"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, September 30, 2018

Giggle du Jour

This, courtesy of commenter Halbe, at this post at Friendly Atheist:


(Yes, there actually are people who believe the earth is flat.)

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again (and I don't know about you, but I thought it would never get here), and its the last day of September. Autumn is in the air:

the Two Fat Ladies DVD set, Clifford D. Simak’s City, two de Lint novels, Chinese jades, and other Autumnal matters

The "other matters" are pretty neat, too. You know the drill.

Review: Ed Brubaker, et al: Winter Soldier: The Longest Winter

Another from the now-defunct Epinions. And no, I don't always love comics.

I picked up Ed Brubaker's Winter Soldier: The Longest Winter on one of my periodic trips to the comics store, mostly on the basis of the juicy cover art and the blurb on the back -- this one brings us up to date on Bucky Barnes, Captain America's sidekick who was killed in World War II. Except he wasn't.

The history gets filled in through the first couple of chapters in this collection, while the new story is starting to unfold -- lots of flashbacks here, because the stories are twined together. Let's just say that Bucky Barnes is the man who trained the guys who are part of the problem now. He also has to deal with Dr. Doom; Lucia von Bardas, who was, for a time, prime minister of Latveria, until Doom caught up with her; a mastermind who is behind a plot to plunge the world into war, who also hails from Bucky's past; and a Doombot or two, for good measure. Bucky's working with Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow, on this one, and, as one might expect, Nick Fury's in the know.

Quite frankly, Ed Brubaker's story is a little chaotic at the beginning, although it soon levels off and we have a coherent story line to follow. (Although I have to say, Captain America comes off as a real -- well, he's sort of hair-triggered.) Brubaker's done a good job of filling in the backstory as the present story progresses, and the characterizations, while not as well-developed as we might wish, do add some depth, and after all, it's a comic.

My big problem with this was Butch Guice's art. He uses a rough-edged style, mostly fairly high contrast, and individual frames are often quite dense, even congested. There's a bit more clarity in parts 3-5, where the inking was aided and abetted by Stefano Gaudiano, Brian Thies and Tom Palmer, but there is still the problem of legibility throughout. There are also frames that abruptly shift to a John Bolton-style near-impressionism that I found quite jarring. The color, by Bettie Breitweiser (mostly) wasn't able to overcome the density. Coupled with the sometimes fragmented story line, it's sometimes hard to figure out where we are.

(Marvel, 2013. Collects Winter Soldier #1-5 & Fear Itself #7.1: Captain America.)

But of Course

We don't need no stinkin' science:

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to dissolve its Office of the Science Advisor, a senior post that was created to counsel the E.P.A. administrator on the scientific research underpinning health and environmental regulations, according to a person familiar with the agency’s plans. The person spoke anonymously because the decision had not yet been made public.

The science adviser works across the agency to ensure that the highest quality science is integrated into the agency’s policies and decisions, according to the E.P.A.’s website. The move is the latest among several steps taken by the Trump administration that appear to have diminished the role of scientific research in policymaking while the administration pursues an agenda of rolling back regulations.

Of course, it's all in the interests of efficiency.

By the way, the acting administrator of the EPA, now that that crook Scott Pruitt has left, is Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist. Big surprise. Not.

Via Joe.My.God.

In Honor of the Senate Judiciary Committee

Fox News, and other right-wing hacks:


Thanks to commenter Jean-Marc in Canada at Joe.My.God.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Privilege in Action: A Twofer

Two posts at Hullabaloo on the ramifications of Thursday's Senate Judiciary hearings on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

First, from Digby, some comments on how privileged white males react to having their status questioned:

I'm not a lawyer but I would imagine that if one has a client who has been accused of sexual assault it would not be an obvious strategy to have him angrily yell and cry in red-faced fury denying that he could ever do something so terrible. Neither would it seem to be a good idea for a man in such a position to arrogantly behave as if it's an affront that someone with his elite credentials should ever even be asked to answer to such charges. One would think that any good lawyer would want her client to present himself as a sober, thoughtful, empathetic person, willingly answering questions and submitting himself to whatever inquiries would clear his name.

She also looks at Lindsey Graham's tantrum. She doesn't even really have to say anything: he did it all himself.

And from Tom Sullivan, a broader perspective on the reaction to things like women acting as though they were actually people:

We stand at the nexus between the world that was and the world that will be, observed Eugene Robinson on MSNBC. The dying one will not let go without a fight.

The privileged believe high status is theirs by birthright (or by virtue of highly superior genes, if one believes Donald Trump). The privileged rule according to race and gender. Challenged, they fight back. Viciously and loudly, as Brett Kavanaugh did through tears:
"This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election. Fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons. And millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups."

That's privilege under assault speaking: how dare anyone question his right to have whatever he wants, whenever he wants it.

This is not the first time human society has undergone upheavals. This one, however, is aimed right at the root of the social structure. It's an assault that's implicit in our founding, by inference if not by outright statement: We are all equal.


Friday, September 28, 2018


I can't believe it took this long to get to Friday. I'm not even going to try to do a post on the Kavanaugh hearings -- it's all over the place, too many stories to digest, but the consensus is that Ford was more than credible and Kavanaugh behaved like a -- well, like a privileged frat boy.

And Trump is already bringing out "the Chinese stole the election for the Democrats" defense. I'll put in a link if I can find it again, but right now I'm rushed for time.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Today's Must-Read: Digby on Modern Conservatism

A fairly lengthy article by Digby at DAME magazine on how Republicans got that way:

Conventional wisdom says that Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States is a gift to the rabidly anti-abortion conservative evangelicals who have revealed themselves to be the most coldly cynical transactional voters in the country, throwing their loyalty behind the crude, fascist brute in the White House. It’s tempting to see this nihilistic lust for power as a symptom of Trumpism. But this goes much further back than that. Trump’s 2016 victory has simply brought GOP officials and the conservative movement leadership out in the open, and forced them to admit that they are not organized on the basis of a long intellectual tradition, but are, instead, a cynical political faction that uses propaganda and unscrupulous tactics to obtain and hold power.

Conservatives have long insisted on a fatuous conceit that they are “the party of ideas” driven by an intellectually rigorous adherence to a strict set of principles metaphorically defined as resting on an ideological three-legged stool of family values, small government, and patriotism. They used this framework to justify state-mandated conservative religious morality and patriarchy, laissez-faire economics to uphold white supremacy and an ever-growing global military empire. Academics and writers worked through these issues and they were quite successful in creating an ideological schema that politicians honed into poll-tested catchphrases and symbols designed to signal tribal affinity to American voters.

The article is pretty much in line with my thinking: Trump is merely a visible sign of where the GOP has been going for a couple of generations, if not longer. I suspect, however, that the roots are far deeper than Nixon (not to discount his cynical misuse of power to further his own ends): There's an element of retrograde "conservatism" -- racist, isolationist, jingoist, religious extremist, authoritarian -- that goes back to the founding of this country. The GOP has quite deliberately aligned itself with that element as a means of gaining and maintaining power -- the much-touted "permanent majority" -- by an means necessary.

At any rate, read it. It's Digby at her best.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Hint: Hitler Is Not a Role Model

And neither is Trump:

Homosexual men are being tortured with electric shocks and beaten to death in concentration camps in Chechnya. This is the first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler's camps in 1930s.

Reports have emerged that 100 gay men were detained and three killed in these camps last week. Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper known for its critical and investigative coverage of Russian politics and social affairs, said that several camps have been set up in Chechnya where gay men have been forced to promise to leave the republic.

The report in Novaya Gazeta said that those arrested include well-known local television personalities and religious figures.

President Ramzan Kadyrov, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, allegedly ordered the clampdown and is known to have previously encouraged extrajudicial killings of homosexual men as an alternative to law enforcement.

At least the children in Trump's camps aren't being tortured. That we know of.

Of course, this is a time-honored technique that we see being utilized by all sorts of people -- neo-Nazis, white supremacists, conservative talk-show hosts, evangelical "Christians" -- pick a minority and go after them without let-up. It's good for reinforcing your position, not to mention raising money.

Today's Must-Read: Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is

Except he's not making a lot of noise about it. Interesting and detailed article on Colin Kaepernick's charitable giving:

Kevin Livingston was driving home with his daughter when he received a random call one Saturday morning last April: Colin Kaepernick has something for you. How far away are you?

Livingston runs a charity, 100 Suits for 100 Men, that provides business attire for job seekers who have recently been released from jail or suffered hardship, and after he dropped off his daughter, he raced to the Queens parole office, where he keeps a desk. Kaepernick was waiting for him in his SUV, where he’d been sitting for almost an hour. The QB stepped out wearing lime-green sneakers and a black T-shirt emblazoned with a panther, lugging two overstuffed cardboard boxes toward a glass door marked STAFF ONLY. He opened a box, pulled out a gray, custom-made three-piece suit, draped a striped tie over the jacket and posed for a few cellphone pics, flashing a smile. One of those photos became an Instagram post, and that post went viral. . . .

That’s how Kaepernick, 30, speaks these days: through this kind of work, and then through those he touches. He’s the most prominent athlete activist in decades and is close to fulfilling his pledge to donate $1 million to dozens of charities. Much has been made about his choice not to comment on the legions of NFL players protesting during the national anthem—a movement he began last year, kneeling to draw attention to issues like police brutality and racial inequality—or to challenge President Donald Trump’s portrayal of his kneeling as unpatriotic. Instead he stays up late, on his laptop, Googling charitable organizations.

Anyone with half a brain knows that Kaepernick's protest was not about the flag or the military -- it was about America not living up to its promise -- specifically, the murders of black people by "officers of the law" who never should have been given guns and badges to begin with.

And since then, Kaepernick has been very quietly going about the business of finding those organizations and programs that are going to be able to use the money to most effect and giving them what they need.

How rare is that?

With thanks to commenter HarveyRabbit at Joe.My.God., in the comments at a post on how effective the Nike boycott has been. (Not.)

Sunday, September 23, 2018

What's New at Green Man Review

Almost forgot -- got kind of rushed this morning and ran out of the house before I'd done this week's GMR update, but don't worry -- here it is:

Earle Stanley Gardner, Concert swag, a China That Never Was, Old Hag tunes, Benjamin Britten, Kedgeree, an Elizabeth Hand novella and other neat stuff

And the "other neat stuff" is really neat, so click on over and enjoy.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Kavanaugh/Ford: Connectng the Dots

A series of posts at Hullabaloo that pull together a lot of threads on the attempted rape accusations against Brett Kavanaugh by Christine Blasey Ford.

Start with this one from Tom Sullivan, about the beginnings of the "evil twin" defense:

The doppelganger defense that has been percolating for days appeared on Twitter yesterday, reports the Daily Beast:
A former Supreme Court clerk gave an alternate explanation for Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in a Twitter thread. Ed Whelan, former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and the president of a think tank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center, attempts to map possible locations for the party Ford described when telling her story about the alleged attempted assault. He points to a home belonging to another person whose floor plan “corresponds closely to Ford’s description” of the party house. Whelan claims Kavanaugh and the other person closely resemble each other.

Whelan et al. have set themselves up for a major defamation suit, especially since Ford squelched their ploy right at the start.

Digby looks at some of the background used in pulling the "evil twin" defense together:

That story had been teased in right-wing circles for a few days, even making it into the Washington Post opinion page when Kathleen Parker published a fatuous op-ed suggesting that Brett Kavanaugh must have an evil twin (she called it a "Kavanaugh doppelganger") who attempted to rape Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party. Most people not steeped in the right-wing fever swamps thought Parker's piece was just a bizarre fantasy, but those who are tuned in to social and professional GOP establishment circles understood that she was previewing a quasi-official alternative theory of the case.

It's obvious that the Republican leadership doesn't want the FBI investigating this, or anything else to do with Kavanaugh, but there have been death threats:

On Rachel Maddow on Wednesday Sen Hirono of Hawaii called out the death threats and intimidation of Dr. Ford as witness tampering and said the FBI should "do its job" and investigate.

Since July Senator Feinstein's office honored Dr. Ford's wishes to remain anonymous. But then the press found out who Dr. Ford was so she identified herself publicly. At that point Senator Feinstein's obligation to keep her identity secret was dropped. However, as a constituent of Feinstein, an American citizen, and a key witness in an important government decision, Feinstein still has an obligation to Dr. Ford to protect her and defend her rights.
(Emphasis in original.)

It's starting to look like they're at the point of just throwing stuff at the wall and hoping something sticks. I don't have any high hopes that this is going to derail Kavanaugh's confirmation (jokester Susan Collins notwithstanding), but if they do ram it through, I have a feeling there will be fallout in November.

Holy Package, Batman!

Batman goes full frontal -- briefly:

Today marks the debut of Batman: Damned #1 by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, the first book released under DC Black Label. The nascent imprint is aimed at a slightly more mature audience than DC’s mainstream offerings, which was made very apparent when readers caught a glimpse of Bruce Wayne doing the most human thing in the world.

As he enters the Batcave after a night of fighting crime and solving a murder (the Joker’s, no less), Bruce Wayne starts taking off his superhero suit with each step. The camera pulls out to show his nude form from the front, never pulling away, revealing, for the first time ever, Bruce Wayne’s penis.

Of course, DC chickened out after the first print run:

CBR has been informed that, while Black Label is an imprint for mature readers, it was decided Bruce Wayne’s nudity was not additive to the story. Thus, the digital version blacked out the scenes. Additionally, CBR has confirmed that future printings of the issue will use the altered panels.

Not to say that there's a double standard in comics, perhaps reflecting the misogyny of young boys (who, traditionally, are the audience for superhero comics), and not to belabor the fact that the Black Label imprint is for "more mature" audiences, but if you think about it, how often do you see male characters portrayed with the same degree of nudity as female characters? (Not that comics in general are full of nudity, although given the prevalence of spandex. . . . But America in general has a problem with nudity; chalk it up to our "Christian" heritage. And no, I don't consider that attitude at all healthy, in case you were wondering.)

And if you want to know what all the fuss is about without surfing the web:

The full sequence is here.

Political Ad of the Year

To be honest, I'm surprised to see a Democrat playing hardball like this -- watch all the way through:

Thanks to commenter BeccaM at Joe.My.God.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

How to Lose Friends and Infuriate People

We know that Trump himself is no diplomat. He doesn't even come close. But isn't there someone in the White House who's supposed to avoid things like this?

The Polish government did everything it could to turn Tuesday’s visit into one of Trump’s more enjoyable moments.

Yet, somehow, Trump managed to offend the Poles so deeply that the fallout was all over Polish news sites on Wednesday morning.

What happened? At the end of their meeting, the two leaders agreed to sign a strategic partnership pact to boost defense, energy, trade and security ties. But what could have been a peaceful moment for both presidents immediately took an awkward turn.

While signing the document, Trump sat comfortably in his chair while the Polish leader was forced to stand next to him and awkwardly reach over the table to sign. Poland’s Duda still somehow managed to smile at the camera, as Trump looked on with a stern face. The scene was captured on camera by the White House and was tweeted out shortly after — much to the bewilderment of Polish journalists, politicians and researchers.

The reaction in Poland was not positive:

“It’s nice of President Trump that he moved a bit, because otherwise our president would have had to sign the document on his knees,” Polish radio correspondent Pawel Zuchowski sarcastically commented on Twitter.

There's a lot more at the link.

This is not even about protocol, it's about common courtesy, which is not in Trump's repertoire. In Trump's world, everyone is either an enemy or an employee. Either way, they get treated like dirt. He simply has no clue, not only about how to deal with other world leaders, but how to deal with people, period.

Via Joe.My.God.

Monday, September 17, 2018

About The Midterms

Whatever happened to fair elections? A lot of people are wondering:

A new poll provides evidence that there is an increasing lack of faith in American democracy. According to a new NPR/Marist poll nearly half of American voters do not believe that their votes will be counted accurately in November’s midterm elections. In addition to that bad news, nearly 40% do not believe that U.S. elections are “fair.”

And strangely enough, distrust of the system is highest among non-whites, women, and Democrats.

It's a sobering article, worth reading.

This sort of struck me as more than a little both-siderism:

There has been a trend in recent years for the party in power to try to suppress voter turnout, which is undemocratic, and this must change.

I'm not saying that no Democrats anywhere have tried to rig the system (I live in Chicago, remember -- where, amazingly enough, our elections are very transparent, but I remember the good old days), but a statement like that needs to be qualified: look which party has been in power in most statehouses in "recent years." And it's the states that control voting.

Thanks to commenter justme at Joe.My.God. for the link.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Review: Burning Sky: Creation

Burning Sky is Michael Bannister (percussion), Kelvin Bizahaloni (flutes, didgeridoo, bass), and Aaron White (guitar, synthesizer, rattles). Creation is an example of what can happen when Native traditions make their way into the contemporary popular music scene, particularly in the hands of Native musicians who have assimilated the culture that surrounds them while maintaining a firm grasp on their own traditions (Bizahaloni is Navajo; White is Navajo-Ute).

One of the characteristics of North American wooden flutes is their haunting, melancholy tone. The cedar flute of the Plains and the Southwest has been seen as a messenger, evoking the wind and tying the player and the community to the natural world. It is very easy to picture the High Plains or the Southwest deserts, with all their vastness and their striking silence, their endless, living emptiness, when listening to Native flute music (especially when the recording engineer is savvy enough to give it a slight reverb).

That said, it comes as no surprise that the four tracks on this CD are titled "Sun," "Wind," "Rain," and "Earth." I admit I was suspicious of this album, given the packaging: there is some New Age music that is substantial and worth listening to; there is more that is pabulum, and this CD must, I think, be put under "New Age." (The term, like "psychology" and "photography," seems to have vacuumed up everything that doesn't quite fit anywhere else.) There are enough elements of jazz and mainstream pop music involved in these songs that I don't think one can honestly call them "Native American" music with any degree of accuracy, although the foundation quite obviously lies in that tradition.

The common elements throughout the music are the flute melodies, some of which are haunting, as they should be, and the fact that the flute remains largely in a "traditional" mode; the incorporation of jazz and pop elements – there are several guitar passages that are worthy of some of the greats, and show the same focus that builds the kind of intensity that Eric Clapton or Robin Trower might have put into a three-note riff; percussion that is usually completely what it should be, although some of the more jazz-inspired passages don't quite make it – not to fault Bannister's playing, which is crisp and fluent and displays a high degree of musicianship, but more because, I think, they were not necessarily a good idea to start with. There is an underlying unity that makes pointing out highlights superfluous – you're either going to like this album, or you're not.

That said, I have to admit that the album largely leaves me cold, and I can't quite put my finger on why. It may just be that, along with some of the patterns, the music has incorporated some of the distance of jazz, that kind of intellectualism that becomes opaque; there is an inwardness to portions of this recording that never makes it past the speakers. (Subjectivity alert: There are large portions of the jazz repertoire that are simply blank to me; I just don't connect with a lot of jazz at all, and this is coming from someone who can find passion in Philip Glass and Steve Reich.) All in all, Creation is better than I had feared, but not as rewarding as I had hoped.

(Canyon Records, 1996)

What's New at Green Man Review

Our usual wide range of material:

Tull live, a really big chocolate treat, a favourite reading space in Kinrowan Hall, Irish music books, good milk chocolate, live music from De Dannan, an excerpt from de Lint’s Forests Of The Heart and other matters as well

Those "other matters" include a lot of music. From all kinds of places. Click on through and enjoy.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Saturday Science, Part II: Education

A couple of stories this morning. Two deal with creationists doing their best to screw up science education. First, in Arizona, the Superintendent of Schools appointed a young-earth creationist to a panel charged with revising the science curriculum:

Arizona Superintendent Diane Douglas tapped a young-earth creationist to serve last month on a committee tasked with revising the state’s science curriculum standards on evolution.

Joseph Kezele, the president of the Arizona Origin Science Association, is a staunch believer in the idea that enough scientific evidence exists to back up the biblical story of creation.

Click through to the original article: Kezele keeps going on and on about "real science" and how it proves Biblical creation. All that proves is that he's delusional. And despite the disclaimers from the superintendent's spokesperson that she was unaware of his creationist views, given her own attitudes, I'm calling bullshit -- she knew exactly what she was doing.

And just to show that we're not alone in our insanity, this one's from British Columbia:
Darrell Furgason is one of the candidates running for the Chilliwack School District Board (in British Columbia) and his platform seems pretty sensible: He supports “Academic Excellence,” “Inclusivity for all,” and a “Quality, fact-based curriculum” that promotes critical thinking.

The problem is that he believes none of that in practice. Furgason is actually an anti-LGBTQ Young Earth Creationist whose primary allegiance is to the Bible and not the students.

Another nine-commandment "Christian". And unless people do some research, which they won't, he'll probably get away with it.

And offered as an antidote to those is this one, about a twelve-year-old who is working on her third book about the joy of science:

Bailey Harris was only eight when she was inspired by Neil deGrasse Tyson (who was hosting COSMOS at the time) to learn more about astronomy. It resulted in her writing a book (with her dad’s help) called My Name Is Stardust, about how all living things are made up of the same basic ingredients. Earlier this year, she released her second book,
Stardust Explores the Solar System

Now she’s working on the third: Stardust Explores Earth’s Wonders: Geology & Evolution.

There's a wonderful video at the link that, unfortunately, I can't embed, so check it out. It really is very good.

Saturday Science: But Is It Art?

Archaeologists have discovered what they're calling the earliest example of human drawing:

A small stone flake marked with intersecting lines of red ochre pigment some 73,000 years ago that was found in a cave on South Africa’s southern coast represents what archaeologists on Wednesday called the oldest-known example of human drawing.

The abstract design, vaguely resembling a hashtag, was drawn by hunter-gatherers who periodically dwelled in Blombos Cave overlooking the Indian Ocean, roughly 190 miles (300 km) east of Cape Town, the researchers said. It predates the previous oldest-known drawings by at least 30,000 years.

This had me scratching my head:

While the design appears rudimentary, the fact that it was sketched so long ago is significant, suggesting the existence of modern cognitive abilities in our species, Homo sapiens, during a time known as the Middle Stone Age, the researchers said.

Um, hello? Same species, same capabilities. Sure, allow time for building a cultural history, but why would anyone be surprised that early modern humans would draw? And, while I don't want to belabor the point, this is the Middle Stone Age, meaning fairly advanced and sophisticated tool-making. Did someone say "cognitive abilities"?

Footnote: I was reminded while viewing a nature/paleoanthropology documentary on Netflix (Nova's Dawn of Humanity) that until recently, scientists pooh-poohed the idea that modern humans -- or humans in general -- could have originated in Africa, which is what all the evidence points to. Just goes to show you -- scientists are not free from prejudice or pre-conceived notions. By the way, the program itself is fairly good -- about finding another missing link.

Friday, September 14, 2018

I Realize

Posting has been rather spotty lately. Mostly that's because the news is all about Trump, and I'm really sick of Trump and I'm even more sick of the media focusing on him the way they do.

And I can hardly wait to see if he screws up relief efforts after Florence -- but then, Florence is hitting red states full of white people who speak English -- sort of.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mouse Update

No one has showed up for dinner for nearly two weeks. I did catch a whiff of corruption once or twice, but haven't found any bodies. I suspect, rather strongly, that I no longer have mice.

Damn. I was really enjoying them.

Today's Must-Read: The Gilded Age, Redux

As is so often the case, this one's from Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo. He starts off on Brett Kavanaugh (as in, call your senators), but segues into what is really the "conservatives'" vision of America:

Grover Norquist in his heyday dreamed of rolling back the 20th century and returning America not to the 1950s, but to the McKinley era. William Grieder wrote about Norquist's vision:

Governing authority and resources are dispersed from Washington, returned to local levels and also to individuals and private institutions, most notably corporations and religious organizations. The primacy of private property rights is re-established over the shared public priorities expressed in government regulation. Above all, private wealth–both enterprises and individuals with higher incomes–are permanently insulated from the progressive claims of the graduated income tax.
Industrial giants would be free at last (again) to strip-mine the economy, plunder natural resources, and re-establish the natural order of land barons and serfs.

The vision of the libertarian/conservative wing of society really is feudal. Kavanaugh on the Court would just insure that the haves will have their way for at least another generation. And the way things are going now, by then us peons will no longer be allowed to vote.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Review: J. J. Abrams: Star Trek: Into Darkness

The last Star Trek movie I was was, aptly enough, The Wrath of Khan. (I suppose that's a spoiler. Live with it.) Let me say right off the bat that Star Trek: Into Darkness is not that, and Benedict Cumberbatch is not Ricardo Montalban.

One man, John Harrison by name, has declared war on Star Fleet. It goes without saying that "John Harrison" is not his real name, and it turns out that he has, at least in his own mind, good reasons. Who he is and what his reasons are provide the basis of the story, as Capt. James T. Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise start off in pursuit, armed with 72 specially modified torpedoes. Their orders are simple: find him (he happens to be on the Klingon homeworld) and eliminate him. It's not going to be easy to pull this off: the likelihood of open war between the Klingon Empire and the Federation is all too high if they're discovered.

And don't think that possibility hasn't occurred to more than one person.

It's hard to know where to start with this one. I haven't been following the various Star Trek spin-offs on TV, or the films, so I'm just going to take this as a stand-alone, pretty much, except where it butts up against memory. (And yes, I realize this is a sequel, and I have since laid hands on the first one in this series, which I may review at some point.)

Let's start with the bones of the thing. The script is admirable, tight and focused, and the subplots are kept firmly under control. And we have preparation for the revelations (and hoo, boy! are there ever revelations!) and the reversals (plenty of those, too), not blatant, but they're there. One never gets the feeling that the writers reached into their handy-dandy bag of plot twists to keep the story going.

There's a good balance to the mood and tone, enough so that the funny parts are funny, the poignant parts grab at you, and the edge-of-the-seat parts keep you right where they want you.

Which brings us to the cast. Stellar. This is a younger Enterprise crew, and there's less of that "professional cool" I remember from the early TV series and films. Chris Pine's Kirk is not William Shatner's Kirk -- more openly headstrong, more openly rebellious, and equally stubborn, with a heavy dose of idealism. The same goes for Zachary Quinto's Spock -- yes, it's Spock, but not the Spock I remember. Anton Yelchin as Chekhov made quite an impression: he's young, he finds himself thrown into a situation in which he's barely treading water, and it's all there, the insecurity, the determination, the panic, the overriding need to handle it. And I have to mention Benedict Cumberbatch, who is a major reason I wanted to see this one. (I think I'm turning into a groupie.) Spoiler alert, although I don't know that I'm giving anything away here: Cumberbatch's Khan is not Montalban's Khan. Cumberbatch doesn't bother with bluster, and he's really, really scary: he's a portrait of cold purpose fueled by deep anger, driven past the point where questions of honor and fair play might matter.

Director J. J. Abrams has kept this one on course. There are a couple of scenes that could have been tighter, where the momentum falters, but only by a little: the film grabs you and holds you from the earliest scenes, clues are apparent without being blatant, the emotional continuity is coherent and believable. It's a beautifully constructed film, and it's to Abrams' credit that no single element rean away with it.

Random Observations:

I suppose the casting directors took into account the physical resemblances between this cast and the original cast. It's there -- Pine looks more and more like Shatner as the film progresses, Quinto bears an even stronger resemblance to Nimoy (who makes a guest appearance), even to the timbre of the voice, and Karl Urban could actually be a younger DeForest Kelley.

There is an intensely emotional scene between Spock and Kirk that is the culmination of the relationship we've seen throughout the film. I don't know that I'd call it "homoerotic" particularly -- I think that misses the point. It struck me as a comment on the human capacity for love (and remember, Spock is half human), with the conclusion that the boundaries of love are marked mainly by social conventions.

A thought on Star Trek: Those who follow science fiction have generally thrown up their hands at its various translations to film and television. Those adaptations often wound up being formulaic, trite, and not very imaginative, and all too often missed the most important thing: science fiction has always been a literature of ideas, of explorations starting with the question "What if. . . ?" Gene Roddenberry managed the substance, posing sometimes difficult questions in the context of space opera, not usually considered the most profound of sub-genres. It works.

(Paramount Picture, Skydance, Bad Robot, 2013) PG-13, 2 hr. 12 min.

Something of the Week

I was going to call this "Image of the Week," but it's more a message. At any rate, I found it apropos to one of the latest controversies:


Thanks to commenter NowAnAgnostic at Joe.My.God.

(Note: This was supposed to be posted a couple of days ago, but somehow Blogger blew it.)

What's New at Green Man Review

Another Sunday at GMR, and lots of goodies for you:

Summer hambos, A Tombstone fiction, Charlie Daniels’ ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’, Junior Superheroes, and other matters of an Autumn nature

Although it's not really all that autumnal. And, as usual, there's more there than shows up in the header. Go browse.

Today in American Racists (Update)

Oh, excuse me -- I meant "real 'Christians'". None other than Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Liberty University, all in a snit because Nike, if only for PR reasons, is supporting Colin Kaepernick:

“We’re exploring the situation,” Falwell said. “If Nike really does believe that law enforcement in this country is unfair and biased, I think we will look around. If we have a contract, we’ll honor it, but we strongly support law enforcement and strongly support our military and veterans who died to protect our freedoms and if the company really believes what Colin Kaepernick believes, it’s going to be hard for us to keep doing business with them.
(Emphasis added by source.)

Of course he's repeating Trump's lies about Kaepernick's protest, because that's what he does. It's not like that BS about the troops and the flags hasn't been debunked so many times I've lost count -- it's part of his script, at this point, handed down by Glorious Leader. Also notice the shift away from race-based police brutality to "law enforcement" in general.

But if it’s just a publicity stunt to bring attention to Nike or whatever, that’s different. We understand that. We understand how marketing works. But they’re going to have to convince us that they’re not proactively attacking law enforcement officers and our military. If that’s the reason behind using this ad, we’re going to have a hard time staying.”
(Emphasis added by me.)

There's the give-away -- of course, Falwell understands if it's just a marketing ploy. He knows all about marketing.

Just to set the record straight, while I support Kaepernick and his protest against racist police actions, I'm not about to run out and buy anything Nike -- they're hardly saints in the human rights area.

But it's nice to see Falwell living down to expectations.

Update: O course, it's all Obama's fault. This is "Judge" Jeanine Pirro, through the looking glass:

Your version of America is not the America we want. To us, social justice is about justice for American citizens and not illegal criminals. To us social justice is about taking care of veterans who come back to our shores with fewer limbs than when they left. To us, social justice is not about burning our flag, it’s about raising it and lifting it.

“I am sorry to say this, but there is one thing your gonna have to live with, the only reason that we have an outsider businessman president is because of you, your lies, your policies, and your divisiveness.

“You, Barack, you elected Donald Trump. And there is nothing you can do about the fact that he’s sitting in the Oval Office now.

"Justice for American citizens" -- unless they are not white.

"Taking care of veterans" -- that's just outright bullshit: Why are 40,000 of them living on the streets?

The rest is pure projection.

There's an excellent, full-throated response to Pirro by commenter lymis here.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Today's Must-Read: On Nancy Pelosi

I happen to regard Nancy Pelosi as the gods' blessing on the Democrats, and can hardly wait until she's Speaker again. This article takes a good look at the reality (as opposed to the right-wing hate campaign):

The 78-year-old former House Speaker knows what her critics say about her: that she’s too old, too “toxic,” too polarizing; that after three decades in Congress and 15 years leading her party’s caucus, she has had her turn and needs to get out of the way. But there’s a reason she sticks around. Had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, she says, “we’d have a woman at the head of the table.” When that didn’t happen, Pelosi realized that without her, there might not be a woman in the room at all.

Pelosi is one of the most consequential political figures of her generation. It was her creativity, stamina and willpower that drove the defining Democratic accomplishments of the past decade, from universal access to health coverage to saving the U.S. economy from collapse, from reforming Wall Street to allowing gay people to serve openly in the military. Her Republican successors’ ineptitude has thrown her skills into sharp relief. It’s not a stretch to say Pelosi is one of very few legislators in Washington who actually know what they’re doing.

This, I think, nails they key issue:

“If I weren’t effective, I wouldn’t be a target,” she says. . . . The only part that bothers her, she says, is when women who are thinking of running for office tell her they couldn’t withstand the abuse. “I say, ‘Forget what they’re doing to me, because you won’t be that much of a target. But you will be a target, because this is about power. And if you look like you’re making headway they will come after you. And it won’t be a pretty sight.'”

Read it.

Via Balloon Juice.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

About That Anonymous Op-Ed (Update)

That's what's all over the news this morning, that and the reactions of Trump and his minions. Seriously -- just look at the stories on RawStory this morning as an example: they're all about Who Wrote It? and How Awful That Person Is.

This one is the prize, though:

In a Wednesday afternoon tweet, President Donald Trump asked one question: Treason?

The question came after Trump commented on The New York Times op-ed from an insider on his team. He told law enforcement officials at the White House the staffer was probably a loser not doing well at their job.

L'etat, c'est Donald.

(I wouldn't be surprised if Trump wrote it himself -- except it's literate.)


This strikes me as pretty much on point:

Via Cheryl Rofer at Balloon Juice.

And this comment from Bobby Cramer echoes my sentiments almost exactly:

As mind-blowing as this is, I’d be even more amazed if this resulted in anything more than the current stream of breathless breaking news from the cable channels.

Today's Must-Read: The "Conservative" Court

Digby has a post on one part of the Kavanaugh hearings that I think everyone should know about. This graphic says it all:

This is from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). The post includes a transcript of his opening statement. Key quote:

There is a feature to these eighty cases. They almost all implicate interests important to the big funders and influencers of the Republican Party. When the Republican Justices go off on these partisan excursions, there’s a big Republican corporate or partisan interest involved 92 percent of the time.

A tiny handful of these cases don’t implicate an interest of the big Republican influencers — so flukishly few we can set them aside. That leaves 73 cases that all implicate a major Republican Party interest. Seventy-three is a lot of cases at the Supreme Court.

Is there a pattern to those 73 cases? Oh, yes there is.

Every time a big Republican corporate or partisan interest is involved, the big Republican interest wins. Every. Time.

Let me repeat: In seventy-three partisan decisions where there’s a big Republican interest at stake, the big Republican interest wins. Every. Damned. Time.

And Kavanaugh will just make it worse -- a lock on the Supreme Court for the oligarchy.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Review: Depeche Mode: Playing the Angel

Another one that no longer appears at Epinions, which itself no longer appears.

Somewhere along the line, I rediscovered Depeche Mode. I pretty much had everything available up through Depeche Mode 101 (which I didn't think much of -- it's one of the worst live albums I've heard), but on a whim I picked up a copy of Songs of Faith and Devotion and finally got around to listening to it. The die was cast. I then got a copy of Playing the Angel.

The thing about Depeche Mode is that they continually reinvent themselves. I once said of Violator "That's the one where they really became Depeche Mode." Then I had to keep moving the timeline back. Y'know, they really started as Depeche Mode, and have always been Depeche Mode, but each album showed a new facet, moved into new territory.

On first listening, the unfortunate introduction to the first track, "A Pain That I'm Used To," turned me off. They do that sort of thing every once in a while, a passage that just hovers on the edge of white noise, and this is possibly their most extreme example. When I finally sat down and actually listened, however, I was blown away.

One thing about the band is that they've always been musically adventurous. Not in the way of some groups, who will very daringly quote a passage from Tchaikovsky to show their bona fides as musicians, but in a fundamentally creative way. They are always doing something on the edge and as often as not, it's simply breathtaking. And at the same time they will take modes that you would swear were worn out by 1963 and make them live again. This album's no exception. One of my prime candidates on both scores is "Precious." It sounds so much like a standard pop ballad with a little bit of momentum to it, and then you start to hear the richness of the textures and the naked aggression underlying the lyrics, which themselves are remarkable -- no syrup allowed, folks. This is tough music.

Depeche Mode has always been an "electro" band, even when going back to "standard" instruments, and as far as the accompaniment is concerned, this one's right in the tradition, but this collection is really about the vocals. Both David Gahan and Martin Gore have distinctive voices, but this is the first album I've heard on which the vocals are the real focus, and in a lot of ways the adventurousness of their earlier work makes the transition from playing with instruments to playing with their voices. They trade off on the lead, sort of -- Gahan sings all tracks except "Macro" and "Damaged People" which are done by Gore. This is stylistic tour of late-twentieth century pop music, from "Suffer Well," which could have been done by any crooner from the '50s or '60s, to the pop/rock/gospel sound of "John the Revelator" with its driving, syncopated momentum (and vocally, which also harks back to earlier DM), to the world-weary, sinuous, almost moaning vocals in "Lilian" and "The Darkest Star," straight out of the goth/punk tradition where they first made their mark. (One thing about Depeche Mode's vocals: I've said in other contexts that part of their appeal for me is the voices have always been men's voices, not boys' voices, no matter what range or approach the singers were taking. It's a matter of weight and maturity, and both Gahan and Gore have it and always did have it.)

This is Depeche Mode becoming Depeche Mode -- again. If you can make it past the first thirty seconds, you're in for a real, meaty treat.

(Sire Records/Reprise Records, 2005)

This Week at Green Man Review

We have a world-wide survey this week:

Steeleye Span’s ‘Robbery With Violins’, New Zealand candy, Colombian music called vallenato, a Benjamin Britten bio, First chapter of James Stoddard’s The High House and Autumn is Coming

Plus the British Raj, manga, and all kinds of music.

You know the drill.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

Today's Must Read: Fascist America, Part ?

Tom Sullivan has a follow-up on yesterday's piece about the crackdown on American citizens who happen to be brown. It's gets much worse:

"It's working. Don't let anyone tell you different," Charlie Pierce laments.

Pierce responded to news yesterday that a man in Encino, California phoned a series of death threats to the Boston Globe. Pierce worked there for nine years and has lots of friends and one relative there still. The Boston Globe itself reports the suspect Robert Darrell Chain, 68, was arrested by the FBI Thursday and charged with making a threatening communication in interstate commerce:

Federal prosecutors said that Chain made 14 calls to the Globe’s main newsroom number between Aug. 10 and 22 after the newspaper’s editorial page called on media outlets to unite in opposition to Trump’s angry rhetoric against the press, including repeated references to reporters as “the enemy of the people.”

The guy's obviously mental:

NBC News' David Douglas reports that after his court appearance in Los Angeles, Chain told reporters, "“America was saved when Donald J. Trump was elected President."

This piece by Digby just reinforces the general trend.

Greg Sargent sounds an alarm. It's loud:

At his rally on Thursday night in Indiana, President Trump unleashed his usual attacks on the news media, but he also added a refrain that should set off loud, clanging alarm bells. Trump didn’t simply castigate “fake news.” He also suggested the media is allied with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — an alliance, he claimed, that is conspiring not just against Trump but also against his supporters.

“Today’s Democrat Party is held hostage by left-wing haters, angry mobs, deep-state radicals, establishment cronies and their fake-news allies,” Trump railed. “Our biggest obstacle and their greatest ally actually is the media.”

And this should come as no surprise. From Fox News' favorite Nazi Barbie:

Fox News host Laura Ingraham made a stunning suggestion on her Friday night show, arguing that the American government should take over private social media networks so that they can be regulated.

Actually, that sounds more like Josef Stalin to me. But then, there's not a lot of difference between Stalin and Hitler.

Footnote: Because Trump only hires the best people.