone is cooped up on fourteen decks of a thousand-foot-long ship. I’ve never seen longer stretches of occupied lounge chairs in my life.

The secret to enjoying the pools and outdoor bars is to wait until port-call days arrive. Spend the at-sea days on lounge chairs away from the pool, or in an upper deck lounge devoid of people. There’s a great view from up there. Cabins with a balcony provide a respite from crowds, too, with a front row view of the ocean.

Here’s the key: when the ship arrives in a port of call, roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of the passengers get off. They’re gone from roughly 8am until one or two pm, longer if the port requires the ship to drop anchor and use tender boats for ferrying people ashore. What a great opportunity to sleep late, grab a late breakfast at the buffet, and hit the pool while there’s still only a handful of people staking out lounge chairs. Hours of quiet relaxation, reading, taking a cooling dip in the pool and sipping a drink or two follow.

It’s about time to head in for a shower before dinner just as people hit the pools after returning from shore excursions.

The trick is making the ship the destination, rather than the ports of call. Think of it as a moving resort. There are three, sometimes four ports of call during a week-long cruise. Spend one of them ashore on an excursion, or take a walk around the port area and re-board. A largely empty ship is your oyster.

The handful of hours spent on an excursion rarely exposes much local color, anyway.

The other practice we’ve enjoyed is the advent of affordable high speed internet access throughout the cruise. Rough seas can render it patchy at times, but it works. Royal Caribbean offers two tiers - a non-streaming option for roughly $15 per day, and a higher-priced streaming-capable level. Discounts are available by signing up on their web site prior to departure.

One thing to consider when opting for the lower-priced tier: although it’s fine for email, texting with Apple’s Messages app, and casual web browsing, contemporary social media sites are often image-heavy and load slowly at this tier’s capped speed. Scroll quickly through a Facebook wall or a Pinterest board and there are noticeable delays.

One last thought about internet-at-sea. The goal of a vacation is to get away from the everyday. We’ve enjoyed the cut-off nature of cruising since our first trip, when we noticed that in the absence of the internet people actually look at and talk with one another. There’s not much more satisfying than setting my phone to airplane mode as the shoreline recedes.

Kelly signed up for the non-streaming internet plan before our most recent cruise with the idea of posting photos of our adventures each evening, but found she used it less than expected. I opted to borrow her login code on the last day for uploading my photographs, but found the upstream speed far less than the downstream. I’ll wait until we hit the first and second Starbucks on the way home for uploading my photos next time.

The more we cruise, the more little hide-aways and practices we find that enhance the experience. My next post will cover the mixology seminars and card room we found this time.

#vacation #cruising #royal #caribbean #excursions #pool #bars #passengers #escape