"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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Culture Break: Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture

I love these flash mobs that sort of drift together and wind up performing the most wonderful music in the most unlikely places. This is a city square in Spain.

Flash Mob performed by Banda Simfònica d'Algemesí on September 3rd 2016 at Algemesí city (Spain), playing Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture"; after the success achieved with the Ravel's Bolero flashmob in 2013.

With thanks to Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Some People Get It

This seems appropriate for the morning after than nasty little man in the White House lied his way through the State of the Union address. Apparently, there's this thing called "Broadway Roulette" -- you pay a fee and they pick a show for you at random. Here's a letter one mother sent to the cast of Kinky Boots about her experience with her daughter:

Orchestrator Stephen Oremus, who won a Tony Award for his work on the hit musical Kinky Boots, shared a letter the cast received from a grateful mother and it is truly inspiring. Oremus posted the letter on his Instagram account.

The mom tells the cast about her cautious trip to see the musical with her 10 year-old daughter and her worries about whether or not it was appropriate for her age. As she quickly found out, the show is quite suitable – and needed – for audiences of all ages.

“For the next few hours my child was mesmerized,” the mother wrote. “As the cast sang the final number I had tears streaming down my face. Not only was this an appropriate show for my daughter, it was the BEST show for my daughter to see.”

“In a world where kids are bullied every day, the message of your show is to celebrate what makes us different and unique. I cannot imagine a better message to send to my daughter than one of acceptance and tolerance.”

Click through to read the whole letter -- it funny and heartwarming.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Remember Josef Stalin? (Update)

A couple of posts from Digby this morning, on Trump and "his" Justice Department. First, the attack on Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein:

They are setting up the firing of Rosenstein as part of their "purge." They will probably get away with it. The question will be if the people they replace them with are Trump gangsters or honest citizens.

A secret, highly contentious Republican memo reveals that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance of a former Trump campaign associate shortly after taking office last spring, according to three people familiar with it.

The renewal shows that the Justice Department under President Trump saw reason to believe that the associate, Carter Page, was acting as a Russian agent. But the reference to Mr. Rosenstein’s actions in the memo — a much-disputed document that paints the investigation into Russian election meddling as tainted from the start — indicates that Republicans may be moving to seize on his role as they seek to undermine the inquiry.

The memo’s primary contention is that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by an investigator, Christopher Steele, that had been financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Democrats who have read the document say Republicans have cherry-picked facts to create a misleading and dangerous narrative. But in their efforts to discredit the inquiry, Republicans could potentially use Mr. Rosenstein’s decision to approve the renewal to suggest that he failed to properly vet a highly sensitive application for a warrant to spy on Mr. Page, who served as a Trump foreign policy adviser until September 2016.

In this context, it's worth remembering that the Justice Department is supposed to be a quasi-independent agency. Yes, the Attorney General is appointed by the president, but is not supposed to be partisan. To see how far the Republican Party under Trump has sunk, take note of this comment by former Speaker Newt Gingrich:

Of course the president ought to be able to expect loyalty. He is the chosen president of the United States by the American people, and he is the chief executive. If they’re not loyal to him, who the hell are they supposed to be loyal to?

As Digby points out:

Every American used to know that the answer to that was "the Constitution and the rule of law."

(This is from another post that gives some good backround on the erosion of our democratic norms since the Reagan years.)

And last but not least, another example of the White House's attempts to politicize the Justice Department:

Trump met with Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray at the White House last Monday to discuss missing text messages sent between two FBI agents who had expressed anti-Trump views. One of the agents later left his investigation and Mueller removed the other after learning of the texts.

Kelly held separate meetings or phone calls with senior Justice Department officials last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to convey Trump’s displeasure and lecture them on the White House’s expectations, according to the people. Kelly has taken to ending such conversations with a disclaimer that the White House isn’t expecting officials to do anything illegal or unethical.
(Emphasis added.)

That last bit just busted my irony meter all to hell.

This is what happens when we elect a wannabe dictator as president. And don't expect any pushback from Congress -- as Digby points out, they're a big part of the problem and they're not going to intefere.

Update: If you doubt Congressional Republicans' collusion in dismantling an autonomous Justice Department, there's this on the "secret memo" that they've been hyping:

House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee Monday evening voted to release a secret memo containing classified information and details of a current and ongoing investigation while also voting to block the release of a Democratic response. The memo, penned by Chairman Devin Nunes, who supposedly had recused himself from Russia investigations, reportedly is a direct attack on the FBI, and current and former FBI and Justice Dept. officials.

And there's more:

Rep. Schiff "also revealed that the committee’s Republicans had formally opened an inquiry into the FBI and Justice Department—despite the panel having initially focused on Russia’s election interference and potential collusion with the Trump campaign," The Daily Beast's Spencer Ackerman adds. "Schiff said that work would continue and anticipated interviewing Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, on Wednesday."

All in the service of a permanent majority. We've seen how that works.

Monday, January 29, 2018


From their own. A couple of stories that popped up over the weekend. (I would have noted them sooner, but I lost both internet and phone Saturday morning. Obviously, they're back now.)

First, former evangelical Frank Schaeffer doesn't have much in the way of kind words for Tony Perkins, who, you will remember, is of the "it's all forgotten and forgiven" school of Trump suck-ups:

Tony Perkins seems to have forgotten the basis of Christian theology, not just evangelical, which is to be forgiven in this tradition, you need to confess first. Donald trump never confesses to anything, and the one time he apologized for molesting a woman in a criminal assault, which was caught on tape, he tried to take the tape back, said he would sue the women who claim he assaulted them and call them all liars. This is not a confession.

So, Tony Perkins forgot his own theology and instead replaced it with a theology of revenge on people he disagrees with politically. And that is what is going on here. It's revenge of white America. It is revenge of evangelical right-wingers and who they want to punch in the mouth is not just black Americans, people, to put it in the president of the United States' words, “who live in shit hole countries,” but anybody who disagrees with them.

He also gives Franklin Graham an honorable mention:

So when Franklin Graham defended Donald Trump, he is defending a man who is not only destroying the reputation of this country, but who has become the figurehead for, in a bad sense, the #MeToo movement. The president himself, an assaulter, a criminal assaulter of women who bragged on it and called anyone who accused him a liar, in a party that now represents the grossest underbelly of human primate behavior.

And none other than the editor-in-chief of Christianity Today let Jerry Falwell, Jr., have it:

Noting that Falwell stated, “All these things [Trump’s affairs] were years ago, and he has apologized,” [editor Mark] Galli called out the evangelist for getting his facts wrong in an effort to provide cover for Trump.

“In fact, the payoff for one of the alleged affairs was offered a mere 14 months ago; meanwhile, Trump has never apologized for his affairs, only for his lewd remarks in one video,” Galli wrote. “He’s never asked forgiveness as far as I can tell. But even if we charitably assume he has privately apologized to these women and to his wife, Falwell’s exegetical justification for Trump’s adulteries is startling.”

He's not as blunt as Schaeffer, but he gets his point across.

Pass the popcorn.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Today at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again, and there are some very interesting things up at Green Man Review, if I do say so myself.

Music by the Taraf De Haïdouks, Catherynne Valente & SJ Tucker’s ‘The Girl in the Garden’, Two Octavia E. Butler novels, June Tabor’s An Echo of Hooves and other nifty things

By this time, you should know what to do, so here it is.

Friday, January 26, 2018

They Don't Give Up

Republicans in Pennsylvania are upset that the state supreme court found their partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional:

State Republican leaders on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block a Pennsylvania Supreme Court order to redraw the congressional district maps in the commonwealth, arguing that the state justices intruded on their turf.

“In short, the question in this case is whether the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the Pennsylvania ‘Legislature’ under the federal Constitution, and the answer to that question is a resounding no,” lawyers for Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) and House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) wrote in the petition to Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

I think it's called a "Hail Mary pass." They don't have a case:

David Gersch, a lead attorney for the voters who brought the case, called the arguments “embarrassing.” He noted that the same parties spent two months trying to defeat a parallel challenge in federal court, contending then that the issue was one for the state to decide. “Now that they have lost in the highest court of the commonwealth, the legislators turn around and say the exact opposite,” he said.

Experts questioned the validity of the GOP’s latest argument, noting that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order explicitly says it is based on the state constitution. Courts have also drawn congressional maps before, including at the federal level.

I'd confess to being surprised if SCOTUS agrees to hear this one, but these days I'm not going to try to predict what they'll do.

Via Joe.My.God.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Different Strokes

Now, before I start on this, full disclosure: I don't watch TV, regular broadcast or cable. Life is too short. I do, however, pick up on some things from the BBC on Netflix (no, not just nature series). I've started watching London Spy, mostly because of Ben Whishaw; it's a fairly surreal series so far (two episodes), but one things that I noticed was a fairly explicit sex scene in the first episode between Whishaw and Edward Holcroft, who is perhaps one of the most beautiful men I've ever laid eyes on.

It struck me, thinking back to other BBC series I've watched, the the British have certainly shaken off the Victorian era, in their TV programming, at least. (One stand-out: Henry Cavill appears nude for a fairly lengthy scene in the first episode of The Tudors; there were also a couple of steamy scenes between John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd in Torchwood, which also included a fairly explicit gay sex scene in one episode.)

I've also seen clips of Mexican soap operas that included male full-frontal nudity.

I've never seen or heard of anything comparable on American TV, although as I pointed out, I'm not a watcher -- if it's not on Netflix, I probably haven't seen it.

But I have the disctinct impression that Americans are a bunch of prudes, at least as far as our mass media are concerned.

I Don't Think That Means What You Think It Means

In this case, I'm talking about the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. Now, those of us who did not sleep through civics class in high school all understand that the First Amendment specifically bars the government from infringing on freedom of speech -- i.e., no government censorship allowed (within certain limits). However, the right wing is more than happy to cite "freedom of speech" in any and all circumstances, as witness this little tirade from Monica Cole of One Million Moms:

The NFL has told the nation’s largest veterans service organization, American Vets, its patriotic ad that encourages people to stand for the American flag and national anthem will not be tolerated. AMVETS had been solicited by the NFL to place an ad in the Super Bowl LII program. When the submitted advertisement included a two-word message, “#PleaseStand”, the NFL suddenly threw the penalty flag at veterans and gave the game ball to Team Censorship.

“It’s a simple, polite request that represents the sentiment of our membership, particularly those whose missing or paralyzed limbs preclude standing,” National Commander Marion Polk wrote in a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “Freedom of speech works both ways. We respect the rights of those who choose to protest, as these rights are precisely what our members have fought – and in many cases died – for,” Polk added in the letter. “But imposing corporate censorship to deny that same right to those veterans who have secured it for us all is reprehensible and totally beyond the pale.”

I don't quite how to break it to National Commander Polk, but the NFL is not the government. It's a private organization -- you know, like the Boy Scouts, who were allowed to discriminate against gay scouts because they were a private organization.

As it happens, the NFL has a good, rational reason for not accepting the ad:

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Army Times that the advertisement program “is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams, and the Super Bowl.” McCarthy added, “It’s never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”

Of course, there's the requisite whining from AmVets:

The AMVETS chief noted the irony that the NFL continues to claim that the anti-American protests by millionaire players on the field represent “free speech” even as the league denies free speech to AMVETS.

One, that's entirely up to the NFL. Two, if you want to demonstrate your "patriotism" at a football game, stand up for the national anthem.

There -- wasn't that easy?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Culture Break: Jon Balke, Amina Alaoui, from Siwan

One of my favorite albums, believe it or not. Sadly, YouTube does not include the name of the specific piece, and it's beyond me right now to go through the album and identify it. This one is pretty representative of the album as a whole, however.

And of course, I've reviewed it.

How Times Have Changed, Again

I may have to make this a department. First it was the same-sex wedding at West Point picked up by the mainstream press, and now this story on an interview with Gus Kenworthy:

Gus Kenworthy spoke to the Washington Post in a video profile recently and talked about where he is today as compared to Sochi four years ago.

“For me being in the closet I guess I just didn’t picture another life for myself. I thought that’s kind of like how it had to be and after skiing was done I’d be able to like have a boyfriend, have a husband, be out, be proud, but it was gonna be after everything else. It just got to the point where the pain of lying and holding on to it…I’d always feel like I was avoiding answers and never getting to be myself was just so painful.”

This isn't really so unusual -- a lot of us have been there. But what struck me is this:

He had a handful of small deals in Sochi, but he’ll head to Pyeong­Chang with corporate backing like few others with several big-name companies on board, including Visa, Toyota, United, Procter & Gamble, Ralph Lauren, Chobani, Samsung and Deloitte. Kenworthy being gay didn’t scare them away; it only seemed to make him a more attractive spokesman.

There have been other gay Olympians, most of whom came out after the fact. And they didn't get the corporate sponsorships that Kenworthy has picked up.

The interview, in the Washington Post, no less, is here.

And of course, there's video:

In Memoriam

Ursula K. LeGuin, 1929-2018:

Photo:  Wikimedia Commons
Acclaimed science-fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin died Monday in her hometown of Portland, Ore., her agent confirmed. Le Guin was 88.

Although best known for her science fiction — particularly the Earthsea series — Le Guin was a creative, curious writer whose more than two dozen books encompassed fiction, poetry, essays, criticism, children's books, works of translation, fantasy and even blogging.

Oddly enough, I've only reviewed one of LeGuin's books ,Gifts, which review is not available right now but will be showing up at Green Man Review sometime in the (relatively) near future. I did include her in a series of essays on sexual identity in science fiction, which, alas, is no longer available online and seems to be missing from my files. She was one of the science fiction/fantasy writers of the 1970s and '80s who redrew the map, so to speak, on what was permissible in the genre in terms of sex and gender. The Left Hand of Darkness was one of the ground-breakers in that regard; if you've never read it, hunt up a copy.

I didn't agree with her statement that genre was a marketing tool for publishers; there's a lot more to genre fiction than that, in that each genre has its own tropes and its own landscape, so to speak.

At any rate, there are some people who should live forever. LeGuin was one of them.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018


The Oscar nominations are out, and although Call Me By Your Name made the list for Best Picture and Best Actor (Chalamet certainly deserves it), I was really expecting Armie Hammer to get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In my opinion (and it's not an opinion founded in ignorance -- I've been an actor, I know what's involved) he deserved a nomination, at least. He really gave a subtle, elliptical and compelling performance -- the kind of performance that leaves you wanting to know more about this person.

Full disclosure: I haven't seen any of the other films, but from all reports, Call Me By Your Name is facing stiff competition. Given the way the politics of the Academy seem to run, I'm expecting it to be shut out -- a "gay" film, Moonlight, won last year.

The full list is at Variety.

Today in Disgusting People: A Master of His Craft

His craft, of course, is lying with a straight face while turning reality on its head. I refer to none other than Tony Perkins. This story really needs to be read in its entirety to get the full impact of the man's fundamental mendacity, but this line actually made me laugh:

Evangelical Christians “were tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists,” Perkins said, “and I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.”

This is probably an accurate reflection of the attitude of the evangelical base: not giving them special status and an exemption from the social contract is pushing them around.

And anyone who can call Barack Obama a "bully" while defending the atrocity that's squatting in the White House (when he's not off playing golf) is really reaching for the stars.

Needless to say, he gets the Tony Perkins Award.

Read the whole thing. It's really one long WTF? moment.

Today in Creeping Fascism

William Donohue, d/b/a "The Catholic League," has gotten his knickers twisted over a play. Via press release:

On January 23, “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” a New Group production, will preview at the Pershing Square Signature Center, an off-Broadway venue. That morning, at 9:30 a.m., I will hold a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., raising objections to the play and the source of funding for the New Group. Regarding the latter, the New Group receives most of its funding from public sources, led by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

The press conference has two objectives: to call attention to this frontal assault on Christian sensibilities; and to request that President Trump nominate a new chairman of the NEA, one who will discontinue funding of anti-Christian grantees, exhibitions, and performances. The current chairman’s tenure ends in April; the president is expected to announce his nominee in the near future.

First off, the NEA, I'm told, does not directly fund theatrical productions, but then, when you've got a good snit going, who cares about facts? Here's a route into the arcana of NEA grant-making. And do keep in mind that the NEA (and the NEH) have been favorite targets of the right since they made the mistake of funding projects that the "good Christians" don't approve of.

And in that vein, commenter 2guysnamedjoe at Joe.My.God. provided this link and this quote:

"It is not the mission of art," the Führer proclaimed to the assembled crowd in September 1935, "to wallow in filth for filth's sake, to paint the human being only in a state of putrefaction, to draw cretins as symbols of motherhood, or to present deformed idiots as representatives of manly strength."

I think the thing that most riles Republicans about the NEA is that it doesn't hold to the idea that politicians should be determining which art is acceptable. It wisely has left that to audiences.

Oh, and one further observation: The Catholic Church does not accept the idea of separation of church and state. Which makes the Church, as far as I can tell, officially anti-American.

Via Joe.My.God.

And just in case you're curious as to what all the fuss is about:

Be warned: it's two hours long.

Pass the Popcorn

Apparently Franklin Graham's blatant hypocrisy was too much even for some conservatives:

Evangelist Franklin Graham is being criticized for defending President Donald Trump after accusations surfaced that a lawyer for Trump had paid $130,000 to a porn star to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

"I'm afraid I have to stop recommending Samaritan's Purse. The judgment of its leadership raises too many questions," wrote radio host and editor of Resurgent Erick Erickson, on Twitter, responding to Graham's recent interview with MSNBC.

Graham is the president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse as well as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

That's just the tip of the iceberg -- Graham is catching hell from all directions on this one. It's worth reading the whole article.

Via Joe.My.God.

Monday, January 22, 2018

How Times Have Changed

Here's a nice story that is perhaps more significant than you might at first think:

Two Army captains who met in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” era of the military, became the first active-duty, same-sex couple to get married at West Point when they exchanged vows last weekend.

Capt. Daniel Hall, 30, and Capt. Vinny Franchino, 26, both Apache helicopter pilots, were married at the New York military academy’s picturesque chapel, the New York Times reported on Friday.

They're not the first same-sex couple to be married at West Point, but the first active-duty same-sex couple.

But what struck me is that, if you follow the link above, it will take you to Raw Story, reprinting an article from Newsweek, which references at article from the New York Times. It's not all that long ago that a story like this would have been ignored by the "mainstream" press -- unless there were a riot.

"Climate Change Is A Chinese Hoax!"

Photo:  DNAInfo
It is January 22, in Chicago. The forecast high for today is 55, with heavy rain/thunderstorms until later this afternoon. Tonight, it dips down to the lower 30s, so it can all freeze, then in in a day or two we go back up to the 40s and 50s.

There are no patterns to the weather any more. Yes, we normally have a January Thaw (in 1967, it got up to 70 degrees; the next day we had three feet of snow), but they don't go on for two weeks at a time, and the temperatures have been in the 40s for the past three or four days, and then a couple weeks ago we had another warm spell.

I wish the Chinese would lay off.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Hypocrite du Jour

I could make this a regular department -- there are so many possible subjects, but today's hypocrite, d/b/a Franklin Graham, seems to have made an extra effort to hit the news:

“Reverend, you just told me that this country has a sin problem and I know you’ve no doubt heard that the president is accused of having his lawyer pay $130,000 to a former porn star allegedly for her silence about his sexual encounter while he’s married,” Witt said. “The previous allegations as well, that access “Access Hollywood” tape, does that challenge your faith in the president?”

“Does the president have a sin problem?” Witt asked.

“I can promise you he is not President Perfect,” Graham replied.

His rationale is jaw-dropping:

"Well first of all, President Trump I don’t think has admitted to having an affair with this person and so, this is just a news story, I don’t know if it’s accurate,” Graham deflected.

Just try to imagine what Graham would be saying if Trump were a Democrat. I guess if you're a prominent evangelical "Christian," moral standards are negotiable.

For those with strong stomachs, or who just want to watch Graham dodging and weaving, here's the video:

What's New At Green Man Review

It's Sunday at Green Man Review, and we've got something old, something new, and lots of good stuff:

Mary Gauthier’s Rifles & Rosary Beads, Elizabeth Bear on chocolate truffles, some Roger Zelazny reviews, Music from Sufjan Stevens, Bruce Campbell’s Jack of All Trades series and other matters

Be sure to check out the Coda for this week -- it's really special. (A/k/a "Earworm of the Year") Of course, the whole thing is really special, so what are you waiting for?

It's All About Priorities

Buried in an article about the dismay of White House staffers over the way things are, I found this little tidbit from Politico particularly illuminating:

And in the meantime, the White House is caught up in the congressional fight over funding the government, saving the DACA program and funding the Children's Health Insurance Program — issues that some in the West Wing and many of Trump’s outside advisers view as distracting from the crucial task of preparing for the midterm elections and charting a 2018 agenda.
(Emphasis added.)

Did anyone really think the Republicans were interested in governing?

(And please note that I refrained from making any comments about "snowflakes".)

Via Balloon Juice.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Today's Must-Read: What America Is

It occurred to me while surfing through the news this morning that Trump's whole message, from the beginning of his candidacy and continuing through today, has been completely negative: his appeal is to the worst of us.

Tom Sullivan has a post at Hullabaloo that helps to put it all into perspective.

The #Resistance locks progressives into a confining frame. An energizing one, perhaps, but restrictive nonetheless. With Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018 behind us and the first anniversary Women's March ahead, and with the next volley from a president dishing red meat for his base coming as surely as the sun rises, perhaps it is time to clarify who we are rather than simply protest what we stand against.

Ed Kilgore offers an anecdote from Rev. William Barber II's book, The Third Reconstruction:
Not long ago I was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, with one of America’s most prominent atheists. Wearing my clerical collar, I realized that I stood out among his guests. So I decided to announce to Bill that I, too, am an atheist. He seemed taken aback, so I explained that if we were talking about the God who hates poor people, immigrants, and gay folks, I don’t believe in that God either. Sometimes it helps to clarify our language.
One could say the same about what makes America great. If American greatness means slamming the golden door to fellow human beings, to refugees from places the sitting president considers "shitholes," then I am not an American either.

He goes on from there. I found this particularly tellling, a quote from our last real president:

We are called to better things. The last president, a man not born to wealth or the privilege of whiteness, had a clearer sense of who we are. Nancy LeTourneau excerpts Barack Obama's speech at the Edmund Pettis Bridge:

For we were born of change. We broke the old aristocracies, declaring ourselves entitled not by bloodline, but endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. We secure our rights and responsibilities through a system of self-government, of and by and for the people. That’s why we argue and fight with so much passion and conviction, because we know our efforts matter. We know America is what we make of it.

To finish off, out of order from Sullivan's post, another quote from Rev. William Barber:

Trump is a symptom of a deeper moral malady. And if he was gone tomorrow or impeached tomorrow, the senators and the House of Representatives and Ryan and McConnell and Graham and all them would still be there. And what we have found, Amy, when we look at them, no matter how crazy they call him or names they call him or anger they get with him, it’s all a front, because at the end of the day, they might disagree with his antics, but they support his agenda.

Trump really is a symptom of the moral rot that has infected American conservatism since the days of Ronald Reagan, if not before. And it's not just the Republicans in Congress -- it's the billionaires who own them, who think that their own greed is the guiding force of this country, or should be; it's the "Christian" right whose lust for power has left far behind any claim that they may have once had to being real Christians; it's the small, confused people who live in fear that someone not just like them will take something away from them. I'm sure you have your own candidates for this list. And right now, they're in control.

As always, read the whole thing. It's truly inspiring.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Today at Green Man Review

Son of a gun -- it's Sunday again, and new goodies at Green Man Review:

Comfort Food, The Bordertown series, Music from Nick Burbridge and other matters

The "other matters" include a lot of Welsh music, so pop on over and have a look see.

Compare and Contrast

Via Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice, a nice example of what we've got versus what we had.



We traded an actual human being for a puffed-up moron. (There's more at the link that's worth checking out.)

This actually impinges on Trump's perceived racism. I ran across a story that Martin Luther King's nephew, after the event honoring MLK day, noted something to the effect that Trump is not "racist" as we normally think of it -- i.e., not David Duke or Jeff Sessions racist -- but rather that, as in every other area of life (except self-promotion) he is just preternaturally ignorant. (If I can find that story again I'll include a link.)

On the other hand, there's this:
In the nineteen-eighties, when Trump owned casinos in Atlantic City, some of his managers got the strong impression that he didn’t like black employees. In a 2015 story about the faded resort town, my colleague Nick Paumgarten quoted a former busboy at the Trump Castle, who said, “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor.”
He's also not very bright and appallingly incurious.

Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Science: Earth, A Biography: Another Building Block

This is actually a footnote to an earlier post on this topic. It seems that researchers may have discovered the forerunners of the means by which living cells turn raw materials into energy:

Our cells turn oxygen organic compounds, especially sugars, into energy and CO2 through a process known as cellular respiration. You may have been told in school that mitochondria, the specialized organelles which handle cellular respiration, ‘burn' food to release energy, and that's a pretty functional illustration of the process. The whole picture is, however, much larger that.

Energy-producing mechanisms in our body are often referred to as cycles - one of the most common ones is the citric acid / Krebs cycle. These are usually very complicated processes, and as such, are very difficult to wrap your head around and study them in the lab. Which is a pain if you're the kind of scientist who's trying to understand how these cycles came to be, where they first started from, and how they evolved. However, new research could offer these researchers the lucky break they need.

The processes they've discovered are, by living organism standards, pretty rudimentary:

However, the team, which also included members from the Scripps Research Institute in California and two undergrads at Furman, found two compounds which could maintain a Krebs-like cycle in experiments mimicking conditions on early Earth. Christened the HKG- and malonate-cycles, the team says these processes are likely very similar to the pre-life versions of the reactions that keep us alive today.

They're hugely less efficient than the Krebs cycle, but that was to be expected, given the lack of supportive enzymes. More importantly, however, they're based on a similar chemical blueprint - both cycles turn a molecule called glyoxylate into CO2 and other molecules in the presence of an electron-capturing agent. They're so similar, the authors' hypothesis is that biology picked them up as it was and simply tweaked and improved upon them, leading to the reactionary cycles we see today.

Given that evolution spends a lot of time adapting existing structures and processes, these two processes could very well be the beginning of metabolism --- add a few enzymes here and there as you go along, and eventually, you wind up with the Krebs cycle.

As it stands, these early processes could very well have made life possible.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Best Response I've Seen

To the "president's" comment about "shithole countries":

Via David Anderson at Balloon Juice.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Culture Break: Annbjørg Lien: Astra

This came up on the playlist a bit ago. It's from the Aliens Alive album, and I like it. Sadly, couldn't find a live performance, but the pictures are nice. Yes, that's really, truly Norway.

Today's Must-Read: It's the Economy, Stupid!

It's a given that Republicans don't know how to manage the economy (and you have to manage the economy -- when left to its own devices, we get 1929 or 2008). Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo builds on a piece by Ryan Cooper on how the Democrats have now embraced Republican-style economic management:

After three decades of New Deal programs that gave the country "the greatest economic boom in American history" and broadly shared prosperity, the 1970s began a slow return to the kind of economics that dominated the decades ahead of the Great Depression. That model, which functioned instead "on behalf of a tiny elite," focused on "deregulation, tax and spending cuts, union busting, and free trade." New Deal regulatory structures, Chicago School economists insisted, were "a drag on economic growth."

That in itself is a curious formulation, and an even more curious response to decades of boom that produced the largest middle class in the history of the world. A drag how? It is the [s]ame response that has produced the insistence over the last year of soaring corporate profits that large corporate tax cuts were necessary to kick-start an economy that for titans of industry was already performing brilliantly. After building the largest, most evenly distributed wealth -- lin the world (African Americans would disagree), returning to rule by an oligarchy wasn't happening fast enough?

To answer that last question, No, of course not: they want it all and they want it right now.

So now we have both parties subscribing to an economic philosophy that has been proven, time and again, to be bullshit -- at least, in terms of what the New Deal gave us, and to which politicians of all stripes pay lip service, if nothing else.

Read it. And think about what your life is going to be like in the new Gilded Age.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Today at Green Man Review

I know, I've been largely silent this week -- a combination of all Trump, all the time, and being rather seriously under the weather. Mending now, so it's time to take a look at what's happening at Green Man Review:

a Raga Guide, Elizabeth Hand on Chocolate, Ellen Kushner on Urban Winters, Music from Skerryvore, A Royal Christmas and other things as well…

There -- that should whet your appetite, so check it out.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Culture Break: Libro de musica de vihuela de mano intitulado El maestro: Fantasia No. 3

Played by Frank Wallace. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be any videos of Wallace performing these works. I do have an album of Wallace performing a bunch of these, which is quite appealing. I'm going to try to get my review up in the coming edition of What's New at Green Man Review.

I did it -- I'll even give you a sneak preview.

Never Mind

It seems that stories about the demise of chocolate are premature. Scopes has a rather scathing commentary:

In the waning hours of 2017, like a politician holding inconvenient news for a Friday afternoon, Business Insider published a terrifying headline: “Chocolate is on track to go extinct in 40 years.” That claim was repeated uncritically around the web as the story gained viral strength, capping a year of difficult news.

Contrary to its click-ready headline, however, the primary focus of article concerned a joint effort by scientists with the UC Berkeley Innovative Genomics Institute and the Mars candy company to create a genetically modified form of cacao — the plant used in chocolate production — resistant to the future effects of climate change and habitat loss.

The motivation for such an effort, which remains largely theoretical, rests on sound (but not at all new) research highlighting the likely negative effects of climate change on the world’s major cocoa producing countries. As an introduction to their article, the first item on Business Insider’s three point summary reads:
Cacao plants are slated to disappear by as early as 2050 thanks to warmer temperatures and dryer weather conditions.
The above sentence, which is the prime reason for the story’s viral success, is a wholly inaccurate representation of both the article it tops, and the research concerning climate change and cocoa production it purports to rest on. The body of the actual story presents a slightly less apocalyptic description of the situation[.]

It goes on -- read the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Should I Stock Up Now?

OK, this hits me where I live:

Chocolate could reportedly vanish as early as 2050. This revelation has led scientists from the University of California at Berkeley to work with Virginia-based manufacturer Mars, Incorporated to save the cacao plant from disappearing.

Warmer temperatures and drier weather conditions are expected to be the root of the cacao plants' potential disappearance, according to Business Insider. New technology, known as CRISPR, is being used by UC Berkeley scientists to modify the DNA of the plants. The crop's tiny seedlings would be able to survive in different climates if the experiment is proven successful.

All the "No GMO!" freaks can just shut up right now.

Monday, January 01, 2018

It's (Finally) 2018

Everywhere, I think -- I'm not sure how far behind Chicago Honolulu is, but I'll assume the new year has struck there. (It has -- according to this site, Honolulu is only four hours behind Chicago. It seems like it should be more -- it's so far away! -- but it's not.)

So, Happy New Year, World!

Last night I did what I always do on New Year's Eve -- went to bed early. I figure the new year is going to show up whether I'm there to greet it or not. Besides, it's freakin' cold out -- right now it's minus 8, and the high's only supposed to be 8 above today. It wasn't much better last night.

No New Year's resolutions, either -- I get too bummed out when I fail to keep them.

I am, however, determined to make some changes -- the rut has gotten so deep I'm having trouble seeing over it.

So, welcome 2018.

(The image is via Pinterest. I'm sure I have similar images of my own, but they're not in my computer, so we make do.)