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Saturday, May 27, 2017

RIP: Gregg Allman

In the news: Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

While I wasn't a huge fan of The Allman Brothers and the Southern rock thing, I did like many of their songs, and they often jammed with others I liked a bit more, like Eric Clapton. Greg in particular was often in the news ... for instance, for a time he was married to Cher ...

Here's one of his songs that I like, I'm No Angel .....

Friday, May 26, 2017

Jared Kushner and Russia

Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin ... holy mackerel!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Stupid Watergate

John Oliver goes over the insanity that has been the last couple of weeks of Trump news, or as he has titled the situation - Stupid Watergate. I recommend it because it really is hard to believe all that has happened and even harder to realize that it probably isn't going to end any times soon ...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Song in Your Heart

One of the tv shows that I like so much is ending, at least in its current form ... Once Upon a Time. The actress who plays the main character of Emma has decided to move on professionally and at least four of the other core characters will be leaving as well. There will apparently be one more season with a few of the important characters still there, but the show will be much changed. I've just watched the second to the last episode, The Song in Your Heart, which is something unusual - a musical episode.

The beginning of the episode, set in the past, has Snow White and Prince Charming waking up to a situation in which everything they say comes out in song. They realize that their friend, the Blue Fairy, has cast a spell to help them defeat the Evil Queen's upcoming curse on them and their soon-to-be-born daughter, Emma ...

I already posted Captain Hook's song, but here it is again. It takes place in the past, when Snow White and Prince Charming ask Hook to take them to the Evil Queen's castle so that their magical song can stop the curse. Hook doesn't want to help them at first because all his attention is devoted to finding and slaying the Dark One (aka Rumpelstiltskin, aka the "crocodile") who cut off his hand and who killed his lady love ....

There are a few other songs in the episode as well, but here is the one at the end of the episode. It takes place in the present, just after Captain Hook and Emma get married, and just before a different curse, one cast this time by the evil Black Fairy, erupts upon them and everyone else in town ....

More on the show later.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

More on Trump/Russia collusion

Report: Trump Asked Intel Heads To Push Back On FBI Russia Probe

President Trump asked two top U.S. intelligence chiefs to push back against the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between Russia and his presidential campaign .... the president made the request to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers shortly after then-FBI Director James Comey — who Trump fired almost two weeks ago — confirmed the existence of the FBI investigation during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on March 20 ...

A White House spokesperson said in a statement, "The White House does not confirm or deny unsubstantiated claims based on illegal leaks from anonymous individuals. The president will continue to focus on his agenda that he was elected to pursue by the American people." ....

Friday, May 19, 2017

Some music :)

From The Guess Who ...

It's Endangered Species Day

Please let your political reps know you want them to save the Endangered Species Act from the Republicans ... Saving The Endangered Species Act From The Threatened List

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Thank you, Captain Hook

- Captain Hook of Once Upon a Time

Things have been very stressful here lately with worries about health, money, and the cats. It's at times like this that I'm so glad for Once Upon a Time as a distraction. Here's Captain Hook, singing of getting revenge on his enemy "the crocodile" :) ...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Trump reveals classified info to Russians

UPDATE: 5/16 ... I just watched the White House Press Briefing at which McMaster answered some questions. He seemed very anxious to do damage control, but he did admit that Trump indeed shared classified info, including giving the Russians the name of the city in the Islamic State's territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat ... The ‘Grownups’ Won’t Save Us From Trump

- Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian foreign minister and ambassador

- The Terrible Cost of Trump's Disclosures

Rogue One

My latest movie rental was Rogue One ...

a 2016 American epic space opera film .... It is the first installment of the Star Wars Anthology series, set immediately before the events of the original Star Wars film. The cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Rogue One follows a group of rebels on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star, the Galactic Empire's superweapon.

There was so much publicity when the movie came out that I was aware of the storyline, the actors, and the technical stuff long before actually seeing the film. The movie seemed an effort to be a more grim and gritty version of Star Wars .... one of the main characters, Cassian Andor, is shown murdering someone in cold blood for the sake of expediency near the beginning, and in the end he and all the main character end up dying for the cause. It was hard for me to find anyone to really like and my favorite character soon became the resident robot, K-2SO ... Why ‘Rogue One’s’ sassy new K-2SO is the droid we’ve been looking for

Sort of notable was that Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen was in the movie - he was recently also in Doctor Strange. I recall him from the past King Arthur which I posted about here: King Arthur, student of Pelagius :) ...

And one thing that I was interested in was the CGI creation of characters from the original Star Wars movies for this film ... How ‘Rogue One’ Brought Back Familiar Faces. I have to say that I found the attempt a bit creepy and Carrie Fisher's CGI Princess Leia looks to be deep in the uncanny valley to me ...

But anyway, the film was very popular and got good reviews ... here's one from The New Yorker: “Rogue One” Reviewed: Is It Time to Abandon the “Star Wars” Franchise?

And here's a trailer ...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

More, from The Atlantic: :) Baby Animals and Their Moms (Because It’s Mother’s Day)

Friday, May 12, 2017

McCabe on Comey

Acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, disputes the Trump administration's assertion that the former FBI director, James Comey, had lost the confidence of those at the FBI ....

Kamala Harris on Trump firing Comey

My representative, Senator Kamal Harris, is interviewed by Jake Tapper on CNN about the Firing of FBI director James Comey by Trump ...

Tuesday, May 09, 2017


Another homeless cat has appeared in my yard with kittens - haven't seen them, just heard them squeaking in the dense bushes. This has been happening every spring for the last few years and every year I seem to have less resources with which to address the situation. Hopefully blind-as-a-bat me can eventually find and catch the kittens and hopefully the vet will take them if I can give a big enough donation (and if they don't already have other kittens). But anyway, I've named her Marie after this song by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues about his wife :) ...

Why did Trump wait 18 days to fire Flynn?

Last night I watched the testimony of Sally Yates, the former acting attorney general, and of James Clapper, former director of national intelligence, before a Senate subcommittee investigating the Russian involvement in our elections ....

One depressing thing was that the Republicans on the Senate subcommittee spent all their time dwelling on how the information about Flynn became public (the "leaks") instead of on the import of the information itself.

Yates had told the White House that their national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was lying about his relations with the Russians and that he could be compromised by them. But the White House did nothing about this information (nor about Obama's advice to Trump against Flynn 10 days after the election), allowing Flynn to continue with his sensitive duties. In fact, the White House didn't fire Flynn until 18 days later and then only after the information about him was made public through the press.

One can only speculate on why the White House didn't immediately fire Flynn but the word "cover-up" looms large .... if the information hadn't been made public, would Flynn still be national security advisor?

Here's the beginning of an article about this from the New York Times ... How the White House Explains Waiting 18 Days to Fire Michael Flynn

The question has lingered for weeks: Once President Trump knew that Michael T. Flynn, his national security adviser, had lied to his colleagues and was vulnerable to blackmail by Russians, why didn’t he fire him immediately?

Monday’s dramatic testimony by Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general at the time, only added to the mystery.

Like an episode from “House of Cards,” she described rushing on Jan. 26 to warn the new White House counsel that Mr. Flynn could be compromised because Moscow knew he was lying, publicly and privately, about his contacts with Russian officials.

Mr. Trump waited 18 days, until Feb. 13, to fire Mr. Flynn — after The Washington Post reported the warnings the White House had received.

Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, refused to “re-litigate” the delay during his daily briefing on Monday. But here are the various explanations he and other administration officials have given in the past ....

Monday, May 08, 2017

John Oliver on net neutrality

In the news: John Oliver pleads with viewers to revive net neutrality fight ... and ... John Oliver Slams Trump’s FCC Chair for Undermining Net Neutrality

I think this issue is incredibly important. It may not be easy to understand all the details, but that's why it's so wonderful that John Oliver has made this episode which explains what's going on and what can be done about it. And I have to say, it's worth a watch just for the rendition of the Taylor Swift song near the very beginning ;) .....

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Dark money: Trump's religious liberty E.O.

There has been much relief that Trump's religious liberty executive order was not as awful as feared - the ACLU declined to challenge it after all - but discrimination against LGBT people and women was/is not the only disturbing possible effect of the E.O.

How Trump’s Plan to Repeal the Johnson Amendment Could Unleash ‘Super Dark Money’ Into Our Elections

President Donald Trump has promised to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment. If he did, he could be helping fill up the corrupt swamp that he promised to drain.

Although framed in terms of religious liberty, rolling back limitations on political activities by charities and churches could offer billionaire donors a way to not only influence elections anonymously, but also to get a charitable tax deduction for doing so.

The so-called “Johnson Amendment” refers to language that bars organizations incorporated under Section 501(c)(3) of the tax code – which includes churches, but also an array of charities – from endorsing candidates and participating in political campaign activities. The provision was introduced in 1954 by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, passed by a Republican Congress, and signed by a Republican president.

The reason for the restriction is simple: 501(c)(3) organizations are subsidized by taxpayers for their charitable, religious and educational work, not partisan political activity.

Donors to charities and churches get a tax deduction for their contributions. And charities and churches are generally exempt from taxes. In exchange for these substantial tax benefits, these groups agree to abide by certain restrictions – like the prohibition on political intervention.

Trump wants to change that. And if he is successful in getting the Johnson Amendment repealed, it could lead to the creation of what might be called “super dark money groups.” ......

More: Churches cannot be allowed to become political dark money shops

Friday, May 05, 2017

Trump/Republican health care bill

It passed in the House. One can only hope it doesn't pass in the Senate.

Trump is on a mission to win — even if Americans die in the process

There are currently 23 Republicans who are in districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Of those, 14 of them very possibly signed their political death certificate yesterday, as they voted for the horrific abomination that is the Republican healthcare bill — or TrumpCare — which they and the president now fully own.

It is one thing to take a tough but principled vote on something you truly believe will help more people, like many Democrats did in 2010 as they all voted unanimously for the Affordable Care Act, but then went on to lose their seats. It is another thing entirely, to put politics ahead of sound policy and vote for a bill that will actually endanger people’s lives, simply because you want to “check” off your list that you voted to repeal ObamaCare. This is what the Republican Party did Thursday. And they should be hanging their heads in shame.

Republicans will spin like tops spewing talking points that unconvincingly try to insist that their bill will be better for American families. But if that were true, the bill would not be so "controversial" at least with Republicans, and you would have had every single Republican legislator vote for it. But when you have a bill that is adamantly opposed by AARP, every major patient advocacy group, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and nurses, you should see a huge red flag .......

And: Deep Medicaid Cuts Drive Backlash to House Health Care Bill

[...] President Donald Trump said in his speech announcing his 2016 campaign that he would not cut Medicaid and bragged on Twitter that he was the first candidate to do so. He didn't keep that promise: The bill's Medicaid cuts, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates at $839 billion over 10 years, are arguably its most sweeping change. They're also critical to financing the bill's tax cuts for high-income Americans and medical industries, which require the savings to offset the loss in revenue.

Leading patient advocacy groups are warning the combination of less spending and a restructuring of the program will threaten coverage for millions of vulnerable Americans, including seniors, people with disabilities, and children. The top medical industry groups representing doctors, hospitals, and insurers are raising similar concerns, along with key Republican senators whose support will be needed to pass a bill ...

And: The Republican Party is sociopathic: If you didn’t know that already, the health care bill should make it clear

On Thursday, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in order to give the richest Americans and corporations billions of dollars. To accomplish this, Republicans will deny tens of millions of Americans who have chronic and preexisting health problems access to affordable medical care. The Republican Party’s plan to punish the sick and to kill the “useless eaters” has expanded its targets to include women who have been victims of sexual assault or domestic violence or suffered from post-partum depression. The Republican plan will also hurt disabled people, senior citizens, new mothers, pregnant women, children in special education programs and babies. It is estimated that at least 43,000 Americans a year will die if the Affordable Care Act is repealed ....

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Trump and "religious liberty"

Trump has signed an executive order on "religious liberty" as his Religious Right supporters, including the US Bishops (see below), have been urging. Trump tries to link his action to the First Amendment, the Amendment he wants to change so that he can sue the press, but he misreads our Founding Fathers, who were mostly Deists. And he and the Bishops have made up their own definition of religious liberty. ... when John Courtney Murray SJ helped Catholic JFK become president and when he championed the concept at Vatican II, religious liberty meant keeping religious out of politics: separation of church and state.

Trump signs executive order to 'vigorously promote religious liberty'

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday that could allow churches and other religious organizations to become more active politically. The order, which Trump inked during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, directs the IRS to exercise "maximum enforcement discretion" over the Johnson amendment, which prevents churches and other tax-exempt religious organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. It also provides "regulatory relief" for organizations that object on religious grounds to a provision in Obamacare that mandates employers provide certain health services, including coverage for contraception .....

Some religious leaders, however, object to any measure that would make it easier to inject politics into places of worship. "For decades, the Johnson amendment has prevented houses of worship from being turned into partisan political tools. A majority of clergy -- and Americans -- support the status quo and oppose political endorsements from the pulpit," Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline said. "President Trump's executive order reportedly aims to gut the Johnson Amendment and clear the way for the Religious Right to weaponize their churches for partisan battle." "If the effort succeeds these churches would become conduits for unregulated 'dark money' in elections, with no restrictions or disclosure requirements," he said ...

The responsibility for this bad idea has mostly been laid at the door of Protestant Evangelicals but the US Bishops and Cardinal Dolan, the guy who swindled sex abuse victims out of 57 million dollars, have been all over this ... USCCB leaders urge Trump to protect religious liberty

Catholic Church leaders in a Feb. 16 statement said they were encouraged that President Donald Trump may be considering an executive order to protect religious freedom and said they would be grateful if he would move forward with the pledge that his administration would “do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty.”

“As Christians, our goal is to live and serve others as the Gospel asks. President Trump can ensure that we are not forced from the public square,” said the statement from committee chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The statement was jointly issued by New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities; Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth; Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development ...

More: Trump’s Religious Liberty Executive Order Is a Triumph of Fake News ... and ... 1,300 Faith Leaders Denounce Trump’s Bigoted Religious Liberty Executive Order ... and ... Trump’s “religious liberty” executive order is meant to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination — and may be unconstitutional

Fortunately, the ACLU is on the job ...