Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Trump began the day with another Twitter meltdown, attacking the Special Counsel’s investigation and then railing against Kirsten Gillibrand and Hillary Clinton.

Gillibrand “would do anything for” campaign contributions? Referring to Hillary as “Crooked,” and what’s the meaning of “USED?”

Senator Gillibrand responded:

About 90 minutes later, Trump tweeted his usual lying attack on Doug Jones and once again endorsed a man who sexually abused young women and wants to return the U.S. to the days of slavery.

This is how degraded the U.S. presidency is in 2017.

I first saw Trump’s tweets when I turned on MSNBC at about 8:30. It amazed to see Mika Brzezinski’s response. She even told men on the panel to stop interrupting her, and interrupted Joe Scarborough. Watch her rants at MSNBC. (You have to sit through remarks from other people on the panel to get all of what Mika had to say).

Tonight we’ll find out whether Mitch McConnell is going to have to deal with Roy Moore representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate. Some Republicans must be hoping that somehow Democrat Doug Jones can win. No one really knows what is going to happen. The polls are all over the place. Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight: What The Hell Is Happening With These Alabama Polls?

What we’re seeing in Alabama goes beyond the usual warnings about minding the margin of error, however. There’s a massive spread in results from poll to poll — with surveys on Monday morning showing everything from a 9-point lead for Moore to a 10-point advantage for Democrat Doug Jones — and they reflect two highly different approaches to polling.

Most polls of the state have been made using automated scripts (these are sometimes also called IVR or “robopolls”). These polls have generally shown Moore ahead and closing strongly toward the end of the campaign, such as the Emerson College poll on Monday that showed Moore leading by 9 points. Recent automated polls from Trafalgar GroupJMC Analytics and PollingGravis Marketing and Strategy Research have also shown Moore with the lead.

But when traditional, live-caller polls have weighed in — although these polls have been few and far between — they’ve shown a much different result. A Monmouth University survey released on Monday showed a tied race. Fox News’s final poll of the race, also released on Monday, showed Jones ahead by 10 percentage points. An earlier Fox News survey also had Jones comfortably ahead, while a Washington Post poll from late November had Jones up 3 points at a time when most other polls showed the race swinging back to Moore. And a poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee in mid-November — possibly released to the public in an effort to get Moore to withdraw from the race — also showed Jones well ahead.1

These differences are significant, according to Silver, because automated polls cannot call cell phones and may have less representative samples because so many people just hang up on them.

Last night a heartbroken Alabama father spoke outside Roy Moore’s final rally before the election. The Washington Post reports:

Perhaps it was the man’s strong but plain-spoken rebuke outside a Roy Moore rally on the campaign’s final night, condemning the Republican candidate’s past comments lambasting homosexuality.

Perhaps it was the admission of the man, a peanut farmer, that he too, had harbored some of the same anti-gay feelings.

Perhaps it was his sign, a photograph of his daughter, a lesbian who, he said, had killed herself when she was 23.

Whatever it was, the two-minute video of Nathan Mathis struck a nerve, traveling far and wide as a sort of emotional coda to a wrenching U.S. Senate race in Alabama that has captivated the country.

And here’s an energized Doug Jones voter speaking this morning:

Interesting tweets this morning from former Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene:

Here’s the link Alene responded to:

A couple of weird things happened during Moore’s closing argument.

New York Magazine: Roy Moore’s Wife: We’re Not Anti-Semitic, ‘One of Our Attorneys Is a Jew’

Roy Moore’s stance on Jewish people probably isn’t at the top of anyone’s list of reasons not to vote for the Alabama Senate candidate. Yet on the eve of Tuesday’s election, his wife, Kayla Moore, attempted to shoot down one of the lesser-known allegations against her husband.

“Fake news would tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” Kayla Moore said Monday night while introducing her husband at a rally in Midland City, Alabama.

“I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, so I just want to set the record straight while they’re here,” she said, gesturing to members of the media.

“One of our attorneys is a Jew,” she continued, pausing for cheers and laughter from the crowd.

“We have very close friends that are Jewish, and rabbis, we also do fellowship with them.”

Um . . . okay . . .

Another speaker “joked” about how he and Roy Moore “accidentally” ended up in a brothel full of underage girls in Vietnam. Think Progress:

One of the introductory speakers was Bill Staehle, who said he served with Moore in Vietnam. Staehle told the story of a night he spent with Moore and a third man, who he did not name. According to Staehle, it was the third man’s last night in Vietnam and the man invited them to a “private club” in the city to celebrate with “a couple of beers.”

Moore and Staehle agreed. According to Staehle, they didn’t expect there was anything untoward going on at the “private club” because “there were legitimate private clubs” in Vietnam. The third man drove them to the club in his Jeep.

Staehle said that, when he and Moore arrived, they soon realized the man had taken them to a brothel. The third man, Staehle suggested, essentially tricked them. “I could tell you what I saw but I don’t want to,” Staehle said mischievously.

“There were certainly pretty girls. And they were girls. They were young. Some were very young,” Staehle acknowledged. But according to Staehle, Moore was shocked by what he saw. “We shouldn’t be here, I’m leaving,” Moore said, according to Staehle.

They asked the third man to leave with them but he didn’t want to. So Staehle and Moore took his Jeep and left him there all night with sex workers, who they agreed were underage. The man returned to base the next morning on the back of a motorcycle, Staehle said with a grin.

Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan must be so proud.

 

Meanwhile, back in Washington DC, the “president’s” men are plotting against Robert Mueller.

Mike Allen at Axios: Trump lawyers want second special counsel appointed now.

President Trump’s legal team believes Attorney General Jeff Session’s Justice Department and the FBI — more than special counsel Robert Mueller himself — are to blame for what they see as a witch hunt.

The result: They want an additional special counsel named to investigate the investigators.

Trump officials outlined their new line of thinking to me last night.

— The new demand was prompted by a Fox News article last evening by James Rosen and Jake Gibson: “A senior Justice Department official [Bruce Ohr] demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump ‘dossier’ had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed: … The official’s wife [Nellie Ohr] worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.”

— Jay Sekulow, a member of the President’s legal team, tells me: “The Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate.”

More at the link.

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky asks: Will the Senate Still Protect Robert Mueller From Donald Trump’s Ax?

Remember the first round of gossip about whether President Trump would fire special prosecutor Robert Mueller, back during the summer? Republican senators were quick to say what a grave error this would be. Susan Collins said in June it would be “an extraordinarily unwise move” back. In July, Lindsey Graham said that “any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency unless Mueller did something wrong.”

Most of them chimed in along similar lines. Consequently we were all assured: Yes, maybe they’ve been in the tank for Trump up to now, but surely they would never tolerate that. That is the moment when they’d say enough.

Well. We may find out about that very soon.

People keep saying “we’re close to a crisis.” No we’re not. We’re in it. We have a president who already obstructed justice on national television…..

A former national security adviser copped a felony plea. Three former campaign officials are under indictment. This has never happened in the first year of a modern presidency. Probably any presidency. And that’s just the legal stuff. Then there are all the lies. Obama spied on Trump (this one still has legs among the creatures of the black-ops lagoons of the far right). Trump has no Russia ties. Hillary sold our plutonium to Putin.

And finally, there’s the madness, which is slightly different from lies. The current madness is that Russia is great and can do no wrong, while the FBI is suddenly a subversive and un-American organization. And Robert Mueller is a partisan, pro-Clinton, Never-Trump pawn of the liberal order….

We have never been here. Richard Nixon and his henchmen subverted the law. They did not attempt to subvert reality itself. Nixon did not go around saying that in fact it was George McGovern who belonged in prison. A news network did not exist to scream on a daily basis that McGovern should face indictment, peddling false “scandals” about him. In the summer and fall of 1973, before Nixon ordered the firing of Archibald Cox, influential congressional Republicans and prominent former congressional Republicans did not go around saying that there wasn’t one honest investigator on Cox’s staff or that Cox was corrupt.

Please read the rest at the link.

That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?

 

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Lazy Saturday Reads: “A Historic Tax Heist” — NYT Editorial Board

Good Morning!!

Republicans are celebrating their tax cut “victory” this morning, but the fight isn’t over yet. The bill still has to be reconciled with the House version and then voted on again by the House and Senate. I have to admit I’m pretty depressed about it, so this post will largely be a link dump.

The Week: The GOP’s massive tax overhaul is a monstrosity.

In a truly wild and dizzying Friday night and Saturday morning in Washington, Senate Republicans committed collective political suicide by passing a deeply detested tax bill they were still writingseemingly moments before they jammed it through on a party-line vote with no hearings and no meaningful input from a public that hasn’t even seen the text of the legislation.

As dawn broke Friday over the undrained swamp, it looked like the tax legislation was still in trouble, with Republican senators Bob Corker (Tenn.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and Susan Collins (Maine) all wavering. ­­­And as of Friday night, the text of this bill, which will restructure the entire American tax system and its economy, had not yet been released to the public, leaving Democratic senators and outside analysts guessing as to which radioactive provisions would be in it, which would be left out, and exactly where various tax levels would be set. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) tweeted a photo Friday evening of amendments that would be voted on shortly and that she had to obtain from lobbyists rather than her colleagues across the aisle. The absurdity was almost unspeakable.

As the day wound down, Senate holdouts, especially those who were lionized by the left as principled heroes during July’s failed ObamaCare vote, had fallen in line and said they would vote to slash taxes on corporations, trustafarians, and hedge fund managers while raising them on poor, working class, and middle class Americans. Together these titans of high-minded values said they were ok with their colleagues’ plan to peel a bunch of hundred dollar bills off of America’s dwindling wad of national cash and stuff them directly into the pockets of their billionaire bankrollers.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

Regular order? On Wednesday, John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced he was fine sending this diabolical, 479-page Dybbuk through the Senate even though no one in the chamber had time to read it even once. Democratic pleas to at least postpone the vote until Monday so that our national leaders might actually skim the legislation were ignored. Protecting Medicaid for vulnerable Alaskans? When it came time to screw the poor, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) was totally cool with it as long as she could trash the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with oil drilling in return. Collins, who was wavering Thursday, voted for the bill in the end, all but giving the finger to the Mainers who gave her those airport standing ovations after she stopped TrumpCare. Flake got on board when the White House made some meaningless promise to him that he would be part of any “conversation” about a DACA resolution later this year. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was the only final holdout.

At the end of the day, Republicans revealed that their entire caucus is bereft of dignity, shame, honor, and any commitment to a single thing any of them have ever said in public about how laws should be made in the United States.

Read it and weep.

Mother Jones: Senate Passes Sweeping Tax Bill That Overwhelmingly Benefits the Wealthiest Americans.

There were a smattering of last-minute changes tucked into the nearly 500-page bill, but the core of it is quite simple: a permanent tax cut for corporations combined with much smaller, and temporary, benefits for everyone else. Over the next decade, the $1.4 trillion tax cut would disproportionately reward the wealthiest Americans while piling on the national debt—which in turn will likely be used by Republicans as a justification for cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Before the individual cuts expire in 2026—ending the bill’s most charitable years—the top 1 percent would receive slightly more of the tax cut than the bottom 60 percent of Americans combined. Without the individual tax cut, the top 1 percent would get start getting 61 percent of the benefits. And at that point, the vast majority of middle-class taxpayers would receive essentially nothing, or end up paying higher taxes….

Republicans say they’ll eventually extend those individual cuts. But there is good reason to doubt that. The United States will be facing unprecedented debt levels when it comes time to renew the cuts. The annual deficit would be $1.4 trillion in 2025, up from about $700 billion today. The Senate bill asks Americans to trust that a future Congress, comprised of different members, will continue to ignore deficits.

Supposedly the bill includes a lot of completely nonsensical policy changes, including defining life as beginning at conception. We already know that the bill basically repeals Obamacare and throws 13 million people off health insurance. It also cuts Medicare, and the Republicans will use the inevitable budget deficits to push for cuts in Social Security and more cuts in Medicare and Medicaid.

The Washington Post: GOP eyes post-tax-cut changes to welfare, Medicare and Social Security.

High-ranking Republicans are hinting that, after their tax overhaul, the party intends to look at cutting spending on welfare, entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and other parts of the social safety net.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said recently that he wants Republicans to focus in 2018 on reducing spending on government programs. Last month, President Trump said welfare reform will “take place right after taxes, very soon, very shortly after taxes.”

As Republicans advocate spending cuts, they have frequently cited a need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.

“You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said this week.While whipping votes for a GOP tax bill on Thursday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) attacked “liberal programs” for the poor and said Congress needed to stop wasting Americans’ money.

“We’re spending ourselves into bankruptcy,” Hatch said. “Now, let’s just be honest about it: We’re in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don’t help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don’t help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through.”

Hatch and his buddies want to “help” the poor and elderly by letting them die in the streets. Or maybe they’d decide that the right to life ends at birth.

The latest CBO score was released just before the vote, and it predicts the same results as the previous one. The Hill reports: CBO: Senate tax bill increases deficit by $1.4 trillion.

The Senate GOP tax plan will increase the deficit by more than $1.4 trillion over a decade, according to a new analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

The CBO score comes as senators are already voting on amendments to the legislation and are expected to pass the bill in the early morning hours of Saturday.

The legislation, according to CBO, would have the largest deficits between the 2019 fiscal year and the 2022 fiscal year.

The finding comes as GOP senators have largely ignored warnings that their tax plan would increase the deficit. Republicans argue that economic growth will more than make up for any increases to the national debt.

It could be a lot worse than that. What domestic or foreign students will be able to earn doctorates in the U.S. if they have to pay taxes on the tuition that Universities waive in return for grad student labor? Corporations will continue ship jobs overseas and channel their profits to their shareholders. This bill is likely to throw our economy into another tailspin. I’ll leave it up to Dakinikat to discuss that.

The Washington Post lists some of the disagreements between the House and Senate versions of the bill that will have to be resolved: Here are 7 differences Republicans must resolve between their tax bills. They include the ACA individual mandate, the estate tax, the expiration of individual tax cuts, the child tax credit, the mortgage interest deduction, the new tax brackets, and the timing of the corporate tax cuts. Of course it’s possible Ryan could decide to try to get the House to pass the Senate version as is. We’ll have to wait and see.

The New York Times Editorial Board: A Historic Tax Heist.

With barely a vote to spare early Saturday morning, the Senate passed a tax bill confirming that the Republican leaders’ primary goal is to enrich the country’s elite at the expense of everybody else, including future generations who will end up bearing the cost. The approval of this looting of the public purse by corporations and the wealthy makes it a near certainty that President Trump will sign this or a similar bill into law in the coming days.

The bill is expected to add more than $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade, a debt that will be paid by the poor and middle class in future tax increases and spending cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other government programs. Its modest tax cuts for the middle class disappear after eight years. And up to 13 million people stand to lose their health insurance because the bill makes a big change to the Affordable Care Act.

Yet Republicans somehow found a way to give a giant and permanent tax cut to corporations like Apple, General Electric and Goldman Sachs, saving those businesses tens of billions of dollars.

Because the Senate was rewriting its bill till the last minute, only the dealmakers themselves knew what the chamber voted on. There will, no doubt, be many unpleasant surprises as both houses work to pass final legislation for President Trump to sign.

Read the rest at the link. I’m sure more details about the tax scam will come out over the weekend. Meanwhile, if you live in a red state, please let your Senators and Representatives know how enraged you are.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Sunday Reads: “Horrideous”

 

Hey ho, morning to you all.

The title of today’s post comes from a tweet by Melissa @Shakestweetz, she has come up with a new word to describe something that is both horrible and horrendous. It was actually in response to a neck tattoo she saw someone sporting about…but I think it would be a perfect single word utterance to express the tRump display and performance during the entire Hurricane Humphrey disaster:

“Horrideous”

 

Has a nice ring to it, right?

I thought this reply from @lawngoon was just about in line:

 

Yup. Sounds like a winner to me.

Okay, so last night…or early this morning when I spotted this tweet, something major was going down. I saw it happening live, so to speak. North Korea was making a huge kaboom. Big enough to make the earth quake…first it was reported at 5.11 on scale…then it was increased, to 6.3:

According to that link via USGS site:

M 6.3 Explosion – 22km ENE of Sungjibaegam, North Korea

Possible explosion, located near the site where North Korea has detonated nuclear explosions in the past. If this event was an explosion, the USGS National Earthquake Information Center cannot determine its type, whether nuclear or any other possible type. The Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) is the sole organization in the federal government whose mission is to detect and report technical data from foreign nuclear explosions.

I mean…take it from this tweet here:

 

Well, it was a big bomb.

North Korean nuclear test confirmed in major escalation by Kim Jong-un | World news | The Guardian

The explosion was heralded by a 6.3-magnitude earthquake about six miles (10km) from North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the north-east of the country. It was felt over the Chinese border in Yanji.

South Korea’s meteorological administration estimated the blast yield at between 50 to 60 kilotons, or five to six times stronger than North Korea’s fifth test in September last year.

Kim Young-woo, the head of South Korea’s parliamentary defence committee said later that the yield was as high as 100 kilotons. One kiloton is equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT.

The previous nuclear blast in North Korea is estimated by experts to have been about 10 kilotons.

tRump’s the Twit…Twitter’s response:

 

Moving on to another disgusting news item.

The next tRump “The President” reality show ratings waiting game:

Will Jesus be able to stay in the US and continue to save lives? Or will he be fired and kicked out of the country he has called home since he was a young boy?

Tune in next week…or Monday…maybe Tuesday?

This Paramedic Who Rescued Harvey Victims May Be Deported If Trump Ends DACA

Houston-area paramedic Jesus Contreras worked six days straight after Hurricane Harvey hammered through southeast Texas, rescuing people from flood waters and taking some of them to local hospitals.

“It was emotional because you’re seeing people go through some of the hardest moments of your life,” Contreras told BuzzFeed News. “It shook up our entire community.”

In between rescuing people and helping people who needed dialysis, insulin, or reach life-saving medical machines, Contreras didn’t have a lot of time to think about himself. That changed when he came home on Thursday to shower and saw the news that President Trump may end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The Obama-era program protects undocumented immigrants who, like Contreras, were brought to the US as children from deportation, while also granting them permits to legally work.

“Hearing that my future in the United States is being threatened and possibly taken away was disheartening, it was disappointing,” the 23-year-old said. “It was like getting an extra kick to the face when you’re already down.”

 

 

🚒Houston-area paramedic Jesus Contreras worked six straight days after Harvey hammered through southeast Texas. But when he got home Thursday and saw the news Trump may end DACA he said it was "like getting an extra kick to the face." Repost @buzzfeednews

A post shared by UndocuMedia #cleanDreamAct (@undocumedia) on

 

From the Buzzfeed link above:

Contreras was brought to the United States when he was 6 years old by his mother from the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. He said he was fleeing violence and local drug crime at home.

“We came here with the hope of being free and being able to work and make a productive life,” Contreras said. “My mom came here with the intention of giving me the best opportunities I could have and DACA has allowed me to do just that.”

The paramedic called the DACA program a “huge life-changing experience,” without which he would never have been licensed.

“There are countless people with DACA that are out here volunteering, coordinating with shelters and relief,” Contreras said. “I have this opportunity to share my story but I’m far from the only one and there are millions of people just like me doing even bigger things.”

On Tuesday, when the Trump administration is expected to be announce their decision on DACA, Contreras will be coming home from another shift at the Montgomery County Hospital District.

“I’m a man of faith and I have faith and hope that things will work out for us and we can rest easy,” he said. “I want people who are against us to know that we are proud Americans, we have a lot of pride in this country, and that we’re going to stay here to fight and to help each other.”

Read more about Jesus, go check out the story…

 

Meanwhile…

*Note the tRump t-shirt….

Then there is this shit:

I have to agree with Aravosis on this:

I hate this man:

Oh, and don’t forget this:

Maybe you may have missed this:

 

 

Photo by @mrobinsonchavez This photo was made in the small town of Nome, Texas which was battered by Harvey. Earl Williams' home, built by his father 40 years ago, was flooded. He hopes he can repair rather than rebuild the home. Currents and whirlpools still pose a danger in high water areas. #harvey #hurricaneharvey #texas #texasstrong #dignity #portraitphotography

A post shared by Washington Post Photography (@washpostphoto) on

Accurate 👌🏾I need this version of the game *El Culero = The Asshole #loteria Repost @vmejiaguevara

A post shared by UndocuMedia #cleanDreamAct (@undocumedia) on

💯La mera neta #word #truth Repost @resist.now

A post shared by UndocuMedia #cleanDreamAct (@undocumedia) on

On the Onion:

“These were patriotic business proprietors who followed the laws of their time to further their economic interests, and this new currency design finally recognizes these enterprising individuals for their success,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at an afternoon press conference, explaining that the bills commemorating those responsible for enslaving the famed abolitionist, Civil War nurse, and women’s rights activist for the first three decades of her life would be in circulation by 2018. “For too long, we’ve overlooked the achievements of these upstanding citizens and prosperous agriculturalists. The new $20 note, which will feature a portrait of the Brodess family on the front and a depiction of the Maryland plantation they operated on the back, will at last give them their proper place in American history.” #TheOnion

A post shared by The Onion (@theonion) on

 

Not the Onion:

Terrible sad news today:

 

 

Latest on Irma:

This was some good news in all the muck:

Congratulations to superstar tennis player @SerenaWilliams on the birth of her baby girl. "Two weeks after we found out [about the pregnancy], I played the Australian Open. I told Alexis it has to be a girl because there I was playing in 100-degree weather, and that baby never gave me any trouble. Ride or die. Women are tough that way.” Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, May 2010.

A post shared by Vogue (@voguemagazine) on

 

Via Jezabel, The Williams Sisters Had the Best Day Ever

In case you missed it: on Friday, Serena had a baby, and Venus advanced to the fourth round at the the US Open. WPBF-25 news producer Chris Shepherd tweeted that the baby girl is six pounds, 13 ounces.

This is all for today, I have to go and clean up after the puppy…a migraine is beating me down, we have another crisis with my mom…this time it is a pea sized tumor in her breast. She has a biopsy scheduled for the 18th of this month, we are hoping it is just a fibroid cyst. Oh and so many other shit things, nothing to compare with what folks are going through in Texas…but it is so exhausting.

I will leave you with one of my favorite Steely Dan songs:

 

 

This is an open thread.


Thursday Reads: The Latest on Harvey’s Aftermath

toi Arkema Plant, Crosby, TX

Good Afternoon!!

If you watched Rachel Maddow the past two nights, you know about the flooded chemical plant in Crosby, Texas that was expected to explode. Well it happened this morning.

The Washington Post: Chemicals ignite at flooded plant in Texas as Harvey’s devastation lingers.

CROSBY, Tex. — The remnants of Hurricane Harvey carried its wrath up the Mississippi Delta on Thursday, but not before hammering the Gulf Coast with more punishing cloudbursts and growing threats that included reports of “pops” and “chemical reactions” at a crippled chemical plant and the collapse of the drinking water system in a Texas city.

Authorities warned of the danger posed by the plant in Crosby, about 30 miles northeast of Houston. The French company operating the plant said explosions were possible, and William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, called the potential for a chemical plume “incredibly dangerous.”

Still, officials offered differing accounts regarding what occurred at the Crosby plant, which makes organic peroxides for use in items such as counter tops and pipes. The plant’s operators, which had earlier Thursday reported explosions, later said they believe at least one valve “popped” there, though they noted it was impossible to know for sure since all employees had left the site.

The Environmental Protection Agency said that it dispatched personnel to the scene and did not immediately detect issues regarding toxic material.

Let’s hope that the EPA can still be trusted under Trump. According to Rachel’s report, Texas Governor Abbott made it illegal for people to know when and where toxic materials are being stored in the state. In case you missed it, here’s a bit of the report from last night. We covered the West, Texas explosion quite a bit here at Sky Dancing Blog.

From CNN:

A pair of blasts at the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby sent plumes of smoke into the sky Thursday morning, and the company warned more blasts could follow.

“We want local residents to be aware that product is stored in multiple locations on the site, and a threat of additional explosion remains,” Arkema said in a statement. “Please do not return to the area within the evacuation zone until local emergency response authorities announce it is safe to do so.”

The twin blasts Thursday morning happened after organic peroxides overheated. The chemicals need to be kept cool, but after the plant lost power Sunday, the temperature rose, officials said.

That led to containers popping, including one container that caught fire — sending black smoke 30 to 40 feet into the air.

The thick black smoke “might be irritating to the eyes, skin and lungs,” Arkema officials said in a statement.

Fifteen Harris County sheriff’s deputies were hospitalized, but the smoke they inhaled was not believed to be toxic, the department said. By midmorning Thursday, all of the deputies had been released.

Reporter Matt Dempsy of the Houston Chronicle was on Rachel’s show last night, and his Twitter feed is helpful for following this story. More info in this Twitter thread:

Beaumont, Texas is now without water. HuffPost: Beaumont, Texas, In Crisis After City Loses Water Supply Indefinitely.

BEAUMONT ― Residents of this city in eastern Texas are desperate for clean water after the main municipal water pumps failed due to flooding.

Beaumont, which has a population of over 100,000 people, lost both its main and secondary water supplies on Wednesday. The storm caused the Neches River to overflow, which damaged the city’s water pumps, according to city officials. The city’s secondary water source, which is located at the Loeb wells in Hardin County, is also offline.

City officials said the outage is indefinite, pending inspection of the damaged pumps, which they are unable to do until the water recedes.

Read more details at the CNN link. MSNBC is currently showing a Beaumont hospital being evacuated because of the loss of water supply.

Here are a couple of stories that help explain the flooding in the Houston area.

Jay Casano at International Business Times via the National Memo: How Texas Republicans Rejected The Chance To Plan For Climate Change.

With rising sea levels and increased rainfall, experts agree, climate change made the flooding from Hurricane Harvey far worse than it would have been even a decade ago. The Texas legislature had multiple opportunities to create a “climate adaptation plan” that could have resulted in preparations, but the bills were killed every time. The sponsor of the legislation told International Business Times that former Texas Gov. Rick Perry made sure that the climate adaptation bills would not pass.

People begin lining up at a closed Wal-Mart store in Beaumont, TX at around 2:30 Thursday morning after hearing the water supply for the city had failed.

“When I filed that legislation, then-Governor Perry’s legislative staff told me that no legislation that had climate change in it would get out of committee,” former Texas state representative Lon Burnam told IBT. “They came to our office and said to stop filing these bills:  ‘We’ll never let it out of committee.’”

Houston is the heart of the nation’s fossil fuels industry, making the discussion of climate change post-Hurricane Harvey particularly relevant. The Texas state government has been widely criticized for being beholden to oil industry interests. Campaign finance records bear out that claim: Over the last two election cycles, Texas state lawmakers have received more than $11.3 million from the oil and gas industry, including $2.3 million for Texas State House Speaker Joe Straus. Former Gov. Perry, now Donald Trump’s Secretary of Energy, received more than $1.6 million from the oil and gas industry during his very brief 2016 presidential run. As governor of Texas, he received more than $10 million across three elections, including $6 million in the 2010 race.

More at the link.

Bloomberg: Harvey Wasn’t Just Bad Weather. It Was Bad City Planning.

Houston has been wet since birth. In the 1840s, the German explorer Ferdinand von Roemer described the Brazos River prairie just outside the young town as an “endless swamp” that mired the wheels of his wagons. He reported that some people who’d intended to settle in Texas turned around and left after seeing the “sad picture.” But Houston never let itself be hampered by its hydrology. It spent billions patching together a mess of dams and drainage projects as it grew and grew. It’s the fourth-biggest city in the U.S., boasting one of the world’s largest medical centers, oil refineries, a stupendous livestock show and rodeo, highbrow culture, vibrant economic growth, and speakers of 145 languages. The consolidated metropolitan statistical area surrounding Houston and extending to Galveston is larger than the state of New Jersey.

Downtown Houston from the air.

Harvey is a devastating reminder to Houston that nature will have its due. The Category 4 hurricane that hung around as a stationary tropical storm punished greater Houston with rainfall measured in feet, not inches. No city could have withstood Harvey without serious harm, but Houston made itself more vulnerable than necessary. Paving over the saw-grass prairie reduced the ground’s capacity to absorb rainfall. Flood-control reservoirs were too small. Building codes were inadequate. Roads became rivers, so while hospitals were open, it was almost impossible to reach them by car.

Harvey’s damage was selective. It’s a minor event for the $19 trillion U.S. economy, since most of the economic activity that was interrupted will be made up later. It was a light hit for insurers, because few underwrite flood insurance and the wind damage they do cover was minimal; insurers’ stock prices barely fell. The refining and petrochemical industries lining the busy Houston Ship Channel also got off fairly lightly (this time), because they’ve invested heavily in storm defenses.

The impact on taxpayers is more serious, because Harvey is likely to generate tens of billions of dollars in emergency federal aid and claims on the money-losing National Flood Insurance Program….

Above all, Harvey is a humanitarian disaster. Ordinary Texans were defenseless against rising waters contaminated by sewage and dotted with floating colonies of fire ants. The confirmed death toll, 20 as of Aug. 30, is expected to rise as rescuers discover more bodies. Residents will return to damaged homes vulnerable to the spread of mold. Much of the damage, which could run to $100 billion or more by one estimate, is uninsured. “This will be the worst natural disaster in American history” in financial terms, Joel Myers, founder and president of AccuWeather, predicted in an Aug. 29 statement.

Mike Pence is in Texas today to fake empathy toward victims of Hurricane Harvey after Trump was unable to do so yesterday. The White House is busy trying to clean up the mess Trump made when he claimed to have seen the horror “first hand.” The Washington Post: Trump claimed he witnessed Harvey’s devastation ‘first hand.’ The White House basically admits he didn’t.

President Trump clearly and unmistakably exaggerated the “horror and devastation” he witnessed in Texas. The White House’s response? To pretend words don’t mean what they mean.

Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he had seen this horror and devastation “first hand.”

But reporters quickly took issue with that….

A reporter asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders about this later Wednesday, and her answer was … something:

He met with a number of state and local officials who are eating, sleeping, breathing the Harvey disaster. He talked exI tensively with the governor, who certainly is right in the midst of every bit of this, as well as the mayors from several of the local towns that were hit hardest. And detailed briefing information throughout the day yesterday talking to a lot of the people on the ground. That certainly is a firsthand account.

No, it’s not. That’s a *second*hand account — the very definition of one, in fact.

There’s much more news, especially about the Russia investigation, but you probably heard about that last night. I’ll post a couple of links in the comment thread just in case. What stories are you following today?


Wednesday Reads: Nothing else to say. Oh, and cartoons…of course.

 

 

 

 

Image above from tweet   Aug 13

Remember…about those statues: Robert E. Lee opposed Confederate monuments | PBS NewsHour

“I think it wiser,” the retired military leader wrote about a proposed Gettysburg memorial in 1869, “…not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”

Now, about the Orange Asshole…

There is absolutely nothing I can say that would add to the discussion over yesterday’s White Supremacist in Chief press conference…everyone of us who voted for Hillary knew exactly what that asshole stood for…and where this country was going if he was elected. Fucking hell, did she not predict word for word…this shit a year ago?

*Video from Occupied Democrats…but it is the one place to see it edited succinctly.

 

And…I am so fucking sick of the phrase Alt-Right…

Alt-Right, Alt-Left, Antifa: A Glossary of Extremist Language – The New York Times

President Trump angrily denounced the so-called alt-left at a news conference on Tuesday, claiming that the group attacked followers of the so-called alt-right at a white supremacist rally that exploded into deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at the, as you say, the ‘alt-right’? Do they have any semblance of guilt?” he asked. There was “blame on both sides,” he said. “I have no doubt about it.”

Both phrases are part of a broad lexicon of far-right terminology that has become important to understanding American politics during the Trump administration. Many of these terms have their roots in movements that are racist, anti-Semitic and sexist.

Here is a brief guide to the meaning of those expressions and others used by white supremacists and far-right extremists.

Look, even the creator of Godwin’s Law is calling it what it is…

 

 

Check out this Facebook post from the Alt National Park Service…and see the comment about calling the Alt-Right out for who they are:

 

So Fuck the “Alt-Right” and call them what they are…Alt-Right=White Supremacists!

 

Okay, real quick, before we get to the cartoons…Banjoville is in the news again. This time it is for a teacher and sexual assault…which happened to a student back when my daughter was in Middle school. Both she and my son know the victim and from what I understand…this arrest did not come as a surprise to them.

Ex-Ga. teacher arrested for having sex with 15-year-old student – NY Daily News

What makes me so disgusted, is how FoxNews presented the case:

“Sex Romp.” Oh give me a break…this is a predator…committing a crime against a child.

What also is disgusting is the amount of people in the community who are actually supporting the alleged criminal in this situation. The prayers being called for this teacher…how she just made a mistake. Reading them is just as gross as the comments on that FoxNews thread. Yes, you can imagine the remarks.

A couple more links for you:

Trump’s manufacturing council includes Elon Musk, Michael Dell and Mark Fields | TechCrunch

Here’s the full list of members on the new manufacturing council:

  • Andrew Liveris, The Dow Chemical Company
  • Bill Brown, Harris Corporation
  • Michael Dell, Dell Technologies
  • John Ferriola, Nucor Corporation
  • Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool Corporation
  • Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company
  • Ken Frazier, Merck & Co., Inc.
  • Alex Gorsky, Johnson & Johnson
  • Greg Hayes, United Technologies Corp.
  • Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin Corporation
  • Jeff Immelt, General Electric
  • Jim Kamsickas, Dana Inc.
  • Klaus Kleinfleld, Arconic
  • Brian Krzanich, Intel Corporation
  • Rich Kyle, The Timken Company
  • Thea Lee, AFL-CIO
  • Mario Longhi, U.S. Steel
  • Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Company
  • Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing
  • Elon Musk, Tesla
  • Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar
  • Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing
  • Kevin Plank, Under Armour
  • Michael Polk, Newell Brands
  • Mark Sutton, International Paper
  • Inge Thulin, 3M
  • Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO
  • Wendel Weeks, Corning

 

Now for the cartoons:

 

 

 

 

 

08/16/2017 Cartoon by Kevin Siers

Cartoon by Kevin Siers -

08/16/2017 Cartoon by John Branch

Cartoon by John Branch -

08/15/2017 Cartoon by John Branch

Cartoon by John Branch -

08/12/2017 Cartoon by John Branch

Cartoon by John Branch -

Oh yeah…forgot about that?

Setting the stage for Charlottesville: 08/16/2017 Cartoon by Jen Sorensen

Cartoon by Jen Sorensen - Setting the stage for Charlottesville

08/15/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

 

08/16/2017 Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson -

 

 

Nick Anderson cartoon: 08/16/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson - Nick Anderson cartoon

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 08/16/2017 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Trump and whiplash: 08/16/2017 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: Trump and whiplash

08/16/2017 Cartoon by Scott Stantis

Cartoon by Scott Stantis -

08/16/2017 Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies

Cartoon by Jimmy Margulies -

And on that cartoon, let’s end this post…open thread of course!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Sunday Reads: Fractured Faction Tales

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.

Oh…and let us just pause to remember that the events Golfarb mentions above are things that transpired in the last week! But back to the article…

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

 

In other political news, Georgia paper says race between black and white candidates ‘could feel like Beyonce vs. Taylor Swift’

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.

Leslie Nielsen, Forbidden Planet, 1956.

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.

 

 

Last link: How to Make a Movie Out of Anything — Even a Mindless Phone Game – The New York Times

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.’’

Ugh….oh boy.

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


Sunday Reads: Cartoon Make-Up

McConnell Care: 07/14/2017 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

This is Sunday? I guess with the little break during the week, I’ve been behind a day.

Dak and Boston Boomer have been on a roll lately, and with so much going down, it can be difficult keeping it all straight. I have a few links for you, but first some cartoons.

Transparent: 07/13/2017 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Transparent

 

07/16/2017 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

07/14/2017 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

The New GOP: 07/15/2017 Cartoon by Paul Fell

Cartoon by Paul Fell - The New GOP

07/14/2017 Cartoon by John Branch

Cartoon by John Branch -

07/14/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite cartoonist is no longer working at his newspaper. Nick Anderson was given the “pink slip” earlier this week from the Houston Chronicle.

Read the link below.

Now for those few links…

I will say, nothing ever surprises me with people like McConnell. From Now This, a video reporting that Mitch the Horrible won’t even meet with the charitable organization…The March of Dimes… that is responsible for saving his life when he contracted polio in his youth.

 

More links on Healthcare:

Ted Cruz’s plan to discriminate against the sick is so vile that insurers finally see their industry is at stake | Eclectablog

If you’re a 40 year old with a pre-existing condition who earns $42,000 you could pay $10,000 a month for insurance in the worst case scenario under Trumpcare with extra Ted Cruz Venom, it is hard now a days to find an insurance as cheap as one sure insurance, plus finding a reliable insurance more difficult.

The best case scenario? You’ll pay about $900 a month, which is almost double what you’re paying now under Obamacare.

It’s been a few years so you may not remember what a pre-existing condition is — a term that only exists in America. The words sound severe but there’s a good chance that if you’ve ever had a uterus, depression, asthma, acne or anything that your insurance actually helps with, you probably have one

But won’t Cruz’s bill make life great for people who don’t have a pre-existing condition, right?

Don’t nature’s version of those of us with a good driving record deserve cheap coverage?

Well, it would let you buy a junk plan that may not even include hospitalization. We’re all “temporarily lucky” or “unlucky,” as Andy Slavitt says. When you suddenly get unlucky, your junk plan will be useless and then you’ll need to buy one of those sick expensive plans that soak up much if not most of salary — only you’re not allowed to buy one for SIX MONTHS.

This is a recipe for a collapsing insurance market. Experts have been wondering why the insurance industry, whose entire job is to assess risk, has stood by and watched Republicans design a nuclear bomb that will go off in their coffers.

On Friday, which may honestly be too late, America’s Health Insurance Plans finally spoke up to “strongly oppose this provision” which “is simply unworkable in any form and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread terminations of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market.”

Health Care: Families Unite to Protest GOP Senate Bill | Time.com

That just tells more stories about people…people the GOP will be killing if their healthcare bill passes.

In other sad news:

Mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, First Woman to Win Fields Medal, Dies Age 40

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The Fields Medal is awarded every four years to between two and four mathematicians under the age of 40. Mirzakhani won the prize in 2014 for her work on geometry and dynamical systems.

She was also the first Iranian to win the prize.

In a 2014 interview with the Guardian, she described the excitement and challenge of mathematics.

“Of course, the most rewarding part is the “Aha” moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new—the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view. But most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight,” she remarked.

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said: “Maryam is gone far too soon, but her impact will live on for the thousands of women she inspired to pursue math and science.”

“Maryam was a brilliant mathematical theorist, and also a humble person who accepted honors only with the hope that it might encourage others to follow her path. Her contributions as both a scholar and a role model are significant and enduring, and she will be dearly missed here at Stanford and around the world.”

Some news that broke late last night…Donald Trump Jr. paid attorney with funds from his father’s re-election campaign: report – Salon.com

I haven’t taken a look at the Twitter to see what new shit has hit the fan….but this bit of news this morning was a welcoming sight:

Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker announced as 13th Doctor | Television & radio | The Guardian

Yeah, the next Doctor Who will be a Ms.

The next star of Doctor Who has been announced after intense speculation – and the person stepping into the role of Time Lord is Jodie Whittaker.

She is the first woman to take on the role, playing the 13th Doctor in the BBC1 drama. Whittaker, who rose to fame in ITV’s crime drama Broadchurch, had been touted as one of the contenders.

Debate has been whirring over who would play the Doctor ever since Peter Capaldi announced in January that he was leaving the programme.

Chris Chibnall, Doctor Who’s new head writer and executive producer, said: “After months of lists, conversations, auditions, recalls, and a lot of secret-keeping, we’re excited to welcome Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor.

“I always knew I wanted the 13th Doctor to be a woman and we’re thrilled to have secured our number one choice. Her audition for the Doctor simply blew us all away.

“Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role. The 13th Doctor is on her way.”

Whittaker said: “I’m beyond excited to begin this epic journey – with Chris and with every Whovian on this planet. It’s more than an honour to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope. I can’t wait.”

So with that, what are you all doing this Sunday afternoon?

This is an open thread.