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Sunday, February 18, 2018

John Oliver: guns

John Oliver is back and one of the things he discusses in this episode is the recent school shooting and the possibility that the students of Stoneman Douglas High School may be able to change the inertia of the gun debate. I think it's insane that civilians can buy assault rifles, much less teens. Lawmakers who refuse to ban these weapons because of fear of losing NRA election donations are morally bankrupt. Maybe these students can open Americans' eyes to the creepiness of our gun-loving culture.


Saturday, February 17, 2018

Music for Saturday

I'm still listening to music year by year and now I'm in 1994 ...

- Bruce Springsteen, Streets of Philadelphia ...



- Nirvana, from MTV Unplugged in New York, David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World ...



- Sting, Fields of Gold ...


Friday, February 16, 2018

Out in the yard

Flowers are happening, like this periwinkle among chewed-on leaves ...



The cats followed me around :) ... here's Goldy (or Snowy?) ...



Mouse is laying on the acacia tree bits ...



Hansel gives me the gimlet eye ...



The side yard looks almost prehistoric with its dead trees ...






Thursday, February 15, 2018

Screwing over the disabled



House Votes to Gut the Americans With Disabilities Act to Nip 'Abusive Lawsuits' ...

In a 225-192 vote Thursday, most House Republicans and a dozen Democrats passed a bill that makes it harder for disabled persons to sue for discrimination, in an effort to prevent opportunistic attorneys from taking advantage of business owners. But many disability and civil rights groups fear the bill will weaken incentives for businesses to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), which mandates equal access to public accommodations ...

As a person who is legally blind, I find this incredibly depressing but not surprising - Trumpist Republicans are social Darwinians who believe the disabled are just a worthless drag on society.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Movies for Valentine's Day

I guess I've grown cynical about real-life true love but when I see it in the movies, I believe, at least for a little while :) ...

- Legend ... a 1985 American dark fantasy adventure film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Tom Cruise ... ...



- The Matrix ... a 1999 science fiction action film written and directed by The Wachowskis (credited as The Wachowski Brothers) and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano. ...



- The Next Three Days ... a 2010 vigilante thriller film written and directed by Paul Haggis and starring Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks. ...



- The Island ... a 2005 American science fiction-thriller film directed by Michael Bay, starring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. ...


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trump and the wife-beater

There's been much in the news about alleged wife-beater Rob Porter, and the lies the White House has been telling about his employment ... The FBI Director Just Confirmed the White House Is Lying About Rob Porter

One of the questions asked about Trump, who has tweeted defenses of Porter and others accused of sexual misconduct, is whether Trump believes the women who have made accusations. The idea is that he believes the men instead of the women, thinking the men to be innocent. But something different is going on. I think Trump *does* believe the women - it's just that it doesn't matter.

Here's the Trump mindset .... the way a man treats women should not affect his standing in the greater world. A man may lie about and insult women (like General Kelly did to Congresswoman Wilson), a man may sexually assault a large number of women (as Trump has been accused of doing), a man may punch a woman in the face (as Porter has been accused of doing), but that won't be held against him in the real world of men because all's fair in love, because women aren't really people, because as a man you have to keep in mind that one day it might be *you* who gets pushed too far by some effing birch.

Rob Porter’s History of Domestic Abuse Wasn’t a Secret. It’s Just That No One Cared

[...] Until Wednesday, Rob Porter was the White House staff secretary. Long before Wednesday, many of the people to whom he reported knew he had physically abused and assaulted both of his wives. Colbie Holderness, Porter’s first wife, and Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s second wife, both told the FBI their marriages had ended because of a pattern of physical and emotional abuse. According to their accounts, supported by photos, contemporaneous reporting to others, and a blog post written by Willoughby last April, Porter kicked these women, he punched and choked one of these women, he blackened one of these women’s eyes. He berated and insulted these women. Police were called. But Rob Porter is also white, and the son of a prominent academic and thinker. He went to Harvard and Oxford, and he had a high-ranking job in the Oval Office, and was reportedly pressing for a higher one. He was dating Hope Hicks, one of the president’s closest confidantes. So nobody did a thing about the allegations ...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Fig goes to the clinic



Today was our first appointment at the SPCA to take one of the cats to get spayed/neutered. Up to now I have been taking the cats to the veterinarian that I visited when I had my original four cats, but that's just too expensive now - the last spaying there was $500+ but getting Fig spayed at the SPCA was just $50.

This was also the first try at catching one of the cats with the trap and it worked. Fig went wild when the door closed but I threw a cloth over the trap and talked to her and in a minute or two she became quiet and still. My sister arrived and gave me a ride to the clinic, about 10 miles away.

The clinic had about 20 other people waiting with appointments for early Saturday morning. All kinds of people - men, women, children, young and old, but all connected by their cats. Interesting to hear the different names people had for them - one was named Marble :) The people working at the clinic were very kind and friendly and it took about half an hour to fill out the paperwork and hand Fig over.

We picked her up at 4pm and now she's in a medium sized cage in the garage, where she can recuperate without being bugged by the other cats. Tomorrow she can be let go, if everything seems ok, and then it will be on to catching and spaying/neutering cat #2.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Slo-mo Saturday Night Massacre



Trump has decided he will not release the memo the Democrats in the House intelligence committee wrote as a correction to the memo the Republicans of that committee wrote and Trump released last week (who didn't see this coming?) ... Trump Blocks Release of Memo Rebutting Republican Claims

That Republican memo, crafted by Trump's minion, Nunes, was intended to put acting AG Rod Rosenstein in a bad light, the better for Trump to justify firing him.

Rosenstein oversees the Mueller investigation, of course, and with him fired and replaced, Rachel Brand would have then been in charge of the Mueller investigation. Now she has left her job in the DOJ in order to work for Walmart ... Rod Rosenstein’s Next-In-Command Is Leaving DOJ. Are We Headed for a Massacre?

And so who would now take over Rosenstein's job of controlling the Mueller investigation if Rosenstein is fired by Trump? Someone Trump appointed, Noel Francisco, a conservative who argued before the Supreme Court in cases like Zubik v. Burwell (anti-contraception) ... If Rosenstein Goes, Here’s Who Takes Over the Trump-Russia Investigation

How convenient.


Thursday, February 08, 2018

General Kelly

The guy who everyone thought of as the voice of reason in the scary Trump White House ...

- Kelly lies about Congresswoman Frederica Wilson ... After Video Refutes Kelly’s Charges, Congresswoman Raises Issue of Race

- Kelly opines that the Civil War was caused by a "lack of an ability to compromise” ... The Civil War Was Not a Mistake

- Kelly has been a influence for the Trump administration's anti-immigration policy ... Six months in, Kelly emerges as policy force

- Kelly has deemed some Dreamers to be "too lazy to get off their asses".

- And now, Kelly has said of White House staffer and accused wife-beater, Rob Porter, that he is “a man of true integrity and honor" about whom he cannot say enough good things, having known for some time of the allegations against Porter ... The Rise and Fall of John Kelly's Reputation

More about Porter and Kelly ...


Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The military parade


- military parade for Hitler's birthday

You had to see this coming, given all the other trappings of despotism that Trump has embraced, from surrounding himself with generals (Flynn, Kelly, Matis, McMaster, etc.) to attacking the free press and trying to jail his political opponent. Trump's trying to cast this plan as a tribute to the troops, but it's obvious it's all about him.

More: Of course Donald Trump wants a big, shiny military parade

Monday, February 05, 2018

Blade Runner 2049



This week's movie rental was Blade Runner 2049 ...

a 2017 American science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. A sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner, the film stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, with Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, Dave Bautista, and Jared Leto in supporting roles. Set thirty years after the first film, Gosling plays K, a blade runner who uncovers a secret that threatens to instigate a war between humans and replicants.

I've been looking forward to the movie for some time. I had read the book on which the original 1982 film was based ... PK Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? ... and have seen the first film a number of times.

For those who aren't familiar with the book and earlier film, they depict a dystopian future in which there are few animals left alive (hence the query about electric sheep), where the wealthy and healthy have mostly moved to other planets, and where replicants (artificially created people with superior abilities) are used as an underclass. The main character in both book and early film was Rick Deckard, a California cop, a blade runner, whose job was detecting and eliminating rogue replicants. In the 1982 movie, Deckard was tasked with finding a group of homicidal replicants but along the way he met and fell in love with another replicant, Rachel, and after he took care of the others, they disappeared together. Here's a trailer for that past film...



I don't want to give too much away about Blade Runner 2049 but here's a bit about what I thought of it. It's a lot like the early film in its setting and pace. The special effects are really neat. The soundtrack is ominously good. The acting, especially that of Gosling, is good. The main character, K (Gosling), is a blade runner like Deckard was 30 years earlier, but he himself is a replicant, one of the tamer revised versions used as unpaid labor in society, and he hunts down earlier models of his own kind. There's a lot of pathos in K's life and this only inevitably deepens when he discovers a mystery of which he is a part and follows it to its end. I liked the film and recommend it.

But ....

The movie is, as one reviewer put it, "eye-gougingly sexist" to the degree that it kept taking me out of the story. There are a lot of completely naked women in the movie (the guys don't even ever take off a shirt) - it's the people in control, now and apparently in the future, who get the protection and dignity of clothing. We also see a naked replicant stabbed in the belly (female reproduction is a theme), and huge statues of naked women (with high heels) as relics in a an irradiated Las Vegas. And then there's the programed holographic girlfriend of K who hires a hooker for her man when she can't "satisfy" him (can you imagine the opposite version of this icky trope ever showing up in films?). Some have opined that the movie is just showing us the logical future, given present day sexism. Call me cynical, but I don't really buy that - I'm tired of science fiction being produced as if only teen boys were the consumers.

Here's a bit from a review in The Guardian ... Is Blade Runner 2049 sexist – or a fair depiction of a dystopian future?

[...] While I was transfixed by the film’s visual prowess, score, fascinating plot and fidelity to the original, I was troubled by the character of Joi (Ana de Armas) in particular. An operating system who is bought by K to act as a doting, doe-eyed housewife, she appears to him in hologram form as and when he dictates, wearing and saying whatever she thinks suits his mood. Understandably, Joi has been called “a sci-fi fanboy’s wet dream”. Her owner’s emotional demands dictate whether she is in sexy or demure mode (flashback to Arnold Schwarzenegger creating his dream girl in Total Recall). How are we supposed to admire a hero whose key relationship is with a woman of his own creation who will submit to his every demand and can be switched on and off as he pleases? ....

[T]here are a number of characters. Robin Wright is terrific but underused as K’s slick, strong, black-clad boss, Lieutenant Joshi, and Sylvia Hoeks’s icy baddie Luv is great fun, but in thrall to her male boss (sinister replicant-creator Wallace, played by Jared Leto). Mackenzie Davis’s Mariette shows initial promise as a strong character who can give as good as she gets, but she is also a sex worker who is literally used as a puppet. Visually, sexualised images of women dominate the stunning futuristic cityscapes, from pirouetting ballerinas to giant statues of naked women in heels looming over K as he goes on his journey. Of course, one of the themes of Blade Runner 2049 is a world littered with artifice, from replicants to sexbots – but these mainly seem to cater to heterosexual males. A hint of a woman considering a “pleasure model” is brief and unexplored. Meanwhile Wright’s Joshi appears attracted to K, but she is not permitted to use him for her sexual pleasure. Where is her holographic lover, her Joi? ...


And here's a trailer ...


Friday, February 02, 2018

Music: late 80s

I'm now up to the late 80s in my music research. Here are a few of the songs I like from then ... ...

- 1987: the Norwegian band A-Ha did the theme from the only James Bond movie I ever liked, The Living Daylights :) ...



- 1988: Roy Orbison: You Got It ...



- 1989: The B-52s: Love Shack ...


Memo released

UPDATE: tee hee - Rachel Maddow on the release of the memo ...



*

Trump has released the memo that he and Nunes have created in order to save Trump from the findings of Mueller's investigation. They appear to be so dumb as to believe we'll all accept the memo's premise - that a biased FBI and DOJ obtained a FISA warrant to surveil a Trump minion based solely on the Steele dossier. This shows both a woeful lack of knowledge about how these warrants are obtained and also of the reasoning power of the public.



The Nunes memo is out. It’s a joke and a sham

The whole point of the Nunes memo was always to create a pretext for President Trump to try to take control of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe, and it remains to be seen whether Trump will convince himself that it does give him this pretext.

But this is going to take a lot of self-deception on Trump’s part (not that he won’t rise to the occasion), and a lot of aggressive goading from his favorite cable news personalities — that is, if reality even matters in the least anymore. Because the memo itself is really just a bad joke.

The memo from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has now been released, and its contents are almost comically thin in comparison with the great scandal Trump’s media allies have been hyping for weeks and weeks and weeks ...


More: Sources: Devin Nunes Memo Is ‘100%’ Wrong About Andrew McCabe and Steele Dossier ... and ... All the logical holes in the GOP memo about the Trump dossier

Thursday, February 01, 2018

The memo



The memo situation explained ...

Back in 2013, an American, Carter Page (who would later join the Trump campaign in 2016 as a foreign policy advisor), was found, through FBI surveillance of Russian agents operating in New York, to be cooperating with those Russians (Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump - The New York Times). The FBI interviewed Page in June 2013 about this.

Later, on Oct. 19, 2016, the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to surveil Page about a month *after* he had resigned from the Trump campaign because of his numerous ties to Russia. Every 90 days the warrant had to be signed off on to continue the surveillance, and eventually, by 2017, Rod Rosenstein was the one who did the signing.

Now, Devin Nunes and the White House have crafted a memo that falsely alleges that Rosenstein (a Republican, BTW) and the FBI are allied against Trump and have based their FISA warrant application on information from the Steele dossier. This is not true - Page had been a person of interest to the FBI since 2013.

By making this false claim, Trump believes he can discredit the whole Russia investigation, or at least fire Rosentstain, putting in his own puppet to oversee the investigation, a puppet who will either fire Robert Mueller (another Republican) and end the Russia investigation, or more insidiously, he will strangle the investigation by controlling Mueller's options and actions.

Read more: The 9 biggest questions about the Nunes memo, answered

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Don't forget the porn star



I thought of writing about the infamous memo that Trump's clown-puppet, Nunes, has crafted both with and for his master, but I don't want us to forget something else that hasn't gotten as much press ... Trump's affair, while married, with the porn star ...



This is important, though I'm sure Republicans would like us to feel it's unseemly to bring it up ... it goes to the character of the president, and it goes to the character of the holier-than-thou conservative Christians who have supported him despite every bad thing he's done.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The state of the union

What Trump Doesn’t Get About the State of the Union

There’s a level at which — when you consider that the president of the United States has cozied up to a foreign power that tampered with an American election, has repeatedly assaulted the country’s courts and its law enforcement and intelligence agencies, has defended neo-Nazis, has cried “fake news” while provably lying, and has been revealed so credibly to have paid off a porn star that it made news when his own wife chose to attend his biggest speech of the year — it’s hard to believe that the state of the union is strong.

[....]

Despite promising a $1 trillion infrastructure plan a year ago, a phantom plan whose price tag he raised to $1.5 trillion on Tuesday, he has yet to do anything to fix rusting bridges and faltering rail lines. His tax plan will undermine local efforts to make improvements around the country. He has yet to take serious action to end the opioid crisis. (“We have to do something about it,” he said Tuesday night, rather pathetically.) He has rubbed raw the nation’s wounds of bigotry and sexism. Without study or discernment, he has stripped away regulations meant to restrain climate change and to protect consumers. He seems utterly indifferent to improving an education system that is the foundation of the global competitiveness he insists he cares so much about. He’s deepened America’s commitment to Afghanistan with no exit strategy, and he’s raised tensions in the Middle East to no clear end. By gratuitously alienating allies and upending trade deals, he has eased the way for China’s hegemony ...


The editorial board of The New York Times goes on to say that the state of our union *is* strong, not because of Trump but in spite of him.

I agree ... Trump's lies have taught us the worth of truth, his attacks on immigrants have reminded us of our own immigrant roots, his misogyny has brought forth the #Me Too movement, his trashing of the environment has spurred on the green revolution, his racial bigotry has made us see what commonalities we all share, and his faux Christianity has made the US Catholic bishops feel shame at having supported him (a miracle!). The one thing Trump can say is that the economy is doing well, but there's one truth he has never learned - there are things more important than money.

On this day, forty-four years ago, Richard Nixon had this to say towards the end of his state of the union address ...

Mr. Speaker, and Mr. President, and my distinguished colleagues and our guests: I would like to add a personal word with regard to an issue that has been of great concern to all Americans over the past year. I refer, of course, to the investigations of the so-called Watergate affair. As you know, I have provided to the Special Prosecutor voluntarily a great deal of material. I believe that I have provided all the material that he needs to conclude his investigations and to proceed to prosecute the guilty and to clear the innocent. I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.

Seven months later he was forced to resign in the face of impeachment and his removal as president.

Let this be a lesson to Trump.