"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, December 31, 2017

Quote du Jour

From commenter StevenB at Joe.My.God.:


New Year's Eve at Green Man Review

A few, but substantial reviews this week.

A Folkmanis Mouse with Cheese puppet, three chocolate candies from Chocolove, Big Country performs “Auld Lang Syne’, Glen Cook’s Annals of the Black Company, And Happy New Year!

So scoot on over -- or maybe you want to save this for tomorrow. . . .

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Except maybe for an instant replay of Deepwater Horizon:

Regulators in the Trump administration are proposing to roll back safety measures put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a revision that would reduce the role of government in offshore oil production and return more responsibility to private companies.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which regulates offshore oil and gas drilling, estimates its proposed changes could save the industry [CLG8, -0.58%] more than $900 million over the next 10 years and reverse some risk-reduction measures the industry considered burdensome.

Because, of course, it's all about giving the industry what it wants.

And the cherry on top:

It also would strike a provision requiring third-party inspectors of critical equipment — like the blowout preventer that failed in the Deepwater Horizon case — be certified by BSEE.

Remember when there used to be a fishing industry in the Gulf?

And of course, they're going to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling -- like the Arctic isn't having enough problems already.

Antidote: Christmas Is a State of Mind

Here's the whole story:

If you're not seeing the video, click through on the link above. (For some reason, my browser is not showing it.)

Via Raw Story.


Antidote: Santa is Muslim

At least for one little boy. I occurs to me that Christmas isn't about what kind of greeting you offer. It's a state of mind:

Photo:  Amanda Taylor-Purchase

Santa Claus is 100% real – at least for one little boy who first saw him walking past his front door in south London four years ago.

"Santa", whose real name is Mr Hussain, was walking down the street in Tooting in December 2013 when he was spotted by Alfie, who is now six. He heard the little boy call him Santa, and turned round and gave him some money, leading Alfie to believe that he really was Father Christmas.

Hussain, a Muslim man who works at an accountancy firm down the road and just happens to have a big white beard, has since called back at the house every year with a gift for Alfie and his 13-year-old sister Hayley.

And after getting to know the family, he even now calls round on their birthdays.

I can think of a number of people in high places who should take this story to heart. Except I think they probably wouldn't get it.

Via Digby.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Culture Break, for Christmas: Pentatonix: The Carol of the Bells

Probably my favorite carol, in my favorite version:

Best Christmas Story Ever

If you want to know how NORAD started tracking Santa, here it is:

Courtesy NORAD
This Christmas Eve people all over the world will log on to the official Santa Tracker to follow his progress through U.S. military radar. This all started in 1955, with a misprint in a Colorado Springs newspaper and a call to Col. Harry Shoup's secret hotline at the Continental Air Defense Command, now known as NORAD. . . .

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. "Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number," she says.

"This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States," Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?' "

His children remember Shoup as straight-laced and disciplined, and he was annoyed and upset by the call and thought it was a joke — but then, Terri says, the little voice started crying.

"And Dad realized that it wasn't a joke," her sister says. "So he talked to him, ho-ho-ho'd and asked if he had been a good boy and, 'May I talk to your mother?' And the mother got on and said, 'You haven't seen the paper yet? There's a phone number to call Santa. It's in the Sears ad.' Dad looked it up, and there it was, his red phone number. And they had children calling one after another, so he put a couple of airmen on the phones to act like Santa Claus."

And thus are traditions born.

Via Balloon Juice.

The Next Generation

While we're all thinking "This, too, shall pass," there's encouraging news about what -- or who -- is coming up:

After a glowing introduction, the very tall young man steps forward to the podium and announces his candidacy to replace a retiring State Senator in a style and physical appearance reminiscent of the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Yet this 26 year old more accurately embodies President Kennedy's request of Americans from nearly 58 years ago.

In his announcement earlier in the day on his Facebook page, Zach Wahls noted:
“This afternoon, I will launch a campaign for Iowa state Senate District 37, which is where I grew up and the place I call home. The incumbent, Democrat Senator and leader Bob Dvorsky, announced in August he would not be running for re-election. This is an all hands on deck moment for our state, and I am stepping up to do what I believe is the most good I can do. I am running to protect Senator Dvorsky's legacy and to fight every single Iowan who feels left behind or left out.”

In case your memory's a little vague on Zach Wahls, read the article. I'm sure he'll snap into focus.

And I have a hunch he's going to win his race.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve at Green Man Review

You didn't think we'd skip this one, did you? Just to show you what's in store:

Vonnie attends The Revels, Chocolate (of course), A “Must-See” Movie, A Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah, Kage at Christmas, A Crow Girls Christmas, Winter Music by the Horslips, A Kinrowan Estate Tradition, Iceland’s Yule Lads and other matters

And as you might have guessed, the "must see" movie is Call Me By Your Name. (I think I've finally finished revising it.)

Click on over for the full treat.

Catching Up

Happy Holidays!! (There -- I said it.)

Which is by way of saying Happy Hannukah, Blessed Yule, and Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Can You Say "Tacky"?

This is of a piece with everything this "president" does:

President Donald Trump has changed the presidential challenge coin in significant and wholly personal and partisan ways, raising eyebrows – and concerns – of ethics experts. He literally has replaced the national motto, "E Pluribus Unum," with his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."

The coins are considered mementos and are often given by the Commander-in-Chief to members of the military. They have a long history, and are considered to have historic as well as great personal – and market – value. But rather than honor the nation's history, Donald Trump has personally redesigned the coins to honor Donald Trump.

Read the article to see the changes Trump has made in the coin. By way of comparison, here's Obama's coin:

Here's Trump's:

Someone should clue him in that covering something in gold doesn't make it classy.

Today's Must-Read: Damaged Goods

The author of this piece has managed to crystallize a number of ideas I've been batting around, and takes it farther than would have occurred to me.

Evangelicalism doesn’t have a brand problem; it has a product problem.

Ok, Evangelicals do have a brand problem—but they also have a major product problem.

Bible-believing born-again Christians, aka Evangelicals, have had a brand problem since Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority sold the Born-again movement to the Republican party in exchange for political power a generation ago, forging the Religious Right.

The Republican party has been using Christianity’s good name to cover bad deeds ever since, all the while tapping Evangelical media empires and churches as communications and organizing platforms to bring ordinary believers along with the merger. Having become true-believers themselves, Evangelical leaders have offered themselves up as trusted messengers for this New-and-Improved political gospel project.

She goes on to detail how the contemporary evangelical/Republican movement has damaged Christianity itself, but I think she misses a beat here:

Real soul searching would mean asking what it is about the Evangelical worldview that has made Evangelical leaders and ordinary Bible-believers susceptible to courtship by authoritarian, bigoted, sexist, tribal, anti-intellectual greedmongers who dangle the carrot of theocracy. But few Evangelical leaders are asking this question because that would mean revisiting the peculiar status they grant to the Bible itself. And that is off-limits.

When one treats the Bible as the literally perfect and complete word of God—which most Christian scholars don’t but most Evangelicals do—it isn’t hard to find support for every item in the ugly list that now darkens the Evangelical brand.

What she's missing here, I think, is that fact that authoritarianism is built into Christianity: the source of all truth is one authority that is beyond question. Add in human hierarchies, such as structure most forms to Christianity (and, frankly are more or less hard-wired), and it only gets worse. And it should go without saying that, given the intrinsic hierarchical nature of the Abrahamic religions, it follows that hierarchy would be built into the societies that favor them, and that those who differ from those received norms are ostracized. Thus the sexism -- or outright misogyny, if you will -- justified because Eve was the one who caused the Fall. (And it's telling that learning to think for yourself would be considered the Original Sin.) And Evangelicals are firmly anchored in the Old Testament -- the sacred texts of a tribal religion.

Read the whole thing. And then think about what happens when this mindset has the influence it has on the current regime.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Remember That One-Vote Win in Virginia?

Guess what:

It's been a crazy 24 hours in Virginia. In a race for the Newport News state House of Delegates seat, a recount on Tuesday changed everything. And all because of one vote – and one voter.

The Republican in the race, GOP incumbent Delegate David Yancey had been ahead by just 10 votes. After the recount, he lost the race – by a single vote.

That vote handed Democrat Shelly Simonds the seat, giving Democrats 50 seats, and Republicans 50 seats.

Literally one vote changed everything.

But on Wednesday, a three-judge panel allowed one ballot that had been deemed invalid, to be included in the vote count. And the judges decided the intention of the voter who cast the ballot, despite not knowing who the voter is. They looked at the paper ballot, which had the circles for both candidates darkened in, but a line through the circle for Democrat Shelly Simonds, and decided the voter who cast that decisive ballot intended for their vote to go to Republican David Yancey.

The ballot in question:

So now the winner will be decided "by lot" -- the name will be drawn from a fishbowl.

One thing that no one seems to be asking: What's the party affiliation of the judges?

Frankly, in spite of everything from the low approval ratings of Trump and Republicans in general, a more aggressive stance by Democrats (and we'll see how long that lasts), the give-away of our money to the 1%, etc., etc., etc., I'm not sanguine about next year's elections. Watch for major shenanigans in GOP-controlled districts.

Antidote: The Grinch Better Watch Out

This kid knows how to deal with the Grinch:

TyLon Pittman was not about to let the Grinch steal Christmas – so he did exactly what kids are supposed to do for emergencies: call 911.

A dispatcher for the Byram Police Department was pleasantly surprised to pick up the phone on Saturday night and hear a 5-year-old boy expressing concern that the Grinch was going to ruin Christmas because "he steals everybody's Christmas."

When Officer Lauren Develle heard about the youngster's worry, she couldn't resist stopping by his house to reassure him.

Read the whole story -- there's video at the link.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Call Me By Your Name

After many trials and tribulations (well, OK, two trials and maybe one tribulation) I finally managed to see it this afternoon. It had the same effect as Brokeback Mountain, but for entirely different reasons.

I think I've gotten too accustomed to action/adventure superhero movies -- I'm used to "film as comic book" rather than "film as art form." Because this film is definitely a work of art, and of a very high caliber.

Random thoughts, in no particular order:

Armie Hammer wears the role of Oliver so naturally that you forget he's an actor. That's as it should be, but I, being the hardened veteran of viewing for review that I am, had really forgotten what it's like to see an actor doing what actors are supposed to be doing: making me believe he's that character on the screen.

It's Timothée Chalamet's film. Elio, the seventeen-year-old who falls in love with Oliver, is the focus, and Chalamet delivers -- he's alternately self-assured, awkward, angry, and very much in love in the way only a teenager can be.

It's a poem. So much happens in between and around the words and the action that there's no other way to describe it. It builds a kind of resonance that doesn't really hit home until the final scene, which runs into the closing titles, and is nothing more than Elio's face as he's staring into the fire. Wham.

It's a beautifully, subtly constructed film. The magic is in the details on this one (well, give or take the truly stellar performances), and director Luca Guadagnino put it together in the only way it could work.

It didn't really hit me until I was on my way home, and all of a sudden I was sitting on the bus thinking "Holy shit!" And I can tell I really, really liked it because I'm totally hyper right now.

I'll be seeing it again, and I suspect that the minute it's out on DVD, it will enter my collection.

Go see it.

Quote of the Day

From Digby:

Why are they so angry? Because it's never enough for these people to win. You must agree with them. And they can't stand it if you don't.

It's the summation of a piece on how Trump's name is becoming -- or has become -- a weapon against minorities.

Peppered among these incidents is a phenomenon distinct from the routine racism so familiar in this country: the provocative use of “Trump,” after the man whose comments about Mexicans, Muslims and undocumented immigrants — coupled with his muted responses to white nationalist activity — have proved so inflammatory.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

Yeah, I know I haven't been posting the last few days, but the news is all Trump, all the time, and the man's a total bore. Oh, and don't forget the stories about Congressional Republicans giving away everything to their donors -- which they call "tax reform," for some reason.

At any rate, new stuff at Green Man Review, on a holiday theme (because pretty much everyone has a holiday around now), so pop over and take a look.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Culture Break: Fleetwood Mac: The Chain

Earworm of the week. Seriously -- it keeps popping into my head, which is kind of weird: I haven't listened to Fleetwood Mac literally in years.

At any rate, one of my favorites -- with Japanese subtitles:

Roy Moore Lost

I'm sure you've seen a report somewhere or other -- every site has a story on it, and they're mostly generic at this point.

One thing to keep in mind, though: Moore's not going to concede.

Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) refused to concede the special election Tuesday night after multiple media outlets called the race in favor of his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones.

“At this point, we do not have a final decision on the outcome tonight,” Moore’s campaign chairman Bill Armistead told supporters.

“When the vote is this close, it is not over,” Moore said.

Alabama state law requires an automatic recount when election results are within 0.5 percent.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Jones holds 49.9 percent of the vote, compared to Moore’s 48.4 percent, a 1.5 percent gap, according to The New York Times.

He'll keep demanding recounts as long as he can get away with it -- although it seems his support in Alabama is not exactly whole-hearted:

Shortly after Moore's speech, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R) was asked by CNN's Jake Tapper if he expected "anything other than Mr. Jones being the next senator from the state of Alabama."

"I would find that highly unlikely to occur, Jake," Merrill replied.

Sic transit gloria.

Via Joe.My.God.

Idiot du Jour

This guy, Roy Moore's spokesbot, is ignorant as dirt about the way reality works, but then, that seems to be a requirement for membership in the Republican party. What I found most interesting was this:

"It's just a sin...It's what my Bible tells me. That's what this is about. You people want to take the two or three thousand years of our history and y'all just want to throw it out the window as if you're just going to make your own rules, your own man-made rules and do whatever you want."
(Emphasis added.)

What a mindset. This is probably why people who've been brainwashed in this tradition are never going to understand what America is really about -- they have as little understanding of the idea of "independence" as they do of morality. And they're the reason we are in danger of losing democracy: they'll vote for someone who tells them what to do.

There's video at the link; it's fairly brief and worth watching, just to illustrate what a stubborn, arrogant moron this character is.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's Sunday Again

And so there are all sorts of goodies at Green Man Review. Just to whet your appetite:

June Tabor at Minnemeers Theater, Music of a Nordic Nature, Ragas, Porn That’s Quite Boring and Some Seasonal Matters

So click on over and enjoy.

Antidote: Make A Joyful Noise

I don't really need to say anything:

Computer Wars, I Hate Microsoft Edition

So, Windows decided to update yesterday, which it does periodically, and which I normally don't mind, except it takes too long and it's usually at a time that's not really very convenient. This time, it downloaded the updates as I was shutting down.

Then when I turned on the computer again, there was the inevitable "installing your updates" message, which usually takes a few minutes.

Three hours and twenty minutes later, it was done. Three hours and twenty minutes.

Then it wouldn't boot up. It kept showing error messages -- not long enough, mind you, for me to figure out what the problem was -- and shutting down. It took eight tries before it would load my desktop.

This morning, it took forty-five minutes to boot up. I finally got online, checked e-mail, started to check the news -- and it shut itself down.

Happily, when I turned it back on, it only took a few minutes to load.

Now, if I can just get in to disable the touchpad without the damned computer freezing up, life will almost be back to normal.

I hope.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Saturday Science: The Last Time the Globe Warmed

It's about ten or eleven minutes, but it's a fascinating look at what happened the last time global warming was a thing.

Today's Must-Read: Projection, Big Time

From Digby. It's short, but it's truly jaw-dropping:

In case you were wondering, here's a little taste of what's being broadcast on Fox News 24/7:

SEAN HANNITY: Our mutual friend Mark Levin calls this a 'Post-Constitutional Republic,' this is now becoming a Banana Republic if this stays. Where do we go from here with what we now know?

NEWT GINGRICH: I haven't given up on America. I don't think Donald Trump has given up on America... most of our viewers haven't.

What we now know is the swamp is sicker, more corrupt, more dishonest than we thought it was.

So, we just have to dig deeper, throw the rascals out. Realize the election of 2018 is going to be truly historic. Between a radical left that is stunningly corrupt, and the rest of us.

This is a real fight for whether or not America is going to remain a Republic that is ruled by law, or whether it is going to degenerate into being a purely corrupt system of power, where if you're on the right team you can rip everybody off and be protected, if you're on the wrong team you can go to jail if you're innocent.

I think that is how serious and how profound this is right now. It is one of the great historic moments in American history.

It's all very well and good to dismiss it as projection, but Fox's audience swallows it whole. And they vote. And, as Digy points out, these people are passionate about it -- at least, they do a good job of pretending to be passionate.

In the real world, this is how the Trump regime deals with those who don't toe the line:

In 2015, a community policing initiative — one credited with helping curb violence in some of L.A.’s toughest housing projects — scored the Los Angeles Police Department high-level praise.

A captain and a sergeant who led the program were invited to Washington, D.C., earning coveted seats near the first lady during President Obama’s State of the Union address.

This year, L.A. officials applied for more than $3 million in federal funding to help bring the same program to Harvard Park, a South L.A. neighborhood scarred by violence.

The request was denied.

The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t offered the LAPD an explanation of why the department didn’t receive any of the $98 million in grants recently awarded to scores of law enforcement agencies across the nation. A spokesman for the federal agency declined to comment when asked by The Times last week.

But after the Trump administration’s repeated threats to withhold federal money from cities that don’t cooperate with its immigration crackdown, some LAPD officials said they believe the move was retaliatory — and a troubling sign of what could come.
Via Digby.

I don't think I have to restate the significant characteristics of this regime: petty, vindictive, self-absorbed, greedy, and mean-spirited. This is how it plays out in real life.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Antidote: We're All In This Together

So this guy in LA is driving by and sees a rabbit trapped by the wildfire.

It's the sort of thing I would do. (I actually did something similar the other day, although not nearly so risky: the Zoo staff had put out live traps in the wolf enclosure and managed to catch a squirrel. Fortunately, I was able to find a keeper and the squirrel was rescued right away. It turns out they have a rat problem. I should have thought to suggest that they put out the traps at the end of the day and collect them in the morning, because rats are pretty much nocturnal.)

Can You Say "Clueless"?

Trump takes ignorance to a new level:

Democratic U.S. Congressman John Lewis of Georgia is one of this nation's top and most-recognized civil rights leaders. He was the chairman of one of the primary civil rights organizations that organized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, during which King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Lewis also delivered a speech at that historic event and was the youngest man to do so. He has been beaten, arrested, and jailed in his fight for civil rights.

Rep. Lewis has decided he cannot stand on the same stage as President Donald Trump this Saturday, when Trump will visit the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. . . .

The White House saw fit to denounce them for it.

"We think it’s unfortunate that these members of Congress wouldn’t join the President in honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history," Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement to reporters. "The President hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds."

If if were anyone but Trump -- and parrot-in-chief Sanders -- I wouldn't believe it.

Footnote: Digby caps it nicely:

That's Sarah Huckabee Sanders explaining that the civil rights movement wasn't really about black people.

Image du Jour

Just because it's so revealing of a mindset:

Thanks to commenter Bluto at Joe.My.God.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Tillerson Was Right (Update)

Trump is a f*cking moron. Against the advice of just about everyone -- except the hard-core evangelical right who want to bring on Armageddon -- Trump has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and is planning to move our embassy there. Josh Marshall has a persuasive look at why it's not part of some master plan for peace in the Middle East:

I would say that this is 90% political and a matter of satisfying the President’s need for an act of self-assertion. The other 10% does slightly fall into the category of forward-moving gambits. It’s one you need to be exposed to the more extreme right-wing variants of Zionism to be familiar with.

It basically goes like this: What keeps the conflict going is Israel’s and the international community’s indulgence of unrealistic expectations on the part of the Palestinians. The path to peace is to make it totally clear, with established facts, that the Palestinians will essentially get nothing. Nothing here would be defined as a few autonomous self-governing zones within the West Bank under over-arching Israeli security control. No capital or even foothold in East Jerusalem. Not even a demilitarized version of sovereignty. No geographical contiguity. Nothing. Basically the right to self-govern in civil matters in the parts of the West Bank where there are too many Palestinians to outnumber with Israeli settlers. Once Palestinians expectations are set to a realistic level, you can get down to negotiations.

There are needless to say, a number of problems with this theory. But you hear it a lot as a sort of guiding theory of the case on the Zionist right. I would count it as 35% profoundly misguided idea, 65% mendacious self-assertion. That’s probably what the top Trumpers are telling themselves.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note the obvious. Not only did the President put the region’s issues in the hands of his neophyte son-in-law. He put it in the hands of a settlement activist. Obviously nothing possibly good can come of this.

It becomes more and more obvious that Trump wants a war somewhere, and he doesn't really much care where, just as it become more and more obvious that he it oblivious to any real consequences of his actions. It's a matter of, as Digby points out, asserting his dominance and making sure everyone else knows their place:

There is a faction of hard-liners who believe what Grover Norquist said about Democrats back when the Republicans took the congress in 2002 applies to all their adversaries:

"Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."

This is how these far right folks think about everything. Win and exert your dominance and then everyone will be happy and docile in their properly assigned roles.

Extend that to the oligarchs who own Congress and I think Digby has it cold.

Where do you suppose the next terrorist attack will take place? The American consulate in Jerusalem?

Footnote: The reaction is not positive.

Update: Here's what appears to be a good analysis of Trump's Jerusalem speech:

My take away from the speech is that he’s going to continue to sign the waivers to keep the US embassy to Israel in Tel Aviv until an embassy can be built in Jerusalem in accordance with the 1995 law that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He made a very clear statement that beginning the planning for moving the embassy should not infringe on final status issues between the Israelis and Palestinians. This includes the final status of Jerusalem vis a vis the Israelis and Palestinians.

What needs to be understood is that no matter how nice the speech sounded, nor the nuance and clarity I highlighted above, is that the President’s statements and actions on the status of Jerusalem is completely disconnected from the reality on the ground. Despite seeming to reinforce the US policy preference for a two state solution, by changing US policy and embracing the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act he has undercut the US’s preference for a two state solution by preemptively dealing with the issue of Jerusalem.

It doesn't alter my initial assessment. We can only hope the "planning" takes long enough that Trump is in jail before it's complete.

Attitudes Change

Sometimes very slowly, but they do change. This would have been unthinkable not all that long ago:

Japan’s national public broadcaster has commissioned a TV show about a married gay couple.

NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation, picked up the three-episode series based on manga series My Brother’s Husband, created by gay author Gengoroh Tagame.

Japan seems to have a somewhat schizophrenic attitude toward same-sex relationships, particularly between men. For centuries relationships between older and younger men -- similar to the erastes-eromenos tradition of ancient Greece -- were treated quite matter-of-factly. It seems that the institution fell into disfavor in the mid-nineteenth century, about the time of contact with the West, for some strange reason.

What makes it even odder is that same-sex relationships are the basis of a whole genre of manga: boys' love, a/k/a BL, a genre directed at teenage girls and young women. Supposedly this is a way of presenting sexual and romantic relationships in a "safe" way -- i.e., since it's two boys or young men, it doesn't really affect its target audience. Given the steaminess of some of the scenes in these things, I have to wonder.

At any rate, Japan is coming along, slowly but surely. We'll see how this pans out.

Done, and Done

Australia joins the rest of the civilized world as the 25th country to legalize same-sex marriage. The vote was rather lopsided:

On Thursday the House of Representatives passed a cross-party bill after an unprecedented national postal survey gave unstoppable momentum to legislate the historic social reform.

Australia, which changed the law in 2004 to say that marriage is only between a man and a woman, now becomes the 25th country to recognise same-sex marriage.

The lower house passed marriage equality with almost all members of the governing Liberal-National Coalition joining Labor, the Greens, and crossbench MPs in a free vote to pass the bill which cleared the Senate last week without amendment.

The only no votes were Coalition MPs Russell Broadbent, Keith Pitt, David Littleproud and independent MP Bob Katter.

And they managed to avoid all the poison pill "religious freedom" amendments that the right-wingers attempted to attach to it.

Footnote: Here's more information on one of the "no" votes.

It seems as though Australia's crazies are just as crazy as ours.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Culture Break: K. Sridhar: Raga Madhukauns -- Alap

We're used to Indian classical music -- raga, mostly -- being played on the sitar, which has that characteristic drone that to many is emblematic of Indian music. Well, K. Sridhar plays the sarod, which has a very different quality.

And yes, I actually have this on CD. Sadly, it seems that all of the videos of Sridhar playing live can't be embedded, so this will have to do -- just listen to the music.

I did review the CD at one point, but it's not currently up anywhere. It will, however, appear this Sunday at Green Man Review; you can get a sneak preview here.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Déjà vu, All Over Again

Via Balloon Juice:

It's real.

Today in Computer Weirdness

I don't know if it's Blogger, my computer, or gremlins, but the calendar in Blogger decided to just cancel the last year and reset itself to December, 2016.

Is that a political statement, do you suppose?

Monday, December 04, 2017

Flummoxed (Update)

I have to admit to being taken aback at this:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Texas ruling that said the right to a marriage license did not entitle same-sex couples to spousal benefits under employee insurance plans.

The city of Houston had asked the high court to overturn last June’s Texas Supreme Court decision, which determined that all marriage-related matters were not decided when the U.S. Supreme Court established a right to same-sex unions in 2015, leaving room for state courts to explore the limits of gay marriage.

The federal court’s decision, issued without comment, allowed the Texas ruling to stand.

I find it hard to believe that four justices did not vote to hear this one.

Here's what I think it the big flaw in the Texas decision:

The Texas court merely said that the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, while acknowledging the right of same-sex couples to marry, did not answer or resolve all marriage-related questions, including whether governments must provide the same benefits to same-sex couples that are provided to opposite-sex couples, they argued.

From the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (p. 28):

Baker v. Nelson must be and now is overruled, and the State laws challenged by Petitioners in these cases are now held invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples.
(Emphasis added.)

That seems to me to be pretty conclusive: if you offer benefits to married opposite-sex couples, you must offer the same benefits to married same-sex couples.

Am I missing something?

Via Joe.My.God.

Update: A possible explanation:

• In Turner v. Pidgeon (City of Houston appeals Texas Supreme Court holding that Obergefell didn’t settle question whether married same-sex couples must receive same spousal benefits as different-sex couples), Case Number 17-424, the court DENIES CERT, i.e., will not hear the case.

While speculation is just that - only speculative - it's possible the justices think it's premature to take up the case given that the Texas Supreme Court remanded for further proceedings in lower court.

Idiot du Jour

Remember Lou Dobbs? Yeah, vaguely -- some Fox News "personality" or something.

Well, he's really outdone himself this time. From WaPo:

Someone asked Obama about recent comments made by his wife, Michelle, in Toronto: The former first lady said it was never a good idea to “tweet from bed,” a not-so-subtle commentary on Trump’s early-morning social media habits.

In New Delhi, her husband agreed.

“Michelle was giving the general idea. … Don’t say the first thing that pops in your head. Have a little bit of an edit function,” he said. “Think before you speak. Think before you tweet.”

Not such a stretch, and applicable to just about everyone at every time -- especially sitting presidents: Think before you open your mouth.

Well, not as far as Dobbs is concerned:

Call it an unwritten rule — a matter of decorum among the small fraternity of men who once held the title “leader of the free world.”

Before he left office, Barack Obama said his goal was to steer clear of the political spotlight — as George W. Bush had done when he left the White House — giving the new president room to govern without Obama's shouldering into every debate with the megaphone that being a former commander in chief affords.

But a Fox Business commentator said Obama violated that unwritten rule with a recent comment about Trump’s tweets. What’s more, according to Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, that violation should merit arrest.

“I think U.S. marshals should follow [Obama], and anytime he wants to go follow the president like he is and behave [like that],” Dobbs said on his show Friday. “I mean, this is just bad manners. It’s boorish and it’s absurd and he doesn’t realize how foolish he looks.”

“I mean, he should be brought back by the marshals. Isn’t there some law that says presidents shouldn’t be attacking sitting presidents?”

The irony here is that Trump is the one who insists on dragging Obama into everything he does by his unremitting attempts to wipe the Obama administration from history.

As for Dobbs -- he's an idiot. He's always been an idiot. He always will be an idiot.

Via Digby.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

What's New at Green Man Review

The site's still having it's ups and downs (Wordpress has its little quirks), but it did publish this week's new offerings this morning. It's an Irish Music edition, so go on over and take a look at more reviews of Irish music than you thought possible.

Stenography as "Journalism"

I'm certainly not the first to sound off about this, but this story really points it up:

Florida Senator Marco Rubio admits that the Republican tax cut plan to aid corporations and the wealthy will require cuts to Social Security and Medicare to pay for it.

Rubio told reporters this week that in order to address the federal deficit, which will grow by at least $1 trillion if the tax plan passes, Congress will need to cut entitlement programs such as Social Security. Advocates for the elderly and the poor have warned that entitlement programs would be on the chopping block, but this is the first time a prominent Republican has backed their claims.

OK, we knew that. Republicans have been after Social Security for eighty years, and Medicare almost since it was created. But this is what got me going:

The simple answer is Social Security and Medicare, which together comprise 38 percent of the total federal budget, second only to military spending.

“The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” said Rubio.

This is total bullshit. Social Security is not part of the federal budget, and neither is Medicare except for administrative costs for Part B.

If you do a search for "social security funding," this is what you get:

Social Security is financed through a dedicated payroll tax. Employers and employees each pay 6.2 percent of wages up to the taxable maximum of $118,500 (in 2016), while the self-employed pay 12.4 percent.

In 2015, $795 billion (85 percent) of total Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance income came from payroll taxes. The remainder was provided by interest earnings ( $93 billion or 10 percent) and revenue from taxation of OASDI benefits ( $32 billion or 3 percent), and $325 million in reimbursements from the General Fund of the Treasury - most resulting from the 2012 payroll tax legislation.

The payroll tax rates are set by law, and for OASI and DI, apply to earnings up to a certain amount. This amount, called the earnings base, rises as average wages increase.

The only funds coming from the General Fund are "reimbursements" -- i.e., paybacks.

Do the same for Medicare:

Medicare Trust Funds

Medicare is paid for through 2 trust fund accounts held by the U.S. Treasury. These funds can only be used for Medicare.

Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund

How is it funded?

Payroll taxes paid by most employees, employers, and people who are self-employed
Other sources, like income taxes paid on Social Security benefits, interest earned on the trust fund investments, and Medicare Part A premiums from people who aren't eligible for premium-free Part A

What does it pay for?

Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) benefits, like inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, home health care, and hospice care
Medicare Program administration, like costs for paying benefits, collecting Medicare taxes, and combating fraud and abuse

Supplementary Medical Insurance (SMI) Trust Fund

How is it funded?

Funds authorized by Congress
Premiums from people enrolled in Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) and Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D)
Other sources, like interest earned on the trust fund investments

What does it pay for?

Part B benefits
Part D
Medicare Program administration, like costs for paying benefits and for combating fraud and abuse.

Even from these summaries, it's obvious that neither Social Security nor Medicare has a large impact on the federal deficit. For that, you need to look to the handouts and tax breaks for millionaires and corporations.

And it would seem that when you're quoting a Republican on Social Security and Medicare (which, by the way, Republicans have spent years equating with welfare, food stamps, etc., as "entitlements" -- the difference being that we pay into SS and Medicare, so you bet your sweet booty we're entitled to something back), some scepticism is in order. That's apparently too much to ask of Newsweek, which goes on to repeat more Republican talking points:
In order to remain solvent, changes do need to be made to entitlement programs. Both Social Security and Medicare programs are on a fiscally unsustainable path — Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund will be exhausted by 2029 and Social Security’s trust fund will be exhausted by 2034.

It starts to look less like laziness and more like complicity -- the link is to an "analysis" of the trustees' reports by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. In case you can't quite place the name, this might refresh your memory:

Peter G. Peterson, born June 5, 1926, is a controversial Wall Street billionaire who uses his wealth to underwrite a diversity of organizations and PR campaigns to generate public support for slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, citing concerns over "unsustainable" federal budget deficits.

Looks like Newsweek is getting to be as reliable a source as Fox.

There's an easy fix to the "sustainability" issue for Social Security: remove the tax cap. Currently, wages up to $118,500 are subject to FICA; take off the limit and Social Security will be rolling in money.

For Medicare, there's no cap, but the tax is only 1.45 percent each from employee and employer. A small increase -- and I mean small, like .5% -- would ease the strain.

But, back to the main thesis: if this is the kind of crap that passes for journalism in the mainstream media, we are in real trouble.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Today's Must-Read: Well, They Did It (Update)

Republicans managed to pass the most unpopular piece of legislation since Reganomics last night with no public hearings, no analysis, none of the regular procedural things that we've come to expect from a functional legislature. From Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo, who starts off with this tweet from Sen. Jon Tester (D-WY) which pretty much says it all:

Sen. Jon Tester didn't cuss. But the Montana Democrat might have after receiving the 500-page GOP tax bill hours before vote-a-rama and final passage last night (with no debate) about 2 a.m. Friday afternoon, Claire McCaskill (D-MO) tweeted a list of Manager's Amendments she'd received from a lobbyist rather than from her Republican colleagues. "None of us have seen this list, but lobbyists have it."

Sullivan details some of the horrors included in the bill (I don't think anyone has a grasp of the full enormity of this monster).

The only answer is vote Democratic -- maybe the next Congress can reverse this -- after they've impeached Trump and Pence and inaugurated Nancy Pelosi as president.

Update: Paul Krugman weighs in on just what a travesty this whole thing has been:

And there’s a world of difference between normal political spin — yes, all politicians try to emphasize the good aspects of their policies — and the outright lies that have marked every aspect of the selling of this thing.

Mnuchin said his department had a study showing great effects on growth; that was a lie. Donald Trump says the bill is “not good for me”; that’s a lie. Senator John Cornyn said, “This is not a bill that is designed primarily to benefit the wealthy and the large businesses”; that was a lie. Senator Bob Corker said he wouldn’t support a plan “adding one penny to the deficit”; that was a lie.

In other words, this whole process involves a level of bad faith we haven’t seen in U.S. politics since the days when defenders of slavery physically assaulted their political foes on the Senate floor.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

(Via Bark Bark Woof Woof)

Compare and Contrast: World AIDS Day, Here and There

Our "President" actually made an announcement:

In a signed statement on the White House website, President Trump has said: “Today, on World AIDS Day, we honor those who have lost their lives to AIDS, we celebrate the remarkable progress we have made in combatting this disease, and we reaffirm our ongoing commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat.” 

Trump continued: “Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, more than 76 million people around the world have become infected with HIV and 35 million have died from AIDS.

“As of 2014, 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. On this day, we pray for all those living with HIV, and those who have lost loved ones to AIDS

This statement stands in comparison to President Obama’s final World AIDS Day address where he urged then President-elect Trump to maintain HIV/AIDS prevention work and highlighted the impact of HIV on the LGBT+ community.

It's worth noting the Trump administration's attitude toward the LGBT community, as reflected in its policy moves:

Since election day, Trump has removed rights for trans kids, banned trans soldiers from the military, appointed an anti-LGBT Supreme Court justice, endorsed a Republican who wants to make homosexuality illegal, hired an Army Secretary who says trans people are diseased, proposed slashing HIV AIDS funding, signed an order permitting anti-LGBT discrimination at work, removed opposition to North Carolina’s anti-trans bathroom bill, addressed a recognised hate group gathering and refused to acknowledge LGBT History Month.

The comparison with Obama is going to annoy him enough, especially since it seems to hit a very sensitive spot -- why else devote so much effort to undoing everything the Obama administration did? But contrast his proclamation with this:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attended a World AIDS Day event today in their first joint royal engagement.

The newly-engaged royal couple travelled to Nottingham to attend the #SeeRed event, which was organised by HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust. 

The pair were photographed sporting red World AIDS Day ribbons as they spoke to the crowd.

Prince Harry said: “We mustn’t be complacent. We’ve got everything here: all the equipment, all the testing ability.

"We owe it to this generation to be able to eradicate this once and for all.”

The Prince, a passionate advocate on HIV/AIDS issues, spoke to people living with HIV as well as sexual health campaigners.

Andrew Bates, a gay man living with HIV who met the Prince at the launch of HIV testing week last month, was able to he spoke to the Prince about coming out.
(That garbled bit is theirs, not mine.)

The contrast is staggering. I mean, can you imagine Donald Trump actually shaking hands with someone who's HIV+?

I guess this only points up the fact that real leaders care about people. Donald Trump doesn't.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Coming Attractions: Avengers: Infinity War

Looks like Thanos finally makes his move:

Apparently Captain America's beard is getting the major buzz. It also looks like there are all sorts of new characters from Guardians of the Galaxy and Black Panther.

In theaters, we are told, May 4, 2018.

Headline of the Week

From Joe.My.God.:

Christian Group That Covered Up Sexual Assault Prays For God To “Anoint The Briefs” Of Anti-Gay Baker

That is actually a direct quote:

Today’s prayer from the Family Research Council:

May God preserve and protect the freedom of Christians and other Americans whose consciences say, “God made marriage between a man and a woman.” May He powerfully anoint the briefs and arguments presented to the Court on behalf of Jack Phillips.
(Emphasis added.)

And, as Joe points out:

It’s now been two weeks and Tony Perkins has remained silent on widespread reports that he covered up the sexual assault of a teenager by the Ohio Republican for whom Perkins had been raising money that very night in the hotel where the assault allegedly took place.

And then they (evangelical "Christians" of the Tony Perkins stripe) wander around all pouty because no one likes them.

Footnote: This sort of thing seems to be endemic among "Christians."

One of the ministers who serves a Theodore church where Roy Moore spoke Wednesday night was federally convicted of trying to block an investigation involving claims his son molested children in Honduras.

Rev. Bill Atkinson led the music portion of the Moore event at the Magnolia Springs Baptist Church, where the U.S. Senate candidate spoke for over 20 minutes and was interrupted twice by people in the audience.

In 2012, Atkinson was found guilty of obstruction and conspiracy for ordering two of his children to destroy a hard drive of a digital video recorder, which held evidence that incriminated his son for child molestation. At the time, William James "Will" Atkinson IV was in a Honduras jail awaiting trial on charges that he molested children at an orphanage the Atkinson family owned. Those allegations came to light when his younger brother, Jonathan Atkinson, set up a secret surveillance system in Will's office after some of the children said they had been touched inappropriately.

And then they circle the wagons.

Via Joe.My.God.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Coming Attractions: Love, Simon

Due out in March:

New gay film Love, Simon has released its first trailer – and it promises a rollercoaster of emotions.

The young adult dramedy, which is set to come out in March next year, tracks Simon, a 17-year-old high school student who has not come out to any of his friends and family.

Based on Becky Albertalli’s book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the blockbuster will see Simon – played by US actor Nick Robinson – come of age as he comes out.

Some of the reactions:

There are more at the link.

And the trailer is very well done -- one of the few that doesn't turn me off to the film.

What's New at Green Man Review

Yes, I realize it's Thursday, but there were -- let's call them "technical difficulties" -- and the "What's New" post for Sunday didn't publish.

But all's better now -- almost -- so here's a catch-up:

The Gypsy tradition of Serbian music, Kurdish pop, Music from Nightnoise, Hot Cocoa, Classic Fairy Tales, Slipstream, and It’s Snowing!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

More PC Horsepucky (Updated)

(Note: the updates are additional comments that occurred to me on rereading this piece, as part of the text.)

My reaction to this story is to make a point of seeing any film that has Armie Hammer in the cast:

Hollywood star Armie Hammer has deactivated his Twitter account following a shade-filled thinkpiece that questioned his entire career.

While generating Oscar hype about his new film, gay romantic drama Call Me By Your Name, Hammer hit back against the negative article. . . .

The actor was responding to an essay on BuzzFeed, titled Ten Long Years of Trying to Make Armie Hammer Happen.

The article’s author, Anne Peterson, challenged Hammer’s career as “a beautiful, pedigreed white man” which afforded him opportunities to safely fail and bounce back.

This, I think, tells you all you need to know about the article:

But Hollywood would never give up on a guy that handsome, that tall, that white, with a jaw that square.

It's a hit piece, no more, no less, that goes to all sorts of places that have nothing to do with Hammer as an actor. The author really seems to resent the fact that Hammer comes from money (his grandfather was oil tycoon Armand Hammer) and keeps coming back to it, making the point over and over again that he's a "rich asshole," in spite of all the comments from people who actually know him that he's not.

Apparently, from some of the comments, it's intended to be a piece about white male power and privilege in Hollywood. What it is is a mean-spirited attack on one man. Frankly, if you want to do a piece on white male power and privilege in Hollywood, do a piece on white male power and privilege in Hollywood. It's not that hard to figure out. (The author, by the way, has a Ph.D. from the University of Texas and wrote her dissertation on the gossip industry. Maybe that explains why the "think piece" is so shallow.)

I've only seen Man From U.N.C.L.E., of Hammer's previous work, and he was more than adequate as Ilya Kuriakin. Not brilliant, maybe, but good. To blame the movie's failure on casting Hammer and Henry Cavill (whom she characterizes as "a junior-varsity Tom Cruise") as the leads, rather than a script that simply wasn't up to snuff, seems to be a case of bending reality to suit one's agenda. (Cavill, by the way, has a history in film and television going back to the beginning of the millennium.)

Footnote: This is exactly the kind of response I'd expect from someone defending the article:

Trans.: It's about me! It's always about ME ME ME!

And of course, given the tenor of this piece (thesis: "White straight man bad"), I would guess that if the author did write a piece on an actor or actress of color, the subject would need no defending.

Ironically enough, someone made the point just before this tweet appears in the article that Hammer has devoted a lot of energy to supporting black and gay filmmakers.

Footnote 2: Inevitably, director Luis Guadagnino is asked to justify not casting gay actors. It's a criticism leveled at everyone who does a gay-oriented story using straight actors, from those who don't seem to see the logical conclusion: if sexual orientation is a requirement for acting a particular role, then no gay actors should ever be cast as straight characters, right? (And of course, the point is, they're actors: they make their living making us believe they're someone else.)

OK -- that's all the political correctness I can handle right now.

Antidote: New Zealand Cops

Been under the weather for a few days, but this lightened up my morning:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Today's Must-Read: The Internet For Sale

If FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has his way:

Net-neutrality protections assure that the essential democratic discourse on the World Wide Web cannot be bartered off to the highest bidders of a billionaire class that dominates the political debate on so many other media platforms.

Citizens love net neutrality. “The overwhelming majority of people who wrote unique comments to the Federal Communications Commission want the FCC to keep its current net neutrality rules and classification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act,” Ars Technica reported in August. How overwhelming? “98.5% of unique net neutrality comments oppose Ajit Pai’s anti–Title II plan,” read the headline.

The media monopolists of the telecommunications industry hate net neutrality. They have worked for years to overturn guarantees of an open Internet because those guarantees get in their way of their profiteering. If net neutrality is eliminated, they will restructure how the Internet works, creating information superhighways for corporate and political elites and digital dirt roads for those who cannot afford the corporate tolls.

It's part and parcel of Trump's agenda: Dismantle America and hand the pieces over to the "right people."

Read the whole thing. And call your congresscritter.

Via Bark Bark Woof Woof.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Today's Must-Read: No Secrets

Between our president and our enemies, at least. Here's a really scary article by Howard Blum at Vanity Fair on Trump blowing the Israelis' cover.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on May 10th, 2017.
By Alexander Shcherbak/TASS/Getty Images.

On a dark night at the tail end of last winter, just a month after the inauguration of the new American president, an evening when only a sickle moon hung in the Levantine sky, two Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters flew low across Jordan and then, staying under the radar, veered north toward the twisting ribbon of shadows that was the Euphrates River. On board, waiting with a professional stillness as they headed into the hostile heart of Syria, were Sayeret Matkal commandos, the Jewish state’s elite counterterrorism force, along with members of the technological unit of the Mossad, its foreign-espionage agency. Their target: an ISIS cell that was racing to get a deadly new weapon thought to have been devised by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the Saudi national who was al-Qaeda’s master bombmaker in Yemen.

It was a covert mission whose details were reconstructed for Vanity Fair by two experts on Israeli intelligence operations. It would lead to the unnerving discovery that ISIS terrorists were working on transforming laptop computers into bombs that could pass undetected through airport security. U.S. Homeland Security officials—quickly followed by British authorities—banned passengers traveling from an accusatory list of Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptops and other portable electronic devices larger than a cell phone on arriving planes. It would not be until four tense months later, as foreign airports began to comply with new, stringent American security directives, that the ban would be lifted on an airport-by-airport basis.

In the secretive corridors of the American espionage community, the Israeli mission was praised by knowledgeable officials as a casebook example of a valued ally’s hard-won field intelligence being put to good, arguably even lifesaving, use.

Yet this triumph would be overshadowed by an astonishing conversation in the Oval Office in May, when an intemperate President Trump revealed details about the classified mission to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and Sergey I. Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Along with the tempest of far-reaching geopolitical consequences that raged as a result of the president’s disclosure, fresh blood was spilled in his long-running combative relationship with the nation’s clandestine services. Israel—as well as America’s other allies—would rethink its willingness to share raw intelligence, and pretty much the entire Free World was left shaking its collective head in bewilderment as it wondered, not for the first time, what was going on with Trump and Russia. (In fact, Trump’s disturbing choice to hand over highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians is now a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia, both before and after the election.) In the hand-wringing aftermath, the entire event became, as is so often the case with spy stories, a tale about trust and betrayal.

Since I'm feeling charitable this morning, I'll just note that I don't believe Trump was purposely undermining Israeli (and Western) intelligence efforts in the Middle East (although he's repeatedly shown that he has no love for the intelligence community). It's that he's a show off ("Looky what I got!"), pathologically insecure, completely ignorant of foreign affairs, has no concept of consequences -- that there even are such things -- and fairly stupid.

And he's managed to do incalculable damage to our intelligence efforts.

Read the whole thing. It's appalling.

Via Balloon Juice.

Antidote: One Good Turn. . . .

One of those stories that shores up my faith in people:

Kate McClure, 27, who was helped by a homeless Marine named Johnny Bobbitt Jr. last month when her car ran out of gas while driving towards Philadelphia, raised more than $100,000 for the Marine through a GoFundMe donation page.

According to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, McClure was driving on the southbound I-95 road which goes towards Philadelphia to meet a friend when her car started to choke because it ran out of gas. She pulled on to a nearby exit ramp and just made it to the bottom. It was around 11 p.m. local time, it was dark and she was reportedly alone.

According to the report McClure, who works for the New Jersey Department of Transportation, said, "My heart was beating out of my chest. I didn’t know what the heck to do."

She then called up her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, 38, who told her that he will come to get her. At that moment, Bobbitt Jr. came towards her and told her to sit inside the car and lock the doors and said that he will be spending his last $20 to buy gas for her, from a few blocks away.

Read the whole thing. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Wrong Question

Digby seems to be making a connection -- or trying to -- between Eastern European origins and sympathy for Nazis:

A Minnesota man accused of committing war crimes when he commanded a Nazi-led unit during World War II contributed thousands of dollars to the Republican National Committee, a Daily Beast review of federal campaign records found.

OK -- this guy was, for all intents and purposes, a Nazi. But she goes on:

I had a landlord who was a Polish immigrant of that generation and he worshiped Ronald Reagan too. I don't think he was a an actual Nazi. But he could have been. He certainly didn't like Jews.

Anti-Semitism was pretty much a given in Eastern Europe during the 1930s and 40s, and long before. But the idea that Eastern Europeans of that generation -- or the next -- were Nazis or sympatherizers I think misses one very important factor.

When I was the at the University of Illinois in Chicago, I met a lot of Lithuanians whose parents had fled the country after World War II. Most of them had been born in Germany in 1945-46 or thereabouts. And they were all very right wing. They weren't Nazis -- they were hard-core anti-Russian, simply because of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe after the war. And I can't begin to describe just how much they hated Russians.* (Just to give an idea of the depth of nationalism in this group of displaced people, there was a Lithuanian government in exile in the U.S. as late as the 1960s. Noted science fiction writer Algis Budrys was president. To a certain extent, it's a very deep-seated case of denial.)

All of which is to say that it's a little simplistic to try to connect emigration from Eastern Europe in the 1940s with Nazi sympathies -- it's much more a matter of being anti-communist, or more specifically, anti-Soviet.

* This is in large part just the twentieth-century manifestation of attitudes that go back several hundred years. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Lithuania was the dominant power in Eastern Europe, stretching from the Baltic in the north to the Black Sea in the south and including Ukraine and a large chunk of Byelorussia. (It was also the only country in Europe with religious freedom, including Jews.) The Union of Lublin (1569), which joined the Kingdom of Poland with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in a unified political state (as opposed to the personal monarchy that had existed since the late fourteenth century) shored up the Lithuanian state in its wars with the emerging Muscovite kingdom, which had been going on since the Muscovites had thrown off the Mongols. So this antipathy goes back quite a way. This resentment of Russia was only exacerbated by the Partitions of Poland in the eighteenth century -- Lithuania and a large chunk of Poland proper wounder up as part of the Russian Empire. They gained independence after World War I, only to be re-occupied during World War II.

Yes, on top of everything else, I'm a history buff. I think it's genetic.

Happy Thanksgiving

For those in the States. (And for the rest of you, Happy Thanksgiving anyway.)

And a note for all the "War on Christmas" warriors -- although I doubt that any of them read this blog:

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the CTA, for the holiday season (which has now begun), programs the displays on the front of the buses to show:

Route number and name (i.e., "22 Clark")

Destination ("Howard Red Line")

now followed by

"Seasons Greetings"

and then a graphic of Santa's sleigh.

I've already seen one bus with the display reprogrammed; looking forward to more.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Snap! Or Is That "Slap!"

Another judge has stopped Trump's military trans ban, cold. And he wasn't gentle about it:

A federal judge has entirely halted President Donald Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, and called the Commander-in-Chief's tweets announcing the total ban in July "capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified." Trump this past summer sought to bar any new transgender recruits from entering the military and discharge all openly-transgender service members.

The cherry on top:

"President Trump’s tweets did not emerge from a policy review, nor did the Presidential Memorandum identify any policymaking process or evidence demonstrating that the revocation of transgender rights was necessary for any legitimate national interest," Judge Garbis wrote in his decision "Based on the circumstances surrounding the President’s announcement and the departure from normal procedure, the Court agrees with the D.C. Court that there is sufficient support for Plaintiffs’ claims that 'the decision to exclude transgender individuals was not driven by genuine concerns regarding military efficacy.'" . . . .

"An unexpected announcement by the President and Commander in Chief of the United States via Twitter that 'the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military' certainly can be considered shocking under the circumstances," the decision continued.

Happy Thanksgiving, asshole.

Waiting for outraged statement from Tony Perkins about "lawless judges" in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . .

Because we all know this "policy" was a sop to the anti-LGBT "Christians" in the base.

For all you legal geeks, the decision is here. It's very closely reasoned and very precise.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In Case You Were Wondering

Who owns the government, this should give you a clue:

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing a full repeal of net neutrality rules that require broadband providers to give consumers equal access to all content on the internet, putting more power in the hands of those companies to dictate people’s online experiences.

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the F.C.C., plans to reveal a sweeping proposal to scrap the net neutrality rules on Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are not public. The rules, created during the Obama administration, prohibit broadband providers from blocking, slowing down or charging more for the delivery of certain internet content. The proposal will be presented in a December meeting of F.C.C. commissioners and is expected to pass in a 3-to-2 vote along party lines.

Which is a big lollipop for Internet providers (most of which don't offer such great service to begin with). What it means is:

But under a repeal, companies like AT&T and Comcast may be able to charge people higher fees to access certain websites and online services. The companies may also be able to prioritize their own services while disadvantaging websites run by rivals.

It's even more pernicious than it looks on the surface. Read the whole article and get ready to call your congressperson.

Via Joe.My.God.

Well, It Was Nice While It Lasted

The American experiment in self-governance, I mean. Here's one more sign that it's on the way out:

A federal judge Monday permanently struck down one of President Donald Trump’s first executive orders, cutting off funds to “sanctuary cities.”

In a summary judgment ruling, U.S. District Judge William Orrick III found Trump’s Jan. 25 executive order violated the Constitution in multiple ways: by invoking spending powers that belong exclusively to Congress, and by placing unrelated conditions on federal grants in violation of the Tenth Amendment.

“Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves,” Orrick wrote in a 28-page ruling.

So far, all well and good. (There are further details at the link.)

The DoJ,on the other hand, doesn't seem to believe in American system of government:

However, a Department of Justice spokesman said the court had “exceeded its authority” in its ruling, and vowed that the department would continue to follow Trump’s direction with regard to the January executive order.

Let's see -- where in the Constitution does it say that the executive branch gets to decide the limits on the power of the courts?

I see a flurry of contempt citations coming.

Via Joe.My.God.