Thursday Reads

Gustave Courbet, Le Desperere,1845

Good Morning!!

I admit it. I’m obsessed with the Trump/Russia investigation, and I think my posts have become boring because of my obsession; so today, I’m going to try avoiding the subject and hope I’ll get more readers. This post is illustrated with “selfies” from  before we had cell phones, just because. I hope you enjoy them.

Have you been getting a lot of annoying calls lately? I have. I usually don’t answer calls that come in from people I don’t know or area codes where I don’t know anyone; but once in awhile, I’ll pick up a call and it’s usually a recorded message. It turns out you can find out which numbers are robocalling your area.

From the Arlington Patch: Here’s Who Keeps Robocalling Your Area Code.

If you think you’re receiving robocalls now more than ever, you’re not wrong. According to the robocall blocker YouMail, pre-recorded phone messages are at an all-time high.

There were 3.36 billion robocalls last month in the U.S., 6.5 percent higher than the previous record and a whopping 34 percent higher than April 2017….

Mary Cassatt, Self portrait

Here are the states that received the most robocalls, as well as how many they received:

  1. California, 384.4 million
  2. Texas, 363.3 million
  3. Florida, 261.1 million
  4. Georgia, 213.6 million
  5. New York, 207.8 million
  6. Illinois, 134.6 million
  7. Ohio, 115.8 million
  8. Pennsylvania, 115.4 million
  9. North Carolina, 111 million
  10. Louisiana, 97.6 million
  11. Michigan, 89.7 million
  12. Tennessee, 88.3 million
  13. New Jersey, 84.3 million
  14. Virginia, 83 million
  15. Maryland, 79 million
  16. Alabama, 77.9 million
  17. South Carolina, 64.4 million
  18. Arizona, 60 million
  19. Missouri, 51.7 million
  20. Indiana, 51 million

Atlanta received the dubious honor of most robocalled city in America for the 29th straight month. People in that city received nearly 148 million robocalls last month and three Atlanta area codes cracked the top 20 most robocalled area code list.

Here are the top 10 most robocalled cities:

  1. Atlanta, GA
  2. Dallas, TX
  3. New York, NY
  4. Los Angeles, CA
  5. Chicago, IL
  6. Houston, TX
  7. Baltimore, MD
  8. Philadelphia, PA
  9. San Francisco Bay Area, CA
  10. Newark, NJ

M.C. Escher, Hand With Reflecting Sphere, 1935

The company says 47 of the 50 most robocalled cities in the country saw a higher robocalling volume in April. The increase comes even as lawmakers, consumer groups, telecommunications carriers and device makers pay closer attention to illegal calls.

“Despite the best efforts of regulators, industry groups, service providers, and app developers, we are warning consumers to remain vigilant by not picking up any calls from unfamiliar numbers, using robocall blocking apps, and researching numbers before calling them back,” YouMail CEO Alex Quilici said in a release.

Click here and enter an area code to see the full results.

I’m glad to know it’s not just me getting all these annoyance calls. Unfortunately, I’ve found that even when I block the numbers, they just call back from slightly different ones.

The media is currently obsessed with lecturing Democrats about how we need to be kinder and more understanding of Trump voters. Here’s a response to that from Osita Nwanevu at Slate: Liberals, It’s Not About Being Nice.

Over the weekend, the New York Times published an op-ed titled “Liberals, You’re Not As Smart As You Think.” In it, University of Virginia political science professor Gerard Alexander accuses American liberals of arrogance and warns them against making broad negative generalizations about large swaths of the population. “Liberals often don’t realize how provocative or inflammatory they can be,” he writes. “In exercising their power, they regularly not only persuade and attract but also annoy and repel.” Alexander cites a few particular examples of recent annoying and repulsive liberal behavior, including comedian Michelle Wolf’s performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but the heart of the piece is a broad indictment of identity politics as practiced by liberals and the left. “Racist is pretty much the most damning label that can be slapped on anyone in America today, which means it should be applied firmly and carefully,” Alexander writes. “Yet some people have cavalierly leveled the charge against huge numbers of Americans—specifically, the more than 60 million people who voted for Mr. Trump. In their ranks are people who sincerely consider themselves not bigoted, who might be open to reconsidering ways they have done things for years, but who are likely to be put off if they feel smeared before that conversation even takes place.”

Jean Cooke, self portrait, 1972

The piece was the latest in an unending stream of commentary attributing Democrats’ electoral misfortunes to conservative cultural backlash—a variation on a theme in punditry that was old hat long before Hillary Clinton made the supposed mistake of calling Trump supporters “deplorables.” Alleged gaffes like that, the story goes, form part of an imperious posture Democrats take on questions of identity politics that alienates simple folk who haven’t caught up with the progressive consensus on social questions.

This argument has very little to do with the actual state of American public opinion on those questions. Survey data suggests that identity politics as practiced by Democrats and the left has been quite successful and persuasive. Take racial issues, for instance. According to Pew, the percentage of white people in America who believe that the country “needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights with whites” has grown by 18 points since the beginning of the decade. Most of this can be attributed to white Democrats moving left on the question, but the numbers show change on the right as well: The number of Republicans and Republican leaners who believe this has grown by six points to 36 percent over the same period. The percentage of Republicans and Republican leaners who say that “racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days” has also jumped about five points to 14 percent. These are, of course, still small minorities on the right, but given talk about how liberal arrogance and piety have alienated those who disagree with Democrats on racial identity politics into a backlash, one would expect the numbers to show … well, a backlash. Instead, they suggest that post–Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, and Black Lives Matter, rhetoric and activism may be working quite well on a broad cross section of Americans.

It’s a lengthy, thoughtful piece. Read the rest at Slate.

What’s the “nice” response to a “president” who says things like this?

USA Today: Trump ramps up rhetoric on undocumented immigrants: ‘These aren’t people. These are animals.’

President Trump used extraordinarily harsh rhetoric to renew his call for stronger immigration laws Wednesday, calling undocumented immigrants “animals” and venting frustration at Mexican officials who he said “do nothing” to help the United States.

Pablo Picasso, Self Portrait, Facing Death, 1972

“We have people coming into the country or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said.

“These aren’t people. These are animals.”

Trump’s comments came in a freewheeling, hour-long White House meeting with local California leaders opposed to so-called “sanctuary city” policies. “California’s law provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women, and children at the mercy of these sadistic criminals,” he said.

I can’t think of anything nice to say about that or about people who support the man who said it.

Will John Bolton destroy Trump’s dreams of a deal with North Korea?  Politico: Trump’s North Korea Nobel buzz could die with John Bolton.

Donald Trump wants a deal with North Korea. His national security adviser thinks the North Koreans can’t be dealt with. And North Korea thinks he’s “human scum.”

North Korea’s latest diatribe against the United States — and specifically a “repugnant” national security adviser, John Bolton — spotlights a core tension within the Trump administration as the president seeks a nuclear deal with North Korea that he hopes might earn him a Nobel Peace Prize.

Lee Krasner self portrait, 1930

Bolton is famously contemptuous of what he considers naïve U.S. diplomacy with foreign adversaries who can only be trusted to cRheat and lie. Prominent on his list is North Korea itself, which he has written “will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily,” calling past U.S. diplomatic forays with the country “embarrassments.”

Trump, too, believes America has struck “terrible deals” for decades. And he shared Bolton’s intense animus for the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump torpedoed last week. But in the case of North Korea, even some Trump supporters worry the president is too eager for a deal that could dazzle the world and reap him huge political rewards.

The question now is whether Trump and Bolton can strike a constructive balance — or whether they might wind up at cross-purposes on one of the most important diplomatic experiments in U.S. history.

Read the rest at Politico.

May it would be a good thing if North Korea backs out of the summit, because Trump thinks he doesn’t need to spend a lot of time getting ready for the meeting. Time: President Trump ‘Doesn’t Think He Needs’ to Prepare Much for His Meeting With North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

With just one month until a scheduled sit-down with North Korea’s leader, President Donald Trump hasn’t set aside much time to prepare for meeting with Kim Jong Un, a stark contrast to the approach of past presidents.

“He doesn’t think he needs to,” said a senior administration official familiar with the President’s preparation. Aides plan to squeeze in time for Trump to learn more about Kim’s psychology and strategize on ways to respond to offers Kim may make in person, but so far a detailed plan hasn’t been laid out for getting Trump ready for the summit.

Even with North Korea threatening to scrap the meeting over long-planned U.S.-Korean military exercises, Trump’s aides in the White House and State Department are continuing to prepare briefing material in advance of the June 12 summit in Singapore. When asked Wednesday if he thinks Kim is bluffing, Trump responded, “We’ll see what happens.” He told reporters he still plans to insist on North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons.

So briefing materials are being prepared, but Trump isn’t going to bother to read them. Big surprise.

Paul Gaugin self portrait with halo and snake 1889

I’m going to end with just one article related to the Russia investigation. Eric Wemple at The Washington Post: New York Times acknowledges it buried the lead in pre-election Russia-Trump story.

The upside of the New York Times’ aggressive coverage of the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling is that the American public is learning more and more about recent history. The downside is that the newspaper keeps bumping into its archives.

In a massive article Wednesday on the FBI’s 2016 snooping into the possible nexus between Russians and the Trump presidential campaign, reporters Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman and Nicholas Fandos include these two paragraphs:

In late October, in response to questions from The Times, law enforcement officials acknowledged the investigation but urged restraint. They said they had scrutinized some of Mr. Trump’s advisers but had found no proof of any involvement with Russian hacking. The resulting article, on Oct. 31, reflected that caution and said that agents had uncovered no “conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government.”

The key fact of the article — that the F.B.I. had opened a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign — was published in the 10th paragraph.

That’s one heck of a concession: We buried the lead! In their book “Russian Roulette,” authors Michael Isikoff and David Corn report that editors at the New York Times “cast the absence of a conclusion as the article’s central theme rather than the fact of the investigation itself,” contrary to the wishes of the reporters.

The article in question was published on Oct. 31, 2016, and it has received a great deal of hindsight-aided scrutiny for the role it may have played in easing voters’ concerns about ties between Donald Trump and Russia. Under the bylines of Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers, the story, headlined “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia,” hit the public sphere just as other outlets — Slate and Mother Jones — published reports that began poking at the outlines of possible collusion.

But will the Times apologize to Hillary Clinton and the American people?

Those are my offerings for today; what stories are you following?


Wednesday Reads: History and the Selfie Generation

157481 600 stop and frisk cartoons

Good Morning

I hate that the blog has been in bitchfest mode lately…mainly because it brings the juju down, but dammit…the news is bad and the people are just hateful! For example:

Chinese couple may face jail over hot noodles assault

A Chinese couple who got into a furious row with cabin crew on a flight could find themselves separated for quite some time after the incident escalated when hot noodles were thrown into the face of a hostess.

aa83ebc88a23a189b7a331629f05ae8aThe incident that happened on a Thai AirAsia plane was captured on cellphone footage taken by other passengers that show one of the hostesses touching her face after being scalded when she was hit with a hot dish.

She was reportedly given first aid on board by her colleagues to deal with the burns and was taken to a hospital after the flight turned around and landed back in the Thai capital Bangkok.

The trouble started when the couple boarded the plane and found themselves seated separately on the charter flight from Bangkok to the Chinese city of Nanjing. And even though the seating was rearranged to put the couple together, they were still angry and refused to calm down.

The video clip showing the man shouting at staff members who are trying to restrain him quickly went viral after it was uploaded on Chinese social media network Weibo. A spokesman for the budget airline 08_115970001said that the plane had been forced to turn round so that the angry couple could be arrested.

The spokesman said that the decision to turn around had been made after the man claimed to have a bomb and threatened to blow the plane up.

 

They got what they wanted, and still were belligerent assholes.

What the hell is wrong with people?

And let me take it a step further. These assholes, horrid waste of breathing flesh and bone…half of these people are the ones who go on abusing, committing the assault or killing the innocent; and you can bet your ass that, the other half are the people who are just outside during the said violence, killing or assaults…taking obnoxious grinning selfies while there…in the background…human beings are losing their lives.11_05925884

Sydney siege: Not the moment for a selfie – Comment – Voices – The Independent

Some kind of low point that may even sum up something about the direction of society. “I wonder what has happened to empathy?” asks one Mail Online commenter. And you do wonder. Because it takes a special kind of narcissist to take a selfie while, not 100 feet away, people are cooped up with a gunman with their life in – how do you call it? – oh yes, danger. Their lives are in danger. Not a popcorn moment. Not a movie. Not something that, even if all goes well and the hostages make it out safe, you ought to find pleasing-as-punch.

] A hostage runs towards a police officer outside a cafe, where other hostages are being held in Sydney

 

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B44cRDYCUAAGyK3.jpg

Compare the rubbernecker expression – one guy even literally grinning like a Cheshire Cat – with the terror on the face of the café worker who sprints into the arms of a policeman. I guess the rule should be: don’t selfie when there are a bunch of other selfies nearby that will probably be – at the moment you snap – either crying or close to it.

 

Selfie shame of people posing for pictures of themselves at Sydney terror siege | Daily Mail Online

Tourists have always taken selfies of themselves at Sydney’s most iconic landmarks, but on a day that has horrified the city many people are taking macabre snapshots for old times’ sake as well.

All day people were uploading selfies of themselves on Twitter from as close as possible to where the hostage siege was taking place.

Just to make the photos more authentic some even took them with television cameras in the background. Two onlookers even looked like they were taking a ‘celebration selfie’ than one at a hostage siege. Others smiled happily as if they were standing in front of Sydney Opera House instead of a chilling hostage crisis that could yet end in tragedy.

These three men also looked pleased to be in Martin Place despite the chilling circumstances

 

I really don’t think this generation should be called the Millennial Generation, it should be called the Selfie Generation because that is the perfect description of what they are, selfish.

7a00715Now, take those images above and the story about the young couple aboard the airline, and read this post from Gin and Tacos:

UNINTERESTED OBSERVERS | Gin and Tacos

A few weeks ago I had a bad day. This is not unusual; in fact, it would be worth pointing out if I had a good one, which I believe happened last during the Clinton administration. The day in question was specifically a bad day in the classroom, something that in all honesty does not happen terribly often. Having taught at the college level for the better part of a decade, my expectations are so low that it’s nearly impossible to end up disappointed. I have come to accept the fact that the students have no interest in the subject matter and no desire to interact with me or their classmates in any meaningful way. I expect that they will sit there and look bored for an hour-plus, and that’s usually exactly what I get. Expectations met.

30ea5a7e6a2f9df28b4debd7bcf35e0cOn this particular day, my morning class was presented with a very basic exercise I do with material on public opinion. I put up three pictures: Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, QB/Pizza Salesperson Peyton Manning, and chart-topping knucklehead Lil’ Jon, whose megahit “Turn Down for What” has been inescapable for the past six months. I change the celebrities every year or two to ensure that it’s someone relevant – I used Simon Cowell when “American Idol” first became a big hit, and so on. The way this has always worked is that the students of course identify the athlete and celebrity but have no idea who the elected official is. I also ask them some other celebrity-related questions, like who is married to Kanye West and what the couple named their recent child. 18_1267200The point I make is that Americans are indeed capable of retaining information; we know gobs of facts about sports, celebrities, and so on. We know almost nothing about politics because we do not pay much attention to it and we don’t find it interesting. There is no good reason we can’t know who are representatives are the same way we know the starting lineup of our favorite teams or the cast members of Real Housewives of Shreveport. We know the latter because it interests us and ignore the former because it doesn’t.

I am going to quote the rest of the post because it is so good and so damn true:

Lately, say for the past few semesters, I’ve noticed something strange: the students don’t seem to know any of the celebrity BS anymore either. Back in the mid 2000s, I would ask who is married to Tom Cruise (everyone immediately knew) and what they named their child (in unision, “Suri!”). Now, even though I update the “material” to be contemporary, they don’t really know. They still don’t know who the political figures are, of course, and now they don’t know the trashy celebrity gossip either.

f42bb33cf24e5e172779d290a657c802After having this experience in the morning, I went next to an Honors class in which I had reserved the day for discussion. They had assigned readings and some basic questions they were required to answer so that they might have something to talk about in class (as opposed to showing up having read nothing and having never thought about the issue). I don’t even recall the topic, but after about 15 minutes of trying to get blood from a turnip I got exasperated. “OK,” I said, “it is painfully clear that you are not interested in the slightest in this topic. So please tell me, what would you like to talk about? We can talk about anything. Just tell me what interests you. I am serious, I really want to know.”

7a00715I won’t recount the entire unfruitful discussion that follows, but I asked dozens of questions that require no knowledge whatsoever to answer. What do you like? What do you do in your free time? Do you watch (sports, movies, TV series, video games, etc)? When you sneak your phones out in class, what are you doing on them? After about an hour I came to the conclusion, based on what this group of about 18 college freshmen and sophomores told me, that their interests are 1) Tumblr, 2) Netflix, and 3) texting each other. As to what they look at on Tumblr, the answer appeared to be random nonsense – memes, cat pictures, collections of pictures of Bad _____, and the like, so it’s not even like they’re using Tumblr to become acquainted with any topic, even a frivolous one. As for what they text each other about given their apparent lack of definable interests, the answer was that they talk about themselves and one another.

97b99b48e30a8687322e56e2504c2cc2Every generation complains about the ones that follow, and I don’t believe that these kids are any dumber than college kids were 20 or 50 years ago. I simply do not understand, however, their complete lack of interest in anything. I get that they are not interested in news and politics; hell, I rely on that fact to make some important points while teaching them about those topics. I am absolutely baffled, though, at the idea that they are not even interested in any of the kinds of fluff that Americans use as alternatives to learning substantive things about the world – sports, Hollywood celebrity crap, pop music, etc. It is alarming to me that in a moment of frustration and total honesty I asked them – begged them – to tell me what does interest them given that my chosen topics so clearly do not and that the answer seems to be…themselves.

I’m trying not to sound like an old, out-of-it man, but this is baffling to me. And I’d be lying if I claimed not to wonder about the future prospects of a cohort of people who may have no interests of any kind outside of their own lives.

He is right, and I think that those selfie pictures during the hostage situation pretty much illustrate that point…to the extreme perhaps but y’all get the point I am trying to make here.

1c55a0073dd06ae64b81813f85e6c021Anyway, I was happy to find out what interest my daughter’s boyfriend, he is into Mongolian history. Which is fine with me, I am glad. However he doesn’t know what the “Battle of the Bulge” is…yeah, fancy that. I mentioned at dinner last night that Dec. 16th was the anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. I asked if he knew what that was…and his reply was, something with the civil war? Ugh.

But hey, he should have learned that in history last year. Do they not teach that anymore?

Battle of the Bulge: Rare Photos From Hitler’s Last Gamble | LIFE.com

7a00715564a8f9ce4a1bd0bd7b052dcaFrom mid-December 1944 through the end of January 1945, in the heavily forested Ardennes Mountains of Belgium, thousands of American, British, Canadian, Belgian and French forces struggled to turn back the final major German offensive of World War II. While Allied forces ultimately triumphed, it was an absolutely vicious six weeks of fighting, with tens of thousands dead on both sides. Today, the conflict is known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Here, 70 years after the start of the Ardennes Counteroffensive (as the battle is sometimes known), LIFE.com presents a series of photographs made by LIFE photographers throughout the fighting. Many of these pictures never ran in LIFE magazine.

0337887167a83eba1ecfa789f8578a5aFor its final offensive to succeed, Germany needed four factors to work in its favor: catching the Allies off-guard; poor weather that would neutralize air support for Allied troops; the dealing of early, devastating, demoralizing blows against the Allies; and capturing Allied fuel supplies intact. (Indeed, Germany originally intended to attack on November 27, but had to delay its initial assault due to fuel shortages). On December 16, 1944, the German attack began: the Wehrmacht (the Third Reich’s unified armed forces) struck with 250,000 soldiers along an 85-mile stretch of Allied front, stretching from southern Belgium to Luxembourg.

The attack proved stunningly effective, at first, as troops advanced some 50 miles into Allied territory, creating the “bulge” in the American lines that gave the battle its memorable name.

A Belgian woman surveys damage to her home caused by heavy fighting in the nearby Ardennes Forest, Battle of the Bulge.American forces had been feeling triumphant — Paris had just been liberated in August — and there was a sense among some American and other Allied leaders that Germany was all but defeated. The attack in December 1944, officially labeled the “Ardennes-Alsace Campaign” by the U.S. Army, showed that any complacency the Allies might have embraced regarding the Wehrmacht was dangerously misplaced.

(At right: A Belgian woman surveys damage to her home caused by heavy fighting during the Battle of the Bulge.)

Nevertheless, as effective as the initial German efforts were, they failed to achieve the complete and early knockout of Allied forces that German military brass had hoped for, and counted on. (Wehrmacht Field Marshal Walter Model had given the attack only a 10 percent chance of success to begin with. The German name for the operation: Wacht am Rhein, or “Watch on the Rhine.”)

14_00632003One of the most difficult aspects of the Bulge was the weather, as extreme — indeed, historic — cold wreaked havoc and turned relatively simple logistics of travel, shelter, and meals into a daily struggle. January 1945 was the coldest January on record for that part of Europe, and over the course of the battle more than 15,000 Allied troops alone were treated for frostbite and other cold-related injuries.

Many more pictures here: Pinterest– BATTLE OF THE BULGE

The rest of the links in dump format:

Pakistan school attack: Taliban kill 145 – CNN.com

Clinton: ‘U.S. should never condone or practice torture’ | MSNBC

Unless I’m missing something, this is an exceedingly strange opinion – The Washington Post

783849e0cdfc31d2790ea8dc48870d29Ohio Detective Berated Girlfriend of Black Man Shot and Killed by Cops

Addicting Info – Bryan Fischer: Torture Is A Christian Value (VIDEO)

Samuel L Jackson launches Eric Garner anti-racism campaign song – People – News – The Independent

Heartwarming Racial Profiling Story Goes Viral, Solves Racism | The Daily Banter

I don’t know if I would call it “heartwarming.”

Evolution in our national science museum, thanks to David Koch

Turtle that breathes through its bottom is endangered, scientists warn – Science – News – The Independent

‘Benjy’ the gay bull saved by Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon has found love in his new home – Home News – UK – The Independent

‘Benjy’, the gay bull who was saved from the slaughterhouse after The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon backed a campaign to have the animal transported to a sanctuary, has found love in his new home.

The Irish bull was destined for the butchers after he failed to show any interest in the cows at his previous home on County Mayo farm, where he was instead found to have preferred the company of the other bulls.

But Benjy was saved after a crowd-funding campaign to have him transferred to a sanctuary gathered pace, and animal rights campaigners Peta informed Mr Simon of the bull’s plight and he donated a further £5,000 to the cause.

Benjy the bull 

Within minutes of arriving at his new home on Sunday, Benjy befriended Alex, a one-year-old bullock described as a “handsome little lad” by a spokesperson for the sanctuary.

Benjy the gay bull has found love with a young bullock named Alex at his new home
1 / 1

 

 

Hurray for Benj!

 

I will end with Doug the Pug, cause all he wants for Christmas…is Food!