Mostly Monday Reads: All Things Spiraling in the Dark

M74 shines at its brightest in this combined optical/mid-infrared image, featuring data from both the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope.

Good Day Sky Dancers!

For as long as I can remember, Scientists have been dangling the hope that Fusion Power would solve all of our energy problems. The official announcement will come via the Department of Energy tomorrow. We have some of the news already. It appears to be an essential breakthrough that gets us further toward the ultimate goal of carbon-free and nuclear waste-free energy. This is from CNN: 

For the first time ever, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain – a source familiar with the project confirmed to CNN.

The US Department of Energy is expected to officially announce the breakthrough Tuesday.

The result of the experiment is a massive step in a decadeslong quest to unleash an infinite source of clean energy that could help end dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers have for decades attempted to recreate nuclear fusion – replicating the fusion that powers the sun.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will make an announcement Tuesday on a “major scientific breakthrough,” the department announced Sunday. The breakthrough was first reported by the Financial Times.

Nuclear fusion happens when two or more atoms are fused into one larger one, a process that generates a massive amount of energy as heat.

Scientists across the globe have been inching toward the breakthrough; in February, UK scientists announced they had more than doubled the previous record for generating and sustaining nuclear fusion.

In a huge donut-shaped machine called a tokamak outfitted with giant magnets, scientists working near Oxford were able to generate a record-breaking amount of sustained energy. Even so, it only lasted 5 seconds.

The heat sustained by the process of fusing the atoms together holds the key to helping produce energy.

As CNN reported earlier this year, the process of fusion creates helium and neutrons – which are lighter in mass than the parts from which they were originally made.

The missing mass then converts to an enormous amount of energy. The neutrons, which are able to escape the plasma, then hit a “blanket” lining the walls of the tokamak, and their kinetic energy transfers as heat. This heat can then be used to warm water, create steam and power turbines to generate power.

A composite image of M51 with X-rays from Chandra and optical light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope contains a box that marks the location of the possible planet candidate.
Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/R. DiStefano et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI/Grendler

This Washington Post article mentions, “Scientists hit a key milestone in the quest to create abundant zero-carbon power through nuclear fusion. But they still have a long way to go.”

In the decades scientists have been experimenting with fusion reactions, they had not until now been able to create one that produces more energy than it consumes. While the achievement is significant, there are still monumental engineering and scientific challenges ahead.

Creating the net energy gain required engagement of one of the largest lasers in the world, and the resources needed to recreate the reaction on the scale required to make fusion practical for energy production are immense. More importantly, engineers have yet to develop machinery capable of affordably turning that reaction into electricity that can be practically deployed to the power grid.

Building devices that are large enough to create fusion power at scale, scientists say, would require materials that are extraordinarily difficult to produce. At the same time, the reaction creates neutrons that put a tremendous amount of stress on the equipment creating it, such that it can get destroyed in the process.

And then there is the question of whether the technology could be perfected in time to make a dent in climate change.

Even so, researchers and investors in fusion technology hailed the breakthrough as an important advancement.

“There is going to be great pride that this is something that happened in the United States,” said David Edelman, who leads policy and global affairs at TAE, a large private fusion energy company. “This is a very important milestone on the road toward fusion energy.”

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888, Musée d’Orsay, Paris‎, France.

While most of us want to leave a better world to future generations, there are still those who wish to recreate the past with all its divisiveness, oppression, and intolerance of others. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a frightening report to share. “White Nationalists, Other Republicans Brace for ‘Total War. “A collection of radical right figures including white nationalists and ultranationalist European leaders gathered in Manhattan for the New York Young Republicans Club’s (NYYRC) annual gala Saturday night, where that group’s president declared “total war” on perceived enemies.”

“We want to cross the Rubicon. We want total war. We must be prepared to do battle in every arena. In the media. In the courtroom. At the ballot box. And in the streets,” NYYRC president Gavin Wax declared to a room full of supporters at 583 Park Ave., an event venue on New York’s Upper East side.

“This is the only language the left understands. The language of pure and unadulterated power,” Wax added.

At the five-hour event, which Hatewatch reporters attended, white nationalists Peter and Lydia Brimelow of VDARE hobnobbed with Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser and White House official. Donald Trump Jr. was also in attendance.

Republicans publicly lauded members of an Austrian political party founded by World War II-era German Nazi party members. Racist political operative Jack Posobiec shared jokes across a table with Josh Hammer, the opinion editor of Newsweek. Multiple recently elected GOP congresspeople applauded Marjorie Taylor Greene, who told the NYYRC crowd in the event’s closing remarks that the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol would have succeeded if she had planned it and that the insurrectionists would have been armed.

“Then Jan. 6 happened. And next thing you know, I organized the whole thing, along with Steve Bannon,” Greene said, referring to allegations that she had led reconnaissance tours of the Capitol for soon-to-be insurrectionists in the days prior to the violence.

“I will tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I organized that, we would have won,” she said, as attendees erupted in cheers and applause. “Not to mention, it would’ve been armed.”

James Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket, 1875, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI, USA.

The article has more background information on the event’s attendees, groups, and history. It’s not a fun read but a necessary one. I’ve tried hard to understand what makes these people angry and aggrieved. It appears to be raw hatred aimed at anyone who doesn’t fit their mold and might challenge their ability to hog all the power and money.

CBS News reports that Marjorie Taylor Green and Donald Trump, Jr. attended the event. Their speeches were what you would expect. “White House: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s latest Jan. 6 comments a “slap in the face” to law enforcement, victims’ families.”

The White House is reacting sharply to comments made over the weekend by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and how the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, might have gone if she had indeed been its ringleader.

The Georgia Republican spoke Saturday at a dinner hosted by the New York Young Republican Club and recounted how her critics have incorrectly labeled her an organizer of the insurrection that left one person shot dead and led to the deaths of two other police officers.

“I want to tell you something, if Steve Bannon and I had organized that, we would have won. Not to mention, we would’ve been armed,” she said Saturday, according to the New York Post.

She also criticized ongoing U.S. funding for the war in Ukraine and called on Republicans to back former president Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign.

In comments shared first with CBS News, White House spokesman Andrew Bates said it “goes against our fundamental values as a country for a Member of Congress to wish that the carnage of January 6th had been even worse, and to boast that she would have succeeded in an armed insurrection against the United States government. This violent rhetoric is a slap in the face to the Capitol Police, the DC Metropolitan Police, the National Guard, and the families who lost loved ones as a result of the attack on the Capitol. All leaders have a responsibility to condemn these dangerous, abhorrent remarks and stand up for our Constitution and the rule of law.”

Tarsila do Amaral, The Moon, 1928, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA. Courtesy of Tarsila do Amaral.

You may read the New York Post article. It has information about Don Jr.

Her appearance followed remarks by Donald Trump, Jr., who similarly bashed the “woke” left while expressing glee about how House Republicans might treat Hunter Biden next year.

With Musk releasing troves of data this week showing how Twitter executives decided to suppress a 2020 exclusive story by The Post about Hunter Biden’s laptop, Trump Jr. said it was one more example of how supposed conspiracy theories can turn out to be true.

“Holy s–t … if that was my laptop, I’d be in trouble,” he said.

“Hunter gets to sell art for 200 grand yesterday. So I was thinking about doing some art. I could do some finger painting like Hunter,” Trump added.

He told the friendly audience they needed to similarly speak out no matter how politically incorrect or offensive rightwing talking points might be.

“We need people to be out there unafraid,” Trump Jr. said.

But, her emails.

René Magritte, The Mysteries of the Horizon, 1955, private collection. WikiArt.

Politico reports today on “What the Jan. 6 select committee’s final report will look like. A large executive summary describes former President Donald Trump’s culpability for his extensive and baseless effort to subvert the 2020 election, according to people briefed on its contents.”

The Jan. 6 select committee’s final report will begin with a voluminous executive summary describing former President Donald Trump’s culpability for his extensive and baseless effort to subvert the 2020 election, according to people briefed on its contents.

Drafts of the report, which the people briefed say have been circulating among committee members for weeks, include thousands of footnotes drawn from the panel’s interviews and research over the past 16 months into Trump’s activities in the frenzied final weeks that preceded Jan. 6, 2021 — when a mob of his supporters battered police and stormed the Capitol.

The committee members are expected to formally approve the report at a Dec. 21 public meeting of the panel described by Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). Lawmakers will be able to propose final edits before the draft is expected to be sent to the Government Publishing Office for printing later this week.

The final report, according to those briefed on it, will have eight chapters that align closely with the evidence the panel unveiled during its public hearings in June and July:

  1. Trump’s effort to sow distrust in the results of the election
  2. Trump’s pressure on state governments or legislatures to overturn victories by Joe Biden
  3. Trump campaign efforts to send pro-Trump electors to Washington from states won by Biden
  4. Trump’s push to deploy the Justice Department in service of his election scheme
  5. The pressure campaign by Trump and his lawyers against then-Vice President Mike Pence
  6. Trump’s effort to summon supporters to Washington who later fueled the Jan. 6 mob
  7. The 187 minutes during which Trump refused to tell rioters to leave the Capitol
  8. An analysis of the attack on the Capitol

A person familiar with the drafting of the report emphasized that the report itself may not be limited to an executive summary and the eight chapters and is also expected to include appendices that capture more aspects of the committee’s investigation. The complete report is expected to include investigative findings from all of the select committee’s five investigative teams, which probed Trump’s actions, the mob, the role of extremism in the attack, the money trail behind Trump’s Jan. 6 rally and law enforcement failures on Jan. 6. A committee spokesperson declined to comment.

Harald Sohlberg, Summer Night, 1899, The National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design, Oslo, Norway.

CNN Politics reports, “Special Counsel Smith speeds ahead on criminal probes surrounding Trump.”

Publicly released court filings have already made clear Trump is under investigation for the mishandling of national security secrets after his presidency.

But the other investigative team, looking at efforts to block the transfer of power from Trump to President Joe Biden after the 2020 election, had even a year ago been given the greenlight by the Justice Department to take a case all the way up to Trump, if the evidence leads them there, according to the sources. Work that’s been led by the DC US Attorney’s Office into political circles around Trump related to January 6 now will move under the special counsel.

Partly led by former Maryland-based federal prosecutor Thomas Windom, DOJ has added prosecutors to the January 6 team from all over the department in recent months. Windom and the rest are also expected to move over to the special counsel’s office. Some, like Mary Dohrmann, a prosecutor who’s worked on several other Capitol riot cases already, appear to be reorienting, according to court records of open Capitol riot cases.

Another top prosecutor, JP Cooney, the former head of public corruption in the DC US Attorney’s Office, is overseeing a significant financial probe that Smith will take on. The probe includes examining the possible misuse of political contributions, according to some of the sources. The DC US Attorney’s Office, before the special counsel’s arrival, had examined potential financial crimes related to the January 6 riot, including possible money laundering and the support of rioters’ hotel stays and bus trips to Washington ahead of January 6.

In recent months, however, the financial investigation has sought information about Trump’s post-election Save America PAC and other funding of people who assisted Trump, according to subpoenas viewed by CNN. The financial investigation picked up steam as DOJ investigators enlisted cooperators months after the 2021 riot, one of the sources said.

In interviews with people in Trump’s orbit over the past several months, some of the DOJ focus has been on the timeline leading up to January 6 and Trump’s involvement and knowledge of potential events that day, according to a source familiar with the questioning.

I will end here since I have an afternoon of doctor appointments and vaccines ahead of me. You may find out more about my art selections today here. 

What’s on your blogging and reading list today?


Monday Reads: Playing Hot Potato with a Costly War

Good Day Sky Dancers!

It’s hard to explain how much of what’s going on in Kabul today should rest directly and squarely on the bad faith negotiations of Trump’s Secretary of State–steal all the government booze–Pompeo.  Please watch this smug, smarmy, man laugh while under questioning by Representative Allred who asks what we’re doing to ensure that our conditions will be good as we leave Kabul.  It amazes me that more isn’t being made about Pompeo’s role in the chaos we experience now.  It’s worth remembering that all this was negotiated about a year ago.   Oh, wait, it was supposed to be negotiated at Camp David with Trump on the anniversary of 9/11 last year.  President Tin Ear was stopped on that one however.

Here’s Chris Wallace on Fox News dumping on the man who created this mess as he lies his way to a nonanswer.

Jennifer Ruben’s opinion piece today at WaPo discusses “Why so many people find Biden an easy target.” 

The vehemence with which many politicians and media pundits on the left and right have attacked President Biden should not be surprising. Given the chaotic and heart-wrenching scenes in Afghanistan, the commander in chief becomes an obvious target, especially for a press corps desperate to show they do not have a liberal bias.

But “chaotic” does not equal “failed,” and just because our intelligence community blew it big time — again — does not mean the United States has abandoned its Afghan partners. Since Aug. 14, we have evacuated over 37,000 people. The United States has enlisted a slew of allies to help receive refugees. And our allies remain united that they will not recognize nor extend aid to the Taliban until we are satisfied they have not hindered our evacuation and are respecting human rights.

Despite the torrent of angry media coverage, a recent CBS News poll found that 63 percent of Americans still want out of Afghanistan. And while Biden’s approval ratings have dipped (largely due to the covid-19 surge), the decline is less than one might expect. In NBC News’s poll, for example, he has dropped only one point among registered voters — from 51 to 50 percent — since April. So why is the media so determined to convey that Biden’s effort has “failed”?

Too many reporters adopt the talking points of critics of an administration, even when those critics have an interest to make Biden the fall guy. The media, for example, have parroted the right wing’s deliberate effort to impugn the Biden administration’s motives about “abandoning Afghans” (as it airlifts tens of thousands of them out the country) while ignoring the Trump team’s destruction of the visa system. With a straight face, reporters ask for the judgment of politicians and those in the military who lied for two decades about progress in Afghanistan — as if they and the reporters themselves hadn’t contributed to the rosy, false narrative about the Afghan army’s viability. And the media have run with the notion that the Biden administration broke Afghans’ “morale” rather than focusing on our utter failure to forge a national army, the endemic corruption in their government and Afghan leaders’ selling out to the Taliban for money.

The media almost by definition operates on anecdotes. They see European back-benchers criticizing Biden and squawk about a crisis among our allies. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday:

From the get-go, I’ve spent more time with our NATO partners in Brussels, virtually, from before the president made his decision, to when he made his decision, to every time since. We’ve been working very, very closely together. We’ve gotten the G7 together, NATO together, the U.N. Security Council together. We had 113 countries, thanks to our diplomacy, put out a clear understanding of the Taliban’s requirements to let people leave the country. … I’ve heard, across the board, deep appreciation and thanks from allies and partners for everything that we’ve done to bring our allies and partners out of harm’s way. This has been a remarkable part of the effort. I’ve seen them stand up, step up to help out, including, as I said, agreements with more than two dozen countries now to help out on transit. And beyond that, we’re very focused together on the way forward, including the way forward in Afghanistan, and setting very clear expectations for the Taliban in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Which is the better indicator of our allies’ sentiments: stray comments to the media, or all of the actions Blinken outlined?

A Marine with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) provides fresh water to a child during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 20, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Samuel Ruiz)

Listening to the people who served there is a good way to get out of the damn media’s obsessions with creating tempests in teapots and seeing what was going to be a difficult process–even if perfectly planned–as the problem of the guy who’s only had 7ish months of holding a 20-year-old hot potato.  This is from the Kansas City Star and was written by  Veteran Lucas Kince who served in that theatre: “I served in Afghanistan as a US Marine, twice. Here’s the truth in two sentences.”

What we are seeing in Afghanistan right now shouldn’t shock you. It only seems that way because our institutions are steeped in systematic dishonesty. It doesn’t require a dissertation to explain what you’re seeing. Just two sentences.

One: For 20 years, politicians, elites and D.C. military leaders lied to us about Afghanistan.

Two: What happened last week was inevitable, and anyone saying differently is still lying to you.

I know because I was there. Twice. On special operations task forces. I learned Pashto as a U.S. Marine captain and spoke to everyone I could there: everyday people, elites, allies and yes, even the Taliban.

The truth is that the Afghan National Security Forces was a jobs program for Afghans, propped up by U.S. taxpayer dollars — a military jobs program populated by nonmilitary people or “paper” forces (that didn’t really exist) and a bevy of elites grabbing what they could when they could.

You probably didn’t know that. That’s the point.

And it wasn’t just in Afghanistan. They also lied about Iraq.

I led a team of Marines training Iraqi security forces to defend their country. When I arrived I received a “stoplight” chart on their supposed capabilities in dozens of missions and responsibilities. Green meant they were good. Yellow was needed improvement; red said they couldn’t do it at all.

I was delighted to see how far along they were on paper — until I actually began working with them. I attempted to adjust the charts to reflect reality and was quickly shut down. The ratings could not go down. That was the deal. It was the kind of lie that kept the war going.

So when people ask me if we made the right call getting out of Afghanistan in 2021, I answer truthfully: Absolutely not. The right call was getting out in 2002. 2003. Every year we didn’t get out was another year the Taliban used to refine their skills and tactics against us — the best fighting force in the world. After two decades, $2 trillion and nearly 2,500 American lives lost, 2021 was way too late to make the right call.

What I have read repeatedly from folks on the ground is that the only people that try won the 20 year-long war were military contractors and corrupt government officials in Afghanistan.  You can read my Friday reads for more on that from former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes.

The reality of Biden’s follow through with the result of the Trump/Pompeo man-crushes on the Taliban is explained by CNN’s John Harwood. “Why Biden’s Afghanistan exit wasn’t about good politics”.  We always knew what Biden wanted because he stated his opposition to the failed Obama Surge while he was VEEP.

In ending America’s longest war, President Joe Biden did something popular. It was never going to help him politically.

That was true before damaging images of chaos and desperation filled American television screens last week. The reason is that public opinion about the Afghanistan conflict, as with most overseas events and issues, remains ill-defined and loosely held.

Even after 20 years, the conflict that ended with the lightning Taliban takeover represents a distant blur for most Americans. Only a small sliver of the US population has a personal connection to the war through service in the all-volunteer military. Its duration through years of diminishing troop levels and casualties led much of the public to tune the story out.

Pollsters who have tracked the subject describe opinions no firmer than jello. Asked whether the American military should stay or leave, majorities say leave. Asked whether the military should leave or stay to continue counterterrorism operations, majorities say stay.

Either way, voters have not counted Afghanistan among their top-priority concerns. Survey research on foreign policy, observed Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, “is always very fluid.”

That reality means that neither side of the long-running debate on the war can unambiguously claim the upper hand in public sentiment.

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war. AFP PHOTO

From the initial push for war by the Bush administration to the idea of a surge by the Obama administration to the total dump it on the Taliban and let Biden deal with it by the Trump administration there has been one bad commitment to bad ideas after another. You all know I’ve never been a big Biden fan.  I have to say he’s the only President that just decided to get it done and be done with it.  The collapse of Kabul was always inevitable since the Afghanistan people and their regionalism vs federalism approach to things has seriously been misunderstood by many “experts”. It still seems this was another nation-building opportunity that only enriched the military-industrial complex.  That’s my thoughts.

In other news, the FDA has given the Pfizer vaccine full approval.

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine has been known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.” 

Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. EUAs can be used by the FDA during public health emergencies to provide access to medical products that may be effective in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease, provided that the FDA determines that the known and potential benefits of a product, when used to prevent, diagnose, or treat the disease, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.

FDA-approved vaccines undergo the agency’s standard process for reviewing the quality, safety and effectiveness of medical products. For all vaccines, the FDA evaluates data and information included in the manufacturer’s submission of a biologics license application (BLA). A BLA is a comprehensive document that is submitted to the agency providing very specific requirements. For Comirnaty, the BLA builds on the extensive data and information previously submitted that supported the EUA, such as preclinical and clinical data and information, as well as details of the manufacturing process, vaccine testing results to ensure vaccine quality, and inspections of the sites where the vaccine is made. The agency conducts its own analyses of the information in the BLA to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective and meets the FDA’s standards for approval.

I am without patience for anyone not getting the vaccine.  I’m still ready to tell them to go to their crazy places–churches, Republican Party National Headquarter, Mara Lago, etc.– to get treatment and stay away from our children and healthcare workers.  More and more employers are mandating vaccines and I’m really down with that.

So, what’s on your blogging list today?  This war and pandemic stuff is wearing me out!


Friday Reads: United States of Embarrassment

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

It’s hard to know where to start the day’s news round up because it’s just one big shit show brought to you by KKKremlin Caligula. There was an active school shooter this morning in Sante Fe, Texas where they have been injuries and fatalities reported. While this was going on, the most despised human being on the planet was tweeting about Hillary Clinton and some deep state cover up by the FBI which is tantamount to broadcasting some Alex Jones drug-induced conspiracy theory to the world.

I can only hope that this means that something has his tighty whities in a bunch.  Is it that Manafort’s son-in-law turned state’s evidence and cut a plea deal?  Was it the very idea that some one in his campaign triggered an FBI investigation which may have put an agent inside watching things? Is it just that every times he opens his mouth something completely idiotic and wrong slips out.

This is the same national embarrassment that is now speaking of himself in the third person and has no idea what the difference is between HPV and HIV and had to ask twice about it. But, he has an embarrassing level of detail and interest in the 22 year old daughter of Bill and Melinda Gates.  He keeps admitting that his pastime is “eyeing little girls with bad intent.”

From the Guardian: “Bill Gates: Trump twice asked me the difference between HIV and HPV. Microsoft co-founder tells foundation meeting it was ‘kind of scary’ how much Trump knew about what Gates’ daughter looked like.

Bill Gates, the billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist, has claimed Donald Trump twice asked him the difference between HIV and HPV and knew a “scary” amount about Gates’s daughter’s looks.

The remarks were recorded at a recent Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation meeting, where Gates took questions from staff, according to MSNBC’s All in with Chris Hayes show, which broadcast the footage on Thursday.

Gates told the audience how Trump had encountered his daughter Jennifer, now 22, at a horse show in Florida. “And then about 20 minutes later he flew in on a helicopter to the same place,” the Microsoft co-founder said. “So clearly he had been driven away but he wanted to make a grand entrance in a helicopter.”

Gates himself met Trump for the first time in New York in December 2016, he recalled: “So when I first talked to him it was actually kind of scary how much he knew about my daughter’s appearance. Melinda [Gates’s wife] didn’t like that too well.”

This was the additional creepy thing.

Gates is hardly known for his comic timing but he frequently prompted laughter from the audience at the foundation event. In one anecdote he said: “When I walked in, his first sentence kind of threw me off. He said: ‘Trump hears that you don’t like what Trump is doing.’ And I thought, ‘Wow, but you’re Trump.’ I didn’t know the third-party form was always expected. ‘Gates says that Gates knows that you’re not doing things right.’”

Trump has a now-familiar verbal tic of referring to himself in the third person.

So, the man that does not know the difference between HIV and HPV and likened his personal fight against STDs to serving in Vietnam continues to surrender women’s health to a racist, nationalist religious cult called White Evangelical Christianity.

The Trump administration is preparing to announce on Friday a far-reaching change in how Title X family planning funds are awarded so that clinics that provide or abortion services or referrals will no longer be eligible — a move that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood by millions of dollars.

Under the proposal to be filed by the Department of Health and Human Services, the $260 million program would require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between Title X services and providers that perform, support, or refer to abortion as a method of family planning.

These requirements are similar to those that were in place, although they were not enforced, during the Reagan era. Unlike the Reagan regulation, the proposal will not prohibit counseling for clients about abortion, meaning that there’s no “gag rule” that critics of the changes had feared, according to an administration official.

The changes, the official said, reflect the view that taxpayer funds should not be used to fund abortion and that Title X funds are for family planning services, and abortion is not family planning. The updates are also designed to establish more transparency about the activities of grantees and their sub-grantees.

Conservatives are confident that the new rules will withstand a legal challenge, because similar Reagan-era requirements overcame a Supreme Court challenge.

David Christensen, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, said in an interview that those standards required operations receiving Title X funds to be physically and financially separate from those performing abortions.

“Under Reagan, they could not be co-located, they couldn’t refer for abortion,” Christensen said.

Why do all bad and evil things find their roots in the Reagan years?  Asking for womankind here.  So, now Faux news has decided that Trump just might be the “second coming” of Reagan.  And while I’m asking questions does any one find all this messianic language creepy?  I swear,the Republican party is a damned cult these days.

Bret Baier, chief political anchor of Fox News, President Trump’s favorite network, insists he isn’t living in some alternate reality. He knows that our current President is louder, cruder, and ruder than Ronald Reagan, “a counterpuncher” from New York far different from his genial Republican predecessor. Baier is not handing Trump the Nobel Prize for a North Korea summit that hasn’t even happened yet, and he footnotes every conversation with a caution that we don’t know how the Trump story turns out. “I’m not saying that Trump is Reagan, or Reagan is Trump,” he said when we met the other day, in his corner office at the Fox bureau in Washington, not long after handing me a signed copy of the new book he wrote with Catherine Whitney, “Three Days in Moscow: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of the Soviet Union.”

Cautions dispensed with, Baier, who has carved out a profitable sideline moonlighting as a Presidential historian, reeled off what he sees as striking parallels between Trump and Reagan, and his book makes much of everything from their “similar rhetoric in big speeches” to tough media coverage and a shared penchant for being “underestimated.” Decades after many of the details about precisely what happened in Reagan’s eight-year Presidency, in the twilight of the Cold War, have faded from public memory, he remains an exalted figure in the Republican pantheon. Most significantly, Baier argues, Reagan met with the Soviets, but only after years of talking tough about the “evil empire.” A generation later, Trump may be poised for his own expectation-scrambling summitry with the North Korean leader, an example Baier and some Trump partisans portray as a modern-day equivalent of Reagan’s policy of “peace through strength.” “Heads were exploding back when Reagan was elected, and heads are exploding now,” Baier said, as we talked about the twin challenges of covering Trump, a President “unlike any we’ve ever seen,” and writing history amid the “fire hose” of Trump-era news.

Right before our conversation, Baier had appeared on the radio with Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk-show host who reveres Reagan so much he refers to him as Ronaldus Magnus. Limbaugh waxed on to Baier about “the parallels” between two different men, and Baier agreed. “Exactly,” he said. “One thing you can say is, like Reagan, Trump has changed the paradigm. I mean, the jury’s still out on the end result, but the game changed in the way Washington worked.” Baier, who devotes the entire last chapter of his Reagan book to a discussion of Trump, would go on to sell the Reagan-Trump comparison throughout the week, as his book launch continued, chatting amiably about it with the ladies of “The View,” nodding along with his colleagues at “Fox & Friends.” “Bret Baier talks Reagan-Trump parallels,” Fox touted in the video clip from its show, “The Five.”

Soon after our interview on Monday evening, Baier would head over to the Marriott Marquis hotel for his book party. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao showed up, as did White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. It was so crowded with Trump luminaries, it could have been a Cabinet meeting.

Here’s a real doozy of a “me too” story from Foreign Policy. “Sexpat Journalists Are Ruining Asia Coverage. Newsroom predators in foreign bureaus hurt their colleagues — and their stories.”  This is by Joanna Chiu.

Once, a fellow journalist exited our shared taxi outside my apartment. I thought we were sharing a cab to our respective homes, but he had other expectations, and suddenly his tongue was in my face. On another evening, another journalist grabbed my wrist and dragged me out of a nightclub without a word. I was clearly too drunk to consent; it was a caveman approach to get me into bed while I was intoxicated. And on yet another occasion, in a Beijing restaurant, a Western public relations executive reached under my dress and grabbed my crotch.

The incidents aren’t limited by proximity. I have received multiple unsolicited “dick pics” from foreign correspondents — generally on the highly monitored messaging service WeChat. Somewhere deep in the Chinese surveillance apparatus there is a startling collection of images of journalists’ genitalia.

The #MeToo campaign has reminded us of how common these stories are — but the behavior of foreign men working abroad has, in my experience, been far worse than anything I ever experienced at home. Fortunately for me, I’ve experienced this only as part of the wider journalist community, not in my own workplaces – but others haven’t been so lucky. The phenomenon is not a problem unique to the press, but it’s one that’s especially problematic for journalists.

A somber meeting this Tuesday of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China, which represents the interests of foreign journalists in a difficult local environment, provided another painful example of this. As the New York Times reported, former club president Jonathan Kaiman, who had resigned in January after being accused of sexual misconduct by Laura Tucker, a former friend of his, was now accused of sexually assaulting a female journalist, Felicia Sonmez. After the second accusation, the Los Angeles Times quickly suspended him from his role as Beijing bureau chief and has begun an investigation. But as the Hong Kong Free Press noted, the original accusation had prompted many male correspondents to launch misogynistic attacks on Tucker in online conversations.

Such actions, and entitlement, reflect a sense of privilege and a penchant for sexual aggression that threatens to distort the stories told about Asia, and that too often leaves the telling in the hands of the same men preying on their colleagues. I have seen correspondents I know to be serial offenders in private take the lead role in reporting on the sufferings of Asian women, or boast of their bravery in covering human rights. In too many stories, Asian men are treated as the sole meaningful actors, while Asian women are reduced to sex objects or victims. And this bad behavior — and the bad coverage that follows — is a pattern that repeats across Asia, from Tokyo to Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile, it appears Trump has caved to NK’s Kim Jong Un and halted the joint training between the US and SK.  The only person that appears to be capable of maintaining maximum pressure is Michael Avenatti.  This is from Josh Rogin writing for WAPO.

The Trump administration says that if the upcoming summit between the United States and North Korea fails or doesn’t happen at all, the United States and its allies can go right back to the “maximum pressure” campaign that brought Kim Jong Un to the table in the first place. In reality, doing that would be difficult if not impossible. The pressure is already diminishing.

The administration’s claim that it can immediately turn on the pressure again is crucial to its effort to play it cool ahead of the Trump-Kim summit. President Trump often says that if Kim doesn’t want to strike a good deal, he will simply walk away, no harm done. After the North Korean government threatened to scuttle the talks this week in response to comments from national security adviser John Bolton, the White House doubled down on this assertion.

In reality, the dynamics that made a successful maximum-pressure campaign possible have changed fundamentally. The United States and its allies have paused their efforts to increase sanctions on North Korea to give diplomacy a chance to work. The sting of the existing sanctions naturally erodes over time. There are reports that China is already easing up on its sanctions enforcement, allowing more laborers and goods to flow over North Korea’s northern border. The mood in South Korea has changed significantly, making the threat of military action less credible.

Meanwhile, the United Nation is actively slapping US foreign policy on Israel to the ground. I’m actually thinking Trump will pull the US from the body at this point it’s so obviously aimed at him.  The UN has voted to investigate War Crimes in the Gaza Massacre that happened during the Kushner debacle opening an US embassy in Jerusalem. which, once again, panders to religious cultists. This is from The Independent.

The UN has voted to send an international war crimes probe to Gaza after the body’s leading human rights official slammed Israel‘s reaction to protests along the border as “wholly disproportionate.”

Israeli firing into Hamas-ruled Gaza killed nearly 60 Palestinians at mass border protests on Monday.

“There is little evidence of any attempt to minimise casualties on Monday,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein told a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The council voted through the resolution by 29 in favour and two opposed, while 14 states abstained.

Additionally, Kuwait wants to request a Palestianian protection force. This is likely to be vetoed by the US perThe Jerusalem Post.

The United Nations Security Council will begin talks on Monday on a Kuwait-drafted resolution that condemns Israeli force against Palestinian civilians and calls for an “international protection mission” to be deployed to the occupied territories.

The draft resolution, seen by Reuters on Friday, asks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report within 30 days of its adoption on “ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population.”

I’m going to close with the sad news that ‘Multiple Fatalities’ have been reported in that school shooting.

At least eight people are dead following a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston, Texas, law enforcement officials have told multiple local news sources.

One person, reportedly a male who federal officials believe to be a student, is in custody, and another person has been detained, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted. At least three people — two adults and one student — are being treated for injuries at a local hospital. One police officer was wounded. The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the officer was “clipped” and is not seriously injured.

November 18 is coming and we all need to vote to end this war on humanity, science, world peace, and civilization.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Float Like A Butterfly; Sting Like A Bee

Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee

Float like a butterfly; sting like a bee

Good Morning!!

Famed boxer and anti-war and civil rights activist Muhammed Ali died last night at 74. I’ll never forget how he burst on the scene in the early 1960s with poetry and good humor that made boxing interesting to the public at large for a time. I was so impressed with his poetry and his chants of “I am the greatest!” that I bet my best friend’s brother that he would beat Sonny Liston. And I won that bet.

Later, Ali became a “controversial” figure when he refused to go to Vietnam, got involved with Malcolm X, and became a Muslim. He was much more than an athlete. He was and is an important historical figure who changed America and the world.

Ali during the championship fight with Sonny Liston

Ali during the championship fight with Sonny Liston

The Boston Globe: Muhammad Ali, ‘The Greatest,’ dies at 74.

Muhammad Ali, who declared “I am the greatest” and proved it many times over, infuriating some and captivating countless more as he floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee on his way to winning the world heavyweight championship a record three times, becoming perhaps the most widely recognized person on the planet, died Friday in Phoenix. He was 74.

Mr. Ali had long suffered from Parkinson’s syndrome. The condition was understood to be a consequence of his boxing career.

Mr. Ali was hospitalized in Phoenix with respiratory problems earlier this week, and his relatives gathered around him. The family announced his death Friday.

“There’s not a man alive who can whup me,” Mr. Ali declared before his first bout with Joe Frazier, “the Fight of the Century” in 1971. “I should be a postage stamp. That’s the only way I’ll ever get licked.”

In fact, Mr. Ali wasn’t invincible. He lost that fight, as well as four later prizefights. But he finished with a career record of 56-5, 37 of those victories by knockout.

Later, Ali was admired and respected by world leaders.

When Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as president of South Africa, he corrected a guest who said that he and Mr. Ali were the world’s two most beloved and unifying figures. “If I was in a crowded room with Ali,” Mandela said, “I would stop what I was doing and go up to him. He is the Greatest.”

Mr. Ali’s star power extended to the world of diplomacy. Jimmy Carter appointed him special envoy to lobby African leaders to support the Olympic boycott in 1980. Mr. Ali helped obtain the release of 14 US hostages in Iraq in 1990. Ten years later, he was named a United Nations Ambassador of Peace.

Ali joking around with Malcolm X in 1964

Ali joking around with Malcolm X in 1964

But in the 1960s, he became a pariah when he refused to be drafted.

“When they draft me, I won’t go,” Mr. Ali had declared of the Vietnam War. “I ain’t got no trouble with them Viet Cong. It ain’t right. They never called me nigger.”

Having refused induction in 1967 as a conscientious objector, Mr. Ali was sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He appealed the ruling, and his conviction was unanimously overturned by the Supreme Court, in 1971. But Mr. Ali, who had had his championship and boxing license taken away, lost three and a half years of his athletic prime.

What it gained Mr. Ali was a status and personal authority that extended far beyond the realm of sports. His political stance offended many, but to others it made him a hero and martyr. A 1968 Esquire magazine cover famously showed Mr. Ali with arrows sticking out of him, like St. Sebastian.

A ’60s catch phrase held that the personal was the political. In Mr. Ali’s fists the pugilistic was political. He once described his style as “Be loud, be pretty, and keep their black-hatin’ asses in their chairs.” His very name excited controversy.

Many white Americans were aghast when Ali changed his name, but he wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he believed in.

For years, the decision whether to use “Muhammad Ali” or “Cassius Clay,” the name he rejected in 1964 when he joined the Nation of Islam, was a clear-cut political statement. The New York Times Index didn’t stop referring to him as Cassius Clay until 1972. “Cassius Clay is a slave name,” Mr. Ali declared. “I didn’t choose it, and I didn’t want it.”

Muhammed Ali with Dr. Martin Luther King

Muhammed Ali with Dr. Martin Luther King

I hope you’ll go read the entire Globe obit. Here’s just a bit more on Ali as a boxer.

Standing 6 foot 3 inches, Mr. Ali weighed around 190 pounds when he first won the title. His fighting weight eventually rose to 220 pounds. Perhaps Mr. Ali’s key physical attribute was an 80-inch reach, which allowed him to evade punches with relative ease as he relentlessly jabbed at an opponent.

Where other fighters would duck or catch punches, Mr. Ali would lean back from them. He held his hands by his side, rather than up high to protect his head. Mr. Ali’s phenomenal speed and agility allowed him to fight like a middleweight (Sugar Ray Robinson was Mr. Ali’s idol), yet with a heavyweight’s power.

In his trademark white trunks and red-tasseled shoes, he prowled the ring with a dancer’s grace — the New York City Ballet’s George Balanchine marveled at the speed and dexterity of his legwork — showing off with his Ali Shuffle. “I was the Elvis of boxing,” he once said. Even so, Mr. Ali was as much fighter as boxer.

I’ve quoted way too much; please go read the rest at the above link. Muhammed Ali was a unique individual, always his own person, who refused to be pigeonholed by the media and the powerful in sports and politics. In December 2015, although he was battling Parkinson’s disease, Ali spoke out against Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.

Muhammed Ali with Elvis Presley

Muhammed Ali with Elvis Presley

From NBC News: Global Tributes to Muhammad Ali, ‘Champion’ and 20th Century ‘Titan.’

From rival sportsmen to world leaders, the world paused Saturday to remember Muhammad Ali – hailing him not only as a “giant” of the boxing ring but also “a true champion for all.”

The 74-year-old boxer and civil rights champion died Friday from respiratory complications after a three-decade battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Ali’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ opponent, George Foreman, described the civil rights champion was “one of the greatest human beings I have ever met.”

He said: “No doubt he was one of the best people to have lived in this day and age. To put him as a boxer is an injustice.”

The New York Times described Ali as a “Titan of Boxing at the 20th Century.”

Nevada Senator Harry Reid said the boxer “taught us all about the value of hard work, tenacity and never giving up.”

“He was an inspiration whose tireless work ethic, unmatched skills and supreme self-confidence made him the Greatest of All Time,” the senator said in a statement. “And he showed us that even when you get knocked down, you can always get back up.”

Ali with Bill Russell

Ali with Bill Russell

Did Reid get that one from Hillary? More tributes at the link.

Reverend Al Sharpton told MSNBC Saturday he was “deeply saddened” at Ali’s passing, adding: “He showed the world how you can risk everything. He gave up the title of heavyweight champion of the world, paying the ultimate price because he believed in something more than just wealth and success. He redefined what success is.

“Then he came back three times and won that title. We should think not only of his boxing skills but what he stood for. He floated in the ring but he stood outside the ring and was a champion.

“People ought to never underestimate that, when he stood up against the wrongs he was one of the most despised people in the country. He took from being one of the most despised to one of the most honored and loved individuals in the world. We will never see anything like that again.”

Read more tributes at the link.

A few more stories on Muhammed Ali:

David Remnick at The New Yorker: The Outsized Life of Muhammed Ali.

Dave Zirin at The Nation: ‘I Just Wanted to Be Free’: The Radical Reverberations of Muhammad Ali.

The New York Times: Muhammed Ali’s Words Stung Like a Bee too.

I’m going to leave it up to you to post other news in the comment thread, because I have a busy day ahead. I’m staying with my nephews for a few days while my brother and sister-in-law are at a family wedding in Indiana.

Just a note on the busy days ahead in politics. Today is the Virgin Islands Democratic primary, with 12 delegates at stake. Hillary should win. Tomorrow Puerto Rico votes, and Hillary should win there too. However there has been a change in the number of voting places there, and that could possibly hurt her according to Armando at Daily Kos. On Tuesday there will be primaries or caucuses in California, New Jersey, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and New Mexico. The final primary will be in Washington D.C. on June 14.

So . . . what stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

Lets begin with some really big news. NASA announced yesterday that it has found an “Earth-like” planet, IOW, it could be habitable by Earth-like creatures. Perhaps some of our species can escape to it after the U.S.–or Iran or Israel or India, or Pakistan or China blows this one up. From Scientific American:

NASA’s orbiting Kepler telescope has discovered its first planet in the habitable zone of another star. By “habitable,” astronomers mean that a planet could harbor temperatures conducive to liquid water—and maybe life.

The new planet, Kepler 22b, orbits somewhat closer to its host star than Earth does to the sun. “The star is some 600 light years away.” NASA’s Bill Borucki, who leads the Kepler mission, in a December 5th teleconference.

That star is a bit cooler than the sun. So if the greenhouse warming were similar on this planet, and it had a surface, its surface temperature would be something like 72 Fahrenheit—a very pleasant temperature here on Earth.

Kepler 22b is more than twice as large as Earth. One big caveat is that it may not be rocky, like Earth is. It could instead be a gas planet like Neptune. If that were the case, prospects for life there would be rather dim.

Pretty cool, huh? From Cnet:

Along with the confirmed extra-solar planet, one of 28 discovered so far by Kepler, researchers today also announced the discovery of 1,094 new exoplanet candidates, pushing the spacecraft’s total so far to 2,326, including 10 candidate Earth-size worlds orbiting in the habitable zones of their parent stars.

Additional observations are required to tell if a candidate is, in fact, an actual world. But astronomers say a planet known as Kepler-22b, orbiting a star some 600 light years from Earth, is the real thing.

Artist's rendering of newly discovered planet

According to the BBC:

Kepler 22-b was one of 54 candidates reported by the Kepler team in February, and is just the first to be formally confirmed using other telescopes.

More of these “Earth 2.0” candidates are likely to be confirmed in the near future, though a redefinition of the habitable zone’s boundaries has brought that number down to 48.

Via The Guardian: About a month ago, graphic artist and screenwriter Frank Miller posted an attack on OWS on his blog. Miller is the author of Sin City. Here’s an excerpt:

The “Occupy” movement, whether displaying itself on Wall Street or in the streets of Oakland (which has, with unspeakable cowardice, embraced it) is anything but an exercise of our blessed First Amendment. “Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.

“Occupy” is nothing short of a clumsy, poorly-expressed attempt at anarchy, to the extent that the “movement” – HAH! Some “movement”, except if the word “bowel” is attached – is anything more than an ugly fashion statement by a bunch of iPhone, iPad wielding spoiled brats who should stop getting in the way of working people and find jobs for themselves.

This is no popular uprising. This is garbage. And goodness knows they’re spewing their garbage – both politically and physically – every which way they can find.

Wake up, pond scum. America is at war against a ruthless enemy.

Maybe, between bouts of self-pity and all the other tasty tidbits of narcissism you’ve been served up in your sheltered, comfy little worlds, you’ve heard terms like al-Qaeda and Islamicism.

I know nothing about Frank Miller or his cartoon creations, but reading between the lines, I’m getting the feeling there’s a whole lot of projection going on in that rant. As you can well imagine Miller’s fans weren’t all that pleased by it either.

Now a much more famous and beloved graphic novelist, Alan Moore, has responded to Miller’s ugly tirade.

Well, Frank Miller is someone whose work I’ve barely looked at for the past twenty years. I thought the Sin City stuff was unreconstructed misogyny, 300 appeared to be wildly ahistoric, homophobic and just completely misguided. I think that there has probably been a rather unpleasant sensibility apparent in Frank Miller’s work for quite a long time. Since I don’t have anything to do with the comics industry, I don’t have anything to do with the people in it. I heard about the latest outpourings regarding the Occupy movement. It’s about what I’d expect from him. It’s always seemed to me that the majority of the comics field, if you had to place them politically, you’d have to say centre-right. That would be as far towards the liberal end of the spectrum as they would go. I’ve never been in any way, I don’t even know if I’m centre-left. I’ve been outspoken about that since the beginning of my career. So yes I think it would be fair to say that me and Frank Miller have diametrically opposing views upon all sorts of things, but certainly upon the Occupy movement.

As far as I can see, the Occupy movement is just ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs. I can’t think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it; they’ve certainly not been punished in any way because they’re too big to fail. I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who’s too big to fail. It’s a completely justified howl of moral outrage and it seems to be handled in a very intelligent, non-violent way, which is probably another reason why Frank Miller would be less than pleased with it. I’m sure if it had been a bunch of young, sociopathic vigilantes with Batman make-up on their faces, he’d be more in favour of it. We would definitely have to agree to differ on that one.

Alrighty-then. You can read the whole interview with Moore at the link.

The head of the FAA, Jerome “Randy” Babbitt has been placed “on leave” after being arrested and charged for driving drunk. How unseemly.

The Transportation Department, which oversees the FAA, said it didn’t learn about the incident until Monday, two days later. Deputy Administrator Miguel Huerta will serve as acting administrator while officials consider Babbitt’s “employment status,” the Transportation Department said.

More from HuffPo:

Babbitt, 65, was charged with driving while intoxicated after a patrol officer spotted him driving on the wrong side of the street and pulled him over about 10:30 p.m. EST Saturday in Fairfax City, Va., police in the Washington, D.C., suburb said.

Babbitt, who lives in nearby Reston, Va., was the only occupant in the vehicle, the statement said. Police said he cooperated and was released on his own recognizance.

Babbitt apparently delayed telling administration officials about the arrest. White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama and Transportation Department officials learned of the arrest Monday afternoon, about an hour before a 1:30 p.m. EST statement was released saying Babbitt had been placed on leave at his request.

Separately, Fairfax City police issued a statement on the arrest to the media at about noon Monday. They refused to disclose the results of Babbitt’s blood alcohol test. The legal limit is .08.

At least he wasn’t piloting an airplane…

I really kind of hope that the Republicans nominate Newt Gingrich. He’ll be the gift that keeps on giving for bloggers like me–and for comedians too. In the New York Times, Trip Gabriel discusses Gingrich’s “big thoughts.”

Ideas erupt from the mind of Newt Gingrich — bold, unconventional and sometimes troubling and distracting.

On Monday, Mr. Gingrich sought to do damage control on the latest of his Big Thoughts to land him in hot water — helping children bootstrap their way out of poverty by paying them to mop and clean their schools, and rolling back child labor laws that he has called “truly stupid.”

Mr. Gingrich defended the idea, which critics have labeled Dickensian, as a way to introduce children in housing projects with few examples of working adults to the idea of earning a paycheck.

“This is how people rise in America — they learn to work,” he said at a news conference in Manhattan.

Mr. Gingrich’s tendency to speak bluntly, provocatively and sometime impulsively may be part of his emerging appeal at a time when conservatives seem intent on sending a no-business-as-usual message to Washington. It helps with his attempts to foster an image as a candidate eager to bring about change. But the fallout from his statements often traps him in lengthy digressions from his main messages, and it highlights one of the central questions about him as a candidate and potential president: is he sufficiently disciplined?

The funniest example in the article is Gingrich implying that Donald Trump grew grew up poor and had to work hard as a child. On the contrary, Trump inherited big bucks from his father, “a wealthy landlord.”

“New York’s finest” AKA the NYPD has a Facebook page, and in September they used it to display crude and disgusting comments about participants in New York’s West Indian America Day Parade, referring to them as “animals” and “savages” and suggesting, “Drop a bomb on them and wipe them all out.”

The subject was officers’ loathing of being assigned to the West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn, an annual multiday event that unfolds over the Labor Day weekend and has been marred by episodes of violence, including deaths of paradegoers. Those who posted comments appeared to follow Facebook’s policy requiring the use of real names, and some identified themselves as officers.

On Monday, Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for public information, said he learned of the Facebook group from a reporter’s call and would refer the issue to the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau. The comments, in the online group that grew over a few days to some 1,200 members, were at times so offensive in referring to West Indian and African-American neighborhoods that some participants warned others to beware how their words might be taken in a public setting open to Internal Affairs “rats.”

But some of the people who posted comments seemed emboldened by Facebook’s freewheeling atmosphere. “Let them kill each other,” wrote one of the Facebook members who posted comments under a name that matched that of a police officer.

“Filth,” wrote a commenter who identified himself as Nick Virgilio, another participant whose name matched that of a police officer. “It’s not racist if it’s true,” yet another wrote.

Lovely. The NYPD is one of the nation’s most corrupt, violent, and out-of-control police organizations. And judging by this story and their behavior toward OWS, they don’t mind being up front about it.

Awhile back I wrote about Mitt Romney destroying all of his and his staff’s e-mails from his four years as governor of Massachusetts. In addition, Romney and his aides purchased and took with them the hard drives from their state computers. Apparently there was something they desperately wanted to hide. Now Reuters has learned that the cover-up cost the state almost $100,000.

Mitt Romney spent nearly $100,000 in state funds to replace computers in his office at the end of his term as governor of Massachusetts in 2007 as part of an unprecedented effort to keep his records secret, Reuters has learned.

The move during the final weeks of Romney’s administration was legal but unusual for a departing governor, Massachusetts officials say.

The effort to purge the records was made a few months before Romney launched an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. He is again competing for the party’s nomination, this time to challenge Barack Obama for the presidency in 2012….

When Romney left the governorship of Massachusetts, 11 of his aides bought the hard drives of their state-issued computers to keep for themselves. Also before he left office, the governor’s staff had emails and other electronic communications by Romney’s administration wiped from state servers, state officials say.

Those actions erased much of the internal documentation of Romney’s four-year tenure as governor, which ended in January 2007. Precisely what information was erased is unclear.

Republican and Democratic opponents of Romney say the scrubbing of emails – and a claim by Romney that paper records of his governorship are not subject to public disclosure – hinder efforts to assess his performance as a politician and elected official.

I’m not sure where Reuters got the idea this was “legal.” Massachusetts has a law that public officials must save all public records and turn them over to the state.

The Democrats have been talking about caving compromising with Republicans on the extension of the payroll tax holiday. Naturally, GOP congresspeople smelled blood and immediately went in for the kill. Arizona Senator John Kyl announced that there will be no extension of this middle-class tax cut unless the Bush tax cuts for the rich are made permanent.

The top Republican vote counter in the Senate says extending the expiring payroll tax holiday is a terrible idea and he’ll only do it if Democrats agree to major concessions — in particular, simultaneously extending all the Bush tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire just over a year from now.

On the Senate floor Monday, Sen. Jon Kyl argued that reducing the payroll tax doesn’t stimulate the economy — a claim most economists disagree with — and criticized the Democrats’ plan to offset the cost of the tax holiday with a small surtax on millionaires.

“We should therefore only do it under circumstances that in effect override these objections, one of which would be to extend all of the taxes that expire at the end of next year — at the end of 2012,” Kyl said. “That would be a good idea.”

In November 2009, Kyl felt differently. On CNBC he argued, “What you’re suggesting here is that you can do some things to stimulate job creation and certainly doing something like reducing the payroll tax, which has been written about recently, would accomplish that.”

That’s probably because he senses that President Obama is just about to surrender and give the Republicans everything they want, as usual.

Sigh… That’s all I have for today. What are you reading and blogging about?