"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, February 28, 2018

So Who's More Backward?

This article stopped me on this morning's browsing:

A Muslim country is about the last place you’d expect to be at the forefront of transgender rights. Yet Pakistan has been taking steps to recognize its transgender citizens that would be considered far too radical for a supposedly tolerant nation like the U.S.

Pakistan’s latest move is especially bold: sending transgender youth to serve as volunteers for this year’s Hajj, the annual trek to Mecca, Islam’s holiest site. The decision is a de facto challenge to conservative Muslims who vociferously oppose any form of LGBT rights.

In fact, the decision by Pakistan is just the latest in a line that undermines widely held notions about Muslim attitudes toward transgender people. As an added sign of just how far advanced Pakistan is relative to the U.S., the Hajj volunteers are being drawn from the Pakistani equivalent of the Boy Scouts. Some 40 transgender Scouts took their oath to the organization last week.

We're still fighting over who gets to pee where.

The article cites a couple of other countries that have, by our standards, very advanced policies in place regarding their transgender citizens: India and Nepal.

Just on a wild guess, I'd say it has a lot to do with their cultural histories, but I don't know enough to make a definitive statement. I do know that, given the age of the civilizations of these countries, Islam is a late add-on, in the case of Pakistan; Hinduism doesn't have the same attitude about non-binary identities as the desert religions. In America, Christianity came with the first settlers. (It's worth noting here how Americans magnified some of the less admirable qualities of European culture; for example, the male dominance so prevalent in Europe was largely show. In fact, psychologists call it "mythical male dominance": women not only had their own spheres of authority, but had a fairly substantial amount of behind-the-scenes input into decisions made by men. In America, this mythical dominance became real.) Given the spatial dislocation of the early settlers, and in some cases the conscious rejection of the culture they had left*, it's not really very surprising that America is, socially, backward, especially in areas having to do with sex and sexuality.

At any rate, this is a pretty good take on where we rank in terms of dealing with our trans citizens -- nowhere near the top.

* Think about the Puritans, who by all reports were fairly awful people; sadly, they've been idealized as part of the American mythos, with a concomitant effect on our cultural attitudes.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Stray Thought for the Day

From this article by Peter Baker at the New York Times on Mueller, Manafort, Gates, et al.:

In a fiery speech to supporters on Friday, President Trump went after his vanquished opponent from 2016. “We had a crooked candidate,” he declared.

We had a crooked candidate, and he got elected.

Via Bark Bar Woof Woof.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again at Green Man Review, with something old, something new, and everything interesting:

Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe Down’, Wild China, identity in science fiction, ‘hedgehog highways’ and other neat stuff

Off you go -- enjoy!

Review: Kenny Fries: The Healing Notebooks

First, a note: I'm trying to kick myself into doing some substantial writing again, and found myself going through the review pages and found a number of reviews that were originally published at Epinions and are no longer available there. I may re-use some of them at other sites, but they will have to be re-worked first (different audiences need different approaches). So I thought I'd revive the Sunday reviews department here and republish some of them, which may help me start writing original pieces. This is the first, originally published in 2003. If you have a reaction, leave a comment.

I first read The Healing Notebooks several years ago, when the second wave of friends was dying around me. Like so many of the literary works produced by gay men in this period, these poems are about loss, but they are much more than that.

What keeps me coming back to these poems, what has kept me coming back to them for ten years, is their incredible simplicity, which opens to amazing depth and strength. My long-time favorite of these twenty brief works, a sketch made at the dinner table, starts “Not the way they hold me,/but the way they hold/the cup . . .” In fourteen short lines Fries paints a picture of love that may have been matched, but never exceeded, and he does it through a spare, distilled observation of the commonplace, ending “of all hands/your hands/of all men/you.”

And perhaps I’ve already said too much. These are fragile-seeming works, small, quiet poems that keep resonating long after you have put the book back on the shelf, slight songs that do not really speak to intellect. (How much magic is there in a spectral analysis of sunrise?) There is something almost Japanese about them in their serenity, their fine distillation of the mundane into a potent, numinous draught that takes us far from the everyday events that they describe. There is a particular vision in this collection, perhaps born of the necessity of making every second matter, measured against the reality of time that suddenly has a limit: “Watch the moment./It is nothing complacent.”

What makes us human? Scientists, theologians, everyone has tried to answer this question, and the answers come up lacking. Kenny Fries provides an answer that I don’t think will have to be revised: We make our art as our common humanity, a memory that is much more than history. Our paintings, our dances, our music, our poetry are all guardians of the moments from our lives that have meaning far beyond the mere events. “. . . It is the leaf I am/holding, the orange burning/the heat of summer into my hand./How else can I remember this orange/in the winter gray?” Poetry like that of Kenny Fries, in its elegance and simplicity, peels away the layers of irrelevance and makes our souls tangible.

Trump Toadie Outrage #732

I sort of blipped on this one when I first saw it, but fortunately a post at Mock Paper Scissors reminded me. From The Intercept, which first reported the story:

The lead U.S. agency tasked with granting citizenship to would-be Americans is making a major change to its mission statement, removing a passage that describes the United States as a nation of immigrants. In an email sent to staff members Thursday and shared with The Intercept, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director L. Francis Cissna announced the agency’s new mission statement.

It reads:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, safeguarding its integrity and promise by efficiently and fairly adjudicating requests for immigration benefits while protecting Americans, securing the homeland, and honoring our values.

USCIS’s previous mission statement, still available on the agency’s website Thursday, read:

USCIS secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customers, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.

My first question, in reaction to the new statement, is "Just whose values? Trump's?"

And then "securing the homeland"? Don't you mean "Vaterland"?

And of course -- stop me if you've heard this -- when it comes right down to it, the only place that people are really native to is East Africa. So basically, we're all descended from immigrants.


This statistic comes at the end of this post by Spocko* at Hullabaloo, which is focused mainly on corporations that are severing ties with the NRA and strategies for applying economic pressure on politicians and legislatures, but this sort of caps the argument:

Since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High, at least 69 kids under 18 have been shot. 26 of them were killed. Those numbers are from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Gun Violence Archive.

To refresh your memory, the shooting happened on Valentine's Day. Eleven days ago. That's more than six kids shot every day; more than two killed. Kids.

There's a chart with statistics on gun violence just this year at the Gun Violence Archive link. If you want to see how badly out of control this situation is, click through and take a look.

And the idiot-in-chief wants to arm teachers.

On that score, read this post by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo on what people who've actually had combat training think of that idea:

Learning to shoot is one thing. Learning to fight is something else, especially when the target isn't paper and is shooting at you.

"Anyone who tells you that arming teachers is a solution is clueless," Friedman writes.

Yeah. That fits.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Just Because

Because I'm sick of Trump and all his satellites, and sic of the NRA (who should all be shot), and sick of the news in general. So, thanks to Bark Bark Woof Woof, there's this:

The male cast of "King Kong the Musical" perform "Big Spender" from Sweet Charity at Twisted Broadway Melbourne; and annual charity event raising money for Oz Showbiz Cares Equity Fights AIDS.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I Knew It!

Believe it or not, I do think about other things than being snarky about right-wingers.

Northwest Coast totems
I spend a lot of time at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History, which is no surprise, given my life-long fascination with the natural world and the way it works, which in my mature years has also become a fascination with human cultures and their origins. (Sometimes the processes can be remarkably similar, if mostly metaphorical.) On a couple of recent trips, I noticed the strong resemblance between the iconography of the Northwest Coast peoples of America, the high cultures of Meso-America, and the Polynesian peoples of the Pacific, and in fact an affinity between the art of those groups and certain motifs in Chinese and Japanese depictions of, for example, gods and demons -- common motifs, such as large, staring eyes and protruding tongues as a sign of power. I considered the possibility that there was a common origin somewhere back in the mists of time, especially since evidence points to origins of at least some of the American Indians and the peoples of the Pacific island in close proximity --possibly in Southeast Asia and/or the area of Indonesia and New Guinea.

Well, lo and behold! While reading Joseph Campbell's The Flight of the Wild Gander, a group of his essays that deal with the origins of myth and religion, I ran across a passage in "Bios and Mythos" (pp.30-31 of the New World Library edition of the collected works) in which Campbell notes the work of a number of anthropologists who have entertained similar ideas, specifically the work of Robert Heine-Gedern, who, he says, "showed that late Chou Dynasty art motifs had been somehow diffused from China to Indonesia and Middle America."

Maori totems
And searching through that rag-bag memory of mine, I remember references to the Lapita people of Taiwan, coastal Southeast Asia and the Malay Archipelago, who are generally considered to be the ancestors of the peoples of the Pacific Islands. This ties in with another memory of a reference to the origins of some Amerindian languages in Southeast Asia, but I don't remember the specific locality that was mentioned. (This is kind of a sketchy association, since there are a number of languages spoken in that region, some of which are relatively recent results of movements of peoples from mainland China and possibly India. I really can't confess to be up to snuff on that particular area.)

The bottom line is that there is some validity to my idea of a common artistic tradition between America, East Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

(A side note: at the beginning of the exhibition "Ancient Americas," the Field has a video outlining the two main theories of how people arrived in the Americas from Asia: either via the Bering land bridge during the most recent glaciation, or by boat. These are always presented as two theories in opposition, but it occurs to me that they're not mutually exclusive. Another booby-trap engendered by either/or thinking.)

Polynesian panel

Meanwhile, In Talahassee

It's all about priorities:

The Washington Post reports:
The Florida House of Representatives was in session on Tuesday considering several issues. These included a motion to debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons in the aftermath of the mass shooting that killed 17 people last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and a resolution declaring pornography a public health risk.

The House chose not to consider the gun-control bill. Less than an hour later, state Rep. Ross Spano (R) presented his resolution, arguing that viewing porn can lead to both “mental and physical illnesses” along with “deviant, or problematic sexual behaviors.” The House approved the resolution by a voice vote, to the chagrin of many House Democrats.

Something to Ponder

This, from commenter Jean-Marc in Canada in the comments thread at this post at Joe.My.God.:

Just sayin'. . . .

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Culture Break: Sam Hamill: What the Water Knows

I promised you something besides music for a "Culture Break" post -- here's Sam Hamill reading one of his poems.

I find it hard to come up with an example of poets reading their own work that aren't almost painful to watch. I really think they should all take a class in the oral interpretation of literature before they're allowed to read in public. I watched a video of Jorie Graham, a poet for whom I have immense respect, reading one of her works -- it looked like she was in pain. (I don't understand why people think that a poet is automatically capable of reading his or her work aloud in public. There's an element of acting in that, and let's face it -- poets aren't actors.)

Yes, of course I've reviewed one of Hamill's collections: Dumb Luck.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Well, It's Started (Update)

Given the moral bankruptcy and somewhat questionable mental stability -- not to mention a complete lack of humanity -- on the fringe right, I suppose it was only a matter of time before we started seeing things like this:

The Washington Times has created a village of village idiots. The village idiot of the village of idiots is columnist Cheryl K. Chumley. Monday she writes: “Obnoxious, ignorant teens now demand curbs on guns.”

Teens across the nation, fed up with school shootings, are planning marches, media events and three-minute demonstrations at the White House in order to get across their messages of frustration with the Second Amendment and to demand lawmakers take immediate action.

Now if only they weren’t so dang entitled, snarky and obnoxious.

Looks like the NRA has decided to take the gloves off. This is, of course, the Moonie Times, home of the unhinged. But they're not alone. This popped up in the comments to this post at Joe.My.God., courtesy of commenter Eddi Haskell:


Gateway Pundit is the home turf of Jim Hoft, widely considered the stupidest man on the internet.

This is just the beginning -- I'm sure we'll see more attacks on the survivors of the shooting -- and of course, there will be death threats. I wonder how long it's going to take Fox News to pick up on this.

Update: It didn't take long at all, and we get a twofer: Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, all in one smelly package:

While speaking to Fox News Sunday, Limbaugh was asked by host Chris Wallace if a planned march by students could get lawmakers to act to prevent school shootings.

"Chris, I have to ask if anybody is really serious about solving this because none of this -- by the way, I couldn't care less about the gun angle of this," Limbaugh replied, referring to a group of students from Parkland that Wallace had just spoken to. "None of this is going to solve -- prayers and condolences don't solve it and marches aren't going to solve it. Chris, the next shooter is out there."

"It's not the fault of the NRA. It's not the fault of any -- it's the fault of the people doing this and our inability to deal with that and stop them," he insisted. "Until we're willing to get serious about where we are and how do we they stop this from happening and marches aren't going to do it, saying no more guns isn't going to do it, bashing the NRA isn't going to do it."

If this sounds more than a little incoherent, well, when you're trying to deflect blame away from the ones who are holding your leash and you have absolutely no case, that's about par: just bury it in word salad.

The post at Joe.My.God. is about Marion Le Pen speaking at CPAC:

Jaws dropped on Twitter this afternoon when CPAC published the full agenda for this week’s convention, revealing that French fascist Marion Le Pen will speak from the main stage immediately after Mike Pence.

Marion, you may recall, is the even worse niece of National Front leader Marine Le Pen and in 2012 at age 22 became the youngest person ever elected to the French Parliament.

You may or may not know that France's National Front was founded by Nazi collaborators.

This is today's GOP.

Footnote: On the other side of the coin, the conspiracy theorists are on it. The ever-reliable Alex Jones:

“Their whole globalist system is falling apart. The left’s been caught running Antifa that’s cop-killing. They’ve been caught in their own documents that came out a month ago—George Soros’ son funding movements trying to get national riots going when Obama was in in 2015 to be able to trigger civil war,” Jones said.

He continued, “You can see exactly what they’re saying. And then someone that fits, not the profile of a nihilist like we were thinking, but someone who is completely mentally ill, autistic, totally suggestable, will do whatever he’s told, on psychotropic drugs, who doesn’t have parents—it’s in the news—magically is there and all the eyewitnesses are saying multiple shooters.”

If it sounds unhinged and incoherent -- well, that's Alex Jones.

And Fox is right on this one:

According to Fox News scumbag Todd Starnes, the surviving students of the massacre in Parkland, Florida are organizing against future massacres because they’ve been brainwashed by the “government-funded indoctrination camps” that non-scumbag Americans call public schools.

This afternoon Starnes also posted this on Facebook: “The Mainstream Media is using survivors of the Florida school shooting as propaganda pawns to attack President Trump, the NRA and the Second Amendment. They are literally using children as human shields in their bloodthirsty attempt to take down the president.”

And of course, they're coming to take your guns.

The really awful thing about this is that people actually believe this bullshit.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Tipping Point?

Maybe, just maybe, in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, we've reached a point where enough people are ready to say "Enough!" that we might be able to do something about it.

Let's start with this post from Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

A gunman entered her high school on Valentine's Day and killed seventeen of her classmates. Wiping back tears, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzales held back nothing else in challenging President Trump, national politicians, and the National Rifle Association in a powerful speech to an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday.

If there is one thing teenagers' eyes see better than adults', it is hypocrisy. Their tolerance for it is lower too.

Gonzales told the crowd:
In February of 2017, one year ago, President Trump repealed an Obama-era regulation that would have made it easier to block the sale of firearms to people with certain mental illnesses.

From the interactions that I had with the shooter before the shooting and from the information that I currently know about him, I don't really know if he was mentally ill. I wrote this before I heard what Delaney said. Delaney said he was diagnosed. I don't need a psychologist and I don't need to be a psychologist to know that repealing that regulation was a really dumb idea.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa was the sole sponsor on this bill that stops the FBI from performing background checks on people adjudicated to be mentally ill and now he's stating for the record, 'Well, it's a shame the FBI isn't doing background checks on these mentally ill people.' Well, duh. You took that opportunity away last year.
Grassley said after the Florida shootings, "We have not done a very good job of making sure that people that have mental reasons for not being able to handle a gun getting their name into the FBI files and we need to concentrate on that."

The blatant hypocrisy is staggering. And it's worth noting that Grassley took in $9,900 from the NRA in the 2016 election cycle alone. I can't find a total for Grassley, but he doesn't seem to be in the first rank like Richard Burr ($6,986,620), Roy Blunt ($4,551,146), Thom Tillis ($4,418,012), Cory Gardner ($3,879,064), or Marco Rubio ($3,303,355), none of whom think it's the right time to talk about gun control.

She's not the only one calling the politicians to account. Cameron Kasky, another student who survived, at CNN:

We can't ignore the issues of gun control that this tragedy raises. And so, I'm asking -- no, demanding -- we take action now.

Why? Because at the end of the day, the students at my school felt one shared experience -- our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of schools.

But this time, my classmates and I are going to hold them to account. This time we are going to pressure them to take action. This time we are going to force them to spend more energy protecting human lives than unborn fetuses.

And they're organizing:

Student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting announced a “March for Our Lives” this morning calling for lawmakers to take substantive action on guns.

Emma Gonzalez, the student who gave an impassioned speech yesterday, told CNN’s Dana Bash, “We’re going to be facing this with trepidation and determination, and we have an incredible support system around us. We are going to be the difference.”

Cameron Kasky said right into the camera, “We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around.”

He said on March 24th, students “in every single major city” will be marching to send a message about how lives are literally on the line.

“This isn’t about the GOP, this isn’t about the Democrats,” he said. “This is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral.”

There's video at the link which doesn't seem to be at CNN's YouTube channel and which I can't embed.

Maybe we need to start targeting those senators and representatives who are flouting the wishes of a large majority of Americans.

Sullivan's parting thought is worth repeating here:

In most reports on her speech, this early section gets left out:
I read something very powerful to me today. It was from the point of view of a teacher. And I quote: When adults tell me I have the right to own a gun, all I can hear is my right to own a gun outweighs your student's right to live. All I hear is mine, mine, mine, mine.
Contrast that with the comments of the conservative Australian rancher Jon Oliver spoke with in 2013. He did not want to part with his weapons when the government banned them after the Port Arthur massacre, "But ... I felt as if I had a bit of a duty to the rest of our society."

What he said.

And a thought, to all those congresscritters and senators who never think it's time to talk about gun control, and/or that it should be easier to buy guns:

Why is the Capitol a gun-free zone?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What's New at Green Man Review

In spite of everything, Sunday rolls around every week, and here it is again. Lots of neat stuff at Green Man Review, if I do say so myself:

A New Album by Joan Baez, Bee Gees Down Under, Yet More Taza Chocolate, Jack Vance, Baby Groot and Other Matters

And did you know Abraham Lincoln was a wrestler? Check it out.

They're Not Even Pretending Any More

Via Joe.My.God., in the category of "Blatant, Shameless Liars" we have yet another White House shill spouting "alternative facts," and this one's a doozy:

Journalists lashed out at a White House spokesman on Saturday after the aide to President Trump claimed that news media and Democrats have caused more “chaos” than Russia.

White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley made the comments during an interview on Fox News while responding to special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russian nationals for meddling in the 2016 election.

“There are two groups that have created chaos more than the Russians and that’s the Democrats and the mainstream media,” Gidley asserted on Fox News.

“[They] continued to push this lie on the American people for more than a year, and frankly Americans should be outraged by that.”

Actually, when you look at actual events, statements, etc., the ones who are causing the most chaos are -- you guessed it: Trump and his minions.

But it gets better. Maybe you should hide your irony meter -- it probably won't survive this one (via Towleroad):

And the White House also issued a statement: “We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful. It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions. We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.”

Kind of takes your breath away, doesn't it?

Friday, February 16, 2018

Today in Disgusting People

Take your pick:

Donald Trump:


With thanks to commenter fuzzybits at Joe.My.God.

That post quotes from this article about our second candidate, Greg Gutfeld:

“Society is changing. You have to teach them how to respond,” he said, before referring to kids as “soft targets.”

“You have to be rational about it, which means hardening soft targets through drills and training,” he said. “Learning combat. Learning hand-to-hand combat. This works, by the way, for terror, if there’s a terror attack, and it works for school shootings.”

Gutfeld asked “How do you improve upon this rationally? Well, you train them. That simple.”

What an absolutely insane idea. Can you see a first-grader aiming a karate punch and some guy with an assault rifle? In this context, I think "You have to be rational about it" makes a good laugh line.

Next up is Kentucky Governor Matt Blevin:

In the wake of a shooting that left at least 17 dead on Wednesday in a high school outside Boca Raton, Florida, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) focused on violent video games as part of a "culture of death that is being celebrated" and leading to these kinds of incidents.

"There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there's nothing to prevent the child from playing them," Bevin said in an interview on WHAS' Leland Conway show Thursday morning. "They celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off who's lying there begging for their life."

"These are quote-unquote video games, and they're forced down our throats under the guise of protected speech," Conway continued, seemingly referring to a 2011 Supreme Court decision that prevents content-based restrictions on games. "It's garbage. It's the same as pornography. They have desensitized people to the value of human life, to the dignity of women, to the dignity of human decency. We're reaping what we've sown here."

That's just the tip of the iceberg. But he's not alone -- he's just the one who popped up in my surfing this morning. As it happens, the link between video games and violence is somewhat tenuous:

International comparisons of per capita spending on violent games and gun-related murders show a negative correlation between the two. And meta-analyses of video game violence studies have found no real link between imaginary on-screen violence and actual aggressive behavior.

Again, via Joe.My.God.

And last (for the time being) but certainly not least, the ever reprehensible Bryan Fischer:

I know a man who was living in a neighborhood when a salesman came door to door selling home security systems. He told the salesman he already had one. “What’s your security system?” he asked. The man replied, “God and a loaded gun.”

It wasn’t a matter of either/or but both/and. I suggest we have mass school shootings because we don’t have enough God on our campuses and we don’t have enough guns.

When tragic school shootings happen, like the one in Florida, everyone sends their “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims. But why don’t we pray before these shootings happen instead of waiting until somebody’s dead? Everyone understands that prayer in school is appropriate in the wake of a tragedy like this. But if it’s appropriate after, there’s no reason it’s not appropriate before.

As might be expected, he turns it into an argument in favor of prayer in schools -- and more guns.

And, yes, via Joe.My.God.

The appalling thing is, this is all from three of the first four posts I saw at the first site I visited this morning. I'm sure there are more, but enough is enough. For right now, at least.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

It' Not Really Baby Steps Any More

Our rush to dictatorship. (You can call it "totalitarian," "authoritarian," or whatever. It's dictatorship.)

To start, from the No. 1 source for "fake news," Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

NBC's Kristen Welker was asking Sanders some pretty reasonable questions about why Rob Porter was allowed to have access to classified documents when he did not have the clearance to do so. As the questioning became more pointed, Huckabee Sanders got more defensive.

Finally, she let fly. “I think we’re doing and taking every step we can to protect classified information,” Sanders snarled. “I mean, frankly, if you guys have such concern with classified information, there’s plenty of it that’s leaked out of the Hill, that’s leaked out of other communities, well beyond the White House walls. If you guys have real concerns about leaking out classified information, look around this room. You guys are the ones that publish classified information and put national security at risk,” Sanders said, taking aim at every reporter in the room.

Dictators don't like an independent press.

Digby goes into this issue more thoroughly in an earlier post:

I don't think E.J. Dionne is a hysteric, do you? And yet he seem concerned. Very concerned:

The autocratic leader lies and then falsely charges his opponents with lying. He politicizes institutions that are supposed to be free of politics by falsely accusing his foes of politicizing them. He victimizes others by falsely claiming they are victimizing him.

The autocrat also counts on spineless politicians to cave in to his demands. And as they destroy governmental institutions at his bidding, they insist they are defending them.

In fact, dictators don't like independent anything, especially anything that restricts their power. (This one is a must-read, for sure.)

Next, an almost offhand remark from Digby:

Tuesday's televised annual Global Threat Hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee seemed like a rare and special event. What used to be considered routine and ordinary in American political life -- open hearings with government officials testifying about the issues of the day -- felt like an exciting look into the secret workings of the Star Chamber. Considering that we are in the midst of one of the most significant presidential scandals in American history, concerning possible conspiracy with a foreign power and an active coverup, it's extremely odd that we have so little public congressional testimony about any of it. That's not the way our system is supposed to work.

Dictators like to do things behind closed doors.

Digby brings up another telling point later in the post:

But that wasn't the most dramatic moment. That came when Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., asked a simple question that sent shockwaves through the hearing room. He asked the assembled intelligence leaders if the president had ever urged them to address the threat of further Russian interference.

He has not. When pressed, Rogers said, “I can’t say I’ve been specifically directed to blunt or actually stop" future Russian attacks. Pompeo tried to defend Trump, but the best he could come up with was to say the CIA takes “all kinds of steps to disrupt what the Russians are trying to do.” Wray said he had not been specifically tasked to combat Russian interference by the president. Coats said the same. When asked if the president has ordered an inter-agency strategy, he replied, "We essentially are relying on the investigations that are underway."

Dictators like to control things. Everything. Especially examination of those things that brought them to power.


Oops -- Yesterday was St. Valentine's Day. Or, if you are so inclined, Ash Wednesday.

Happy whatever.

(Strangely enough, in my heavily Latino neighborhood, I saw not one person with ashes.)

Tool du Jour (Updates)

In the wake of yesterday's school shooting in Florida (and it occurs to me that I could start a department on this blog titled "Massacre du Jour," but that would be a bit too ghoulish), Fox News' Steve Doocy asked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R-NRA) if it was appropriate to be talking about gun control:

“It’s not, only because people don’t know how this happened,” Rubio said. “[We don’t know] who this person is, what motivated them, how did they get a hold of the weapon that they used for this attack.”

. . .

“I think it’s important to know all of that before you jump to conclusions that there’s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it,” he continued. “There may be, but shouldn’t we at least know the facts?”

The facts that are necessary to know are: some wacko got his hands on an assault rifle, walked into a public high school and started shooting. Who the shooter is and his motivations are secondary; how he got the weapon is wide open: over the counter at a gun shop, at a gun fair, mail order -- there are a lot of options.

Via Joe.My.God. who adds this little tidbit:

And why doesn't the cry "Save the children!" resonate with Republicans when it's used for gun control the way it did when it was used against gay civil rights?

Sorry -- silly question. Mrs. Betty Bowers provided the answer. (And it looks like one of Jimmy Kimmel's writers has given us the answer for a lot more Republicans.)

I can't let this go without adding this to the mix:

Footnote: We can learn a lesson from Australia:

In April 1996, a 28-year-old man armed with semi-automatic rifles entered a cafe in the small Australian town of Port Arthur, shot and killed 35 people and injured 23 others. It was the worst mass shooting in Australian history.

The day after the massacre, the country’s prime minister, John Howard (a newly elected leader), started to put together the most sweeping gun control reforms ever contemplated by any Australian government.

The country passed the National Firearms Agreement, which banned automatic, semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns. It also introduced a stricter system for licensing and owning guns. The agreement is considered one of the strictest gun laws in the world. . . .

It took just 14 days after the Port Arthur massacre for gun laws to be proposed and then passed by the Australian government.

In the decades before the Port Arthur killings, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia (defined by academics as the killing of five or more people, not including the shooter).

Since the 1996 gun reform, Australia has not had another mass shooting.
(Emphasis added.)

Australia has also seen steep declines in gun-related deaths overall. You think maybe there's a connection?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Culture Break: Bill T. Jones, Joshua Roman, and Somi: Red Circle, Blue Curtain

Believe it or not, this popped up out of nowhere in the comments to a post at Joe.My.God. While watching it (and I've admired the work of Bill T. Jones for a long time, since my own days as a dancer/student), it occurred to me that I've been doing almost nothing but music for these "Culture Break" posts, and there's a lot more to culture than that. So, with that said, we're going to call this "dance/performance".

From the description at YouTube:

Legendary dance choreographer Bill T. Jones and TED Fellows Joshua Roman and Somi didn't know exactly what was going to happen when they took the stage at TED2015. They just knew they wanted to offer the audience an opportunity to witness creative collaboration in action. The result: An improvised piece they call "The Red Circle and the Blue Curtain," so extraordinary it had to be shared ...

So maybe I'll start keeping a list of not-music I can include. Just to liven things up.

And I've really got to figure out TED.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Immigration (Update)

From Digby, a real eye-opener on how Americans really feel about DACA, Dreamers and immigration in general:

With numbers like these, why in the ever-loving hell are these right wing nativist bigots getting heir way on immigration? Why?

As the Senate kicks off immigration week, February 6, 2018 polling from Quinnipiac offers a reminder that the American public overwhelming supports Dreamers and strongly opposes key elements of the White House immigration framework.

Among the key findings in the new Quinnipiac Poll:

By an 81-14% margin, Americans want Dreamers to gain citizenship: Support is overwhelmingly pro-Dreamer when respondents were asked if they support, “allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the United States and eventually apply for citizenship.”

Support for Dreamers is overwhelming across party lines – 94% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and 68% of Republicans support citizenship: GOP voters support citizenship by a 68-24% margin, white men by a 75-20% margin, and voters over 65 by a 80-14% margin.

That's only the tip of the iceberg.

OK -- we all know why Trump is touting eliminating immigration (come on -- you know that's what he wants -- except from Norway): because he's a pig who's made his political career by appealing to all that's worst in people. And the worst in people comes out and votes for him.

What the poll shows is that most Americans are much better than Trump and his core supporters.

I'd say this could be a major issue going into the midterms -- because the Republicans, being the party of goosestepping in unison, are going along with it. I don't trust either McConnell or Ryan, in spite of assurances, but bring up immigration, especially protection for Dreamers, anytime soon. But there are so many issues going into the midterms -- the tax boondoggle, the exponentially growing deficit, the Wall, Russia, civil rights, you name it -- that singling out one is almost impossible. It does help that the GOP is wrong on every count, but they've got the big money behind them, which translates into saturating the airwaves with ads. And don't forget Fox, your No. 2 source for fake news -- after the White House press office.

Read the whole thing. And think about Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and his support for "law enforcement" (which in his terms means putting as many brown people as possible into privately run, for-profit prisons). And Betsy DeVos and her concern for the rights of white, straight, cis-gendered school children. And forget about clean air, drinkable water, and national parks, thanks to Scott Pruitt.

Update: Read this rather sobering take by Betty Cracker at Balloon Juice.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

This Week at Green Man Review

Another week, and more goodies for you. Lots of goodies, in fact:

’De Herinacio: On the hedgehog’, Don’t Talk About It by Australian expat Ruby Boot, live Irish Music from De Dannan & Skara Brae, Hobos, Mary-Sues, Live from Here replaces Prairie Home Companion and other matters. . . .

May other matters -- like chocolate! Scoot on over and take a look.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

National Pizza Day: How Real Americans Do It

So, yesterday was National Pizza Day. (There's a day for everything.) Just to demonstrate that the country is not completely populated by the greedy and ignorant, there's this little tale from RawStory:

Much like their jaw-dropping dough-slinging act, brothers Michael and Nicholas Testa are taking their charity work to the national stage.

Michael, 13, and Nicholas, 11, better known as the Jersey Pizza Boys, began giving out pizzas to help feed the homeless in areas around their family-owned pizzeria, Carmine's Pizza Factory.

But after helping the New York-based Slice Out Hunger feed the homeless in Manhattan, the brothers decided to feed those less fortunate across the entire country.

"Last summer our friend Scott Wiener from Slice Out Hunger asked our dad if we wanted to donate some pies to feed the homeless in New York," said Michael. "It was an amazing experience and on the car ride home me, my brother, and my dad, wondered how cool it would be to do this on a bigger basis."

Less than a year later, the boys -- who have dazzled national television audiences with the pizza dough-tossing feats -- conducted their first "Pizza Across America" event this afternoon on National Pizza Day.

250 pizzerias across the country participated, including Alaska and Hawai'i. And they're hoping for more next year.

Sidebar: Last summer, on a couple of my walks in the park, I ran across a young girl with a lemonade stand, which is not as common as it used to be. On this one was a sign that said the proceeds would be donated to help the homeless.

Maybe the Republicans in Congress could think about this, and how the richest country in the world has people going hungry -- and why --and what they should do about it.

Nah -- some things are just beyond imagining.

There's video of the boys slinging pizza dough at the link.

Signs of the Times

New York City (or at least, its tourism group) has undertaken an ad campaign promoting New York City as the "intersection of everything," which in itself is not particularly objectionable (although Chicago could certainly dispute it). Fine.

But the website on the ads is "NYCGO.com." Now I'm sure to a New Yorker, that translates as "New York City Go." To a Chicagoan, however, it reads "New York Chicago."

Just sayin'.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Another Day, Another Shut-Down

It occurs to me that the only difference between the government being shut down and the government being open for business is that, in the case of the latter, national parks (what's left of them) are open and government employees get paid.

Here's some background from WaPo on the whole mess that is getting a spending bill passed. Note especially Rand Paul, who blocked the measure once in the Senate because of increases in federal spending ("The deficit is coming! The deficit is coming!"), although he was more than happy to vote for the tax bill that gave billions to the richest entities in the country while increasing the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

Like I said, the only difference. . . .

Today's Must-Read: For the Cost of a Parade

From RawStory, a nice little list of things Trump and/or the Republicans could do that would actually benefit the troops much more than tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue to feed Trump's ego. They're mostly no-brainers; here are the first two:

1. Homes for homeless veterans.

For the cost of Trump’s military parade, the United States taxpayers could buy a nice tiny home at $10,000 each, for 14,500 of the 150,000 homeless veterans. However, there are even more affordable tiny homes available at $3,000 to 4,000, which means we could easily give homes to 39,189 homeless vets.

2. Feed homeless veterans.

For the cost of Trump’s military parade, he could feed every single homeless veteran in the United States three meals a day for a year. If he wanted to.

I can think of a couple of additions -- like, automatic citizenship for immigrants who serve in the U.S. military -- and don't deport them when their service is done.

But I forgot -- when Republicans scream about "supporting the troops," they mean Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon: the ones raking in billions from defense contracts, not the grunts who actually do the heavy lifting.

Bigot du Jour

There's really no other way to call it -- it's bigotry, pure and simple and not even sugar coated, coming from the No. 2 purveyor of fake news (the White House is No. 1).

Fox News’ executive editor has said that the US Winter Olympics team is too gay to win medals.

John Moody, who is also Fox News’ executive vice president, said that “unless it’s changed overnight, the motto of the Olympics, since 1894, has been ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger.’ 

“It appears the U.S. Olympic Committee would like to change that to ‘Darker, Gayer, Different.’

“If your goal is to win medals,” he added, “that won’t work.”

Nice little package -- homophobia and racism all in one statement. I'm surprised he couldn't figure out a way to take a dig at female athletes as well.

Hey, Stupid, these guys have already won more medals than you're ever going to. Come to think of it, there have been more than a few gay Olympians, and a significant proportion of them are medallists -- Greg Louganis, Tom Daley, Matthew Mitcham, off the top of my head. Wikipedia (which can be relied on in some cases) has quite a list of gay Olympians. Of course, most of the gay athletes competing in the Olympics have been lesbians -- see, Stupid, you missed your opening for misogyny.

Let's not lose sight of the fact that the U.S. Olympic team is also racially diverse, which Moody, devout white supremacist that he is (or at least, is trying to be -- gotta feed the base, after all), thinks is appalling:
Moody berates Jason Thompson, the US Olympic Committee’s director of diversity and inclusion, who this week praised the diverse nature of US athletes travelling to PyeongChang. . . .

“No sport that we are aware of awards points – or medals – for skin color or sexual orientation,” Moody continues.

He then bravely fights through his discomfort to wonder whether the 244 elite athletes on Team USA were chosen for the Games because of their skill, or their sexual orientation and race.

“So, while uncomfortable, the question probably needs to be asked: were our Olympians selected because they’re the best at what they do, or because they’re the best publicity for our current obsession with having one each from Column A, B and C?” Moody writes.

He adds: “Insisting that sports bow to political correctness by assigning teams quotas for race, religion or sexuality is like saying that professional basketball goals will be worth four points if achieved by a minority in that sport – white guys, for instance – instead of the two or three points awarded to black players, who make up 81 percent of the NBA.

First, there are no quotas for selecting the athletes to participate in the Olympics, because, second, they all go through the same process of elimination. I realize it probably sticks in Moody's craw that there are black, Asian, or Latino athletes who are better than white boys, but that's just reality. Of course, reality and Fox don't exist in the same universe.

Let me point out, if it hasn't occurred to you yet, that Trump is just a symptom. Fox News is a big part of the cause.

Footnote: From PyeongChang:

Via Joe.My.God.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

And Another One Bites the Dust

Allegations of sexual abuse are reaching pandemic proportions. Now it's a senior White House official who's resigning under pressure:

A senior White House official said Wednesday that he would resign after his two ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse, with one presenting pictures of her blackened eye.

The official, Rob Porter, served as the staff secretary, a title that belies the role’s importance in any White House — but especially in President Trump’s. Porter functioned as Chief of Staff John F. Kelly’s top enforcer in their shared mission to instill discipline and order in what had become an extraordinarily chaotic West Wing. He was the gatekeeper to the Oval Office, determining which articles and policy proposals reached the president’s hands and screening the briefing materials that his visitors shared with him.

I have to take exception to the rush to judgment so prevalent in all of these cases. Not that I'm about to start calling the accusers liars, but it's become a pattern: Woman (or in some cases, man) accuses High-Profile Person of abuse, High-Profile Person is immediately ostracized and/or forced to resign and/or resigns because of the negative publicity.

Sorry, but I'm very much an evidence-based thinker. I'd like to see some proof -- documentary evidence (photos, etc.), corroboration by witnesses/friends who knew at the time what was going on -- before I decide that High-Profile Person really is the scum of the earth and join the calls of "Off with his head!"

In this case there does seem to be corroboration, but that hasn't always happened. I guess it's a matter of not only something that has been swept under the rug for too long finally coming to light, but that we've also been conditioned to jump to conclusions (Fox News, anyone? Or the rest of the media, for that matter).

Via Balloon Juice.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Culture Break: Icehouse: Love In Motion (No Promises)

This just popped up on my playlist, so I thought I'd share it.

Icehouse was one of those Australian bands (well, it was actually Iva Davies and back-up) that I got interested in a few years ago. This particular song I first heard over the sound system at a bar I used to hang out at. After a few times, I finally asked the bartender what it was, and went out and got the album the next day. It's a pretty good album.

As a matter of fact, I picked up two of their albums, Man of Colours and Great Southern Land (the "best of" album -- the "Southern Land" is Australia, in case you were wondering), and sure enough, I reviewed both of them.

You have to admit, this song is kind of hypnotic -- seductive, even.

Support Your Local Police

This one stopped me cold:

A Tennessee sheriff is being sued for using excessive force after he was recorded boasting he had told officers to shoot a man rather than risk damaging police cars by ramming him off the road.

“They said ‘we’re ramming him,’” Sheriff Oddie Shoupe of White County said on tape in the aftermath of the killing of suspect Michael Dial. “I said, ‘Don’t ram him, shoot him.’ Fuck that shit. Ain’t gonna tear up my cars.”

Shoupe arrived on the scene shortly after police had shot Dial at the conclusion of a low-speed chase, clearly upset he had missed the excitement.

“I love this shit,” Shoupe said, apparently unaware that his comments were being picked up by another deputy’s body-worn camera. “God, I tell you what, I thrive on it.

“If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that motherfucker they’re full of shit,” he added, laughing. “Take him out. I’m here on the damn wrong end of the county,” he said.

The cherry on top:

In June, the county district attorney declared the shooting justified.

Granted, it was before the recording surfaced, but still. . . .

Why isn't he being charged with murder?

Today's Must-Read: He Wants One Just Like It

This is getting a little out of hand -- what's with these guys who did everything they could to avoid military service all of a sudden worshiping the military?

President Trump’s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America’s armed forces.

Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon’s tank — a room reserved for top-secret discussions — marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning.

Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

“The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”

Here's where the irony meter gets a workout:

“President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe,” Sanders said. “He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.”

How about the Republicans stop cutting funding for the VA? Maybe do something to help the vets living on the street? Just a suggestion.

Now, we know he's been wanting something like this for a while, but it seems the inspiration came from France:

The inspiration for Trump’s push is last year’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris, which the president attended as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump was awestruck by the tableau of uniformed French troops marching down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with military tanks, armored vehicles, gun trucks and carriers — complete with fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and painting the sky with streaks of blue, white and red smoke for the colors of the French flag.

Aboard Air Force One en route home from Paris in July, aides said Trump told them that he was dazzled by the French display and that he wanted one at home.
(Emphasis added.)

How very . . . what? Gotta keep up with the Joneses? The Kims? The Sadam Husseins?

We don't need to showcase the might of our military -- everyone knows we could blow them to hell and gone. This is just another display of Trump's shaky masculinity. It's of a piece with his bragging about his sexual conquests and incessant bullying of those who disagree with him. He's the type specimen for inadequacy.

Read the whole article -- it's fascinating, in a sick sort of way.

Via Joe.My.God.

Footnote: This popped up in the comments:


Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Remember Joe McCarthy?

Digby gives a good overview of the Nunes memo shenanigans and coming attractions. This part summarizes the attitudes of the hard-core Nunes adherents quite nicely:

It's true that a few others have joined that chorus, signaling that at least a handful of Republicans don't want to be associated with the notion that this memo "vindicates" the president. (Notably, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was not among them.)

Chairman Nunes is undeterred. Axios reported on Sunday:

The House Intelligence chair and his team have told members and associates they've found other examples of politically motivated "wrongdoing" across various agencies, including the FBI, the broader Justice Department, and the State Department . . . Republicans close to Nunes say there could be as many as five additional memos or reports of "wrongdoing."
One wonders if Nunes has any knowledge of that time in 1950 when a senator named Joseph McCarthy pulled out a "list" he claimed had the names of 200 people in the State Department whom he accused of politically motivated wrongdoing. It didn't end well.

I'm sure there will be more memos forthcoming -- Trump's gotten so much mileage out of this one that it makes no sense to stop. And of course, there will be more rebuttals, which Fox News and the base will ignore and the New York Times will find some excuse to discount.

At any rate, read the whole thing -- it's deja vu all over again.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Today in Disgusting People

From the "family" party, this little gem:

A childcare plan being discussed by Ivanka Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) would require parents to use their Social Security for maternity leave and then put off retirement in the future.

A Politico report published on Sunday explained that Rubio and the president’s daughter had recently been in discussions about how to provide paid family leave to Americans.

The report noted that one of the most popular Republican solutions for funding paid leave is to have parents cut into their Social Security savings. The parents would then be forced to postpone retirement for that same amount of time.

So, the president's favorite piece of ass and a complete nonentity who thinks he's presidential material are figuring out another way to screw Americans. Of course, cutting into Social Security is the Republicans' favorite way to pay for everything. Whatever happened to the idea of employers granting maternity leave as part of the benefits package? Or do we no long give employees benefits? (I guess they figure having a job is benefit enough.)

Say, Marco and Ivanka -- why don't you talk to the Kochs? I'm sure they'd be happy to cover the cost out of the tax cuts your boss just gave them. (Oh, wait, they used a big chunk of it paying off Paul Ryan.)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

What's New At Green Man Review

This week, it's all about Ursula K. LeGuin, who you will remember passed away January 22.

Books, or course, but did you know that she wrote a real space opera?

Check it out -- there's a lot more than you might expect.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Saturday Science: Wanderers

No, I'm not talking about comets or dessert nomads or the like, this is about continents. We tend to think of continental drift, if we think of it at all, as a slow, stately dance that follows a regular pattern. What we tend to forget is that the driving force, the convenction currents in the earth's mantle, change strength and direction -- they're no more permanent than anything else in the universe. For example, we're used to thinking of the configuration of continents as it exists now as sort of the template for the way it always was. Except that the breakup of Pangaea happened about 175 million years ago, and this sort of thing -- the continents moving around, joining and splitting, has been going on for over 3 billion years.

So we really shouldn't be surprised when geologists discover something like this:

Curtin University researchers have discovered rocks in northern Queensland that bear striking similarities to those found in North America, suggesting that part of northern Australia was actually part of North America 1.7 billion years ago.

The research paper in GEOLOGY published by the Geological Society of America, concluded that the rocks found in Georgetown, 412 kilometres west of Cairns, have signatures that are unknown in Australia and instead have a surprising resemblance to rocks found in Canada today.

Curtin University PhD student Adam Nordsvan from the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences said the findings were significant as they unlock important information about the 1.6 billion year old supercontinent Nuna.

“Our research shows that about 1.7 billion years ago, Georgetown rocks were deposited into a shallow sea when the region was part of North America. Georgetown then broke away from North America and collided with the Mount Isa region of northern Australia around 100 million years later,” Mr Nordsvan said.

“This was a critical part of global continental reorganisation when almost all continents on Earth assembled to form the supercontinent called Nuna.

So Pangaea was not the first supercontinent, by a long shot.

The article at the link is fairly brief but also interesting, and has a link to the full paper (which you can purchase if you're really interested).

Friday, February 02, 2018

Oh, Right -- the Memo

Well, it's been released (you can find the full memo at this post by Joe.My.God.), and, as I expected, it's a big nothingburger. Even Trey "Benghazi" Gowdy thinks it's a bad joke.

John McCain wasn't nearly so nice:

The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.

And as we might expect, former FBI director James Comey had a few choice words:

“That’s it?” Comey said on Twitter.

“Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what?” Comey wrote, adding: “DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”

If the real press is doing it's job, this should give Trump, the GOP, and Devin Nunes a big black eye. If.

Happy Groundhog Day

It's sunny here in Chicago (for the time being) and very cold. I think that means six more weeks of winter.

Oh, well, you get used to it after a while.

No, the grass is not that green. It's not green at all, but that doesn't stop the geese from grazing in the park.

Image of the Week

This is an old one, but it's what the trees looked like a few days ago after our last snow.

Signs of the Times

So there's this poster on CTA buses advertising a clinical study for a pain reliever for post-shingles pain. At the top there's a picture of a man in pain and the headline against a gray background that says "Are your shingles gone but the pain remains?"

The problem is, the word shingles is in orange that's the same shade as the gray background -- that is, no contrast.

So I read it as "Are your thingies gone but the pain remains?"

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Ah, Yes, The Memo

I'm sure you've been hearing about the "top secret" memo cobbled together by Devin Nunes' (R, Mar-a-Lago) staff from bits and pieces of other information as part of Trump's ongoing assault on the FBI -- which the House Intelligence Committee (and there's an oxymoron if I ever saw one) has decided to release.

Well, it seems the FBI isn't real happy about it:

Talking Points Memo reports:
In a rare public statement, the FBI on Wednesday expressed “grave concerns” about the accuracy of a congressional Republican memo that purports to show anti-Trump prejudice among senior FBI and Justice Department officials.

It’s extremely unlikely that the highly critical comment would be sent out without the approval of top Trump appointees at the FBI and DOJ. And it comes as the White House appears poised to defy the intelligence community’s wishes and approve the memo’s release. As the FBI put it, the four-page document compiled by staffers for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) contains “material omissions of fact.”

“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” a statement from the bureau read. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

(Via Joe.My.God.)

Well, it seems Trump's water boy isn't about take that lying down:

Republican House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is hitting back at the FBI, calling its rare public statement objecting to the release of a memo he authored "spurious." The FBI earlier Wednesday essentially accused him of spreading false information.

It is a strange, unprecedented, and very public battle between two branches of government. Worse, the president is backing Congressman Nunes instead of his own FBI, because the Nunes memo purportedly is constructed to paint Trump as a victim of intelligence surveillance.

In his public statement just released, Nunes accused the FBI of having "stonewalled Congress' demands for almost a year," adding, "it's no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies."

From all reports, the memo was cherry-picked from various memos and e-mails and does, in fact, omit critically important information.

But then, no one's ever accused Nunes of being fair and balanced. As a matter of fact, he's not particularly honest, either:

Amid news breaking tonight that the White House would release the memo sent to them by Nunes in spite of serious warnings from the FBI and other agencies who believe it is riddled with inaccuracies and exaggerations, we have Rep. Schiff noting this: THE MEMO SENT TO THE WHITE HOUSE IS NOT THE MEMO THE INTEL COMMITTEE APPROVED.

According to Schiff, there are "material differences" in the two memos.

"Upon our discovery that the document sent for public review had been secretly altered, the majority belatedly offered the minority the opportunity this evening to compare the document transmitted on Monday night by the Majority to the White House with the document made available to all members on January 18th," Schiff wrote.

He concluded, "The White House, therefore, has been reviewing a document since Monday night that the Committee never approved for public release."

Offhand, Nunes may have just laid himself open to a charge of obstructing justice.

Footnote: Peter Stzrok was one of the two FBI agents involved in the "secret society" text messages, and was being used as evidence that Mueller's investigation into Russiagate was biased. Guess what:

News today suggests Peter Strzok, the FBI agent whose texts sparked the "secret society" conspiracy theory from Sean Hannity and Fox News, was the guy who instigated the reopening of the Clinton email probe just before the election in 2016.

Strzok, who co-wrote what appears to be the first draft that formed the basis of the letter Comey sent to Congress, also supported reopening the Clinton investigation once the emails were discovered on disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner's laptop, according to a source familiar with Strzok's thinking. The day after Strzok sent his draft to his colleagues, Comey released the letter to Congress, reigniting the email controversy in the final days of the campaign.

If they weren't so dangerous, they'd be laughable.

This Is a "Christian" Nation

We don't really need Mike Pence whispering in Trump's ear to establish "Christian" supremacy in the good ol' USA -- we have Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III to take care of that. From the DOJ:

The Department of Justice today announced the update of the United States Attorneys’ Manual (USAM) with a new section titled, “Associate Attorney General’s Approval and Notice Requirements for Issues Implicating Religious Liberty.”

On Oct. 6, 2017, the Attorney General issued a Memorandum for All Executive Departments and Agencies entitled Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty. The memo directed components and United States Attorney’s Offices to use the guidance in litigation, advice to the Executive Branch, operations, grants, and all other aspects of the Department’s work.

In order to ensure compliance with the Attorney General’s memo, the USAM will be updated with language that directs relevant Department of Justice components to:
  • Immediately inform the Office of the Associate Attorney General upon receiving service of a suit filed against the United States raising any significant question concerning religious liberty;
  • Coordinate decisions about merits arguments and significant litigation strategy questions in religious liberty cases with the Office of the Associate Attorney General; and
  • Obtain the approval of the Office of the Associate Attorney General with respect to any affirmative civil suit that impinges on rights under the Free Exercise Clause, Establishment Clause, or Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The updated USAM will also instruct relevant Justice Department components to consult the 20 religious liberty principles laid out in the AttoOcrney General’s October 6 memo when considering whether the notice or approval requirements are initiated.

The October guidance seems quite reasonable, for the most part, until you remember who issued it and what court decisions he's using as authority. (Hobby Lobby? Because according to Citizens United, corporations are people.)

I sincerely hope that no one thinks this guidance is going to apply to Muslims, or Buddhists, or Hindus, or Pagans. Given the rate at which Trump and McConnell are stacking the courts with incompetent theocrats, that's certainly a pipe dream.

The reaction is, so far, fairly mild:

The head of Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law weighed in, calling today's move "astonishing."

I'm reminded that both Mussolini and Hitler had the churches on board. Come to think of it, so does Putin.

Wait until the Satanic Temple sues.