"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

Thursday, January 31, 2019


to just about averything. It's still too cold to go out, so stay inside and play:


Thanks to commenter JT at Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Something du Jour

I really don't know how to describe this, but it's worth repeating:


Thanks to commenter Boreal at Joe.My.God.

Culture Break: Aziz Herawi

So this album came up on the playlist this morning. I don't know the name of this particular tune, which is just listed as "Do Taar Intrumental" at YouTube. Here's a brief biography of Herawi, if you want more information.

Strangely enough, I don't seem to have reviewed it.

Tweet du Jour

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

Monday, January 28, 2019

Late Notice

I just realized that yesterday was International Holocaust Memorial Day, and the 74th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Here's a good post on it:

Given the moment in history we find ourselves, it is up to each of us to make sure that never again, whether it is spoken in regard to Jews or Muslims or other religious minorities or religious adherents that are in the minority in specific countries, or for members of ethnic minorities or members of ethnic groups that are in the minority of specific countries, or for those who are at risk because they’re LGBTQ or refugees or asylum seekers and/or asylees, actually means never again.

Considering the state we as a country find ourselves in right now, it's a good idea to think about the consequences.

Here's the most heart-breaking image:

I don't know -- maybe being taken away from his parents put in a cage would have been better. But then, neither is acceptable.

Today's Must Read: The "Pundits" Speak

There's a bit of a flap over comments Tom Brokaw made on, I assume, Chuck Todd's show that are -- well, "stupid" comes to mind. Here's the one that stuck out to me:

I also happen to believe that the Hispanics should work harder at assimilation. That's one of the things I've been saying for a long time. You know, they ought not to be just codified in their communities but make sure that all their kids are learning to speak English, and that they feel comfortable in the communities.

Point One: Every immigrant group in the history of this country has tended to settle in their own communities, at least for a generation to two. You're in this new place where everything is not what you're used to, so of course you try to live near people who have the same background.

Point Two: Their kids do learn to speak English, eventually. Sometimes right away. Family history has it that my father, whose parents immigrated before World War I and settled in a Lithuanian community in Southern Illinois, didn't learn to speak English until he started school. And he spoke flawless American Standard English.

As well, I happen to live in a neighborhood with a lot of immigrants from all sorts of places -- East Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Indian, Pakistan, Russia, you name it. Not only do we all manage to get along with each other, but the kids are usually bilingual, even if the parents are not -- although I do notice that the parents all seem to have some command of English -- it's the only language we all have in common.

So now I'm wondering -- when did Brokaw lose his mind?

There's more, most of it worse. Read the whole thing -- it's short, and Digby has a couple of on the nose comments.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What's New at Green Man Review

Our usual eclectic mix of all sorts of stuff:

music from Fairport Convention and Johnny Clegg, a couple of scholarly endeavors, Volsungasaga, Coconut Porter? and other unusual things

Head on over to see what that's all about.

The Mark of a True Chicagoan

I was on my way home yesterday afternoon, riding the express bus up Lake Shore Drive. The temperature was eleven degrees. And sure enough, there were people out having their afternoon run in the park, and walking their dogs. OK -- if you're running, your generating heat and you don't feel the cold. And the dog has to be walked.

And then there were the people out for a stroll. Just walking along, observing the geese trying to find open water (the harbors and ponds are frozen over, and there's floe ice along the shore).

Well, it's Chicago.

(Actually, I'm dealing with the cold much better than I expected. My body must have had time to acclimate.)

Today's Must-Read: Pelosi Weighs In

Cheryl Rofer at Balloon Juice has a detailed analysis of Speaker Pelosi's statement on the arrest of Roger Stone by the FBI. Here's the statement:

The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people. It is staggering that the President has chosen to surround himself with people who violated the integrity of our democracy and lied to the FBI and Congress about it.

In the face of 37 indictments, the President’s continued actions to undermine the Special Counsel investigation raise the questions: what does Putin have on the President, politically, personally or financially? Why has the Trump Administration continued to discuss pulling the U.S. out of NATO, which would be a massive victory for Putin?

Lying to Congress and witness tampering constitute grave crimes. All who commit these illegal acts should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. We cannot allow any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from appearing before Congress.

The Special Counsel investigation is working, and the House will continue to exercise our constitutional oversight responsibility and ensure that the Special Counsel investigation can continue free from interference from the White House.

Rofer points out that Pelosi is a strategic thinker, and that this is part of a strategy. I don't doubt it a bit -- look at the way she handled the shut down.

It's difficult to excerpt, and I'm still digesting it. Read it.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Today in Disgusting People: If Ya Got It, Flaunt It

This pretty much speaks for itself:

Billionaire Ken Griffin, who is becoming almost as known for his prodigious purchases as he is for his investment acumen, has closed on a New York penthouse for roughly $238 million. The deal sets a record for the highest-priced home ever sold in the U.S. The purchase is the latest in a string of record-breaking acquisitions by the Citadel hedge fund founder. Earlier this year, Mr. Griffin bought several floors of a Chicago condominium for $58.75 million, setting a record for the most expensive home ever bought in that city.

He snapped up a penthouse in Miami Beach’s Faena House in 2015 for $60 million, setting the record for a Miami condo. Since 2012, Mr. Griffin has spent close to $250 million assembling land to build a mansion in Palm Beach, Fla., according to public records. And earlier this month, he acquired a London home for about $122 million in one of the priciest deals ever done in that city, according to people familiar with that deal.

There are approximately 400,000 homeless people in this country, including about 40,000 veterans.

Need I say more?

Footnote: For a number of years I worked closely with a woman who was, to put it bluntly, rich. I also knew a number of Chicago's wealthiest people, all of whom were actively involved in various charitable organizations. For the most part, they held one view in common: The world had been good to them, so it was only right that they give something back.

Too many of the rich don't seen to believe that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Culture Break: Monkeys Get It, Republicans Don't

A little trip to another area of culture. Interesting little experiment on unequal pay for equal work, and how monkeys react.

It's an excerpt from a TED talk by Frans de Waal on "Moral Behavior in Animals." And let's face it, without morality, we wouldn't have much of a culture. (And I'm not talking about the "Christian morality" that is so completely focused on other people's sex lives. I'm talking about the real morality that informs our daily social interactions and relationships.)

You can catch de Waal's full talk here. It's encouraging to see how well his conclusions fit in with my own ideas about the origins of morality, particularly in social animals: we take care of each other.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Antidote: They're Not All Like That

I'm sure you've run across this story, with accompanying videos:

The video shows a group of dozens of mostly young men wearing President Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats and other apparel supporting the president. Several young men can be heard shouting and seen jumping around a Native American elder who is chanting and beating a drum. At one point, a young man is seen standing directly in front of the elder as he chants.

The kids have been identified as being from Covington (KY) Catholic High School, an all male school. True to form, they're claiming to be the victims. Given this, I doubt it:

I have to say, reading the various accounts of this story, one thing came to mind: Brett Kavanaugh. It's a culture that you find most often in all-male high schools and colleges, and occasionally in public, co-ed schools.

(Above via Joe.My.God.)

However, I promised you an antidote, and here it is:

This is one of three videos at the link showing people being decent. Just to show that the Trump poison hasn't spread to everyone.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Review: Mary Oiver: A Poetry Handbook

Mary Oliver, who won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her collection American Primitive, has died at 83. Somehow, I've managed to not read her poetry, although I did read this one, once upon a time. Another from the late, great Epinions.

Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook is one of those books on writing that I think will become a workbook for anyone interested in poetry.

Oliver is quite clear in her introduction that, like most people, she firmly believes that making poetry is not something that can be taught in school; like painting, music, and other forms of art, one can learn the craft, but the vision can’t be taught. This book is about the craft of poetry, pure and simple: types of verse, rhyme schemes, the line, meter. She also makes a point, very early in the book, about the value of reading poetry for those who would write it, and about imitating the masters (fine as a learning tool – don’t let it become a trap). Oliver builds the discussion as an organic whole, beginning with sound, which, after all, is one of the things that makes poetry poetry: the music of the spoken word. From there, it is a logical and natural progression to rhyming, the structure of the line, various forms (with a very intelligent and sensitive discussion of free verse, which is much more difficult than most people think), and a lot of common sense on diction and imagery.

The various sections are beautifully illustrated by examples by a wide range of poets, from Bashō, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, William Butler Yeats, and more, both household words and treasures known to few outside those who make poetry part of their regular diet. The illustrations are, for the most part, subject to incisive and intelligent analysis in the text that relates them firmly to the topic at hand – aside from being a joy to read in and of themselves.

Oliver also takes on those two bêtes noires of any writer, discipline and revision, with, again, remarks based firmly on common sense. (Make appointments with your Muse – and keep them.). She has words to say as well about the relative merits of writing groups, workshops, and solitude. (As one who values his solitude but thinks that enough is enough and is looking for a local writing group to join, I am taking her words to heart – they make a lot of sense: you need to be alone to write, but without input, you have nothing to write about that’s going to be worth reading.)

This is also a book that will be inestimably valuable to readers of poetry, simply because knowing what tools the poet has available, which ones he chose to use, and how she used them, can’t help but increase your understanding and enjoyment. In fact, Oliver stresses that, until the early years of this century, poetry was strongly metrical and rhymed; we are now unused to that, since free verse and blank verse have become the norm, and rhyme is for greeting cards. Consequently, many contemporary readers find the great poets of the English language difficult or incomprehensible, simply because of unfamiliarity, which is sad and unnecessary. (To be perfectly honest, rhymed verse makes me crazy, unless it’s Sir Thomas Wyatt or John Donne. OK – I suppose I can handle Yeats, too.)

Although I can’t claim to have perused every handbook on the craft of poetry, of those that I’ve looked at, Oliver’s stands out as a gem: clear, concise, intelligent, and sensible. What more can you ask? A definite must for any writer’s – or reader’s – library.

(A note: This one appears to undergo revision and expansion periodically – I’ve found copies in my local used bookstores, and, while there seem to be more examples in my edition, the meat of the text seems to be substantially intact. Happy browsing.)

(Mariner Books, 1994)

What's New at Green Man Review

We look at Ellen Kushner's Riverside novels (and there are recipes!), plus out usual eclectic mix of music, film, and whatever.

Riverside, Spain, and other interesting things

Spain? Well, scoot on over and see what that's about.

The News

I haven't been commenting on the news much the last few days, mostly because I'm fed up with Trump and his wall. Pelosi is tougher than he is, and with her prodding him, Schumer may even show some spine. And we all know that Trump is not going to negotiate in good faith, especially with President Coulter calling the shots.

I can't believe we're going through this over a campaign slogan.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Today In Real Christianity

The news is so full of grifters and con men masquerading as "Christians" that it's easy to forget that there are people out there who actually follow the teachings of Christ.

Every Christmas, the congregation of the Royse City First United Methodist Church donates its Christmas Eve offerings to charity. Last year, half of the donations went to a nonprofit and the other half to an elementary school down the street, to help cover the cost of school lunches for families thrat had fallen behind in payments.

That was Christmas 2017.

The following year, Pastor Chris Everson went to the church board to ask about taking the tradition a step further.

"The question came up: What would it look like if we did this for the entire ISD?" Everson said.

Last fall, he asked the congregation to think about what they would spend on Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and then set aside that amount to help other families in the community.

By Christmas, the 200-member congregation donated more than $10,000.

They didn't make a big fuss about it either -- they just very quietly handed over a check to cover school lunch debts.

Of course, these are Methodists and not evangelical Baptists. There's obviously a difference.

Via The Friendly Atheist.

Saturday Science: Life Is Inevitable

One of the big questions in evolution (well, more like, that sets the stage for evolution) is the origin of life. Scientists have been pretty much stumped on this one, although there have been some interesting experiments in the past that have given us some possible answers, but now someone seems to have developed a theoretical framework for the beginnings:

Darwin also didn’t have anything to say about how life got started in the first place — which still leaves a mighty big role for God to play, for those who are so inclined. But that could be about to change, and things could get a whole lot worse for creationists because of Jeremy England, a young MIT professor who’s proposed a theory, based in thermodynamics, showing that the emergence of life was not accidental, but necessary. “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,” he was quoted as saying in an article in Quanta magazine early in 2014, that’s since been republished by Scientific American and, more recently, by Business Insider. In essence, he’s saying, life itself evolved out of simpler non-living systems.

The article points out that creationists are fond of citing the Second Law of Thermodynamics as a refutation of non-divine theories of the origin of life, but they misrepresent the Second Law:

Creationists thus misinterpret the 2nd law to say that things invariably progress from order to disorder.

However, they neglect the fact that life is not a closed system. The sun provides more than enough energy to drive things. If a mature tomato plant can have more usable energy than the seed it grew from, why should anyone expect that the next generation of tomatoes can’t have more usable energy still?

That's the key point, and one that creationists try very hard to ignore: the Earth is not a closed system -- it gets energy from an outside source -- the sun -- and there are, and have been, injections of matter from outside --meteors and a more or less constant rain of interstellar dust.

It's an interesting article, and worth reading.

By the way, if you're interested in what the first living organisms were like, here's an interesting article.

Remains of microorganisms at least 3,770 million years old have been discovered by an international team led by UCL scientists, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth.

Tiny filaments and tubes formed by bacteria that lived on iron were found encased in quartz layers in the Nuvvuagittuq Supracrustal Belt (NSB), Quebec, Canada.

The NSB contains some of the oldest sedimentary rocks known on Earth which likely formed part of an iron-rich deep-sea hydrothermal vent system that provided a habitat for Earth's first life forms between 3,770 and 4,300 million years ago. "Our discovery supports the idea that life emerged from hot, seafloor vents shortly after planet Earth formed. This speedy appearance of life on Earth fits with other evidence of recently discovered 3,700 million year old sedimentary mounds that were shaped by microorganisms," explained first author, PhD student Matthew Dodd (UCL Earth Sciences and the London Centre for Nanotechnology).

Haematite tubes from the NSB hydrothermal vent deposits that represent the oldest microfossils and evidence for life on Earth. Credit: Matthew Dodd

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Culture Break: Johannes Brahms: Piano Concerto in D minor, Rondo

The Brahms D minor Piano Concerto is what got me started on classical music. I was about eight or nine and my father brought home a 78 rpm recording that was being discarded by the music department at the local junior high (which is what we called a "middle school" in those days). I went nuts.

From the description at YouTube:

Leon Fleisher plays the Brahms' Piano Concerto n.1
3rd movement: Rondo. Allegro non troppo
Lawrence Foster conducts the OSN Rai
Ettore Bongiovanni, horn - Andrea Corsi, bassoon - Carlo Romano, oboe
Turin, 1998

I've reviewed this one as part of a collection of Brahms piano works with Emanual Ax as soloist; I've also reviewed several albums by Leon Fleisher, here, here and here. (There may be more that haven't surfaced at the new GMR yet -- I did review a six-volume commemorative set it bits and snatches.)

At any rate, if this doesn't get your blood pumping, you'd better see your doctor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Commercial du Jour

Maybe of the year. I don't watch regular TV, so I seldom have any take on ads unless they start generating news on their own. This one is:

In the context of the accusations of harassment and sexual abuse over the past few years, I guess better late than never. I will point out, though, that it took a national movement to penetrate the boardroom, which, in the case of abuse of women I find instructive: corporations have been very quick to respond to the gay community. Maybe this is why we can't have a woman president.*

The incels and right-wing nutjobs at YouTube are losing it over this one. I wonder why.

Via Joe.My.God.

* Stray thought: So many other countries have had female heads of state or heads of government -- the UK, Germany, Iceland, India, Sri Lanka, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Liberia, just off the top of my head (and I'm sure I'm missing some) -- and yet America elected a black man as president and still hasn't elected a woman. We haven't even elected a ticket that included a woman as VP. That says something.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Guess What's In the News Today?

And yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. . . .

I couldn't resist:

Here's an interesting take on the rationale behind the wall impasse:

(And if you thought it was the "breaking news" about Trump being a Russian asset -- we knew that.)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

What's New at Green Man Review

It's Sunday again, and a cold snowy one here, but there's new reviews at Green Man Review:

Americana flavoured Jazz, The Three Musketeers, a ‘dorable Thirteenth Doctor, Black-eyed peas and ham hocks, The World’s Most Famous Dinosaur, live music from Altan and other Winter treats

;You know the drill. Enjoy.

Review: Tanya Huff: A Confederation of Valor

Tanya Huff, who is one of the better (and wittier) writers of dark fantasy, also demonstrates that she is equally at home in military sf in A Confederation of Valor an omnibus edition of her first two Confederation novels, Valor’s Choice and The Better Part of Valor.

Both stories center on Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr, a Marine in the Confederation forces. In the first book, Torin is tapped to put together a platoon as escort and honor guard for a diplomatic mission to the Silsviss, an aggressive species who will be a valuable addition to the Confederation in its ongoing war against the Others. The Confederation, composed originally of species that had “evolved beyond” war, has accepted Humans, Taykan, and Krai as members because of their desperate need for species that hadn’t evolved quite as far as they had. The wrinkle here is that the commander of the Marines is a brand-new second lieutenant, a diTayken who just happens to be the other participant in Torin’s all-night encounter on the last night of her liberty. Torin wonders why a combat platoon is needed as an honor guard, but, as things turn out, as the mission is on its way to the final round of meetings, its airship is shot down over a reserve that is home to what can best be describe as several bands of hormonally hopped-up teenagers whose repertoire of social skills is pretty much limited to dares, challenges, and gang wars.

Needless to say, Kerr survives this and finds herself next tapped to lead a group of Marines to guard a scientific expedition to investigate a ship from an unknown alien species. To add to the pain, the troop is commanded by a Krai captain who is being fast-tracked for promotion for political reasons and whose ability at self-promotion is his major strength. As it turns out, the ship has also been discovered by the Others. And just to make things interesting, the ship seems to have its own agenda.

OK – these are good reads, witty, engaging, fast-paced adventures in which, just as everything gets under control, someone – or some thing – throws a monkey wrench into the works. Huff is playing to her strengths here: deft characterizations, sharp, prickly dialogue, clear story lines. Yes, there are clichés and stereotypes, but another of Huff’s strengths is that she can use things like that and make them fresh. Her use of the various species plays into this: the diTaykan are what Huff terms “enthusiastically indiscriminate” and the Krai can and will eat almost anything. The appetites of the diTaykan and the Krai provide ample opportunity for some snappy comments and faintly scandalous humor. And let’s not forget Huff’s rendering of commissioned officers, one of the favorite targets of any enlisted person (figuratively, of course). General Morris, who is the one who gets Torin into these situations, is the prototype of the politician in uniform, as much as Torin is the prototypical sergeant. Captain Carvag, the Krai captain of the Berganitan, the ship that winds up transporting Torin and her troop to both assignments, is the other side of command: the hard-bitten, no-nonsense ship’s captain who knows her people and how to handle them, including when to leave them alone and let them do their jobs.

There is another layer under this, if you care to look for it: Huff has set up a situation that has built into it some commentary on tolerance, acceptance, and knowing when it’s not your business. It’s not blatant, but it’s there.

(Penguin/Random House, 2015)

Today's Must-Read: "This Challenges Benedict Arnold"

I'm sure you've seen the reports on the story in NYT about the FBI opening a counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump after he fired James Comey. This is major:

On Saturday, former Naval intelligence offer Malcolm Nance explained the potential gravity of the situation to MSNBC’s Richard Lui.

“This is the single greatest scandal in the history of the United States,” he said. “I personally think that this challenges Benedict Arnold’s treason in the American revolution. If this is true, if Donald Trump was working for either money, influence, his own personal ego or being co-opted by Vladimir Putin, the ex-former director of Russian intelligence, and he went in there and he was doing this and that his favor is toward Russia and not the United States, well, it should take years.”

“This is a serious — as serious as it gets,” Nance said.

And it would be entirely in character for Trump, given that he has the moral foundation of a scavenger and no loyalty to anyone or anything but himself. Nance goes on to make an important point about how deep the rot has gone:

What will make the situation bad, Nance said, is that “one-third of this nation will not believe a word we say” about Trump’s possible treason, “because Donald Trump said so and because Russian information operations have corrupted them so that the FBI is considered the enemy.”

This is, in my estimation, the result of years of "dumbing down" in America. Television and radio are pervasive, and the programming, at least for the mainstream sources, is geared to reach the broadest possible audience, which is not necessarily the best-educated or most thoughtful audience. (It's worth noting that PBS was envisioned as a means to bring "quality" programming to a broad audience; the Republicans have been trying to kill it for years.) And the special interest groups can target their audiences, even to the point of having their own networks -- take CBN as an example, the "Christian Broadcasting Network", which bills itself as a "ministry" and brings us such serious thinkers as Pat Robertson, whose specialty is preaching to the choir. Add in the Internet, which is completely censorship free, except for a few sites that do keep an eye on their content: it's the world's best source for disinformation and outright lies. (Yes, I support letting the Internet remain uncensored, but given the fact that most Americans, and probably most people in general, lack critical thinking skills and the impulse to verify information -- well, we're seeing the downside. Another gift from the Republicans, who once again are trying to torpedo public education and secular school curricula.)

But back to Trump and the Russians. The Russians just took advantage of the intellectual laxity in American public discourse and installed their own tool in the White House as part of what is obviously a larger program of destabilizing the West. Don't tell me the newly energized far-right parties in Germany, France, Austria don't have Russian backing. It starts to look more and more that Putin is trying to set up a set of tame dictatorships in Europe, a la Hungary, and maybe even the Middle East -- he's very cozy with Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, especially now that Trump has pulled us out of Syria. (Although I have to confess, I can't understand why anyone wants to get involved in the Middle East. Oil? Russia has huge reserves of oil and natural gas. Maybe at this point it's just habit.)

At any rate, read the article -- it's not that long -- and more important, watch the video (which I can't embed because the "share" link is wonky).

Thanks to commenter HZ81 at Joe.My.God.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Saturday Science: It Moves!

And it seems the earth's north magnetic pole is moving faster than anyone can account for:

(Note that the image is looking straight down at the Arctic.)

Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

(Note: That update has been delayed because of the government shut down.)

We tend to forget that the planet we live on is a dynamic entity -- aside from the magnetic poles shifting, the continents are moving, islands are being formed in the oceans from volcanic activity, mountains are rising (and falling), and weather patterns are shifting.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio. . . ."

Via Joe.My.God.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Today in Disgusting People: How Did I Miss Steve King?

The white supremacist congressman from Iowa's 95% white 9th congressional district waxes eloquent. From Tom Sulivan at Hullabaloo :

Except for bald-faced lying, it is not as if some of our politicians work all that hard at hiding the truth. It is just still a surprise when they speak it aloud, as Rep. Steve King, Republican of Iowa did ... again:

A New York Times piece on King is generating more controversy for the already embattled Republican. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive,” King wonders in the piece. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?

Note that he's conflating "Western civilization" with "white nationalist" and "white supremacist". I see it as another tactic to legitimize his racism -- after all, "Western civilization" is the basis of all that's good, right? If you ignore the destruction of the environment, the genocide, the obliteration of native cultures, and the like.

But he goes on:

King has drawn fire for the comments, but really, it is nothing new. In July 2016, King bragged of his white pride to MSNBC's Chris Hayes, saying, “Where did any other sub-group of people contribute more to civilization?”

Um, let me see: those anonymous people from, probably, Anatolia who started farming -- along with the Chinese and Indians in the Indus Valley. The Chinese in general. The Sumerians and Babylonians, the Egyptians, whom we claim as cultural ancestors. The Arabs, who gave us our number system and algebra (the latter being a mixed blessing, in my opinion).

Sullivan wonders:

Since the partial shutdown of the government for the last three weeks is over immigrants from largely Christian, Spanish-speaking lands to the south, one wonders just what defines western civilization in King's mind.

That's easy: white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, heterosexual.

Which is coming to mean anti-American.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Today in Disgusting People: A Twofer (Update)

First, we have Junior, who has a knack for putting his foot right in it, hard:

Donald Trump Jr. likened his father's proposed border wall with Mexico to a zoo fence Tuesday evening, sparking a sharp backlash on social media from users who thought he was comparing immigrants to zoo animals.

“You know why you can enjoy a day at the zoo?” the son of President Donald Trump wrote in an Instagram post that has since been deleted. “Because walls work.”

I'm a habitual zoo goer, and I've seen some interesting transformations in animal habitats, including one case in which an exhibit in the bird house that had been open now has screening. Talking to other visitors, we really couldn't decide whether it was the keep the birds in or to keep people out.

Oh, and as for the idea that walls work -- ask the Chinese about that.

Via Joe.My.God.

Second in our spotlight today is Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, the "conservative" legal firm that has never won a case. He takes exception to a bill that just passed the Senate outlawing, after all this time, lynching:

The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate but Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver says it passed without some senators realizing an amendment was added providing special rights for homosexuals and transgenders. He calls that amendment the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent.

“The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can’t stop them from coming the rest of the way in,” he explains. “And this would be the first time that you would have in federal law mentioning gender identity and sexual orientation as part of this anti-lynching bill.”

Got that? Not being lynched is a "special right".

Oh, and of course he's lying -- the section was not an amendment, it was in the body of the bill:


“(A) IN GENERAL.—If 2 or more persons, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully cause bodily injury to any other person because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person—

“(i) each shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if bodily injury results from the offense; or

“(ii) each shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if death results from the offense or if the offense includes kidnapping or aggravated sexual abuse.

But then, we know Staver is a liar.

Update: Looks like the social media storm got to him. From Joe.My.God.:

Some media have falsely reported that Liberty Counsel is opposed to banning lynching, or, opposes banning lynching of LGBT people. Such reporting is false, reckless, and offensive. In fact, Mat Staver said, “No one can or should oppose a bill that bans lynching.” Staver continued, “We oppose lynching across the board for any person. Period!”

“The bill in question created a list of protected categories, thus limiting the application of the law. Lynching should be prohibited no matter the person’s reason for committing this violent crime,” concluded Staver.

A little hysterical, don't you think? Must have hit a nerve.

Joe points out the big lie behind this disclaimer:

From the Liberty Counsel’s 2009 press release:

Today, Liberty Counsel delivered more than 100,000 petitions from people across America, opposing the so-called Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. The petitions were delivered on the day that President Barack Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, was scheduled to testify in favor of the Hate Crimes bill. If passed, this expansive bill would give “actual or perceived” “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” the same federal protection as race.

It looks like Staver only opposes some protected categories.

And, a bonus track:

In efforts to appease fits of manufactured conservative rage over the moderation of hateful content on social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter have relied on the advice of anti-LGBTQ extremists and far-right grifters “to help them figure out who should be banned and what’s considered unacceptable.”

Facebook is consulting the likes of the Family Research Council (which, you'll remember, has no programs for families and sponsors no research); its president, Tony Perkins; and the Heritage Foundation, not known for its inclusive approach. Twitter has gone to the likes of Grover Norquist and Ali Akbar. The latter was consulted about whether Alex Jones was too extreme. (If you don't know the name, google "Infowars".)

Well, I guess you go to the experts on something like hate speech.

Read the whole article; it's an eye-opener. And if you ever considered joining Facebook or Twitter, think again.

Also via Joe.My.God.

Footnote: I think this applies to our "independent press" as a whole. From the Media Matters article:

These examples show tech platforms’ tendency of caving to conservative whims in order to appease manufactured rage over baseless claims of censorship and bias. Evidence shows that right-wing pages drastically outnumber left-wing pages on Facebook, and under Facebook’s algorithm changes, conservative meme pages outperform all other political news pages. Across platforms, right-wing sources dominate topics like immigration coverage, showing the cries of censorship are nothing more than a tactic. And judging by tech companies’ willingness to cater to these tantrums, the tactic appears to be working.

For "tech companies" just substitute "mainstream press".

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


Trump gave a nationally broadcast speech last night. Same old lies. The Democrats gave a nationally broadcast response, with facts. I didn't listen to either one.

On the other hand, there's this:

Colorado entered a new era of Democratic political dominance Tuesday as Jared Polis was sworn in as the state’s 43rd governor, promising to make the state’s booming economy fairer and health care more affordable.

“Our mission now is to make Colorado a place for all families to have a chance to thrive today, tomorrow and for generations to come,” Polis said after taking the oath of office. “I believe there is nothing that Colorado needs to do that Coloradans can’t get done. There is nothing wrong with Colorado that what is right with Colorado can’t fix.”

Polis’ longtime partner, Marlon Reis, and their two children stood with him for the ceremony on the west steps of the state Capitol. He took the oath at precisely noon, his left hand on a siddur, a Jewish prayer book.

In his first speech as governor, Polis celebrated the diversity of the state and recognized the historic moment: Polis is the first openly gay governor elected to lead a state. He also is Colorado’s first Jewish governor.

The lesson here is that when a Democrat runs on clearly articulated policies that benefit everyone, Democrats win elections. (At least, when Republicans don't have a chance to rig the election.)

Via TaMara at Balloon Juice, who notes: "Invocations were done by the Spiritual Leader of Ute Mountain Tribe, the Head Priest of a Sikh Temple, and a Baptist minister."

Culture Break: Ludwig van Beethoven: Heiliger Dankgesang

The formal title is Quartet in A minor Op. 132; it's the third movement, noted as "adagio-andante". The story as I remember hearing it is that Beethoven had been seriously ill; he deemed his recovery miraculous, and composed this as a hymn of thanksgiving.

I first heard this one at a concert by the Fine Arts Quartet. My boyfriend the Beethoven nut and I had season tickets -- the Quartet was doing the complete Beethoven Quartets. We had seats near the back of the auditorium (the old Goodman Theater, with perfect acoustics). He looked over at me during this movement and I was sitting there, totally focused on the stage, with tears streaming down my face.

Music does that to me sometimes.

These People Really Are Sick

Note this in conjunction with my second "Must-Read" post from yesterday. It's essentially the same cognitive deficit:

A few miles away, another prison employee, Crystal Minton, accompanied her fiancé to a friend’s house to help clear the remnants of a metal roof mangled by the hurricane. Ms. Minton, a 38-year-old secretary, said she had obtained permission from the warden to put off her Mississippi duty until early February because she is a single mother caring for disabled parents. Her fiancé plans to take vacation days to look after Ms. Minton’s 7-year-old twins once she has to go to work.

The shutdown on top of the hurricane has caused Ms. Minton to rethink a lot of things.

“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.
(Emphasis added.)

Just think about that last statement. What kind of mindset is that, and what does it tell you about Trump voters? Nothing good.

And you know they're going to vote for him again.

Via Digby.

Footnote: This fits the profile.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Another Must-Read: Brain Damage and Religious Fundamentalism

It appears that there is a link:

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

I don't really have to say anything, do I? Read the whole thing.

Today's Must-Read: What Taxes Pay For

In civilized countries, at least, and once upon a time, here in America as well. You're not going to hear about this from Republicans:

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (AOC, for short), Democrat of New York, is the occasion for the discussion, you may have heard. In an interview with Anderson Cooper of 60 Minutes, AOC proposes a "Green New Deal" for moving the U.S. economy to renewable energy in 12 years, funded with a top marginal tax rate of "60 or 70 percent."

Thus, in her first week in office, AOC set conservatives' hair ablaze by saying the U.S. tax structure should resemble something more like the radical days of Dwight Eisenhower. The retired World War II general initiated construction of the now-crumbling interstate highway system in 1956. That national investment paid for in part by a more progressive tax policy has produced untold economic benefits for the country ever since, and explosive growth that would have been impossible without the 41,000 miles of tax-funded roads.

Note the reference to the "now-crumbling" interstate highways system. That's what you get after decades of Republicans holding the purse strings.

Compare to someplace like Sweden:

Also note that Canada's national health service, which pays about 70% of Canadians' health-care costs, is fully funded by the provincial and territorial governments -- and Canadians pay less income tax, on the average, than Americans.
Food for thought, in the light of the GOP's recent "tax reform" bill.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Review: Kerry Conran: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Formerly of the site known as Epinions.

Someone is abducting scientists. We learn this when the Hindenburg III docks in New York, and one of the passengers, Dr. Vargas (Julian Curry) urgently requests that a package be delivered for him. And then giant robots attack the city. Ace reporter Penny Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) is on it -- to the extent that she almost gets squashed. (When I say "giant robots," I mean "giant robots.") She calls Sky Captain (Jude Law), who happens to be an old flame and the leader of a squad of mercenary pilots. Together, with the invaluable help of Sky Captain's trusty sidekick, Dex (Giovanni Ribisi), they set out to discover what's what. "What," as it turns out, is nothing less than a plot to destroy the world, masterminded by one Dr. Totenkopf (in a posthumous cameo by Sir Lawrence Olivier). Along the way, they encounter more giant robots, a mysterious female assassin (Bai Ling), and Shangri La -- with a little help from another of Sky Captain's old flames, Franky (Angelina Jolie) and her squad of state-of-the-art fighter planes.

Full disclosure: I love this movie. I was totally captivated from the opening scenes. I think you have to have grown up on the pulps and the old "science fiction" serials from the Thirties -- Flash Gordon comes to mind -- and maybe even some of the Fifties potboilers like War of the Worlds. And it is pure pulp fiction, from the story to the characters.

First off, Paltrow as Perkins is superb -- it's the kind of role she seems to move into naturally: a little cheeky, a little stubborn, even sometimes a little vulnerable. It's pure Thirties, and she got it down cold. Jolie is also perfect as Franky, with just the right combination of humor and command. Law's characterization of Sky Captain fits the milieu: he's the Thirties hero, witty and distanced, who always knows more than he's telling. He's kind of low-key, but it does fit the character. I could wish that Law had more presence, though -- there's an intangible something that's not coming through.

The big plus for me is the visuals. This is a beautiful film, with the luminosity you find in the very best black-and-white movies of the Thirties, which is unheard of in color films. The color itself is beautiful: it's understated, not particularly naturalistic (as we've come to interpret that through Kodak's supersaturated hues), with a sort of sepia-pink undertone, and perfectly apt. It's like the whole move has been hand-colored, and it's gorgeous. And the effects are straight out of those Fifties potboilers, but smoother. (It turns out that the entire film, except for the live actors, was created on computer.)

A few random notes:

One glaring error in the script: Perkins refers to "World War I." This film takes place in about 1938 -- World War II hasn't happened.

I hadn't realized Jude Law was so pretty. With that one lock of hair falling over his eye, he's the perfect Thirties leading man.

I didn't realize it was Angelina Jolie as Franky until I looked at the credits.

Rated PG; running time: 106 min.

(Paramount Pictures, Brooklyn Films II, Riff Raff Film Productions, Blue Flower Productions, Filmauro, Natural Nylon Entertainment; 2004)

What's New at Green Man Review

It wound up being a special issue this week: "Much Ado About Doctor Who".

So if you're a fan of the Doctor, click through and enjoy.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Slouching Toward Dictatorship

Declaring a "national emergency" is a tried and true method of consolidating power:

President Donald Trump said Frday he is considering declaring a national emergency to help pay for his long-desired border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The president, when asked by ABC News' senior national correspondent Terry Moran during a press conference, acknowledged that he would consider declaring a national emergency to help get funds to build the wall "for the security of our country."

Trump did not elaborate on the details of such a process.

That's because he doesn't know the details.

Fortunately, the Democrats are finally showing some evidence of having developed a spine:

"If President Trump tries to use such thin legal authority to build his wall, Democrats will challenge him in court," said Evan Hollander, a spokesman for House Appropriations chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. "The president's authority in this area is intended for wars and genuine national emergencies. Asserting this authority to build a wasteful wall is legally dubious and would likely invite a court challenge."

Does anyone think that the "national emergency" will end with a wall (which, by the way, in this scenario would cover less than 5% of the border)? I'm waiting for someone to burn down the Reichstag -- um, I mean "Capitol".

If you think I'm overstating the case, get this:

In a recent Arizona Republican Party newsletter, Chairman Jonathan Lines issued marching orders for elected Republican officials in clear, concise, mildly threatening terms:

Lines declared that office holders must "stand with” President Donald Trump. And that it is "non-negotiable."

This is the part that gets hysterical. Unplug your irony meter:

“One of the things I’ve always loved about our party is that we are a big tent. We have room for everyone. That’s why, as your Chairman, I’ve done my best to welcome as many different viewpoints and coalitions as possible into our party… However, while we are accepting of different viewpoints, it is essential that we stay true to our conservative values. And it is non-negotiable that we stand with our President.”

It appears that dissent is not a conservative value.

Both via Joe.My.God.

Addendum: This is truly the right-wing vision for America:

We Are Beset By Idiots

Apparently, everyone in the Trump regime thinks the way he does -- which is to say, not much, if at all. It seems that no one thought about the consequences of an extended government shutdown:

Food stamps for 38 million low-income Americans would face severe reductions and more than $140 billion in tax refunds are at risk of being frozen or delayed if the government shutdown stretches into February, widespread disruptions that threaten to hurt the economy.

The Trump administration, which had not anticipated a long-term shutdown, recognized only this week the breadth of the potential impact, several senior administration officials said. The officials said they were focused now on understanding the scope of the consequences and determining whether there is anything they can do to intervene.

They really had no clue.

And please note that the single largest group, 39% of those who receive government assistance -- i.e., "welfare", including food stamps -- are rural whites: Trump's base, if we are the believe the pundits. (Granted, a chancy proposition.)

And it's going to affect the economy:

Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RMS U.S., an accounting and consulting firm, said a prolonged shutdown would shave an entire percentage point off the U.S.’s economic growth, in part because of an “uncertainty tax” that would freeze spending by households and businesses.

“If one doesn’t know what’s going to happen with respect to their own income . . . there will be a pull back on the purchase of big-ticket items,” he said. “Large firms will pull back on outlays on software, equipment and capital.”

I've been a manager, and most of the people in responsible positions in government are managers. It becomes almost a reflex: if you propose a course of action, you think about the consequences. Those in charge of what we laughingly refer to as "this administration" obviously never think about consequences, just like their boss. The problem is only compounded when Glorious Leader gets a hair up his butt and catches everyone by surprise so that they can't even advise him -- which he doesn't listen to anyway.

Via the New Civil Rights Movement.

Friday, January 04, 2019

More Space News

No, I don't mean Republican members of Congress. Not quite so far away as Ultima Thule -- in fact only a little over halfway to Pluto -- NASA's Juno orbiter has captured images of a volcanic eruption on Jupiter's moon Io:

Image credit: NASA / SwRI / MSSS

Four instruments onboard Juno — a camera called JunoCam, the Stellar Reference Unit, the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper and the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph — observed Io for over an hour, providing a glimpse of the moon’s polar regions as well as evidence of an active eruption.

JunoCam acquired the new images of Io on December 21, 2018, at 12:00, 12:15 and 12:20 p.m. GMT before Io entered Jupiter’s shadow.

The images show the moon half-illuminated with a bright spot seen just beyond the terminator, the day-night boundary.

“The ground is already in shadow, but the height of the plume allows it to reflect sunlight, much like the way mountaintops or clouds on the Earth continue to be lit after the Sun has set,” said Dr. Candice Hansen-Koharcheck, JunoCam lead from the Planetary Science Institute.

And once again, this is something that started before the current regime was installed.

Have we reached the point where our major achievements are in the past?

Thursday, January 03, 2019

It's About the Money (Updated)

Trump's latest rationale for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria:

President Donald Trump on Wednesday called Syria “sand and death” in a question-and-answer session with reporters following a cabinet meeting.

Asked about a timeline for withdrawing troops from the country, the president described how he viewed the country and the fighting there.

"We’re talking about sand and death, that’s what we’re talking about," Trump said. "We’re not talking about vast wealth. We’re talking about sand and death."

Why do I think that if there was "vast wealth" to be had, we'd be there indefinitely?

And of course, no mention of the millions of people killed and displaced by the civil war, nor the likely fate of the Kurds (our allies) if left to the tender mercies of the Turks.

How did this piece of shit wind up as president?

Via Joe.My.God.

Update: That's only the tip of the iceberg, as they say. Being alone for the holidays must have had a very strong effect on what's left of his mind. Digby has a round-up of his off-the-wall ramblings.

Image of the Week (Maybe of the Century)

Meant to post this yesterday, but didn't, so here it is today:

Scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission released the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored -- the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. Its remarkable appearance, unlike anything we've seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago. . . .

The new images -- taken from as close as 17,000 miles (27,000 kilometers) on approach -- revealed Ultima Thule as a "contact binary," consisting of two connected spheres. End to end, the world measures 19 miles (31 kilometers) in length. The team has dubbed the larger sphere "Ultima" (12 miles/19 kilometers across) and the smaller sphere "Thule" (9 miles/14 kilometers across).

The team says that the two spheres likely joined as early as 99 percent of the way back to the formation of the solar system, colliding no faster than two cars in a fender-bender.

There's more at the link.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Culture Break: Igor Stravinsky: Rite of Spring

As envisioned in Disney's Fantasia. (You had to know this was coming.)

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Antidote: It's Confirmed

NASA manages to do some good work in spite of the current regime. We've successfully completed the farthest ever fly-by of an object in space:

NASA now has proof that its New Horizons probe completed its record-setting flyby of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule. The mission team confirmed the flypast at 10:31AM Eastern Time after receiving telemetry data indicating that the spacecraft was "healthy." It technically flew past Ultima Thule at about 12:33AM , but the combination of data collection and the six-hour signal travel time left the New Horizons crew waiting until much later to receive the A-OK from their pride and joy.

Scientific data won't arrive until sometime around 200 UTC on January 2nd (9PM ET on January 1st). You'll have to wait a while for an up-close snapshot, then.

The confirmation isn't just a relief for the New Horizons team. This marks the farthest-ever flyby in human history -- at about 4 billion miles from the Sun, Ultima Thule makes Pluto seem like a next-door neighbor by comparison. It also promises a raft of potential scientific insights, including clues to the formation of dwarf planets. Some of those discoveries may take a long time, but they'll be worthwhile if they shed light on the Solar System and the cosmos at large.

So, no pictures yet, but eventually.

This is a lot more exciting that a mythical wall.

I almost feel as though I should spend the day at the planetarium. Almost.

Via Joe.My.God.

And a Look Back

at recent events. From Digby:

In one of his most recent arguments for a southern border wall, President Trump on Sunday falsely claimed that the Washington home of former president Barack Obama and Michelle Obama is surrounded by a 10-foot wall...

Trump’s assertion came as a surprise to two of the Obamas' neighbors Monday, who told The Washington Post that there is no such wall. The 8,200-square-foot structure, despite several security features, is completely visible from the street.

A neighbor, a longtime resident of the area who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve their privacy, said Trump “has a very active imagination.”

The Obamas' house from the street:

For some context, an excellent series of tweets from Greg Sargent, collected by Nicole Bell at Crooks and Liars:

One of the things I hope every journalist takes to heart as a resolution for 2019 is re-evaluating how they cover Donald Trump. Specifically, his penchant for lying about anything and everything.

Not falsehoods, not un-truths, not misleading statements. His LIES.

I've seen various members of the mainstream media rationalize their softer euphemism by saying that they can't know the intent of the statement, therefore deeming it an intentional lie would not be fair. But frankly, trying to divine his intent is irrelevant. It's no longer even clear if Donald Trump is aware of when he is lying. He lies about easily provable things. He lies about things he knows we have on video. It is a pathological thing for him, as instinctive as breathing. It doesn't even matter if the lie hurts him politically, because he'll just lie about that when pointed out.

Greg Sargent of The Plum Line wrote a great Twitter thread about how the media needs to contextualize the dishonesty of Donald Trump:

It's a longish thread, but worth reading.

Happy New Year!

At least, I hope it's going to be happy. To you and yours, the best. And just to start the year off right:

From the Hindi edition of News Now, with this greeting.

नए साल 2019 के आगाज में अब चंद घंटे ही रह गए हैं। हर ओर बीते हुए साल को अलविदा कहने और नए साल का स्वागत करने के लिए जोर शोर से तैयारियां हो रही है। अपनों को भेजें ये खूबसूरत कोट्स।

No, I have no idea what it says.

I am celebrating the beginning of the New Year by making a big pot of potato soup with lots of garlic and minced ham.