"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

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Credit Where Credit Is Due

You've no doubt run across stories about the push to nominate Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize -- based on something he had nothing to do with. There are a couple of posts at Hullbaloo that I really wish could have been combined, but they weren't, so I'm doing it.

The first is about the Peace Prize nonsense, from Digby:

Sure, of course. Makes perfect sense:

The campaign to award a 2019 Nobel Peace Prize to the current president — regularly criticized for delivering personal attacks on Twitter — is heating up, following news of this week’s historic summit between North and South Korea that could mark the first step toward denuclearizing the peninsula.

Thanks to the tentative progress being made on the Korean peninsula, at least one British bookie has predicted that Trump has favorable odds of winning a Nobel this year — and some of Trump’s top defenders are falling in line.

“After North Korea triumph Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, not Obama,” declared a Fox News op-ed published on Friday.

Offhand, I can't think of a bigger travesty right now. "Peace through strength"? Excuse me? Is that what he's been doing?

And the cherry on top is everyone's favorite Fox News bully:


However, for those of us in the reality-based universe, Digby also posted this:

The only reason I bring this up is because Trump is saying that nobody ever did what he has done etc, etc as usual and well, it's wrong. There have been other talks and they may end up being seen as the precursors to some kind of rapprochement between the two countries. They did not deter North Korea from pursuing their nuclear weapons program and it's highly unlikely, considering the message America has sent to the world about the consequences of giving them up. (America will invade you and your leaders will be killed.)

Trump will strut around like a conquering hero and we'll all be forced to kiss his hem as the living God he is, but it won't make it true. If this happens it will be because there has been a very slow, long term thaw and a tremendous amount of pressure coming from all directions over the course of many years. Trump's tweets will not have been the reason.

The bulk of the post is a timeline of meetings in this century between leaders of the two Koreas, and summaries of the substance/results of those meeting.

But, this is Trump: he has a history of taking credit for other peoples' accomplishments. (See "Obama, Barack H.") And the idea that his policies, whatever they are (even he doesn't know from minute to minute) are going to bring about world peace is beyond ludicrous.

Yeah, It's Sunday Again

And the news is just as dismal as ever, so to cheer you up, here's What's New at Green Man Review:

Yemeni coffee, Jack Vance: a tribute volume, A 40,000-year-old hedgehog, interlibrary loans, lakriti and other cool things

There's more of course -- there's always more. So head on over and lighten your day.

Last Light

I went out for the last smoke of the day just at dusk. There was still light from the sun reflecting off the windows of the high-rises along the lake, the lower-rises closer to my place were in shadow -- not deep shadow, but not lighted, except by the street lamps -- and the moon was about a quarter of the way up the sky and perfectly round and still pretty big -- not as big as at moonrise, but larger than it would be later, higher in the sky.

I love this city -- everywhere you look, there's a picture.

(Which maybe means I should poke myself and start taking pictures again.)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Image du Jour

From the comment thread to this post at Joe.My.God.


With thanks to commenter Bluto.

Oh, and about the post: My own comment was simply "They (Republicans) really hate the Establishment Clause, don't they?"

Friday, April 27, 2018

So I Went to the Zoo

Red-breasted merganser
It was yesterday, actually. I saw two rabbits, a mouse, red-breasted mergansers, another diving duck I couldn't identify, and a pair of geese with eleven goslings -- according to the lady who followed them from Wells and St. Paul to South Pond, about half a mile or more, and across a couple of busy streets. And lots of turtles basking.

Oh, and the animals in the Zoo collections, of course.

But Ya Are, Blanche!

You are a bunch of bigots:

The Catholic Church has demanded an apology from the BBC over a video that referenced the impact of religious homophobia from a “Bible basher.”

BBC Scotland’s The Social project released a powerful spoken word video earlier this month exploring what homophobia feels like in 2018.

The video, which has attracted millions of views on social media, is a first-person account of a man grappling the fear of casual homophobia from strangers while walking with his boyfriend. . . .

Addressing the anti-gay preacher he adds: “See him? He thinks it’s faith but under all that din it tastes like cardboard and it smells like hate.”

So of course, it's an attack on the Catholic Church:

Bishop John Keenan of Paisley has written to the Director of BBC Scotland to demand an apology for the video, which he claims “sanctions the idea that Catholics engender public hated of homosexuals.”

Well, the hierarchy do. The laity, at least in America, not so much. I don't know if Catholics in the UK have the same tendency to ignore the pronouncements of the bishops that American Catholics do, but I wouldn't be surprised.

As for that "public hatred" bit, a spot check on the Church's teaching:

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the Church's teaching on homosexuality as follows:
Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that 'homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered'. They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
(Emphasis added.)

That doesn't sound much like acceptance to me.

Keenan goes on:

Keenan added: “In the current climate of growing hostility to Catholics I would appeal that the BBC guard against adding fuel to the fire. In that regard I would ask that the Corporation now reach out to Catholics to understand their concerns, that they are being portrayed in a prejudicial way.

“When it comes to important public debates about the wellbeing of the human person and the truth and meaning of human sexuality Catholics feel their views are becoming increasingly marginalised, almost criminalised’ by a narrative in BBC news, comment, arts and elsewhere that amounts to ‘LGBT views good, Catholic views bad,’ an assumption which you must know is simplistic and imposed, and which is not strengthened by longitudinal research.

If the views of the Church on human sexuality are becoming marginalized, perhaps it's because they are totally out of line with reality. And the "longitudinal research" comment is nonsense -- seriously, what does that even mean? "Longitudinal research" on what? Every bit of research that's been done on homosexuality has confirmed that a) it's a perfectly normal variation in sexuality, and b) the overwhelming majority of the difficulties that gay men and lesbians experience comes from things such as the teachings of the Catholic Church.

If the Church wants apologies, how about it start by apologizing to all the gay people whose lives it has ruined?

Here's the video. If you haven't seen it, it's worth watching. And for those who have trouble with heavy Scottish accents, it's subtitled:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

OMG! Common Sense Out of Washington

From a Democrat, of course:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is proposing legislation aimed at putting an end to current payday lending practices by giving some banking services a new home: the U.S. Post Office.

The legislation, called the Postal Banking Act, would make retail banking services available at all U.S. Postal Service locations. That amounts to 30,000 post offices nationwide.

Services would include small-dollar loans for consumers that offer low fees and low interest rates.

Those transactions would compete with payday loans, a short-term advance that typically comes due with your next paycheck.

Since Mick "I only talk to people who give me money" Mulvaney doesn't want to do anything about payday lenders, it's good to see Gillibrand stepping in. Just in case you weren't aware:

The terms for payday loans are often unfavorable, said Alex Horowitz, senior research officer for the consumer finance project at Pew Charitable Trusts, an independent research organization.

About 12 million individuals use payday loans annually, according to Horowitz. The average loan is $375 for a period of five months, which accrues about $520 in fees, he said.

"These loans are extraordinarily expensive with annual percentage rates near 400 percent," Horowitz said.

That's worse than taking a cash advance on your credit card.

This won't go anywhere -- the major banks, co-owners of most of Congress, will see it as competition, which they don't like, currency exchanges won't like it, and the Republicans are trying to kill off the USPS anyway.

But it's nice someone's making the effort.

Via Joe.My.God. More reporting at the link.

She's Baaack!

I guess Laura Ingraham hasn't lost enough sponsors yet, but at least she's found a different dead horse to flog:

Now let’s face it. The runaway judiciary has become in effect a new flank of the resistance. They are taking away your power. And it’s time for Congress to circumscribe the authority and the reach of these district court judges. Think about national health care policy, immigration policy, national security. These matters are all beyond the scope and understanding frankly of a district court judge.

“It’s like giving a local mayor control over U.S. foreign policy. It’s ridiculous. The tyranny especially of the district court bench has to end. And the people’s will should no longer be held hostage to the capricious whims of one ill-equipped disgruntled life tenured jurist.

Well, let's see:

"Circumscribe the authority of judges"? Congress can't -- although theoretically Congress can dissolve all district and circuit courts, but I don't see that happening.

Policy -- the courts don't deal with policy, they deal with law. Ingraham should know that -- she clerked for a Supreme Court justice (Clarence Thomas, as a matter of fact; that explains a lot). But it doesn't fit the agenda.

The "people's will" is certainly not something you're going to find the Trump regime worrying about, and it is subject to limits: the people get to elect their representatives; that's the extent of it. (Oh, and as it happens, most of "the people" are against Trump's attempts to eliminate DACA.)

The right hates the whole idea of an independent judiciary, almost as much as they hate the idea of equal treatment under the law. I'm reminded of the hysterical reaction to Obergefell, which most right-wing commentators condemned at "lawless," which I found hysterically funny -- that's officially known as an oxymoron.

So, in the final analysis, she's not only an idiot, she's a liar. Somehow, that's no surprise.

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Today in Cognitive Dissonance

Tony Perkins, again, who -- well, you can click through and read the whole thing if your stomach is up to it, but there's a couple of items that deserve special mention:

Family Research Council (FRC) is dedicated to ensuring our nation becomes a place where public school children are not exposed to pro-LGBT curriculum that encourages kids to ignore biology, use gender inclusive language, and even attend events with same-sex dates.

Apparently, it's of overwhelming importance to the religious freedom of "Christians" who someone else's kid takes to the prom. There is some speculation that Perkins is riled because of this story:

And this:

. . . our ongoing vision of a culture where all human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives.

Translation: all human life is valued until birth, some families flourish, if they're the right kind of families, and my religious liberty to tell everyone else how to live thrives.

You already know what I think of Tony Perkins, so I don't have to repeat it. Let's just add "overweening arrogance" to his "Christian" virtues.

So Much Winning

That's us, not him:

A third federal judge has rejected the Trump administration’s justification for winding down the program protecting immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children.

U.S. District Court Judge John Bates said on Tuesday that the Department of Homeland Security’s legal explanation for the decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was too flimsy and, ultimately, unpersuasive.

“DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” Bates wrote in his 60-page opinion, released on Tuesday evening. “Neither the meager legal reasoning nor the assessment of litigation risk provided by DHS to support its rescission decision is sufficient to sustain termination of the DACA program.”

. . .

Bates is also opening up the possibility that the Trump administration could be ordered to take new DACA applications, something no other judge has required. Bates said in his decision on Tuesday that if DHS didn’t come up with a new, better explanation for the rescission within 90 days, the entire program would be restored.

The government's argument seems to boil down to "the program was instituted by that Muslim illegal immigrant Obama."

Via Joe.My.God.


They don't even bother to pretend any more:

Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, told banking industry executives on Tuesday that they should press lawmakers hard to pursue their agenda, and revealed that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mr. Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina, told 1,300 bankers and lending industry officials at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

At the top of the hierarchy, he added, were his constituents. “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” said Mr. Mulvaney, who received nearly $63,000 from payday lenders for his congressional campaigns.

So now it's right out in the open: our government's for sale.

Via Joe.My.God.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mouse Update

I have to confess, I was a little worried about the mouse (mice) -- it didn't seem that the food I left out had been touched for a couple of days, but there have been strange noises coming from under the air conditioner (which, you may remember, is under my desk). However, yesterday someone cleaned his (their) plate, and now I have one very bold, very tiny little guy who's been running around in plain sight while I'm at the computer, and keeps making hits at the new food while he thinks I'm not looking.

So I am reassured that all is well.

To Start the Week Off Right

An offering from the lighter side of life -- it's not what you think:

Via Balloon Juice.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

What's New at Green Man Review

Yep, it's Sunday again, and there are goodies a Green Man Review, as always:

Disposable fountain pens, Estonian pianist Kristjan Randalu, two chocolate goodies, Space Opera and other matters

Lots of Space Opera. Very good Space Opera. So check it out.

A Recommendation

If you haven't already, add Digby's Hullabaloo to your daily reading list -- some of the best commentary going.

Just today, for example, in addition to Dennis Hartley's Earth Day piece noted in the previous post, Digby has posts on Rod Rosenstein and what he's facing at the hands of Trump and his minions, the pernicious influence of Facebook, Trump's reaction to real news, Mike Pompeo's military record (oops!), and much more.

It's Earth Day

No, I don't have anything special planned for today, but then for me, just about any day is Earth Day. However, I ran across this essay by Dennis Hartley at Hullabaloo, the lead-in to his weekly film column, this time about "eco-flicks". He starts by discussing the iconic "Earthrise" photo taken by Apollo 8 crewmember Maj. William A. Anders:

He then goes on to note Trump's war on planet Earth:

Yes, that is a “pretty place down there.” Be a shame if anything happened to it:

The Trump administration’s tumultuous first year has brought a flurry of changes—both realized and anticipated—to U.S. environmental policy. Many of the actions roll back Obama-era policies that aimed to curb climate change and limit environmental pollution, while others threaten to limit federal funding for science and the environment.

It’s a lot to keep track of, so National Geographic will be maintaining an abbreviated timeline of the Trump administration’s environmental actions and policy changes, as well as reactions to them. We will update this article periodically as news develops.

Needless to say, many “updates” follow that intro (the most recent one is from April 6, and there will be more to come). Bookmark the link, if you dare (sick bag on standby).

I'm not going to go into detail on that, except to note that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been busy gutting every regulation that might help to make the planet livable -- when he's not flying off to Morocco first-class to lobby the Moroccan government on natural gas (and since when was that part of the EPA's portfoio?).

And do check out his film recommendations -- they look pretty interesting.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Another Episode of "Liars for Jesus"

You may have read that California is on the verge of banning "conversion therapy" (formally, "Sexual Orientation Change Efforts," or SOCE) as a deceptive business practice. Needless to say, "Christians" are up in arms.

A.B. 2943 extends the ban on the practice of Sexual Orientation Change Efforts (SOCE) to all persons, not just minors, by adding the the words “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual” to the "existing list of unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices," according to the bill's official summary.

That seems fairly straightforward -- and long overdue.

Oh, but wait:

But try telling that to California State Assembly member Travis Allen, a Republican who just happens to be running for governor, or the far right wing news network OANN, whose host offered this intro on Thursday:

"This is essentially criminalizing religious beliefs," Liz Wheeler said, falsely. "I don’t mean to speak in hyperbole here, but if this bill were to pass, would this prohibit the sale of the Bible, that teaches these things about sexual morality?"

No, Ms. Wheeler, that's not hyperbole -- that's bullshit.

"Well, literally, according to how this law is written, yes, it would," prohibit the sale of the Bible, he said, falsely. "This is, you know, PC culture, politically correct culture, gone horribly awry. This is really directly hitting at our First Amendment rights as American citizens. Now the Democrat legislators in this building, right behind me, the California state legislature, they want to tell you how to think, what sort of books that you can read, write and purchase."

There's this pyschological mechanism known as "projection". . . . Just sayin'.

There's video at the link, if you can stand it.

Today's Must-Read: The Road to Dictatorship, Part 455

That's approximately the number of days Trump's been squatting in the White House. Two posts from Hullabaloo on how the Trump regime's pernicious influence is bringing us more and more into line with such sterling examples of democracy as Turkey, the Philippines, and Venezuela. First, from Tom Sullivan, on a speech by French President Emanuel Macron:

Macron warns of “national selfishness and negativity” and a “fascination with the illiberal” spreading across Europe in the emergence of far-right movements and parties:

But his words also apply more broadly to the surge of illiberalism in Turkey, Egypt, Russia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Venezuela, among other places, where leaders have actively snuffed out civil society, suborned or faked elections, asphyxiated free expression, ignored rule of law, and repressed basic human rights. Leaders in such countries learn from one another as they refine methods to crush democracy, by banning or restricting nongovernmental organizations, creating laws to single out independent voices as “foreign agents,” imposing censorship on the news and social media, and, most tried and true, jailing those who dissent. They also echo one another’s claims that their imposed order offers a viable alternative to democracy, which can be so unpredictable and messy.

And authoritarianism becomes much easier to implement when a sizable portion of those institutions that are supposed to provide the "check and balance" are on board with Our Leader's agenda:

As if to drive home the Post's point about jailing dissenters (if indeed the editorial is not in reaction to this news), eleven Republicans sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him to prosecute an enemies list of Trump foes. The list includes former FBI Director James Comey, former Secretray of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, FBI Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Counsel Lisa Page.

Digby expands on this in another post. Her summation:

We are going to depend upon Jeff Session and Donald Trump to be the calm leaders who would never consider such actions. Indeed, assuming that we don't find ourselves in a major crisis I'd guess that Sessions and most other officials would oppose this.

It's good that there's no chance of a crisis, amirite? Everything's perfectly normal and in control thank goodness.

I'd surmise that Trump and/or Sessions put them up to it, but then, they don't have to, do they?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Culture Break: Tjønneblomen

I'm not listing an artist in the header because I'm bringing you two versions of this song. It's a Norwegian waltz, listed as "after Gjermund Haugen," from which I assume he did the arrangement offered here first: Annbjørg Lien on hardanger fiddle, with Bjørn Ole Rasch on keyboards.

Second, because it's a versatile tune that loses nothing in translation, the Danish String Quartet. Sadly, I couldn't find a video of them performing this, so we'll have to make do:

There. That ought to five you a nice peaceful feeling to start the day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Republicans, In a Nutshell

Via Ann Laurie at Balloon Juice:

Words Fail Me

If you think Trump is an egomaniac, get this:

The Interior Department took estimates for setting up four flag poles outside its main building in Washington, D.C., to fly personal flags for Secretary Ryan Zinke at a cost as high as $200,000, according to internal emails released Monday by the agency.

The department ultimately decided against installing the new poles, the documents show, choosing instead in March 2017 to use three smaller, existing poles on top of its building.

Personal flags.

Zinke has received media attention for his desire to fly specialized flags above the department that would signify his presence. Zinke is a former Navy SEAL. An Interior spokeswoman said he wanted to fly the flag as a way of restoring honor and tradition to the department.

"Secretary Zinke has a deep respect for tradition. Since his confirmation, the Secretary has made a concerted effort to uphold, and in this case, revive long-held traditions at Interior," Spokeswoman Heather Swift told the Hill.

What traditions do you suppose he wants to revive? Certainly not maintaining the public lands the government holds in trust for the people of the United States.

If he really wants to restore the honor of the Department of the Interior, he should resign.

(Via Joe.My.God.)

But wait -- it gets better:

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tried to justify his decision to decrease Bears Ear National Monument by claiming that he is a scientist and thus he knows better.

According to CNN, Zinke told lawmakers, “I’m a geologist. I can assure you that oil and gas in Bears Ears was not part of my decision matrix. A geologist will tell you there is little, if any, oil and gas.”

This marks at least the 40th time Zinke has made the claim, including the times he was under oath before Congress. While Zinke has a Bachelor of Science degree in geology from the University of Oregon, the degree does not equate the position, no more than having a Bachelors in pre-med makes someone a doctor.

I have a bachelor's degree in psychology. I don't call myself a psychologist.

In his autobiography, Zinke confessed that he went to the University of Oregon on a football scholarship and picked his major at random.

“I studied geology as a result of closing my eyes and randomly pointing to a major from the academic catalog, and I never looked back. I am just glad I did not find electronics,” he wrote.

After graduating, Zinke went into the Navy to become a SEAL. After, he went into business and politics, never once worked as a geologist.

At least I deliberately decided on psychology as my major.

Well, just remember -- Trump hires the best people.

Scenes from the City

There's this pushcart vendor who sets up in front of the Centro Romero, which occupies a large portion of the first floor of my building. He gets the business from Centro Romero and the school across the street (although the kids seem to hang out at Dunkin' Donuts).

So I'm standing outside last evening and he pushes his cart up to Dunkin' and goes inside to get a drink -- probably coffee.

I guess he doesn't stock whatever he bought.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mouse Update

I was concerned for a few days: I'd run out of fried rice and didn't get around to making more, so I left out a few cut-up, cooked piece of potato, which disappeared overnight. And then the next night, more potato, but it was still there in the morning. So I left out a bit of Trader Joe's Mushroom Risotto (sorry, but I don't recommend it), and again, still there. So then I left out a bit of chopped carrot. One or two pieces might have been missing the next morning, but I couldn't tell. So last night, I forgot to leave anything out, and this morning, all the leftovers were gone. So I guess I've still got at least one mouse.

Today in Disgusting People

A perennial front-runner for this category who's decided to step down -- uh, "spend more time with his family" now that he's done what the Kochs, et al., put him in office for. At least, most of it. Anne Laurie has a good summation at Balloon Juice. She draws in part on this article by Paul Waldman, but I have one caveat, where Waldman refers to Paul Krugman's analysis:

But as Paul Krugman observed, Ryan failed at both his pretend goal and his real goal. He will leave office after setting the deficit on a path to exceed $1 trillion in 2020, and yet, he failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act and didn’t even bother to wage an assault on Medicare, almost certainly because he knew how disastrous it would be for his party.

I wouldn't call the books closed on that yet -- he's got eight months left, a little more, before he steps down, and he has a tactic that worked on the "tax reform" bill -- introduce a massive bill, call for a vote within a day or two, no hearings, no debate. And he has his majority until January. I would guess he'll try to gut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the AFA in December. He hasn't give up:

And just to point up what a piece of shit Ryan -- and the whole "libertarian" wing of the GOP -- is, there's this:

[I]t’s worth revisiting now, as Ryan prepares his exit from politics, the thrust of the argument that the tale advanced—that, in general, the 20 million children in this country who receive free lunches have parents who clearly don’t care about them and that in providing food to those children, the government enables bad parenting. That sweeping judgment is impossible unless one considers poverty and economic hardship themselves personal failings. For about a decade now, Ryan has demonstrated that he believes precisely this—that those who have trouble making their way in the world are personally defective, that those immiserated by circumstance have willingly surrendered their lives to dysfunction, and that the best remedy society can offer to those who lack is to deprive them, in cuts to already meager social programs, of even more.

Never a reference to the fact that the GOP's backers, our corporate overlords, have shipped those parents' jobs to China and Vietnam.

There's more, and none of it is complimentary. But then, to be honest, I don't see how it could be.

On a Cheerier Note

Given the snow in the middle of April and the forecast of March temperatures for at least the next week, I should point out that the maples have started blooming. Maple flowers are more than a little amazing: they look like little sea creatures on a stick:

They're not all the same -- that one's a silver maple. Here's a Norway maple:

I think those are male flowers; these would be female flowers:

There are other trees blooming early in the spring -- they rely on wind for pollination, so the flowers aren't very showy: they don't need to attract birds or insects for pollination, so none of that bright colors and nectar nonsense. They're really interesting to look at, though.

Fun fact: seeds appeared about 200 million years before flowers.

Culture Break: The Danish String Quartet: Drømte mig en drøm

I know, it's not Wednesday, but this came up on the playlist and it's one of my many favorites from their latest album, Last Leaf. I just wish there were more videos of them performing some of these songs.

Did I mention that I reviewed the album?

It's April 16th

And once again, there's snow on the ground this morning.

I can't even blame climate change for this. It's not the first time this has happened.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What's New At Green Man Review

It's Sunday again, and if your weather's anything like what's outside my window, it's a perfect day to curl up and read reviews.

Furry fiction, Live music from Danú, Pamela Dean’s favourite ballad, Welsh music, a Stonewall Kitchen chocolate bar and other tasty matters

I can hear you asking "What's 'furry fiction'?" Well, you'll just have to click on over and see.

LGBT News Wrap-Up (Update)

With thanks to Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters, who did most of the work for me.

Now, about that carefully thought out and fully studied trans ban: It seems that there are a lot of unanswered questions:

The top congressional Democrats on defense issues are seeking answers from Defense Secretary James Mattis on his recommendations to President Trump against allowing transgender people in the military, which seemed to be based on junk science and were used by the administration to reaffirm its ban on their service.

In a joint letter to Mattis dated April 11, the quartet of Democrats say they were “surprised and disappointed” by Mattis’ conclusions against transgender service, which the White House made public late last month in an announcement renewing Trump’s ban.

“In our view, these recommendations contradict previous findings from the Department of Defense and the professional medical community,” the letter says. “As the president has empowered you to implement appropriate policies governing service by transgender individuals, we feel it imperative that we explore the factual bases behind your recommendations.”

The letter is signed by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee; Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee; Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Both Speier and Gillibrand introduced bills in their respective chambers of Congress against Trump’s transgender military ban, but those measures also sought to codify Mattis’ review before it was completed.

There's more, including the questions that no one seems to be able to answer.

It's especially weird considering that the top officials in the Army aren't aware of any problems:

During congressional testimony Thursday, the Army’s top officials explained that they have no knowledge of the unit cohesion concerns expressed in a report justifying President Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

Army Secretary Mark Esper and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley both said as much under questioning from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Esper, who said back in February that soldiers aren’t concerned about transgender service, reiterated, “Nothing has percolated up to my level.” When Gillibrand asked Milley if transgender troops have caused any issues with unit cohesion, he confirmed, “No. Not at all.”

Update: I almost forgot this choice bit of news:

A federal judge ruled that the trans military ban cannot be implemented and that transgender people are a “protected class.”

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman of the Western District of Washington in Karnoski v. Trump refused to lift the injunction against implementing the trans military ban, which means that while the court examines it, the Trump Administration cannot implement it. . . .

While the Trump Administration attempted to argue that its March 2018 memo “revoked” the 2017 trans military ban, Perchman wrote that it was just a set of more detailed guidelines about how to implement the same ban that Trump tweeted about last year.

This is important because the Trump Administration had to prove that there was a real government interest in banning transgender people from the military, something that there obviously wasn’t because Trump didn’t even hold any hearings or read any research about trans people in the military before he tweeted the ban.

The gossip is that the "panel of experts" consulted were Mike Pence and Tony Perkins. OK, it's really that Perkins wrote the ban.

Do we really want this as our top diplomat?

On Thursday, Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for Secretary of State, answered questions in front of a Senate committee. Pompeo has a lot to answer for regarding his past Islamophobic statements and alliances as well as his anti-LGBTQ record. Naturally, this means that those on the right, particularly the religious right, support him. They claim that he will stand up for "religious liberty."

Pompeo's record is in direct contradiction of American policy regarding LGBT issues -- which the Trump regime has started dismantling. Needless to say, Tony Perkins adores him. And it's not just Perkins who's coming down on the side of "religious freedom" [sic].

Corporate America seems to get it when our government (at least under the present regime) can't.

I guess it's time for One Million Moms (minus 960,000 -- um, that's their mailing list, not their active membership) to start rending garments and clutching pearls.

And this is going viral. Thought-provoking.

Maybe I live in a different world, but where I live -- the North Side of Chicago -- no one thinks twice about two guys or two gals holding hands. And it's not just in "our" neighborhoods -- it's places like Uptown and Lincoln Park Zoo, as well.

Spring in Chicago

It was in the 30s when I got up this morning, and there was snow on the ground, which has since melted, probably because it's raining. And windy. Really windy.

And, after the City worked on the sewers on my corner for six months last year, the street outside the front door is, once again, a small lake -- water from one side to the other. Probably because no one ever bothers to clean the dead leaves off the storm drains.

Today's Must-Read #2: Sociopath du Jour

Mark Zuckerberg, a/k/a Facebook:

Concern about Facebook Inc’s (FB.O) respect for data privacy is widening to include the information it collects about non-users, after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social network tracks people whether they have accounts or not.

Privacy concerns have swamped Facebook since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a firm that has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday under questioning by U.S. Representative Ben Luján that, for security reasons, Facebook also collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook.”

I had been patting myself on the back for never having signed up for Facebook -- looks like my congratulations were premature. If they're collecting data on me just for visiting a site that is in some way associated with FB -- like those blogs on which you can only comment using your Facebook ID -- well, words fail me.

And thinking about it, I'd be willing to bet that this is standard practice among these tech/internet giants (can you say "Google"? I'd say "Time to change search engines," but then it occurs to me that Google owns YouTube and Blogger.)

Remember privacy? We used to be able to have some. And just think: this is the conservatives'/libertarians' ideal world -- just let the ruling class decide what's appropriate.

Today's Must-Read: Conservative Economics vs. Reality

From Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

This month, Washington Monthly looked at a libertarian economist Alex Tabarrok of George Mason University's Mercatus Center. Tabarrok went looking for the effects of federal regulation on "economic dynamism" expecting to find support for the conservative dogma that government regulation harms the economy. He found none. What is remarkable is he published the paper anyway.

He goes on. His comments on conservative ideas of how to control health-care costs are particularly revealing.

The bottom line is that conservatives don't understand economics -- but those of us who actually thought about it have known that since Reagan and his "trickle-down" economics. As I observed to a friend at the time, the real driving force behind that idea is that they -- those in control of the wealth -- can stop the trickle whenever they want to.

Which leads inevitably to the conclusion that conservatives -- especially the libertarian branch -- are ideologically opposed to the American system.

Sidebar: This ties in to my conviction that morality -- real morality, not the tribal taboos espoused by the "religious" right -- is part and parcel of our psychological make-up as social animals: we take care of each other because it benefits the group and us as individuals. Which is why I've been known to classify libertarianism as morally bankrupt. (See Paul Ryan.)

He Didn't Really Say That. . . .

A little catch-up.

"Mission Accomplished!"? Seriously?

Talk about clueless.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Krugman on Ryan

Now that Paul Ryan has accomplished what his billionaire donors put him in the House to do -- transfer even more of our national wealth into their pockets, which he calls "tax reform" -- he's retiring to "spend more time with his family." And in case you're unfamiliar with Ryan's background, this, from Bobby Cramer at Bark Bark Woof Woof, should give you some perspective:

Paul Ryan’s personal history — that he came from a low-income background in rural Wisconsin, that he lost his father at a young age, and that he went on to achieve some Capra-esque vision of the American dream — is tarnished by the fact that he’s never held a job in the private sector and he’s spent his entire political career trying to undercut and eventually tear down the support system that got him to where he became Speaker of the House. And now he’s retiring before he’s hit 50 and will, more than likely, never have to work a day in his life thanks to his generous pension from the government. How very Republican.

I should add that his achievement of the "Capra-esque vision" was made possible by Social Security survivor's benefits, which he wants to take away from everyone else. That's a point that Paul Krugman makes in his column:

Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Can anyone name a single instance in which his supposed concern about the deficit made him willing to impose any burden on the wealthy, in which his supposed compassion made him willing to improve the lives of the poor? Remember, he voted against the Simpson-Bowles debt commission proposal not because of its real flaws, but because it would raise taxes and fail to repeal Obamacare.

"Zombie-eyed granny-starver" is much too nice an epithet.

Krugman also lets the press have it for its role in elevating Ryan to a position he certainly never deserved:

Even now, in this age of Trump, there are a substantial number of opinion leaders — especially, but not only, in the news media — whose careers, whose professional brands, rest on the notion that they stand above the political fray. For such people, asserting that both sides have a point, that there are serious, honest people on both left and right, practically defines their identity.

Yet the reality of 21st-century U.S. politics is one of asymmetric polarization in many dimensions. One of these dimensions is intellectual: While there are some serious, honest conservative thinkers, they have no influence on the modern Republican Party. What’s a centrist to do?

The answer, all too often, has involved what we might call motivated gullibility. Centrists who couldn’t find real examples of serious, honest conservatives lavished praise on politicians who played that role on TV. Paul Ryan wasn’t actually very good at faking it; true fiscal experts ridiculed his “mystery meat” budgets. But never mind: The narrative required that the character Ryan played exist, so everyone pretended that he was the genuine article.

Krugman goes on from there. Read the whole thing.

Via Digby, who calls Ryan a "flim flam fascist".

Because Diplomacy's for Sissies

Well, he did it:

The United States and European allies launched airstrikes on Friday night against Syrian research, storage and military targets as President Trump sought to punish President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus last weekend that killed more than 40 people.

Britain and France joined the United States in the strikes in a coordinated operation that was intended to show Western resolve in the face of what the leaders of the three nations called persistent violations of international law. Mr. Trump characterized it as the beginning of a sustained effort to force Mr. Assad to stop using banned weapons, but only ordered a limited, one-night operation that hit three targets.

These "limited operations" have a way of morphing into full-scale war.

I suppose this was inevitable, considering that neither Trump nor his National Security Advisor, John Bolton, believe in diplomacy, both being bullies. Of course, we lost the chance for a diplomatic solution a while ago -- not that it's entirely our fault: Assad's a real piece of work, and with Russia and Iran behind him, the stage is set for a real mess. And a condemnation in the UN has about as much force as -- well, come up with your own example of completely ineffectual.

As far as I'm concerned, the question of whether Putin has any control over Trump is open -- and I think that's a real issue here -- but then, Trump is enough of a wild card that "control" becomes meaningless.

We'll see if this remains "limited":

Friday, April 13, 2018

Today In Disgusting People

The NRA's own Dana Loesch (and surprise! It does not rhyme with "roach.")

The National Rifle Association tweeted out one of Dana Loesch's NRA propaganda videos Thursday night, and social media commentators are neither pleased nor impressed. The video literally and figuratively evokes violent imagery, and in a stunning act of hyperbole tries to defend President Trump.

"We are witnesses to the most ruthless attack on a president, and the people who voted for him, and the free system that allowed it to happen in American history," Loesch begins. Originally released last year, it's titled "The Ultimate Insult."

"From the highest levels of government, to their media, universities and billionaires their fate will be failure and they will perish in the political flames of their own fires. their hateful defiance of his legitimacy is an insult to each of us," Loesch says.

“But the ultimate insult is that they think we’re so stupid that we’ll let them get away with it. These saboteurs, slashing away with their leaks and sneers, their phony accusations and gagging sanctimony, drive their daggers through the heart of our future, poisoning our belief that honest custody of our institutions will ever again be possible. So they can then build their utopia from the ashes of what they burned down. No, their fate will be failure and they will perish in the political flames of their own fires," she continues.

“We are the National Rifle Association of America. And we are freedom’s safest place.”

Well, yes, it's a little over the top -- probably a sure bet for the "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night" Award. As for the "most ruthless attack" bit -- think back over the years from 2008-2016. Just sayin'. (And as one tweet points out, Abraham Lincoln would probably disagree with her.)

The video is at the link, if your stomach's up to it. Also, the Twitter responses, which were not supportive -- to say the least.

The Benefits of Benign Neglect

I have an Encyclia tampensis that I bought ten or fifteen years ago in Florida (where it is native) and that before last year, bloomed once, when I was able to put it out in full sun for the summer.

I've forgotten to water it for a couple of weeks, and when I finally got my act together and took care of that, I noticed that the main plant (it's been divided a couple of times) has put out four spikes, and the smallest has put out one.

I'm still trying to figure out what I did right.

Giggle du Jour

Presented without comment:

Via Crooks and Liars, which notes that Ingraham has lost most of her sponsors.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Species!

Trump's war on Planet Earth continues:

Trump’s Department of the Interior is seeking to “revise” key, 40-year-old regulations which currently protect more than 300 threatened plant and animal species listed under the 1973 Endangered Species Act, according to a draft document that quietly leaked last week.

The document, a memo from the Interior to the White House, outlines a proposed rule that would virtually eliminate all automatic protections for species listed as “threatened” in the future by the Fish and Wildlife Service, a branch of the Interior. According to the proposal, protections won’t end for current threatened species, but rather only future ones.

Now that the EPA has determined that climate change doesn't exist, and is ready to start opening up public lands (read "our lands") to oil, gas, and lumber interests, I guess the next step is to get rid of all those useless animals:

The change could be disastrous for species like the North American wolverine, the gopher tortoise, and the Sierra Nevada red fox, which are proposed for listing, or are being considered for, threatened status in the future. Making things more dire is that extinction rates are only going to worsen as the climate changes. Across the globe, scientists estimate extinction rates today are already between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than they would be without humans on the planet and predict one in six species could face extinction with our current climate trajectory.

The proposed rule would still allow the FWS to grant protections on a case-by-case basis, if they so choose. But, Greenwald interprets the room for exceptions to mean that the proposal is just another example of the Trump administration’s quest to please corporate interests. “It’s going to turn every listing into a negotiation with industry,” he says.
(Emphasis added.)

I suppose poisoning the air and water wasn't enough. The article notes that at present, it takes an average of twelve years to protect species under the Endangered Species Act, and at least 47 species have become extinct while waiting to join the list. Any bets on whether the NRA gets asked for its input on potential listings?

It's my fond wish that Mar-a-Lago gets hit by a massive storm surge in the coming hurricane season -- preferably while Trump is in residence. I'd take gopher tortoises over Trump any day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Idiot du Jour

And a Congressman, no less:

“The Constitution of the United States, and the First Amendment says ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Nor will they abridge the freedom of speech, of the press’. I’ve got a copy of the Constitution I want to give you — at the end of this hearing.” – South Carolina GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan, accusing Mark Zuckerberg of violating Christians’ freedom of speech on Facebook and once again demonstrating that many right wingers are utterly incapable of comprehending the very document they literally, in this case, are waving in your face.

OK, it's ignorance. The stupidity comes in from not realizing the dept of his ignorance and proudly trotting it out in a Congressional hearing.

Via Joe.My.God.

Am I Surprised?

No, not really -- he's done what the Koch's put him in office to do:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told colleagues Wednesday that he will not seek reelection this year, ending a nearly 20-year tenure in Congress and adding further uncertainty about whether embattled Republicans can maintain control of the House.

“The speaker is proud of all that has been accomplished and is ready to devote more of his time to being a husband and a father,” said Brendan Buck, counselor to Ryan, adding that Ryan plans to serve out his term and retire in January.

There's something in there about rats and sinking ships. And no doubt there's a cushy place for him on wingnut welfare.

Via just about everybody.

She's Baaack!

Well, Laura Ingraham has returned from her "vacation" and seems to have fallen into the standard right-wing "I know you are, but what am I?" shtick:

Laura Ingraham returned to her Fox News show Monday night after a week-long vacation amid a boycott by at least 20 top advertisers. And she returned fighting. The "Ingraham Angle" host painted those on the left as "intolerant," violent, "speech czars." And she told viewers that the boycott against her show, which was initiated by high school mass shooting survivor David Hogg in response to her mocking him, is "Stalinist."

. . .

In the 10-minute intro (video below) kicking off her return Ingraham wailed against what she called "The Left's Plot to Silence Conservatives."

"Many of you have become accustomed to editing yourselves, let's face it. Expressing views that just five or 10 years ago were considered mainstream can now get you fired. It can cause to you lose a promotion, or you could be branded a hater, or, yes, you can get boycotted," she complained.

It's always a "plot", which, coming from a wing of American politics that is tightly organized, has its fingers in every area of public discourse (including, and especially, broadcast media), and has long-term strategies for establishing a "permanent majority", is somewhere beyond ironic.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. The gist of her diatribe is that she's angry because society is changing, what was once normal is no longer socially acceptable, and "conservatives", like everyone else, have to face consequences for their words and actions.

Go ahead and read the whole thing -- and if you have the stomach for it:

Be warned: it's ten minutes of Ingraham off the rails. And the comments at YouTube have all got to be from Russian bots. They have to be.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

What's New at Green Man Review

Yep -- it's Sunday again, and there's all sorts of goodies at GMR:

Arthur Rackham: a life with illustrations, Irish whisky, Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, life on Earth, and other neat stuff

The "other neat stuff" includes chocolate, masks from around the world, and early music from Iberia. So check it out.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Image du Jour

Thanks to commenter margaretpoa at this thread:


I don't think I need to add anything.

The Bottom

I don't want to call them the lowest common denominator, because I have nothing in common with them except basic biology. But it's instructive that, with the rise of Trump, this is what's passing for discourse.

First, everyone's favorite has-been rocker, draft dodger and pedophile, Ted Nugent:

"Just know that evil, dishonesty, and scam artists have always been around and that right now they’re liberal, they’re Democrat, they’re RINOs, they’re Hollywood, they’re fake news, they’re media, they’re academia, and they’re half of our government, at least," Nugent snarled.

"So come to that realization," he challenged. "There are rabid coyotes running around. You don’t wait till you see one to go get your gun."

What should they do with their gun when they have it and encounter those liberals, Democrats, extinct RINOs, Hollywood types, "fake news," media, academia and half our government? WHAT SHOULD THEY DO?

This: "Keep your gun handy, and every time you see one, you shoot one."

If you want to see a rabid coyote, Nugent, look in the mirror.

And let's not forget that perennial bottom-feeder, Ann Coulter:

On Tuesday, Ann Coulter joined the Lars Larson radio show to demean Trump's National Guard ploy and told the right-wing host that a show of blood was much preferred.

Larson asked if Trump’s move is “a start in the right direction" and she said, “I don’t think so, what are they going to do, shoot the illegals? I mean, both Obama and Bush did this too. No, there’s a reason the chant was ‘we want a wall,’ we don’t want to use the military to process illegals and let them into the country.”

Larson disagreed with her characterization and called the National Guard a visual deterrent to those seeking to cross the border.

Coulter replied, “I don’t know, we’ll see, if I were an illegal—I mean, unless they’re going to shoot one and send a message to the rest, as Voltaire’s line in Candide is—‘We hang one to encourage the others’—if you shoot one to encourage the others, maybe they’ll learn, but otherwise, we’ll see, we’ll see.”

They certainly do love their guns, don't they?

This is what the Republican party has become under the "religious" right, the NRA, and the white supremacists.

"I've Got A Little List. . . ."*

Of course, the first thing you have to do is to compile the list:

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”

It’s seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3.

The data to be collected includes a publication’s “sentiment” as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed.

I wonder exactly what DHS means by "sentiment." Under this regime, it's way too easy to guess.

Via Joe.My.God. Joe also includes this reaction from Forbes:

Every day, journalists face serious consequences including physical violence, imprisonment and death. A few days ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists launched its annual Free The Press campaign to raise awareness about imprisoned journalists throughout the world.

On May 3, UNESCO will once again mark World Press Freedom Day “to inform citizens of violations of press freedom — a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.”

Meanwhile, the United States government, traditionally one of the bastions of press freedom, is about to compile a list of professional journalists and “top media influencers,” which would seem to include bloggers and podcasters, and monitor what they’re putting out to the public. What could possibly go wrong? A lot.

Whoever came up with this idea obviously wasn't twigging to the optics, which, given Trump's ongoing war with the legitimate press, are appalling. Especially since this is coming from Homeland Security.

Of course, when you control the executive and Congress and are busily packing the courts, maybe you don't need to worry about optics so much.

* In case you've forgotten, that's the opening line of the Lord High Executioner's aria from The Mikado. It continues "They never will be missed/No, they never will be missed. . . . "

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

I've Sort Of Been Waiting For This

So I was outside, and an elderly lady had been out walking her dog and decided to stop at the Dunkin' Donuts across the street. Instead of tying the dog to a lamp post outside and going in for a doughnut (it's really nasty out, with a howling north wind), she walked the dog through the drive-through.

Makes sense to me.

Culture Break: Pink Floyd: Another Brick in the Wall

In honor of Donald Trump, Ann Coulter, and "conservatives" everywhere:


Add this to the mix:

The Wall Street Journal reports:
The Justice Department has notified immigration judges that it will begin evaluating their job performance based on how quickly they close cases, aiming to speed deportation decisions and reduce a lengthy backlog.

The new quotas for judges to meet—laid out in a memo sent Friday to immigration judges—follow other directives by the department to expedite handling of cases. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said that the backlog at the immigration courts allows people who should be deported to linger inside the U.S.

The union representing immigration judges counters that the metrics are a threat to their judicial independence, while lawyers warn they will unduly influence judge’s decisions. The new standards, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, are to take effect for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. They have not been released publicly.
(Emphasis added.)

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Connect the Dots

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not prone to conspiracy theories. In this case, however, we actually are dealing with well-organized extremists who have intimidated the press into validating their bullshit, taken over statehouses by rigging elections and are trying to do the same thing to Congress, and who have, over the past thirty-five years, taken over the Republican party.

One of their favorite wedge issues is the Second Amendment, which they claim gives citizens (meaning they themselves) an unrestricted right to own assault weapons (for daily use?). Anyone who's spent two seconds thinking about it will tell you there are no unrestricted rights -- not if you want a society to function at all.

Well, now they've decided that God is on their side:

Supposedly pro-life far right wing Christian leaders are using the Bible and Jesus to claim Americans not only have a right to guns – and even assault weapons – but some insist every adult has an obligation to carry an AR-15. . . .

Here are some of the religious right's most extreme, like Gordon Klingenschmitt, claiming the Bible says “all the citizens ought to be armed so they can defend themselves against left wing crazies.” And David Barton, claiming the Founding Fathers called the right to keeping bear arms, "the biblical right of self defense."

Then there's the Family Research Council's Jerry Boykin saying when Jesus returns he'll be carrying an AR-15. That's similar to Christian pastor Chuck Baldwin, who said it's a "Biblical requirement" that every American adult (and even some younger than 18) own an AR-15 or similar assault-style weapon.

You may remember that Barton is the one who claimed that the Constitution was taken word for word from the Bible. (Given to George Washington on Mount Vernon, no doubt.)

It's easy to laugh at them, because they are, in my cousin's words, "buckso wayzo". Unfortunately, there are enough people who pay attention to them that we wound up with a con artist as president.

Now, get this:

Liberty University is planning to open a state-of-the-art shooting range on campus next fall as part of the conservative Evangelical Christian School’s commitment to promoting gun ownership and firearm sports.

University president Jerry Falwell Jr. said that Liberty’s new complex will feature pistol, rifle and shotgun facilities as well as an archery range built into the mountainside of the 7,000-acre campus near Lynchburg, Va. Falwell said the project will result in one of the most expansive firearms ranges on any U.S. college campus. The blueprints call for at least $1 million in construction and landscape improvements that will provide new opportunities for student clubs and athletic teams.

Liberty already allows guns on campus, and offers training for students to qualify for concealed carry permits.

Oh, and I mentioned something about followers:

Falwell said that he was nervous when he first spoke about the school’s firearms policy at a gathering for parents whose children were considering Liberty for their higher education.

“I was a little timid about telling parents about it because I thought some would be worried,” Falwell said. “But I never got such enthusiastic applause.”

Oh, and guess who offered their full support:

Falwell said that after meeting with National Rifle Association executive vice president and chief executive officer Wayne LaPierre, the university decided to move forward with its plans for the shooting range complex. Brad Butler, Liberty’s planning coordinator, said the NRA provided crucial expertise on best practices for safety as the school examined designs for the project.

These are the people who keep talking about a "civil war" to "take back" their country. Can you say "Onward, "Christian" Soldiers"?

Some People Never Change

They just pick new targets. Remember her? Well she has a history:

Fox News' Laura Ingraham is in the headlines for just the kind of thing she has always loved: being a troll. Back in 1984, when we were both enrolled at Dartmouth College, she secretly recorded a confidential support group for gay students, and published a transcript in The Dartmouth Review — complete with the names of the students at the meeting, students who were in the closet, back in the day when being outed could mean getting rejected for jobs and attacked by drunken frat boys.

Apparently, she's evolved. (Hide your irony meter.)

She also wrote an article in 1997 for the Washington Post about her gay brother's boyfriend and her evolution on gay issues. But she doesn't come clean about the 1984 Review article, which did in fact publish names of all the students at the support group meeting. However, she did say, "I now regret that at Dartmouth we didn't consider how callous rhetoric can wound—how someone like Barney Frank must have felt—not to mention how it undermined our political point."

Not to mention what it can do to your advertising revenue.

Like I said -- she's just picked new targets.

Image du Jour/Today in Disgusting People

Posted by commenter Kevin Andrews in this thread at Joe.My.God.:


The post itself covers another rant by Tony Perkins, this one aimed at Google because their doodle on April 1 was not about him -- excuse me, I mean Easter. (And if I were Perkins, I think I'd probably try to avoid calling attention to the fact that Easter fell on April Fool's Day.) You can read his whole rant at the link, if you want, but this bit sort of proves my point about "Christians" being arrogant and self-absorbed:

The same company who ignited a firestorm for marking Cesar Chavez’s birthday instead of Easter in 2016, shrugged off the backlash, insisting, “We don’t have Doodles for religious holidays, in line with our current Doodle guidelines. Doodles may appear for some non-religious celebrations that have grown out of religious holidays, such as Valentine’s Day.”

Cesar Chavez did some good in pushing this country to live up to its ideals, unlike Perkins.

Google's full statement:

“We don’t have Doodles for religious holidays, in line with our current Doodle guidelines. Doodles may appear for some non-religious celebrations that have grown out of religious holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Holi’s Festival of Colors, Tu B’Av and the December holiday period, but we don’t include religious imagery or symbolism as part of these.”

No one would ever accuse Perkins of being inclusive -- which I guess in his universe is the eighth deadly sin.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Welcome to the Twighlight Zone

This is from a couple of days ago, but I had to share it. I could never make something like this up, but someone has a vivid imagination.

Staunch pro-Trump vloggers Diamond & Silk made an appearance on Fox & Friends to talk about, in part, how awful and evil Hillary Clinton is. What was most alarming about this particular diatribe from the duo, however, was their completely false claim that the former secretary of state sold a bunch of uranium of Russia and now the country has nuclear weapons.

“I think and we think that Hillary Clinton reminds us of a nasty sore that’s rotten to the core that really won’t go away,” Diamond said, as Silk said “That’s right” to punctuate her every point.

“And listen, I think it’s time for her to go somewhere and be quiet,” Diamond continued. “If she’s going to be on the national platform, or on her little platform, she needs to talk about her dirty deeds. How she paid for that fake dossier to try to undermine President Trump during the election. How she sold 20 percent of the uranium to Russia and now Russia have nuclear weapons. And you know that uranium is bomb-making material.”

The Soviet Union had nuclear weapons in 1949. Hillary Clinton was about three years old at that point.

And no, she didn't sell "20% of the uranium" to Russia.

But then, this is Fox News, the second largest purveyor of fake news.

There's video at the link, if you can stand it.

And, just to show that a good conspiracy theory never dies, there's Roseanne Barr, who is using her new-found popularity to go right over the edge:


Also known at "Pizzagate Redux" -- you remember the child sex-trafficking ring Hillary was running out of the basement of a pizza parlor in D.C. -- that didn't have a basement.

Reports are that Barr has always been a disgusting person; this is just the latest manifestation.

There's more detail at the link.

Review: Vaughn Williams: Orchestral Works

Another one originally at Epinions, and no longer available there.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) is certainly one of the foremost English composers of the twentieth century. Like many of his contemporaries – Bartok and Copeland come immediately to mind – he drew a great deal of his inspiration from folk songs and traditional melodies. In addition to his symphonies and choral works, he left behind a rich legacy of shorter orchestral works, many of which are remarkable orchestral jewels.

Predictably, and to my mind unfortunately, this collection starts off with the Fantasia on Greensleeves, possibly one of the most overworked pieces of music in the history of Western civilization. Although ably rendered by Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, it’s an overdone work that seems to be inescapable. Marriner and the Academy, in fact, are responsible for the first disc, and provide the classic renditions of the English Folksong Suite, the Oboe Concerto (with Celia Nicklin as soloist), the Concerto Grosso, the Romance (for harmonica, strings and piano, with Tommy Reilly on harmonica) and The Lark Ascending (Iona Brown, violin). The second disc brings us Five Variants of “Dives and Lazarus” and the Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1, performed by The New Queen’s Hall Orchestra under the direction of Barry Wordsworth, the Partita (for double string orchestra), by Sir Adrian Boult leading the London Philharmonic, and then back to Wordsworth for In the Fen Country and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis.

I’ve already said all I’m going to say about Greensleeves. The English Folk Song Suite, originally scored for a military band, is delivered here in an orchestral arrangement by Gordon Jacob done in 1924, a year after Vaughan Williams assembled the Suite, utilizing traditional melodies arranged in a light, graceful tone. The Oboe Concerto is a felicitous marriage of material with the forces employed (solo oboe and strings) and points up once again Vaughan Williams’ absolute genius with strings. The Concerto Grosso was actually written to include participation by amateur and student musicians, reflecting the composer’s feeling that there should be room in public performance for musicians at all levels of achievement. The Romance shows Vaughan Williams’ ability to adapt to new instruments and their possibilities. Although previously unfamiliar with the harmonica, he incorporated beautifully into a work that is lyrical and ambiguous. The Lark Ascending is possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of music Vaughan Williams wrote. For some reason, it is linked in my mind with A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad – perhaps it’s the very real feeling of an English village reflected in the music: the images are rural, sometimes sprightly, sometimes melancholy, and Iona Brown’s solo passages are simply haunting.

The Five Variants of "Dives and Lazarus" is a wonderful piece of music: enough formalism to be taken seriously, and enough range to be attention-getting. This is another work that displays the composer’s virtuosity with strings, full of dramatic contrasts and strong color. The Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 is a very early work. Originally composed in 1906 as the first of three Norfolk Rhapsodies (the other two were later withdrawn by the composer) and revised in 1922, it is based on folk songs collected by the composer in Norfolk. The Partita is actually the Double Trio of 1938 rewritten and given a new ending in 1948. In the Fen Country, another early work, was originally composed in 1904 and revised several times up to 1935. It demonstrates beautifully Vaughan Williams’ ability to create pictures from tones, painting a strong sense of the landscape. The Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is one of Vaughan Williams’ more popular works, and Wordsworth follows the tradition of rendering it with a very “churchly” feel. While this is a powerful rendition, I would love to hear the Kronos Quartet get hold of this piece, because I think it would benefit from their tighter, drier approach. As it is, it’s still good, even superior, but Ah! What might have been!

The one work by Vaughan Williams I would love to have seen in this collection, and which is generally not as well-known as it should be, is Flos Campi. I know this one from an old LP by Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony Orchestra, and it is terrific. It is odd that Decca, working with two conductors known for their interpretations of Vaughan Williams (indeed, Boult conducted the premieres of many Vaughan Williams works and recorded the complete symphonies) didn’t think to include a version on this set. Oh, well – as rich as these two discs are, I suppose I shouldn’t complain.

This is not “great music.” It is not always terribly profound, it is not necessarily cathartic, it does not engage the intellect to any great degree. It is lovely music, melodic, engaging, and refreshing, and it displays Vaughan Williams’ strong points as a composer. A word to the “sound” freaks, however – the latest recordings included are Wordsworth’s, from 1992; the earliest is Boult’s contribution, from 1956; Marriner’s renditions were recorded in the 1970s. All of these interpretations (with the exception of Wordsworth’s) were previously issued on Decca LPs, and no claim is made for their having been remastered. There are times when one could wish for more clarity in the sound (the Tallis Fantasia and Greensleeves especially suffer from this). They are, however, pretty much the classic interpretations, and the set is a bargain – a two CD set at a really low price. For those who love classical music and need a break from Beethoven and Mahler, it’s worth having.

(Decca Records, 1999)