April 24, 2018

How much alcohol is too much? The science is shifting.

Julia Belluz—Vox:

“We wanted to find how much alcohol people can drink before they started being at a higher risk of dying,” said the lead author on the study, Cambridge University biostatistics professor Angela Wood. “Our results suggest an upper safe limit of drinking of around 100 grams of alcohol per week [about seven 12-ounce beers or 5-ounce wine pours or 1.5-ounce liquor servings] for men and for women. Drinking above this limit was related to lower life expectancy.”

The article is worth a read for its more detailed comparison of what we thought we knew about alcohol intake and what the subject meta-study suggests. I’m mildly surprised, but not shocked at the results. I’m still below the exponential departure from “safe,” but I’ll bet a quid this opens a few eyes.

Amusing that some craft beers (imperials, doubles) rate as malt liquor in this article, and that a standard pour of wine amounts to about one-fifth of a bottle. 750 ml is roughly 25 ounces. Five, not four, and not a half-bottle.

This piece reminded me of an article from the New York Times Magazine—Is Sugar Toxic? Turns out it is. And the American diet is full of it.

Keep thinking.

(Hat tip to Dr. Kenning for this article.)

#drinking #alcohol #health

April 21, 2018

∴ Utter crap on Medium

Do you have a Medium account? Do you read the weekly digest of recommended articles? Have you noticed that much of the content is navel-gazing crap?

I’ve taken the weekly digest of Medium articles for a few years. There were some interesting articles there when I began reading, but more recently I’ve found a cacophony of introspective nonsense masquerading as intellect. I’d sum it as a waste of time if it weren’t revealing of the contemporary state of writing.

I shit-canned the Medium digest. Maybe you publish there. Maybe you take the content. I’d urge you to give it all a harder look, a more thorough read. There’s a lot of junk, applause for junk, and dumb ideas sprouted by people who have so little experience of life it’d take a day to explain what they don’t understand about the words they wrote.

***

Today feels an appropriate moment to let on that I’ve withdrawn from much of social media. Maybe I’ll return to some of it. Now seems a better time to look inward and consider the takeaways from what I’ve read. At the same time, I plan more writing on my blogs and less scanning the wasteland of where content winds up.

Sometimes the right move is to fold and move on with your agenda and let the world burn.

#Medium #writing #thoughts

April 11, 2018

News Release: Board of Advisors Appointment — Acreage Holdings

Acreage Holdings:

Acreage Holdings (“Acreage”) (www.acreageholdings.com), one of the nation’s largest, multi-state actively-managed cannabis corporations, announced the appointments of former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives John Boehner and former Governor of the State of Massachusetts Bill Weld to its Board of Advisors.

Nothing like money on the table to bring Republicans running.

Where were these guys on the issue a few years ago? Oh. But it’s all about research now, and veterans, of course.

And no more voters to be faced.

#hypocrisy

Paul Ryan won't run for re-election

Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen—Axios:

Speaker Paul Ryan told House Republicans this morning that he will not run for re-election in November.

Why it matters: House Republicans were already in a very tough spot for the midterms, with many endangered members and the good chance that Democrats could win the majority.

Paul Ryan, taking his tax cut and going home. I’ve heard no greater indication that the GOP House majority is likely coming to an end than this. Nobody willingly steps down from so lofty a post unless they hear footsteps a’comin’.

#GOP #PaulRyan #retiring

April 9, 2018

VSB: Dear White People, If a Memorial Dedicated to Lynchings of Black People Makes You Uncomfortable, Good

Panama Jackson—Very Smart Brothas:

On April 26 of this year, the Equal Justice Initiative will open both a memorial and museum in Montgomery, Ala., dedicated to the victims of lynching in America post-Civil War. The memorial is called the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the museum is called the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration. Both were featured with a first-look on Sunday evening’s episode of 60 Minutes.

With reporting done by Auntie O (Oprah Winfrey), the story included a trip to the memorial and museum with the Equal Justice Initiative’s director, Bryan Stevenson.

The soon-to-be-opened monument is riveting in its execution. It features more than 800 pillars hanging from the ceiling, representing the more than 800 counties in America where lynchings have been recorded, and each pillar includes the names and dates (if known) of the victims.

(Emphasis mine.)

I saw a piece about the new memorial and museum on the CBS Sunday Morning show, I think, months ago. The part where the camera came up under the hanging columns as the journalist described their meaning flat-out chilled me. My mind stumbled over their import a second or two before the words were spoken—it’s difficult not to understand what those many brown, hanging columns represent—and it felt like a wave of sadness and not a little shame washed over me.

Keep in mind this is a memorial and museum to an American tradition of oppression now almost three hundred, ninety-nine years long. It has come in varying practices and legalities and manifests no more visibly today than the over-policing of black communities nationwide. “Unarmed black man shot by police” has become commonplace.

Later in his article, Jackson writes

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. Martin Luther King Jr. said that, and the people who whitewash his mentality and messaging will one day learn what that means.

While I imagine that black people and white people who feel guilt will be the visitors of the museum—and let’s be real, it will be ripe for racist vandalism—I’m glad museums and memorials like this exist to shed more light on this country’s past.

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Dr. King was a radical in his time and reviled among the majority of the majority-white population. His story has been whitewashed, his person turned into a kindly, benevolent elder, but all you need do is actually read his words to understand the change he was seeking and why folks with nothing more than their whiteness going for them hated what he was doing.

I think we’re in the early stages of repeating something extremely bloody and devastatingly consequential in American history. Its echo needn’t be violent, but every day the reality of Living While Black continues makes it more likely it’ll be a harsh awakening.

The South African policy of apartheid lasted less than American ethnic inequality. They ended their sins with a truth and reconciliation commission. It didn’t mend that country’s ethnic and economic divisions, but it did lay bare their sources and allow into political power the long-oppressed. Simple demographics may do much the same for us.

#racism #lynchings

Lindsey Buckingham has been fired from Fleetwood Mac

(pause) … again.

Katie Rife—AVNews:

Lindsey Buckingham, guitarist, singer, and one of the principal creative forces behind ‘70s supergroup-turned-21st century hipster favorite Fleetwood Mac, has been fired from the band, according to Rolling Stone.

I hope we get a decent album out of it this time.

#FleetwoodMac #LindseyBuckingham

F.B.I. raids office of Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen

Matt Apuzzo—The New York Times:

The F.B.I. on Monday raided the office of President Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, seizing records related to several topics including payments to a pornographic-film actress.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan obtained the search warrant after receiving a referral from the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, according to Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, who called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary.” The search does not appear to be directly related to Mr. Mueller’s investigation, but likely resulted from information he had uncovered and gave to prosecutors in New York.

Oh. The lawyer has a lawyer. Hmm.

#Trump #corruption #Mueller #FBI

∴ Baseball begins

A chilly evening at the ballparkWe took a ride into DC for our first Nats game of the season yesterday. After a thoroughly enjoyable dinner at Gordon Biersch with friends—including a six-beer sampler for yours truly—we walked over to the park and were seated just prior to the first pitch.

The temperature began at a warmish 54 when the sun was up, but clouds and nightfall brought it into the lower forties where it remained the rest of the night. It wasn’t too chilly until around the sixth inning. The game ran to twelve innings.

Our car’s heater never felt so good.

The Nats are off to a slow start this year. Last night made five straight losses.

IMG 5483Particularly galling were the number of Mets fans in attendance. “Let’s go Mets” was routinely drowned out by boos. It was a friendly rivalry in the stands.

We’re looking forward to more games—and warmer weather—this season. Nats Park is a great place to watch a game and last evening’s seats were terrific, positioned in the arc behind home plate and just above field level. There’s really not a bad seat in the house, but these were the lowest-level seats we’ve sat in since the stadium was built.

Bonus: it was pups in the park night, so we say plenty of four-legged friends including a beautiful two-year old Lab.

#WashingtonNationals #baseball #NatsPark #dinnerAndAGame

April 4, 2018

April 2, 2018

∴ 'Isle of Dogs' and Japan as a Plot Device

Nina Li Coomes—The Atlantic:

Critics and viewers might argue that this invented city, which exists in a parallel universe 20 years in the future, eases the story’s burden of faithfully representing Japan. But even given this leeway, Anderson’s Megasaki at times slides dangerously close to tokenism, and often fails to truly bring to mind the country the director claims to invoke

My first awareness of a filmmaker’s flawed use of Japanese culture as a plot device came in a Medium article about Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation a couple of years ago. It was an awakening for me because that film revolves around the alienation of its two main characters from their families and their chosen lives while immersed in a confusingly alien culture, but I’d completely missed its slights to the Japanese people. The Tokyo of Lost In Translation is mentioned in this article as another example of Japanese culture and settings appropriated as a sort of Stranger In a Strange Land backdrop. It is also, as is pointed out, a caricature of a real-world culture and people.

I’m of two minds about this. While not having seen Isle of Dogs yet, I’ve watched and re-rewatched Lost In Translation. Its theme of alienation as a backdrop to Johansson’s and Murray’s Charlotte and Bob finding one another resonates powerfully with me; it is one of my most beloved stories rendered on film. At the same time, I’m somewhat taken aback and disappointed that I didn’t recognize the negative appropriation of Japanese cultural elements to tell the story. Once you see them, though, they’re impossible to miss. And yet they successfully convey a sense of disorientation through the eyes of the characters.

A better criticism asks why that is so. Is Japanese culture so different to Western eyes as to be incomprehensible, and if so does that make it an appropriate plot device?

I’d answer the former question, yes. Clearly, significant cultural differences exist and dropping a character from one into the other for his or her first time can render a comedic or even frightening, disorienting effect. Amplifying the differences for effect, though … there’s a fine line between whimsical caricature and insult.

I’m reminded of the old TV series Amos and Andy, in which caricatures of two black Americans and their interaction with one another are used to the same comedic effect. Rather than rendering their unique behavior and black American culture as a way of understanding them, they’re amplified to clown-like effect. That’s what takes place in short bursts during Lost In Translation and, I take it, in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs.

I like to think I’ve become more sensitive to the differences between us in positive ways, but I’m still on the fence about this storytelling trope. Humor directed at ourselves is fair. The same directed at others says something about the “us” characters, the filmmaker, and ultimately about ourselves. And who is truly an “other?”

The degree of comedic amplification is at the heart of the question. How much is too much? How much otherness is each of us willing to tolerate in the service of humor? My answer to the latter question a few paragraphs back is I don’t know what makes for an appropriate plot device, but I can take a stab at it.

Does it insult without any sense of familiarity or affection? Does the caricaturing work to move the story along? Answering yes to the first question makes the device inappropriate. Answering no to the second makes it bad storytelling.

I do know that I simply like Lost In Translation’s story, Wes Anderson’s films in general, and expect that I’ll enjoy his Isle of Dogs. I don’t know what that says about me.

Comments are welcome.

#IsleOfDogs #LostInTranslation #culturalAppropriation

March 30, 2018

∴ My boss retired today

Cleaned-out, empty office where my boss used to workHe’d announced his intention a few months ago and followed through shortly after with the paperwork. His words at the time left me remotely unsettled, but I wasn’t expecting his departure to affect me so personally.

Joseph came to work with us about three-and-a-half years ago during a particularly turbulent time in our facility. We were implementing a replacement of our automation system fully five years behind schedule and buggy as hell. If that weren’t enough, he had the misfortune of inheriting management of a difficult employee. No, it wasn’t me.

The first year and a half were rocky for him, and for us. We got through operational readiness of our new system, and the morning our problem child departed for good there was an air of unspoken celebration in our office. The rest of his time managing our group and our work turned out enjoyable for everyone.

An old adage holds that some manage people well, some manage projects well, but few do both. Joseph was an exception. He not only competently managed both completion of our new system as well as the ensuing year of reorganizing our region’s arrival and departure routes, but did so without my ever feeling the weight of our large organization bearing down on me.

Early in his tenure, I was moved to remark to Kelly that although I didn’t know where he’d gotten his managerial experience, he’d sure figured me out. Part of managing our problem child was managing how the child affected the rest of us. My first closed-door meeting with him occurred in week two. It was a fruitful and enjoyable working relationship from that day forward.

Management is a skill. I don’t know where one gets it; it isn’t taught, at least not in my world, and I doubt anyone is a born leader. I don’t think I have this skill, but the guy who just walked out our door does. I was pleased to tell him all of this in the days before he left. I’ve not ever directly complimented a superior in this way in a nearly thirty-one-year career.

Joseph and I are very similar people. Our worlds revolve around our wives, who are our rocks and our confidants. Professionally we both bear the same marks of having successfully trained and worked as air traffic controllers; the general attitudes of do your job and do not waste my time permeates how we do what we do. Fit within those lines and we can enjoy each others’ company. And I suppose we did, which is why today bears more than a little sting.

I shook his hand, wished him well, and told him to take care of himself. He’s the first departure from my career I genuinely mourn. Our two other long-time specialists feel the same. He was a good boss, a willing ear, and a pleasure to work with. I’ll miss him.

#retirement #management #employment

FCC approves SpaceX plan to launch 4,425 broadband satellites

Jon Brodkin—Ars Technica:

The Federal Communications Commission issued an order approving SpaceX’s application with some conditions. SpaceX intends to start launching operational satellites as early as 2019, with the goal of reaching the full capacity of 4,425 satellites in 2024. The FCC approval just requires SpaceX to launch 50 percent of the satellites by March 2024, and all of them by March 2027.

SpaceX has said it will offer speeds of up to a gigabit per second, with latencies between 25ms and 35ms. Those latencies would make SpaceX’s service comparable to cable and fiber, while existing satellite broadband services have latencies of 600ms or more, according to FCC measurements.

This should prove interesting. I’m getting 225 Mbps down, 12 up with 14 ms latency from our Comcast cable broadband setup, as measured by Speedtest using a Comcast server for download/upload. My throughout and latency are slower measured against other servers, but still very fast. We could see lower pricing and an opportunity to switch providers if SpaceX can provide a stabile, faster, and comparably priced alternative.

#SpaceX #Starlink #satelliteInternet

How to use Battery Health in iOS 11.3 to monitor and control power throttling

Serenity Caldwell—iMore:

In the wake of negative reaction to iPhone advanced power management — the system that slowed down older iPhones with degraded batteries to prevent shutdowns — Apple is including a new Battery Health feature in iOS 11.3. Currently in beta, the feature is built into Settings > Battery, and provides information on current maximum capacity and peak performance capability.

It will also inform you if your iPhone is being slowed down, whether it needs service, and even allows you to turn off advanced power management — now called performance management — if you so choose.

This one’s for the conspiracy theorists who’ve long held that new iOS versions purposely slowed their one-year old phone to push them into an upgrade. There’s more than one reason older phones slowed after an OS update, but now these folks have insight into the only one that Apple purposely caused: throttling the CPU when the battery was unable to handle full-clock operation due to wear:

If your iPhone SE, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, or iPhone 7 had previously been slowed down to prevent power surges and unexpected shutdowns, iOS 11.3 will restore it to its previous, unmanaged performance levels. The system’s performance management will only restart if you experience an unexpected shutdown; until then, it’s a clean slate.

The feature, added last year in iOS version 10.3.1, can also be disabled altogether.

The other, more consequential cause of phone slow-down, and the only one applicable to pre iPhone 6 models, is the additional API and core OS code delivered in each new version. Same CPU, more software running, OS runs slower. Most of the time it’s a small slowdown but if your phone is in year two or three of its life and significant additions have been made to the OS (in the Fall of most years, but sometimes also in late winter), you’ll notice.

Normal battery wear and different usage patterns are at work here, plus software engineering. No conspiracy.

#iPhone #iOS #slowdown #batteryPerformance #BatteryHealth

March 28, 2018

Krugman: Putting the Ex-Con in Conservatism

Paul Krugman—The New York Times:

To be sure, there have been plenty of crooked Democrats. But usually the revelation of their crookedness ended their political careers. What’s striking about today’s Republican landscape is that people who are obvious crooks, con men or worse continue to attract strong support from the party’s base. Moore narrowly lost in Alabama’s special election, but he received 91 percent of the votes of self-identified Republicans.

Claiming that I won’t vote for another Republican until the party is restored to something resembling its pre-Reagan intellectual and moral self is not a partisan statement.

I couldn’t fathom how anyone, let alone any self-respecting woman, could vote for a man like Mr. Trump in 2016. It turns out that the answer was self-identifying Republicans will often vote for anyone with an “R” after their name for that reason alone. That includes a man credibly accused of child molestation and another man who was convicted of conspiring to endanger the lives of coal miners, the latter in West Virginia where coal is king.

How could such obvious disqualification for voter trust succeed?

this sustained reliance on the big con has, over time, exerted a strong selection effect both on the party’s leadership and on its base. G.O.P. politicians tend disproportionately to be con men (and in some cases, con women), because playing the party’s political game requires both a willingness to and a talent for saying one thing while doing another. And the party’s base consists disproportionately of the easily conned — those who are easily fooled by claims that Those People are the problem and don’t notice how much the true Republican agenda hurts them.

Why do poor Americans so often vote Republican, when the GOP has enacted policies of upward re-direction of wealth and curtailment of social programs benefiting them? Believing others are easily fooled is the same as believing yourself of superior judgement for seeing through the con, and I’m loathe to believe myself superior to anyone. In this case, though, and as Krugman points out, the fact of GOP voter ignorance is plain. Donald Trump speaks like nothing more than a carnival barker, particularly when he’s off the teleprompter. And his base loves him for it.

The GOP hasn’t only lost its way. It’s led and populated by the morally corrupt and the willingly fooled who steadfastly march the wrong way.

#GOP #Republican #morallyCorrupt

March 25, 2018

Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones

Sean Gallagher—Ars Technica:

This past week, a New Zealand man was looking through the data Facebook had collected from him in an archive he had pulled down from the social networking site. While scanning the information Facebook had stored about his contacts, Dylan McKay discovered something distressing: Facebook also had about two years’ worth of phone call metadata from his Android phone, including names, phone numbers, and the length of each call made or received.

This experience has been shared by a number of other Facebook users who spoke with Ars, as well as independently by us—my own Facebook data archive, I found, contained call-log data for a certain Android device I used in 2015 and 2016, along with SMS and MMS message metadata.

This is … distressing. If you’re an Android phone owner you might want to click the link near the top of the quoted story, download your Facebook data, and have a look. Hell, I have an iPhone and I’m going to have a look just to see what’s there.

FYI: this data “sharing” scenario cannot happen on an iPhone because each app runs in its own “sandbox,” restricted to its own data. Sandboxing is the polar opposite of the “open” philosophy behind the Android operating system. Many Android advocates have criticized Apple’s App Store and sandboxing security approach as a “walled garden.” Choose your poison.

#Facebook #dataPrivacy #Android

March 23, 2018

Instagram is changing its algorithm. Here’s how.

Javey Fortin—The New York Times:

Instagram is one of several social media companies that are striving to find the right balance between arranging content chronologically and ranking it according to machine-learned impressions of relevance.

Twitter’s feed is largely chronological — though it is has been known to experiment with ranking, sometimes irritating users — while Facebook, which owns Instagram, relies more heavily on algorithms, meaning well-liked content and posts from good friends tend to show up front and center.

Machine-learned ranking is the worst. I’ve heard and read many complaints about it, but few if any who actually like it. And what it says about the service is, perhaps, worse: they know what’s best for how you should view your friends’ activities.

Thanks, no.

I’m a fan of Twitter’s lists—assign the feeds you follow to one or more self-created lists and see those tweets as a group—because they gives me full control over how I see what I want to see. Worth checking out if you’re a Twitter user and haven’t tried them yet.

#Instagram #Facebook #Twitter #socialMedia #machineLearning

March 22, 2018

∴ Facebook gave data about 57 billion friendships to academic

Julia Carrie Wong and Paul LewisThe Guardian:

Facebook suspended Kogan from the platform, issued a statement saying that he “lied” to the company, and characterised his activities as “a scam – and a fraud”.

On Tuesday, Facebook went further, saying in a statement: “The entire company is outraged we were deceived.” And on Wednesday, in his first public statement on the scandal, its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, called Kogan’s actions a “breach of trust”.

But Facebook has not explained how it came to have such a close relationship with Kogan that it was co-authoring research papers with him, nor why it took until this week – more than two years after the Guardian initially reported on Kogan’s data harvesting activities – for it to inform the users whose personal information was improperly shared.

If you’re reading this article in a Facebook cross-post from my blog, or if you’ve read this Guardian article elsewhere, are you beginning to feel uncomfortable?

The bad news is, all the data given Facebook over the years—movie, music, book, friend, and social trend affinities, as well as personal data such as employment, college attendance, marriage status, etc.—is long gone wild, with age and email addresses attached. The good news is that its use hasn’t been for identity theft (that anyone knows of), but rather for marketing.

Products, politicians, “memes,” whatever Facebook advertisers are looking to hawk at you, that’s where your personal data comes in handy. So help yourself: first, dig into your Facebook profile and delete every last bit you’ve tagged as “liked.” Then delete access to your Facebook profile for every phone or tablet app as well as every service you don’t readily recognize from daily use.

Second, stop using your Facebook id to log into other services. If you’re given the option to sign up for a service or a website with Facebook credentials or some other id, use another id. Make up a userid or use your email address. Better yet give an email address you don’t use for personal communication, one that can generally be ignored.

Third, stop playing Facebook online games and taking Facebook quizzes. Every time you do, you’re giving whoever runs it—that’s not Facebook, it’s a third-party player. Why would they put out the effort to make an attractive quiz? Think about it—a little more information about yourself, which is used to custom fit a marketing scheme more likely to entice you to …

Fourth, stop reading or clicking through ads. It’s a well-worn truth that if you’re not paying for a service, you are the product. By not clicking the ads, you’re not submitting to Facebook’s marketing model. Install an ad blocker (Ad Block or Ad Block Plus) and an anti-tracking extension (Ghostery) for your browser.

Fifth, investigate other social media outlets. Or just take a long break from Facebook. I am. And remember, Instagram is wholly owned by Facebook.

None of this will undo what has been done, but it will prevent the same from happening again. What, you still trust Facebook? The company entered into a consent decree to safeguard user data in 2011. Seven years later here we are. They will do this again, and again, until they are regulated or go bankrupt. It’s baked into their profit model.

#Facebook #TheGuradian #AleksandrKogan #dataPrivacy

March 20, 2018

Brown: It Takes Two

Josh Brown—The Reformed Broker:

Lots of people have had their brains turned into mashed potatoes through years of exposure to hyper-partisan cable news and a lack of reading, learning and contact with the world outside of their own immediate friends and family. They don’t buy books, they don’t travel, they have very homogenous life experiences, they revere the past and fear the future and consistently make poor choices for themselves.

And then a data analytics company scrapes at the outer layer of what they post about themselves online and pushes their emotional buttons on a key topic or two. The rest takes care of itself. We have a legion of zombies in this country who refuse to accept that they’ve been conned. Partly, the con is their own fault – similar to many of the supposedly sophisticated investors who bought into Madoff’s flawless investing prowess or the Jobsian aura of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos.

This sounds an awful lot like a group of people we know. The sunk cost fallacy is, ultimately, a fallacy. You can bail on this degradation of our culture, our country, and its jackass president any time now.

#Trump #JoshBrown #ReformedBroker

March 15, 2018

Mueller Subpoenas Trump Organization

Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman—The New York Times:

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has subpoenaed the Trump Organization to turn over documents, including some related to Russia, according to two people briefed on the matter. It is the first known instance of the special counsel demanding documents directly related to President Trump’s businesses, bringing the investigation closer to the president.

Mueller has hopscotched his way from lackeys to the top man’s businesses, collecting evidence, indictments, and guilty pleas along the way. Every step provided reason for the next. By the time this lands in Donny’s lap the facts of the case will be undeniable.

Hopefully by then we’ll have a House of Representatives controlled by the opposition party, which might actually do something about it.

#Trump #Mueller #specialCounsel #impeachableOffenses

March 5, 2018

Special counsel wants documents on Trump

Katy Tur and Alex Johnson—NBC News:

The grand jury investigating alleged collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has sent a witness a subpoena seeking all documents involving the president and a host of his closest advisers, according to a copy of the subpoena reviewed by NBC News.

According to the subpoena, which was sent to a witness by special counsel Robert Mueller, investigators want emails, text messages, work papers, telephone logs and other documents going back to Nov. 1, 2015, 4½ months after Trump launched his campaign.

Getting closer, Donny. Can you hear the footsteps yet? They’re coming for you.

#specialCounsel #investigation #president #Russia #election #Trump

∴ Roger Deakins wins an Oscar for 'Blade Runner 2049' photography

If you loved the photography of Blade Runner 2049, you can thank Roger Deakins who won an Academy Award for it. This was his fourteenth nomination, but his first win.

Have a look at what won him the Oscar this year. Gorgeous.

#RogerDeakins #cinematographer #AcademyAward #BladeRunner2049

February 28, 2018

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Why I'm Writing Captain America

Ta-Nehisi Coates—The Atlantic:

Two years ago I began taking up the childhood dream of writing comics. To say it is more difficult than it looks is to commit oneself to criminal understatement. Writers don’t write comics so much as they draw them with words. Everything has to be shown, a fact I knew going into the work, but could not truly know until I had actually done it. For two years I’ve lived in the world of Wakanda, writing the title Black Panther. I’ll continue working in that world. This summer, I’m entering a new one—the world of Captain America.

Captain America #1 drops on the Fourth [of] July. Excelsior, family.

What a huge development for comics fans and fans of Ta-Nehisi Coates. His work on the Black Panther books has been (comic-)world changing. His writing in The Atlantic has been mind-expanding. I expect his Captain America to be nothing less.

#CaptainAmerica #BlackPanther #Ta-NehisiCoates

February 26, 2018

Salon: 8 ridiculous NRA defenses of the AR-15

Timothy Johnson—Salon.com:

In the wake of yet another massacre carried out with an AR-15 assault weapon, here are eight ridiculous defenses of the murder machine from the National Rifle Association (NRA), a major recipient of donations from assault weapons makers

 

These people and their like have lost their collective minds. “Banning assault weapons is like racial discrimination. Really. Preventing the sale of military-grade weapons to civilians is akin to four-hundred years of slavery, racial oppression, impoverishment, and mass incarceration? Are you nucking futs?

Read through these eight to see if anything, even one thing rings true. Do you fear a coalition marching people into extermination camps? Does anyone other than the truly unhinged fear this? Does anyone other than the paid lackey speak out about it?

 

#NRA #gunViolence #AR15

February 25, 2018

∴ The Afrofuturism behind ‘Black Panther’

Brent Staples—The New York Times:

The cultural critic Mark Dery galvanized a generation of artists and intellectuals when he argued during the 1990s that African-Americans whose histories had been obscured by slavery and racism were in danger of being written out of the future as well — unless they engaged the areas of art, literature and technology through which that future was being envisioned.

Mr. Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” to describe the work of artists who used the tools of science fiction to imagine possible futures.

The genre of Black Panther, among other properties and arts, was unknown to me until the film debuted and I began reading the word “Afrofuturism.” ‘What is this?’ I thought and later realized what a rich field of work could inhabit the genre. Imagine an Africa uncolonized and untouched by the slave trade. Even without the incredible superhero-like resources and technologies of the comic, the mind boggles at the possibilities.

Would Africa have developed similarly to South America? South Asia? Something world history hasn’t seen? We can never know. Afrofuturism is akin to gaming out a battle or a war by changing one decisive event—the act or the death of a general, the introduction of a new weapon, say—and second-guessing succeeding events and outcomes in light of that change. Wakanda is an extreme example of playing “what if,” but as the film and the comic portray we would certainly live in a very different world.

England would never have known the profit enjoyed from the slave trade. America would never have known rapid economic expansion, and then the ethnic and racial violence and strife of the twentieth and 21st centuries. Black and brown Africans would never have known genocidal disaster and their descendants would not have known marginalization in a distant, white-majority country.

What would all of our histories look like in retrospect? The mind boggles.

#BlackPanther #Afrofuturism #Marvel

February 24, 2018

Annihilation is a gorgeous movie that went terribly wrong

Annalee Newitz—Ars Technica:

Annihilation desperately wants to be about the fragility of human identity and the existential dread of the unknown. Unfortunately, it’s just a movie about scientists being stalked by magical DNA bears and tripping out about how love is, like, super hard. And that’s before the silver body paint and interpretive dancing. I wish I were kidding. Garland strains to make something like the original Solaris, with its bizarre exploration of alien and human consciousness, but he’s lost his way.

I’m sensing a trend in these reviews. You?

#Annihilation #scifi #NebulaAwardWinner

'Annihilation' Review: A beautiful heap of nonsense

Christopher Orr—The Atlantic:

Ambiguity is not necessarily a bad thing in a motion picture. But Annihilation, the director Alex Garland’s adaptation of the first novel of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, is so resolutely vague, so eager to confound, that its ambiguity becomes itself ambiguous.

Or, as the subheadline states it:

The director Alex Garland’s followup to his debut feature Ex Machina is frequently a pleasure to look at, but lacks structure and coherence.

I’ve not yet seen the film, but I read the book shortly after it received the Nebula Award for Best Novel, in 2015. Nebulas are awarded by a majority vote of science fiction authors; this is no popularity contest winner. Of the story, I’d say the subheadline captures its essence well. I finished the book not exactly sure of what I’d just read.

I’ll see the film, if only for Natalie Portman’s portrayal of an emotionally and intellectually tortured character in an alien-on-Earth landscape. I expect to emerge puzzled.

#Annihilation #scifi #NebulaAwardWinner

Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, and Ta-Nehisi Coates are teaming up for a new movie

Danette Chavez—AVClub:

Time and again, Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler have proved to be a winning duo—the actor and director are currently celebrating the runaway success of Black Panther, the third film they’ve made together. There’s no resting on laurels here, though, as Variety reports Coogler and Jordan are teaming up once more on the big screen. And this time, they’re bringing Ta-Nehisi Coates with them.

Adding of Ta-Nehisi Coates as the screenwriter should produce a meaningfully consequential result. Coates, a national correspondent to The Atlantic magazine and perhaps the most thoughtful and articulate contemporary writer on ethnicity, race, and America’s broken social contract, is also the current author of the Black Panther comic book series. His script—well executed—should emerge from the screen and swathe the audience in familiar, if uncomfortable sounds and furies; his writing is, ultimately, about all of us.

#Ta-NehisiCoates #RyanCoogler #MichaelBJordan #WrongAnswer

February 23, 2018

Cohen, Two Years Ago: Donald Trump’s Intolerable Cruelty

I posted this article, which resurfaced this morning, to Facebook two years ago. In it Richard Cohen condemned then-candidate Donald Trump for his innate cruelty, obvious bigotry, and general lack of empathy. How prescient it was, and how damning.

All of which leads me to ask those who supported this man, and who continue to do so, how could you? Have you no sense of decency?

(The Washington Post:)

Trump’s other outrages arguably had an element of political calculation to them. The stuff about Mexicans, about immigrants in general, and about Muslims was popular among his supporters. It’s not that I think these insults were disingenuous — the man’s bigotry was evident when he insistently questioned whether Barack Obama was a natural-born American — but they applied to large groups, momentarily unpopular, and no single person either had to bear a stigma or feel the hurt. Trump came closest to showing his innate cruelty with his remark that John McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was no hero. Trump has an adolescent’s contempt for the suffering of others.

#Trump #bigotry #intolerance #cruelty #RichardCohen

February 21, 2018

Amazon Is Turning Iain M. Banks' Iconic Culture Books Into a TV Series

James Whitbrook—io9:

Amazon’s been making some major genre plays in its original programming recently, but its latest grab is one of its grandest plans yet: An adaptation of Iain M. Banks’ iconic scifi saga, the Culture Series, starting off with Consider Phlebas.

Banks’ scifi novels, particularly the Culture Series, are some of my favorite stories of the past decade. I discovered Use of Weapons and Player of Games just before he died, so the work is a finite treasure.

I’m not sanguine about anyone making a TV series (or movie) from it. There’s just so little room to exceed what played out in my imagination, and so much room to screw it up.

That’s not to say I won’t give it a shot. I’ll just try not to think about it until it debuts.

(The article refers to Banks’ work as “iconic.” The recovery barges used by Elon Musk’s SpaceX for automated recovery of their space launch system’s first-stage boosters are named for two of the spacecraft in Banks’ stories.)

#iainMBanks #TheCulture #scifi

'Black Panther': Erik Killmonger Is a Profound, Tragic Villain

Adam Serwer—The Atlantic:

Where was Wakanda? Wakanda failed. Killmonger was right. He is blinded by his pain to the evil of his own methods, but he is correct that Wakanda abandoned its responsibility to use its unmatched power to protect black people around the world. They could have stopped the endless march of souls into The Void. They did not.

Terrific deep dive into Black Panther’s internal politics by Adam Serwer. I’m still not convinced of the wisdom of laying blame for centuries of black African subjugation at the feet of an African kingdom, even a fictional one, but the story was powerful despite this jarring detail and well dissected by Serwer.

If you liked the film for more than its spectacle, you’ll enjoy this read.

#BlackPanther #Killmonger #Wakanda #T’Challa

February 19, 2018

How Superhero Movies Became Escapist Fun Again

Christopher Orr—The Atlantic:

we appear to be in the midst of a new, and altogether different, shift in the genre—you might even call it a backlash—which may well provide a more sustainable model for superhero movies to come. As the saying goes: first time tragedy, second time farce. Experiments in supercomedy are taking place with increasing frequency, and meeting with considerable success. The various studios currently churning out stories of flying heroes and masked vigilantes are at different points in their evolution from drama to comedy. But in the steadily growing genre, they are all trending in that direction.

Not all. Black Panther, though not without its humorous moments, was no Deadpool, or even a Thor: Ragnarok.

That said, these screenplays appear to come in two variants; high-brow a la the Dark Knight trilogy and its like, and low-brow: Deadpool, Suicide Squad, and arguably Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel. Check that. Deadpool was basically no-brow.

How the viewer responds is a function of whether he or she drank the Cool-Aid, in which case all are near-equally terrific, or has a taste for one of the brows. Sometimes there’s a pleasant surprise for fans of the more grim variety of superhero story, like Ant-Man and Guardians.

Color me high-brow. I’d rather one epic Dark Knight trilogy and no more comic-world films than suffer through stories trending toward potty humor for audience titillation.

If you’re a comics-derived film fan, this article was a good read on the state of the industry, regardless of how you take your humor.

#comicBookMovies

Mitt Romney's Run for Senate Champions the Utah Alternative

McKay Coppins—The Atlantic:

“I always laugh when people say we’re the reddest of red states,” said Rod Arquette, a popular conservative talk-radio host in Utah. “I don’t believe we are as conservative as people say we are. On some of the moral issues, we’re conservative. But I also think we’re willing to listen and try to solve problems. We have a culture of collaboration here.”

Listening is good. It can get people from problem to solution. Who will Mr. Romney be listening to?

What Utah lacks is a diverse population, many of them living way too close to the poverty line with little help or hope of doing better. Utah is, in a word, very white, and knows little of the problems faced by people of color and the poor white class. It’s those unpleasant factors, income and ethnicity, that keep folks in their place in America. Utah is not a proving ground for how Mr. Romney would help these folks. Maybe he doesn’t need to, though.

The fact is, people who look and earn like Mitt, and like a lot of Utahans, don’t need much help. So maybe Mitt is the right man for Utah … but if he’s gonna be all that for America he needs to do a Bobby Kennedy walk through a poor man’s home and come out shaken, weeping, and tell the cameras what he’s going to do about it. He’s gotta show us he feels it.

#MittRomney #Utah #USSenate #Republicans #GOP

February 16, 2018

∴ Black Panther

Movie poster for Black PantherMy group of friends went to the debut showing of Black Panther last night. It’s been one of the most anticipated films of 2018, and the first stand-alone comic genre film featuring not only a black lead, but a mostly black cast. Initial reviews of the film have been very positive.

I’d been looking forward to last night for two years, since the Black Panther character was revealed. Some folks have been waiting for last night much longer.

There is one specific spoiler in this article, so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to know what’s in it, stop reading now.

Overall, Black Panther turned out to be a good film, but not great. The acting, story, costuming, music, and effects were very good. The direction, though, meandered. A two-and-a-quarter-hour run time felt like three, yet I wondered more than once how co-writer and director Ryan Coogler could bring the story to a close before the end credits, right up until it was actually over. Though the film possesses plenty of action scenes, and these are among the best scenes in the film, it feels less like an action flick and more like straight drama. And many of the dramatic scenes go on.

That’s a minor quibble, though. Superhero films are rarely of Academy Award level stature. Where this film shines is in its depiction of a proud, advanced culture bearing technologies and social mores beyond our own, peopled entirely by African black men and women. The story incorporates more than enough empowered women and positivity to overcome sluggish direction. It was, if nothing else, a good story well-acted and well-photographed.

***

One thematic element bugged me, though. I’ve since come to a reasonably positive conclusion about it, but I was stunned when it joined the overall theme of empowerment, and still wonder about its placement in what is otherwise a very ethnic-positive character story.

In a flashback it’s revealed that T’Chaka, the now-dead king of Wakanda, left behind a nephew in America after killing his brother, N’Jobu. It’d been discovered that N’Jobu had stolen Wakanda’s precious vibranium, and planned selling it to arm people of color with this powerful weapon, helping them fight oppression.

Since this scene was set in 1992 Oakland, California, and all of the characters are black, we know the referenced oppression was American racism. Later reference was made to the “two billion people who looked like us,” so the underlying theme is both contemporary and historical global oppression of people of color.

In order to keep their kingdom and its advanced, vibranium-based technology and culture secret from western colonialists, Wakandans had long portrayed theirs as a poor, third-world African country. The king would tolerate no-one violating that defense. N’Jobu dies.

N’Jobu’s son, N’Jadaka, grows up to become a US soldier, and later an elite, mercenary-like CIA paramilitary known as Killmonger. His life goal becomes reaching back to the culture responsible for his father’s death and his own abandonment, and further, the abandonment of people of color around the world. He aims to continue what his father set out to do: arm the oppressed.

Killmonger lays blame for the toleration of oppression at the feet of Wakanda, the fictional African nation that could have stopped it; this film’s screenwriting therefore blames the continued oppression of blacks on … fictional black Africans.

My mind boggled at that, to the degree that I was pulled out of my storytelling-induced state of disbelief and out of the film entirely for a few minutes, thinking it over.

Film critic Eric Willis puts the ensuing confrontation between T’Challa and Killmonger well at The Movie Waffler:

Of course, this is the origin story of how Black Panther realises the error of his society’s narcissistic ways, but we’re left to ask the uncomfortable question of why it took this long. Assuming the Wakandans refused to intervene during the AIDS and famine crises that rocked their continent makes it incredibly difficult not to fall in line with Stevens [Killmonger], who plans to take over Wakanda and use its technology to actually better the lot of the African diaspora.

My thought during the drive home was that this played like a white guy’s idea of a black superhero origin story: blame the victim, then have him make amends. In doing so he is cleansed of his sins. That clash of fiction and reality would be, of course, an utter betrayal of basically every black and brown person walking the Earth, if only a fictional one.

Why would Coogler and co-writer Joe Robert Cole, both black, incorporate such an element in what is entirely a story about strong, smart, empowered people of color? Even if this thematic device were “true to the comic,” as defense of the occasionally indefensible usually goes, why carry it on?

On my way into work next morning, I recalled that the story had ended on a very positive note. T’Challa, the new Wakandan king and son of T’Chaka, begins revealing Wakanda, its people, technology, and culture to the world. That’s when I made the connection between “the blame” in mid-story and T’Challa’s eventual response which will, presumably, help lift people of color out of oppression and poverty.

That ties up in a neat bow Wakanda’s change of heart, redeeming T’Chaka’s egregious error. The story comes clean in the end and T’Challa is revealed as a wise king, after all.

Still, the scripted lines about Wakandans hiding from and ignoring two billion people who “looked like us” spoken by a strong black character are jarring. It appears a road the story simultaneously had to go down—how else to explain an unknown Earthly culture so alien-like in its advancement—and shouldn’t go down. Do we really need to hear continued oppression of people of color blamed on other people of color for the sake of entertainment?

The cognitive dissonance remains uncomfortable. It’d play better, and truer, if Wakandans were white. But then it wouldn’t be Black Panther.

#BlackPanther #T’Challa #T’Chaka #N’Jobu #N’Jadaka #Killmonger #MCU #Marvel

VSB: Whiteness Means It’s Never Your Fault

Damon Young—Very Smart Brothas:

One of the few somewhat positive aspects of Donald Trump’s presidency (and really, Donald Trump’s entire stint as a political figure) is that he’s an easy example and a synopsis of America’s patent-pending brand of white supremacy—a concept that, even for those who regularly study and speak about it, can be difficult to articulate in an easily digestible way.

Short read. Worth the two minutes, because Damon;s describing whiteness, a concept that flummoxes, insults, and generally vexes a lot of white people. Not all white people, but enough to keep it happening.

#whiteness #AmericanCulture #racism #ethnicStruggle

February 12, 2018

An Interview With Bryan Stevenson on Institutional Racism and Changing the Narrative

This interview touched on so many themes I’ve been reading and writing about lately. There’s no single item that stands out for quotation.

This one, though, encompasses a great deal of the contemporary problem of racism in America; that is, the notion that ethnicity determines class that leads to expectations and privilege, which in turn reinforce class and has produced America’s own caste system (James McWilliams—Pacific Standard):

[Stevenson:] Well, there is this burden in America that people of color bear. This presumption of dangerousness weighs on you. And when we don’t talk about it, when we don’t name it, the burden only gets heavier. People of color have to navigate around these presumptions, and it is exhausting.

[McWilliams:] And yet, so hard for so many white people to recognize, much less acknowledge.

But when somebody affirms that it exists, it can be really liberating. It can be really affirming to know that you are not crazy. As I get older, I am beginning to appreciate the weight of a lifetime lived navigating these presumptions. And so I want to affirm for young kids that the world will still do that to them, but they should know that the world is wrong, and that you have to not only endure, but you have to overcome. A lot of people of color applaud when I say this. They do so because they have never had anybody in a public space—in a mixed space—say it. And I think we have to say that, you know. But, yes, I do think that there’s an implicit bias that undermines how we interact with one another, and I do think that, in America, no one is free from the threat created by our history of racial inequality.

Whites included.

Yes. You can be very progressive, you can be very educated, and you can still be complicit in the kind of microaggression that takes place when you look at people through this lens of racial difference.

The entire interview is well worth a read.

Scanning around the site, which I’ve not done before, I found a handful of interesting reads. Pacific Standard joins my list of credible idea and news sources.

(Thanks, Marsha, for the pointer to this story.)

#BryanStevenson #EqualJusticeInitiative 

Unilever Threatens to Pull Ads From Facebook and Google

Julia College—The Guardian:

“Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate,” he plans to say. “We will prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society.”

This could be terrific corporate stewardship, by a very large company, if it actually comes to pass. I’d love for this practice to spread among word corporations. Social media would be forced by market action to take responsibility for its content. An entire class of disinformation and dissension would evaporate from public discourse. People I personally know would become invisible online, based solely on their faux, privileged outrage.

#hateSpeech #corporateResponsibility #Unilever #Facebook #Google

How Humans Sank New Orleans

Richard Campanella—The Atlantic:

What was beginning to happen was anthropogenic soil subsidence—the sinking of the land by human action. When runoff is removed and artificial levees prevent the river from overtopping, the groundwater lowers, the soils dry out, and the organic matter decays. All this creates air pockets in the soil body, into which those sand, silt, and clay particles settle, consolidate—and drop below sea level.

Fascinating geologic history of how New Orleans became the city situated between the river and the sea, below sea level. What began as novel engineering projects resulted in the New Orleans of today; largely a sunken marsh that survives on levee and pump construction and operation.

As the article concludes, these projects can never end. That, or the city must shrink back to the two narrow strips of natural levee along the silt-conveying and -depositing Mississippi River.

#NewOrleans #MississippiRiver #humanEngineering #unintentdedConsequences

February 9, 2018

'Black Panther': It's Exhilarating, Groundbreaking and More Than Worth the Wait

Ann Hornaday—The Washington Post:

“Black Panther” may be grounded in the loops, beats, rhymes and hooks of contemporary film grammar, but it feels like a whole new language.

Feels like, but is not. The language is ancient, not of this continent, and four centuries overdue. Somehow, Ryan Coogler has managed to weave this story together with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther has “epic” written all over it.

Glad I snagged my opening-night ticket two weeks ago. I’ve not been this excited about a forthcoming, novel film since, well, ever.

#BlackPanther #MCU #Marvel

∴ SPLC Report: U.S. Education on American Slavery Sorely Lacking

Imagine a near-genocide played out over three-hundred ninety-nine years. One that seeks not to ethnically cleanse or eradicate, but rather to subjugate and abuse; to steal the humanity from a body of people. Now imagine that it happened, but that we’re forgetting that it happened, one generation at a time.

Southern Poverty Law Center:

“If we are to move past our racial differences, schools must do a better job of teaching American slavery and all the ways it continues to impact American society, including poverty rates, mass incarceration and education,” said Maureen Costello, a former history teacher who is director of Teaching Tolerance. “This report places an urgent call on educators, curriculum writers and policy makers to confront the harsh realities of slavery and racial injustice. Learning about slavery is essential for us to bridge the racial differences that continue to divide our nation.”

Only 8 percent of high school seniors surveyed could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War. Most didn’t know an amendment to the U.S. Constitution formally ended slavery. Fewer than half (44 percent) correctly answered that slavery was legal in all colonies during the American Revolution.

Teaching America’s ethnic history during and beyond slavery is critical. Ending the discussion at 1865, or even 1877, leaves out the worst aspects of American racism, and worse, of American ethnic struggle. While the practice of chattel slavery left both master and slave brutally aware of their place, bigotry at the close of the nineteenth and all of the twentieth centuries left American people of color wondering what fresh hell they’d find next.

Yet at no point in my early education did I learn about the end of Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow laws, or the plight of black Americans who escaped the South to find more insidious forms of discrimination in the North.

Redlining in housing and employment, predatory lending and lease agreements, segregated schools, eateries, rest rooms, and transportation, as well as rampant violence at the hands of white supremacists were routinely visited upon African-Americans throughout the twentieth century, throughout America. Richard Nixon rode his southern strategy to the White house, invoking fear of a resurgent black populace among white Americans in the wake of Civil Rights reforms in the 1960s.

During Nixon’s administration and after, white American politicians promoted getting tough on crime, a euphemism for locking up black men and women for violating laws purposely aimed at their communities. The disparity in prosecution and punishment for possession and sale of crack cocaine vs. that for the pricier powdered form more prevalent in white communities is but one of the more glaring examples. Recent attention to police brutality against people of color, and the deaths of unarmed young black men at their hands show that ethnic struggle and the idea of racism, legacies of slavery both, are still very much with us.

That ethnic struggle and racism are two very different things needs to be taught, as well.

Even today we’re assaulted by fools who claim, we’re all equal before the law since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Laws are easy, hearts and minds much less so. Education is the key to furthering equality.

All of this should be taught in stages according to age, throughout elementary, middle, and high school. The result might be fewer white folks whining about handouts to people of color, fear of immigration, and more recognition of the racial atrocities visited upon men and women brought here against their wills, and their descendants. These folks were treated first as property, then with scorn, and at all times as the other.

(Thanks to Marsha for bringing the SPLC’s report to my attention.)

#ethnicity #race #bigotry #whiteness #otherness

February 7, 2018

John Perry Barlow, Internet Pioneer, 1947-2018

Cindy Cohn—Electronic Frontier Foundation:

With a broken heart I have to announce that EFF’s founder, visionary, and our ongoing inspiration, John Perry Barlow, passed away quietly in his sleep this morning. We will miss Barlow and his wisdom for decades to come, and he will always be an integral part of EFF.

If there are any for whose passing the internet might pause, even blink off for a moment, Barlow is surely one.

February 3, 2018

MoDo: This Is Why Uma Thurman Is Angry

Maureen Dowd—The New York Times:

But she had been led to believe by a teamster, she says, that the car, which had been reconfigured from a stick shift to an automatic, might not be working that well.

She says she insisted that she didn’t feel comfortable operating the car and would prefer a stunt person to do it. Producers say they do not recall her objecting.

“Quentin came in my trailer and didn’t like to hear no, like any director,” she says. “He was furious because I’d cost them a lot of time. But I was scared. He said: ‘I promise you the car is fine. It’s a straight piece of road.’” He persuaded her to do it, and instructed: “ ‘Hit 40 miles per hour or your hair won’t blow the right way and I’ll make you do it again.’ But that was a deathbox that I was in. The seat wasn’t screwed down properly. It was a sand road and it was not a straight road.” (Tarantino did not respond to requests for comment.)

Thurman then shows me the footage that she says has taken her 15 years to get. “Solving my own Nancy Drew mystery,” she says.

It’s from the point of view of a camera mounted to the back of the Karmann Ghia. It’s frightening to watch Thurman wrestle with the car, as it drifts off the road and smashes into a palm tree, her contorted torso heaving helplessly until crew members appear in the frame to pull her out of the wreckage. Tarantino leans in and Thurman flashes a relieved smile when she realizes that she can briefly stand.

Reads like someone tried to have Thurman killed. And that’s not the worst of what Dowd learned from her.

#meToo #UmaThurman #HarveyWeinstein #QuentinTarantino

Omega-3 Supplements Don’t Protect Against Heart Disease

Nicholas Bakalar—The New York Times:

Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, the oils abundant in fatty fish, are ineffective for the prevention of heart disease, a large review of randomized trials has found.

No matter how the researchers looked at the data, they could find no association of the supplements with lowered risk for death from heart disease, or with nonfatal heart attacks or other major cardiovascular events.

A meta-study (a study of multiple study results) of supplement use produced similar results a few years ago. I stopped taking the not-inexpensive fish oil supplements recommended by my doctor shortly thereafter.

That meta-study had showed that as survey population sizes increased, the observed efficacy of fish oil supplements declined to the point where the average result for coronary health was neither positive nor negative. Gaining more study patients had caused edge cases and clusters of similar results to exert less influence.

This new study’s result fully dooms the first oil  recommendation:

There was no effect in people with prior coronary heart disease, those with diabetes, people with high lipid levels, or in people using statins. There was no evidence for an effect in either women or men considered separately.

“Carefully done trials provide no support for the hypothesis that fish oil supplements help,” said the senior author, Dr. Robert Clarke, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford.

The old phrase there is no magic bullet is apropos of these results. Some people are genetically predisposed to gradually occluding coronary arteries, and for them we have coronary catheterization and stents (for now).

For the rest of us the old advice is still the best: eat well and exercise. Find a population whose heart health is remarkably good despite a mix of sexes, ethnicities, and lifestyles, and adopt their diet while incorporating significant cardio-vascular exercise into your life. Ten to twenty miles of walking per week is a good start.

#cardioVascularHealth #study #fishOil #omega3FattyAcids

February 1, 2018

SF Will Wipe Thousands of Marijuana Convictions Off the Books

Evan Sernoffsky—SFGate:

San Francisco will retroactively apply California’s marijuana-legalization laws to past criminal cases, District Attorney George Gasc√≥n said Wednesday — expunging or reducing misdemeanor and felony convictions going back decades.

The unprecedented move will affect thousands of people whose marijuana convictions brand them with criminal histories that can hurt chances of finding jobs and obtaining some government benefits.

Proposition 64, which state voters passed in November 2016, legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California for those 21 and older and permitted the possession up to 1 ounce of cannabis. The legislation also allows those with past marijuana convictions that would have been lesser crimes — or no crime at all — under Prop. 64 to petition a court to recall or dismiss their cases.

This is good news. After all, it’d be hypocritical to keep incarcerated those guilty only of what is now legal. What’s worse, it’d by racist to keep incarcerated the over-proportion of black and brown prisoners whose only crime was possession of pot, when the burgeoning pot industry is so very white.

#legalized #marijuana #carceralState #convictions

January 29, 2018

Trump's National Security Team is Considering Nationalizing a Super-fast 5G Network

Steve Holland and Pete Schroeder—Reuters:

President Donald Trump’s national security team is looking at options to counter the threat of China spying on U.S. phone calls that include the government building a super-fast 5G wireless network, a senior administration official said on Sunday.

Axios published documents that it said were from a presentation from a National Security Council official about the 5G issue. If the government built the 5G network, it would rent access to carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, Axios said.

This is a very bad idea, masquerading as national security.

Imagine a US government run by the likes of Donald Trump owning the wireless network we use every day. Then imagine Trump declaring an emergency and shutting down that network. Maybe this emergency is declared after his conviction on articles of impeachment.

How many people get their news and other information via mobile devices? They’d be out in the cold, without news that their president had gone rogue.

This is when our FCC needs to stand up, and our representatives take note. Seizing the means of communication and news dissemination are the marks of a dictator.

#5G #Axios #governmentTakeover #ownership #FCC

January 28, 2018

∴ Tonight's TV

Soooooo … Grammys. Still waiting for a John Legend Glory moment.

#Grammys #TV

Umair: Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse

Umair Haque:

Should the world follow the American model — extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, the perversion of everyday virtue — then these new social pathologies will follow, too. They are new diseases of the body social that have emerged from the diet of junk food — junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk — that America has fed upon for too long.

Junk culture. Junk food. Junk. Rings true.

I used to follow Umair on Medium, but he got too extreme for my mind. I think, in retrospect, he was only speaking a truth I wasn’t ready to hear.

It’s going to take an awful lot of work to repair what we’ve taken for granted as “normalcy.” This, all, is not normal.

January 27, 2018

The Startling Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer's

Olga Khazan—The Atlantic:

In recent years, Alzheimer’s disease has occasionally been referred to as “type 3” diabetes, though that moniker doesn’t make much sense. After all, though they share a problem with insulin, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease caused by diet. Instead of another type of diabetes, it’s increasingly looking like Alzheimer’s is another potential side effect of a sugary, Western-style diet.

In some cases, the path from sugar to Alzheimer’s leads through type 2 diabetes, but as a new study and others show, that’s not always the case.

Fascinating short read on the not unheard-of connection between blood sugar levels and cognition.

This dovetails with a longer article in The New York Times Magazine from years ago, Is Sugar Toxic? Though an investment of, say, 45-minutes, that article goes a long way to explain the problem with our sugary American diet, and the disaster that is high fructose corn syrup. Thankfully, consumers have been pushing back against HFCS in the years since that article was published, and its presence in the food supply is diminishing.

Both reads are worth your time.

#sugar #AlzheimersDisease #toxicity #health

NYT: The Price I Paid for Taking On Larry Nassar

Rachael Denhollander—The New York Times:

And the effort it took to move this case forward — especially as some called me an “ambulance chaser” just “looking for a payday” — often felt crushing.

Yet all of it served as a reminder: These were the very cultural dynamics that had allowed Larry Nassar to remain in power.

We have made for ourselves a crappy culture.

Blame-the-victim is blood sport when the victim is a woman, and not only these women. And it always seems to revolve around sex, the denial of sex by women for men who demand it, and particularly women’s successes and advancement in sports, careers, and stature.

When was the last time you heard of a male victim being blamed for his victimhood? Oh yeah, young black men murdered by police. Crappy culture, times 2.

#LarryNassar #sexualAbuse #race

Blade Runner 2049's Director Thinks he Knows Why it Didn't Score a Best Picture Nomination

Alex McLevy—AVClub:

Villeneuve wasn’t complaining about the snub, to be clear. He was understandably proud of the film’s five nominations for technical achievements and cinematography (which, holy hell, Roger Deakins deserves a Oscar at the very least for his work), but expressed regret that Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch didn’t receive a nomination for the soundtrack. “I think what [the composers] did for the movie, the score of the movie, was by far one of the best this year,” Villeneuve said.

At least Roger Deakins is up for an Oscar, for his cinematography. Blade Runner 2049 was stunningly shot.

That said, the Academy Awards nominating process has been for shit for years. Far more relevant are the Critics’s Choice Awards, nominated and awarded by people who make a living doing professional criticism of the finished product.

How much bias (of all kinds; recall #OscarsSoWhite) goes into the nominating and awarding process for the Academy Awards, some of it conditioned into the voters? When you’re casting a vote for a movie or actor, how easy is it to lean toward your friends and favored genres, let alone do the lazy thing and vote according to box office returns?

I don’t know that this happened in Blade Runner’s case, but there’s a glaring single point of failure in the Academy’s process that diminishes their credibility.

#AcademyAwards #CriticsChoiceAwards #BladeRunner2049

January 25, 2018

The Guggenheim to Trump: Enjoy This Gold Toilet Instead

Paul Schwartzman—The Washington Post:

The emailed response from the Guggenheim’s chief curator to the White House was polite but firm: The museum could not accommodate a request to borrow a painting by Vincent van Gogh for President and Melania Trump’s private living quarters.

Instead, wrote the curator, Nancy Spector, another piece was available, one that was nothing like “Landscape With Snow,” the 1888 van Gogh rendering of a man in a black hat walking along a path in Arles, France, with his dog.

The curator’s alternative: an 18-karat, fully functioning, solid gold toilet — an interactive work titled “America” that critics have described as pointed satire aimed at the excess of wealth in this country.

The Guggenheim, of New York, knows its Trump. Response emailed, even.

Most presidents borrow from the Smithsonian museums, which maintain a massive collection of all  styles and periods. Leave it to Trump to step out of bounds.

#Trump #goldenToilet #vanGogh

The Kill Chain: Inside the Unit That Tracks Targets for US Drone Wars

Roy Wenzl—The Guardian:

In a dimly lit room at McConnell air force base in south central Kansas, analysts from a national guard intelligence reconnaissance surveillance group watch live drone surveillance video coming from war zones in the Middle East.

During combat, the analysts become part of a “kill chain” – analyzing live drone video, then communicating what they see – in instant-message chat with jet fighter pilots, operators of armed Predator and Reaper drones, and ground troops.

Fascinating read about the link least heard-of in US drone warfare’s “kill chain:” the analyst whose work product begins a process that ends in death. As the article makes clear and news reports tell us, not all of the end results are what was intended.

#droneWarfare #KansasAirNationalGuard #intelligence #US

January 24, 2018

The NCAA Will Investigate Michigan State’s Handling of Larry Nassar Scandal

Alex Kirshner—SBNation.com:

“The NCAA has sent a letter of inquiry to Michigan State University regarding potential NCAA rules violations related to the assaults Larry Nassar perpetrated against girls and young women, including some student-athletes at Michigan State,” the organization wrote in a statement when reached for comment by SB Nation. “We will have no further comment at this time.”

The NCAA’s written principles include that it is “the responsibility of each member institution to protect the health of, and provide a safe environment for, each of its participating student-athletes.”

Nassar’s sentencing hearing has unfolded at a Michigan courthouse over the last week. So far, at least 190 of his victims have come forward at those hearings.

190 victims that we know of. Imagine how high that number might be if every one of Nassar’s victims felt compelled to safely speak out against him. How many are secretly cheering from the sidelines of this disgraceful spectacle?

Here’s a thought for the post-mortem of Nassar’s case. Once he’s behind bars, and the NCAA has concluded its investigation into Michigan State’s awareness and possible negligence letting Nassar practice on its athletes, if there exists evidence of negligence by the school they should suffer what Penn State should have after the revelations of Jerry Sandusky’s pedophelia: full suspension of all NCAA sports for a decade, no appeal.

That would destroy the school’s athletic program. It’d also let them concentrate more keenly on two things: the egregiousness of their potential willful ignorance, and academics. College is about learning, first. Sports is a sideshow, but not so at places like Penn State and Michigan. The NCAA failed to apply a harsh reminder of that after Sandusky.

#MichiganStateUniversity #PennStateUniversity #NCAA #collegeSports #abuse #LarryNassar

Mueller Seeks to Question Trump About Flynn and Comey Departures

Carol D. Leonnig, Sari Horwitz and Josh Dawsey—The Washington Post:

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III is seeking to question President Trump in the coming weeks about his decisions to oust national security adviser Michael Flynn and FBI Director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with his plans.

Mueller’s interest in the events that led Trump to push out Flynn and Comey indicates that his investigation is aggressively scrutinizing possible efforts by the president or others to hamper the special counsel’s probe.

Justice, obstructed. Given most other presidents, you’d be right to argue Mr. Trump is above this. Not with this guy. Trump’s got the insecurities of Nixon with none of that president’s political skill and policy knowledge.

Trump isn’t above anything, because he’ll stoop to anything that furthers his aims.

#Trump #Mueller #obstructionOfJustice

Season 3 of Stranger Things Will Finally Give Poor Will Byers a Break

Sam Barsanto—AVClub:

Thankfully, it sounds like season three is going to be a little easier on poor Will Byers, with executive producer Shawn Levy telling Glamour that they’re “not going to put Will through hell for a third season in a row.”

That’s nice. Nicer still is that there will be a season three of Stranger Things. Hopefully it reaches up to the heights of season one.

#StrangerThings #TV #WillBiers #NoahSchnapp

January 22, 2018

∴ How Reversing Felony Disenfranchisement is Transforming Virginia

Vann R. Newkirk II—The Atlantic:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Virginia has historically been one of the most zealous states in the country in disenfranchising people with felonies, with even those who finish probation having what amounts to a lifelong severance of voting rights unless the governor reviews their case and restores their rights personally.

Also unsurprisingly—like dozens of similar laws in other states—that restriction was created with explicitly racist intent.

“I told the people of my county before they sent me here that I intended,” delegate R.L. Gordon said, “as far as in me lay, to disenfranchise every negro that I could disenfranchise under the Constitution of the United States, and as few white people as possible.”

I’ve heard friends complain mightily about former Governor McAuliffe’s act giving blanket restoration of voting rights to ex-convincts.

Many of these folks go on to vote for Democratic candidates. That provides a clue to my friends’ grievance.

So many ex-cons are people of color. As a newly re-enfranchised voter, wouldn’t you support candidates who sought to rectify past wrongs done to your people, or at least not support candidates who have done a 180 on civil rights? Do not R.L. Gordon’s own words provide enough evidence of the greater sin America continues to perpetrate against people of color?

Slavery has long been illegal in America, but that is not the same as non-existent. Slavery morphed into the Jim Crow laws after Democratic lawmakers dismantled Reconstruction. Jim Crow, struck down by Brown v. Board, gave way to the rise of “getting tough on crime,” a code phrase for locking up black and brown people.

White America has long held a fear of unfettered blackness. That fear, and the newly found political “toughness” on crime in the 1960s led inexorably to the carceral state in which we live: the proportion of black and brown prisoners in state penitentiaries far exceeds their proportion of the greater population.

Or does complaining about re-enfranchisement amount to willful ignorance, or a changing of the (unpleasant) subject to divert attention? If so, why are these folks so willful? What is that act of will that keeps race-based disenfranchisement a common practice?

These questions almost answer themselves. Not for everyone, though, and not nearly with enough force. Those willfully ignorant of issues like black disenfranchisement and minority voter suppression are the self-same who gave us our current president, yet who protest mightily against being labeled “bigot.” To a person they may not be bigots, but as a group they had no problem making one our president, and they have no problem keeping disproportionally black and brown ex-convicts off the voter rolls.

Restoration of the US Constitutional right to vote should be automatic for prisoners who have completed their conviction sentence in all US states and territories.

#bigotry #race #politics #disenfranchisement #Virginia #carceralState

∴ NYT: The Market Isn’t Bullish for Everyone

Steven Rattner — The New York Times:

To be sure, rising stock markets help many Americans in other ways. Perhaps most importantly, they secure pension benefits for those fortunate enough to participate in corporate or municipal plans.

However, the percentage of workers covered by these programs has been declining, from 62 percent in 1983 to 17 percent in 2016. Only about 22 percent of Americans below the median even have an individual retirement account.

These numbers will come back to haunt us not long into the future.

Corporate America did away with the defined benefit plan, aka a pension, years ago in favor of a market-based system including IRAs, 401(k)s, and the like. The effect transferred the financial, intellectual, and moral burden of securing retirement income to the employee. It was around this time that cooperate America relabeled their personnel departments “human resources,” marking their labor pool as akin to raw industrial materials and electricity to run their machinery. All became resources to use until expended. The last vestige of humanity fell away from capitalism.

These investment products require workers to become part-time money managers – a skill the eludes even some in the investment industry – to their detriment. Many don’t know where to begin, or simply don’t give it any thought. In times past these skills weren’t a worker’s concern. Payroll withholding into a pension plan happened without direct employee involvement. At the end of a career, retirement income was secured.

There were many, too, who were invested, but who walked away from their investments during the last recession. A lot of paper wealth evaporated between 2008 and 2013, as many amateur investors didn’t have the stomach to ride out the crash. They sold into the decline, or worse, near the bottom. Most of them haven’t returned to the markets.

We can’t blame these workers for turning their backs. It’s a rational short-term response to a problem they could not get a handle on. I do fear for their (and our) long-term financial future, though.

We all get to the point in our working years when it’d be nice to throttle back, leave the full-time rat race and go do something else, perhaps a labor of love that doesn’t pay much or a volunteer gig serving others. That’s not going to happen for workers who could have secured their retirement years, but who walked away from the markets. This problem will spread and worsen as more Americans reach what used to be considered “retirement age.” And with a live birth rate below the replacement rate there will be fewer young workers to fund increased need.

The plight of impoverished seniors who cannot work, and yet who cannot afford to stop working is going to have a ripple effect on the greater economy. There’s no safety net for them, no guaranteed income beyond Social Security, which will itself be strained. There’s no protection for the greater economy when their impoverishment raises the need for federal and state social benefit programs, and lowers our GDP. The markets will respond accordingly, lowering investment value here as money moves to foreign markets where labor and retiree stability is stronger. The greater financial benefit of the European-style social safety net will finally become evident to even the most fiscally conservative Americans.

And this doesn’t begin to address American workers whose income isn’t sufficient to cover their family living expenses, let alone make deposits to a retirement account they won’t be able to use for decades. Nor does it address the changed nature of employment itself, where a lifelong career has given way to the gig economy.

There will be a reckoning when uninvested workers are of a ripe age, health and age issues intervene, but they cannot afford to stop or slow working. That day isn’t so far off.

#economics #retirement #markets #equities #investing

January 19, 2018

∴ Cory's Podcast

We’re not quite yet into the run-up to the 2018 mid-term elections, but a handful of 2020 presidential hopefuls are already making obvious noises. Senator Cory Booker has started a podcast along the lines of David Axelrod’s podcast, called Lift Every Voice. In the first episode, published this week, Booker interviewed Congressman John Lewis. Booker fawned over Lewis, which isn’t entirely the wrong way to go, but on the whole he let Lewis speak. There’s gold in that man’s words.

More indicative of where Booker is in his rhetoric was his dressing-down of DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen this week. He was incensed. Though he got a few of his facts askew, there was righteous anger in his voice. The man has the fire, and I like that. What remains to be seen is whether he has full grasp of policy and whether he’s for-real or only playing the part. He makes the right sounds. I want to be convinced.

Next up, I’m tuning into Senator Kamala Harris. She’s gathered a lot of attention with her appointment to the Senate Judiciary Committee. I need to hear some fire from her, as well.

Those are my top two for now. Who rings the bell for you?

#CoryBooker #KamalaHarris #2020