"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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Another Strong Showing for NOM

You may have heard about NOM's planned demonstration at the Mexican embassy in Washington to protest the Mexican government's move to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide:


Seriously: according to an observer, she counted five adults and a baby stroller.


As I run across more and more stories of the deplorables supporting Trump, it's nice to run across one that shows what we can be:

Dear President Obama,

Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]? Park in the driveway or on the street and we will be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers, and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together. We can invite him to birthday parties and he will teach us another language. We can teach him English too, just like my friend Aoto from Japan.

Please tell him that his brother will be Alex who is a very kind boy, just like him. Since he won't bring toys and doesn't have toys Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny. And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math. And he [can] smell Catherine's lip gloss penguin which is green. She doesn't let anyone touch it.

Thank you very much! I can't wait for you to come!


6 years old

Maybe there's hope. Now if we can just persuade the press not to hand the election to the Hairpiece. . . .

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Today's Must-Watch, Part 2

Elizabeth Warren takes no prisoners:

The look on Stumpf's face as Warren finished up is priceless. If looks could kill. . . .

Here's the background.

The manager instructed her to push accounts but not to tell the customers about the downfalls and fees of new accounts. "Make them read the paperwork." She replied, "But you know no one ever reads the paperwork." His response: "Exactly."

Today's Must-Watch

Reputedly from Joss Whedon, but I can't find a credit.

And or course, the trumpies all came out from under their rocks to leave comments on YouTube.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Moral Vacuum That Is Donald Trump

Digby has a post at Hullabaloo that presents a very clear picture of just what Donald Trump is. This is only the most recent example:

Here's some background on that tweet.

Digby has further examples, which aren't amenable to excerpting here. Click through and read her post.

It's no wonder the "Christian" right is supporting him -- he, too, detests our foundational principles.

Y'know what? We're better than that.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nice Non-Discrimination Ordinance You've Got There. . . .

It's been a while since I've written about Pat McCrory's Hate Bill 2; if you need some background, earlier posts are here and here. It's now cost the state in the neighborhood of $100 million in lost business and jobs, and the potential for economic disaster is growing day by day.

So, McCrory has a "compromise":

McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said in a statement that the governor would call a special session if two requisites are met: Charlotte must move first to repeal its expanded protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and secondly, a majority of lawmakers must be in favor of repeal.

"If the Charlotte City Council totally repeals the ordinance and then we can confirm there is support to repeal among the majority of state lawmakers in the House and Senate, the governor will call a special session," Ellis said.

Isn't that nice? If Charlotte repeals its ordinance, the governor will try to repeal HB2. No guarantees, but he'll try.

Any normal person would call this "blackmail."

It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. McCrory is facing the loss of his office, and as the economic damage mounts up, his chances look grimmer. All he needs is for NASCAR to pull out of the state.

One can only hope that the Charlotte city council gives McCrory a big fat FU.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again (have you noticed how that keeps happening, like every week?), and there's new goodies up at Green Man Review. Click on over.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Today's Absolutely Must-Read

Kurt Eichenwald has done an amazing article at Newsweek on Trump's foreign entanglements and how they might affect his foreign policy decision, should (the gods forbid) he should wind up in the White House.

A close examination by Newsweek of the Trump Organization, including confidential interviews with business executives and some of its international partners, reveals an enterprise with deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians and even criminals, although there is no evidence the Trump Organization has engaged in any illegal activities. It also reveals a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled. If Trump moves into the White House and his family continues to receive any benefit from the company, during or even after his presidency, almost every foreign policy decision he makes will raise serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires.

"Trump Organization" -- it even sounds like the mafia.

Read it.

Today in Trump's America

In Georgia. The only surprise is that it's not in Alabama. From Raw Story:

A meeting about whether to lift a moratorium on the construction of a mosque in an Atlanta suburb was canceled on Tuesday after a video made by right-wing militia members led to fears of armed violence.

According to NBC News, officials in Covington, GA canceled a city planning meeting dedicated to voting on whether to proceed with the construction of a new mosque and Muslim cemetery in the town.

Chris Hill — leader of local militia group the Three Percent Security Force — told reporters that he made the video during a weekend protest against the mosque.

“I was just shooting from the hip is what I was doing, and saying, ‘Right over there, this is going to be a future ISIS training group. This is where you’re going to see terrorism taking hold in Newton County.’ It’s tied to terrorism, everything from 9/11 to Boston bombings to the Fort Hood shooting, to the coup in Turkey. It’s all connected,” said Hill, who goes by the name “Blood Agent” in his videos.

This is one of those "real Americans" who can't find his ass with both hands and a map. He must get dizzy from all the buzzwords flying around in his head.

And this is choice:

On Tuesday, armed militiamen protested outside the site of the proposed meeting, some carry assault weapons, others with sidearms. One man walked in circles shouting through a megaphone.

Hill, a Marine veteran, said that at no point has his group made violent threats against city officials, but Newton County administrators took the video seriously enough to postpone the planning meeting.

Umm -- you don't think armed idiots parading around with assault rifles constitutes a threat?

Brace yourselves -- it's going to get worse before it gets better.

You Won't Hear About This on Fox News

And probably not much about it from any other major "news" organization. From Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

One of the Republicans' campaign talking points this year is that electing Hillary Clinton will be a third term for Barack Obama. The horror.

Upon yesterday's release of two reports by the Census Bureau, Economic Policy Institute president Larry Mishel tweeted:

I can't remember feeling such glee on seeing a new economics data report
Census described its findings in a press release:
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that real median household income increased by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015 while the official poverty rate decreased 1.2 percentage points. At the same time, the percentage of people without health insurance coverage decreased.

Median household income in the United States in 2015 was $56,516, an increase in real terms of 5.2 percent from the 2014 median income of $53,718. This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the most recent recession.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2015 was 13.5 percent, with 43.1 million people in poverty, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The 1.2 percentage point decrease in the poverty rate from 2014 to 2015 represents the largest annual percentage point drop in poverty since 1999.

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage for the entire 2015 calendar year was 9.1 percent, down from 10.4 percent in 2014. The number of people without health insurance declined to 29.0 million from 33.0 million over the period.

This will get buried and the press will continue to let Trump get away with his lies about how the country is sinking.

Sullivan goes on to analyze what effect this will have on the election, which is, to put it bluntly, none:

The stunning economic news might not actually boost Clinton's numbers any time soon. For one, it takes time for macroeconomic news to filter down to average voters, a former Sanders pollster told the San Francisco Chronicle. It may take several positive reports before voters notice. Plus, John Powell, director of UC Berkeley's Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, observed:
“Trump feeds off of people feeling bad, feeling angry. Then he says, ‘I can save you,’” Powell said. “Much of their effort — by Republicans and Trump — is that they need to say that things are bad. Their campaign is one of deep anxiety and polarization, that the country is going to hell in a handbasket.”

And that's the message that people will keep hearing -- if the press can find room to fit it in between Clinton being near death and E-Mails!!1!.

And we should know by now that, after Republicans have screwed up the economy with their voodoo economics, it takes a Democratic administration to fix it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Culture Break: Arvo Part: The Deer's Cry

Sometimes it can be really frustrating to put up these "Culture Break" posts if I have something specific in mind. Finding a video is not always easy. I had planned on posting a video of Pärt's "The Deer's Cry," which is the title track of the new ECM album I just reviewed. Unfortunately, there's no full-length video of a performance by Vox Clamantis, which is the group that recorded the album, and other versions, while they present the full piece, require one to jack the volume all the way up to hear them at all. So, if you can't hear it, turn up that dial (or whatever):

And here's a brief video of the recording session for the ECM album. You can see that Pärt was very much involved:

The music is, if I'm not mistaken, "Alleluia Tropus," which is also on the album.

And if you haven't yet read my review, it's here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Today's Must-Read: Hillary's Health

Digby has what I think is the definitive piece on the whole "Hillary's failing health" fantasy being broadcast 24/7 by Breitbart, Drudge, Infowars, and, like the lapdogs they are, the "mainstream" press. This is a key point:

At that moment they could have chosen to analyse Clinton's pressing on with the campaign in spite of having pneumonia as an indication of her grit and dedication to the campaign. And in fairness some did. For instance, contrary to widely assumed rumor that she'd been taking it easy all month, Jeff Zeleny of CNN said that he'd covered five presidential campaign and had never seen a more brutal schedule than Clinton's. Or the media could have taken Clinton's doctor at her word that she is being treated and will recover nicely. Instead they settled on their tedious narrative of righteous indignation about Clinton's supposed pathological secretiveness in failing to inform them of her diagnosis the minute she got it. It's all about them.

I've had pneumonia, twice that it was severe enough that I wound up in the hospital hooked up to antibiotics and fluids for a couple of days. It took three weeks to recover fully. Now, I doubt that Clinton is having as severe an episode as I did, but still, to take a couple days off what is a brutal schedule to recover is pretty tough on her part.

I doubt that Trump -- or Drudge or anyone at Breitbart, for that matter -- could maintain her schedule and deal with pneumonia at the same time.

Monday, September 12, 2016


To All Trump, All the Time. This comes from Mexico, via Towleroad:

Across Mexico over the weekend, thousands of “pro-family” groups protested against same-sex marriage as the country moves toward marriage equality. In one particular march in Celaya, Guanajuato, a 12-year-old boy was photographed in the middle of the street trying to block the march of 11,000 people from moving forward.

Journalist Manuel Rodriguez captured an image that is instantly iconic.

As the publication Regeneracion noted, we’ve seen one very similar shot in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. It’s reminiscent of the “tank man” image the world knows so well.

Said Rodriguez to Generacion: “At first I thought the child was only playing.”

But Rodriguez interviewed the child later, who said, “I have an uncle who is gay and I hate the hatred.”

Mexico is one of those odd countries where marriage is legal some places -- nine states and Mexico D.F. (the federal district around Mexico City); every place else, couples have to file for a court order to get married. President Enrique Peña Nieto has signed an initiative to amend the constitution to allow same-sex marriage, which has sparked the protests -- spearheaded, of course, by that bastion of charity and compassion, the Catholic Church.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Saturday Science: Earth: A Biography: Land, Ho!

I know, it's Sunday, but at least I got this part finished.
I haven't spent a lot of time discussing what was happening to the Earth itself during these couple of billions of years during which life was getting itself on the map, so to speak. You'll remember that at the beginning of this time, during the later Hadean, there wasn't a whole lot of land. What land existed was barren (of course) and probably pretty unstable. About four billion years ago, we're probably looking at a world map something like the image on the left.

Now, at least one geologist has doubts as to whether we can actually call these landmasses from four billions years ago "continents."

As John Rogers sees it, three billion years is as far back as you can go in studying continents. Before that, they didn’t exist - not by his definition.

Traditionally, geologists determined the age of a continent based on the oldest exposed rock, which is some variety of granite. Because granites constitute the foundations of continents, geologists assumed that any granite found must date back to the continent’s formation. But Rogers, Kenan professor of geology, pointed out that granites were forming and being reworked into the crust before the crust was steady enough to sustain a continent.

“I kept saying that a whole pile of granites that is continually being destroyed is not a continent,” Rogers says. “It’s just a temporary pile of rock.”

He bases part of his argument on the ages of various parts of Pangaea, and it's worth looking at, but since Pangaea is much later than the period we're dealing with here, I'm not going to concern myself with it. What I am going to be looking at is a couple of processes involved in land formation.

Now, it may seem like a no-brainer, but it comes as a surprise to a lot of people to realize that one of the first natural phenomena on Earth, after the formation of what we'll call proto-continents, was rivers. Think about it: you have a hot planet that's cooling down, an atmosphere with a lot of water vapor, and a lot of variation in elevation: there's no reason to suppose that the earth's surface was flat, given that land formation was largely the product of volcanic activity: think Mt. St. Helens, or Vesuvius, or, for that matter, the Hawaiian Islands.

So, it starts raining. And raining. And raining. (Sorry, but forty days and forty nights isn't even in the running.) Two things are going to happen. The low places are going to fill up with water, and the water that falls on the higher places is going to run down to the lower places -- that is, we have rivers. And with rivers come sediments.

There are a number of contributing factors to erosion during this period. First, there's the action of rain itself, which, given the composition of the atmosphere -- carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and probably sulfides and other fairly corrosive compounds -- was more than likely, acid. While the rocks that existed were fairly resistant -- it's not easy to erode granite or basalt -- the acid rains had some effect. There is also evidence of glaciation as early as 2.9 billion years ago, and if there's one thing glaciers can do with great efficiency, it's erode rock.

So we have rivers, and we have sediment, and one thing that happens with sediment is that, as the rivers reach lower ground and slow down, the sediment drops out. This is especially true when the rivers reach the ocean. So we have sediments deposited in lowlands and in shallow oceans near rivers that are just waiting to become, in the first instance, soil, and in the second, rock.

(A fuller discussion of the climate and general conditions in the Pre-Cambrian can be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica. It's exhaustive, and a little dense in place, so be warned.)

I'm still trying to pin down a point of origin for the critters that first developed exoskeletons -- not trilobites or crinoids, those are much too late, but the little prokaryotes that might have accreted shells of calcium carbonate to reinforce their cell membranes and/or to avoid being eaten by other prokaryotes. It seems likely that they occurred during the Pre-Cambrian, but there's vanishingly little evidence of exactly when, mostly due to the vagaries of our constantly shifting Earth.

Nevertheless, it seems fairly certain that they did make their appearance sometime during the Pre-Cambrian, and led to another very important part of land formation: limestone. I've heard estimates that 40% of the land on earth is limestone or derived from limestone, so you can see how important this is. As an illustration, the bedrock of Chicago is limestone, which shows that at one time this area was underwater. It's down there, and it's relatively recent -- we used to hunt for fossils in the gravel from the quarries near where I grew up, and would find things like bits of crinoid stems and the like -- but it's an important part of the geology of the region.

So, we got land forming, continents moving around -- and growing, and the Earth itself becoming more stable and more like what we know today. The stage is set for the Cambrian explosion, which we'll be looking at soon.

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday, and what's more, I even remember that it's Sunday, so that means more reviews at Green Man Review.

Including a brand new one from me. Click through for some good reading.

Today in Trump's America: The Kaepernick Reaction

So now it's worked its way down to high-school football games:

The announcer of the Friday night football game at McKenzie High School in Alabama's Butler County had something to say to those who may choose not to stand for the national anthem.

"If you don't want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they're taking shots for you," the announcer said at the game versus Houston County High School, according to Facebook poster Denise Crowley-Whitfield.

Crowley-Whitfield said the crowd went "crazy cheering" following the speech.

The announcer was identified as Pastor Allen Joyner, of Sweet Home Baptist Church in McKenzie, according to Joyner's relatives and friends, who also posted to Facebook and praised the statement.

I'd like to say, "Well, it's Alabama," but that's too easy. (Of course, considering Alabama's history with minorities of all kinds over the past -- 240 years? -- it makes sense that something like this would happen there.)

Strangely enough, all those Facebook posts praising this asshole got deleted pretty quickly. Maybe because of reactions like this:

Mark Bender, a 22 year Air Force veteran from Texas, spoke out against Joyner in a post on the Sweet Home Alabama Baptist Church's Facebook page, calling the pastor's words "abhorrent and disgusting."

He said he is "deeply offended and saddened" by Joyner's "hateful rhetoric.

"We fight so that all Americans retain their rights and freedoms to protest," Bender wrote. "I would never turn a weapon on my own countryman simply because they protest by remaining seated during the national anthem, by refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance, refusing to stand or pledge during any act. These things we do, these pledges, these songs, these are not compulsory acts. They are acts that we are all free to join or not.

"I am proud that we have that freedom whether or not I agree with someone's non-violent protest," he continued. "You, on the other hand are promoting extremist violence by way of state sanctioned executions. You are obviously standing for the compulsory actions by way of preaching hatred, jingoism, American exceptionalism -- all because people do not believe or think as you do. I am grateful that the majority of Americans do not thirst for their brother's blood as you do. You are a disgrace, those who agree with you are a disgrace, and you are a black mark upon this great nation. You should certainly hang your heads in shame."

Maybe they stopped and thought about it? Enough to think that maybe something like this might be, just a wee bit, socially unacceptable?

And this is priceless: the church of which he is pastor claimed that not only were this jerk's comments taken out of context, but he was misquoted as well. A twofer.

Oh, and they deleted that comment within an hour.

On "Deplorables" (Updated)

I couldn't agree more with Josh Marshall's comments:

Let me take a moment to address this "basket of deplorables" comment because I think it's critically important to get this right. Hillary Clinton has simply said what is the premise of most election coverage of the 2016 campaign: a big chunk of Trump supporters are haters. Racists, misogynists, people who are angry at the social and demographic changes in the country that most Americans see as progress. They want to stop it in its tracks and they want payback for what has happened already. To emphasize the point, this is not just what she and likely the great majority of her supporters believe. It has been the premise of most reporting on the campaign and validated by a vast cache of public opinion data confirming these points.

It may have been easier not to say this and left herself vulnerable to a faux-populist counterattack. But she did say it. She cannot unsay it. And since it is not only basically true but in fact a matter of central importance to the entire election, it is truly critical that she not back down.

Add in the tribalists -- the hard-core Republicans who put party over country -- and you've got Trump's base.

Should she have said it? It's hard to know what to answer -- Marshall's comment about faux-populist rage has an element of truth -- a big element of truth -- but she's going to get that no matter what she says about anything. And I think it's about time that the Democrats started hitting harder, if you know what I mean: I'm tired of the party that demonstrably is working for the good of the country as a whole being on the defensive. And the thing about the right wing -- like any other bullies, if you stand up to them, they'll fold.

And as for her "apology":

I regret saying ‘half’ — that was wrong,” Clinton said in a statement. . . .

Maybe you have to have a life-long of in-your-face attitude, but I read that as "I regret saying only half -- that was wrong."

The Clinton campaign came out with this statement yesterday afternoon:

“Last night I was ‘grossly generalistic,’ and that's never a good idea. I regret saying ‘half’ -- that was wrong. But let's be clear, what's really ‘deplorable’ is that Donald Trump hired a major advocate for the so-called ‘alt-right’ movement to run his campaign and that David Duke and other white supremacists see him as a champion of their values. It's deplorable that Trump has built his campaign largely on prejudice and paranoia and given a national platform to hateful views and voices, including by retweeting fringe bigots with a few dozen followers and spreading their message to 11 million people. It's deplorable that he's attacked a federal judge for his ‘Mexican heritage,’ bullied a Gold Star family because of their Muslim faith, and promoted the lie that our first black president is not a true American. So I won't stop calling out bigotry and racist rhetoric in this campaign. I also meant what I said last night about empathy, and the very real challenges we face as a country where so many people have been left out and left behind. As I said, many of Trump's supporters are hard-working Americans who just don’t feel like the economy or our political system are working for them. I'm determined to bring our country together and make our economy work for everyone, not just those at the top. Because we really are ‘stronger together.’”

Clarify -- don't apologize.

Update: Just ran across this, by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic:

One way of reporting on Clinton’s statement is to weigh its political cost, ask what it means for her campaign, or attempt to predict how it might affect her performance among certain groups. This path is in line with the current imperatives of political reporting and, at least for the moment, seems to be the direction of coverage. But there is another line of reporting that could be pursued — Was Hillary Clinton being truthful or not?
(Emphasis added.)

And, as Coates goes on to demonstrate, she was.

It's sobering to realize just how far from reality the media have drifted, when no one -- well, almost no one -- is asking that basic question. But then, according to one of the sock-puppets scheduled to moderate the presidential debates, fact-checking is not their job.

Really? Since when?

Today in Trump's America

This is -- how shall I put it? -- deplorable:

A bigoted Brooklyn woman launched a sickening attack on two Muslim women pushing their babies in strollers — punching them in the face and trying to pull off their hijabs, prosecutors said Friday.

Emirjeta Xhelili, 32, hurled Islamophobic insults as she pounced on the two victims near her Bath Beach home about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, authorities said.

“Get the f--k out of here,” Xhelili, 32, allegedly yelled at the pair, according to prosecutors. “Get the f--k out of America, b-----s.”

As she punched the 23-year-old women in the face and kicked them in their legs, she tried to rip the traditional Muslim veils off their heads at Bay 20th St. and Cropsey Aves., police sources said.

“This is America — you shouldn’t be different from us,” she yelled, prosecutors said.

"You shouldn't be different from us." From who? With a name like Emirjeta Xhelili (sounds real Anglo-Saxon, doesn't it?), I'd love to know where her family originated.

This is the sort of people that Trump not only attracts, but validates -- he's given permission for behavior like this.

It can get much worse, and I fear it will -- I remember hearing reports after 9/11 of Sikh business owners being shot dead at their establishments, because everyone who wears a turban must be a terrorist, right? And given that Trump's basket of deplorables includes racists, gun nuts with their penis substitutes, the ignorant, "Christians", the KKK, Tony Perkins and the rest of our society's lower depths, it's only a matter of time.

Via TPM.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Image of the Week

I haven't done one of these in a while, but since the news these days is so cheerful (All Trump, All the Time!), I decided to dig through the archives.

Here's one from a series I worked on for a while way back when, called "Combinations". I may go back to it. Someday.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

OMG!! Sharia Law!!1!

The president has nominated a Muslim for the US District Court for Washington, D.C.:

Abid Qureshi, the global chairman of law firm Latham & Watkins’ pro bono practice, has been nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He is the first ever Muslim to be nominated to serve the federal judiciary, according to Muslim Advocates, a civil rights legal advocacy group. . . .

Qureshi, who was born in Pakistan, has been leading the Los Angeles-based firm’s pro bono practice since 2012 and has been a partner at the firm since 2006. He received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in 1993 and a law degree from Harvard Law School in 1997.

According to Latham’s website, Qureshi’s expertise lies in fraud cases including healthcare and abuse and federal securities law. He also has “substantial experience handling internal corporate investigations, governmental inquiries and regulatory proceedings.”

I can hardly wait for the reaction from Frank Gaffney and Pam Geller, America's leading Islamophobes.

Culture Break: Kazaky: The Sun

I seem to be forgetting to post things until a day or two later this week. Anyway, we haven't featured Kazaky for a while, so here's "The Sun," with their usual mix of athleticism, eroticism, and abstraction:

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

The Times Strikes Again

It's sort of a toss-up whether this is clueless of cynical. I've voting for cynical: Note the headline and caption:

Senate Democrats Block Zika Bill Over Planned Parenthood Provisions

Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, in the Capitol on Tuesday. “It’s hard to explain why, despite their own calls for funding, Democrats would block plans to keep women and babies safe from Zika,” he said. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times

And notice how the Times treats the real sticking point in the body of the story:

As Congress returned from a seven-week recess on Tuesday, Senate Democrats again stymied a $1.1 billion plan to fight the Zika virus, demanding that Republicans drop an effort to block Planned Parenthood from receiving money to combat the mosquito-borne disease.

Democrats, who had essentially blocked the same legislation in late June, had enough votes Tuesday to prevent Congress from moving emergency funding public health experts say is desperately needed as they prepare for the possibility that Zika will spread to other states along the gulf coast. The vote was 52 to 46, and Republicans needed 60 votes to advance the bill.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican majority leader, said that although efforts to fight the virus had produced encouraging results, the problem was far from over.

“It’s hard to explain why, despite their own calls for funding, Democrats would block plans to keep women and babies safe from Zika,” Mr. McConnell said before the vote.

A bare mention of the poison pill in the bill -- defunding Planned Parenthood, which is the GOP's latest target in its anti-sex, forced birth crusade. So of course, it's all the Democrats' fault, because you can't really expect the Republicans to write legislation that doesn't incorporate at least some part of their social agenda.

OK -- the article does address the Democrats' objections, in a sketchy sort of way, down in the body of the story. But we all know that it's the headline and the lead that have the most effect -- and how many people will bother to read the whole story?

Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

And Now For Some Good News


China has upgraded giant pandas from endangered to vulnerable.

Decades of conservation work in China have paid off for the giant panda, whose status has been upgraded from "endangered" to "vulnerable" owing to a population rebound, according to officials.

The improvement for the giant panda was announced on Sunday as part of an update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the world's most comprehensive inventory of plants and animals.

The latest estimates show a population of 1,864 adult giant pandas. Although exact numbers are not available, adding cubs to the projection would mean about 2,060 pandas exist today, the IUCN said.

"Evidence from a series of range-wide national surveys indicate that the previous population decline has been arrested, and the population has started to increase," the IUCN's updated report said.

However, it's not all good:

The IUCN Red List includes 82,954 species - both plants and animals - and undergoes a major update every four years.

Almost one third - 23,928 - are threatened with extinction, it said.

Compared with previous years, even more species are under threat.

Carlo Rondinini, mammal assessment coordinator at Sapienza University of Rome, said almost 28 percent of mammals are threatened with extinction, three percentage points more than in the previous mammal assessment in 2008.

"A takeaway point we would like to emphasise is we are not journeying in the right direction with respect to species conservation," Andersen said.

"We are losing species at a faster pace than we have ever done."

The Field Museum of Natural History, in its exhibit "Evolving Planet," lists the present as the "Sixth Major Extinction Event." They're not being alarmist.

In Memoriam: Phyllis Schlafly

I try not to say anything negative about the departed, so in this case I'm going to let Sarah, Proud and Tall say it for me:

She was a nasty, hypocritical old baggage – she believed in jobs and power for her, but not for other women, that there was no rape inside marriage, that Anthony Kennedy should have been impeached for abolishing the death penalty for minors, and that all Muslims should be banned from the armed forces and political office.

She endorsed Donald Trump, but that might just have been because she was bats at the end.

She was a prude whose hatred of sex and those who dared to have it – in particular those who she thought God had cursed with disease for having it – somehow made her the respectable face of a campaign to stigmatise people with HIV and AIDS (and not just the gays) which gave the Reagan administration cover to ignore the AIDS crisis, held back AIDS education and funding of AIDS research for years, and therefore directly or indirectly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the infection of twice that many again.

There are lots of disgusting people occupying places in America's public discourse, the Schlafly was one of the worst.

Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian, put it much more succinctly:


Today's Must-Read: The Press vs. The Clintons, Part ?

I've lost count. Digby's been on this, and comes up with another post today, taking off from this article by James Fallows. The concern is not just the bias of the press, but the effect it's having on our whole political process:

Twenty years ago I published a book called Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy. The Atlantic ran an excerpt as a cover story, called “Why Americans Hate the Media.”

The main argument was that habits of mind within the media were making citizens and voters even more fatalistic and jaded about public affairs than they would otherwise be—even more willing to assume that all public figures were fools and crooks, even less willing to be involved in public affairs, and unfortunately for the media even less interested in following news at all. These mental habits of the media included an over-emphasis on strife and conflict, a fascination with the mechanics or “game” of politics rather than the real-world consequences, and a self-protective instinct to conceal limited knowledge of a particular subject (a new budget proposal, an international spat) by talking about the politics of these questions, and by presenting disagreements in a he-said/she-said, “plenty of blame on all sides” fashion now known as “false equivalence.”

I think one root cause is simply that, while liberals expect people to be honest and act responsibly, conservatives know better: they know they can feed bullshit to the press and the press will swallow it because controversy generates ratings. Fact-checking? What's that?

Digby brings up a good point:

But what he says about all this making people jaded is very important. It's not just the press, of course. We're in the middle of an epic hangover from the economic crisis and people are still feeling the pain. It takes a while to work that out an the political ramifications of big jolts like that can be huge. So, a lot of this is real --- or it's sincerely felt anyway.

But the way the media is covering this campaign is making things worse. And, as usual, they seem not to give a damn.

Of course they don't -- they've got their six- and seven-figure salaries and access to any Republican they want to talk to. Why should they care?

Digby also gives links to more must-reads.

 Paul Krugman: Hillary Clinton gets Gored

Josh Marshall: About as clear cut as they get

And this, from some months back from Jonathan Allen: The Five Unspoken Rules for Covering Hillary Clinton

That last link may be the most important. This isn't some crazy partisan delusion. It's real.

I'd say, also, be sure to read Krugman's piece, if you haven't already. It's up to his usual standard.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Welcome to Trump's America

Not because Trump is an instigator -- he's a facilitator for behavior like this:

A deaf high school senior in Omaha, Nebraska was the victim of a cruel prank this week when bullies took his backpack away and emptied the contents — including the battery for his cochlear implant hearing aid — into a school toilet.

KMTV reported on the story of Alexis Hernandez, a student at Omaha’s Burke High School, who looked around for his book bag during his lunch period on Wednesday and realized that it was gone.

He immediately notified school officials, who reviewed security footage but were unable to identify the two male students who waited until Hernandez left his table and then walked off with his belongings. School staff searched the school grounds for the bag to no avail.

Later, Hernandez’ homework, school supplies, tablet computer, hearing aid and debit card were found dumped into a toilet. Everything was ruined. He took a photo of the damage that was posted on social media and subsequently went viral.

It's not just that Trump is a racist asshole -- I don't know if he himself is racist or not, and I don't care -- he's playing that card for all it's worth. And when you give permission to treat one minority as less than human, you give permission to treat just about anyone as less than human.

Today's Must-Read: It's Not a Future Thing

Really scary article from the New York Times. (Since it's not about the Clintons, we can take it as largely accurate.) It's on the order of "Nice coastline you've got there -- be a shame if anything happened to it.":

NORFOLK, Va. — Huge vertical rulers are sprouting beside low spots in the streets here, so people can judge if the tidal floods that increasingly inundate their roads are too deep to drive through.

Five hundred miles down the Atlantic Coast, the only road to Tybee Island, Ga., is disappearing beneath the sea several times a year, cutting the town off from the mainland.

And another 500 miles on, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., increased tidal flooding is forcing the city to spend millions fixing battered roads and drains — and, at times, to send out giant vacuum trucks to suck saltwater off the streets.

For decades, as the global warming created by human emissions caused land ice to melt and ocean water to expand, scientists warned that the accelerating rise of the sea would eventually imperil the United States’ coastline.

Now, those warnings are no longer theoretical: The inundation of the coast has begun. The sea has crept up to the point that a high tide and a brisk wind are all it takes to send water pouring into streets and homes.

And of course, it's not just American cities that are in peril. Think about what's going to happen to London, Rio, Hong Kong, Sidney, Tokyo -- I'm sure you can come up with your own list. And how high will the Netherlands have to raise the dikes to avoid becoming a large inlet? (One Pacific Island nation -- and I've forgotten which one -- has already made arrangements to evacuate its entire population.)

Of course, there's obstruction in Congress to allocating funds to actually do something.

Yet Congress has largely ignored these pleas, and has even tried to block plans by the military to head off future problems at the numerous bases imperiled by a rising sea. A Republican congressman from Colorado, Ken Buck, recently called one military proposal part of a “radical climate change agenda.”

You can bet that if there were earthquakes in Colorado, this asshole would be screaming for someone to do something.

Of course, if you ask a Republican, this is all because the Chinese, with the help of the Clinton Foundation, are secretly pumping all the water from the Yellow River into the Atlantic to drown Washington, D.C.

Green Man Review Catch-Up

I completely forgot to do this yesterday, which was "What's New" day at GMR.

Only one review, but it's a new one -- more music from ECM. But there's lots of other good stuff, so click on over.

Saturday Science: Oops!

I meant to post this Saturday and just blipped on it.

I realize there have been no new installments on "Earth: A Biography" for a couple of weeks. Partly it's because a lot was going on before we hit the Cambrian -- new kinds of land formation (think "limestone") and a couple of significant mutations in living organisms. We just don't know for sure how it happened, and I'm trying to find some best guesses to lay out before we get to the Cambrian Explosion.

And it's also partly because there's been a lot of distractions in real life. Hopefully, those are past.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Today's Must-Read, Part 2: The Press' Anti-Clinton Bias

Via Bark Bark Woof Woof, this piece by Paul Glastris in the Washington Monthly:

Over the last two weeks, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has taken a hit in the polls, much of it pretty clearly due to aggressive press investigations involving her relationship with the Clinton Foundation when she was Secretary of State. Even Hillary fans should see that these investigations are warranted. After all, Clinton is running for the most powerful office in the world. While she was Secretary of State, her husband was overseeing a $2 billion a year charity. That charity took in donations from foreign governments and individuals with international interests. These facts raise legitimate questions. Did donors to the Foundation get special access to the secretary and the department as a result of their donations? If they did get special access, did they receive any favors? Did Hillary or her staff do anything illegal, unethical, or contrary to U.S. interests or administration policy?

The good news is that as a result of these investigations we can now answer those questions pretty definitively: no, no, and no. The bad news is that the press doesn’t seem to want to take “no” for an answer, even if the answer is based on the evidence of its own reporting.

And it's not just the usual suspect, i.e., Fox News or CNN. It's the New York Times, AP, LA Times -- all the ones you thought were trustworthy.

Maybe Darrell Issa and Trey Gowdy have joined their editorial boards.

Today's Must-Read: E-Mail-Ghazi!!1!

Via Digby, this article by Kevin Drum on the FBI's report on Hillary Clinton's use of a private server while Secretary of State. I'll just give the lead-in here, because it's almost impossible to excerpt:

Have you read the entire FBI report on their investigation into Hillary Clinton's email practices? No? Well, I have, because that's the kind of professional I am. And I'm going to provide you with all the most interesting excerpts.

The report starts off with a whole bunch of technical detail about how the Clinton email server was set up and managed, and is basically uninteresting except to nerds. As everyone knows, Hillary's email was originally hosted on a personal server in her home (referred to as the "Pagliano Server") and was later transferred to a commercial hosting service, Platte River Networks (the "PRN Server").

I do suggest you read Drum's whole article, but here's the conclusion, with Digby's comment:

 That said, this report is pretty much an almost complete exoneration of Hillary Clinton. She wasn't prohibited from using a personal device or a personal email account, and others at state did it routinely. She's told the truth all along about why she did it. Colin Powell did indeed advise her about using personal email shortly after she took office, but she chose to follow the rules rather than skirt them, as Powell did. She didn't take her BlackBerry into her office. She communicated with only a very select group of 13 people. She took no part in deciding which emails were personal before handing them over to State. She had nothing to do with erasing information on the PRN server. That was a screw-up on PRN's end. She and her staff all believed at the time that they were careful not to conduct sensitive conversations over unclassified email systems. And there's no evidence that her server was ever hacked. There's remarkably little here. If you nonetheless believe that it's enough to disqualify Hillary from the presidency, that's fine. I have no quarrel with you. But if the FBI is to be believed, it's all pretty small beer.
Yes it is. But apparently either adds up to treason or a lack of judgment so severe that it makes the election of a fascist demagogue something worth considering. 

You'll note, by the way,  that Colin Powell is a lying sack of shit. But then we should already have known that right? If you want to blame someone for the Iraq war and the carnage in the middle east, he's way ahead of Clinton in that line. But there's no need to probe his tenure or write any of the breathless headlines we see daily about Clinton's much less significant time in office. Granted, he's not running for president. But I'm going to take a wild guess that if he were, this issue would not be seen as evidence of his innate dishonesty and personal corruption.

Meanwhile, that stalwart journalist Jake Tapper can't understand why Clinton won't hold press conferences so he and his fellow-travelers can continue to beat this particular dead horse.

Can we note once more what a disaster the mainstream press coverage of this election has been?

Saturday, September 03, 2016

The Liberal Redneck on Colin Kaepernick

I don't really have anything to add:

We're All Fox News Now

I was going to write on the coverage of the latest Clinton "scandal" by the New York Times, but Paul Waldman has done a very thorough job:

Whenever some new piece of information emerges about Hillary Clinton or people close to her, we’re told that it “raises questions” of some kind, which means it’s being shoehorned into a larger narrative that says something fundamental about her: That she’s tainted by scandal, or corrupt, or just sinister in ways people can never quite put their finger on.

Yet somehow, stories about Donald Trump that don’t have to do with the latest appalling thing that came out of his mouth don’t “raise questions” in the same way. They’re here and then they’re gone, obliterated by his own behavior without going deep into question-raising territory.

The "newspaper of record" has had a kind of tarnished reputation since the days of Judith Miller and the lead-up to Bush II's invasion of Iraq. The real problem is, since the major news outlets have become so unreliable, if you really want to know what's going on, you have to hit a lot of sources, and most people won't.

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Via Digby, who sums it up nicely:
The papers have done a good job reporting on many of Trump's business dealings over the years. But since there isn't any left wing Judicial Watch or Citizens United spoon-feeding them new new drips of information on a daily basis, they report it out and that's the end of it.

They are being manipulated by the character assassins and they know it. But they don't care. They seem to convince themselves that at some point one of these scandals will add up to a big scoop (Monica!) and until then they'll keep the scandal mongers happy by publishing their hit jobs. The way they drool and grunt over every little nugget the right wingers throw in front of them, however, is embarrassing. (Some of them should stay off twitter.)

Idiot du Jour

By way of introduction, please note the following:

Amendment XIV

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. . . .

Section 5.

The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Apparently, someone skipped class the day that amendment was discussed. From Mark Joseph Stern at Slate:

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court refused to review a lower court ruling holding that cities may not deprive married same-sex couples the benefits it provides to opposite-sex couples. The court’s decision leaves in place a pro-equality ruling that forbids the government from discriminating against gay people for no good reason. But one judge, Justice John Devine, argued that his court should have taken the case and reversed the lower court’s judgment. His opinion is an ominous sign that conservative judges are striving to work around Obergefell v. Hodges and affirm the constitutionality of state-sponsored anti-gay discrimination.

Devine is clearly no fan of Obergefell, and his dissent attempts to minimize that decision to an almost dishonest degree. “Marriage is a fundamental right,” Devine wrote. “Spousal benefits are not.” Devine insisted that Obergefell’s affirmation of same-sex couples’ constitutional right to wed does not preclude Texas from discriminating against married, same-sex couples in other ways. Obergefell, the justice argued, was strictly limited to gay people’s fundamental right to marry. So long as a state does not revoke that right, it can deprive same-sex couples of other benefits guaranteed to opposite-sex couples. Specifically, Devine wrote, the government can refuse to give spousal benefits to its gay employees because they are gay.

Turns out it's all because marriage is for procreation. But you don't need a license to make babies, which, considering Justice Devine is from Texas, he should know.

I'm not going to get into all the usual arguments about sterile heterosexual couples, couples past childbearing age, couples who choose not to have children, because, quite frankly, they're beside the point: marriage is and always has been a public agreement between two persons (although in the past, it's been more between two families than two individuals) to undertake certain rights and responsibilities toward each other. Or, in my favorite definition, "Marriage is the recognition by the community of the establishment of a new household."

Now, as to Justice Devine's ridiculous assertion that marriage benefits are not a constitutional right:

The justice utterly overlooks the fact that Obergefell, like Windsor, has an Equal Protection component that is critical to its holding. In Obergefell, the court wrote that states may not “exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.” Devine insists that the “terms and conditions” of marriage are nothing more than the laws governing marriage, like minimum age statutes and bigamy bans.

That is really quite absurd. As every other court to consider the issue has recognized, this provision of Obergefell requires states to extend the same benefits to married same-sex couples that it does to married opposite-sex couples. That, at a bare minimum, is what Obergefell’s Equal Equal Protection analysis obviously requires.

Devine's reading of "terms and conditions" is so obviously self-serving that I don't even need to point it out. It also goes without saying that there's an agenda here, and it's not concerned with liberty and justice for all. Stern is quite rightly concerned about judges trying to work around Obergefell, and it's not just judges -- we already have too many examples of "conservative" (and what a travesty the conservative movement has become) legislators and state officials trying to chip away at marriage rights: in their minds, if no one else's, marriage equality is equivalent to abortion and women's reproductive rights. They'll keep chipping away at Obergefell, the same way they have at Roe v. Wade, and they'll find reactionary judges to support them.

Fasten your seatbelts -- it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Today's Must-Watch

Rachel Maddow on the history of "nativism"* and anti-immigrant sentiment in the US (fair warning: there's a section running several minutes of The Hairpiece spewing hate):

Adam L. Silverman has this post at Balloon Juice on the same subject.

It's a recurring nightmare, and it's not just America, or even any country established by immigrants. Look at what's going on in Europe right now, and the countries of Europe are largely homogeneous in ethnic make-up. Or were. Or think about the inter-tribal conflicts in Africa resulting from the creation of nation states with boundaries imposed by the colonial powers. It's all "Us vs. Them."

In part, I think it's due to our existence as social animals: by definition, membership in a group leads to distrust of those not in the group. Think of howler monkeys or gibbons vocalizing to establish their territories -- certainly one of the less harmful means of doing that. Chimps can get violent.

But we're so much more advanced than that. Aren't we?

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Here We Go Again

You may have heard that Matt Bomer was cast as a transgender woman in the film Anything.

As you can imagine, the trans community -- or at least, a vocal segment of it -- is up in arms. On social media, of course, because that way you don't actually have to think about what you're saying. This is one of the least hostile tweets:

Jamie Clayton Retweeted Trans Hollywood

I really hope you both choose to do some actual good for the trans community one day.

Bomer blocked her on Twitter, temporarily (apparently, he has now unblocked her). I would too -- this is the kind of condescending crap he doesn't need to put up with. Bomer, as a matter of fact, has been a strong supporter of trans rights, which makes Clayton's tweet even more offensive.

The idea that trans characters must be played by trans actors is, on its face, ludicrous. These are actors. They make their living pretending to be someone else and if they make us believe they are that other person, we consider them good actors. As for what considerations go into casting a role, I've been there: you're looking for the actor who is a fit for the character. You're not thinking of the actor's real-life sexual orientation or gender identity -- those are irrelevant; you're looking for the actor who is capable of moving into this character and making the character real. When I was in college I was routinely cast as old men; I was skinny, had an angular face that would take age makeup well, and I could move the way an old man moves. I was nineteen or twenty. Hollywood has the added burden of name recognition: they have to have something to draw the audience, and casting a high-profile actor is one of those somethings.

But back to the core complaint: visibility of trans people. The fact that the film is being made at all, or that other films with trans characters have been made and been successful, seems to elude this group. They're not registering on what this actually means. I realize that at this stage of the game, when the trans community is coming under attack from the "Christian" right (now that gays and lesbians are pretty much mainstream), they want real trans people to be more visible. But this set of circumstances shows us that we're dealing with a two-pronged issue: resistance and inertia.

When I was a kid -- and I knew from a very early age that I liked boys -- there's wasn't even such a thing as a "gay man." There were only "queers," who were shady, diseased, and dangerous, and universally despised. You never saw gay characters on TV and seldom in films, and when you did, they fit the stereotype: sick, pathetic, and just barely people. I was hungry enough for any representation of people like me that even that was a plus: at least we existed. It took fifty years, but that's changed a lot. And it was the same process: overcoming first inertia, and then overcoming resistance.

And I have to say, these representations of trans characters are a lot more sympathetic than the early representations of gay characters in film. I can't stress how important that is: it means that the inertia of the status quo -- the stereotypes -- is already a thing of the past. So in that regard, Trans Hollywood's tweet is flat out wrong.

So, however much you may hate it, changing people's perceptions of marginalized groups takes time. It means you have to overcome the inertia of the status quo and the resistance of those who need someone to hate to justify their own existence. Having a very public snit because it's not happening the way you think it should doesn't help -- in fact, it's as likely to damage your cause as anything else, because you've shown yourself to be immature and not ready for prime time.

When we have trans actors and actresses playing cis characters in major motion pictures, then we're there.

The Press Strikes Out (Updated)

If you've been following the coverage of the Trump circus -- there's no way to avoid it, and I can't really call it coverage of the election campaign -- you've probably been as disgusted as I have at the sheer inanity of the press. John Aravosis has a good take-down, starting with Matthew Chapman's commentaries, via Twitter:

Matthew Chapman, who writes over at Blue Nation Review, has an epic tweet-storm up this morning about the media and the election.

You can read through Chapman’s entire litany below — you need to start reading from the bottom, then work your way up.

In a nutshell, Chapman argues that the media is failing us this election.

He notes, rightly, that “they’ve done nothing to educate us on the candidates’ policy (especially Clinton’s). They are only barely covering the candidates’ records.”

And he’s not record [wrong]. Think about it. When is the last time you heard anything about what Hillary Clinton plans to do as president? You’ve heard a lot about the Trump campaign’s false claims that Hillary is ill and that she’s a “racist.” We’ve also heard a lot about the now-debunked Associated Press story about the Clinton Foundation.

It goes on, and it's right on the nose. Click through to read the tweets.

It's become fairly obvious that the nightly news is no longer concerned with journalism -- it's entertainment, when it's not outright propaganda.

Update: Anne Laurie has a commentary at Balloon Juice on the press reaction to Trump's Mexico vist, with tweets. I like this one:

 Martha Jackovics @BeachPeanuts
Trump banned the press from his Mexico trip. The MSM takeaway here will be "Why won't Hillary Clinton do press conferences?"