Extremely Lazy Saturday Reads: International Incidents Galore

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, I’ve hit an mental and emotion wall after another depressing, exhausting week of tRump assaults on poor and elderly people, on science and the arts, and on our closest international allies.

Yesterday tRump managed to make an abject fool of himself in public by calling Fox News conspiracy theorist Andrew Napolitano a “very talented legal mind,” in trying to shift the blame for his shameful claim that former President Barack Obama “tapped my wires” in Trump Tower during the transition period.

Napolitano had been quoted by Sean Spicer on Wednesday as claiming that British intelligence had helped Obama wiretap Trump Tower. Napolitano is also a 9/11 truther who has appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show, but tRump thinks he’s brilliant.

The attack on British intelligence was the first international incident of the day. The second was when tRump refused to shake hands with Angela Merkel. tRump also publicly chastised Merkel and other European leaders during their press conference for not spending enough on their own defense.

All of this helped to demonstrate that Angela Merkel is the new leader of the free world and the U.S. “president” is a clear and present danger to America and the rest of the world.

How this brilliant woman could stand to be in the same room, much less try to communicate with this ignorant, repulsive misogynist, I’ll never understand, but she managed to remain dignified while the President of the United State {shudder} humiliated us before the world.

Shortly after the press conference ended, Fox News’ Shep Smith stated on air that “the network does not have any evidence that President Donald Trump was ever placed under surveillance, despite the his repeated insistence that former President Barack Obama’s intelligence agencies wiretapped his phones,” according to Politico.

BTW, Ivanka was seated next to Merkel in the Oval Office meeting!

Last night Chris Matthew said it reminded him of something the Saudi royal family would do–including family members in high level meetings. Not bad, Chris!

tRump has gone all in for the disastrous GOP health care bill, which looks to be on it’s last legs–especially after Speaker Paul Ryan made his most revealing remarks yet about his personal motivations in writing and pushing Trump/Ryancare.

Slate: Paul Ryan: I’ve Been Dreaming About Kicking Poors Off Medicaid Since I Was a Drunk Frat Boy.

At the National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit on Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan had an interesting exchange with National Review editor Rich Lowry about the AHCA’s changes to Medicaid:

Lowry: You have been very clear for years—and we’ve seen compelling PowerPoint presentations—about how the entitlements and entitlements growing out of control is driving the country into a ditch on the debt. And we have a president of the United States who basically seems pledged not to touch entitlements. Where does that leave us?

Ryan: So, the health care entitlements are the big, big, big drivers of our debt. There are three. Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare. Two out of three are going through Congress right now. So, Medicaid—sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg.

Lowry: I was thinking about something else, he was thinking about reforming Medicaid.

Ryan: I was, I was! I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. We are on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.

As I wrote the other day, Ryan is either a blithering idiot or a terrible politician. Apparently no one ever explained to him that you’re supposed to at least pretend to be at least a tiny bit compassionate, not blurt out heartless statements that clearly demonstrate your pure enjoyment in causing the poor, elderly, and disabled to sicken and die.

Do you suppose tRump even knows what this bill will do to his own biggest supporters? I doubt it. Ezra Klein thinks he may not be aware.

“I want everyone to know I’m 100 percent behind [the American Health Care Act],” President Trump said today. “The press has not been speaking properly about how great this is going to be. I watch, I say, ‘That’s not the bill we’re passing.’

But does Trump really know what’s in the bill he’s passing, or trying to pass?

With the help of Vox’s Jacob Gardenswartz, I collected and read absolutely everything Donald Trump has said publicly about the AHCA. The transcripts cover speeches, rallies, meetings with congressional leaders, interviews with friendly news outlets, and, of course, tweets.

I learned a few things from the exercise. First, Trump has a very limited set of talking points on health care, and he repeats the same words and sentences constantly — his comfort zone on both the issue and the legislation is very narrow.

Second, Trump seems confused about what the GOP bill does. It is possible, of course, that he knows more than he is saying, and has decided to simply say things that aren’t true. But it’s also possible he’s being spun by more ideologically motivated advisers (that’s certainly the narrative pro-Trump outlets like Breitbart are pushing).

Third, Trump has bought into a caricature of Obamacare’s condition that heavily informs his thinking on both the politics and the policy of the AHCA. This could prove more consequential than people realize.

The AHCA does literally none of the things Trump says it does.

On March 8, Trump laid out his case for the American Health Care Act. Here’s what he said:

It follows the guidelines I laid out in my congressional address: a plan that will lower costs, expand choices, increase competition, and ensure health care access for all Americans. This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor. This will be a plan where you can choose your plan.

These talking points are familiar enough that it’s easy to let them fade into the background. But it’s worth taking them seriously. This is Trump’s case for the bill he’s backing. Does he know that literally every single one of these points is wrong?

I’m sure tRump would never bother to read the bill, and there’s a good chance Paul Ryan has sold him a bill of goods, but I also doubt that tRump cares that his policies will literally kill people. The only thing he cares about his his own personal gratification.

Here’s a new horror from the tRump crowd via The Washington Post: Trump administration rolls back protections for people in default on student loans.

Days after a report on federal student loans revealed a double-digit rise in defaults, President Trump’s administration revoked federal guidance Thursday that barred student debt collectors from charging high fees on past-due loans.

The Education Department is ordering guarantee agencies that collect on defaulted debt to disregard a memo former President Barack Obama’s administration issued on the old bank-based federal lending program, known as the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. That memo forbid the agencies from charging fees for up to 16 percent of the principal and accrued interest owed on the loans, if the borrower entered the government’s loan rehabilitation program within 60 days of default….

The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration walks back the department’s previous stance on the grounds that there should have been public input on the issue.

“The department will not require compliance with the interpretations set forth” in the previous memo “without providing prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on the issues,” the letter said.

The action does not affect any borrowers whose loans are held by the Education Department, according to the department. It could, however, impact nearly 7 million people with $162 billion in FFEL loans held by guarantee agencies.

Who cares if millions of people go bankrupt because of this tRump decision? Not tRump and his billionaire buddies.

Fortunately, many Americans do care about other people. The Washington Post: Meals on Wheels sees donation surge after Trump proposes funding cuts.

Senior citizens in one suburb could see Meals on Wheels deliveries cut in half if President Trump’s budget cuts become reality, a spokeswoman for the network told CNN, as it anticipated “deep cuts” to a nonprofit that serves 2.4 million Americans.

Donations surged to 50 times their daily rate Thursday, the spokeswoman said, after the White House proposed eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program.

While the block grants fund only a small portion of Meals on Wheels’ operations nationwide, spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette told CNN that some of the group’s 5,000 local branches rely on the money to bring food to people.

A Meals on Wheels branch outside Detroit, she said, would lose one-third of its budget without the grants. The branch in San Jose, Calif., would lose $100,000.

And the organization has speculated that Trump’s vague budget outline could also slash the Older Americans Act, which it says funds more than one-third of its operations across the United States.

A North Korean soldier had more access to Rex Tillerson than the U.S. media.

Another big story yesterday was the announcement by tRump’s secretary of state that he might (not completely clear) be considering the possibility of first strike on North Korea. Since SOS Rex Tillerson is basically refusing to answer questions from the media, we can’t be sure; but what he said sounded scary. The LA Times:

“Certainly we do not want things to get to a military conflict,” Tillerson told reporters in Seoul. But he added that “if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that will be met with an appropriate response. If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that

There’s nothing new about the idea that the U.S. would defend South Korea against an attack from the North. But Tillerson seemed to be raising the possibility of a preemptive strike. If that was his meaning, the threat was premature, because the U.S. has other ways to deter North Korea. But the ambiguity of his words was itself a problem. Its vagueness recalled former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s warning earlier this year that he was putting Iran “on notice.”

Tillerson finally agreed to an interview with the Independent Journal Review, a right wing website. Business Insider provides a summary.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in his first sit-down interview since assuming his role as the nation’s top diplomat, addressed a number of pressing issues regarding the US’ role in the global order, the Korean peninsula, the precarious situation with North Korea, the US-China alliance, and his relationship with the press.

Tillerson said the US’ main objective with regard to the east is a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
He also believes that based on recent actions taken by North Korea, the nation is “an imminent threat” that China needs to work with the US to combat.

The secretary of state articulated a the need for a “higher level of dialogue” between Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Tillerson said that his relationship with the press would be “trip dependent” and that he is not a “big media press access person.”

Regarding the revelation that he allegedly used an email alias to communicate with Exxon officials about the risks of climate change, Tillerson said he could not comment on it and that questions should be directed at Exxon Mobil.

That’s all I have for you today. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend.


Thursday Reads: Muslim Ban 2.0, Trump-Ryan Don’tCare, and a Federal Budget from Hell

Good Afternoon!!

Donald tRump’s campaign against American values is heating up. With his latest Muslim ban, he seeks to destroy the separation of church and state that was enshrined in the Constitution. With Trumpcare, he hopes to kill or sicken millions of poor and elderly people by taking away their health insurance. With his new budget, he hopes to kill off any of the poor and elderly who survive his “health care” plan.

The Muslim ban was supposed to go into effect late last night,

but two federal judges (so far) have stopped it in its tracks. The New York Times:

A federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide order Wednesday evening blocking President Trump’s ban on travel from parts of the Muslim world, dealing a stinging blow to the White House and signaling that Mr. Trump will have to account in court for his heated rhetoric about Islam.

A second federal judge in Maryland ruled against Mr. Trump overnight, with a separate order forbidding the core provision of the travel ban from going into effect.

The rulings were a second major setback for Mr. Trump in his pursuit of a policy that he has trumpeted as critical for national security. His first attempt to sharply limit travel from a handful of predominantly Muslim countries ended in a courtroom fiasco last month, when a federal court in Seattle halted it.

Mr. Trump issued a new and narrower travel ban, affecting six countries, on March 6, trying to satisfy the courts by removing some of the most contentious elements of the original version.

But in a pointed decision that repeatedly invoked Mr. Trump’s public comments, Judge Derrick K. Watson, of Federal District Court in Honolulu, wrote that a “reasonable, objective observer” would view even the new order as “issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose.”

In Maryland, Judge Theodore D. Chuang echoed that conclusion hours later, ruling in a case brought by nonprofit groups that work with refugees and immigrants, that the likely purpose of the executive order was “the effectuation of the proposed Muslim ban” that Mr. Trump pledged to enact as a presidential candidate.

Trump threw a tantrum about the decision in Hawaii last night during his “campaign rally” in Nashville in which he publicly state that the new ban is a “watered down version” of the old one and that he’d like to have the original ban back. That’s not going to help his lawyers defend it in court. Neither did Stephen Miller’s comments.

Huffington Post: Thank Stephen Miller’s Big Mouth For Trump Travel Ban’s Latest Court Woes.

Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to the president, was one of Trump’s most vocal mouthpieces following the fraught rollout of the administration’s first travel ban that sparked massive protests at airports around the country. Shortly after federal judges struck down that order, Miller appeared on television to stump a watered-down version, assuring Fox News it would include only “minor technical differences.”

The ruling notes:

On February 21, Senior Advisor to the President, Stephen Miller, told Fox News that the new travel ban would have the same effect as the old one. He said: “Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be addressed. But in terms of protecting the country, those basic policies are still going to be in effect.”

Those “plainly worded statements,” it seems, helped lead U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson to issue a temporary restraining order against the ban on Wednesday. There is nothing “’secret’ about the executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the executive order,” Watson’s ruling reads.

The judge also cited Rudy Giuliani’s comments about how Trump asked him to find a legal way to do a Muslim ban.

On Paul Ryan’s wet dream “health care” plan,

tRump may be beginning to have doubts as he gradually learns from media sources what it actually involves. Heaven forbid he actually try to read the monstrosity himself. He’s much too busy worrying that Obama “wiretapped” his phone calls and is now encouraging federal employees to undercut tRump and his cronies. Since we already know what’s in the Ryancare or Trumpcare/Ryancare, here are a couple of not-so-serious articles about the GOP’s latest clusterf**k.

T.A. Frank at The Atlantic: Inside the Trump-Ryan Murder-Suicide Pact.

When the Congressional Budget Office released the numbers on Trumpcare—or Ryancare, or whatever you want to call the two-headed boar unveiled by Paul Ryan as a replacement to Obamacare—showing that more than 20 million Americans would join the ranks of the uninsured in a few years, what came to mind was Buck Turgidson making the case for a nuclear first strike in Dr. Strangelove. “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed,” he promises. “But I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops.” Yes, some of the people losing their coverage would be dropping it by choice, freed up by the end of individual mandates. But many others would be pushed out by a massive increase in premiums. It takes a zealot like Ryan to be “encouraged” by that kind of analysis.

This has been an amazingly speedy descent into Republican self-sabotage. Ryan’s bill is almost universally disliked. Liberals and Democrats hate it for hurting lower-income Americans. Conservatives and Republicans hate it for either hurting lower-income Americans or for not hurting them enough. (Ohio governor John Kasich condemns the bill for reducing Medicaid coverage for the poor, while small-government Republicans like Rand Paulcall it “Obamacare Lite.”) Americans who currently subsidize Obamacare would be re-united with their money, while Americans who depend on the subsidies would be out of luck. The Ryan bill seems to promise a replay of hits from the George W. Bush years, when Republicans who preferred zero spending on the poor clashed with Republicans who preferred medium spending on the poor, but found common ground through their shared interest in big spending on the rich.

Much of this was to be expected, because Ryan is Ryan, and the G.O.P. is the G.O.P. What was up for grabs was the stance of Donald Trump. Was he going to insist on doing more to protect the little guy? Or was he going to throw his lot in with Ryan? We now see that, despite some concerns from his friends in the media, he chose the latter. (Or perhaps he chose it after Ryan incorporated some of Trump’s requests to protect the little guy—in which case Trump didn’t get very far.) Trump has been lobbying aggressively to get Ryan’s bill passed, inviting skeptics to meetings at the White House, promising rallies, and generally spending a lot of scarce political capital.

If the bill passes, many of Trump’s voters will get hurt, leaving Trump damaged. If it fails, the White House will have suffered a big defeat, leaving Trump damaged and his agenda weakened. It’s not a favorable set of choices. If nothing else, though, it will be the first big test of Trumpism. Its contradictions could be hidden during a campaign season. Now, they are coming into sharp relief.

 Read the rest at the link.

And from The Onion: Mitch McConnell Sees Infinite Healthcare Plans After Dropping Acid To Inspire Ideas For Obamacare Replacement.

WASHINGTON—Seeking to open his mind to new possibilities for overhauling the U.S. healthcare system, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly witnessed an infinite number of replacement plans Wednesday after dropping acid to inspire ideas for an Obamacare alternative.

Shortly after the 75-year-old Republican senator ingested two 100-microgram tabs of LSD in his Congressional office, sources said countless substitutes for the Affordable Care Act began to explode before his eyes in luminescent, hyper-vivid colors and patterns.

“Oh my God—I can see the CHIP provisions spreading out in every direction forever and ever and ever,” said a reeling McConnell, gazing wide-eyed as infinite, interlocking fractal combinations of health savings plans, employer-provided coverage, and government subsidies enveloped him in an accelerating stream, eventually passing over him with such velocity that they appeared to be an entire galaxy of stars swirling around him. “Now I can see…I can see the outpatient hospital visits covered for every child in the country! No, every child who’s ever been born, and will ever be born! Even the ones who haven’t yet been conceived!”

“The scope of coverage is so beautiful,” added the senator quietly. “Whoa.”

According to sources, McConnell’s hallucinations came on slowly, first appearing as a geodesic block grant spiraling gently in the center of the senator’s desk before morphing into a gigantic, prismatic spiderweb of plans whose out-of-pocket prescription expenses expanded and contracted with McConnell’s every breath.

And now for the federal budget from Hell.

tRump wants to spend more than a trillion dollars of taxpayer money on his godforsaken border wall and pay for it by cutting funding for science, the arts and of course the social safety net. As you read the next headline, keep in mind that we also pay for millions for tRump to travel to Florida to play golf and schmooze with Russian mobsters and spies and to keep Melania happy in Trump Tower in NYC.

Occupy Democrats: Trump Just Announced Plan To End ‘Meals On Wheels’ For Seniors.

One popular program facing elimination is “Meals On Wheels,” which uses federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to mobilize volunteers, businesses and donors to provide nutrition to thousands of senior citizens on a daily basis. It supports over 5,000 community-based organizations across America, reaching people in both urban and rural areas.

The money for Meals On Wheels is part of the Older American Act, first passed in 1965 as part of LBJ’s Great Society, and endorsed by every president until Trump. The total cost, which includes other programs, is about $2 billion a year, which is less than the government hands out in fossil fuel subsidies every year.

Meals On Wheels alone costs about $3 million a year, which is the cost of just one trip to Trump’s “winter White House.”

The Washington Post: Trump federal budget 2018: Massive cuts to the arts, science and the poor.

Trump’s first budget proposal, which he named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II, probably leading to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce, something White House officials said was one of their goals.

“You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters.

You can read the entire mess at Vox if you want to: Read President Trump’s proposed federal budget. I think I’ll just stick with The Onion.

So . . . what else is happening? Post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday.


Sunday Reads: Shadow Boxing 

Good Afternoon.

Like many of you, I try to find escape in things away from the daily…or should I say, hourly destruction of our Democracy.

out of the past (1947)

I can countless time looking at pictures on Pinterest. Which is what I was doing last night and early morning when I got the idea of working it into a thread.  So…take some time and enjoy the images, that comprise of movie stills, production shots, and publicity stills of various movies. I’ve picked images that create shadows, or are silhouettes of actors, some are the bright overexposed contrast of an actor’s face against the black back of the scene.

Simone Simon in a publicity still for “Cat People”

I used to remember what all the terms and phrases of these “shots” were called back in the day. The names have become out of my grasp. Yes, I know I could look them up…but that would mean having to do more research. You know what? My brain just can’t function like it used to. I would blame it on the pain pills, depression and all that but it must be something more.

 

Here are a few news items to pepper this thread.

Julie Harris as Eleanor in The Haunting, 1963

This was the highlights from SNL: I didn’t watch these yet. I bring myself to after this week’s actual press conference where Spicer pointed to the two stacks of papers as a “visual aid” for explaining the difference between the Obamacare bill and the Trumpcare bill.

 

SNL Mocks Ivanka Trump with ‘Complicit’ Fragrance Ad | Mediaite

SNL’s Trump Has Everything Under Control During an Alien Invasion | Mediaite

SNL Assures Us We’ll Be Screwed If Aliens Invade Under Trump

 

As you can see from the headlines, even SNL has to expand its storyline to a more unrealistic basis. I mean, everything else they have made fun of, in terms of the ludicrous connections and outrageous way tRump is getting away with everything…all that shit is true! And still nothing is happening. The traitor is still there.

Robert Ryan, Laraine Day– The Woman on Pier 13

Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)

Donald Trump Jr says he has ‘zero contact’ with father as he runs business | US news | The Guardian

Yeah, Right.

“M”

On to the next shit business.

 

The Seventh Seal

GOP Rep. Steve King: Millions could lose health insurance under TrumpCare, and that’s ok – AMERICAblog News

Hospitals worry about caring for newly uninsured in GOP plan | Tampa Bay Times

WaPo: “They are poor, sick and voted for Trump. What will happen to them without Obamacare?” – Balloon Juice

Now that headline reminds me of a movie:

 

 

Watch out all of you in the New England!

Rising numbers of great white sharks headed toward Cape Cod, scientists say | Environment | The Guardian

Figure rises for second consecutive year, says Massachusetts’ top shark expert, warning of ‘public safety issue’ despite no deaths in state’s waters since 1936

Oh oh…I see a pattern here.

 

Angel Heart

Can y’all believe it has been 6 years?

Six years after Fukushima, much of Japan has lost faith in nuclear power – Salon.com

Shadows in Window, 1949 (Siegfried Lauterwasser)

 

With all this going on, I think we may have found the answer to our problems.

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Sabotage”

We need to look back, if we are going backward in time…lets go backward in medicine.

The Fart Jars of 17th Century Europe | Mental Floss

When a mysterious illness is busy killing a significant percentage of the world’s population and medical knowledge is at a bit of a standstill, weird things can happen. Case in point: In the 1600s, some doctors recommended their patients fart in jars to help treat exposure to the bubonic plague.

Ivan The Terrible pt.1 (1945, Sergei Eisenstein)

Their very suspect logic went something like this: The Great Plague of London that devastated the city between 1665 and 1666 was believed to be a miasma, or a deadly air vapor spread through breathing in the atmosphere. Doctors felt that if a patient could somehow dilute the polluted air with something equally potent, it might reduce the chances of contracting the illness. So they advised their patients to have something foul-smelling at the ready.

Macbeth (1948, Orson Welles) / Cinematography by John L. Russell

To have some kind of putrid stench on standby, some homeowners retained a goat and let it stink up the place. Others took to the practice of farting into a jar and quickly sealing it, then would rush to inhale the stench when they suspected that they may have been exposed to the deadly germs.

Barbara Stanwyck & Brian Donlevy in The Great Man’s Lady (1942, dir. William A. Wellman)

While it’s unknown how many people were saved by such a method, it’s fair to assume that the likely answer is none. There is, however, no telling how those saved farts may have acted as a kind of methane placebo, calming the rattled nerves of those who were alarmed by the piles of dead bodies collecting in the streets.

Ricardo Cortez in production still from D.W. Griffith’s Faustian tale The Sorrows of Satan (1926)

The article ends with stating that of course this tip won’t save you from the bubonic plague…and that farts mean your digestive system is working. Perhaps we can start a campaign to send turds in a bottle to tRump?

Rebecca

Last two links.

Why Movies Now Look Like Colorless, Lifeless Crap

Ah..ha. I got a tie in there. Didn’t I! (Get it, turds and the headline “lifeless crap.”)

Harvey

And, finally…one of the movie stills I am featuring today:

The Big Combo

C&L’s Sat Nite Chiller Theater: The Big Combo (1955) | Crooks and Liars

So give that a looksee and see y’all later.

This is an open thread.

Lot’s more film images here:

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Lazy Saturday Reads: No Bad News Allowed

Reading can be fun

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday, J.J. said to me in a comment:

“Your post yesterday was good. I shared it with my family. It just made it so difficult for me to do anything else the rest of the last 24 hours but lie down and stare at the ceiling.”

Boy do I know that feeling. Believe me, writing about what’s happening is mind-numbing too. I just can’t do it today, so this is going to be T#@%p-free post. Of course we can talk about *it* in the comments, but I don’t want to do that to myself or anyone else today. So here are some stories I found that aren’t as horrifying as what’s going on in our daily reality.

The Christian Science Monitor: Buried treasure: huge statue of Egyptian king unearthed in Cairo neighborhood.

A team of Egyptian and German archaeologists has discovered a towering 26-foot statue in a Cairo slum, a presumed depiction of Pharaoh Ramses II, Reuters reports on Thursday.

The colossus found submerged in mud in where the ancient city of Heliopolis once stood is “one of the most important discoveries ever,” according to the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry.

The massive quartzite figure is “most probably Ramses II,” Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani told Reuters on Thursday at the site of the statue’s unveiling, adding that the identity would have to be later confirmed once more of the statue is uncovered.

“On the discovered portions there is no inscription found that would make it possible to determine which king it is,” Mr. Anani explained in a Facebook post on Thursday. “But its discovery in front of the gate of the temple of Pharaoh Ramses II suggests that it is likely him.

In addition to the larger-than-life statue researchers also found a life-sized limestone statue of Pharaoh Seti II, Ramses II’s grandson.

More background and links to explore at the CSM.

Injured Florida panther

The Atlantic: Can Humans Coexist With Big Cats?

On a clear evening this past June, in rural Collier County, Florida, an endangered panther crossed a street and was hit by a man driving home. The driver, making out a tawny, crumpled form, called a hotline. The job of retrieving the animal fell to Mark Lotz, a panther biologist with the state Fish and Wildlife Commission. Lotz called me to see if I wanted to come.

I had flown into Fort Lauderdale at the beginning of the week, renting a car and heading west across the state through what remains of primordial wetlands. Tall metal fences flanked the road, like a dull, gray hermetic seal meant to keep human traffic in and wildlife out. The fences are just one of many measures to protect fewer than 180 Florida panthers alive today, all of them in the state’s southern tip.

A population this size will birth between 60 and 110 kittens each year. But recently, adult panthers have been dying in droves: most after being hit by a car on unfenced roads, occasionally after being mauled by another panther in a territorial skirmish. In 2013, 20 of the endangered cats were killed; then 33 the next year; then 43 in 2015 and 2016….

The story that drew me down to Florida is a classic Anthropocene motif. Thanks to people, a charismatic species starts vanishing from its range, lingering only in certain areas before fading there, too. Extinction looms, until conservationists make a concerted effort to save it. And then—well, it’s not clear what happens next.

The first humans to reach North America found a continent crawling with terrifying big cats: an American cheetah, an American lion (bigger than those in Africa today), and the saber-toothed tiger. But at the end of the Pleistocene, around 12,000 years ago, they all vanished along with the bulk of New World megafauna. Nobody knows why, exactly. Maybe it was climate change, or maybe the direct and indirect consequences of hunting.

It turned out the panther was injured, but still alive. Read all about it at the link.

Interested in the sociology of strange religious practices? Check this one out from December 2016:

Father Amorth

Vanity Fair: The Devil and Father Amorth: Witnessing “the Vatican Exorcist” at Work.

Sunday morning, May 1 of this year, was Father Amorth’s 91st birthday, but he had no plans to celebrate. He awoke just after dawn, said his usual morning prayers and one to Joseph of Cupertino, a 17th-century saint, and another to the late Father Candido Amantini, his mentor. Clutching a walking aid, he shuffled from his cell-like room to the dining room on the third floor of the Paulist Fathers residence, south of Rome’s historic center.

After his usual breakfast of caffè latte and biscotti, Father Amorth returned to his room, which had a tall window, a hospital bed, two chairs, and a wooden desk cluttered with pictures of the Virgin Mary and Padre Pio, a priest-mystic who experienced stigmata—bleeding wounds, corresponding to those inflicted on Jesus Christ on the Cross. For the next six hours, Father Amorth reviewed the mail requesting his services from around the world. Each letter contained tragic questions and appeals from people who knew Amorth only by name and reputation. He answered the letters, writing with a fountain pen, licking the envelopes and stamps himself. At two P.M., he knelt again to pray, then arose with difficulty, took up his walking aid, and made his way to an elevator, which took him to the first floor, where the small room dedicated to his work was located. The hallway was empty and dark. Whispering voices and footsteps could be heard, as from a tomb.

His old adversary was waiting.

At exactly three P.M. he began to conduct the ritual of exorcism. The possessed woman, Rosa, was in her late 30s, tall and slender, with raven-black hair. She was as dark and attractive as an Italian movie star—Sophia Loren or Silvana Mangano, with a quiet demeanor. She had a college degree but couldn’t work because of the fits and behavioral changes that came over her, most severely on the Christian holidays, such as Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, Easter, and Pentecost. This was her ninth exorcism with Father Amorth. As with traditional psychiatry, the patient is usually not “cured” after the first session. Father Amorth had been exorcising one man for 16 years.

Imagine spending your entire life believing in stuff like this? It does say that:

Father Amorth insisted that anyone who came to him first seek the help of traditional medicine and psychiatry. “Out of a hundred people who seek my help,” he explained, “one or two at the most may be possessed.”

The article is actually quite fascinating, because it discusses the pathology of people who experience the bizarre symptoms of “possession.”

What about the possibility of life on other planets?

An artists’s concept of what a deployed solar sail space probe may look like. One capturing the power inferred by mysterious fast radio bursts would be on the scale of several planets.

The Washington Post: Harvard theorists: How sailing aliens could have caused fast radio bursts.

In 2007, a West Virginia University astrophysicist named Duncan Lorimer detected a brief yet intense signal while combing through archival data from the Parkes Observatory telescope in Australia. The signal was quick. The spurt of radio activity, originating from a source other than our galaxy, lasted fewer than 5 milliseconds. And it was furious. To generate such a burst would require 500 million times the power of our solar system’s sun. The unknown source of the signal prompted intense speculation.

One proposal, to be published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, may be the wildest yet: Sailing aliens.

“An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking,” said Avi Loeb, a theorist and author of the paper at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in a statement on Thursday.

A decade ago, Lorimer and his mentor, Matthew Bailes, described the phenomenon as a fast radio burst, or FRB. “Duncan Lorimer and I were just completely gobsmacked,” said Bailes, a professor at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, to The Washington Post. “The day we discovered the first FRB we couldn’t sleep.” Astrophysicists have detected only 25 other FRBs since Bailes and four other astronomers published their groundbreaking report in 2007, he said.

But the origin of FRBs remained an open question. The problem proved to be at once formidable, resilient and brain twisting. Some scientists proposed that FRBs were the fault of massive neutron stars, suns that had collapsed into dense cores. Perhaps there existed stellar flares capable of spitting out a radio wave that traveled across half of the known universe. Or maybe vanishing black holes spewed the FRBs our way.

“I am not exaggerating when I say there are more models for what FRBs could be than there are FRBs,” Cornell University astronomer Shami Chatterjee told The Washington Post in January.

A juvenile sea otter who recently found a new home with the Aubudon Aquarium in New Orleans plays with her favorite toy, a red ball. Inside Edition

Here’s a cute baby animal story.

San Luis Obispo.com: Abandoned Monterey sea otter finds a new home (and a new friend) in New Orleans.

The Audubon Aquarium in New Orleans has welcomed its newest resident: a rescued juvenile sea otter from Monterey.

The Audubon Nature Institute said in a statement that the 18-month-old female sea otter arrived at the aquarium Wednesday. She joins Clara, an 8-year-old sea otter, in the aquarium’s 25,000-gallon sea otter habitat.

The juvenile otter was found as an abandoned day-old pup in September 2015 by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation program. After several unsuccessful attempts of releasing her back into the ocean, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials determined she wouldn’t survive on her own.

The otter traveled for nearly a day just to find her new home, and she brought along her favorite toy – a red ball – to play with during the journey, according to a video from Inside Edition.

The aquarium is conducting an online poll to name the otter, which can be found on its website. The winning name will be announced March 16 on Audubon’s Facebook page and website.

A story about some scientists attempting to recreate the Ice Age. What could go wrong?

One more from The Atlantic: Welcome to Pleistocene Park.

We were driving through a remote forest in Eastern Siberia, just north of the Arctic Circle, when it happened. The summer thaw was in full swing. The undergrowth glowed green, and the air hung heavy with mosquitoes. We had just splashed through a series of deep ponds when, without a word of warning, Nikita veered off the trail and into the trees, ramming us into the trunk of a young 20-foot larch. The wheels spun for a moment, and then surged us forward. A dry crack rang out from under the fender as the larch snapped cleanly at its base and toppled over, falling in the quiet, dignified way that trees do.I had never seen Nikita happier. Even seated behind the wheel, he loomed tall and broad-shouldered, his brown hair cut short like a soldier’s. He fixed his large ice-blue eyes on the fallen tree and grinned. I remember thinking that in another age, Nikita might have led a hunter-gatherer band in some wildland of the far north. He squeezed the accelerator, slamming us into another larch, until it too snapped and toppled over, felled by our elephantine force. We rampaged 20 yards with this same violent rhythm—churning wheels, cracking timber, silent fall—before stopping to survey the flattened strip of larches in our wake.

“In general, I like trees,” Nikita said. “But here, they are against our theory.”

Behind us, through the fresh gap in the forest, our destination shone in the July sun. Beyond the broken trunks and a few dark tree-lined hills stood Pleistocene Park, a 50-square-mile nature reserve of grassy plains roamed by bison, musk oxen, wild horses, and maybe, in the not-too-distant future, lab-grown woolly mammoths. Though its name winks at Jurassic Park, Nikita, the reserve’s director, was keen to explain that it is not a tourist attraction, or even a species-resurrection project. It is, instead, a radical geoengineering scheme.

“It will be cute to have mammoths running around here,” he told me. “But I’m not doing this for them, or for any other animals. I’m not one of these crazy scientists that just wants to make the world green. I am trying to solve the larger problem of climate change. I’m doing this for humans. I’ve got three daughters. I’m doing it for them.”

Pleistocene Park is named for the geological epoch that ended only 12,000 years ago, having begun 2.6 million years earlier. Though colloquially known as the Ice Age, the Pleistocene could easily be called the Grass Age. Even during its deepest chills, when thick, blue-veined glaciers were bearing down on the Mediterranean, huge swaths of the planet were coated in grasslands. In Beringia, the Arctic belt that stretches across Siberia, all of Alaska, and much of Canada’s Yukon, these vast plains of green and gold gave rise to a new biome, a cold-weather version of the African savanna called the Mammoth Steppe. But when the Ice Age ended, many of the grasslands vanished under mysterious circumstances, along with most of the giant species with whom we once shared this Earth.

Nikita is trying to resurface Beringia with grasslands. He wants to summon the Mammoth Steppe ecosystem, complete with its extinct creatures, back from the underworld of geological layers. The park was founded in 1996, and already it has broken out of its original fences, eating its way into the surrounding tundra scrublands and small forests. If Nikita has his way, Pleistocene Park will spread across Arctic Siberia and into North America, helping to slow the thawing of the Arctic permafrost. Were that frozen underground layer to warm too quickly, it would release some of the world’s most dangerous climate-change accelerants into the atmosphere, visiting catastrophe on human beings and millions of other species.

Real baby mammoths? Yikes! I hope this doesn’t turn out like Jurassic Park. Click on the link for lots more interesting reading.

Have a great weekend everyone. I’ve decided to turn off the TV and read a book.


Sunday Reads: Padded room would suit me fine. 

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Bill Day – TRUMPIE BIRD

Trump’s ‘evidence’ for Obama wiretap claims relies on sketchy, anonymously sourced reports – The Washington Post

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
— President Trump, tweet, March 4, 2017

 

 

 

This weekend has got me wondering if padded cells should be quiet the rage in Washington this spring. When you look at actual Tweets from Prez tRumpelforeskin, and it seems like a skit from SNL…

 

Speaking of Saturday Night Live:

 

 

But during the show…

 

 

Nuts…

Nuts…

This is an open thread.


Wednesday Hump Day Cartoons: If you’re brown, you go down…south of the border.

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Once you have enraged the pussy…you will find it is impossible to fight it.

Uh…have you heard the latest? It pretty much goes something like this…if you are an immigrant picked up by ICE, it don’t matter what country you come from…you are getting dumped in Mexico.

Trump Plan: Deport to Mexico Immigrants Crossing Border Illegally, Regardless of Nationality – ProPublica

Buried deep in the Trump administration’s plans to round up undocumented immigrants is a provision certain to enrage Mexico — new authority for federal agents to deport anyone caught crossing the southern border to Mexico, regardless of where they are from.

If present immigration trends continue, that could mean the United States would push hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans, Brazilians, Ecuadorans, even Haitians into Mexico. Currently, such people are detained in the U.S. and allowed to request asylum.

President Trump wants them to do so from Mexico, communicating via videoconference calls with U.S. immigration officials from facilities that Mexico would presumably be forced to build.

“This would say if you want to make a claim for asylum or whatever we’ll hear your case but you are going to wait in Mexico,” a DHS official said. “Those are details that are being worked out both within the department and between the US government and the government of Mexico … there are elements that still need to be worked out in detail.

Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will travel to Mexico later this week to meet with representatives of the Mexican government. It remains unclear if they will discuss this issue.

The new authority for immigration agents is among the dramatic, some would say untenable, tactics the Trump administration is preparing to deploy as it upends President Obama’s policies on illegal immigration.

A pair of memos signed by John Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary, and publicly released on Tuesday outline the plans for what present and former government officials say will be a massive roundup of undocumented immigrants. Near final drafts of the memos had leaked over the weekend and had been first reported by McClatchy.

Officials disclosed that two former Senate aides to Attorney General Jeff Sessions drafted the plan without input from career DHS policy staffers. The ideas aren’t new. Many of the approaches described in the memos come from a 1996 law that policy makers and law enforcement agents had disregarded as either unenforceable or absurd.

Continued from ProPublica:

Among them was the Mexico part of the plan, for example, which calls for returning undocumented immigrants “to the foreign contiguous territory from which they arrived.” The memo goes on to point out how foisting the immigrants onto Mexico would benefit DHS’s budget, saying that it would, “save the Department’s detention and adjudication resources for other priority aliens.”

However, former senior Mexican and American immigration officials said it could very well create new security problems along the border, as authorities in each country push unwanted migrants back and forth.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association said that the proposal would violate U.S. law and international treaty obligations. Mexico is as likely to embrace the plan as it did the notion of paying for a wall. “I would expect Mexico to respond with an emphatic ‘No,’” said Gustavo Mohar, a former senior Mexican immigration and national security policy official.

Whether viable or not, the Trump administration’s deportation plans mark a dramatic departure from decades of policy and practice. Current and former immigration policy officials say that while the details of how the administration intends to carry out the plans remain unclear — if not insurmountable — the administration’s overall message to enforcement agents across the country is clear: the limits have been lifted.

More at the link.

Just a couple more link/tweets before the cartoons.

Trump takes new immigration fight to 9th Circuit – POLITICO

The latest battle is over the rights of detained immigrant children and teenagers to immigration court hearings to determine suitability for release on bond.

Los Angeles-based U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled on Inauguration Day that such “unaccompanied” minors are entitled to go before an immigration judge in accordance with the terms of a 20-year-old legal settlement.

On Friday night, the Justice Department filed an emergency motion with the 9th Circuit asking it to block Gee’s order while an appeal goes forward.

Gee’s “order unquestionably diverts the agencies’ time, resources, and personnel away from the reunification process provided in [a 2008 law] and away from the already-burdened operations of the immigration courts thus interfering with pressing immigration adjudication and enforcement priorities,” Justice Department lawyers wrote in their request for an emergency stay.

It’s not entirely clear which 9th Circuit judges will consider the request but lawyers said it could be the same monthly motions panel that turned down a government stay request earlier this month in connection with the Trump travel ban. (Trump is expected to issue a replacement order as soon as Tuesday.)

[…]

Attorneys for the detained minors responded Monday with a filing calling the government’s arguments “legally and factually specious.”

The immigrants’ lawyers say that in some instances teenagers have been held for more than a year without hearings, only to be released by an immigration judge soon after they turn 18.

“It is virtually self-evident that needlessly detaining children is profoundly injurious,” the minors’ attorneys wrote. The brief also cites the 9th Circuit’s travel ban decision three times in arguing that the government doesn’t deserve a stay.

And…one more little side note.

The White House has changed the Constitution on their website.

Replacing the word people with citizen. See the @Nightshade10 tweet below.

Here are a few tweets from that thread:

Close-ups of those screen shots:

 

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Enough of this.

Cartoon time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

02/21 Mike Luckovich: Extended leave. | Mike Luckovich

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02/19 Mike Luckovich: Health hazard. | Mike Luckovich

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MILO: 02/22/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - MILO

 

Who’s paying for that wall?: 02/22/2017 Cartoon by Eric J Garcia

Cartoon by Eric J Garcia - Who's paying for that wall?

 

WTF TOUR: 02/21/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - WTF TOUR

 

This is an open thread.

 


Sunday Reads: What Sweden?

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Yup, that cartoon is correct. tRump taking a dump on democracy.

I write this with a lingering migraine and depression that is going through the roof. So since my fingers can barely move without the will to make them…here are a few links to look through this afternoon.

 

 

 

Above are two promos for a new video on Maya Angelou…via PBS. It looks good…take a peek at that.

Flint water linked to Legionnaires’ outbreak, CDC findings may suggest.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention genetic testing may help prove that untreated Flint River water contributed to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in and around the city, the MLive site reports.

More than 100 individuals, of whom 12 have died, have contracted the bacterial disease in the Flint area since the outbreak began in 2014. Michigan state officials suspected in early 2015 that Legionnaires’ cases may have been linked to Flint’s 2014 decision to begin using the Flint River as a source of tap water but didn’t make that suspicion public until nine months later. City, state, and federal officials’ failures to properly treat and monitor Flint’s tap water after the Flint River switch are also believed to have caused an epidemic of lead contamination.

The relevant CDC test found that a sample of water taken from the McLaren Flint hospital matched a sample taken from a Legionnaires’ patient who is not known to have received services at the hospital. The reason that’s important is because the state of Michigan is attempting to make the argument, disputed by McLaren officials, that the high number of Legionnaires’ cases during the outbreak that involved the hospital were attributable to the failures of its own internal water system. If bacteria found at McLaren match a patient who never spent time there, however, one logical possibility is that both the McLaren sample and the patient sample derive from a third, original source—like untreated Flint River water.

Eight Signs That Someone Is a White Terrorist – Juan Cole – Truthdig

1. If you appoint yourself to carry out surveillance of a mosque congregation who have never given any evidence of being violent, you might be a white terrorist.

2. If you don’t know the difference between gentle Sufi mysticism and violent extremism, you might be a white terrorist.

3. If you plot to burn down a mosque, you might be a white terrorist.

The rest of the 8 signs at the link….

From Newsweek, via Reuters: FBI Pursuing at Least 3 Separate Probes of Russian Hacking

And one more, this one about James Comey Has Some Goddamn Explaining to Do | GQ

It is four days old, but still ask important questions.

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Now for some recent links on this Swedish thing…

‘Sweden, who would believe this?’: Trump cites non-existent terror attack | US news | The Guardian

Trump invents Sweden Terror Attack, Lies about Immigrant Crime | Informed Comment

But it looks like tRump was just watching crap FoxNews again:

 

 

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Here are 21 facts that explain who Trump mouthpiece Stephen Miller really is

Even among the right-wing ideologues doing the actual presidenting in this administration, Stephen Miller stands out for the copious amounts of Kool-Aid he mainlines. Speaking to the New York Times, a Trump team colleague described Miller as “fiercely loyal” to the president, “a true believer in every sense of the word.” Though he joined the campaign in its early days, penning many of the apocalyptic speeches that won fear-drunk Republican hearts and minds, Miller recently got a lot more visibility after a string of television appearances in defense of the Muslim ban. At each stop, Miller showed a flair for the dramatic: he lied, he dodged, he put on his best tyrant’s voice and proclaimed the executive branch above the law. It seemed contrived and forced, like a politically precocious, weasley teenager’s idea of how to command a crowd. According to those who know Miller’s history, that’s not so far off the mark.

In other asshole news: Milo Yiannopoulos to give keynote address at CPAC next week: reports

Two stories with some legal notes:

Republicans Are Using An Arcane Tool To Handcuff Federal Agencies | The Huffington Post

Americans discover a new must-read for the Trump age: the US constitution | US news | The Guardian

And an article about tRump’s emotional state: Trump has ‘cabin fever’ in White House – Business Insider

This little story from NYTs: Opening the Heart’s Floodgates, With a Paw – The New York Times

I could not read the whole thing. Right now I am in a fix, I wanted to adopt this little mutt puppy that was born on the night we thought my mother was dying…back the day after Christmas.  But, now…my mom and dad are refusing to let me bring her home. My mom would be okay with another pug puppy…a 2000.00 pug puppy, but not the puppy that I’ve gotten attached to over the past 2 months. Anyway…that is that.

 

That is all for today, this is an open thread.