Some times we need to be reminded that behind every individual is the potential to make a small or big difference. I’m celebrating them today.
The first picture you see is an artificial glacier that its creator–Sonam Wangchuk–has named an ice stupa. The mechanical engineer’s name means “lord of wisdom” in Tibetan. The stupa is a traditional Himalyan Buddhist representation of Buddha Mind. The ice stupas are turning into water giving oases in the middle of the harsh Ladakh plains and valleys. A tree farm grows in the “land of high passes”.
This is a land of extremes, where rainfall is scarce and temperatures range wildly from torrid to far below freezing.
The locals say it’s the only place in the world where a man, sitting in the sun with his feet in the shade, can suffer sunstroke and frostbite at the same time.
It’s the Ladakh region — meaning “land of high passes” — sandwiched between two of the world’s tallest mountain ranges, the Himalayas and the Kunlun.
Rainfall is rare here. Water, essential for irrigating the farmlands that are the lifeblood of the local population, mostly comes from melting snow and ice.
But climate change is making this land even drier, leaving farmers without water in the crucial planting months of April and May, right before the glaciers start to melt in the summer sun.
One man’s solution to the problem? Make more glaciers.
In 2014 a local mechanical engineer, Sonam Wangchuk, set out to solve the water crisis of the Ladakh.
The natural glaciers are shrinking due to rising global temperatures. For that reason, they provide far less water in early spring but then release a lot in the summer heat, shrinking even more.
Wangchuk had a simple idea: he wanted to balance this natural deficit by collecting water from melting snow and ice in the cold months, which would normally go to waste, and store it until spring, just when farmers need it the most.
“I once saw ice under a bridge in May and understood that it’s the sun that makes the ice melt, not ambient temperature,” he told CNN.
“I realized that ice can last a long time, even at low altitudes.”
Louisiana and Differently-abled Americans every where owe some thanks to Rock Star Rod Stewart.
Researchers trying to develop an AI realized two of their machines had created their own language. The code created was more efficient for the purpose of negotiating exchanges but it also creeping far from the English language the AI were supposed to use. Their negotiations led to an entirely new language and their shut-down.
An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language. It developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient. Researchers shut the system down when they realized the AI was no longer using English.
The observations made at Facebook are the latest in a long line of similar cases. In each instance, an AI being monitored by humans has diverged from its training in English to develop its own language. The resulting phrases appear to be nonsensical gibberish to humans but contain semantic meaning when interpreted by AI “agents.”
The observations made at Facebook are the latest in a long line of similar cases. In each instance, an AI being monitored by humans has diverged from its training in English to develop its own language. The resulting phrases appear to be nonsensical gibberish to humans but contain semantic meaning when interpreted by AI “agents.”
Representative Maxine Waters continues to be a one woman show when it comes to unraveling the injustices and trespasses of Trumplandia. She skillfully shut down the mansplaing Treasuring Secretary Steve Mnuchin and went viral in the process.
When you’re, say, reading a book about politics, and suddenly interrupted by a man who “hasn’t read that one” but would like to supplement your reading with all of the information he’s heard related to it–maybe this was last week, and maybe this was a book about Russia (okay, this is a specific scenario)–do as Maxine Waters does. Look him in the eye blankly, and state, over and over:
Reclaiming my time.
Reclaiming my time.
Reclaiming my time.
Reclaiming my time.
Reclaiming my time.
Reclaiming my time.
Reclaiming my time.
Reclaiming my time.
For the record, this is a clip from the House Financial Services Committee hearing on Thursday, and Waters is referring to a group of Democrats’ formal request that the Treasury Department disclose President Trump’s financial ties to Russia. It has so far been ignored.
Secretary Mnuchin began his response by thanking Rep. Waters for her service to California. Like Mikayla at the Olympics, Rep. Waters was unimpressed. She cut him off, “We don’t want to take my time up with how great I am,” effectively winning the gold medal in interrogation with a breathtaking move called The You Got The Wrong One Today, Friend.
You don’t have to tell Rep. Waters how great she is. She is aware. Are you new? This isn’t a Lifetime Achievement Award dinner, this is a congressional hearing. Rep. Waters is trying to get the president impeached by lunch time and take the rest of the afternoon off. Let’s speed this up.
Poor Secretary Mnuchin; he never stood a chance. Rep. Waters doesn’t even let bespectacled boo-thang Chris Hayes get a word in and she actually likes him. You think you can just come up in here and give your life story when she wanted a simple answer? No, you cannot. Secretary Mnuchin showed up like that person at church who gives a testimony for 45 minutes and Maxine Waters is the organist who plays him off with a quickness. “Wrap it, buddy. Save it for the Rapture.”
First of all, if Maxine Waters writes you a letter, you better pull out your good stationary with the watermark, brush up on your Mavis Beacon skills and get to replying. How you gonna leave Rep. Waters on read? You tried to ghost her like a Tinder date.
And let’s not forget the Two Republican Women Senators who stood firm in the face of Republican threats and hostility.
Cities around the country are going around the EPA. Minneapolis is the latest city to post the climate change data deleted from the EPA website. Want Climate Data? Try the City of Minneapolis’ website.
The city of Minneapolis has joined cities around the country in posting thethat was deleted after the Trump administration took office. The posted data is a snapshot of the before climate the change information was removed.
Back in April, the EPA announced its updatedLanguage associated with the Clean Power Plan, written by the last administration, is out of date,” the EPA said. “Similarly, content related to climate and regulation is also being reviewed.”
In addition to Minneapolis, cities including Atlanta, Boston, Houston, San Francisco and Seattle have also posted the information.
(For more local news, click here to sign up for real-time news alerts and newsletters from Minnesota Patch, click here to find your local Minnesota Patch. Also, follow us on Facebook, and if you have an iPhone, click here to get the free Patch iPhone app.)
“Recognizing that climate change is real, the City is helping make sure people have access to information on it,” the city said in a statement. “The City is committed to taking action to adapt to climate threats while reducing its dependence on fossil fuels.”
Jeff Sessions continues to go after so-called “Sanctuary Cities”. These cities continue to resist despite threats to lose grants to their local police.
Local leaders of sanctuary jurisdictions also lashed out at the Justice Department last week.
“This is not the administration’s first attempt to unlawfully withhold funding, and it probably won’t be their last,” a spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune. “But we will not be bullied into abandoning our values.”
San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera told Courthouse News that the restriction may be unconstitutional. Supervisor Jane Kim told the news organization that the city would resist federal efforts to alter its policies.
“Threatening to cut San Francisco’s criminal justice grant funding because we are a sanctuary city will not change our commitment to protect our undocumented residents,” she said in a statement provided to Courthouse News.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts shows us how we basically have one functional branch of government right now actively protecting the Constitution and looking out for our Bill of Rights.
Last week the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts issued a significant ruling concerning the enforcement of both federal immigration law and local law in the so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions. In this post I want to summarize the case, Sreynuon Lunn v. Commonwealth, and then briefly scrutinize a very peculiar legal claim advanced by the Trump-Sessions Justice Department. (Note that it is a bit unusual for the federal government to file a brief in state court when the legal issues concern state law, but the Trump administration is being aggressive, to say the least, on matters relating to immigration enforcement.)
First, by way of background, this case involves the power to arrest people. In America, the government’s power to arrest is limited by both constitutional and statutory law. The police may be able to write tickets for certain offenses (littering) but they are not arrestable offenses because that’s they way the legislature wrote the law. In places like North Korea, the police power to arrest is unlimited. The police there can arrest anyone at any time. To keep our country free, we have to be vigilant about governmental attempts to weaken the limits on the power to arrest.
Turning now to the case before the Massachusetts court, Sreynuon Lunn was being held in a jail cell at the Boston Municipal Court. The criminal charge against him, unarmed robbery, was dismissed.
When a criminal charge is dismissed by the court, that ordinarily means the prisoner must be freed. In this case, however, Lunn was not released. Local officials kept Lunn locked away because of a request from federal immigration police.
Hours later, federal police arrived and took Lunn into federal custody. Lunn’s attorneys filed an action in the state court that said the local officials acted unlawfully in keeping Lunn locked up when he was otherwise free to leave the jail.
The legal crux was this: What was the legal source of that power to arrest and detain?
The Massachusetts high court could not un-do what had already been done because it lost jurisdiction when Lunn was taken into federal custody, but it recognized that similar situations might arise—so it decided to go ahead and clarify its own law in this area. That is, whether local officials, going forward, should keep people like Lunn locked up at the request of federal immigration police.
The court’s analysis began with the first principles regarding the power to arrest. Depriving a person of his liberty, holding a person against his will, is an “arrest” under Massachusetts law.
President Trump’s announcement that he plans to ban transgender people from serving in the military made an end run around Defense Secretary James Mattis, calling into question a relationship that so far has seemed solid.
Until now, Trump has given Mattis latitude to do as he sees fit, granting the retired four-star general power to manage troop levels and other operational aspects of the United States’ wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
But on the issue of transgender troops, conservatives who worried that Mattis was steamrolling them won out, with Trump siding with them less than a month after Mattis committed to a six-month review of the issue.
“It’s never a good sign when a major policy pronouncement is made that was clearly not coordinated with senior leadership,” said a source familiar with the matter. “I can tell you, no matter how they’re spinning it, I was there that day, and everybody was caught — all the senior officers who were left there with Gen. Mattis on vacation — they were all caught totally flat footed. They were all scrambling, because they were getting killed by Congress for not giving a heads up.”
On Wednesday, Trump declared on Twitter the military would have a new policy on transgender service members.
The military, Trump said, would “not accept or allow” transgender people to serve “in any capacity.” Trump claimed he made the decision after consultation with “my generals and military experts.”
The White House said Wednesday that Trump made his decision on Tuesday and informed Mattis that day.
But on Thursday, the Pentagon made clear that it does not consider a tweet an order. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said the current transgender policy will remain unchanged until Trump sends an official directive to the Pentagon.
Transgender troops have been able to serve openly since the Obama administration lifted the ban in summer 2016. New transgender recruits have not been able to enlist, which was supposed to change on July 1.
Part of life is losing people who make small differences.
Let’s hope hundreds more of these difference-making people and actions occur every nanosecond.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Sometimes you come across an article that hits home…it reaches out to you, states something obvious or maybe significant in a literal way, that you connect with…you find yourself completely immersed in the writing. Hey, it could be a passage written with such clarity and precision, the idea put forth hits you dramatically and changes your way of thinking. A paradigm shift.
Well, this first link I have for you did not do any of that for me…it probably won’t do any of that for you…it pretty much reiterates the same shit we have been talking about for years on this blog. Dakinikat and Boston Boomer have gone to great lengths to bring up most of the same…if not the exact, points. But I found it interesting to see this op/ed by Michael Goldfarb in The Guardian, highlight many topics of disgust that has been fodder for those who read Sky Dancing. I encourage you to read the whole piece: Is the American republic built to withstand a malevolent president? | Michael Goldfarb | Opinion | The Guardian
The principle of common good underpins the constitution. Donald Trump is gleefully shredding that ideal
he Trump administration, having passed the six-month milestone in office, kicked off the next phase of his presidency with an explosion of crazy, spread over the past seven days. Like sweeps week on The Apprentice, every day saw some headline-grabbing event to garner ratings. It started with leaks against his former bosom buddy, attorney general, Jeff Sessions. President Trump, “sources” said, was planning to fire him. It moved on to a speech to the Boy Scouts of America jamboree, where Trump told the story of a property developer who lost a fortune and was lurking at a New York party with the “hottest people”. Later, there was a tweet announcement banning transgender people from the military.
This explosion of crazy concluded with his new White House chief of communications, Anthony Scaramucci, calling the New Yorker’s political correspondent Ryan Lizza to trash virtually everyone in the White House. He compared himself positively to the president’s dark lord and special adviser, Stephen Bannon: “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock. I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the president.”
Doesn’t Scaramucci, or “the Mooch”, as he was known on Wall Street, have a mother? Won’t she be ashamed to see him talking like that in public? The week ended with a big name fired: White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
And up on Capitol Hill things weren’t a lot less calm. There was the closed-door interrogation of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, on Russian connections to the Trump campaign. Then came the Republican Senate majority’s inability to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, featuring John McCain voting yes, to debate the bill, then no, to kill it stone dead – until The Apprenticegoes into reruns.
All of these events, and a dozen more I don’t have space to mention, create a picture of utter chaos across the American government. Trump has ridden roughshod over not just the customs and norms of presidential behaviour but also basic standards of human decency.
In doing so, he has forced journalists and the institutions they write for to change their basic standards of acceptable language. We use the words crazy and stupid now in our reports because some of the behaviour and actions of Trump and his team are crazy and stupid. We debate whether to refer to the Trump administration or the Trump regime, with all the pejorative connotations that word carries. The New York Times is still the Grey Lady, but it has to print “sucking his own cock”, because that’s what the president’s top communications official said.
People on the outside wonder where the famous checks and balances are that have made American democracy function for more than 230 years? They are still there and, up to a point, still working. For example, presidential power was checked when Trump’s ban on travellers from seven Muslim nations was halted by the courts. The ban is now mired in a legal process.
However, what the madness, abnormality or whatever you want to call it emanating from the White House does draw attention to is the real problem in American politics – the Republicans are no longer a political party but a political faction, a much more dangerous thing.
Goldfarb continues his discussion with Madison and the dangers of factions….where James Madison,
…defined faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community”.
As y’all know, this shit has been coming on for some time within the Republican Party.
…the US has, over the past quarter of a century, become ungovernable at the national level. Sadly, Madison, having identified the threat in the 18th century “that either a minority or a majority” might become a faction, was unable to think of a solution to the problem that might work in the 21st. The minority in the country – the Republican faction – is now the majority in both houses of Congress and in the state governments. It holds the White House, although neither of the last two Republican presidents gained office while winning a majority of the popular vote.
Trump’s overall approval ratings may be historically low but his support in the Republican faction remains remarkably high. And for a reason – Trump has delivered for them. He appointed Neil Gorsuch, a hard-right judge, to the seat on the supreme court the Republican faction wouldn’t allow President Obama to fill. Immigration from Mexico has slowed dramatically. And in a wave of executive orders, he overturned many Obama-era environmental rules and reinstated the Dakota pipeline project. What’s more, Trump daily drives liberals absolutely crazy with his politically incorrect tweets. The base of the Republican faction, roughly 36% of the population, will stay loyal to him.
Ultimately, the supreme constitutional checks on presidential behaviour remain article 1, section 3: impeachment, or the 25th Amendment (which deals with succession). If the Republicans were a political party as they were at the time of Watergate, that would have to be a consideration for Trump and his team. It might moderate the administration’s behaviour if there were a genuine threat of being constitutionally removed from office. But there isn’t. The Republicans are a faction and the president is one of them.
So Trump carries on in office, unchecked and unbalanced. A majority of Americans, and most of the planet, watch and say, this can’t go on. But it can. For a while, at least.
Like I said, please go read the whole article at the link, it goes more into Madison and Jefferson and a few other things.
And while you think about all that, keep this in mind: Suffolk County Cops’ Ex-Chief In Prison For Police Brutality | Crooks and Liars
Yeah, that bunch of cops who cheered and hollered in agreement when tRump advocated police brutality and violence…their ex-chief is in prison for committing those same kinds of crimes.
For a quick review on yesterday’s tRump twit’s Twitter activities: ‘Is this your airing of grievances?‘: The internet mocks Trump’s out-of-the-blue ‘Festivus’ gripes
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution on Saturday said the Democratic race for governor in Georgia could be like a battle between pop stars Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.
The publication explained that Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams — who is black — could be facing off with state Rep. Stacey Evans — who is white.
“If certain parties have their way, next year’s Democratic race for governor in Georgia could have the feel of a feud between Beyoncé and Taylor Swift,” Atlanta-Journal Constitution wrote.
But the analogy is drawing some rebuke on social media.
“Delete this and try again,” one reader wrote on Twitter.
“Whose idea was this? Maybe let’s not simplify complex women candidates into pop stars? Don’t remember y’all reducing Perdue to a pop star,” said another.
“There is so much wrong with this tweet: it’s condescending/sexist, it reduces serious issues to entertainment, & it fails to inform. Stop,” a third person added.
“A race for governor that could feel like Beyoncé vs. Taylor Swift? What kind of professional journalist floated this trash out there? SMH,” remarked a fourth.
The comparison to Beyoncé, at least, does have some significance. As the Atlanta-Journal Constitution explains, the recently-formed political group “Get in Formation” is hoping to rally black women behind Abrams. The group takes it name from Beyoncé’s hit “Formation.”
If you want to read the original article that started this latest…I can’t even think of something sarcastic or witty to call it, controversy…take a look here: A Democratic race for governor that could feel like Beyonce vs. Taylor Swift | Political Insider blog
If certain parties have their way, next year’s Democratic race for governor in Georgia could have the feel of a feud between Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.
Or so I have been informed. I have let my attention to music industry politics slide since Simon & Garfunkel broke up.
What I do know is that state Rep. Stacey Abrams is attempting a profound shift in how Democratic primaries are won in Georgia, which in turn could have broad implications for biracial dynamics within the party.
Abrams, an Atlanta lawmaker and former House minority leader, is one of two major candidates on the Democratic side of the 2018 contest. The other is state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna. Both are lawyers. Both have admirable, by-the-bootstraps biographies.
Abrams is black. Evans is white.
In politics, you often lead with candidates who look like the voters you need – but don’t have. This is one reason why Republicans give prominent roles to African-Americans within their camp.
Likewise, Evans fits the pattern of recent Democratic attempts to return to power by appealing to white, independent voters – even though a strong majority of the party’s voters and activists are black. It is a general election strategy.
A video that accompanied the launch of Evans’ campaign, entitled “16 Homes,” told of Evans’ mobile-home upbringing in far north Georgia. It set many Democratic mouths to watering.
“She has a powerful message,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said of Evans early this month, via Twitter.
This is the thinking that Abrams wants to subvert, with a nationalized campaign that unites white Democratic progressives with African-American women. The latter are the most reliable demographic within the Democratic party, nationally and in Georgia.
“I’m not going to shy away from the fact that people of color have to be centered in my campaign, because I know I can talk to people of color and white people at the same time, and they’re not going to recoil from one another,” Abrams said Thursday on Hellbent, a feminist podcast.
“We have to stop recruiting the candidates that look like what we wish we had, and we have to recruit candidates that look like where we are,” she said.
Enter Beyoncé. Or at least a slice of her lyrics.
“Get in Formation” is the effort by three national, black-oriented political organizations that debuted earlier this month – with the goal of rallying black women behind Abrams. The Beyoncé reference was no accident. “Formation” was a hit from last year’s “Lemonade” album.
“It honors the power and solidarity of black women. It definitely resonated with black women, but also with all types of women,” explained Sharline Chiang, a spokeswoman for San Francisco-based Democracy in Color, one of the three groups behind the project.
Read the rest at the link….if you want to.
I thought this next remembrance, brought to you by Josh Marshall at TPM was a nice bit of escapism. Maybe it is because Marshall and I are the same age…and we both loved Leslie Nielsen? Leslie Nielsen and the Meaning of Life – Talking Points Memo
Leslie Nielsen died 6 1/2 years ago at the age of 84, a respectable degree of longevity after a working life as an actor that stretched over 60 years. I started thinking about him today for no particular reason: I was paddling around the Internet, reading one thing and then another and then happened upon Leslie Nielsen. For what it’s worth, my browsing history shows a series of searches and pages tied to the firing of Reince Priebus followed by stuff about Leslie Nielsen. How I got from one to the other I do not know.
Today I poked a bit deeper into something I’ve thought about here and there many times. Nielsen began his career in 1950 during the so-called ‘Television Golden Age’. According to his Wikipedia page he appeared in 46 live TV episodes in 1950 alone. His first big success was in the 1956 sci-fi flick Forbidden Planet. From 1950 to 1980 he worked more or less in this vein as a successful TV and movie actor. But if his career had ended in 1980 he would be indistinguishable from and largely immemorable as one of hundreds or thousands of mid-grade actors and actresses who populated film and television over many years but who few of us today would remember or have any need to remember.
But in 1980 Nielsen appeared as Dr. Rumack, his first ever comedic role, in Airplane!, a wildly successful spoof of the then popular transportation disaster movie genre. (Nielsen had also appeared in one of the classics of the genre, 1972’s Poseidon Adventure.) The Dr. Rumack character was an early iteration of the deadpan/ridiculous Det. Frank Drebin character Nielsen went on to play in the Police Squad!/Naked Gun franchise, the character he is now known for.
If you’re my age or older you’re old enough to have some memory of the pre-Airplane! Nielsen, which I think is at least marginally necessary to fully get the magic of the characters he played for the next 30 years of his life. It wasn’t just that Nielsen wasn’t a comedy actor. Nielsen specialized in a genre of mid-20th century American male screen roles from which all traces of comedy or irony were systematically removed through some chemical process in pre-production or earlier. He was the straightest of straight men. That’s what made his comedic roles – playing against that type or rather playing the same type in a world suddenly revealed as absurd – just magic.
Oh please, go and read that one in full. It is a nice tribute to Leslie Nielsen. It also makes a nice contrast to my last link for you today. When you think of movies, and the kind of “entertainment” that is put into production today from political movies to adult movies, although people consume the most of their adult entertainment online, visiting adult websites and services from sites like zoomescorts.co.uk…still in the movies it isn’t really too far off from the Idiocracy film within a film, “Ass” :
Narrator: The #1 movie in America was called “Ass.” And that’s all it was for 90 minutes. It won eight Oscars that year, including best screenplay.
Hollywood is aggressively adapting material that doesn’t have a narrative or even any characters. But not all intellectual property is created equal.
In 2013, a movie producer named Tripp Vinson was thumbing through Variety when he stumbled upon a confounding item: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, a pair of writers and directors, were working on something called ‘‘The Lego Movie.’’ Vinson was baffled. ‘‘I had no idea where they were going to go with Legos,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s no character; no narrative; no theme. Nothing.’’
A sharply handsome man in his mid-40s, Vinson has worked in Hollywood for 14 years, racking up 19 producing credits. He’s a journeyman producer who specializes in popcorn flicks; over all, his films have an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 30 (out of 100). Vinson may not win Oscars, but he knows how to get his projects into theaters. He has survived and advanced in Hollywood by quickly adapting to trends — what’s selling and what’s falling out of fashion. His filmography reads like a map of Hollywood’s shifting sands.
Vinson has produced a movie starring Pierce Brosnan as an aging master thief (‘‘After the Sunset,’’ 2004); a movie about Coast Guard swimmers with Kevin Costner (‘‘The Guardian,’’ 2006); and a psychological thriller with Jim Carrey (‘‘The Number 23,’’ 2007). He has made two movies about exorcisms, one with Laura Linney (‘‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose,’’ 2005), the other with Anthony Hopkins (‘‘The Rite,’’ 2011); a thriller about a psychic who helps the F.B.I. hunt down a serial killer, also with Hopkins (‘‘Solace,’’ 2015); and a romantic comedy with Anna Faris and Chris Evans, the guy who plays Captain America (‘‘What’s Your Number,’’ 2011). He has even made a dance-competition movie (‘‘Battle of the Year,’’ 2013).
Since Vinson got into the business, something has changed in Hollywood. More and more movies are developed from intellectual property: already existing stories or universes or characters that have a built-in fan base. Vinson thinks it started in 2007, when the Writers Guild went on strike. ‘‘Before the strike, the studios were each making 20-something movies a year,’’ he says. ‘‘Back then, you could get a thriller made. After the strike, they cut back dramatically on the number of films they made. It became all about I.P.’’ — intellectual property. With fewer bets to place, the studios became more cautious. ‘‘The way to cut through the noise is hitching yourself onto something customers have some exposure to already,’’ he says. ‘‘Something familiar. You’re not starting from scratch. If you’re going to work in the studio system, you better have a really big I.P. behind you.’’
Vinson didn’t see how Legos could be the basis of a feature-length film. He watched in disbelief as the movie raked in $69 million its opening weekend, grossed almost $470 million worldwide and was almost universally lauded by critics. ‘‘It was magical and fresh and really profitable,’’ he recalls. The movie was clever, telling the story of a Lego construction worker caught in a battle between good and evil, which is eventually revealed to be all in the imagination of a boy playing with his controlling father’s Lego set.
Vinson started looking for undervalued I.P. to guide his next movie. He wanted something an audience would already be familiar with, something that was culturally ubiquitous but could be made new again. He started his search in the public domain. He had succeeded with his Jules Verne and Brothers Grimm adaptations, and besides, old material like that had the advantage of being free. Nothing caught his eye.
Next he started looking around for a big-name console video game to acquire. Perhaps something in the mold of ‘‘Lara Croft: Tomb Raider’’ or the ‘‘Resident Evil’’ series, which has made well over a billion dollars at the box office. ‘‘The video-game companies can be really hard,’’ Vinson says. ‘‘Ubisoft and Activision have their own in-house film-development arms so people decide to spend their money on games and hardware as the vs248h monitor for gaming. A lot of the others are hard to get rights from. They feel like Hollywood can’t figure out how to make a good video-game title. Why give it to them to have them screw it up? That can hurt game sales.’’ Not only were the companies difficult to bargain with, only a few titles even made sense for an adaptation. Vinson’s analysis revealed that megaproperties like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto sold tens of millions of units per installment, but after those top titles, sales dropped to levels that would make an adaptation risky.
So Vinson started looking at mobile games. A cursory investigation revealed that the very best selling mobile games didn’t move tens of millions or even a hundred million units — they could reach into the billions. He happened upon Fruit Ninja, a wildly popular series of games that, since its debut in 2010, has been downloaded well over a billion times. A million people play Fruit Ninja per day. He contacted Halfbrick, the company that developed the game.
As usual…it is all about the money…and sales.
Vinson found the mobile-game developers at Halfbrick to be more approachable than their console counterparts. They’re usually smaller, younger companies. They see Hollywood as a good opportunity to sell more games. And, most important, they aren’t protective of already existing characters and plotlines — generally because they don’t have any to speak of.
Vinson worked out a ‘‘shopping agreement’’ with Halfbrick, a contract that gave him exclusive film rights to Fruit Ninja for a limited period so that he could recruit writers and then take a proposal to the studios. If the project sold, Halfbrick would then negotiate a deal to sell the film rights to the studio, a deal that, based on the ubiquity of the game, could run up into the high six figures. Vinson then realized that he was faced with a formidable predicament. There are no protagonists or antagonists in Fruit Ninja. There’s no mythology. No moral. The game play involves staring at a wall as pineapples, watermelons, kiwis, apples and oranges fly up into view. The only thing you do is swipe at the fruit with your finger, cutting them in half. Sometimes there are bombs, and you’re not supposed to swipe at those. ‘‘There’s a fun game to play, but that’s it,’’ Vinson says. ‘‘The challenge was: What the [expletive] am I going to do with Fruit Ninja?’’
Have some fruit on the screen farting? Hey, it will win an Oscar for best screenplay!
This trend toward I.P.-based movies has been profound. In 1996, of the top 20 grossing films, nine were live-action movies based on wholly original screenplays. In 2016, just one of the top 20 grossing movies, ‘‘La La Land,’’ fit that bill. Just about everything else was part of the Marvel universe or the DC Comics universe or the ‘‘Harry Potter’’ universe or the ‘‘Star Wars’’ universe or the ‘‘Star Trek’’ universe or the fifth Jason Bourne film or the third ‘‘Kung Fu Panda’’ or a super-high-tech remake of ‘‘Jungle Book.’’ Just outside the top 20, there was a remake of ‘‘Ghostbusters’’ and yet another version of ‘‘Tarzan.’’
This year there is more of the same — the third installment of ‘‘XXX,’’ the Smurfs, ‘‘Pirates of the Caribbean’’ (a franchise based on a theme-park ride), a King Kong movie, Thor, the sequel to ‘‘Blade Runner,’’ a remake of ‘‘Beauty and the Beast,’’ ‘‘CHIPS,’’ ‘‘Power Rangers,’’ another ‘‘Star Wars’’ movie, a ‘‘Guardians of the Galaxy’’ sequel, two Stephen King adaptations (‘‘The Dark Tower’’ and ‘‘It’’), ‘‘Wonder Woman,’’ ‘‘The Mummy,’’ ‘‘The War for the Planet of the Apes,’’ a retelling of Agatha Christie’s ‘‘Murder on the Orient Express.’’ Every stripe of intellectual property is represented: from comic books to best sellers; from the public domain to unnervingly recent source material like ‘‘Baywatch.’’
This environment has fostered, in some producers, a sense of desperation. When I asked Vinson if the changes his business has undergone over the past decade have inspired him to panic, he told me: ‘‘Absolutely. It’s forced me to look at everything as though it could be I.P.’’ Increasingly, that means nonnarrative I.P.: stuff with big followings but no stories, or even characters, already cooked in.
‘‘The Angry Birds Movie,’’ which was based on a mobile game, was released in 2016 and took in over $349 million worldwide. The game itself consisted of flinging birds at pigs, but it at least provided its writer, Jon Vitti, with protagonists (the birds) and antagonists (the pigs). There was also Adam Sandler’s 2015 movie ‘‘Pixels,’’ a disaster story that united characters from classic 1980s arcade games. Allspark, a subsidiary of Hasbro, has scored two big successes with a pair of movies based on the Ouija board. The first installment, ‘‘Ouija,’’ cost an estimated $5 million to make but managed to earn more than $103 million in the worldwide box office; the sequel, ‘‘Ouija: Origin of Evil,’’ made $81 million on a reported $9 million budget.
Fucking Hell! You know what? I will stick with TCM and other classic movies via DVD.
This summer’s most prominent example of nonnarrative I.P. is ‘‘The Emoji Movie,’’ a film that dramatizes the imaginary lives of emojis. The film’s director and co-writer, Tony Leondis, told me that ‘‘The Emoji Movie’’ actually began with a quest for some other form of I.P. About two years ago, he was thinking about what his next project should be, and he asked himself: ‘‘What are the newest and hottest toys out there in the marketplace?’’ He looked down at his phone and realized they were right there in front of him: emojis. Everyone uses them.
Unlike board games, emojis don’t have rules to play with. Or mythology. They don’t even exist in the real world. So Leondis created a universe for them: The emojis live inside your phone and are on call 24/7, waiting to be sent to your screen when needed. Each has to make the same expression every time they’re summoned. He created a character, Gene, a ‘‘Meh’’ emoji who is born multiexpressional, violating the rules of the emoji universe. ‘‘The idea that each emoji has one expression only was the key to figuring out the whole story,’’ Leondis told me. ‘‘Then we asked ourselves about the world: What do the apps look like to emojis? What happens when you delete an app? And what would happen if emojis were wreaking havoc inside other apps than their own?’’ Leondis told me that production moved along at a breakneck pace — it was two years from pitch to release. A lot of studios, he told me, think ‘‘The Emoji Movie’’ has the potential to be the beginning of a multifilm franchise.
And if you think I am kidding about the Ass movie and this Fruit Ninja thing, take a look at who is writing the script for Vinson:
The pair came up with a reality competition show called ‘‘Green Card.’’ The concept was simple: An ultra-nerdy American guy is set up with beautiful contestants flown in from all over the globe, who compete for his affection. The winner receives a green card. (The State Department wouldn’t allow it.) There were other near misses for the duo in the reality field — a competition called ‘‘Jocks vs. Nerds’’ that a producer told them MTV liked so much it had considered putting the show on TV five days a week. (The show never aired.) They developed a hybrid scripted-reality series called ‘‘Anchorwoman’’ (tag line: ‘‘Would you trust a bikini model to deliver the news?’’) that Fox canceled after its first night.
When they were approached by Vinson, the first thing they did was download Fruit Ninja. Lavin called Damiani after playing for a while. They agreed: There was nothing there. Just fruit. Their work on projects like ‘‘Flat Stanley,’’ though, had shown them that having less to work with provided a greater degree of creative freedom. Lavin and Damiani spent hours discussing the essence of Fruit Ninja. ‘‘For me, it is the messiness, the immediate release of destroying fruit,’’ Damiani told me. For Lavin, the soul of the game is the feeling of ‘‘frenzy.’’ ‘‘There’s like a 60-second version of it where you can see how fast you can kill fruit,’’ he says, which ‘‘puts your brain in this weird, bizarre focused place.’’ As he sees it: ‘‘This would be the movie to go see stoned. I can imagine going in and seeing it in 3-D — just imagine a 20-foot-high pineapple monster. That shot of yellow and orange. I’d go see this movie a dozen times.’’
Okay, if you think this is some kind of joke…this is a fucking article published in The New York Times.
While they were developing the movie, Damiani and Lavin were also attending career days at elementary schools in the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. Sometimes they went to four classes a day. These gave them the opportunity to do some informal market research. Every time they brought up the script they were working on, they found the same reaction. The kids would ‘‘put their hand in the air, raise a finger and start swiping like crazy.’’ Lavin told me, ‘‘Whatever movie we wrote, it had to be an extension of that energy, that desire to tear up everything in your path and take charge.’’
Early on, Lavin and Damiani struggled to find a narrative entry point. They started with the premise that there was a magic book and an evil fruit overlord. Vinson rejected that idea. Their next concept involved scientific experiments on fruit gone wrong. Vinson didn’t like that either. Eventually, a working narrative emerged: Every couple of hundred years, a comet flies by Earth, leaving in its wake a parasite that descends on a farm and infects the fruit. The infected fruit then search for a human host. The only thing keeping humanity from certain doom is a secret society of ninjas who kill the fruit and rescue the hosts by administering the ‘‘anti-fruit.’’ The produce-slaying saviors are recruited from the population based on their skill with the Fruit Ninja game. With civilization in imminent danger, a cadre of unlikely heroes materializes — a little boy, a college-age girl, two average guys. The action starts after each of the story’s heroes returns home after a horrible day and plays Fruit Ninja to relieve some stress. Damiani told me this aligns with the Fruit Ninja brand: ‘‘Anybody can play. Anybody can be a master.’’
Ah…a movie for anybody…from a game for anybody, that comes from Hollywood…a place in a city where dreams are made of…La La Land…which is part of a bigger nation run by a lunatic. Fuck us all to hell! Why can’t some Fruit Ninjas just go and take care of that monster orange bastard hanging out in the White House? They can do away with the rest of his sad sacks of melon balls and apple twats. Now that…that is a movie I would gladly pay to see.
This is an open thread.ga
I know I’ve said this before, but it’s more true than ever: I don’t know how much more Trump bullshit I can take. This past week may have been the worst yet; how much worse can it get? I’m afraid that it can and will get a whole lot worse.
Last night Brian Williams ran this video that briefly summarizes the events of the past week. It feels to me as though Trump’s horrific speech to the boy scouts was a long time ago, but no. It was just a few action-packed days ago.
Oh, and this morning we learned that North Korea’s ICBM could reach Los Angeles or even Chicago. From the Union of Concerned Scientists:
Based on current information, today’s missile test by North Korea could easily reach the US West Coast, and a number of major US cities.
Reports say that North Korea again launched its missile on a very highly lofted trajectory, which allowed the missile to fall in the Sea of Japan rather than overflying Japan. It appears the ground range of the test was around 1,000 km (600 miles), which put it in or close to Japanese territorial waters. Reports also say the maximum altitude of the launch was 3,700 km (2,300 miles) with a flight time of about 47 minutes.
If those numbers are correct, the missile flown on a standard trajectory the missile would have a range 10,400 km (6,500 miles), not taking into account the Earth’s rotation.
However, the rotation of the Earth increases the range of missiles fired eastward, depending on their direction. Calculating the range of the missile in the direction of some major US cities gives the approximate results in Table 1.
Table 1 shows that Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago appear to be well within range of this missile, and that Boston and New York may be just within range. Washington, D.C. may be just out of range.
It is important to keep in mind that we do not know the mass of the payload the missile carried on this test. If it was lighter than the actual warhead the missile would carry, the ranges would be shorter than those estimated above.
Many news outlets published stories about how bad the week was, often including even more horrible events that The 11th Hour video left out. Raw Story included the Anthony Scaramucci clusterfuck:
Thursday. New White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci started off his day by delivering a rambling interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo in which he compared himself and Reince Priebus to Cain and Abel.
Later in the day, the New Yorkerpublished an interview with Scaramucci in which the new White House official ranted about Priebus — calling him a “f*cking paranoid schizophrenic” — and top White House political strategist Steve Bannon, whom he said regularly tries to “suck his own c*ck.” In the same interview, Scaramucci threatened to fire the entire White House communications staff, while vowing to “kill all the f*cking leakers” within the Trump administration.
Oh, and have you heard? Scaramucci’s wife has filed for divorce because of the relationship with Trump, according to gossip site Page Six:
Deidre Ball, who worked as a vice president in investor relations for SkyBridge Capital, the firm he founded in 2005 and sold to ascend to the White House, has filed for divorce from “The Mooch” after three years of marriage after getting fed up with his ruthless quest to get close to President Trump, whom she despises.
One source told Page Six, “Deidre has left him and has filed for divorce. She liked the nice Wall Street life and their home on Long Island, not the insane world of D.C. She is tired of his naked ambition, which is so enormous that it left her at her wits’ end. She has left him even though they have two children together.”
Scaramucci and Ball, 38, began dating in 2011 and are believed to have married in 2014.
The week had almost ended when the Twitter item crossed. Minutes before quitting time, less than an hour after the markets closed: Gen. John Kelly named White House chief of staff.
The secretary of Homeland Security was replacing Reince Priebus at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
After about six months and a week, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee had been removed as the No. 1 aide to President Trump….
Priebus had been embattled almost from the beginning. He was said to be at odds with senior adviser Steve Bannon, to be less than close to first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.
He was too old school, too Midwestern, too conventional. When Anthony Scaramucci arrived as the new White House director of communications in mid-July, he was reporting directly to the president — not to Priebus. Bad sign.
So in Washington, among those who watch the White House, there could be little surprise. And yet the spectacle of the chief of staff sitting alone in a van in the rain at Joint Base Andrews on Friday evening — detailed in a pool report — was still, somehow, shocking.
We don’t know yet how Priebus found out. Did he read it on Twitter?
HuffPost included more about Trump’s trolling of Jeff Sessions. Yes, that was on Monday of this week.
Trump attacked Sessions again — this time in a newspaper interview [Tuesday]. The president told The Wall Street Journal that he’s “very disappointed” in Sessions, but stopped short of saying he’ll fire the early Trump loyalist.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Then on Wednesday:
For the third day in a row, Trump publicly humiliated his attorney general and the Justice Department. This time, the president questioned Sessions’ decision to not fire Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and falsely claimed McCabe’s wife had accepted a campaign donation from Hillary Clinton.
The Financial Times weighs in: Trump’s week staggers from bad to worse.
It was the week that Donald Trump’s new communications director was meant to reset the White House after six turbulent months. Instead, the fight-to-the-death between Anthony Scaramucci and chief of staff Reince Priebus framed a week that shed the harshest light yet on the chaos at the heart of the administration.
From Mr Trump’s tweeted attacks on his own attorney-general to the resignation of Mr Priebus, days of rolling controversy have shown up the divisions wracking the senior levels of his team and reinforced concerns about the trajectory of his presidency.
Having once welcomed Mr Trump’s November victory for putting the levers of American power in Republican hands, conservatives now are aghast at the disarray threatening the president’s agenda.
While the week of rancour was bookended by the departure of Mr Priebus on Friday afternoon, its lowest point may have come in the early hours of the day when Republican senator John McCain, suffering from cancer, cast the vote that killed the president’s dream of repealing Obamacare after weeks of Republican wrangling over the plans.
“I don’t think there’s a clear understanding of what the party is any more and what it stands for,” said Adam Brandon, head of FreedomWorks, a conservative group with close ties to the lawmakers.
The LA Times focused on the health care debacle: The week the wheels fell off in Trump’s Washington.
For six months and change, the Trump administration has careened down a bumpy road, seldom far from a crash. This week, the wheels fell off.
The precise moment could be seen on nationwide television by anyone still awake — 1:29 a.m. in Washington, as Sen. John McCain of Arizona walked to the well of the Senate, stood in front of the clerk’s desk, stretched out his right arm and turned down his thumb, squashing the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare.
For Trump, who had campaigned loudly, but ineffectually, for the repeal, the defeat jeopardized an entire legislative agenda. It came toward the end of a week in which his administration had never felt weaker or more riven with self-defeating factions.
More at the link.
We’ll probably learn more over the weekend about what happened with Priebus, but here’s one cringe-inducing anecdote about Trump’s methods of torture from The Washington Post:
Trump’s demeaning of Priebus came through in other ways, too. At one point, during a meeting in the Oval Office, a fly began buzzing overhead, distracting the president. As the fly continued to circle, Trump summoned his chief of staff and tasked him with killing the insect, according to someone familiar with the incident. (The West Wing has a regular fly problem.)
Click on the link to read much more about the Trump gang’s sadistic behavior.
That’s all I have for you today. I know this isn’t much of a post, but I was too exhausted after this hellish week to do any more. What stories are you following?
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I’m not sure how many of you watched the late night drama on the floor of the US Senate last night on the so-called “skinny repeal” but it was the first thing that’s ended well for some time. This was old time Senate Drama and not the kind cooked up by Kremlin Caligula and Scary Moochie. for reality TV viewers.
Senator John McCain–long time cancer survivor and usually full of empty words–stood up and did the right thing. He stood with Murkowski and Collins and voted a resounding “no”. He did so in a way that will undoubtedly make him the target of the Orange of Wrath. As my youngest used to say, it was Amazeballs.
Ed O’Keefe of WAPO provides the narrative.
It was the most dramatic night in the United States Senate in recent history. Just ask the senators who witnessed it.
A seven-year quest to undo the Affordable Care Act collapsed — at least for now — as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) kept his colleagues and the press corps in suspense over a little more than two hours late Thursday into early Friday.
Not since September 2008, when the House of Representatives rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program — causing the Dow Jones industrial average to plunge nearly 800 points in a single afternoon — had such an unexpected vote caused such a striking twist.
The bold move by the nation’s most famous senator stunned his colleagues and possibly put the Senate on the verge of protracted bipartisan talks that McCain is unlikely to witness as he begins treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.
“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party-line basis without a single Republican vote,” he said in a statement explaining his vote. “We should not make the mistakes of the past.”
“From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.
“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”
Paul Krugman tries to make sense of the Republican Cruelty on display during this debacle. The passage of any of these Republican Repeal Bills would have been the definition of winning at any cost. I cannot even believe Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy–a medical doctor–would throw millions of people into suffering and early death. That’s a cost only an army of demons could love.
More than 40 percent of the Senate bill’s tax cuts would go to people with annual incomes over $1 million — but even these lucky few would see their after-tax income rise only by a barely noticeable 2 percent.
So it’s vast suffering — including, according to the best estimates, around 200,000 preventable deaths — imposed on many of our fellow citizens in order to give a handful of wealthy people what amounts to some extra pocket change. And the public hates the idea: Polling shows overwhelming popular opposition, even though many voters don’t realize just how cruel the bill really is. For example, only a minority of voters are aware of the plan to make savage cuts to Medicaid.
In fact, my guess is that the bill has low approval even among those who would get a significant tax cut. Warren Buffett has denounced the Senate bill as the “Relief for the Rich Act,” and he’s surely not the only billionaire who feels that way.
Which brings me back to my question: Why would anyone want to do this?
I won’t pretend to have a full answer, but I think there are two big drivers — actually, two big lies — behind Republican cruelty on health care and beyond.
First, the evils of the G.O.P. plan are the flip side of the virtues of Obamacare. Because Republicans spent almost the entire Obama administration railing against the imaginary horrors of the Affordable Care Act — death panels! — repealing Obamacare was bound to be their first priority.
Once the prospect of repeal became real, however, Republicans had to face the fact that Obamacare, far from being the failure they portrayed, has done what it was supposed to do: It used higher taxes on the rich to pay for a vast expansion of health coverage. Correspondingly, trying to reverse the A.C.A. means taking away health care from people who desperately need it in order to cut taxes on the rich.
So one way to understand this ugly health plan is that Republicans, through their political opportunism and dishonesty, boxed themselves into a position that makes them seem cruel and immoral — because they are.
The clerk read the Arizona senator’s surname in the microphone of the tense Senate chamber. The two words were met with silence — McCain had stepped out of the room minutes before.
But moments later, he reappeared. By then, the alphabetical roll call had reached Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan. McCain walked over to the front of the chamber, raising his right arm. He held it up in the air until he had the attention of the clerk.
“No,” he said, with a swift thumbs-down.
It was a “no” that could barely be heard on C-SPAN, and a thumbs-down that viewers would not have been able to easily make out. But the moment was crystal clear for the dozens of reporters watching from the gallery above, who let out a collective gasp and made a stampede exit for the wooden double doors behind them to report the news.
In hindsight, it seems clear: McCain had made up his mind to vote “no” well before he walked into that chamber.
There were hints in his body language, the demeanor of the colleagues who approached him and the way the senator navigated the room. As he huddled with members in a series of hushed conversations while Thursday night turned into Friday morning, there were words that could almost be heard from above and even discerned through lip-reading. The clues were all there.
In other words, those 50 people helped McCain be the political winner. Here are seven people in particular who he can thank for his victory lap this morning.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). It’s sort of amazing that Collins hasn’t gotten more attention for her role in opposing the health-care bill this week. She was one of two Republican senators who opposed the motion-to-proceed, the procedural vote that allowed the climactic vote on Friday morning to happen at all. She was one of the three votes against the Republican bill.
She also made headlines for bashing President Trump after a hearing when a live microphone caught her conversation with a colleague. The administration’s handling of the budget was just “incredibly irresponsible,” and she was “worried” about what might happen. She delivered bad headlines for Trump on three different days — yet somehow has escaped his Twitter wrath.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Murkowski did not escape that wrath.
She also didn’t escape a phone call from the secretary of the interior in which projects important to her state were tacitly threatened. (That’s according to her colleague from Alaska, who received a similar call. She told reporters on Thursday that she preferred not to use the word “threat.”)
Murkowski’s opposition was driven, among other things, by a desire to protect funding for Planned Parenthood, a commitment she made publicly in the state earlier this year. When McCain’s “no” became known on the floor of the Senate as voting loomed, Murkowski was swarmed by her colleagues, hoping to cajole her into flipping. As on the motion-to-proceed, which she also opposed, Murkowski didn’t budge.
I admit to running the gamut of emotions from anxiety, fear, and depression over the thought of losing my access to health care again. I’ve been on Louisiana’s Medicaid Expansion now for a year. I’m getting preventative care again. It’s something that I will likely need for three more years until I can get on Medicare given it will be there for me as it has been for all other over 65 Americans.
I hugged the soundly sleeping cat on my chest and startled her when I yelped and sprung up from bed to dance. I have a reprieve from unnecessary suffering. My long-gone cancer still haunts my life.
A viral video overnight Thursday night showed protesters outside the Capitol break out into massive cheers the moment they learned the Senate GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill would fail.
The video, shared by Splinter News reporter Emma Roller, captured protesters chanting “yes we did” after news the repeal bill failed.
So, I’m just going to enjoy #FridayFeeling and hope that the usual ugly Friday night Trump news Dumps can be held at bay for awhile.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I’m still reading The Devil’s Bargain, the new book on Trump and Steve Bannon by Joshua Green. I should have finished it by now, but there has been so much news the last few days that I’ve been riveted to the internet and TV instead. Actually, yesterday I was struggling to concentrate on anything. This Trump nightmare is really getting to me. I need to find better ways to cope without completely zoning out.
Anyway, the book is both fascinating and horrifying. It turns out that Trump’s great wall was an idea that came from Roger Stone and his protege Sam Nunberg. They came up with the concept because they were trying to find a way to keep their cognitively impaired candidate talking about immigration.
Trump was vehemently pro-immigration back in 2012 when he attacked Mitt Romney for pushing “self-deportation.” Trump’s entire anti-immigration message was nothing but a carnival stunt to attract the rubes. And Bannon is the one who got Trump to keep talking about it. Trump wasn’t even interested in “the wall” until he brought it up in a speech at the January 2015 Iowa Freedom Summit and the audience went wild. So Bannon was a huge influence even back then.
I don’t know why I’m still shocked by this kind of cynicism, but I am. I wonder if Trump actually believed any of the garbage that comes out of his oddly misshapen mouth.
Now Trump has hired a new “communication director” who could be even more flamboyantly cynical–and stupid–than his boss. He’s not even supposed to be on the job yet, but he’s already making a very public fool of himself. Last night he sent out a tweet (now deleted) in which he seemed to accused Reince Priebus of leaking his publicly available financial disclosure form. Then this morning he called into CNN and ranted for about 30 minutes about White House leaks.
White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said Wednesday he will contact federal agencies over the “leak” of his financial disclosures, which he called a “felony,” despite the forms being publicly accessible.
“In light of the leak of my financial disclosure info which is a felony. I will be contacting @FBI and the @TheJusticeDept #swamp @Reince45” Scaramucci tweeted late Wednesday.
The tweet followed POLITICO’s publication of Scaramucci’s financial disclosures filed in the course of his employment with the Export-Import Bank. The documents are publicly available on request.
Scaramucci subsequently deleted the tweet and replaced it with another disavowing widespread speculation that his message implied that White House chief of staff Reince Priebus should be investigated. “Wrong! Tweet was public notice to leakers that all Sr Adm officials are helping to end illegal leaks. @Reince 45.”
Speaking to CNN’s New Day co-host Chris Cuomo Thursday morning, Scaramucci acknowledged that the documents are available publicly but still denounced leaks.
Read CNN’s report on Scaramucci’s embarrassing call-in: Scaramucci: ‘If Reince wants to explain he’s not a leaker, let him do that.’
An even better and more succinct report in a thread from Yashar Ali on Twitter. Head over to Twitter to read the whole thing.
Also see this piece by Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine: Anthony Scaramucci Is Unclear on the Concept of the Legal System.
Despite possessing a degree from Harvard Law School, Anthony Scaramucci does not seem to possess an understanding of basic principles of the Anglo-American legal tradition. First, Scaramucci accused putative chief of staff and Scaramucci blood-rival Reince Priebus of having illegally leaked his disclosure form. (The leak was not illegal and turns out to have been a public disclosure notice.) Scaramucci’s embarrassment at this gaffe has not discouraged him from pursuing a quasi-judicial purge.
The new White House communications director has gone on television to boast that he is interfering with the justice system in violation of written rules:
More at the NY Mag. link.
Scaramucci’s outrage is over the revelation that he has a serious conflict of interest, because he is currently trying to sell his hedge fund business to a Chinese conglomerate and would need administration approval to do so. Here’s the original story at Politico: Scaramucci still stands to profit from SkyBridge from the White House.
Anthony Scaramucci finally has his White House job, but he still stands to profit from an ownership stake in his investment firm SkyBridge Capital.
The incoming White House communications director earned $4.9 million from his ownership stake in SkyBridge in addition to more than $5 million in salary between Jan. 1, 2016, and the end of June, when he joined the Export-Import Bank, according to a financial disclosure filed with the Office of Government Ethics….
The disclosure highlights the extensive wealth Scaramucci has accumulated in his career — much like many of Trump’s other top advisers and Cabinet secretaries — and also the challenge he faces in extracting himself from the potential conflicts his investments could pose.
The SkyBridge website continues to advertise Scaramucci as the firm’s managing director, despite the fact that he has been a government employee for more than a month. Speaking of a website, to make your website on the top of search results, consider the SEO services of Big Vision Marketing. A SkyBridge spokeswoman said Scaramucci stepped down from the executive post Jan. 17, when the company’s sale was announced. He remained an employee of the firm, collecting a salary, until starting at Ex-Im last month.
The investment firm, which Scaramucci founded in 2005, is in the process of being sold to RON Transatlantic and Chinese conglomerate HNA Group. The sale, set in motion in January when Scaramucci was shedding his holdings in anticipation of landing an administration job, has drawn the scrutiny of regulators and is taking longer than expected to close.
The interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is examining the deal to ensure that it carries no risk to national security. The panel’s review, which comes amid ramped-up scrutiny of business dealings with China, ultimately can be overruled by President Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Trump himself just committed another impeachable offense by attempting to blackmail Sen. Lisa Murkowski and the citizens of Alaska through his Interior Secretary. From Alaska Dispatch News: Trump administration threatens retribution against Alaska over Murkowski health votes.
President Donald Trump isn’t going to just let go of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s no vote on Tuesday’s health care.
Early Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to express displeasure with Murkowski’s vote. By that afternoon, each of Alaska’s two Republican senators had received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote had put Alaska’s future with the administration in jeopardy.
The response follows Trump’s no-holds-barred style of governing, even when it comes to his own party. It is his first strike of retaliation against Murkowski, however, despite her tendency to stray from the party line and the president’s priorities.
Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the call from Zinke heralded a “troubling message.”
“I’m not going to go into the details, but I fear that the strong economic growth, pro-energy, pro-mining, pro-jobs and personnel from Alaska who are part of those policies are going to stop,” Sullivan said.
“I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans. … We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear,” Sullivan said. The Interior secretary also contacted Murkowski, he said.
Can this administration get any more chaotic? My guess is that, with Trump and Scaramucci working together, the answer is yes. Keep in mind that lesser chaos agent Steve Bannon was strongly opposed to the hiring of Scaramucci. He’s also opposed to firing Jeff Sessions, but apparently Trump family members are all for it, and Trump has forgotten all about the risks Sessions too by endorsing him early on. Check out this Business Insider article: Bannon convinced Jeff Sessions to endorse Trump, and Sessions worried his career in the Republican Party might end because of it.
As Joshua Green wrote in “Devil’s Bargain,” Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, was unsure if Trump could secure the Republican nomination, and knew that being the first senator to endorse Trump could further curtail his political future if Trump, the Republican frontrunner at the time, lost.
The day before Sessions endorsed Trump at a Madison, Alabama rally in February 2016, then-Breitbart News chairman Bannon told Sessions that it was “do or die” time and that “this is the moment” to endorse.
“Trump is a great advocate for our ideas,” Sessions told Bannon. “But can he win?”
“100%,” Bannon said. “If he can stick to your message and personify this stuff, there’s not a doubt in my mind.”
Sessions then noted that the GOP already denied him the chairmanship of the Budget Committee, and that “if I do this endorsement and it doesn’t work, it’s the end of my career in the Republican Party.”
“It’s do or die,” Bannon replied. “This is it. This is the moment.”
That moment was just days before what are known as the “SEC” primaries — a series of primary contests concentrated throughout the South. Bannon told Sessions that his endorsement could push Trump over the hump in many of those contests and essentially seal up the Republican nomination.
“Okay, I’m all-in,” Sessions said. “But if he doesn’t win, it’s over for me.”
No wonder Sessions is refusing to step down as Attorney General.
It looks like today is going to be another day of fast-breaking news. I hope I can keep myself from getting as stressed-out as I was yesterday. What stories are you following?