"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's Sunday Again

And so there are all sorts of goodies at Green Man Review. Just to whet your appetite:

June Tabor at Minnemeers Theater, Music of a Nordic Nature, Ragas, Porn That’s Quite Boring and Some Seasonal Matters

So click on over and enjoy.

Antidote: Make A Joyful Noise

I don't really need to say anything:

Computer Wars, I Hate Microsoft Edition

So, Windows decided to update yesterday, which it does periodically, and which I normally don't mind, except it takes too long and it's usually at a time that's not really very convenient. This time, it downloaded the updates as I was shutting down.

Then when I turned on the computer again, there was the inevitable "installing your updates" message, which usually takes a few minutes.

Three hours and twenty minutes later, it was done. Three hours and twenty minutes.

Then it wouldn't boot up. It kept showing error messages -- not long enough, mind you, for me to figure out what the problem was -- and shutting down. It took eight tries before it would load my desktop.

This morning, it took forty-five minutes to boot up. I finally got online, checked e-mail, started to check the news -- and it shut itself down.

Happily, when I turned it back on, it only took a few minutes to load.

Now, if I can just get in to disable the touchpad without the damned computer freezing up, life will almost be back to normal.

I hope.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Saturday Science: The Last Time the Globe Warmed

It's about ten or eleven minutes, but it's a fascinating look at what happened the last time global warming was a thing.

Today's Must-Read: Projection, Big Time

From Digby. It's short, but it's truly jaw-dropping:

In case you were wondering, here's a little taste of what's being broadcast on Fox News 24/7:

SEAN HANNITY: Our mutual friend Mark Levin calls this a 'Post-Constitutional Republic,' this is now becoming a Banana Republic if this stays. Where do we go from here with what we now know?

NEWT GINGRICH: I haven't given up on America. I don't think Donald Trump has given up on America... most of our viewers haven't.

What we now know is the swamp is sicker, more corrupt, more dishonest than we thought it was.

So, we just have to dig deeper, throw the rascals out. Realize the election of 2018 is going to be truly historic. Between a radical left that is stunningly corrupt, and the rest of us.

This is a real fight for whether or not America is going to remain a Republic that is ruled by law, or whether it is going to degenerate into being a purely corrupt system of power, where if you're on the right team you can rip everybody off and be protected, if you're on the wrong team you can go to jail if you're innocent.

I think that is how serious and how profound this is right now. It is one of the great historic moments in American history.

It's all very well and good to dismiss it as projection, but Fox's audience swallows it whole. And they vote. And, as Digy points out, these people are passionate about it -- at least, they do a good job of pretending to be passionate.

In the real world, this is how the Trump regime deals with those who don't toe the line:

In 2015, a community policing initiative — one credited with helping curb violence in some of L.A.’s toughest housing projects — scored the Los Angeles Police Department high-level praise.

A captain and a sergeant who led the program were invited to Washington, D.C., earning coveted seats near the first lady during President Obama’s State of the Union address.

This year, L.A. officials applied for more than $3 million in federal funding to help bring the same program to Harvard Park, a South L.A. neighborhood scarred by violence.

The request was denied.

The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t offered the LAPD an explanation of why the department didn’t receive any of the $98 million in grants recently awarded to scores of law enforcement agencies across the nation. A spokesman for the federal agency declined to comment when asked by The Times last week.

But after the Trump administration’s repeated threats to withhold federal money from cities that don’t cooperate with its immigration crackdown, some LAPD officials said they believe the move was retaliatory — and a troubling sign of what could come.
Via Digby.

I don't think I have to restate the significant characteristics of this regime: petty, vindictive, self-absorbed, greedy, and mean-spirited. This is how it plays out in real life.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Antidote: We're All In This Together

So this guy in LA is driving by and sees a rabbit trapped by the wildfire.

It's the sort of thing I would do. (I actually did something similar the other day, although not nearly so risky: the Zoo staff had put out live traps in the wolf enclosure and managed to catch a squirrel. Fortunately, I was able to find a keeper and the squirrel was rescued right away. It turns out they have a rat problem. I should have thought to suggest that they put out the traps at the end of the day and collect them in the morning, because rats are pretty much nocturnal.)

Can You Say "Clueless"?

Trump takes ignorance to a new level:

Democratic U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia is one of this nation's top and most-recognized civil rights leaders. He was the chairman of one of the primary civil rights organizations that organized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Lewis also delivered a speech at that historic event and was the youngest man to do so. He has been beaten, arrested, and jailed in his fight for civil rights.

Rep. Lewis has decided he cannot stand on the same stage as President Donald Trump this Saturday, when Trump will visit the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. . . .

The White House saw fit to denounce them for it.

"We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement to reporters. "The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds."

If if were anyone but Trump -- and parrot-in-chief Sanders -- I wouldn't believe it.

Footnote: Digby caps it nicely:

That's Sarah Huckabee Sanders explaining that the civil rights movement wasn't really about black people.

Image du Jour

Just because it's so revealing of a mindset:

Thanks to commenter Bluto at Joe.My.God.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Tillerson Was Right (Update)

Trump is a f*cking moron. Against the advice of just about everyone -- except the hard-core evangelical right who want to bring on Armageddon -- Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and is planning to move our embassy there. Josh Marshall has a persuasive look at why it's not part of some master plan for peace in the Middle East:

I would say that this is 90% political and a matter of satisfying the President’s need for an act of self-assertion. The other 10% does slightly fall into the category of forward-moving gambits. It’s one you need to be exposed to the more extreme right-wing variants of Zionism to be familiar with.

It basically goes like this: What keeps the conflict going is Israel’s and the international community’s indulgence of unrealistic expectations on the part of the Palestinians. The path to peace is to make it totally clear, with established facts, that the Palestinians will essentially get nothing. Nothing here would be defined as a few autonomous self-governing zones within the West Bank under over-arching Israeli security control. No capital or even foothold in East Jerusalem. Not even a demilitarized version of sovereignty. No geographical contiguity. Nothing. Basically the right to self-govern in civil matters in the parts of the West Bank where there are too many Palestinians to outnumber with Israeli settlers. Once Palestinians expectations are set to a realistic level, you can get down to negotiations.

There are needless to say, a number of problems with this theory. But you hear it a lot as a sort of guiding theory of the case on the Zionist right. I would count it as 35% profoundly misguided idea, 65% mendacious self-assertion. That’s probably what the top Trumpers are telling themselves.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note the obvious. Not only did the President put the region’s issues in the hands of his neophyte son-in-law. He put it in the hands of a settlement activist. Obviously nothing possibly good can come of this.

It becomes more and more obvious that Trump wants a war somewhere, and he doesn't really much care where, just as it become more and more obvious that he it oblivious to any real consequences of his actions. It's a matter of, as Digby points out, asserting his dominance and making sure everyone else knows their place:

There is a faction of hard-liners who believe what Grover Norquist said about Democrats back when the Republicans took the congress in 2002 applies to all their adversaries:

"Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."

This is how these far right folks think about everything. Win and exert your dominance and then everyone will be happy and docile in their properly assigned roles.

Extend that to the oligarchs who own Congress and I think Digby has it cold.

Where do you suppose the next terrorist attack will take place? The American consulate in Jerusalem?

Footnote: The reaction is not positive.

Update: Here's what appears to be a good analysis of Trump's Jerusalem speech:

My take away from the speech is that he’s going to continue to sign the waivers to keep the US embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv until an embassy can be built in Jerusalem in accordance with the 1995 law that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He made a very clear statement that beginning the planning for moving the embassy should not infringe on final status issues between the Israelis and Palestinians. This includes the final status of Jerusalem vis a vis the Israelis and Palestinians.

What needs to be understood is that no matter how nice the speech sounded, nor the nuance and clarity I highlighted above, is that the President’s statements and actions on the status of Jerusalem is completely disconnected from the reality on the ground. Despite seeming to reinforce the US policy preference for a two state solution, by changing US policy and embracing the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act he has undercut the US’s preference for a two state solution by preemptively dealing with the issue of Jerusalem.

It doesn't alter my initial assessment. We can only hope the "planning" takes long enough that Trump is in jail before it's complete.

Attitudes Change

Sometimes very slowly, but they do change. This would have been unthinkable not all that long ago:

Japan’s national public broadcaster has commissioned a TV show about a married gay couple.

NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, picked up the three-episode series based on manga series My Brother’s Husband, created by gay author Gengoroh Tagame.

Japan seems to have a somewhat schizophrenic attitude toward same-sex relationships, particularly between men. For centuries relationships between older and younger men -- similar to the erastes-eromenos tradition of ancient Greece -- were treated quite matter-of-factly. It seems that the institution fell into disfavor in the mid-nineteenth century, about the time of contact with the West, for some strange reason.

What makes it even odder is that same-sex relationships are the basis of a whole genre of manga: boys' love, a/k/a BL, a genre directed at teenage girls and young women. Supposedly this is a way of presenting sexual and romantic relationships in a "safe" way -- i.e., since it's two boys or young men, it doesn't really affect its target audience. Given the steaminess of some of the scenes in these things, I have to wonder.

At any rate, Japan is coming along, slowly but surely. We'll see how this pans out.

Done, and Done

Australia joins the rest of the civilized world as the 25th country to legalize same-sex marriage. The vote was rather lopsided:

On Thursday the House of Representatives passed a cross-party bill after an unprecedented national postal survey gave unstoppable momentum to legislate the historic social reform.

Australia, which changed the law in 2004 to say that marriage is only between a man and a woman, now becomes the 25th country to recognise same-sex marriage.

The lower house passed marriage equality with almost all members of the governing Liberal-National Coalition joining Labor, the Greens, and crossbench MPs in a free vote to pass the bill which cleared the Senate last week without amendment.

The only no votes were Coalition MPs Russell Broadbent, Keith Pitt, David Littleproud and independent MP Bob Katter.

And they managed to avoid all the poison pill "religious freedom" amendments that the right-wingers attempted to attach to it.

Footnote: Here's more information on one of the "no" votes.

It seems as though Australia's crazies are just as crazy as ours.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Culture Break: K. Sridhar: Raga Madhukauns -- Alap

We're used to Indian classical music -- raga, mostly -- being played on the sitar, which has that characteristic drone that to many is emblematic of Indian music. Well, K. Sridhar plays the sarod, which has a very different quality.

And yes, I actually have this on CD. Sadly, it seems that all of the videos of Sridhar playing live can't be embedded, so this will have to do -- just listen to the music.

I did review the CD at one point, but it's not currently up anywhere. It will, however, appear this Sunday at Green Man Review; you can get a sneak preview here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Déjà vu, All Over Again

Via Balloon Juice:

It's real.

Today in Computer Weirdness

I don't know if it's Blogger, my computer, or gremlins, but the calendar in Blogger decided to just cancel the last year and reset itself to December, 2016.

Is that a political statement, do you suppose?

Monday, December 04, 2017

Flummoxed (Update)

I have to admit to being taken aback at this:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Texas ruling that said the right to a marriage license did not entitle same-sex couples to spousal benefits under employee insurance plans.

The city of Houston had asked the high court to overturn last June’s Texas Supreme Court decision, which determined that all marriage-related matters were not decided when the U.S. Supreme Court established a right to same-sex unions in 2015, leaving room for state courts to explore the limits of gay marriage.

The federal court’s decision, issued without comment, allowed the Texas ruling to stand.

I find it hard to believe that four justices did not vote to hear this one.

Here's what I think it the big flaw in the Texas decision:

The Texas court merely said that the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, while acknowledging the right of same-sex couples to marry, did not answer or resolve all marriage-related questions, including whether governments must provide the same benefits to same-sex couples that are provided to opposite-sex couples, they argued.

From the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (p. 28):

Baker v. Nelson must be and now is overruled, and the State laws challenged by Petitioners in these cases are now held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.
(Emphasis added.)

That seems to me to be pretty conclusive: if you offer benefits to married opposite-sex couples, you must offer the same benefits to married same-sex couples.

Am I missing something?

Via Joe.My.God.

Update: A possible explanation:

• In Turner v. Pidgeon (City of Houston appeals Texas Supreme Court holding that Obergefell didn’t settle question whether married same-sex couples must receive same spousal benefits as different-sex couples), Case Number 17-424, the court DENIES CERT, i.e., will not hear the case.

While speculation is just that - only speculative - it's possible the justices think it's premature to take up the case given that the Texas Supreme Court remanded for further proceedings in lower court.

Idiot du Jour

Remember Lou Dobbs? Yeah, vaguely -- some Fox News "personality" or something.

Well, he's really outdone himself this time. From WaPo:

Someone asked Obama about recent comments made by his wife, Michelle, in Toronto: The former first lady said it was never a good idea to “tweet from bed,” a not-so-subtle commentary on Trump’s early-morning social media habits.

In New Delhi, her husband agreed.

“Michelle was giving the general idea. … Don’t say the first thing that pops in your head. Have a little bit of an edit function,” he said. “Think before you speak. Think before you tweet.”

Not such a stretch, and applicable to just about everyone at every time -- especially sitting presidents: Think before you open your mouth.

Well, not as far as Dobbs is concerned:

Call it an unwritten rule — a matter of decorum among the small fraternity of men who once held the title “leader of the free world.”

Before he left office, Barack Obama said his goal was to steer clear of the political spotlight — as George W. Bush had done when he left the White House — giving the new president room to govern without Obama's shouldering into every debate with the megaphone that being a former commander in chief affords.

But a Fox Business commentator said Obama violated that unwritten rule with a recent comment about Trump’s tweets. What’s more, according to Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, that violation should merit arrest.

“I think U.S. marshals should follow [Obama], and anytime he wants to go follow the president like he is and behave [like that],” Dobbs said on his show Friday. “I mean, this is just bad manners. It’s boorish and it’s absurd and he doesn’t realize how foolish he looks.”

“I mean, he should be brought back by the marshals. Isn’t there some law that says presidents shouldn’t be attacking sitting presidents?”

The irony here is that Trump is the one who insists on dragging Obama into everything he does by his unremitting attempts to wipe the Obama administration from history.

As for Dobbs -- he's an idiot. He's always been an idiot. He always will be an idiot.

Via Digby.