January 17, 2018

∴ AeroPress

AeroPress coffee stationI’ve been using an AeroPress coffeemaker for more than six years. Although I’ve been served with methods and equipment costing thousands of dollars more, I have yet to find one that makes a better cup.

The AeroPress arrived on the scene in 2005, invented and manufactured by the same people who brought you the Frisbee. It quickly gained attention from coffee geeks, and within a few years had found a place alongside pour-over and siphon coffeemakers at “artisanal” coffee shops.

The AeroPress consists of a pair of nested plastic tubes, the inner one capped with a rubber plunger. A twist-on filter holder, paper filters, a stirrer, a funnel, and a coffee scoop complete the kit. The plastic parts can be rinsed clean after each use, and once a month I throw them all in the dishwasher for a thorough cleaning.

In terms of effort, operating an AeroPress falls somewhere between a pour-over setup and a French press. Freshly fine-ground coffee is added to the outer tube after the inner tube is removed and a filter is attached to the bottom. Hot water is added using marks along the side as a gauge, and the resulting slurry is stirred for about ten seconds to fully break up and immerse the grounds. The outer tube is then placed atop a coffee cup, and the plunger tube re-inserted.

Steeping is not necessary. The plunger is immediately pressed down to extrude finished coffee. The key to doing this right is letting the pocket of compressed air trapped under the plunger do the work. After gripping the top of the inner tube with both palms, lay on it the full weight of your arms, guiding the plunger straight down. There’s no need to push any harder. Take care not to let the cup tip over. The plunger slowly descends, taking thirty to forty-five seconds before completing a press.

Stop pressing when air begins escaping the filter. The result is similar to a single or double shot of espresso without the crema, depending on how much grounds and water you began with.

This isn’t espresso, though. That coffee product is made by forcing live steam through compacted, finely-ground coffee. AeroPress uses hot water and a slightly coarser grind, somewhere between espresso and electric drip.

Drink it black, or add hot milk for something approximating a Starbucks Flat White, only smoother.

AeroPress’s secret to delicious coffee is using the “front edge” of the grounds, extracting flavor and immediately extruding it. Less time in contact with hot water means less bitter coffee oil in your cup.

This method tends to use more grounds than other coffeemakers, though, and the expense of doubling your coffee purchases adds up quickly. One cost-saving technique steeps less grounds for a minute or so before pressing. Doing so balances cost against mild bitterness.

Here-in lies one of the joys of using an AeroPress: the variations of technique, beans, grind, and temperature can make it an ongoing experiment. Or, you can settle on one set of parameters and make the same delicious cup every time.

Clean-up is quick and easy. Remove the filter holder and rinse. Holding the tubes over a trash can, plunge the grounds and filter out the bottom of the outer tube. Toss the filter if you’re composting grounds. The rubber plunger (mostly) cleans the inside of the outer tube as it moves downward. Rinse the tube bottom and plunger, and leave to air dry. Done. Try that with a French press.

Coffee bean oil lubricates the inside of the tube between washes, making it easier to press. An occasional ride in the dishwasher eliminates any rancidity from old oils.

The AeroPress is fully portable. Stuff a baggie of pre-ground coffee inside the inner tube, measure portions in your palm or with the scoop, and use a hotel room coffeemaker to heat water. Good coffee can be had anywhere.

The cost of this plastic gem is $30 on Amazon. An extra $4 adds a pack of replacement filters. Between what comes in the box and the extra pack, you’re set for about two years of daily use. Additional packs of 350 filters are also available from Amazon.

#AeroPress #coffee #FrenchPress #pourOver

January 16, 2018

AVClub: Blade Runner 2049 Brought Humanity to Today’s Most Artificial Movie Gimmick

There’s a scene near the end of Blade Runner 2049 where Rachael, who was played by Sean Young in the Blade Runner of 1982, walks out of the dark and back into Rick Deckard’s life, if briefly. The visual is stunning. It’s her, and yet it can’t be her. Rachael is dead, and Sean Young is thirty-five years older. Yet a near-perfect replica of that original character is walking and talking in that scene.

During my fourth time through the film this past weekend, I paused to freeze Rachael at the moment she approached Deckard closest and spoke to him. We took a long, close look at her image. Kelly mentioned CGI, but I wondered if it was a different, very similar-looking actress. IMDb gave us a small clue, crediting Loren Peta as “Rachael Performance Double.”

It turns out we were both correct. Here’s how Peta became a near-replica of Sean Young’s Rachael:

Sean O’Neal — AVClub:

Getting Rachael’s two minutes of screen time exactly right required an entire year of work from visual effects supervisor John Nelson, as well as the participation of both Young and her stand-in, British actress Loren Peta. Young, who leveraged her appearance into a production job for her son, was able to be present on set while still maintaining some outward secrecy while Peta acted opposite Ford and Leto, even helping the hairstylist recreate Rachael’s retro-’40s coif. Later, both actresses spent a day performing Rachael’s lines in facial capture rigs for the visual effects studio MPC, who also took a scan of Young’s head and used it to create an anatomically correct 3-D skull. (You can see photos of it in IndieWire, in case you don’t want to sleep tonight.) From there the team went back to pure hand animation in order to flesh out everything about Young’s memorable makeup and mannerisms, copying her sly smile and the subtle raise of her eyebrows, and even inserted three digital recreations of shots from the original film to make it all seamless. It also added some genuine flyaway hairs, for that authentic Replicant feel.

Four times through, the effect is still mesmerizing.

#BladeRunner2049 #film #CGI

January 15, 2018

∴ MLK Day

I confess that my ignorance of the long-run history of race in America continued until around the time Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, Missouri. The turmoil there, and later the murder of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police, led me to dig into work by black and brown American sources to understand what was going on in the time of our first black president.

That led me to Dr. King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail. It takes no great effort – much information is literally at our fingertips – yet I’d never taken the time. So as Ferguson was occupied by the Missouri State Police, I read, and I was outraged. The timeliness of Dr. King’s writing, more than fifty years after the fact of his incarceration, was nearly as offensive as contemporary events. It angered me that the ethnic violence, injustice, and indignity of 1963 was still with us in 2014.

For the next few days I combed through the document, posting the more relevant passages as further news came from Ferguson. It helped me to understand what people of color struggle against every day, all of their lives here in our flawed culture, led by flawed politics, founded by flawed men who declared all are created equal even as they, themselves, owned men and women and children as property, enslaved. It taught me that by thinking through what I wanted to say about that struggle I could come to understand it better, and that my understanding then took up a more permanent home in my mind.

All of which is preamble to today, the anniversary of Dr. King’s birthday. It’s when, not unlike donning the green of St. Patrick’s day, many put on the clothes of civil rights, of fighting justice delayed, and quote the good Reverend Doctor. After all, “it’s always the right time to do the right thing,” as the man said. And then they take off those clothes and go on with their lives. That’s damned well not good enough. When the struggle to be heard and understood, let alone arrive at justice is put back into the closet until next year, the promise that begins with “we hold these truths” is shattered.

What I’m saying is that that glorified promise has been broken since America’s founding. We collectively need to do better. We are collectively failing at basic humanity. Today’s a great day to wake up to that undeniable fact.

This, then, is what inspires me, what has inspired me since I took the time to educate myself, to open my eyes to life as lived by others. It holds close my outrage at the indecency and injustice of American culture – if we can’t enslave them, can’t segregate them, can’t keep them out of our neighborhoods, our schools, and our workforce, we’ll throw as many of them into prison as we can – and keeps the clothes of civil rights on my body, awareness of whiteness and otherness in my mind, where they should always be. It is repentance for an appalling silence:

Dr. King, Letter From Birmingham Jail:

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. We must come to see that human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.

As Dr. King also wrote, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I’d add, if I may be so bold, that it requires, demands the hands of many to bend it that way. It can and has been bent the other way, too. Look up Emmett Till. Mary Turner. Dr. Ossian Sweet.

I know many white people, a few in whom even I can devine whiteness. Maybe today is the day one of them, reading Dr. King, opens his or her eyes. May the scales fall from those eyes.

Please do take part of an hour to read the “Letter …” Please let your anger flow at its continued relevance. Become a better person, make a better American from it.

#MLK

January 12, 2018

Trump Puts the Purpose of His Presidency Into Words

Adam Serwer — The Atlantic:

These remarks reflect scorn not only for those who wish to come here, but those who already have. It is a president of the United States expressing his contempt for the tens of millions of descendants of Africans, most of whose forefathers had no choice in crossing the Atlantic, American citizens whom any president is bound to serve. And it is a public admission of sorts that he is incapable of being a president for all Americans, the logic of his argument elevating not just white immigrants over brown ones, but white citizens over the people of color they share this country with.

Are you woke to this vile clown’s intent, yet? Or are you still hanging onto an excuse, a qualification?

#Trump #bigot #incompetent #unqualified

January 10, 2018

∴ The Republican Party Emerges From Decades of Court Supervision

Vann R. Newkirk II — The Atlantic:

the RNC had sent sample ballots to communities of color, and then had the names for each ballot returned as undeliverable removed from voter rolls. Democrats also alleged that the RNC hired off-duty cops to patrol majority-minority precincts, wearing “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands. These details were enough to secure a consent decree between the two party organizations and the court in 1982, stopping the GOP from engaging in such voter-intimidation practices.

Except, Democrats alleged, they didn’t stop. The consent decree was updated in 1987 after Republicans created a voter-challenge list of black voters from whom letters had been returned as undeliverable, with an RNC official saying that the list could “keep the black vote down considerably.” The decree was modified again in 1990 after a court ruled the RNC had violated it by not telling state parties about its provisions, which had led to the North Carolina GOP sending 150,000 postcards to potential voters listing voting regulations, in an apparent attempt at intimidation. The GOP violated the court order again in 2004 after yet another voter-challenge list targeted black voters.

With that history of behavior in full view, federal courts moved to allow the decree to expire in December 2017, a decision that was finalized Tuesday by a federal district court. For the first time in three decades, the RNC can pursue ballot-security measures without court preclearance.

(Emphasis mine.)

Keep the black vote down considerably. Keep the blacks down considerably. Keep the blacks down. Keep them down. Down. Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Party USA in a nutshell. If every eligible black or brown American registered to vote, and every one of them then voted, in the absence of gerrymandered districts protecting that party’s favored candidates the GOP would be dead, and the world would be a better place for it. There is no reason to be pleasant about this.

Don’t go thinking the Republican party lost its collective mind in 2016 nominating Donald Trump. They had a long history of supporting racist policies before that shyster came along.

Now they’re free to pursue the same again.

These are the folks who like to remind us that theirs is the party of Lincoln, the party that championed civil rights. They’re right, up to a point. They were the party of Lincoln until Lincoln was dead and his avowedly racist vice president, Andrew Johnson, assumed the presidency. They haven’t been the party of Lincoln in word, deed, or spirit since that day.

As for supporting civil rights, well, maybe, right up until Brown v. Board struck down Jim Crow. The gloves came off after that.

Why any person with a conscience continues voting for candidates nominated and embraced by this morally corrupt organization is beyond me. Why don’t they just come right out and say, “we hate black people, because without slavery or Jim Crow laws we don’t know how to live with them?” That, at least, would be the truth.

#GOP #racist #bigoted #immoral #party

January 9, 2018

Judges: North Carolina Must Redo Map Skewed by Partisanship

Gary D. Robertson — The Washington Post:

At the time of the 2016 debate, according to the order, House redistricting chief Rep. David Lewis attempted to justify the criteria by saying “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.”

That’s beautiful. You stupid, stupid man. You’ve shot your dishonest party in the foot and now a Federal court will force your state to re-district before the upcoming elections.

#GOP #dishonest

January 8, 2018

∴ John J. Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon

A bottle of JOhn J. Bowman single barrel bourbonWhat seems like a long time ago Kelly and I visited Smith Bowman’s Fredericksburg distillery, where John J. Bowman bourbon is made, with my mom during one of her last trips to Virginia. The tour revealed a true small batch, handmade whiskey process at work not far from our home. The bourbon was good, but not, on my palate, great.

Fast forward to 2017, when John J. Bowman was named “Best Whiskey in the World” by Whisky Magazine. Hmm. I filed that away at the back of my ‘try again’ list and moved on.

Feeling mildly disconcerted today, and hearing from a pal that a favorite rye whiskey selection was newly available at the Warrenton ABC, I stopped by to see what was on the shelf. Our favorite rye had been wiped out in less than a day. That’s not nearly as surprising as the ABC’s failure to make Rittenhouse Rye regular inventory stock, but whatever. I pulled that ‘try again’ out of my noggin and wandered back into the whiskeys. A bottle of John J. followed me home.

I’m utterly stunned. The first scent and flavor on my tongue is fruit, followed by a mild oakiness. The liquor is mellow and completely devoid of harshness, a sweet elixir despite its 100-proof strength and unblended, single barrel nature. What a lovely bourbon.

Though Bowman doesn’t divulge their bourbon’s pedigree, rumor claims that it comes from a double-distillation of their parent company Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace mash bill #1. If so, that makes it a close relative to Eagle Rare and Buffalo Trace, two well-decorated bourbons.

The liquor is distilled once more in Virginia and laid up in American oak for nine to ten years. Despite their similar beginnings, Buffalo Trace and John J. Bowman are distinct in their finish. Must be the Virginia air.

Pappy, someday. Until then, Bowman has made the big time.

#JohnJBowman #bourbon #BuffaloTrace #whiskey

January 6, 2018

∴ Frum: Donald Trump Is a Real-Life Fredo Corleone

David Frum, noted conservative intellectual — The Atlantic:

Who and what Donald Trump is has been known to everyone and anyone who cared to know for years and decades. Before he was president, he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist. Before he was the country’s leading racist conspiracy theorist, he was a celebrity gameshow host. Before he was a celebrity gameshow host, he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate. Before he was the multi-bankrupt least trusted name in real estate, he was the protege of Roy Cohn’s repeatedly accused of ties to organized crime. From the start, Donald Trump was a man of many secrets, but no mysteries. Inscribed indelibly on the public record were the reasons for responsible people to do everything in their power to bar him from the presidency.

Instead, since he announced his candidacy in mid-2015, Donald Trump has been enabled and protected.

The enabling and protecting not only continues. It accelerates. 

(Emphasis mine.)

This is the Donald Trump I saw while growing up in New York. He was the playboy millionaire always on the evening news, and later the increasingly unlikeable miscreant who profited from his New Jersey casinos even as the Atlantic City neighborhood they fronted crumbled around them.

This is the insect who skittered away through the bankruptcy courts before his empire fell, leaving others holding debt and living among the wreckage of lost employment, crime, and substance abuse, a stone’s throw from the palaces where people had happily thrown their money at him for “entertainment.”

This is the racist who, years before, had been sued by the US Department of Justice for refusal to rent his real estate properties to people of color, and who settled out of court rather than let the truth emerge.

This man has never had any scruples, not ever.

***

Frum:

In 2016, there were voters who genuinely, in good faith, believed that Donald Trump was a capable business leader, moderate on social issues, who cared about the troubles of working class white America—and would do something to help.

Lovely. If you supported this charlatan you can bathe in the memory of your good intentions. Have you ever wondered why, though, conservatives are so concerned about “working class white America,” but don’t spare a word or a thought about not-white workers? Did Donald Trump ever address people of color, other than to speculate “what have you got to lose?”

***

People who knew Trump’s history raised a warning when he became the clown candidate among sixteen actual Republicans, referring to Mexicans as “drug dealers, criminals, and rapists” as he announced his candidacy. Some laughed. Few listened.

Which were you?

People again warned about Trump when he became the last candidate standing, and the GOP crowned him their nominee after some mild hand-wringing. I did. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine him actually being elected president, but there was always a chance.

And then it was early morning November 9, and news outlets (save one) went wall-to-wall with disbelief and stunned, muted reporting of the Trump victory. Victory.

The man never expected to win office. Possessing no political experience, no policy ideas, and no conception of how government works he was suddenly the most powerful man on Earth, heir to the office of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Lincoln. What a disgrace.

Were you stunned, horrified, somewhere among the five stages of grief? Or were you an “enabler” all along?

***

Here we are, today. Frum, again:

However crazy Trump may be, in one way he is indeed the “very stable genius” he claims to be: Trump understands how to mobilize hatred and resentment to his own advantage and profit. He has risen higher than Joe McCarthy or Charles Lindbergh or Theodore Bilbo—and he has lasted already nearly a full year in office, holding the approval of one-third of the country, more than sufficient to keep him there for a full term.

That right there is the tragedy of the Trump presidency; that 62,984,825 Americans willingly voted for this guy despite what was known about him for decades, despite what he admitted to, despite what he said on the campaign trail.

Frum references “responsible people” in his piece. I was there at 5:45am, November 8, 2016, waiting for the polls to open. It was a very cold morning, but I was there to do the last thing I could to prevent this atrocity of an administration: vote for someone else.

What did you do?

***

There is no middle ground about Trump, or about GOP complicity in his presidency. There is no compromise.

Good intentions aside, people were either on the right side of humanity and history in November 2016, or they were on the wrong side of it.

If you were on the wrong side you can ignore all of us saying so, but you cannot ignore yourself. You did this. You will carry it with you, knowing your complicity in handing Donald Trump the presidency, until you are dead.

#Trump #unstable #incompetent #impeachment

January 5, 2018

GOP Senators Recommend Charges Against Author of Trump Dossier

Nicholas Fandos and Matthew Rosenberg — The New York Times:

More than a year after Republican leaders promised to investigate Russian interference in the presidential election, two influential Republicans on Friday made the first known congressional criminal referral in connection with the meddling — against one of the people who sought to expose it.

Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior committee member, told the Justice Department they had reason to believe that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, lied to federal authorities about his contacts with reporters regarding information in the dossier, and they urged the department to investigate.

When it seems the Congressional majority can’t behave any worse, two of them say, ‘hold my beer.’

This is a transparent diversion from their party leader’s behavior, a man who every day slips further into self-worship, self-martyrdom, and cognitive impairment.

Chris Steele, the author of the “Trump Dossier,” has already spoken with the FBI. You’d think they would press charges on their own, if there are any reason to do so. I’m sure Sens. Grassley and Graham were just making sure.

Events are going to proceed very poorly for this crowd when Bob Mueller’s report is complete.

#GOP #politicalHacks #sinkingLowerSoYouDontHaveTo

January 4, 2018

Washington's Growing Obsession: The 25th Amendment

Annie Karni — POLITICO:

Lawmakers concerned about President Donald Trump’s mental state summoned Yale University psychiatry professor Dr. Bandy X. Lee to Capitol Hill last month for two days of briefings about his recent behavior.

In private meetings with more than a dozen members of Congress held on Dec. 5 and 6, Lee briefed lawmakers — all Democrats except for one Republican senator, whom Lee declined to identify. Her professional warning to Capitol Hill: “He’s going to unravel, and we are seeing the signs.”

One of these days, someone of stature in DC is going to grow a spine and say this stuff out loud, like so many of the rest of us have been doing for just about a year now. Why?

Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, tweeted on Tuesday of the president’s comments about North Korea, “This Tweet alone is grounds for removal from office under the 25th Amendment. This man should not have nukes.”

Wakey, wakey, America. You elected a narcissist of slowly declining cognition president. Maybe you were making a statement. Turns out to be not a very bright one, and we’re all going to pay for it.

#Trump #unfit #incompetent

It's Been an Open Secret All Along

James Fallows — The Atlantic:

They know. They could do something: hearings, investigations, demands for financial or health documents, subpoenas. Even the tool they used against the 42nd president, for failings one percent as grave as those of the 45th: impeachment.

They know. They could act. And they don’t. The failure of responsibility starts with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, but it doesn’t end with them. Every member of a bloc-voting majority shares responsibility for not acting on their version of the open secret.

We are watching the political equivalent of the Weinstein board paying off the objects of his abuse. We are watching Fox pay out its tens of millions to O’Reilly’s victims. But we’re watching it in real time, with the secret shared worldwide, and the stakes immeasurably higher.

A particularly damning assessment by a respected journalist, and a good read.

But we knew all this, all along. Mr. Trump has never pretended to be anything other than what he is: a charlatan, a vane liar who is president of the United States, threatening a sovereign state with nuclear war, and slowly losing his mind.

#Trump #unfit #incompetent

Beast: DoJ ‘Looking Into’ Hillary Clinton’s Emails — Again

Betsy Woodruff — Daily Beast:

Justice Department officials are taking a fresh look at Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she served as secretary of State, The Daily Beast has learned.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment for this story.

It’s an open question as to whether Justice Department officials would have the same level of interest in Clinton’s server without a political directive from the White House, the former official said.

When the chips are down, Mr. Trump uses the levers of government to screw with his enemies, and distract and obfuscate details of his own misdeeds. Kinda reminds me of Nixon in that way.

Maybe the DoJ should look into voter suppression, and ask for a full recount of the 2016 election results. I don’t expect change, but we haven’t gone down that road yet and we’ve already been through at least two full investigations of HRC’s email server. And she was cleared of wrongdoing both times. Trump can’t say that about himself.

#Trump #DoJ #HillaryClinton #emails

January 1, 2018

Eric(a). Garner.

Kirsten West Savali – ‘I’m in This Fight Forever’ – The Root:

This piece is powerful – there’s not a single paragraph I’d pull to quote; it’s monolithic – and deserves a wide read.

For anyone wondering about the race politics of the Garner family asking to be interviewed only by black journalists, this article is your answer. Erica Garner’s fury shines through, undiluted.

#EricaGarner #EricGarner #ICantBreathe

December 30, 2017

∴ Weekend Read: Excerpts From Trump’s Interview With The Times

The New York Times:

President Trump spoke on Thursday with a reporter from The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt. The interview took place in the Grill Room of his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla., whose noise made some portions at times hard to hear.

The following are excerpts from that conversation, transcribed by The Times. They have been lightly edited for content and clarity, and omit several off-the-record comments and asides.

This was ultimately a frustrating read for its rambling nature and repetition of self-serving non-sequiturs.

What it does well, though, is illustrate the chaotic, self-aggrandizing, and exculpatory mindset of the president. Over half of the electorate believes not a word he says, if his disapproval polling can be used as a metric, and early signs indicate our disbelief  will harm his party and his agenda in 2018. Yet he remains at war with the past.

Documented fact does not enter into his defensive calculus. His formula is I say it, therefore it is so. Let me repeat that to pave over unpleasant truths. Parallels to “the big lie” of past fascist dictators abound, yet this president appears unaware, or unconcerned.

That’s because the gist of his words is purposeful, if poorly executed. Imagine a more competent American politician using Trump’s rhetoric.

Trump’s false words will be his downfall.

We’ve already seen disenchantment among blue-collar workers who were used as stage props for Trump’s populism. Those jobs at Carrier, and the coal industry as a whole, aren’t going the way workers thought they would.

At the same time anti-Trump sentiment has brought out the vote in opposition to candidates he’s endorsesd.

Your president, in his own words. Maybe he was your candidate. This, then, is what America has done to itself.

#Trump #unhinged #unsound #NewYorkTimes #interview #MikeSchmidt

December 29, 2017

Axios: All 50 States Will Get Wireless Network For First Responders

Kim Hart – Axios:

All 50 states — and Washington D.C., the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — have opted to join the first nationwide mobile broadband network specifically dedicated to first-responders, known as FirstNet. It will be built out next year.

Seems like a big deal. Emergency responders get their own network, and AT&T gets additional bandwidth when the network they’re contracted to build isn’t in use. Win-win.

#FirstNet #ATT

December 28, 2017

Cluchey: The Tragedy of Susan Collins

Dan Cluchey – Medium:

Herein lies the modus operandi of Susan Collins: partisan when it matters, and principled when it couldn’t matter less. And though she has become adept at picking moments here and there to demonstrate that she is capable of standing up for the people she serves — her short-lived healthcare heroism being the most notable example — her inability to imagine public service as a skin you wear rather than a costume you put on for the cameras has left her incapable of carrying on the legacy of her childhood hero. Once thought of as the center of our national politics, she has revealed herself to be little more than the vestigial tail of a Republican caucus bolting away from that center — well-distanced from its foaming mouth, but never really far behind.

As Maine voters turn on her — and it has already begun — Collins will come to regret her swan dive into the depths of partisan depravity. Presented with a fresh McCarthy, she cowered where Smith stood tall. And as Democrats win elections and Trumpists tighten their grip on the GOP, the only one facing extinction now is her: the voice of the once-proud moderate, trembling into irrelevance.

Scathing.

#politics #GOP #SusanCollins

Cooper: How to Crush Trump

Ryan Cooper – The Week:

The only reliable way to stop Trump and the Republican Party that has stood firmly behind him for his entire presidency is through strategic political defeat.

Cooper’s thesis includes the firing of Special Counsel Bob Mueller, an act that would bring people into the streets in protest.

In another era such an act was swiftly followed by the appointment of a new investigator, but as Cooper points out, we’re far from those days now.

I doubt Trump will be impeached on the grounds of what Mueller finds. It’s not that I doubt Mueller’s effort, or that there is wrongdoing to be uncovered. I doubt the integrity of the majority political party to follow through on what’s found, the self-same party that not only adopted a confessed sexual predator as their candidate for the presidency, but also adopted and embraced an alleged child molester as candidate for the United States Senate. These people are as shameless as Mr. Trump.

I believe there will be a wave election for Democrats and independents in the coming year. If that pans out, I’m confident Trump will be shown the door by the electorate in 2020.

He won’t go quietly, though. His manner in the first year of his presidency predicts a refusal of election results, calls for investigation, and an ugly handover of power in January, 2021.

Unloading this jackass requires overwhelming electoral defeat, which begins with the 2018 mid-term elections. Voter turnout was the key in Alabama’s special election. I’m counting on it turning the tide of dysfunctional government in the coming year.

#Trump #elections #politics #US

December 21, 2017

∴ Hope

I see hope in the future of American politics. This article will no doubt draw derision from progressives and sneers from the Trumpists among us. Derision is expected; American politics have looked bleak since November 9, 2016. A sneer, though, is a welcome sign that the populist Right has reached a level of comfort that will lead to its undoing.

Barack Obama Hope posterRecall that hope was the undercurrent of Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency. It summed into a word the aspirations not only of the black and left-leaning electorate, but allies worldwide who expected better from America.

In Obama we got the best from among us, a man of grace and intellect, as well as one comfortable in his own skin.

Today we live in the immediate aftermath of the Republican tax bill, and with a Republican party that’s lost its collective mind. The new tax law causes the greatest transfer of wealth into the pockets of already-wealthy Americans and corporations the republic has ever seen.

The benefits of the bill for the middle and working classes evaporate in a few short years. The tax treatment of pass-through corporations and the corporate tax rate are permanent.

Our national debt and deficit will needlessly balloon from decreased revenue and increased spending in a period of rising interest rates. At the same time, millions will lose health insurance coverage as certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act are repealed and CHiP is allowed to lapse.

Uncheckable by the political minority, the GOP-led Congress and president have repealed or replaced scores of regulations aimed at protecting Americans and improving the condition of our lives.

Yet, I have renewed hope.

There’s been an observable turn over the last few months. Election results in Virginia, Alabama, and elsewhere created a ripple on the horizon that, hopefully, will build into a wave election in 2018. Once in a generation America sees such an election, one that washes away the old order and alters the course of our culture and politics.

Ronald Reagan lead such a wave. Many had hoped Barack Obama would lead such a wave, and were crushed to witness the backlash to his presidency. A con artist and admitted sexual predator succeeded him.

I believe the Obama wave is still moving.

Mr. Trump’s approval rating has remained in the basement, descending from an early abysmal read to historic lows. The majority of the American polity have figured him out.

Bob Mueller’s investigation has produced two admissions of felony guilt and two indictments from among Trump’s circle. There is no indication that his work is nearing conclusion.

Citizens are taking a renewed interest in electoral politics. Women in particular are working to get themselves on the ballot in elections across America next November.

People of color are a rapidly growing minority. Census data trends tell us America will become majority non-white some time in the 2040s. These are the the people who defeated Roy Moore in Alabama. Their combined electoral effect is already being felt.

Trump and Moore have shown America its worst face. I’m taking to calling people of all ethnicities who vote progressive people of conscience, because voting your conscience is required to deny leadership roles to people like Trump and Moore. The Obama presidency and what followed contrasts the best of us with the worst. People of conscience chose the former.

This all gives me hope. I’m looking forward to our 2018 elections. If you’re a person of conscience, you should, too.

#politics #usElections #Trump #Moore #Republican

December 20, 2017

Bloomberg: Apple Has a Plan for Universal Apps Across iOS and macOS, Report Says

Samuel Axon – Ars Technica:

Citing people familiar with the matter, a Bloomberg report claims an internal Apple project seeks to make it possible for app developers to publish apps that work on both mobile iOS devices and Mac computers.

If true, this would appear to usher in an era of half-baked applications for both OS platforms. Who wants an application that runs everywhere, but nowhere well? Didn’t we get that from Java, to no good end?

iOS apps are fine-tuned for a phone- or tablet-sized multi-touch interface with modest power reserves, while macOS apps are created for a mouse- or trackpad-controlled interface with plenty of screen real estate and CPU horsepower backing it up.

I have a bad feeling about this.

#iOS #macOS #Marzipan #multiPlatformApps

December 19, 2017

AVClub: The Last Jedi's Best Moment vs. Fanboy Ire

William Hughes – AVClub:

the truth that Johnson teases out of Rey and Ren’s heart-to-heart carries neither Lucas nor Abrams’ fingerprints; is, in fact, a pretty glaring “Fuck you” to the storytelling styles of both of Rey’s off-screen daddies. As Ben says—and, as a dazzling bit of mirrored surrealism earlier in the film hints, Rey has always, on some level, known—she’s really just a nobody, parentally speaking. No secret lineage, none of Lucas’ love of monomythic, Harry Potter-style “unknown king growing up in the wilderness” tropes. No deeper Abrams-esque mystery. Just Occam’s Lightsaber, chopping through the bullshit, and leaving a powerful young woman with no lingering, grasping connections to the wider Star Wars universe.

This was a powerful scene, without precedent in any Star Wars film: the hero and villain having established a dialog spanning the film to this point briefly acted together, saving themselves. In the process of disagreeing to work together further they destroy Luke Skywalker’s blue lightsaber.

Rather than sitting through an elaborate exposition about who Snoke is, we saw him cut in half. Bye-bye.

We learn that Rey’s parents were, like almost everyone else in the galaxy, nobodies.

In the waning moment of the film, a stableboy is seen using the Force to sweep the floor.

This diminution of the Star Wars/Force magic is likely what has the fanboys’ panties in a twist. Well, suck it. It made for great story telling, just not the story they wanted to see.

As my pal Neal has written, Rian Johnson’s direction was likely not a “fuck you” to Abrams or Lucas. Both are reported to have loved the new film, as did I.

#StarWars #TheLastJedi #Rey #Ren #RianJohnson #controversy

December 17, 2017

Matt Damon Draws Rebukes for Comments on the #MeToo Movement

Christina Caron – The New York Times:

Those comments were met with anger and frustration online, where many women, including the actress Alyssa Milano, rejected attempts to categorize various forms of sexual misconduct.

“They all hurt,” Ms. Milano wrote on Twitter on Friday. “And they are all connected to a patriarchy intertwined with normalized, accepted — even welcomed — misogyny.”

I don’t believe there is a man alive who can understand what it’s like to live in a woman’s skin.

I don’t believe there’s a white man or woman alive who knows what it’s like to grow up black or brown.

I believe Damon was trying to express sympathy and at the same time draw distinctions. Nice try, but he didn’t know what he was talking about. Not really. Yes, a slap on the ass is different in degree than molestation. That’s a distinction to be made by a judge. Among the non-legal set, they’re both off-limits, full stop.

Rather than opining one’s way into the conversation, better to ask, and listen, and hear.

#MattDamon #notMeToo

West: Ta-Nehisi Coates is the Neoliberal Face of the Black Freedom Struggle

Cornel West – The Guardian:

The disagreement between Coates and me is clear: any analysis or vision of our world that omits the centrality of Wall Street power, US military policies, and the complex dynamics of class, gender, and sexuality in black America is too narrow and dangerously misleading. So it is with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ worldview.

Coates rightly highlights the vicious legacy of white supremacy – past and present. He sees it everywhere and ever reminds us of its plundering effects. Unfortunately, he hardly keeps track of our fightback, and never connects this ugly legacy to the predatory capitalist practices, imperial policies (of war, occupation, detention, assassination) or the black elite’s refusal to confront poverty, patriarchy or transphobia.

In short, Coates fetishizes white supremacy.

West has long been a well-restpected intellect in black studies and the effects of race in American culture. His criticism should give pause.

I’d quibble with West’s notions of American militarism and Wall Street influence in connection with the history of white supremacy and the marginalization of people of color. Including these forces is to broaden the focus of criticism to the point of no focus at all, and to critique the culture as a whole. One could argue that whiteness itself gave rise to both American militarism and the power of Wall Street.

Coates defines his criticism more narrowly. His concern is the whiteness of American expectations and the exclusion of people of color from these expectations. Must the man mirror the work of others to be credible?

I’d also argue with West’s identification of Coates as a neoliberal. Neoliberalism concerns itself with class struggle. It’s a basic tenet of the American Democratic party.

Coates rejects class as a focus of contention, documenting the American Republican party’s successes at garnering support from both the monied elites of all ethnicities as well as from the working poor as evidence that class has little bearing on the politics of white supremacy. He rightly identifies conservatism, as manifested by the modern Republican party, as the home of American white supremacy. Coates is no neoliberal.

It can fairly be said that Coates fetishizes white supremacy, because it’s the tight focus of his writing. He’s been a major contributor to the national conversation on race for all of a decade. West has been at this for decades. The master is perhaps unsettled by the upstart’s success at finding a willing, empowered audience for his thoughts. Imagine what another decade will bring.

#TaNehisiCoates #CornelWest

December 15, 2017

∴ Star Wars: The Last Jedi

*NO spoilers*

The Last Jedi is still rattling around my mind today. That’s always the mark of a great movie. Holy mackerel, it was more fun than any previous Star Wars film.

Sure, there were recognizable character-types (is Rey becoming Luke, or Han?), and the plot, though more complex this time, was familiar. Never-the-less I was transfixed for the film’s entire two hour, thirty-two-minute run time.

Three quibbles: why do bombers move so slowly in space, when everything else moves at the speed of heat? And why do their bombs fall as if in gravity? And why does every stupefyingly huge weapons platform have a vulnerable spot? These almost pulled me out of my suspended disbelief early on.

Stick around through the end credits for a brief tribute matte to Carrie Fisher. BTW, though they couldn’t have known it would be her last-ever when shooting the film, you’ll know her final scene is at hand near the end of the film. It just has that sort of feel. 

And watch Luke’s feet in that scene. Feet.

I wasn’t as gobsmacked today as I was the day after Blade Runner 2049, but I’ll call 2017 a success for giving me two movies to watch over and over. Well, three. Wonder Woman was great, too.

 

#StarWars #TheLastJedi

December 14, 2017

New York Attorney General Announces a Multi-state Lawsuit Challenging the Net Neutrality Vote

Taylor Hatmaker – TechCrunch:

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a leading voice in the fight against the FCC’s net neutrality rules repeal, has stepped forward with one of the first legal challenges to the commission’s controversial vote.

While we don’t yet know which states will be joining New York in the legal action, it’s safe to assume that we’ll see overlap with those that joined a letter calling for a delay of the vote due to revelations around faked comments during the public feedback process. The letter included 18 attorneys general from the states of Virginia, Delaware, Hawaii, California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Washington, Vermont and the District of Columbia.

Well that didn’t take long, did it?

Glad to see Virginia’s AG included in the list.

#netNeutrality #FCC #NewYork #AttorneyGeneral #lawsuit #block

FCC Votes to Repeal Its Net Neutrality Rules

Brian Fung – The Washington Post:

The move to deregulate the telecom and cable industry is a major setback for tech companies, consumer groups and Democrats who lobbied heavily against the decision. And it marks a significant victory for Republicans who vowed to roll back the efforts of the prior administration, despite a recent survey showing that 83 percent of Americans — including 3 out of 4 Republicans — opposed the plan.

You’ll know this was a mistake the first time you see tiered service plans (vs. today’s tiered speed plans) based on particular types or brands of access.

Example: whereas today we pay no more for streaming, say, Youtube video, than we do for accessing email or web browsing, once net neutrality is stripped away we could be required to pay more for streaming that service, or any video service, than for video streaming offered by our internet service provider.

Elections have consequences.

#NetNeutrality #consumer

How Trump’s Skepticism of U.S. Intelligence on Russia Left an Election Threat Unchecked

Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Philip Rucker – Washington Post:

In the final days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, members of his inner circle pleaded with him to acknowledge publicly what U.S. intelligence agencies had already concluded — that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was real.

Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers — including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and designated chief of staff, Reince Priebus — prodded the president-elect to accept the findings that the nation’s spy chiefs had personally presented to him on Jan. 6.

But as aides persisted, Trump became agitated. He railed that the intelligence couldn’t be trusted and scoffed at the suggestion that his candidacy had been propelled by forces other than his own strategy, message and charisma.

A man singularly unqualified to understand the machinations of government or the work of intelligence agencies, and whose narcissism drives him to believe everything that happens around him does so as a result of his own will, dismisses the work of professionals who know better. The United States is left more vulnerable as a result.

2020 cannot come soon enough.

#Trump #incompetent #unqualified #violationOfSwornOath

December 13, 2017

As Goes Moore, So Goes Trumpism

Ross Douthat – The New York Times:

No, there will be no course correction — only the Trump we’ve seen so far, the Trump who would rather have the G.O.P. fall in ruins around him than give up on his feuds and insults and absurd behavior, the Trump who made Senator Doug Jones our strange reality, and the Trump who is also responsible for the larger wave that’s building, building, for next fall.

In a rational world Doug Jones would have won by a twenty-point margin. That’s the rejection Roy Moore earned. But his was an Alabama race, in a state and a region that has eschewed Democrats since that party pivoted and replaced the GOP as the vanguard of civil rights. The last Democrat to win a Senate seat from there changed parties two years later, becoming a Republican.

Last night’s victory wasn’t rational. It was revulsional. It was a rejection by many of a candidacy by an accused child molester, an embrace by just enough of Senator Richard Shelby’s advocacy to conservatives to write-in a third candidate on their ballot, a recognition that, for all the latter-day voter suppression that has arisen in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 abandonment of federal Voter Rights Act oversight in Alabama, black and brown people’s votes not only count, but can carry the day. And they did.

Good for Alabama, good for America.

#GOP #Alabama #ALSen #RoyMoore #DougJones #Trump

December 10, 2017

Why I Can No Longer Call Myself an Evangelical Republican

(I should make clear that the title of this post comes from the NYT headline. I am not now, now have I ever been an evangelical Christian.)

Peter Wehner – The New York Times:

In the latest example of this, a rising number of Republicans are attempting to delegitimize the special counsel’s investigation into whether there were links between Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and Mr. Putin’s Russia because they quake at what he may find. Prominent evangelical leaders, rather than challenging the president to become a man of integrity, have become courtiers. What’s happening with Mr. Moore in Alabama — with the president, the Republican National Committee, the state party and many white evangelicals rallying around him — is a bridge too far for many of us. Where exactly is the bottom?

A self-described evangelical Christian and conservative walks away from not only the party, but the label his religious affiliation has carried for more than three decades. Wehner has reached his Joe McCarthy moment. He asks, as did Senator Welch a half-century ago, “have you left no sense of decency?”

Wehner’s statements about the evangelical movement are outside my life and moral authority to comment upon, but I firmly believe that America needs a new Conservative Party as home for GOP refugees. A healthy political system requires a counterbalance to the opposing politics of the left.

So many accused sexual harrassers have fallen, with surely more to come. The GOP stands in contradiction to its former self, its standard-bearers themselves fallen men. It appears a dark hour in American history, but I see the opportunity for a new dawn in our government and our culture, a space for women to fill fully half the seats of power, if not more, and a moment for decent people to say, “no more” and retake the direction of our country and its culture. There are brighter days ahead.

#politics #culture #GOP #women 

December 9, 2017

∴ The Annual Sappfest Mix-off

A table full of competing cocktail samplesOur friends Shannon and Jeffrey Sapp throw a holiday party every year at around this time. A highlight of this shindig is the holiday mix-off, in which a handful of would-be mixologists compete with original recipe cocktails, served in mini tasting cups. We’re headed to the party tonight, but in advance of it I’ll let this year’s cat out of the bag. Herewith, my entry for the 2017 Mix-off.

What could be more comforting on a cold winter’s night, particularly after a day’s festivities are complete, than a craft cocktail? The spicy seduction of fine rye whiskey, the warm embrace of chile liqueur, and the sweet kiss of dark cherry liqueur combined with a hint of chocolate bitters produce the sublime concoction I’ve christened ‘Silent Night.’ It will warm you from tongue to toes, and it’s my Christmas gift to each of you.

To wit:

  • 2 parts Rittenhouse rye whiskey
  • ¼ part Ancho Reyes ancho chile liqueur
  • ½ part Cherry Heering dark cherry liqueur
  • 2 dashes Bittermens chocolate mole bitters 

Stir over ice until very cold, serve in a chilled coupe with dark cherry garnish. Makes one three-ounce drink.

#cocktails #silentNight #holidayMixOff #sappfest

The Market Shock No One is Ready For

Josh Brown – The Reformed Broker:

A large portion of the country has lost its mind. If you told these people three years ago that they would be rooting for the KGB to defeat the FBI, for a millionaires’ tax cut subsidized by the middle class, and for a child molester to win a seat in the US Senate, they’d have laughed in your face. But here we are.

Brown is my go-to wiser financial head in a storm. His assessment of our current political situation and his prognostication for the short-term future is a bracing wake-up for a Saturday morning.

#JoshBrown #ReformedBroker #Trump #authoritarianism #powerGrab #Mueller #Moore

December 7, 2017

AlphaZero AI Beats Champion Chess Program After Teaching Itself in Four Hours

Samuel Gibbs – The Guardian:

AlphaZero, the game-playing AI created by Google sibling DeepMind, has beaten the world’s best chess-playing computer program, having taught itself how to play in under four hours.

The repurposed AI, which has repeatedly beaten the world’s best Go players as AlphaGo, has been generalised so that it can now learn other games. It took just four hours to learn the rules to chess before beating the world champion chess program, Stockfish 8, in a 100-game match up.

AlphaZero accomplished this given only the basic rules of the game. What else do you suppose it can do, given a basic rule set?

#AI #artificialIntelligence #DeepMind #Go

December 6, 2017

∴ The Fastest and Easiest Ways to Charge Your iPhone

Mac Rumors:

Wireless charging is […] a comparatively slow charging method, but it’s convenient to be able to set your iPhone right next to you on a wireless charger and pick it up when necessary without the need to hassle with a cord.

Android-based smartphones have had contact charging – often referred to as wireless charging – for a few years. It’s a new, optional feature this year for Apple fans, available on iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X. But is it worth the added cost of a $60 charging pad?

Mac Rumors did side-by-side comparison of charging methods to find out. Click through for their methodology and concise graphs detailing their results.

Bottom line: Charging an iPhone with a $19 iPad charger and the Lightning cable included in every iPhone box is the most cost-effective and quick charging method. USB-C wired charging is the overall quickest method, but requires a much more expensive charger and cable combination.

Many iPhone owners also own an iPad. For these customers, the second-quickest method is already at hand. Apple’s iPad charger is relatively inexpensive for everyone else.

In contrast, contact charging is a distant also-ran, effectively besting only the tiny charger included in the box with each new iPhone. While handy for not requiring a cable plugged into the phone, the contact charging pad itself requires a cable and wall plug, so there’s only a net gain for multi-phone families. And it’s a one-at-a-time process until Apple delivers their multi-device charging pad next year.

The desirability of contact charging over plugging in a cable comes down to aesthetics. A gaggle of chargers and cables adorns many people’s kitchen countertop. Contact charging replaces all of them.

Personally, a technology has to provide a significant cost/benefit gain for me to adopt it. Contact charging doesn’t reach my threshold, so aesthetics don’t enter into it.

Apple has been criticized for coming late to the contact charging party. In light of these results, I wonder if they were slow to offer a solution because it’s not much of an improvement over wired charging, even taking the unsightliness of dangling cables into consideration.

#Apple #contactCharging #wirelessCharging #Qi #iPhone8 #iPhone8Plus #iPhoneX #Android

December 2, 2017

∴ Mueller Inside the White House Inner Circle, But to What End?

Yesterday’s plea by Michael Flynn puts Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation within the president’s inner circle. It gives hope to many Trump detractors: maybe the president’s days in office are numbered. Consider, though, for how many years Donald Trump has exhibited ill behavior with little repercussion.

Decades ago, his father and he were sued for discrimination against prospective African American renters at his apartment properties in New York City. After extensive litigation they settled out of court, admitting nothing. The issue went away.

Trump became a major developer in the Atlantic City casino industry, enriching himself even as those properties declined and entered bankruptcy. At one point he negotiated a deal with the bankruptcy court that put him on an income “allowance,” so poorly were his properties performing.

Today over half of Atlantic City’s hotel/casinos are shuttered, and the city is none the better for having dealt with Trump.

Trump wasn’t the only casino mogul in Atlantic City, or the first, but he was well represented by multiple properties bearing his name. None of their demise brought him personal loss; he side-stepped danger, leaving shell corporations or subsequent owners (read: suckers) shouldering the losses.

Trump is fond of saying he’s never declared personal bankruptcy, a way of claiming that for all his dealmaking he’s never utterly failed. To my point: Trump has always kept himself at least one remove from direct responsibility. There’s always been a patsy who took the loss as Trump skated free.

Michael Flynn is not a patsy. Flynn is a do-er, and a bit of a nut. He was dismissed from heading the Defense Intelligence Agency by President Obama. Fully aware of the import fo his actions, he’s going to suffer for what he’s done on Trump’s behalf, or more specifically for lying about it. I doubt Trump will be directly connected to these acts.

Press sources say that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was the “senior administration official” behind Flynn. Donald Trump Jr. has spent much of the early administration working behind the scenes, as has Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, in a questionable unpaid civil service position.

(It’s illegal for civil servants to volunteer time on the job. Letters to my Congressman and Senators about this contradiction went unanswered.)

These three underlings are prime patsies for Trump’s inevitable side-step from responsibility. My guess, admittedly not much of a stretch, is that Kushner falls first for his efforts at setting up back-channel discussion with the Russian government.

Trump’s fall, when it comes, won’t be by impeachment. I believe the man’s history of keeping himself at one remove from the potential line of fire will serve him again, and his minions will suffer while he remains to stand for re-election in 2020. It’s at that point the electorate will send him packing, and his sordid administration will slouch into history. Several of his transition and early administration officials will be tarnished, charged, or imprisoned.

Along the way Trump will succeed in blowing up the Republican establishment, losing the Senate to a Democratic majority in 2018. I’m not so sure the Democrats can mount enough of a challenge to take the House in 2018. I hope I’m wrong about that.

I hope, too, that through the 2018 and 2020 election cycles the Democratic party moves in earnest to shed its sclerotic leadership. The party needs new blood – think Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand, and someone, anyone, with the sensibility of Bernie Sanders – to rebrand as the party of the people, not the party of loose affiliation with the well-heeled bearing a pleasant, liberal smile.

The way forward to a more just democracy lies in 2018’s statewide elections. Governorships and legislatures in the fifty states, the majority of which now lie in Republican majority hands, must be retaken by Democratic candidates. Only then can gerrymandered districts be redrawn in more even-handed shapes. A case now before the US Supreme Court may help in the effort.

The GOP as we knew it is gone. True fiscal and foreign policy conservatives would be well-served by regrouping and funding a new American Conservative Party. Among their primary acts should be jettisoning the social conservatism that Ronald Reagan harnessed as president. We don’t need or want the federal government in our bedrooms, or anywhere else in our homes or personal lives.

The future of American democracy need not be bleak. We’ve foolishly elected the worst of us, and we’ve seen their unprincipled acts. We’re one election away from righting our course.

#Trump #Republicans #USElections #shyster #MichaelFlynn #BobMueller

December 1, 2017

Michael Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying to the FBI

Carol D. Leonig, Josh Dawsey, and Devlin Barrett – The Washington Post:

Flynn admitted making false statements to the FBI about asking the ambassador in late December to “refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed on Russia that same day.”

Separately, authorities say Flynn lied about asking the ambassador to delay a vote on United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Flynn cops to violating the Logan Act. Seems I’ve read (no, written) that somewhere before.

Small potatoes. Nobody has ever been prosecuted for it. Lying to the FBI, though, that’s bad. Go to prison bad. As ABC News reports, Flynn will flip and give testimony that a “very senior official” directed him to communicate with the Russian government, to save himself. And the plea deal requires Flynn to cooperate with all Federal, state, and local law enforcement. The president has no pardon authority at the state or local level.

Yup, this is much better than Hillary.

#MichaelFlynn #Trump #FridayNewsDump

November 27, 2017

Roy Moore Will Win Alabama’s US Senate Seat Because Folks Down South Don’t Like Being Told What to Do

Panama Jackson – Very Smart Brothas:

I hope that I’m wrong. I hope that on Dec. 13 anybody other than Roy Moore is the new senator from Alabama. But I will not be surprised one bit if he’s the choice and if it’s not even that close. But I read the news and I see how many people think it’s idiotic that he’s even still in the race and, well, I’m sure that most in the state feel like it’s their monkey and their circus, and they’ll decide what to do with it.

That’s how a state like Alabama elects a man like Roy Moore to national public office: Outsiders and Northerners tell them not to do it.

Clear-eyed analysis of Roy Moore’s chances in Alabama’s upcoming special election. It’s a short read and worth a few minutes of your time. Jackson is correct.

I recall rejecting Mr. Trump’s chances last November 8. I was wrong – not by much, but enough – and here we are with a Trump presidency. Moore is only incrementally more egregious a choice than Trump and, as Jackson stated, his electorate sees the evidence against him as the product of so-called “elitist northerners.” He’s like catnip to a cat.

The nub of such a choice is this: in Trump we had a history of deceptive, self-dealing behavior, and allegations of sexual misconduct. In Moore we have an admission that he “dated” under-age girls. Elected, we got a shyster as president in the case of the former, and an entire state sends a child molester to the United States Senate in the case of the latter. “Alleged,” my ass.

I am continually reminded of that Asimov quote these days - “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’.”

#RoyMoore #USSenate #Alabama #2017

November 23, 2017

The Voices in Blue America’s Head

Jason Zengerle – The New York Times:

“Pod Save America,” by contrast, has no conservative antecedent. The craft-beer-bar-bull-session vibe of podcasts suits the left better than the shouty antagonism of talk radio. “Rather than trying to replicate what’s worked on the right, these podcasts aren’t taking the same tropes you see on Fox or hear on conservative talk radio and applying them to the left,” Miller says.

I’ve been enjoying another of Crooked Media’s podcasts, Pod Save the People, for a couple of months now. Hosted by DeRay Mckesson, it’s focused on issues directly affecting black America. It’ll wake you straight up, but the hosts aren’t shrill or shouty. Fact-based, long on detail, devoid of BS. Recommended.

#PodSaveThePeople #CrookedMedia

Aston Martin’s DB11 Looks Like a Million Bucks, Only Costs a Quarter of That

Jonathan M. Gitlin – Ars Technica:

To the casual observer, Aston Martin cars might all look the same. A long hood. Voluptuous curves over the wheels. That iconic grille. It’s a design language that you can trace back through the decades to the 1950s.

Sixty years later that formula is still being obeyed, but it would be a mistake to think that makes this car—the DB11—an anachronism. Underneath its gorgeous aluminum and composite body panels is the most technologically advanced machine yet to wear the winged badge. It’s the first all-new Aston Martin in years, and race-bred aerodynamics, a clever twin-turbo V12 engine, and some 21st century electronics knowhow (courtesy of Mercedes-Benz) come together to create a gran turismo that’s as much PhD as 007. Over the course of a week and several hundred miles, I came away with the impression that if this car represents the future of the marque, that future will be rosy indeed.

Aston Martin DB11

What a beautiful automobile. It can be yours for a paltry $250k. Its sister vehicle, the Vantage, is more powerful and faster, but lacks the refinement of this gran tourismo model.

I can dream.

(photo by Aston Martin)

#AstonMartin #DB11 #granTourismo

November 22, 2017

∴ Mitt and Don

Thinking back on the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney wasn’t much more than Don Trump in a prettier, more presentable package.

Mitt talked about “makers and takers” when he thought he was speaking only to a like-minded, very white audience. Fortunately someone recorded audio and video of his speech. Who were Mitt’s takers? They were largely the non-white citizens and residents of the United States Don Trump excoriates, works to exclude, and moves to pull the rug out from under, reversing decades of civil rights successes.

There’s a common denominator to Romney and Trump, something more than whiteness. It’s staring us right in the face every time we enter the voting booth. The United States needs a new American Conservative Party to act as a counter to the Democratic party, because the GOP, the party of Trump, is hopelessly broken.

#AmericanPolitics #AmericanCulture #elections #MittRomney #DonaldTrump #2012 #GOP

∴ The Nationalist's Delusion (again)

Adam Serwer – The Atlantic:

One hundred thirty-nine years since Reconstruction, and half a century since the tail end of the civil-rights movement, a majority of white voters backed a candidate who explicitly pledged to use the power of the state against people of color and religious minorities, and stood by him as that pledge has been among the few to survive the first year of his presidency. Their support was enough to win the White House, and has solidified a return to a politics of white identity that has been one of the most destructive forces in American history. This all occurred before the eyes of a disbelieving press and political class, who plunged into fierce denial about how and why this had happened. That is the story of the 2016 election.

I could pull resoundingly meaningful quotes from this article all day long. Do yourself a favor and go read it.

This is the bottom line of our 2016 election, the culmination of backlash against the abolition of slavery, abandonment of Reconstruction, institution of Jim Crow laws, economic and educational marginalization, and overall unease and outright fear among the white community of an empowered, non-white population.

Though GOP voters may not believe they’re racist or bigoted in any particular way, every last one of Mr. Trump’s supporters was willing to give this man a pass on all we knew about him. How anyone with a shred of decency, particularly women, could vote for a man who claims “I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything” is beyond me, except for what Serwer wrote in this article. Trump is the balm that soothes a deep-seeded animus toward the non-white, and covers the shame over treatment of black and brown Americans.

Serwer’s well-documented article sums up a particularly egregious aspect of our cultural and political history. An example of Trump’s supporters’ fervor is expressed in a recent interview with a handful of Trump voters in which one said “If Jesus Christ gets down off the cross and told me Trump is with Russia, I would tell him, ‘Hold on a second, I need to check with the president if it’s true.” A Christian, no doubt, and he puts this charlatan ahead of his god. Think about that.

Trumpism emerged from a haze of delusion, denial, pride, and cruelty—not as a historical anomaly, but as a profoundly American phenomenon. This explains both how tens of millions of white Americans could pull the lever for a candidate running on a racist platform and justify doing so, and why a predominantly white political class would search so desperately for an alternative explanation for what it had just seen. To acknowledge the centrality of racial inequality to American democracy is to question its legitimacy—so it must be denied.

Emphasis mine.

“question its legitimacy.” What do you call a republic founded upon the principle that all men are created equal, by men who themselves held human beings as chattel? You call it a lie. It’s well past the time we tell the truth, that slavery informs our politics today because it is America’s original sin, and is its central, unanswered question.

#Trump #racism #bigotry #AmericanPolitics #AmericanCulture

November 21, 2017

The Nationalist's Delusion

Adam Serwer – The Atlantic:

when social scientists control for white voters’ racial attitudes—that is, whether those voters hold “racially resentful” views about blacks and immigrants—even the educational divide disappears. In other words, the relevant factor in support for Trump among white voters was not education, or even income, but the ideological frame with which they understood their challenges and misfortunes. It is also why voters of color—who suffered a genuine economic calamity in the decade before Trump’s election—were almost entirely immune to those same appeals.

Emphasis mine.

Not income. Not education. Ideology – how frightening was the notion of a black president followed by a woman president, or immigrants, or anyone non-white – elected Donald Trump. Where’d you stand?

Good, long read.

#Trump #racist #bigot #fraud #whereDidYouStand

November 20, 2017

Keystone Pipeline Oil Spill Could be Worse Than we Thought

Sarah sax – VICE News:

Kent Moeckly, a nearby land owner and member of the Dakota Rural Action Group, told VICE News he’s concerned that the spill could be much larger though, in large part because the computers used to detect oil pressure drops don’t always detect small leaks. “TransCanada thought it was 200,000 gallons. What we found out working with TransCanada, it could very well be 600,000 gallons,” Moeckly said.

Yep, I know. It’s the old section of pipeline, not the new, not-as-yet approved Keystone XL. Regardless, both pipelines would carry tar sand oil, and both will be susceptible to this sort of spill. Worse, The XL crosses watersheds that provide surface and aquifer drinking water to millions of people.

Put yourself in these people’s shoes. Would you want that additional pumping capacity running past your county, over your drinking water, and trust that the company whose incentive is to pump as much as possible will keep your water and land safe?

#Keystone #KeystoneXL #tarSandOil #oilSpill #Dakotas

Charles Manson, Viable Argument for the Death Sentence, Dies at 83

Paul Valentine – The Washington Post:

Charles Manson, a fiery-eyed cult master whose lemming-like followers staged a bloody two-night murder rampage in Los Angeles in 1969 that gripped the city with fear and shocked the nation, died Nov. 19 at a hospital in Kern County, Calif. He was 83.

Ok, that was my headline.

Bye, Charlie. You were an inhumane monster. 

#CharlesManson

∴ Martin Luther King's Hate Mail Eerily Resembles Criticism of the Black Lives Matter Movement

David Matthews – Splinter:

In the last year or so, as the Black Lives Matter movement has taken off, the cause has been criticized by (mostly) white people asking, “Yeah, but what about this?”

It turns out that this argument has been in style for at least half a century.

Indeed, this type of discourse is nothing new, as we can see when we examine the hate mail that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. received during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Surprising virtually no-one. Yeah, but what about … is joined by we’re all equal before the law as a dodge, a means of distracting attention and changing the subject away from simple facts.

How recently after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 have lenders charge predatory interest rates to people of color? 2010, 2009, 2014. By paying exorbitant interest rates for purchase of depressed properties in segregated neighborhoods, black borrowers are denied the common practice of forming wealth by home equity – the rate and time to foreclosure on black-owned properties is both high and short – and therefore the transfer of generational wealth does not happen in these communities. Each successive generation struggles, but does little better than the one before.

Ask about that, and the common wisdom among white Americans will point you to successful, accomplished black Americans. What about Colin Powell, or Robert Johnson, or all those millionaire football/basketball/baseball players?

Ask the wrong questions, get useless answers, continue living in the dream of whiteness. A better question is, why do you know about those successful black individuals? Because they’re an exception to what’s common. Why is that? The black middle class is a smaller fraction of the greater black community than is the white middle class in white America. Meanwhile, the working poor and those in poverty make up a much greater fraction of the black community that do those in the white community. Why is that? This has something to do with it.

Now we’re getting somewhere, and we haven’t even addressed police violence in black neighborhoods, the very cause that called Black Lives Matter into being.

Read. Learn. Open your mind.

#whiteness #BlackLivesMatter #predatoryLending #unequalJustice #willfullyBlind #redLining

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