October 16, 2017

∴ Bodhi-Boy at Four Months

Sleeping Labrador Retriever pup

Two of this week’s photos show my pal Bodhi zonked. We’re tiring him out with longer walks, and something new. He’s reached an age when his inquisitive mind needs more occupation.

Obedience training has begun.

I took both Zele and Stella to Warrenton Kennel Club’s training sessions when they were pups, but the next scheduled classes don’t begin until January. Bodhi is ready now.

One thing I learned from working with Z, and then again with Stella years ago is that success comes from repetition.

I’d take each to an hour-long class one evening, then work with the dog for ten- to thirty-minutes each evening for the rest of the week. We began on the shorter end, and gradually increased time as attention spans lengthened.

The hour-long class was as much for training me as it was for training the dog. It communicated methods for teaching obedience while disposing of practices that don’t help her learn.

We learned to use positive reinforcement, and above all make it fun for the dog and simple enough for her to gain praise. Use single-word commands consistently. Speak the command in a firm tone of voice. Reward with praise and a training treat if she obeys on the first try. Reward with only praise if it takes two tries. Form the correct behavior with hands on her body while voicing the command if it goes to three. Gradually wean her from treats to praise-only. Mind the dog’s nose; where it points is where she goes. Her attention should be on me. Use minor corrections with a training collar to bring attention back to what we’re doing. Use significant corrections only when the dog has gone completely off the hook. Sometimes it takes one or two significant corrections at the outset of the first session to establish who’s alpha in the relationship.

Another shot of the same sleeping Labrador Retriever

We’d both take one evening off to make the seven-week stretch tolerable, but never the evening before the next class.

We had a well-behaved dog on the road to being a calm, happy member of our family by the end of the course. Another seven-week course was available for gaining Canine Good Citizenship certification, but by then I was satisfied with both dogs’ behavior, and frankly ready to cease training.

Bodhi and I began training this week in our garage. Absent our cars the space makes a comfortable training ring for a single dog. We’re doing maybe ten minutes of walking at heel, stopping randomly to sit. He does pretty well with this, parking himself at my side when I stop walking without being told.

He already has the “sit” command down pat.

I drop the lead, put him in a stay, and walk to the other side of the garage. He does well here, too, but he fooled me a few times responding to a “Bodhi, come!” right away. Eventually I realized he was coming not on command, but to the sound of my voice. Counting up to ten out loud with varying emphasis keeps him listening until he hears the right command. “Stay” is a work in progress.

There’s always much praise that goes with being a good boy.

It’s not all work for Mr. Bodhi. He spends three days a week at our shop, taking a few walks out to the Warrenton Greenway and up and down Main Street. He meets everyone who comes into the shop. The only thing I’ve seen him consistently shy from is an aggressively barking dog.

Labrador retriever sitting looking out the door

The new Warrenton dog park opens a month from now. There will be a ceremony, and the mayor’s “first dog” will take the inaugural romp. Bodhi will be close behind, and perhaps complicit in a covert inaugural romp of his own.

He still fits under my living room chair for a nap, though the end for that is almost upon us. It’s already a tight squeeze. We’re guessing he’ll clock in at forty-six or 47-pounds at his next vet appointment, a week from now.

I love this not-so-little guy, but more importantly, I like his personality. He’s a smart, happy dog, inquisitive, and above all he’s by our side always. Nothing makes him happier than to see one of us coming, not even food. Not. Even. Food. That’s quite a thing for a Lab.

He’s made a Bodhi-shaped place in my heart.

#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

Colin Kaepernick Files Complaint Against N.F.L.

Ken Nelson – The New York Times:

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

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

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

#Colin #Kaepernick #NFL #collusion

October 15, 2017

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

Jennifer Senior – The New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

∴ The Rise of Antifa

Peter Binary – The Atlantic:

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

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

Emphasis mine.

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

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

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

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

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

∴ Orange is the New Black?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 14, 2017

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

Farah Stockman – The New York Times:

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

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

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

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

#employment #race #American #culture

∴ Into the Arms of America

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spare enough?

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

Sound of Mystery Attacks in Cuba Released

Beth Mole – Ars Technica:

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

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

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

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

Anyone come to mind?

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

∴ Culture of Violence

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

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

#cultureOfViolence #Trump #ACA

October 12, 2017

Trump Implies Hurricane Victims Are Ripping Off the Federal Government

Bess Levin – Vanity Fair:

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

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

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

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

This Will Not End Well

Gabriel Sherman – Vanity Fair:

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

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

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

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

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

October 11, 2017

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

Wayne Curtis – imbibe:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Delany – Bon Appetit:

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

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

When it comes to shitty ice, just say no.

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

October 10, 2017

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

Paul Krugman – The New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

2008 Virginia electoral map for the US presidency

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

2012 Virginia electoral map for the US presidency

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

2016 Virginia electoral map for US presidency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 9, 2017

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

Robert Greene II – The Atlantic:

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

Emphasis mine.

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

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

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

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

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

October 8, 2017

∴ How Ta-Nehisi Coates Gives Whiteness Power

Thomas Chatterton Williams – The New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

The Untold Story of Kim Jong-nam’s Assassination

Doug Bock Clark – GQ:

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

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

#north #korea #kimjongun #kimjongnam

America’s First Memorial to the Victims of Lynching

Kriston Capps – The Atlantic:

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

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

Artist's rendering of the Memorial to Peace and Justice

#cultureOfViolence

October 7, 2017

Guns and the Soul of America

David Brooks – The New York Times:

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

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

It’s the culture, stupid.

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

How America has Silently Accepted the Rage of White Men

Naaz Modan – CNN:

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

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

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

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

October 6, 2017

∴ Blade Runner 2049

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Highly recommended.

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

October 4, 2017

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

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

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

Emphasis mine.

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

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

Emphasis mine.

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

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

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

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

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

∴ Let Sleeping Dogs ...

A white Labrador Retriever asleep on his bed

Bodhi is sixteen weeks old this Friday. In fits and starts, and then all at once he’s the size of a Spaniel, with about thirty or so pounds to go. We think.

We’re told he’s going to be big, but big is a relative term. Both his mama and his pop were in the seventy-pound range. His bloodline does include at least one bigger boy. We’re familiar with Retrievers, in any event. Big, for us, is a Burmese Mountain Dog, or a Great Dane.

One thing evident now is his sweet personality. He very much likes being around us, and wants a snuggle after waking or just walking through the room. He loves a scratch on the ears and belly, just don’t pet him on the crown of his head.

He’s still a shark-toothed fiend much of the time, so we’re redirecting his mouth to chew toys whenever he gets on a tear with Stella, or a piece of furniture, or a hand. He’s learned the word “no” pretty well, and has mastered the art of the side-eye as he’s about to engage his mouth with the forbidden.

We’re gradually increasing the length of his walks. Now that summer temperatures have broken he’s more amenable to completing one without sitting down for a break. We’ll head out today for a local stroll and some practice walking at my heel, and I’ll stretch him out on the Warrenton Greenway this weekend.

One minor tragedy of his growing so quickly is the near loss of his favorite nap spot, under my chair while I’m sitting in it. I give him another couple of weeks before he’s unable to fit. I’ll miss that, too.

#Bodhi #Labrador #Retriever

October 3, 2017

∴ One Too Many

(I had a troll. I refused to feed it. Then I got rid of it.)

I like to hear from people, share ideas, that sort of thing. I have one rule here, right above the comments box. I even give free passes to some. One too many violations of the rule, you’re done.

Turning posts about the historical and contemporary treatment of black people in America into a query about charitable work is telling. Sneering about it, well, that’s over the line.

Here’s a freebie: if you have strongly held opinions, and you’re not a dope, start a blog and write about it. Start a podcast and talk about it. Feel free to quote me and sneer all you like, on your property. This is mine.

Beware the company you attract. Bye.

477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress

The New York Times:

Click through for a graphic depiction of mass shootings in the US, in a month-by-month calendar form. Seen this way the regularity of shootings are particularly damning. There are so many, it looks like someone’s business and social appointments, combined.

Our cultural norms are particularly violent in the United States. The availability of firearms, and our right to have them provide ready means for acting out grievances that other, similarly legislated countries don’t see. Removing easy access to guns does not remove the inherent cultural insensitivity to violence leading to their use.

Legislating cultural change is a mistake, but changing the acceptability of non-consequential violence is necessary. We will not see an end to consequential violence until we change our willingness to be entertained by a version of the same in our everyday life.

#gun #violence #mass #shootings #Las #Vegas #culture

October 2, 2017

The Limits of Donald Trump's Populist Influence

McKay Coppins – The Atlantic:

Nick Everhart, a GOP media consultant who has worked for dozens of Tea Party-aligned campaigns over the years, said there’s little use in trying to explain the unpredictable behavior of the conservative base with issues or ideology. “The idea that these movements are driven by any kind of intellectual, structured thing is ridiculous. They’re always a backlash to the moment”

The backlash in 2016 was against eight years of a black president, and progressive politics in general.

Only Mr. Trump’s most rabid supporters were sanguine about him fulfilling his campaign promises. Signs reading “Keep government hands off my Medicare,” and a late awakening to the Affordable Care Act and “Obamacare” being one and the same were common last campaign season. Many shouting the loudest, angriest support wanted no such thing after he gained office.

What do they want? Who knows? Maybe they just liked the red hats.

Populist backlashes crumble when unthinking anger comes up against its own ignorance. Accordingly, this administration has very little to show for its time in office and its Congressional majority. The critical first one-hundred days is lost.

“Since 2010, the GOP has [run] in every election promising to repeal and replace Obamacare, secure the border, provide tax reform and relief, end taxpayer funding of abortion, appoint constitutionalist judges, and grow the economy again,” Mueller said. “Other than confirming Justice [Neil] Gorsuch, the GOP so far has nothing to show for earning the majority.” The lack of progress on these campaign promises, he said, has left voters “feeling they’ve been had.”

Cry me a river. GOP politicians control the White House, both Houses of Congress, most governor’s offices and most statehouses. The party has controlled almost all of these for nearly nine years with, as stated, not much to show for it. This is the result of pandering to both their base supporters and anyone with an axe to grind and a TV tuned to Fox “News.”

The simplest explanations are usually correct. In order to succeed, a party must be for something. A politician must inspire. The GOP has been playing the angry white guy game for a long time, and it’s become evident that their vaunted “big tent” is home only to these self-same angry white guys with no cohesive agenda. They’re for nothing and against everything. They’ve systematically eliminated their moderate elect. Who’s left to reason with the opposition, and accomplish legislation? No-one.

#GOP #fraud #Trump

October 1, 2017

∴ Worth Posting Every Sunday Morning

As you’re getting ready for some football today, knowing there will be more players taking a knee during the national anthem, consider:

  • Taking a knee began as a means of bringing attention to the ongoing over-policing and over-incarceration of black Americans.
  • Protest, in whatever legal form it occurs, is as American as apple pie. Our country was created as an act of extreme protest: revolution.
  • 2019 marks the 400-year anniversary of the first black African slaves brought to the Jamestown colony in Virginia.
  • No other immigrant minority group has been more excoriated, less enfranchised, less welcomed into the American family than black men and women. They’ve been systemically marginalized by means of slavery, yes, but also by Jim Crow laws, segregation in housing, schooling, and employment, voter registration “tests,” poll taxes, institutionalized domestic terrorism by the Klan and others.
  • America was built upon the bloodied backs and labor of black men and women, in the South, North, and throughout Western expansion. This needs to be recognized and dealt with forthrightly at the highest level of our government and culture, as well as at the level of the common citizen.
  • That rotten core of our history, unacknowledged and un-dealt-with, is worthy of disrespect. The flag, the anthem, the Constitution itself are symbols of the country, and legitimate targets of disrespect.

Our less-than-bright president, wading into the issue at a political rally early in the season, has turned the spectacle into Trump vs. the NFL. This will expand the players’ activism. It will bring greater attention to it, and more argument and eventually, hopefully, discussion. But first it will be ugly. This is a good thing. Racism is ugly, too.

If this offends you or what you believe, good. Four-hundred years is a lot of offense, too. Maybe it’ll lead you to think past the flag, the anthem, and the multi-millionaire players and owners, and ask yourself why this is happening. Why are protests going on around the country? Why did we see hundreds of white men marching through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, by torchlight this past summer? Why are black men and women sentenced more frequently and harshly for the same crimes as white men and women?

THINK.

#American #culture #racism #NFL

September 30, 2017

What We’re Gonna Do When the Revolution Comes

Corey Richardson – Very Smart Brothas:

Those two New Black Panthers outside the Philadelphia polling station in 2012? That was the advance team. Your grandparents tried to warn you, but you didn’t listen.

This snark is gold, not the least for this:

We’re replacing Fox News with 24 hours of Keith David just telling it like it is.

Fox News may be the most prototypically American form of entertainment going today. Overtly racist, covertly sexist, and throwing good dollar after bad trying to pretend like it ain’t while everyone else pretends it’s credible and respectable. Watching Fox & Friends in the morning is the intellectual equivalent of attending a White Citizens’ Council meeting in the 1960s South. For a black person, looking at Steve Doocy’s shit-eating grin for more than six minutes will generate a level of Afro-ire that can cause one to contemplate whether reverse racism is, in fact, a thing because the anger is so irrational.

Satire. Right?

#Very #Smart #Brothas #VSB #Corey #Richardson

First Trailer For Annihilation, Based on a Seemingly Unfilmable Novel

Annalee Newitz – Ars Technica:

Somehow, director Alex Garland (Ex Machina) has evoked that same sense of dreamy, horrifying awe in the first trailer for the film, which comes out in February 2018. Natalie Portman plays the biologist, and we see the bizarre features of Area X seething around her as if the entire ecosystem is somehow haunted. Garland is probably the perfect director for this feature. His Ex Machina was a mesmerizing blend of action and philosophy. My suspicion is that this movie will work its way deep under your skin.

Annihilation was an odd scifi read for me, outside my usual enjoyment zone. I have yet to read the remainder of the trilogy.

Still, Natalie Portman and Alex Garland are tough to pass up. I loved his Ex Machina, and I’ve been a fan of Portman’s since The Professional. Annihilation goes on the Scifi Thursday theater list.

#Annihilation #Jeff #VanerMeer #Alex #Garland #Natalie #Portman #Ex #Machina #Southern #Reach #trilogy

September 29, 2017

We Should Have Seen Trump Coming

Ta-Nehisi Coates is out with a new excerpt from We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy – The Guardian:

The implications of the true story are existential and corrosive to our larger national myth. To understand that the most costly war in this country’s history was launched in direct opposition to everything the country claims to be, to understand that it was the product of centuries of enslavement, which is to see an even longer, more total war, is to alter the accepted conception of America as a beacon of freedom. How does one face this truth or forge a national identity out of it?

For now the country holds to the common theory that emancipation and civil rights were redemptive, a fraught and still-incomplete resolution of the accidental hypocrisy of a nation founded by slaveholders extolling a gospel of freedom. This common theory dominates much of American discourse, from left to right. Conveniently, it holds the possibility of ultimate resolution, for if right-thinking individuals can dedicate themselves to finishing the work of ensuring freedom for all, then perhaps the ghosts of history can be escaped. It was the common theory – through its promise of a progressive American history, where the country improves itself inexorably and necessarily – that allowed for Obama’s rise. And it was that rise that offered me that chance to see that theory for the illusion that it was.

Immersed in my reading, it became clear to me that the common theory of providential progress, of the inevitable reconciliation between the sin of slavery and the democratic ideal, was myth.

“For now.”

For those seeking a clearer distillation, this is Coates at full strength, clearly written, telling his and his community’s story.

#Ta-Nehisi #Coates #race #America

∴ Wonders Never Cease

I felt an echo from my past today, someone I’d left for dead, and good riddance, at an international airport post box on my way out of town years ago.

Whether what I saw were his words, or the ugly remnant of an undiagnosed personality disorder transferred by blood one generation down the line, the effect was the same. Like seeing an old girlfriend decades later and afterward thinking, ‘I felt nothing.’

I moved on without feeling the change. Adieu.

VA Chief Took in Wimbledon, River Cruise on European Work Trip; Wife’s Expenses Covered by Taxpayers

Jack Gillum, Alex Horton, Drew Harwell, and Lisa Rein – The Washington Post:

Nearly three days into a trip to Europe this past July, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin had attended a Wimbledon championship tennis match, toured Westminster Abbey and taken a cruise on the Thames.

The 10-day trip was not entirely a vacation. Shulkin was in Europe for meetings with Danish and British officials about veterans’ health issues.

Yet he and his wife spent about half their time sightseeing, including shopping and touring historic sites, according to an itinerary obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed by a U.S. official familiar with their activities.

Y’all ok with this? I happen to know a veteran or two, and not the four-years and out variety. One thing that uniformly pisses them off is the Veterans Administration. This guy was Mr. Trump’s pick to clean up that ill-performing agency.

So again, veterans, are y’all ok with this?

#David #Shulkin #Trump #Veterans #Administration #VA #fraud #GOP

∴ US Health Secretary Tom Price Quits After Plane Scandal

BBC News:

US Health Secretary Tom Price has resigned over the use of expensive private planes for official business. He previously apologised after making 26 private flights since May at a cost of $400,000 (£300,000) to taxpayers.

He did offer to pay $51,887 for his seat on these aircraft, but I guess they wouldn’t have left the ground had he not chartered them in the first place. The blowback was predictable, and Mr. Trump, while demanding loyalty from all, is loyal to none.

Kinda dumb. Think of all the filthy lucre Tom Price loses out on in Mr. Trump’s circus kleptocracy.

Keep in mind, too, that trying to take away health care coverage from millions, including children, wasn’t a factor in this. Private jet travel (aka The Appearance Of Inappropriate Use Of Money) was.

For those keeping score at home, here’s a list of people exiting the Trump administration after, what, eight months (via @BuzzFeedNews):

  • Tom Price
  • Sebastian Gorka
  • Steve Bannon
  • Anthony Scaramucci
  • Reince Priebus
  • Sean Spicer
  • Derek Harvey
  • Mike Dubke
  • James Comey
  • K.T. McFarland
  • Katie Walsh 
  • Michael Flynn
  • Sally Yates

With the possible exception of James Comey, on whom the jury is still out, good riddance to all.

Remember, the fish rots from the head down.

#Tom #Price #Trump #fraud #GOP #private #aircraft

‘Get out!’: Lt General Rains Hell on Air Force Academy After Racist Messages Were Left on Black Cadets’ Rooms

Elizabeth Preza – RawStory:

“So just in case you’re unclear on where I stand on this topic, I’m going to leave you with my most important thought today,” he said. “If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race, or a different color of skin, with dignity and respect, than you need to get out.”

“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out,” Silveria repeated.

Some principles are non-negotiable. While much of American culture keeps its head firmly in the sand, unwilling to even see the problem, this general shows true leadership.

#race #America #culture #diversity #Air #Force

More People Were Arrested Last Year Over Pot Than for Murder, Rape, Aggravated Assault and Robbery — Combined

Christopher Ingraham – The Washington Post:

In 2016 more people were arrested for marijuana possession than for all crimes the FBI classifies as violent, according to 2016 crime data released by the agency on Monday.

Marijuana possession arrests edged up slightly in 2016, a year in which voters in four states approved recreational marijuana initiatives and voters in three others approved medical marijuana measures.

What an immense waste of time, energy, money, and policing. Clearly, from results in four states’ voter initiatives, people want legal marijuana. Arguments against legalization, from it being a “gateway drug” (when statistics are adjusted to exclude youths) to increased criminal activity surrounding marijuana retailers have proven wrong. Marijuana is no more a threat to society than is alcohol, and alcohol products have enjoyed a renaissance of craft expression in recent decades. Let’s get on with it and legalize at the national level, then let the states and counties come to their own conclusions based on the will of the electorate.

#law #marijuana #legalization #crime #statistics

September 28, 2017

∴ Are NFL Players Required to Stand on the Field During the National Anthem?

Snopes:

WHAT’S TRUE

The NFL’s rulebook says nothing about player conduct during the pre-game playing of the U.S. national anthem.

WHAT’S FALSE

The NFL’s game operations manual may contain a policy stating that players must be present on the sidelines during the national anthem, but not that they must stand.

Emphasis mine.

Risking popular backlash by flouting “policy” and cultural norms is an essential part of protest. Playing it safe by respecting cultural totems is not. People in a lather about NFL players sitting- or kneeling-out the anthem are missing the point of the effort.

The national anthem and the American flag are not about military service members, living or dead. They are not about first responders, or anyone’s idea of “heroes.” They are symbols of our country and its culture – about what it aspires to be as well as how far it falls short. What better target of protest against that shortfall could there be?

If people are offended by the players’ behavior, where is their outrage at the use of these patriotic symbols for selling cars, furniture, and other goods, or at the practice of wearing the flag’s likeness as clothing? Selective outrage tells us what’s really on the mind of the outraged. It’s not so much patriotism as it is what the protest is saying to them: you are part of the problem. Your acquiescence or ignorance compounds the issue of long-running ethnic bias and discrimination.

Don’t be angry at the protesters, be angry at what they’re protesting.

Declining to participate in the anthem is and will continue to be a protest against the rotten core of American culture. Once enshrined in our laws, but now simply encoded in the hateful behavior of a minority of the white majority, the treatment of non-white, and particularly brown and black Americans as well as native American Indians steamrolled into near-oblivion has been a four-hundred year disgrace yet to be forthrightly addressed.

That the protesting of this disgrace discomfits some is a bulls-eye.

Consider it a favor, then, that these players risk the ire of their fans and their employers. Take them at their word, which is what I’ve written above, and ask the next question. Why do we not address the core issue? Indeed, why do we cast about for any other reason to be offended?

I’ve read people claim that they’re all for peaceful protest, but not during playing of the national anthem. It’s that little word “but” that tells you all you need to know about the speaker. Injustice is unjust, all of the time, no room for “but”s. It must be addressed and stamped out, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us.

#American #culture #racism #national #anthem #NFL

September 27, 2017

Black Lives Matter ad on Facebook Targeted Baltimore and Ferguson

Dylan Byers – CNNMoney.com:

At least one of the Facebook ads bought by Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign referenced Black Lives Matter and was specifically targeted to reach audiences in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, sources with knowledge of the ads told CNN.

At least.

Well, there’s one difference between the BLM of reality and that of fantasy. The loonies latched onto a Russian disinformation effort on Facebook, believing what they wanted to be true.

Suckered. By Facebook ads. And made Trump president of the United States.

#Trump #fraud #GOP #Facebook #Russians #BLM #Black #Lives #Matter

Delta to Offer Free In-Flight Text Messaging

Tiffany Hsu – The New York Times:

Wi-Fi rarely comes cheap for airline passengers. But Delta Air Lines is about to offer one form of connection at no charge: text messages.

The airline said on Wednesday that it would offer free mobile messaging on flights beginning Sunday.

This is huge for people who, like me, having sampled in-flight WiFi only to realize that the last anonymous, too-loud-too-chat refuge had fallen to universal connectivity, opted out while still wishing we could dash off the odd text message. It’s the perfect compromise between being as far away from the rest of humanity (other than the people on your flight, whom you cannot hear) as commonly possible, and as connected to everyone as if you’d never left home.

Hey United Airlines, are you paying attention?

#Delta #United #messaging #inflight

September 25, 2017

At Least 6 White House Advisers Used Private Email Accounts

Matt Apuzzu and Maggie Haberman – The New York Times:

At least six of President Trump’s closest advisers occasionally used private email addresses to discuss White House matters, current and former officials said on Monday.

The disclosures came a day after news surfaced that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, used a private email account to send or receive about 100 work-related emails during the administration’s first seven months. But Mr. Kushner was not alone.

Private email servers. Wasn’t that Hillary’s last sin?

#GOP #fraud #hypocrisy

September 24, 2017

Will a New Way to Diagnose CTE Change Football?

Patrick Hruby – The Atlantic:

Better answers may come from a recently announced seven-year, $16 million study funded by the National Institutes of Health and NINDS that’s aimed at diagnosing CTE—a project the NFL was also slated to fund before backing out amid controversy. Headed by Stern, the project is the largest and most thorough study of the disease ever conducted, and will put former football players through a series of tests including an MRI; two PET scans; blood, saliva, and spinal-fluid collection; genetic evaluations; neuropsychological testing; and clinical examinations and histories.

The goal, Stern says, is to create a reliable clinical tool kit—that is, multiple methods of diagnosing CTE …

This is great news for diagnosing CTE in patients before their symptoms become pronounced.

PET scans, I believe, will become the standard for diagnosing other acute illnesses, too, as their associated costs come down and they become more common. One possibility is breast cancer. How many women skip screening for this common disease after feeling the very uncomfortable squish associated with mammography? What if they could simply lie on a table for a scan?

Consider magnetic resonance imaging. Once an expensive, selectively used diagnostic tool, MRI has become a go-to alongside computerized tomography, x-ray imaging and sonograms.

***

A thought about CTE and football, one that puzzles me: what kind of parent encourages or allows a child, or a high schooler, to begin playing football in the first place, knowing as we do that repeated head blows, a side effect of the game, may well lead to irreversible brain damage?

The NFL is one of the most profitable sports in the world and a kind of rich man’s club of ownership. It will not cease operation simple because its other leading product is traumatic brain injury. This is an example of how capitalism, left unchecked, will consume every resource in its path. But football can be choked off at its source.

The number of new players, from peewee leagues to high school and into college, can dry up. This very notion has been speculated on by George Mason University economist Tyler Cowan. As the flow slows to a trickle, college and pro leagues would become smaller, and eventually cease to be.

As this article indicates, the number of young people entering the sport is decreasing. It should be crashing toward zero.

#football #relic #of #the #past #traumatic #brain #injury #cte #high #school #college

September 23, 2017

The Best Smartphone You've Never Heard Of

John Gruber – Daring Fireball:

In the near-term, the challenge for Google isn’t making great phones. They proved they could do that with last year’s Pixel models. The challenge for them is bringing them to the masses. I don’t know anyone who owns a Google Pixel who isn’t involved in the tech industry in some way, either as a developer or in the media. No one. The Pixels are Android’s best answer to the iPhone, and no one knows about them.

From all I’ve read the Pixel is a very good smartphone. Its hardware is top-notch, and if Android is your OS of choice, it runs unencumbered by wireless provider crapware only on these phones. Combine good hardware, your choice of operating system, the Google Play store full of apps, and Google’s cloud services, and you have a terrific personal computing and phone platform. It’s a worthy competitor to Apple’s iPhones. So why don’t more people carry them?

Only Google sells them, and they don’t subsidize phone sales the way wireless carriers do. You’ll pay full price one way or another. Prices begin at $649 and, while that can be financed over 24 months, no discount or partial payoff leading to a trade-in is available. Android users are, as attested to by many app developers, cheap. As a group they’re unwilling to look beyond free and subsidized, so the Pixel has become the best smartphone you’ve never heard of.

#Google #Pixel #Android #Apple #iPhone #iOS #smartphone

Silence Is Consent

Apple’s Tim Cook:

I think silence is the ultimate consent. If you see something going on that’s not right, the most powerful form of consent is to say nothing.

If reading that tweaks your sensibilities, good. As is attributed to Edmund Burke,

The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.

Is everything hunky-dory in your world? You’re probably self-entitled or not paying attention. I aim to wake you from your slumber.

#wake #up #stay #woke

September 22, 2017

The Madness of Donald Trump

Matt Taibbi – Rolling Stone:

Karma really is a bitch.

America gets the leaders it deserves; thus endeth a masterful encapsulation of the Trump presidency, the complicity of Americans in this abomination, and the possibilities and hindrances to his removal from office. A great read.

#Trump #fraud #malignant #narcissist #GOP

∴ When Will Black Lives Matter in St. Louis?

Nicole D. Nelson – The New York Times:

Not only are the local court system and law enforcement community committed to reinforcing that black lives do not matter here, but the police also continue to escalate tensions and foment distrust between them and protesters.

All of this is exhausting. The insensitivity. The mockery of real struggle and pain. The disregard. The arrogance.

When will Black Lives Matter in St. Louis? Which local leaders will finally step up and stop the government from continuing its long, complicated and devastating history of racism? From our view, military tanks, tear gas, rubber bullets and dishonest narratives won’t be bridging this gap anytime soon.

The mockery is coming from a narrow spectrum of commenters. They’re people we’ve heard, read, and in a few cases, directly responded to for years, decades, even centuries. For example, “[the] point is there is no more slavery no one owes anyone anything,” “Only issue is people think they have the right to do whatever they want when they want like the law don’t apply to them,” and “What I do believe is that … success is due to hard work. Period. Not hard work and that you’re white.”

It’s as though slavery were the only issue, that it ended in America last week, and that we could all live happily ever after now that we’re all equal if it weren’t for those BLM types. This is sophistry. It ignores one hundred forty-years of history following the Republican party’s abandonment of Reconstruction. The Jim Crow era, redlining, disenfranchisement, segregation in housing, schooling, and employment, and the lingering scourge – over-policing and over-incarceration of black men – don’t rate consideration by these folks. Wear black skin while violating the law, or even while committing no crime, and you’re far more likely to end up dead at the hands of police than if your skin is on the lighter side of taupe.

If ethnicity weren’t relevant anymore, black Americans emigrating from the South during the last century, and then remaining in northern cities despite the rampant prejudice they found should have led to broad black middle and wealthy classes. After all, these are the people who persevered despite bigotry at every turn; nature selected for the emotionally and constitutionally strongest among them. We do not see a broad black middle or wealthy class.

This is not to say that all black folks are born behind the eight-ball, or that all blacks who fail to achieve success do so at the hands of the white majority, or that all white children are born eating a silver spoon. It is to say there remains systemic ethnic bias and bigotry in America.

There’s good reason why groups like Black Lives Matter, the Black Panthers, and the Nation of Islam exist. Nature abhors a vacuum, it’s said, and these groups fulfill the need to advocate for black Americans. Remove systemic racism and these groups evaporate.

Turning to the “hard work” argument, white-skinned folks living in the Dream of America, and believing it was nothing but their hard work that accounts for their success is nothing more than white privilege. Being pissed off when that Dream is shaken by dark-skinned people who decry generations come and gone, born with a one- or two-strike count against them is blind hypocrisy.

Strike one, being assigned the racial identity “black.” Strike two, having parents marginalized into dangerous neighborhoods with poor schools and a rampant drug trade. Try self-making yourself out of that.

As Coates wrote, extending Baldwin before him, race is an idea. It is not reality. This was the realization of Malcolm X, too. We assign race to children, and follow through by treating them as “white” or “black,” so they grow up internalizing and perpetuating whiteness and blackness. This adds to our cultural baggage of race as an actual thing, when it’s no more than a cultural construct that we could, if we chose to deal with it forthrightly, do away with. Coates:

there will surely always be people with straight hair and blue eyes, as there have been for all history. But some of these straight-haired people with blue eyes have been “black,” and this points to the great difference between their world and ours. We did not choose our fences. They were imposed on us by Virginia planters obsessed with enslaving as many Americans as possible. They are the ones that came up with a one-drop rule that separated the “white” from the “black,” even if it meant that their own blue-eyed sons would live under the lash. (Between the World and Me)

See black skin, assign “black” race, treat as “black” until he or she demonstrates “blackness,” which differs from “whiteness.” Marginalize. Repeat.

At this point the intellectually lazy chime in about identity politics. That’s shorthand for you wrote “black/gay/trans/hispanic/<insert your group here>,” you’re playing race/gender/whatever political games.

But politics, the art of persuading the masses without resorting to violence, descends from culture, not the other way around. Railing against identity politics is nothing more than arguing against identity in culture, identity which is often assigned by culture. Who determines what identities lead to which outcomes? The cultural majority, which assigns value to people as well as contribution. That’s where the blame lies for racial tension.

America, as a majority-white culture, and by this I mean people who play the role of whiteness, has done this to itself, and is still doing it. If we want to change the politics of ethnicity, we must change the culture of racism, of assigning roles and expectations to ethnicity. Don’t be a blind, smug bigot. Don’t elect blind, smug bigots. Don’t keep your mouth shut and let it happen, either. And don’t fall into the cultural trap of seeing the color of someone’s skin as a measure of their character.

That’s when black lives will matter in America.

Have you ever wondered why we do this? Why brown- and black-skinned Americans have yet to enjoy assimilation with the rest of America, as have minorities from Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and South America? Is it the collective shame of the majority that carries the baggage of race? Or repeated retrenchment of the cultural majority’s ownership of America? That ownership is slipping. By 2020 the under-18 cohort will be minority white, and by 2040 the entire population will be so. Interesting times ahead.

#race #America #politics #racism #Coates #Baldwin #white #black #policing #BLM #ignorance

September 17, 2017

∴ Mr. Bodhi is Sprung

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever walking on a lead

Bodhi enjoyed his first days of relative freedom from our home this past week, traveling to work with Kelly for the day Friday and again with both of us for a Saturday adventure. Our veterinarian, Dr. Betty Myers, told us we’d be surprised by how quickly this Labrador Retriever learns. She was right.

I took Bodhi for his first walk on the Warrenton Branch Greenway in the morning. Not wanting to excessively tire him on his first outing, we walked only as far from our shop as the defunct locomotive turntable. Right off the bat he took to the grass shoulders, rather than walk the pavement warming in the morning sun.

Particularly interesting for him were the heavy equipment filling and grading the forthcoming Warrenton dog park next to the turntable. No doubt he was feeling the rumble of earth as the fence line was completed.

He’s going to have so much fun off the lead once that park is completed. A good run around the grass will complete his constitutional.

We had some water and took a little rest before heading back to Kelly Ann’s Quilting.

Wort Hog Brewing, just up the street, tapped their Hogtoberfest (Oktoberfest) Lager Saturday. After a long, quiet walk alone on the Greenway I spent an hour or so sampling it and a couple other of their beers. What so many American brewers get wrong about Märzenbier, brewmaster Jeremy Hunt got right. It was full of malty goodness, with a mild buzz of hops. There’s even a second wave of malt that hits the palate several seconds after a mouthful. Quite nice.

I returned to KAQ with a growler filled with Hogtoberfest for the coming week, and turned right around for another walk with Bodhi. We repeated the morning stroll down Fifth Street to the Greenway and out to the turntable. He knew the way, finding every spot that needed sniffing and settling in for a rest on the grass once we reached our turn-around point.

He was a happy little guy out for a walk. Gone were his earlier grabs at the lead. He led the way this time, which is something we’ll begin working on in a few months. Puppy dogs get to wander and explore, bigger dogs learn to heel. For now he’s a joy just to walk with.

As Dr. Betty said, I’m surprised at how quickly Bodhi learned. He’s a smart little guy.

Cream yellow Labrador Retriever sitting in the grass, resting

#Bodhi #pup #Warrenton #Greenway #walking #Wort #Hog #Brewing #Hogtoberfest #Oktoberfest #Märzenbier

September 15, 2017

Trump Resurrects His Claim That Both Sides Share Blame in Charlottesville Violence

Mark Sandler – The New York Times:

President Trump thrust himself back into the racial storms of Charlottesville on Thursday, repeating his charge that those who resisted the neo-Nazis and white supremacists were as much to blame as the alt-right crowds who marched on the Virginia college town.

Mr. Trump helpfully reminds us that he equates white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other ignorant, marginalized haters with not only the so-called “antifa” groups, but with Charlottesville locals who turned out to denounce hate groups demonstrating in their town. He doesn’t so much denigrate the Lefties as elevate the haters, whose agenda includes maintaining the ethnic status quo placing white-skinned people above those with skin in various shades of brown.

Trump is a fraud not only to his political party and the voters who foolishly elected him, but also to the many business partners and contractors he has a long record of shafting. He is also a despicable human being.

One silver lining to all of this is that his presidency may, eventually, lead to the demise of the political party that gave up on Reconstruction, but which still claims to be the party of Lincoln. That right there is a hundred fourty-years of hypocrisy.

#Trump #fraud #GOP

Conservatives Recoil at Trump’s Accommodation With Democrats Over DACA

Jeremy W. Peters – The New York Times:

President Trump came under withering attack on Thursday from some of his strongest supporters, who were outraged and unforgiving about his decision to set aside, for now, a fight over building the border wall he has long promised as part of a deal with Democrats on legislation to protect young, undocumented immigrants.

The tentative arrangement, which the president hashed out over dinner on Wednesday night at the White House with the top-ranking congressional Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, set off accusations of betrayal and renewed nagging doubts about whether Mr. Trump was in jeopardy of alienating some of his most ardent backers on the right.

There is no-one and nothing Donald J. Trump will not betray. In this case I’m gladdened by his betrayal of conservative cheerleading for a budget busting border wall with Mexico. I do wonder, though, if he’ll betray the Democratic leaders with whom he hashed out this deal.

Trump blows with the wind. Retaliation by conservatives over setting aside border wall construction and renewing DACA is blowing like a hurricane. Look for a reversal at Trump’s earliest convenience.

#Trump #fraud #GOP #betrayal #border #wall #Democrats #DACA

‘It’s Impossible to Imagine Trump Without the Force of Whiteness'

Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic:

“The foundation of Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy,” writes Ta-Nehisi Coates in his feature for The Atlantic’s October 2017 issue.

I’ve posted commentary on excerpts from Coates’ forthcoming book, We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy, as published in The Atlantic. Here he is discussing the critical point of the work in audio/video format.

Coates destroys the notion that Mr. Trump was elected solely, or even mainly as a cry of desperation by citizens economically “left behind.” And while he doesn’t rule it out altogether, Coates does wonder at why the “left behind” meme almost always comes packaged as working class whites, as if working class everyone else are still enjoying the fruits of their labor undiminished by automation, offshoring, and corporate downsizing.

Two minutes, 8 seconds. Short enough to listen and go, long enough for Coates to get his idea across. The one thing I like most about his writing is that the ideas are simple, yet folded together into compact, impactful prose. You’ll need to listen closely to this, despite its brevity.

#Ta-Nehisi #Coates #white #president #Trump #Eight #Years #In #Power #An #American #Tragedy

September 14, 2017

Solar Now Costs 6¢ Per Kilowatt-hour, Beating Government Goal by 3 Years

Megan Geuss – Ars Technica:

On Tuesday, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced that utility-grade solar panels have hit cost targets set for 2020, three years ahead of schedule. Those targets reflect around $1 per watt and 6¢ per kilowatt-hour in Kansas City, the department’s mid-range yardstick for solar panel cost per unit of energy produced (New York is considered the high-cost end, and Phoenix, Arizona, which has much more sunlight than most other major cities in the country, reflects the low-cost end).

Those prices don’t include an Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which makes solar panels even cheaper. The Energy Department said that the cost per watt was assessed in terms of total installed system costs for developers. That means the number is based on “the sales price paid to the installer; therefore, it includes profit in the cost of the hardware,” according to a department presentation (PDF).

This is great news. Solar has come a long way in the last decade, and there’s so much more efficiency to be wrung out of panels, transmission networks, and properties ripe for re-use.

#alternative #solar #energy #efficiency

September 11, 2017

Faviconographer: Tab Favicons in Safari for Mac

John Gruber – Daring Fireball:

It’s not as good as true per-tab favicon support in Safari would be, but it’s closer than you think. And, importantly, it really is a clean hack, insofar as it doesn’t inject code or anything like that. And it’s free. If you use Safari you should try it.

I’ll echo Gruber’s comments as far as they go, but add that Daniel Alm’s neat hack Faviconographer comes up short in one critical way, one it cannot remedy. Safari is coded to stack all open tabs nearly one atop another beyond the first ten. The only way to see each tab’s page name beyond the tenth, or indeed the favicon exposed by Faviconographer is to click or control-tab through the tabs one by one.

This UI choice makes Safari’s, well, chrome mildly annoying for those who keep a dozen or two tabs open all the time. It’s the reason I reluctantly moved from it last year.

Chrome, in contrast, exposes all open tabs uniformly wide enough to at least fit a favicon. It’s a small thing, but makes the UI simpler. I have a visible click target for each of my open tabs all the time.

Faviconographer cannot undo what Apple has hard-coded in. It does, however, get you halfway there.

#Chrome #Safari #Faviconographer #Daniel #Alm #John #Gruber #Daring #Fireball

The Resegregation of Jefferson County

Nikole Hannah-Jones – The New York Times:

By 2005, Jefferson County was divided into 12 distinct and vastly disparate school systems, many of them either heavily black or heavily white, making the school-district boundaries there among the most segregated in the nation. “State law required separate schools before Brown,” says Erica Frankenberg, an Alabama native and education policy professor at Penn State University who has studied Jefferson County secessions extensively. “Now it is district lines that maintain segregation.”

Modern-day segregation by a loophole in state law has set Alabama back to pre-1954 Jim Crow days, all under the watchful eye of the courts. Read how this happened.

#Jim #Crow #legislated #inequality #segregation

September 10, 2017

India’s Biometric Database is a Massive Achievement and a Dystopian Nightmare

David Gilbert reports for VICE News how invasive a government-crated central identity database can become:

Launched in 2009, Aadhaar is a unique 12-digit number issued to each Indian citizen. Its creator, Nandan Nilekani, an Indian billionaire and former CEO of IT services giant Infosys, describes it as a “turbocharged version of the Social Security number.” The number is linked to a citizen’s most personal information: name, address, date of birth, gender, as well as biometric information like fingerprints and iris scans. When signing up for a new bank account, for example, citizens typically now scan their fingerprint in order to verify their identity rather than showing an ID card or passport. The government continues to claim that enrolling in the system is not mandatory, but increasingly, if you want do anything in India, you need to be registered with Aadhaar.

The latest new development has been the government’s willingness to grant private companies greater access to the system. Microsoft, for example, already taps into the database to confirm the identity of people using a version of Skype designed specifically for the Indian market. And Airbnb confirmed to VICE News that it is looking into Aadhaar as a potential option for verifying hosts. For now the company said it is testing the system with “a limited universe of hosts.” Uber also has been linked to the system, though when reached for comment, the company declined to provide any insights one way or the other.

Imagine this central identity database connected to countless “security” cameras, and enabled with predictive facial recognition software. It could document every aspect of your life. Verified by your identity, it could possess a high probability of successfully predicting your mood, intentions, and capabilities.

#AI #privacy #technology

Nowhere to Hide: What Machines Can Tell From Your Face

The Economist:

Eventually, continuous facial recording and gadgets that paint computerised data onto the real world might change the texture of social interactions. Dissembling helps grease the wheels of daily life. If your partner can spot every suppressed yawn, and your boss every grimace of irritation, marriages and working relationships will be more truthful, but less harmonious. The basis of social interactions might change, too, from a set of commitments founded on trust to calculations of risk and reward derived from the information a computer attaches to someone’s face. Relationships might become more rational, but also more transactional.

Facial recognition has already gone far beyond recognizing identity. It’s a fascinating technology, but I’m not sure a future replete with technology-provided cues as to what those around us are truly thinking or feeling in the moment will be a comfortable one. Do you really want to know what emotions others are experiencing when they look at you?

#technology #privacy #facial #recognition #culture

How Science Found a Way to Help Coma Patients Communicate

British neuroscientist Adrian Owen – The Guardian:

“Scott, please imagine playing tennis when you hear the instruction,” I said.

I still get goose bumps when I remember what happened next. Scott’s brain exploded in an array of colour-activation, indicating that he was indeed responding to our request and imagining he was playing tennis.

“Now imagine walking around your house, please, Scott.”

Again Scott’s brain responded, demonstrating that he was there, inside, doing exactly what he was asked. Scott’s family was right. He was aware of what was going on around him. He could respond – perhaps not with his body, in quite the way they had insisted he could, but certainly with his brain.

This story is a fascinating account of medical researchers directly communicating with a coma patient using a functional MRI, even as he lay motionless after twelve years of incapacity.

#neuro #science #coma #communicate #Adrian #Owen