"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

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Today's Must-Read: The VA on the Ropes

For some reason I'm particularly sensitive to the plight of the Veterans Administration. Maybe it's because of the number of homeless veterans I see on the streets of Chicago. Best estimate is that there are just shy of 40,000 homeless veterans (as of January, 2016, there were 39,471 homeless veterans in the U.S., down significantly from 2010; last year, that number went up slightly.)

The fact that there are any homeless veterans in this country -- or homeless people at all -- really, really pisses me off.

At any rate, here's an interesting article at RawStory about what the VA is having to deal with. The author, however, makes what I think is one mistaken assumption:

The VA has long been in crisis. Nevertheless, it has pioneered evidence-based medicine and, overall, gets better outcomes at lower costs than many private health care providers.

As someone who has studied government budgets and the organization of government agencies, I believe Admiral Jackson, like his predecessor, will have to address three major problems if the VA is to be effective in meeting the needs of the millions of veterans who depend on it for their care.

This assumes that anyone in this regime (I can't really call it an "administration"), or any Republican in Congress, wants the VA to be effective. The goal here is privatization, because that always works so well -- for the owners of the companies that are getting the contracts. Actually providing the services mandated is not a consideration.

(I may have mentioned that I firmly believe there are some things that should not be subject to the profit motive -- schools, roads and bridges, prisons: add the medical care for veterans to that list.

At any rate, read it. There's some good information there.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Signs of the Times

There's a taco joint on Lake Street just a couple doors west of Michigan Avenue that I've got to check out. The other day they had a signboard in front thus:

One tequila

Two tequila

Three tequila . . .

March for Our Lives,. Part 8: Karma's a Bitch

I thought I had posted on Laura Ingraham insulting David Hogg via Twitter, but apparently I didn't. Digby has a must-read that examines not only Ingraham but the right wing in general in their attacks on the activist Parkland survivors:

Laura Ingraham did her thing. Again:


Via Vox:

Many conservatives have naturally been critical of the political and policy stances of the Parkland survivors, as would be expected given that they generally oppose gun control.

But some, like Ingraham, have gone further than that — attacking Parkland students, who are still kids, for unrelated and often personal aspects of their lives. Just consider the fact that Ingraham could post an article about how Hogg was rejected from four universities. Why did the Daily Wire, conservative pundit Ben Shapiro’s outlet, find that news worth covering in the first place, besides the schadenfreude the outlet knew it would provide conservative readers who don’t like Hogg and his movement?

It’s not unusual for politics to get personal. But it’s particularly glaring when prominent pundits and even lawmakers are going after teenagers in such a personal way.

Digby then goes on to detail some of the attacks right-wing nutters have made on the Parkland kids. It's pretty disgusting.

Oh,and as for Ingraham:

Hogg called for a boycott, and her advertisers responded, which led Ingraham to an "apology".

"In the spirit of Holy Week"? If this woman was a follower of Jesus, she never would have attacked the kid to begin with.

Oh, look -- suddenly she's open to a "productive discussion". Yeah, right.

At any rate, it didn't work: her advertisers have continued to bail, and there are rumors that Fox is ready to dump her. (Lest you think that this indicates some sort of standard or integrity on the part of Fox, well, no: think lost revenues.)

And Hogg isn't buying it:

Parkland activist David Hogg was interviewed this morning by CNN’s Alison Camerota. Via Mediaite:

Camerota pointed out that Ingraham is a conservative talk show host, and isn’t objective, before noting that she apologized for her tweet poking fun at Hogg.  “Do you accept her apology?”

“No,” Hogg said. “She’s only apologizing after a third of her advertisers pulled out. I think it’s wrong. And I think if she really wants to do something she could cover inner-city violence and the real issues that we have in America,” he continued. “I know she is a talk show host, but as such she also has a responsibility to show both sides of the story.”

All I can say is, "Keep up the good work!"

Sorry for the link dump, but my connection is worse than usual and Firefox is fighting me every inch of the way.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Add English

To the list of things he doesn't know.

Racist du Jour

None other than Ann Coulter, who had her heart set on The Wall:

Far-right personality Ann Coulter lashed out at President Donald Trump during a Wednesday appearance with Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs.

“Even though I was on a tweet storm last night, I got in rather late and I’m sorry about some of the language, however, I was right on the law,” Coulter claimed.

I wonder about Coulter's much-touted reputation as one of the "intellectual lights" of the conservative movement. Here's the tweets in question:

An "attack on our nation"? Seriously? Can you say "paranoid fantasies"?

And Congress has to authorize payment. Coulter obviously knows as much about how the government works as Trump does.

Here's the really funny part:

Coulter also said Trump had changed since being elected president.

“The shallow coarse ignoramus, yes it was a selling point because he didn’t care what people thought of him and now all he wants is for Goldman Sachs to like him,” Coulter claimed. “I don’t know what happened, but that’s a different president. I haven’t changed, he has.”

Trump hasn't changed. He's never had any principles, except "Me first!" And Coulter couldn't figure it out.

There's video at the link, if your stomach's up to it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Repeal the Damned Thing, Already!

Very good, thorough examination by Digby of the meaning of the 2nd Amendment, then and now:

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has written a NYT op-ed suggesting that since the high court decided back in 2008 to define the 2nd Amendment as an individual right maybe the best way to deal with guns is to repeal the 2nd Amendment. Taking that absurd argument away from the gun proliferation zealots so the nation can have some common sense regulations  would be a good first step.

She goes on from there, including this disgusting statement from Joe the Plumber, another one who was a has-been before he ever was:

"Your dead kids don’t trump my constitutional rights."

Words fail me.

Read the whole thing, of course.

They Just Don't Get It

Conservatives don't seem to understand that the First Amendment doesn't apply to non-government entities:
In a decision late Monday, U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh said a nonprofit run by conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager failed to show that YouTube infringed its free speech rights by placing age restrictions on its content.

The plaintiff, Prager University, said YouTube’s “animus” toward its “political identity and viewpoint” led it to curb access to videos, including through its “Restricted Mode” setting, on such topics as abortion, gun rights, Islam and terrorism, despite its stated promise of neutrality.

But the judge said Google and YouTube, both units of Mountain View, California-based Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), did not qualify as “state actors” subject to the First Amendment by creating a “public forum” for speech.

Apparently, being a "conservative" means you get to say whatever you want whenever you want with no restrictions and no consequences.

I guess that's one of the results of home-schooling.

Via Joe.My.God.

Sure, Jan. . . .

I thought Connecticut was one of those places that had gotten beyond crap like this:

Senate Republicans voted as a bloc Tuesday to deny Andrew J. McDonald confirmation as chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, stopping the ascent of a political and legal trailblazer for the gay community, a factor that opponents insisted was irrelevant and supporters said could not be ignored.

It appears that Republicans in Connecticut are moving back to pounding on the social issues drum, after having soft-pedaled those issues in recent years, which has, at least in part, enabled them to gain seats in the legislature. But it looks like that may be changing:

[Sen. Len] Fasano, who left his office Friday with binders containing copies of McDonald’s cases, reviewed three in fine detail. He questioned whether McDonald had reached beyond the record to render decisions. The level of detail in Fasano’s critique drew an unusual rebuke from the governor while the debate still was under way.

“Senator Fasano’s performance today should send a chill up the spine of every sitting judge in Connecticut,” Malloy said. “His antics run afoul of the tradition and decorum our General Assembly has followed since 1636. During that long history, no legislative leader, let alone a member of the Connecticut bar, has nitpicked, parsed, and deconstructed the decisions of a sitting judge more than Senator Fasano did today.”

“It is now an undeniable fact that Andrew McDonald has been treated differently than others who came before him,” Malloy said. “It begs the question: What is different about Justice McDonald that so concerns Connecticut Republicans?”

Republicans said it was not sexual orientation.

Whether or not it's sexual orientation, it's certainly political; it doesn't appear that the Republicans have made their case against McDonald, although, from the article, they dug up every bit of dirt they could, and embellished it where necessary.

OK, so it's not about sexual orientation. It doesn't seem to be about anything else, though.

Via Joe.My.God.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March for Our Lives, Part 7: Turning Over Rocks

And it looks like the kids turned over a lot of them. This may turn into a link dump, if I get fed up enough.

First, in order of appearance in this morning's surfing, this bozo from, of course, NRA TV:

“Their leaders told them that they [assault weapons] need to be banned and so often times what happens is they follow. The reason you don’t see NRA members marching on Washington is, one, I believe we’re in the majority of where we stand on gun rights. We are right and the Constitution is in our favor. And we’re not in a position of weakness. When people march now, in modern day and maybe even across time, they are in positions of weakness.” – NRA TV host Grant Stichfield, speaking on today’s YouTube show.

He puts it in very interesting terms, from a psychological/propaganda standpoint, and of course his audience will swallow it because they consider exercising critical thinking skills to be the Original Sin. Sure -- a million people march on Washington because they're weak. NRA members don't march on Washington because they'd have to get out of their Barcaloungers, and they couldn't get a million people to do that. Except to go to the fridge for another beer. (And by the way, NRA members strongly support various gun-control measures -- but those aren't the members the NRA brass is listening to.) Commenter Acronym Jim at the link brought up a good point: Only weak people need to carry guns and wear bulletproof vests when they protest.

That was rather mild, compared to this from Jesse Hughes. In case you've never heard of Hughes, he's the front man for Eagles of Death Metal, whose one claim to fame is:

The Eagles Of Death Metal are the American band that was onstage in November 2015 as terrorists opened fired at Paris’ Bataclan Theater, killing 89 people.

After reading through portions of his diatribes against Parkland kids, my only conclusion is that this guy is really, really sick.

And what do you find when you get to the bottom of the barrel? Why, Rep. Steve King (R-Berchtesgaden):


By the way, if you follow the link, you'll see that nothing in that tweet is true. And he didn't get off scot-free -- one of the Pulse survivors let him have it.

Pat Buchanan doesn't think the Parkland kids are very smart -- not nearly as smart as the protesters against the Vietnam War he hated in the 1960s. (Sorry if that busted your irony meter -- I should have warned you.)

And Alex Jones, of course, thinks they're going to kill you. Click through for the quotes -- I just can't deal with him this morning. But be warned -- it's a word salad composed entirely of alternate facts.

And of course, there's the Nazi comparison. Didn't anyone ever tell this woman about Godwin's Law?

That's all I can handle right now.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Today in Projection, Snowflake Edition

This jerk, who thinks his sincerely held religious beliefs allow him to demonize minorities without consequences:

Last week I reported that Oklahoma Wesleyan president Everett Piper had penned a column in which he compares gays to ISIS. Today Piper is very unhappy about people calling him out on that.

So much for inclusion. So much for acceptance. So much for pluralism. So much for claiming that “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as it works for you!” So much for love. So much for respecting those from different cultures who have different views and different values.

I wonder if he would have dared to make the same comparison with, say, the NAACP.

Idiots in the News

I dunno -- this guy's beyond stupid, although I strongly suspect a certain lack of intellectual ability is tied to this kind of bigotry:

John Guandolo is a disgraced former FBI agent who was forced to resign after having an affair with an informant. He’s received taxpayer dollars to provide “anti-jihadi” training to law enforcement officers in Arizona, leading to protests by the ACU and Muslim leaders.

He was headed to a conservative conference in Phoenix on Friday when he posted the photo.


Looks like a Chicago cop to me.

And of course, he has absolutely no evidence to support that tweet.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

March for Our Lives, Part 6: Moron du Jour

There's a good reason the voters of Pennsylvania booted Rick Santorum (google it!) out of the Senate after one term -- aside from them finding out what a crook he is: he's too stupid to walk and breathe at the same time. Via Joe.My.God.:

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) suggested that students should take CPR classes and take steps to prepare for active shooter situations instead of holding protests calling for new gun laws. “How about kids instead of looking to someone else to solve their problem, do something about,” Santorum said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“Maybe taking CPR classes or try to deal with situations that, where there is a violent shooter that you can actually respond to that.” Santorum said students took action to “ask someone to pass a law.”

“They didn’t take action to say how do I, as an individual, deal with this problem. ‘How am I going to do something about stopping bullying within my own community. What am I going to do to actually help respond to a shooter,'” he said.

There, in a nutshell, is the right wing's response to school shootings: normalize them, and blame the victims. Seriously -- take CPR classes? As for "ask someone to pass a law" -- that's the way it works, dumbo -- you put pressure on your elected representatives to pass the laws you need.

There Are Two Mice

I thought there might be, but last evening they were out hitting the rice and carrots together.

I hope they are both males or both females. I really do.

March for Our Lives, Part 5: The Empire Strikes Back

Actually, it's the gun-manufacturers lobby:

NRA TV has been flooding its social media channels with videos criticizing the protesters under the hashtag #MarchForOurLives, the name student survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, chose for the event. Students leading the march want legislators to raise the federal age to buy a gun to 21, close background-check loopholes for gun show and online gun sales, and ban assault weapons.

"If you’re too immature to carry a firearm, you’re too immature to make policy about firearms,” said NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday evening.

But apparently not too immature to be murdered by one of those "law-abiding members" NRA keeps touting -- you know, the ones who walk around with military-grade penis substitutes.

Fun fact, speaking of Dana Loesch: Did you know that in East Asian languages -- Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese -- "L" and "R" are the same sound? And that the loach is a bottom-feeding fish often stocked by tropical fish enthusiasts in their tanks to keep the gravel clean?

March for Our Lives, Part 4 (Update)

Tom Sullivan, at Hullabaloo, has a must-read on the marches. I'm going to include his quotes from David Hogg here, but read the whole post:

David Hogg has had enough. The student activist told the crowd at yesterday's rally the student movement means to make gun violence a voting issue. Only eighteen percent of first-time voters, he said, vote in mid-term elections. Not this time:
"Who here is going to vote in the 2018 election?" he asked. "We are going to make this a voting issue. We are going to take this to every election, to every state and every city. We are going to make sure the best people get in our elections to run, not as politicians, but as Americans."

"Because this is not cutting it," Hogg said, pointing behind him to the U.S. Capitol building.
He described adult failure weeks earlier in terms less broadcast-friendly:
“When your old-ass parent is like, ‘I don’t know how to send an iMessage,' and you’re just like, ‘Give me the fucking phone' and you're like, 'okay, let me handle it.' And you get it done in one second. Sadly, that’s what we have to do with our government; our parents don’t know how to use a fucking democracy, so we have to.”

That kid's going to be president -- unless someone shoots him first.

Update: Digby has a must-read as well,, with a caution:

The other side is not going to give up. They are very angry as you can see from some of the quotes above. Nobody should be sanguine that just because these large numbers of people are coming out to protest that there is no opposition. There's plenty. This is fight.

March for Our Lives, Part 3

From Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars, this post is largely a series of tweets from various cities (not all in this country) showing the rallies and marches.

A sampling:

From New Albany, Indiana -- Mike Pence territory:

From Chicago:

From Edinburgh -- yes, that's in Scotland:

I don't know where this is from, but it's obviously not just teenagers who are getting involved:

It goes on, from St. Paul to Ft. Worth to Portland to Amsterdam -- according to this story, marches took place in 800 cities in all 50 states and 30 countries:

You think some of NRA's wholly-owned subsidiaries in Congress are going to get a clue? Don't hold your breath. Vote them out in November.

Today's Must-Read: March for Our Lives, Part 2

This is strong stuff: an eleven-year-old girl from Virginia named Naomi Wadler:

"Hi. My name is Naomi, and I'm 11 years old," she began.

"Me and my friend Carter led a walkout of our elementary school on the 14th. We walked out. We walked out for 18 minutes, adding a minute to honor Courtland Arrington, an African-American girl who was the victim of gun violence in her school in Alabama after the Parkland shooting. I am here today to represent Courtland Arrington.

"I am here today to represent Hadiyah Pendleton. I am here today to represent Tijana Thompson who at 16 was shot dead in her home here in Washington, D.C. I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don't make the front page of every national newspaper. These stories don't lead on the evening news. I represent the African-American women who were victims of gun violence, who were simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential."

It's an amazing speech. Read the whole thing.

March for Our Lives

This happened yesterday, in all fifty states and several foreign countries. Here are a few highlights:

First, Cameron Kasky:

Cameron Kasky began his address by telling the hundreds of thousands gathered “welcome to the revolution.” Stating that he’s been asked if he believes that “any change is going to come” following the tragic Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, he told the crowd to “look around” because “we are the change.”

“We must educate ourselves and start conversations that keep our country moving forward, and we will,” Kasky exclaimed to cheers. “We hereby promise to fix the broken system we’ve been forced into and create a better world for the generations to come. Don’t worry, we’ve got this.”

Next, Emma Gonzalez:

Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez has become a powerful activist, and when she took the stage to speak at today’s March for Our Lives in D.C., the crowd was moved by her stunning speech, which lasted 6 minutes and 23 seconds, the length of the Parkland shooting.

“Six minutes and about twenty seconds. In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us, 15 were injured, and everyone, absolutely everyone, was forever altered,” she began. She them stopped speaking and stared into the crowd, tears streaming down her face.

She ended the silence with, “Since the time that I came out here, it has been six minutes and twenty seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape and walk free for an hour before arrest. Fight for your life before it’s somebody else’s job.”

Here's a report from Newsweek via Towleroad focusing on Pennridge High School in Pennsylvania, with some good background:

When the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, massacre began channeling their grief into a call for change, 18-year-old Sean Jenkins, a student at a Pennsylvania high school, knew this school shooting would be different.

The Pennridge High School senior and his classmates are among a new generation of student activists making their voices heard in the fight for gun control. On Saturday, thousands of teenagers from across the U.S.—Pennridge kids included—will descend on Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives, led by the survivors of the Parkland shooting and calling for an end to gun violence.

Seeing students in Florida move the gun control needle was inspiring, Jenkins told Newsweek. “Even though we’re just students and most of us can’t even vote yet, the Parkland kids showed us and thousands around the country that we can make a real difference if we fight for it.”

I'll update as necessary. Feel free to add your own updates in the comments.

It's Sunday Again

And that means new reviews at Green Man Review:

The Cultured Cook, Frouds, Joseph Campbell, Complaint Choirs, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, Vivaldi’s ‘Spring’ from The Four Seasons and other matters

You absolutely must read the Joseph Campbell review -- it's the result of much sweat and (almost) tears. And of course, the other stuff is interesting, too.

Today in Disgusting People

None other than the perennial winner of the Tony Perkins Award for serial lying, Tony Perkins himself:

President Trump is keeping his pledge to end the Obama era of social experimentation in our nation’s military. In the fall of 2016, I co-moderated a veterans townhall meeting where candidate Donald Trump was asked how he would handle social engineering and political correctness being forced on the military.

He responded saying, ‘We are going to get away from political correctness.’ The revised personnel policy announced today does exactly that – it moves the military away from political correctness and puts the focus on the military’s mission: preparing to fight and win wars.

President Trump is moving the military away from the crippling policies of the Obama era that left our nation’s defenses at its lowest levels of readiness since before WWII. He recognizes that the last thing we should be doing is diverting tax payer dollars from mission-critical training to funding for controversial gender reassignment surgeries and transgender sensitivity training for service members. The president is keeping his promises and advancing policies essential to keeping our military strong and our country safe.

Let's parse this a little bit:

"Social experimentation": In Perkins' view, treating everyone equally is "social experimentation." I'm sure he really, really, really hates the 14th Amendment.

"Political correctness": In "Christian"-speak, "politically correct" is code for "socially acceptable," which somehow is a bad thing.

"Left our nation's defenses at its [sic] lowest levels. . . ": Bullshit.

"Diverting taxpayer dollars": The cost of the few surgeries and other medical treatments that will be required by trans servicemembers is miniscule. Perhaps rather than pouring money into the pockets of arms manufacturers and Betsy DeVos' brother, Erik Prince (who I understand wants to privatize the Secret Service), we could start by paying our soldiers and sailors a living wage. And provide adequate service to veterans. But I'm sure this kind of chest-pounding makes Perkins feel real butch.

"Our country safe": Who's going to keep our country safe from the NRA, or anti-Americans like as Tony Perkins? (And if you think I'm off-base here, think about it: he and his organization are strongly against everything this country believes in, starting with equal treatment under the law.)

Someone in the comments to this thread raised the likelihood that evangelicals didn't vote for Trump, but for Pence, under the assumption that Trump wouldn't last a full term. He could be right, except that evangelicals are really all about money and power to begin with, and Trump is a willing tool.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Mouse, Updated

You may remember my mentioning that I have a mouse. It's a skinny little mouse, so, being me, I started leaving food out for it. (It seems to be very fond of carrots and Trader Joe's Chicken Fried Rice.)

Well, it's getting braver -- now it will sit there eating while I'm looking at it, rather than grabbing a mouthful and darting back under the air conditioner. (I have an air conditioner, which is under my desk. I haven't really needed it, even with getting full sun in the morning.)

So I guess that's progress of a sort -- and it does seem to be filling out a little.

The Lower Depths, Part 734

Just to remind us what the Republican party has become, a couple of posts. First, from the shining tower of conservative intellect (?), Laura Ingraham:

“The GOP just cannot get its act together,” Ingraham lamented. “My friends — I hate to say this — but as I see it right now tonight, the wall is never going to happen. If the Republicans lose the [2018] midterms, the Democrats will never fund [the wall], and we’ll be reliant on Paul Ryan’s sensors and a few drones and replacement fencing to protect America.”

"Protect America"? From what? Does she think a wall is going to keep out domestic terrorists?

Commenter Stogiebear came up with this image, which I think catches the essence of Ingraham and the rest of the GOP under the leadership (such as it is) of Donald Trump:


And of course, there's the inimitable Ann Coulter, who will say anything as long as a) she's getting paid, and b) it's offensive.

Note how she's trying to link immigrants to deaths from opioid overdoses -- let it be noted that opioids are a completely domestic phenomenon, resting squarely on the shoulders of pharmaceutical companies and compliant doctors.

They're not even using dog whistles any more.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Rationalization for Fun and Profit

I tink they're all medieval theologians at heart. This is from Joe.My.God.:

“Obviously, we as Christians hold biblical values high, we believe in sexual purity, moral faithfulness, we’re against adultery and all the rest of that. So listen carefully here, the strategy is to bring up these events that all involve sexual sins, allegedly, because they know — the people, the strategists behind the scenes — they know that this will upset a significant percentage of evangelical Christian voters and their goal is to turn Donald Trump’s primary supporters, which have been the evangelical Christian voters, against him by bringing up these sexual, moral scandals.

“Let’s say in a worst-case scenario it IS true [Stormy and the Playboy bunny]. If he did that, he’s guilty of sin, a serious violation of God’s commandments. I’m not negating that. What I’m saying is, if you read your bible from Genesis to Revelations, God has always used pagan ungodly leaders of nations to deliver God’s people. So what do you do? You make a decision on his personal sin? Which by the way doesn’t involve didn’t involve him raping or molesting.” – Evangelist Paul McQuire, speaking on his radio show.

Trump's GOP is no longer a political party -- it's a cult. (And I'm not the first to come up with that.)

Stray thought: How many evangelical "Christians" can dance on the head of a pin?

Image du Jour

This, from this post at Balloon Juice:

(Matt Davies via GoComics.com)

It's an open thread, but what's in the post is thought-provoking: in the past few generations, who is it who has changed the course of America? The kids. ("Kids" in this sense being anyone under 30.) I mean, this is sort of amazing:

And another thought: No, it's not the NRA's lawn -- but whose is it?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Book Burning in the Digital Age

David Mixner has a sobering post at Towleroad this morning, on the "house cleaning" of government computers:

Recently over dinner with some friends, I brought up ‘Trump’s Book Burners’.

A friend responded that he hadn’t seen any evidence of book burning taking place in a systematic way by the Trump administration.

If you are looking for a 1930s Nazi type of public book burning, he is right. However, in today’s world, book burning doesn’t happen by pulling literature out of libraries and setting it afire.

Today, book burning is carried out by simply hitting the delete button.

Over the last year, the Trump administration has destroyed decades of research and data by hitting the delete button in almost every department and agency in the federal government. This administration is eliminating entire groups of people from past and future research as if they no longer exist.

He goes on to detail some of the research and other information that has vanished from government websites -- at least, the things we know about, like not allowing the use of the term "climate change".

As I noted, it's sobering, and I'll be it's just the tip of the iceberg.

But when you elect an Il Duce wannabe to the White House, this is what you get.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

This Is Getting Real Old Real Fast

Another day, another school shooting:

NBC News reports:
A student pulled a gun out and shot two other students at a high school in southeast Maryland Tuesday morning before the shooter was wounded, the St. Mary’s County sheriff said.
The gunman entered Great Mills High School in Great Mills, Maryland, at the beginning of the school day and shot a female student in a hallway, Sheriff Tim Cameron said live on News4. A male student also was hit by a bullet.
Information was not available immediately on the relationship between the students, Cameron said. The shooter exchanged fire with a school resource officer, trained, armed deputy sheriff, Cameron said. The shooter was wounded; the officer was not. All three students are in critical condition.

By all means, let's make guns easily available to everyone, including teenagers. Kids going through all the stress of puberty, learning to forge relationships, learning to be adults, and being in school should have ready access to guns. Sure they should.

As of the latest update, the shooter has died.

Add in a good helping of disgusting people. From NRA spokesbot, Dana Loesch:

It [the Parkland massacre] cost peoples lives and it also contributed to a state of poison in our national discourse where you have politicians and celebrities and everyone else impugning the characters of millions of law abiding members just because they choose to voluntarily enter into a fellowship and call themselves the NRA. That’s the problem here, it created even more victims of a different sort.

She's starting to sound like a conservative "Christian" -- whatever you're doing to other people, accuse them of doing it to you.

Last I heard, a strong majority of NRA members support rational gun control laws. But then, the "members" the NRA actually listens to -- the manufacturers -- don't. There you have it.

Umm -- Happy Spring?

Another Chinese hoax:

The Weather Channel reports:
Winter Storm Toby will spread yet another swath of snow, not to mention wind and coastal flooding, into the East through Thursday, the fourth nor’easter in less than three weeks and potentially one of the heaviest snowstorms this late in the season along parts of the I-95 corridor.
Winter storm warnings, where snowfall is expected to be heaviest, extend from eastern Massachusetts to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, including the cities of Boston, Providence, Hartford, virtually the entire New York City Tri-State area and Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, it would be a lovely early spring day -- upper 30s, sunny -- except for the damned wind, which has really got an edge to it this morning.

It Worked In Illinois

Stories like this are a little too common:

Two Christian adoption agencies in Philadelphia are under attack – and under review – after being caught with policies refusing same-sex couples and LGBT people from adopting children in their care. In the last year alone the City of Philadelphia has paid them a total of $3 million to care for the children in need of loving homes. Those payments are now on hold and an investigation into both agencies is underway.

Bethany Christian Services and Catholic Social Services are both refusing to alter their policies, insisting same-sex marriage is not in keeping with their religious beliefs, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

In Illinois, the adoption agency run by Catholic Charities in the diocese of Peoria (headed by notorious homophobe Bishop John Paprocki) was turning down gay couples as prospective parents. Interestingly enough, this only became an issue for the Church when same-sex marriage was looming on the horizon.* The governor cut off their funding and the attorney general threatened to revoke their license. Ditto with two other dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Chicago. They got out of the adoption business, and their caseload was immediately picked up by other agencies, including one run by the Lutheran Church.

In Illinois, it was a matter of violating state anti-discrimination laws, which includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and marital status. I don't know about anti-discrimination statutes in Pennsylvania, but someone brought up a fairly interesting issue:

Mary Catherine Roper, the Pennsylvania's ACLU's deputy legal director also says giving taxpayer funds to agencies refusing LGBT parents might be unconstitutional.

“A government doesn’t get to use a contractor to implement religious programs and when you start saying, ‘We’re running this as a religious program such that we won’t take you because you don’t fit our religious view,’ then the city is paying for a religious program, and that’s a problem under the First Amendment.”

Can you say "Establishment Clause violation"?

Another day in the sad story of those poor, persecuted "Christians". I'm waiting for Liberty Counsel to jump right on it.

* Interestingly enough, as I recall Catholic Charities was originally founded as an organization under the Church's auspices but as a separate legal entity to avoid church/state conflicts. Strangely enough, when states started legalizing same-sex marriage, it became a "religious organization."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Today in Stalin's Krem- . . . Uh, Trump's White House

The firings haven't been as random as we thought -- although if we'd thought a bit more closely, this would come as no surprise:

A trove of e-mails obtained by House Democrats reveal efforts by top State Department officials — working hand in hand with the White House, outside conservatives and right-wing media — to sideline and demote career civil servants who are seen as disloyal to President Trump.

The report on the emails set off alarm bells across Washington, D.C. and prompted Democrats on the House Oversight Committee to demand that the State Department hand over records of internal communications on the issue. Department officials have reportedly labeled certain career staffers “troublemaker,” “turncoat” and “Obama/Clinton loyalist” because of their work for past administrations.

But independent watchdog groups tracking the issue tell TPM the problem is not confined to the State Department, citing similar acts of retaliation against career staffers throughout the government.

The first thing this calls to mind, of course, is Stalin's purges of the 1930s. (And do remember that we still have Guantanamo, just in case. Our very own gulag.)

And lest you think this is just Trump being Trump:

A slew of bills recently introduced by House Republicans would implement the weakened employee protections now in place at the VA and other government agencies.

The Labor Department Accountability Act and Education Department Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act replicate the VA’s legislative language almost exactly, giving the secretaries at those agencies more authority to swiftly  suspend, involuntarily reassign, demote or remove employees.

The Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency (PAGE) Act would classify all new federal hires as “at-will” employees, meaning they could be “removed or suspended, without notice or right to appeal, from service by the head of the agency at which such employee is employed for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all.”

And the Modern Employment Reform, Improvement, and Transformation (MERIT) would allow Cabinet secretaries to fire any employee, provided they give a notice in writing, and would limit the employee’s ability to appeal the case to the MSPB.

I love the names they give these bills -- just they opposite of what they're really about.

Trump's doing what the Republicans want -- have wanted, for years: a) they don't like laws that protect workers, of any kind, at any time; b) they're authoritarians at heart, or at best, oligarchs -- conservatives have never gotten over expanding voting rights to non-landowners, former slaves, and women (their response, of course, is to try to make it impossible for undesirables to vote); and c) they don't want to govern, they want to rule.

The other thing that popped into my head as I was reading this was that piece from The Mikado: "I have a little list./They never will be missed --/No, they never will be missed. . . ."

There had damned well better be a Blue Tsunami this November, or we are royally screwed. Although at the rate things are going, November may be too late.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Review: John Boswell: Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe

This is another one originally written for Epinions.com and no longer available there. In this case, context is important: it was originally written in 2003, when the push for marriage equality in the U.S. was just gathering steam: in 1993, the supreme court of Hawai'i, in Baehr v. Lewin, held that the state could not abridge marriage rights on the basis of sex; this, of course, led to the inevitable backlash, with states and the federal government passing laws and/or constitutional amendments to do just that. Then, in 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided in favor of the plaintiffs in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health; times had changed: the Massachusetts legislature couldn't muster the votes for a constitutional amendment or even a civil unions bill, and marriage equality became law in Massachusetts. (I might add that I caught a fair amount of flak on this one, mostly from people who objected to Boswell's conclusions.)

So, in that context, Boswell's book:

One considers seriously that the debate raging in the United States over same-sex marriage might have a more civil tone if all participants had read John Boswell’s Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. It is a wide-ranging, carefully thought explication of the institution of marriage before the modern period of European history (generally considered to begin with the end of the Thirty Years’ War in the mid-fifteenth century), and does much to clarify the historical context of the debate.

Boswell devotes his “Introduction” to a discussion of the difficulties facing the historian in research, first in comprehending the context of the period, and then in making it clear to an audience. This is extraordinarily difficult in the area of social customs, because so much has changed, and so much is not recorded and must be reasoned from vague and often cryptic sources. Boswell stresses, quite rightly, that the historian must understand the vocabulary of the question, in this case marriage, in contemporaneous terms to bring any sort of understanding to the discussion. In Chapter 1, Boswell does a more than creditable job of clarifying the many forms that marriage took in the Mediterranean societies of the Classical, Hellenistic, and early Imperial ages, with particular appreciation for St. Augustine’s dictum that procreation was not a requirement for marriage (notwithstanding contemporary Church teaching to the contrary). What is interesting is the development of heterosexual marriage from an institution devoted entirely to economic, political, and dynastic concerns, in which the wife was essentially property bestowed on her husband by her father to cement an alliance between two families, to a contractual arrangement by independent adults (at least in theory – the arrangement was by no mean equal, except in social class). In light of this, it is no surprise that marriage in pre-Christian Europe was practiced by – and quite often permitted to – only the upper classes: those who had significant property. It is not until the later Empire that affection and attraction become acceptable considerations in arranging marriages. (It is also worth noting that, for the most part, priestly participation was an add-on – for the vast majority, once the financial agreements had been worked out, a simple declaration before witnesses constituted the ceremony: marriages were usually blessed by priests, but the crux was signing the agreements.)

Boswell goes on to discuss same-sex unions in pre-Christian Europe. Even for those familiar with some of the customs and expectations surrounding same-sex relationships in this period, he provides an enlightening commentary, pointing out that such relationships were expected to be long-term, ideally permanent, that the much touted age difference between erastes and eromenos in Greek custom (when it existed at all) paralleled exactly the ideal age difference in heterosexual marriage, and, no surprise to some, that same-sex relationships were expected to call forth the best characeristics of the lovers. (The U. S. military establishment comes in for a few pointed comments, as Boswell brings the history of the Sacred Band of Thebes – never defeated until they were wiped out to the last man at Chaeronaea – to bear on arguments about “unit cohesion” and “morale.”)

The chapter on marriage in the early Christian period is more than enlightening. Stunning is Boswell’s observation that “For the enthusiastic and devout, the most dramatic change in attitudes toward marriage was its profound devaluation.” The early Christian Church did not like the idea of sex under any circumstances, and far from promoting procreation as a divine mandate, held that the ideal marriage was never consummated. (Fortunately for the development of Christianity, the Church Fathers did finally, albeit grudgingly, admit that sex within marriage was acceptable – a somewhat lukewarm endorsement. One wonders if they were just bowing to the inevitable, since the vast majority of Christians paid as much attention to Church teaching in this area then as they do now.) Marriage did not become a sacrament within the Church for over a thousand years. Boswell also discusses several instances of “paired saints,” particularly SS Serge and Bacchus, who were without doubt a couple and were perceived as such at the time.

Perhaps the most revelatory chapters in the book are those treating the development of nuptial offices in the early Church, both heterosexual and homosexual, and their characteristics and history into the early Medieval period. Boswell cites an impressive wealth of sources that point to the almost exact parallels in treatment of the two (given that a same-sex union was less likely to involve the transfer of property or to reflect an unequal relationship in terms of relative authority). There is an extensive discussion of Roman law in this regard, since canon law was basically grafted onto that existing foundation, and Boswell goes into exhaustive detail on such ancillary issues as the adoption of brothers. What is remarkable is that the early Church’s de-emphasis of sex not only did not preclude same-sex unions, but actually made them more acceptable than they are today. Particularly instructive is the career of the Emperor Basil I, a nobody from Macedonia who “married” a wealthy Greek youth, John, at the behest of the youth’s mother and then, after assassinating the Emperor Michael (to whom he had been advisor and bedmate) summoned John to Constaninople to live with him. Boswell cites evidence from sources as diverse as the Eastern Empire, the Principality of Kiev, Spain, the Kingdom of the Franks, and Ireland as illustration of the widespread existence of same-sex unions entered under the auspices of the Church. He also notes anecdotal evidence of such unions entered into less formally.

The fourteenth century witnessed an abrupt shift in the Church’s position on same-sex unions, somewhat equivalent to the rise of the Church in the fourth century (at the beginning of which, Christianity was illegal, and by the end of which, it was the state religion). As Boswell points out, the reasons for this shift are obscure, save that the Church responded to growing public antipathy toward homosexuality (which had always been more marked in the West than in the East). This shift was hardly universal: Montaigne described witnessing a same-sex union performed by a priest in Rome in 1578, and there is documentation of a similar ceremony between two women which took place in a church in Dalmatia in the eighteenth century.

In his final chapter, Boswell examines some of the difficulties of the “history of history” in this area. It is no secret that Western society, particularly in England, Germany, and the United States, has a pathogical fear of homosexuality. It is therefore no surprise that this cultural context has colored the work of historians and anthropologists in describing the realities of other cultures, both contemporary and historical. Indeed, I remember my own dismay at the discovery that Jowett’s translations of Plato, long the standard, were heavily bowdlerized for just this reason. Boswell makes a good case for a clear-eyed view of history in this regard, one that I think can only be helpful in its honesty.

A highly respected historian, Boswell was careful in his research and very well aware of the dangers of transposing modern attitudes to historical events. As a writer, he is articulate, witty, sometimes acerbic, and very clear. He draws heavily on original documents as well as secondary sources (which makes the footnotes somewhat of a chore, unless you read French, German, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, and Old Church Slavonic), and refers as well to hagiography, Christian iconography, Hellenistic romance novels, medieval folktales, and legal codes and decisions in clarifying his examination. There is no doubt that Boswell had an agenda; what is impressive is that the agenda does not infringe on the balance in his discussion. (In spite of the impression readers may have gained from my own summary discussion above, let me note that Boswell is very careful to point out ambiguities in usage and in the texts – this is not a work of polemic.) There are sections that are heavy sledding, particularly for those not familiar with the forms and methods of historiography. The footnotes, which are legion, are a distraction: although Boswell points out that one can read through without reference to the notes, someone conditioned by a lifetime of checking citations will find it almost impossible to ignore them. Boswell also includes as appendices translations of texts discussed, the texts in their original language, a discussion of the Jewish perspective, the text of a same-sex union, and the Passion of SS Serge and Bacchus.

I found “Same-Sex Unions” fascinating, but then, I have more than a passing fondness for history. For those who routinely tout the 3,000-year-old “tradition” of marriage, it would be instructive to find out just exactly what that tradition encompasses. For those who blithely point to antiquity as the touchstone of social approval for same-sex relationships, it would be equally instructive to learn just how tenuous that approval sometimes was. Boswell’s book brings a badly needed perspective to the furious debate raging on the subject of “gay marriage” in this country and others. I don’t think anyone can dispute that same-sex unions had their ups and downs in European history – but then, so did marriage.

This Week at Green Man Review

It's that day of the week again -- hope you all survived St. Patrick's Day in good order. Interesting things at Green Man Review today, very heavy on Neil Gaiman:

Danish String Quartet’s Last Leaf, Lindt dark chocolate, music from Planxty, some very different approaches to “traditional” music, and Neverwhere in various forms

But as you can see, there are other things, too, so check it out.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Trump's War on Democracy, Free Press Edition

This post from Digby is really pretty scary:

I'm glad to see someone of Tom Edsell's stature say this in such stark terms:

More than any president in living memory, Donald Trump has conducted a dogged, remorseless assault on the press. He portrays the news media not only as a dedicated adversary of his administration but of the entire body politic. These attacks have forced the media where it does not want to be, at the center of the political debate.

Trump’s purpose is clear. He seeks to weaken an institution that serves to constrain the abusive exercise of executive authority. He has initiated a gladiatorial contest pitting the principle of freedom of the press against a principle of his own invention: freedom from the press.

This is not something Trump invented:

[Jay] Rosen observed that the history of right-wing attacks on the media extends back through Agnew’s speeches for Nixon to Goldwater’s campaign in 1964 and winds forward through William Rusher, talk radio, and of course Fox News, which founded a business model on liberal bias.

I don't find it surprising in the least that this is coming from the Republican side of the aisle. The GOP has become the resting place of the most retrograde elements in our society, the 27 or 28 percent who, in William F. Buckley's description, have always stood athwart the flow of history yelling "Stop!" -- except that they're yelling "Go back!"

And make no mistake -- the right has never been all that fond of democracy. All the progress made toward extending the right to vote, for example, has been made in spite of conservatives. (Remember that the likes of Tony Perkins consider working to preserve civil rights for all Americans a "radical agenda.")

At any rate, read Digby's whole post.

Footnote: And it's not just the press that's under attack -- it's anyone not considered a Trump loyalist. Which unfortunately includes most of the people in the executive branch who know what they're doing.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Today's Must-Read: We're Screwed

The Supreme Court seems to feel that police need to be protected from accountability when they shoot someone on a whim:

In recent years, the justices have regularly shielded police from being sued, even when officers wrongly shoot innocent people in their own homes.

They have done so by extending a rule adopted in the 1980s that gave government officials "qualified immunity" from being sued over constitutional violations unless they did something that the court already had clearly defined as illegal and unconstitutional. It is not enough to cite the words of the Constitution, such as its ban on "unreasonable searches and seizures." To bring a claim before a jury, the injured plaintiff must show the officer had obviously and unquestionably violated a recognized and specific right. In practice, this rule has served as a broad shield to prevent cases from proceeding.

There's a pending case described in the opening paragraphs of this article that may change this course, but I have no confidence that this Court will see fit to protect civilians from police misconduct: they're real big on authority. There is one small ray of hope, however:

Last year, Justice Clarence Thomas cited law professor Baude's criticism of the court's approach to these cases. "In the appropriate case, we should reconsider our qualified immunity jurisprudence," he wrote.

Yes, you read that right: Clarence Thomas wrote that.

However, given the Court's tortured reasoning in cases such as Citizens United and Hobby Lobby, I can hardly wait to see what rationale they'll come up with should they decide in favor of the police.

Yes, read the whole thing -- some of the incidents described are appalling.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Image du Jour

I couldn't resist. Offered by commenter Slippy_World at this thread at Joe.My.God.


Today's Must-Reads: The Walk-Out

First off, these posts by Betty Cracker and TaMara at Balloon Juice (with pictures and videos).

And a really good piece by Mustang Bobby that brings it all home to those of us who remember the 1960s. This cause is a lot more immediate than what we were protesting against.

That's probably it for today -- I'm a little pressed for time this morning.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


I admit it -- I've been following the results in the special election for the congressional seat in Pennsylvania's 18th district. It looks like Conor Lamb, the Democrat, took it, but very narrowly.

1) His opponent, Rick Saccone (who had to suffer through a Trump rally "in his support) will sue for a recount. Count on it.

2) Trump took this district by 20 points in 2016. Blue tsunami, anyone?

(I'm not going to join the chorus of "watch the Dems blow it". I have a feeling that Trump is so toxic to the majority of Americans that not even the DCCC can screw it up.)

In Memoriam: Stephen Hawking

Noted physicist Stephen Hawking is dead at 76:

Stephen Hawking - who died aged 76 - battled motor neurone disease to become one of the most respected and best-known scientists of his age.

A man of great humour, he became a popular ambassador for science and was always careful to ensure that the general public had ready access to his work.

His book A Brief History of Time became an unlikely best-seller although it is unclear how many people actually managed to get to the end of it.

Via Joe.My.God. There's much more at the link.

And here's a nice discussion of his attitude toward his life.

Today in Really, Really, Really Stupid Ideas

The Moron-in-Chief has outdone himself this time:

The New York Daily News reports:

President Trump doesn’t think the U.S. military is large enough — so he announced during a bizarre press conference Tuesday that it will expand beyond planet Earth.

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Trump told a crowd of Marines at the Miramar military base in California. “We have the air force. We will have a space force. We will call it the space force.”

The most cogent reaction:

The man is really sick -- he'd have to be, to see everything -- and I mean everything -- in terms of war.

Kelly should just give him a box of toy soldiers and park him in a corner someplace -- out of reach of his "nuclear button."

Culture Breatk: The Danish String Quartet: Tiny Desk Concert (NPR)

I first encountered the Danish String Quartet when offered their next-to-most-recent album for review by ECM. ECM has a strong focus on contemporary European composers and performers, and that one was works by two Danish and one English composer.

Well, I have their latest album sitting here for review -- their versions of traditional songs from various places. There are a couple on the album that are real charmers, so I thought I'd see if one of them was available for posting. Well, it turns out this is not their first foray into traditional music: they have a previous album, Wood Works, also featuring traditional tunes.

Thus, this video, which runs about eighteen minutes but is interesting enough to spend the time. The program: Ye Honest Bridal Couple — Sønderho Bridal Trilogy Parts I & II; Sekstur from Vendsyssel — The Peat Dance; Sønderho Bridal Trilogy Part III (arr. Nikolaj Busk).

The text accompanying this video is equally rewarding. You can find it here.

Today in Disgusting People (Update)

I have to admit to having almost no first-hand knowledge of Sean Hannity, since I don't watch either broadcast or cable TV, or listen to the radio. (I stopped listening to the radio years ago because they talk too much, and I find talking a distraction when I'm reading or doing something that needs musical accompaniment. I can watch a talk show, but I can't listen to one.)

At any rate, the take I have on Hannity is, as might be expected, from sources on the Internet, and considering the sources I usually check out, you might well imagine that my take is not positive. I think this confirms my judgment:

“When you look at this report and what it says, the major finding that the House Intel Committee have now ended their 14 month phase of this Russian investigation. There’s still a lot of other investigations to come. It confirms everything we have been telling you and it also confirms that the media and Democrats have been flat out lying to every American for over a year with their breathless hysterical reporting and they out of pretty much whole cloth created a Russian collusion conspiracy theory all designed to smear and delegitimize Donald Trump.” – Sean Hannity, speaking today on his SiriusXM show.

Gee, the House Intelligence Committee found no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign -- uh, let me clarify that: the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee found no evidence of collusion, so they've ended their investigation before questioning all the witnesses and examining all the documents.

That's all Hannity needs to go full-tilt conspiracy theorist. Well, not up to the level (down to the level?) of Alex Jones, but still. . . .

This is an order of magnitude beyond sycophancy.

Well, now they can go back to investigating Hillary's e-mails.

Update: Here's more background if you need it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Is It an Insult If It's True?

It's a widespread comment on the internet that fundamentalist Christians aren't playing with a full deck. You've all heard or read it in one context or another. Well, get a load of this:

A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia has shown that religious fundamentalism is, in part, the result of a functional impairment in a brain region known as the prefrontal cortex. The findings suggest that damage to particular areas of the prefrontal cortex indirectly promotes religious fundamentalism by diminishing cognitive flexibility and openness — a psychology term that describes a personality trait which involves dimensions like curiosity, creativity, and open-mindedness.

The article points out that this does not offer a complete explanation for the prevalence of fundamentalism:

The authors emphasize that cognitive flexibility and openness aren’t the only things that make brains vulnerable to religious fundamentalism. In fact, their analyses showed that these factors only accounted for a fifth of the variation in fundamentalism scores. Uncovering those additional causes, which could be anything from genetic predispositions to social influences, is a future research project that the researchers believe will occupy investigators for many decades to come, given how complex and widespread religious fundamentalism is and will likely continue to be for some time.

So there you have it.

The article goes into some detail about how the study was conducted, but it's worth a read.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

And I Hope

You all remembered to set your clocks, watches, and other timepieces an hour ahead, so you're as disoriented as I am. (Seriously -- it takes me a few days to adjust to the time change. If you thinks that's weird, I used to have jetlag flying in from New York or Asheville.)

Review: Geoff Johns, et al.: Superman: The Last Son of Krypton

Another one first published at Epinions and no longer available there:

One of the featured items on Free Comic Book Day at my local comics store was the first chapter of Superman: The Last Son of Krypton. It was interesting enough -- and showed a whole new facet of Superman -- that I checked to see if it was an ongoing series. Turns out, it's two stories that have already been collected.

In "Last Son," a rocket crash-lands in Metropolis, with a sole passenger. The "landing" part is thanks to Superman, who manages to slow it down enough to lessen the destruction. The passenger is a boy who speaks Kryptonese and tends to lift heavy objects without strain. Guess where he's from. Of course, it makes the papers, and suddenly, everyone wants the kid -- starting with Lex Luthor, but General Zod soon makes an appearance.

The second story, "Brainiac," is Superman versus Brainiac, who is busily sucking up all the information in the universe -- and then incinerating the creators. He's been looking for Superman, and now he's found him. That doesn't bode well for Earth.

In some ways, The Last Son of Krypton was a disappointment. What seemed at first like a new take on Superman -- as a father -- snapped right back into formula, first with Zod and his minions, and then with Brainiac. The boy became merely a plot device. It's a shame -- in this universe, Clark Kent and Lois Lane are married, there are lots of visits to Ma and Pa Kent, and there's a lot of potential for building some real humanity into Superman, but the parts never quite connect.

The Brainiac story is pure formula, and little more. Brainiac's dialogue is a reiteration of "You're powerless, you can defeat me, I win," repeated ad nauseam. There's as little character development here as there is in "Last Son" -- if anything, less.

The art saves this one. "Last Son" was drawn by Andy Kubert, and he's about to join my list of top comic artists. Superman is suitably craggy-featured, the boy Christopher is eminently appealing, and the rest of the characters are nicely conceived and rendered. My only objection here is that in some frames, depictions become a little too abstract. There is enough variation in the page layouts to keep things interesting, although in some passages they become so fragmented they're hard to follow.

"Brainiac" was drawn by Gary Frank, with inks by Jon Sibal, and again, the characterizations are apt (although Supergirl, who occupies a strong supporting role, looks a little vapid).

There's an "Epilogue" on this one, drawn, I assume, by Frank. The first portion is completely visual, and is tremendously evocative. (I can't tell you what it portrays, since that's a major spoiler.)

On the whole, Geoff Johns has done better, and I really wish he'd followed up on the opportunity to develop the relationship between Clark/Superman and Christopher without falling back on somewhat shopworn villains.

Giggle du Jour

I'm surprised Trump hasn't taken credit for ending the Korean War:

The Winter Olympics were “very, very successful,” Donald Trump told a Pennsylvania audience Saturday night.

Thanks, of course, to Donald Trump.

“We did a greta [sic] job with the Olympics,” Trump said. “Might as well say it, nobody else is going to say it.”

Why is Trump responsible? For bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula, of course.

“A little hard to sell tickets when you think you’re going to be nuked,” he said.

“It became a very, very successful Olympics,” Trump assured.

Nobody else is going to say it because it's BS.

It's Sunday Again

And that means good stuff at Green Man Review. This week's post title isn't really very informative, so, let's see: books, of course (Glen Cook -- Yay!), and music (all kinds of music), winter ales, graphic lit, a travelogue, and even a little brown mouse.

So scurry on over and check it out.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why Not Just Shoot Them?

Just like your hero:

The Trump administration is studying new policy that could allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty for drug dealers, according to people with knowledge of the discussions, a sign that the White House wants to make a strong statement in addressing the opioid crisis. President Trump last week suggested executing drug dealers as a way to make a dent in opioid addiction.

I doubt that Trump knows which end of a gun is which. Maybe his Hemingway-wannabe offspring could give him lessons.

Saturday Science: Trees

For some reason, the evolution of trees has been on my mind a lot lately. Probably because on a visit to the Field Museum, I noticed the ginkgos in one of the islands in the parkway between the museum and Soldier Field: they looked like pines, one central trunk with the branches all radiating off the way the branches of conifers do (usually -- everything about nature is "usually"), so that they form a pyramid shape.

I did a little research and discovered that ginkgos are most closely related to cycads.

I also discovered that, although they make seeds, they don't have flowers, again like conifers. I spent a bit of time last spring observing the conifers planted around Lincoln Park Conservatory, and, yep: they don't have flowers, just little buds that release pollen and little proto-cones that form seeds when the pollen lands on them.

By contrast, the growth habit of most flowering trees (again, usually) is spreading: they want to capture as much light at possible, and any branch may become a secondary trunk.

Just some thoughts. I'll probably work this into a post in Earth: A Biography (which I'm going to get back into soon), but it needs more research.

(Footnote: And I discovered an error in the signage in the Fern Room at the Conservatory, which starts off "A small dinosaur would feel right at home in this room" since it's all ferns, selaginellas, tree ferns -- and cycads. It goes on to state that seeds hadn't evolved yet, which is not the case: seed-bearing plants first appeared about 360 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs; flowers, however, didn't appear until much later, while dinosaurs were running around doing dinosaur things. In fact, cycads are seed-bearing.)