"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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Executive Orders Aren't Foolproof

Even if the fool is the one issuing them.

Remember that executive order declaring that, after consultation with his generals (I guess that would be "General" Tony Perkins and "General" Mike Pence, since Trump didn't discuss it with anyone at the Pentagon), no more trans soldiers?

Well, as so often happens with Trump's exercises in absolutism, it got shot down by the courts:

A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Monday suspended key parts of President Trump's policy to ban transgender troops from serving in the military — a policy slated to take effect fully in March 2018 — dealing a sharp rebuke to an administration that claimed transgender service members hamper the military’s strength and that Trump held supreme power to enact the ban.

US District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in a 76-page decision granting a preliminary injunction that Trump’s justifications for the policy “do not seem to be supported by any facts,” noting “it appears that the rights of a class of individuals were summarily and abruptly revoked for reasons contrary to the only then-available studies.”

Kollar-Kotelly notes that transgender people “suffer severe persecution and discrimination,” saying the government must therefore supply an exceedingly persuasive justification for actions that target them — known as intermediate scrutiny. Having failed to meet that bar, she adds, six transgender people suing to overturn the ban are likely to prevail on constitutional grounds.

“The Court is convinced that Plaintiffs are likely to succeed in this lawsuit under the Fifth Amendment,” Kollar-Kotelly said.

The judge really scorched the administration. Here's the full order.

Needless to say, "General" Tony Perkins is beside himself at yet another example of "judicial activism":

“This is where judicial activism is leading us. The courts have moved beyond legislating on the invented rights of abortion and same-sex marriage to clearly usurping the constitutional authority of the executive branch. The president has the primary task of protecting Americans but we see the courts weakening his immigration policies designed to protect America from threats and now telling the commander-in-chief how to run the military.” – Hate group leader Tony Perkins, via tear-stained press release.

I just had to include Joe's comment about the "tear-stained" release.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday at Green Man Review

To offer a break from Trump's latest Twitter melt-down, there are reviews at Green Man Review, and guess what: It's all about Halloween, one way or another. So click on through and enjoy.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Bleh

I haven't been blogging lately because there just isn't that much to blog about -- I'm as heartily sick of Trump's tweets as you are.

However, there is one ray of sunshine in the swamp. This is from yesterday:

A federal grand jury in Washington on Friday approved the first charges in the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to sources briefed on the matter.

The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are.

Wonder who's going to be first in the pokey.

And I wonder what The Hairpiece is going to focus on as the next shiny object. Invade Puerto Rico?

Via Crooks and Liars.

Addendum: I should have known -- it was Hillary!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

An Important Message from Peter S. Beagle

Those of you who are familiar with fantasy literature -- and perhaps even those of you who are not -- will recognize the name of Peter S. Beagle, author of some of the most memorable works in the genre, starting with A Fine and Private Place. Beagle is currently suing his former manager and business partner, Conor Cochran. Now, Cochran is claiming co-authorship of Beagle's work. Peter has a statement on the subject which you can read here.

I urge you to do so.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Today in Disgusting People: Next Targets

Betsy DeVos is another of Trump's cabinet whose goal is to dismantle the department she's supposed to head -- and in her case that goes hand in hand with furthering the "Christian"/fascist agenda of the right-wing religious extremists. First she and archbigot Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III rescinded the guidance protecting trans students. Now she's going after the disabled:

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos early in October quietly rescinded 72 guidance documents, some in place for many years, that detailed the protections children with disabilities are supposed to receive. During her confirmation hearing DeVos refused to say children with disabilities deserve equal protection in schools, and in fact admitted she was "confused" by the federal laws.

And she's not even being above-board about it:

Rather than make an official announcement, the Education Dept.'s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services said in a newsletter Friday – nearly three weeks after taking action – that "a total of 72 guidance documents ... have been rescinded due to being outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective - 63 from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and 9 from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)," according to The Chicago Tribune.

There's more detail at the Tribune link.

This really does start to call to mind Germany in the 1930s. Do remember that the "Christian" right is solidly behind Trump (as long as he keeps trashing their victims du jour), and that DeVos herself is one of them.

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.
Attrib. Sinclair Lewis

Actually, Snopes couldn't find that quote anywhere in Lewis' writings, but it does have an interesting discussion of Lewis' politics as revealed in his novel It Can't Happen Here:


Lewis painted a vivid counterfactual portrait of a United States of America sliding into dictatorship, one that is still cited as a cautionary tale to this day:
The main character, Buzz Windrip, appeals to voters with a mix of crass language and nativist ideology. Once elected, he solidifies his power by energizing his base against immigrants, people on welfare, and the liberal press. The novel has been called “frighteningly contemporary” in the wake of the Trump campaign and election.
As Time magazine noted on 16 November 2016, It Can’t Happen Here was completely sold out on Amazon.com and Books-A-Million within a week of the presidential election.

Trump and his backers are going to take the country apart in small ways, at first -- like chipping away at all the progress we've made toward fulfilling our stated ideals in the last century. That's been the "Christian" right's strategy since Roe v. Wade.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

I Forgot It Was Sunday

But it is, and you know what that means: more good stuff at Green Man Review. Just to whet your appetite:

Some Nordic recordings, a new Brust novel, Bonbons, Crochet History, Got Boobs?, Kage at Christmas, Old Hag tunes and other matters

So scoot on over and enjoy.


Today's Must-Read: The Rise of the Right (Plus One)

A fairly disturbing article from ProPublica, via Crooks and Liars, focusing on one of the neo-Nazi groups that are feeling their oats under the Trump/Bannon regime:

There is, of course, no single answer. Some who were there that weekend in Charlottesville are hardened racists involved with long-running organizations like the League of the South. Many are fresh converts to white supremacist organizing, young people attracted to nativist and anti-Muslim ideas circulated on social media by leaders of the so-called alt-right, the newest branch of the white power movement. Some are paranoid characters thrilled to traffic in the symbols and coded language of vast global conspiracy theories. Others are sophisticated provocateurs who see the current political moment as a chance to push a “white agenda,” with angry positions on immigration, diversity and economic isolationism.

ProPublica spent weeks examining one distinctive group at the center of the violence in Charlottesville: an organization called the Rise Above Movement, one of whose members was the white man dispensing beatings near Emancipation Park Aug. 12.

One thing that's most disturbing about this group: this it not a bunch of people hiding in the shadows: they're very public, to the point of having their activities recorded and posted to YouTube.

Another thing that's perhaps even more disturbing is the lack of police response:

Despite their prior records, and open boasting of current violence, RAM has seemingly drawn little notice from law enforcement. Four episodes of violence documented by ProPublica resulted in only a single arrest — and in that case prosecutors declined to go forward. Law enforcement officials in the four cities — Charlottesville, Huntington Beach, San Bernardino and Berkeley — either would not comment about RAM or said they had too little evidence or too few resources to seriously investigate the group’s members.

In Virginia, two months after the deadly events in Charlottesville, Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, would not say if the police had identified RAM as a dangerous group.

So, RAM members descend on protests with the express purpose of physically attacking protesters, but the police decline to publicly identify them as dangerous.

There's also the matter of lack of police intervention in these attacks -- although police have shown themselves to be more than willing to arrest anti-right protesters, with more than appropriate force.

It's fairly long, but worth reading.

And another, courtesy of Digby, with a focus on the "Christian" right as another facet of the rise of Nazism in the West:

Were there ever a doubt that the Christian right, as represented by the Family Research Council, was anything other than a white Christian identity movement, that notion was laid to rest at this year’s Values Voter Summit, which took place October 13 and 14 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. In fact, you might say that this year’s gathering of right-wing believers contained many of the elements of a Stephen K. Bannon production—a combination of fire, brimstone, explosions, and nationalism, presented in an acrid cloud of coded racism.

Friday, October 20, 2017

What's Next? Put Them In Camps?

It's not just Trump -- the whole Republican party has lost any claim to humanity. Take this, for example:

[State Rep. Betty] Price's suggestion came Tuesday during a two-hour meeting of the House Study Committee on Georgians' Barriers to Access to Adequate Health Care. Price – a medical doctor and wife of Dr. Tom Price, the former Secretary of Health & Human Services – asked Pascale Wortley if quarantining people was an option given how much the state spends on care for people with HIV. Wortley, director of the HIV Epidemiology Section for Georgia Department of Health, was discussing HIV treatment with the committee.

“My thinking sometimes goes in strange directions, but before you proceed if you wouldn’t mind commenting on the surveillance of partners, tracking of contacts, that sort of thing. What are we legally able to do," Price said.

"And I don’t want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it. Is there an ability, since I would guess that public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition. So we have a public interest in curtailing the spread. What would you advise or are there any methods legally that we could do that would curtail the spread,” Price added.

This is even more revealing of her attitude:

It seems to me it’s almost frightening the number of people who are living that are potentially carriers, well not carriers, with the potential to spread, whereas in the past they died more readily and at that point they are not posing a risk.

So, I guess it's OK if people with HIV die off quickly. Sort of like the Republican health care plan.

Via Joe.My.God.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Told Ya So

More and more people are now subscribing to the idea that belief in God is not necessary to be a moral person, according to Pew Research:

Most U.S. adults now say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values (56%), up from about half (49%) who expressed this view in 2011. This increase reflects the continued growth in the share of the population that has no religious affiliation, but it also is the result of changing attitudes among those who do identify with a religion, including white evangelical Protestants.

Surveys have long shown that religious “nones” – those who describe themselves religiously as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – are more likely than those who identify with a religion to say that belief in God is not a prerequisite for good values and morality. So the public’s increased rejection of the idea that belief in God is necessary for morality is due, in large part, to the spike in the share of Americans who are religious “nones.”

There's more, including all sorts of neat visuals.

This just points up what I've been saying for a long time: morality is hard-wired, a function of our existence as social animals: we take care of each other. That's not that same as obeying a set of arbitrary rules cherry-picked from the tribal taboos of Bronze Age Middle Eastern nomads.

Via Joe.My.God., who includes a reaction from the Catholic League (a/k/a Bill Donohue and a fax machine). (Warning: Donohue's diatribe comes close to word salad.)



Sunday, October 15, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again, and pretty much autumnal. Books, TV, graphic lit, and of course, music. Hop on over and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Next Target

This should come as no surprise:

President Trump skewered the free press Wednesday, telling reporters that "it is frankly disgusting that the press is able to write whatever it wants to write."

The comments followed Trump's tweets Wednesday morning, which reacted to an NBC News story that claimed the president had called for the nuclear arsenal to be increased "tenfold." "With all of the fake news coming out of NBC and the networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their license?" Trump asked.

Via Joe.My.God., which has some of the Twitter reactions.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Playlist

I seem to be stuck in the "Ds" -- started off with Dead Can Dance, and have worked my way to Depeche Mode.

Have no idea what I'll pick next.

Coming Attractions: The Last Jedi

Coming December 15.


Today's Must-Read: Double-Barrel

A pair of posts from Hullabaloo on the NRA and how it's weaseled its way into the core of the conservative movement. The first is from Digby, focusing on this NYT OpEd from Charlie Sykes, whom she characterizes as a "right-wing apostate":

For years, Republicans have effectively outsourced their thought leadership to the loudmouths at the end of the bar. But perhaps the most extreme example of that trend has been the issue of guns, where the party has ceded control to a gun lobby that has built its brand on absolutism.

And now, again, we are about to see the consequences of that abdication. Congress did nothing in the wake of the mass murder of children at Sandy Hook, and except for a largely symbolic ban on bump stocks, it’s likely that nothing meaningful will happen in the aftermath of the shootings in Las Vegas. Instead, Republicans will round up all the usual clich├ęs and excuses for inaction.

We’ve seen this before, and it is a script written by the National Rifle Association. The N.R.A.’s blessing of restrictions on bump stocks — devices that make semiautomatic weapons fire faster — is designed to pre-empt anything more serious by giving the illusion of action. It substitutes accessory control for actual gun control.

He goes on to relate his experiences in Wisconsin, when concealed carry was set to pass, with appropriate training and licensing requirements -- the NRA thought that was too restrictive.

And it's not just guns:

Last fall, the N.R.A. started its own television news outlet, known as NRATV. As Adam Winkler, a law professor at U.C.L.A. and the author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” notes, NRATV does not focus merely on guns. “Now it’s focused on immigration, race, health care,” he told The New Republic. “We’re seeing the N.R.A. become an extreme right-wing media outlet, not just a protector of guns.”

It’s actually more than that. The N.R.A. has effectively turned itself into the Id of the right. Despite the largely symbolic ban on bump stocks, the result is paralysis, both political and moral.

And as if that weren't bad enough, Tom Sullivan details how the gun lobby controls the discussion. This, from David Frum, is especially noteworthy:

The deadliest mass shooting in American history has restarted the long debate whether something can be done to impede these recurring slaughters. That debate is conducted pursuant to rigid rules. . . .

Rule 3. The debate must always honor the “responsible gun owners” who buy weapons for reasonable self-defense. Under Rule 1, these responsible persons are presumed to constitute the great majority of gun owners. It’s out of bounds to ask for some proof of this claimed responsibility, some form of training for example. It’s far out of bounds to propose measures that might impinge on owners: the alcohol or drug tests for example that are so often recommended for food stamp recipients or teen drivers.

Rule 4. Gun ownership is always to be discussed as a rational choice motivated by reasonable concerns for personal safety. No matter how blatantly gun advocates appeal to fears and fantasies—Sean Hannity musing aloud on national TV about how he with a gun in his hands could have saved the day in Las Vegas if only he had been there—nobody other than a lefty blogger may notice that this debate is about race and sex, not personal security. It’s out of bounds to observe that “Chicago” is shorthand for “we only have gun crime because of black people” or how often “I want to protect my family” is code for “I need to prove to my girlfriend who’s really boss.”

He goes on to note Josh Marshall's argument that the unlimited ability to "collect" as many guns -- and ancillaries -- as one wants is itself a public health hazard, finishing with a story of his own:

Stories go around the business community I work in about a colorful character we might loosely describe as a "gun nut." I won't name him, but he's known by a nickname straight out of "The Dukes of Hazard." In one of the stories, he shoots himself in the leg while practicing his fast-draw. In another, his house catches fire. But his basement was crammed full of gunpowder. By the time firemen arrived, canisters of the stuff were exploding and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were "cooking off." The fire department backed away to a safe distance and let it burn.

Other than that, one of the NRA's responsible gun owners, not violent, and just the kind of guy you'd want living next door to your house with a basement no one knows is filled with explosives.

For the love of pete, you can't legally drive in any state in this country without passing a whole battery of tests and getting a license. But the NRA wants to eliminate all requirements for carrying an AR-15 around?

Monday, October 09, 2017

Today in Disgusting People

Mike Pence, vice president and Trump's lap dog (one of many), who spent who knows how much of our money to fly to Indianapolis for a football game he planned on walking out of because The Hairpiece told him to:

Vice President Mike Pence left a football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday after some players knelt during the National Anthem, saying he did not want to "dignify" the demonstration.

"I left today's Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem," Pence wrote on Twitter.

The vice president went on to issue a full statement opposing the protest.

And of course, there's a tweet.

(Via Joe.My.God.)

(I should note that the replies/comments to Pence's tweet are not supportive -- to say the least.)

Note how he's doing his bit to reinforce Trump's lie about "disrespecting our soldiers," etc., etc., etc. This, from one of those who supports Trump throwing loyal servicemembers out of the military because they're trans. I can hardly wait until they try to reinstate DADT -- or something worse.

As might be expected, the world at large is having none of it. A couple of the better responses:



a

All just to remind the trumpanzees how much they hate black people.



Sunday, October 08, 2017

It's Sunday Again

And of course there's all sorts of goodies at Green Man Review -- and just to whet your appetite:
Red Clay Ramblers offer up Halloween Music, Black cat awareness month, Philip Glass’ “portraits”, the folklore and folkways of American Indians, Ursula le Guin on Coyote, and her Buffalo Gals fantasy

So click on over to see what you should be reading, hearing, eating, whatever.

Food Is a Privilege

So we've been told by one of the dimmer bulbs in the Senate. That is, of course, one of the bases of the Republican philosophy, and once again, they're getting ready to put it into action:

The budget resolution passed by the House on Thursday will push millions of already struggling people off food stamps, leaving the neediest Americans—children and the elderly among them—without food.

The $4.1-trillion budget will take over $150 billion away from several poverty programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps low-income people keep food on the table, by giving them small amounts of supplemental money to spend on groceries—anywhere from $100 a month to $700 a month for a family of five, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

If you can't take their health care away, just starve them to death. I wonder whether any of them know that the majority of people on welfare are poor whites -- and whether that would make a difference: to Republicans, it seems that the poor are an ethnic group.

This is one of the ways Republicans figure to pay for the tax cuts for billionaires.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Second Amendment Edition

This piece by conservative columnist Brett Stephens at the New York Times. The nut:

In fact, the more closely one looks at what passes for “common sense” gun laws, the more feckless they appear. Americans who claim to be outraged by gun crimes should want to do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the developed world rightly considers nuts. They should want to change it fundamentally and permanently.

There is only one way to do this: Repeal the Second Amendment.

Read the whole thing, of course. The only flaw I can see is that he relies on facts -- statistic relating to gun deaths in the U.S. -- which have no place in this .argument as far as the gun nuts are concerned. To them, it's all about "freedom!!1!"

Via RawStory.


Thursday, October 05, 2017

Stand Off

So there's this mouse. I can't really call it "my" mouse, although I have seen it skittering around the baseboards out of the corner of my eye a couple of times. I was thinking it was living under the floor, between my floor and the ground floor ceiling. At any rate, I'm pretty much a live and let live sort of person (except for cockroaches), so I wasn't bothered by it at all.

Your basic mouse
And then, a bit ago as I was heading toward the shower, it ran right across the middle of the living room floor toward the bookcases. I stopped. It stopped. And we just sort of stood there looking at each other for a while, me wondering whether I really need to do anything about the mouse,* and the mouse -- well, who knows what the mouse was thinking?

So I moved a couple more steps toward the bathroom and the mouse pivoted to keep me in sight. And we stood there looking at each other for another couple of minutes.

And then I went and took my shower.

* I had thought of live-trapping it and taking it to South Pond and letting it go, either on the side toward the Farm in the Zoo or on the other side, where there's an extensive wild planting will all sorts of flowering plants. But it's a little late in the season for that, and I'm afraid it wouldn't have time to fatten up and dig a burrow or whatever it is that mice do in the wild. So I guess we'll stick with the status quo, at least for the time being.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Puerto Rico

I can't even put into words my reaction to Trump's reaction to the disaster in Puerto Rico. And now he's finally making a visit and it's even worse. Digby has a good look at the nightmare that is Trump.

Basically, he convened a meeting of local officials and then sat at a table and patted himself on the back and then complimented al the people who work for him and allowed some of the locals to tell him how wonderful he and all the federal officials had been. It was a circle jerk.

And he was the only one in the circle.

He's just disgusting.

Be Afraid. Be Vewwy Afraid. (Update)

That's the gist of what is the worst response to the Las Vegas massacre that I've seen so far. From Sen. John Thune (R-NRA):

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) on Tuesday responded to calls for increased gun control after the massacre in Las Vegas by telling reporters that shooting victims had a responsibility to protect themselves from gunfire.

"It sounds like [the shooter] used conversion kits and other things, you know, to make the weapons more lethal," Thune reportedly told MSNBC's Hallie Jackson. "We'll look at the facts when we get them all in here. I think a lot of us want to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like that from happening again."

But Thune shied away from the topic of gun control, arguing, "[I]t's an open society and it's hard to prevent anything."

Instead, the Republican senator offered advice to potential victims.

"I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions," he opined. "To protect themselves. And in situations like that, you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said -- get small."

This is actually right in line with the Republican playbook of the past -- gods, how many years: Be afraid. Be afraid of the Soviet Union, be afraid of China, be afraid of Muslim terrorists, be afraid of undocumented immigrants, be afraid of "those" people.

And of course, if you get mowed down while out to see a movie, or out at a club with your friends, or out at a music festival -- or sitting in your classroom at school -- it's your fault for not taking precautions.

"I think a lot of us want to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like that from happening again." He should have choked on that line. The point is, Republicans don't give a damn -- even when it's one of them in the crosshairs. Digby has a short, pungent look at their priorities.

It starts to seem as though we do have the right president for the times: the whole damned country's been turned into a game show -- the winner is the one with the highest body count.

Update: Digby has a good piece on Trump and his reaction to mass killings. It's instructive in pointing out the racial/ethnic bias in Trump's reaction (which should come as no surprise), but it also fits the general right-wing script:

But the sad truth is that as with the NRA, which traditionally goes silent after each horrifying act of mass gun violence, the only enemy available for him to blame for all this is a dead white man and the lethal arsenal he legally acquired to shoot down 600 people. And in Donald Trump's mind that's "just the way the world works."

So I guess we should all just get used to planning our daily lives on the assumption that some deranged white guy is going to use us for target practice.


Monday, October 02, 2017

Another WTF? Moment

Courtesy of Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin:

In a rare town hall type of meeting, a student asked Johnson if he thought healthcare was a right. His reply was jaw-dropping in its cruelty, ignorance and hypocrisy:

Wisconsin's junior senator did not hesitate: "I think it's probably more of a privilege."

He continued:

"Do you consider food a right? Do you consider clothing a right? Do you consider shelter a right? What we have as rights is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Past that point, we have the right to freedom. Past that point is a limited resource that we have to use our opportunities given to us to afford those things."

Johnson then referred to comments made by Sen. Rand Paul more than six years ago when Paul compared the "right to health care" to slavery.

He said the task of public officials is to create an environment that grows the economy so that more people can enjoy the "privilege" of food, shelter and health care.

Spoken like a true "I've got mine, screw you" Republican.

There's a sort of sick humor in watching Republicans fall back on the "grow the economy" mantra, since they have proven repeatedly over the last thirty-five years that they have no idea how to go about it. (Hint: tax cuts for the rich don't do it -- they just tuck the money away in offshore accounts. And austerity doesn't do it -- taking money out of a consumer-driven economy is beyond stupid.)

And as to whether food, clothing, and shelter are rights -- isn't that what "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are all about?

Here he is in action:



Sunday, October 01, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

Yep -- more books, more music -- and chocolate! So hurry on over and enjoy.