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Monday, February 26, 2018

The Stepford daughter

- Ivanka and Daddy, Getty Images

To be filed under "nepotism". Trump sent his top negotiator security-challenged daughter to South Korea to discuss new sanctions on the North. You know, because she's so adept at diplomacy interested in strengthening her brand. While she was there, she was interviewed by NBC news, one of the questions being whether she believed the women who had accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Her answer was cringe-worthy ...

Am I the only one whose skin crawled? According to Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury, Ivanka and Jared are machiavellian in their questionable business dealings and their WH power intrigues - and they're planning to run her as the first woman president after Trump leaves office. Good luck with that, because I can't be the only person who sees her as a massively damaged and corrupted human being who is also, to quote Steve Bannon, "as dumb as a brick".

Sunday, February 25, 2018

George: happy 75th

Today would have been George Harrison's 75th birthday ... George Harrison at 75: How the quietest Beatle became the most popular one of all. He was my favorite Beatle, in part because he had a spiritual bent.

One way to learn more about him is to watch Martin Scorsese's 2 part documentary, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, which you can watch free on YouTube. Here is the trailer ...

Sadly, it's not as easy to find music of the Beatles online - I guess the copyright people are obsessive - but here are some of his songs I liked from when he was in the Beatles and after ...


Saturday, February 24, 2018

What I've been reading

I've been reading novels from a 25 book series based on the science fiction tv show Stargate SG-1. I really liked the tv series - I actually own all ten years of it - so it was great to find that my public library has the book series in kindle form. I've read two of them so far, not in order, and both have been good.

For those not familiar with the tv series, it was based on a 1894 science fiction film, Stargate. The tv series ...

Stargate SG-1 begins about a year after the events of the feature film, when the United States government learns that an ancient alien device called the Stargate can access a network of such devices on a multitude of planets. SG-1 is an elite United States Air Force special operations team, one of about 20 teams from Earth who explore the galaxy and defend against alien threats such as the Goa'uld, the Replicators and the Ori. The series draws primarily upon Egyptian mythology, Greek mythology, Norse mythology and Arthurian legend.

The series was a ratings success for its first-run broadcasters and in syndication and was particularly popular in Europe and Australia. Stargate SG-1 was honored with numerous awards and award nominations in its ten-season run. It also spawned the animated television series Stargate Infinity, the live-action spin-off TV series Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe and the direct-to-DVD films Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum.

I began watching the show in the first place because the main character was Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver) but I came to like all the characters, including when they added Ben Browder of the Australian science fiction tv show Farscape. Then I watched Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe too, but Stargate SG-1 is still the best :)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

More on the gun debate

The NRA pours poison into our ears at CPAC ...

And Patkland students debate with lawmakers at CNN's town hall on gun violence. Democratic congressman Ted Deutsch of Florida made this opening statement, which I thought was really good ...

"A lot of people have told this community, people from all around the world, that it's too soon - it's too soon to get together, to have this kind of forum, it's too soon to talk about preventing another tragedy like the one that struck our community from happening anywhere again, it's too soon to talk about getting weapons of war out of our communities.

It is not. It is not too soon, it is too late for the 17 lives that were lost, it is too late for the grieving families, too late for the injured, too late for the 3,300 survivors of what happened. Senator Rubio and Senator Nelson, we represent these fine people. We will not be judged by what we say here tonight, by the quality of our answers, or by any back-and-forth in words. The folks in our community don't want words, they don't want thoughts and prayers, they don't want discussions. They want action and we owe it to them ..."

As with so many other issues, from our treatment of the environment to our treatment of the less fortunate, the Republicans, now in control of every facet of our government, have cast their lot with power, money, and individual self-interest at the expense of community. This gun debate shows us the conservative soul and it's not pretty.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Who is Alex van der Zwaan?

In the news: Former Skadden Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Lying in Russia Investigation

The son-in-law of a Russia-based billionaire admitted on Tuesday to lying to investigators about his communications with a former Trump campaign aide. The guilty plea by the defendant, a former lawyer at a powerful New York-based law firm, broadened the scope of the special counsel’s inquiry into Russia’s election interference.

The lawyer, Alex van der Zwaan, a 33-year-old Dutch citizen, acknowledged in federal court in Washington that he lied to prosecutors about a September 2016 conversation with Rick Gates, the former Trump aide, over work they did together for a Ukrainian political party aligned with Russia. He also admitted that he deleted records of email exchanges that prosecutors had sought. He faces up to five years in prison but said in court that he expected to serve six months or less ...

Long story short: Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, had earlier been an adviser on the Ukrainian presidential campaign of Viktor Yanukovych, who, after being elected, jailed his opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko (think Hillary/ & 'lock her up'). Because this looked sort of, you know, bad, he had his minion Manafort hire a law firm, Skadden, to write a report justifying the jailing of Tymoshenko. Van der Zwaan worked for Skadden and provided info from the report to a PR firm and to Rick Gates, Manafort's bud and the most recently flipped Mueller witness. Mueller interviewed van der Zwaan, he lied, and now he's been indicted. Oh, and van der Zwaan is married to the daughter of Russian oligarch German Khan, one of the guys mentioned in the notorious Steele dossier on Trump.

Rachel Maddow with the details ...

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

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