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

November 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#GOP #digrace #USPolitics #politics

November 12, 2017

Cory Booker Loves Donald Trump

Michael Kruse – POLITICO Magazine:

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

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

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

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

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

#USpolitics #CoryBooker #politics

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

Michael Kruse – POLITICO Magazine:

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

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

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

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

∴ Virginia Voting Trends

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

Virginia gubernatorial results from 1961 to 2017

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

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

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

November 11, 2017

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

Randall Colburn – AVClub:

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

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

#StrangerThings #STrangerThings2 #scifi

Roy Moore Response Shows Republican Party Deserves to Die

Max Boot – USA Today:

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

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

Emphasis mine.

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

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

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

November 9, 2017

One Image is Worth ...

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

Virginia voting shift since 2016

#VirginiaElection #2017

∴ This is the Guy

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BladeRunner2049 #cinematography #productiondesign

November 8, 2017

Democrats Poised to Make Significant Gains in Virginia Legislature

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

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

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

Important detail:

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

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

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

Emphasis mine.

Women carried the vote beyond my expectations.

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

#Virginia #politics #US #GOP #populism

November 1, 2017

Five Books to Make You Less Stupid About the Civil War

Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic:

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

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

My reading list is so damned long.

#Ta-NehisiCoates #CivilWar #USHistory

∴ When Politics Becomes Your Idol

David Brooks – The New York Times:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 31, 2017

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

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

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

#TaNehisiCoates #JohnKelly #CivilWar

Production on House Of Cards Has Been Suspended Indefinitely

Katie Rife – AVClub:

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

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

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

#HouseOfCards #TV #AVClub

October 27, 2017

Orrin Hatch Tells Friends He Plans to Retire

McKay Coppins – The Atlantic:

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

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

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

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

∴ Busy Day

… making something new …

#new

October 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Kamp – Vanity Fair:

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

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

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

October 25, 2017

∴ How to Engage a Fanatic

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

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

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

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

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

Above all, the fanatic does not tolerate change.

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

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

#fanatics #David #Brooks

US to Release JFK Assassination Documents

Ian Shapira – The Washington Post:

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

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

Imagine what this news dump will distract Americans from considering.

#Trump #deceit #disgrace