The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 30th, 2016: The View from Outside

We’re all tired of the U.S. media’s love/hate minute-by-minute coverage of The Donald, so I thought that ThinkProgress’s article on Trump’s international coverage might be interesting.

Occasionally humorous, i.e.:

MEXICO: “…the man who managed to make us miss the Bush clan” and “El Deforma, a satirical news site similar to The Onion…has included articles about Canada building a wall in case of a Trump victory and Pink Floyd building the wall if Mexico doesn’t pay for it.”

SOUTH AFRICA: “South Africa’s the New Age called Trump “arguably the most successful internet troll in today’s political spectrum,” noting that much of his social media commentary “reads like a laundry list of troll tactics.”

Sometimes insightful:

CANADA: “…the Globe and Mail’s conservative columnist Margaret Wente noted that a majority of Americans “would rather swallow arsenic than vote for Mr. Trump” and predicted his fall. “If Donald Trump were a stock, my advice would be to sell it now,” she wrote. “The one thing that has to happen is that Mr. Trump will have to change. And he can’t. His most deadly foe is himself. Mr. Trump has no situational awareness. He has no ability to take advice, or build bridges, or learn from others, or direct a team.”

Some surprisingly self-serving and hypocritical:

ISRAEL: ““As an Israeli Who Loves America, I Am Worried by Trump,” wrote Ari Shavit in the liberal publication Haaretz after a series of Trump victories in February. “After the astounding victories of the vulgar populist in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, it is clear to all that America is no longer the country we have known. It is no longer a nation with a prudent economic establishment, a contented middle class and a stable political system. It is no longer a nation confident in itself, its identity and its future. It is a frightened, angry America. An America that has lost its way,” he wrote. “To an Israeli who spends considerable time in debates about Israel between Boston and San Francisco, Trump is a relief. Suddenly Israeli politics seem a little less embarrassing.”

“…in March, Naomi Zeveloff published a piece in the Forward on how Trump’s offensive style was actually winning many Israeli admirers. “If America elects a person who advocates discrimination and condescension and even resentment toward minorities, maybe we won’t be so criticized by the West,” Yaron Ezrahi, a professor emeritus of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, explained to Zeveloff regarding Israeli right-wing thinking on Trump.”

The TP article is very long with loads of links, and overall it’s pretty disturbing. But I recommend wading through it.

This is our daily Open Thread–okay, it’s the now-usually-Late-Afternoon Saturday edition. Go ahead and talk about stuff.

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 25th, 2016: Take a Deep Breath

Old orchard in spring

Old orchard in spring

I know that I’ve trotted out this photo a few times over the years, at least in springtime. But it is one of my favorite pictures, and, well, it’s Spring. Although the apple blossoms are barely budding yet, lots of other flowering trees are blooming and the air is fragrant in the warming sunshine. The first of newly-mown lawns add their evocative scent. Bees are humming and I saw my first butterfly of the spring on Thursday. Of course, this also means that there’s a pollen alert every day, and this spring for the first time my allergies have escalated to the “burning eyes” level. But as long as I can breathe through my nose, even a little, I still want to stick my head out the car window like a dog and drink it all in.

Breathe in the springtime – it’ll do you good.

This is our daily Open Thread–what’s on your mind?

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 16th, 2016: This Day in History

History.com lists various events that occurred on April 16th in history, some of which have continued relevance these days. For instance:

– In 1943, Albert Hoffman, a Swiss chemist, “accidentally consumes LSD-25, a synthetic drug he had created in 1938 as part of his research into the medicinal value of lysergic acid compounds.” Hoffman’s notes on the experience state:

“Last Friday, April 16, 1943, I was forced to interrupt my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and proceed home, being affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant, intoxicated-like condition characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.”

Since that discovery, efforts by (most famously) Dr. Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey to promote LSD as a recreational drug eventually led to the drug being banned even for medicinal use in the U.S., and later by the United Nations. Research on the drug became nearly impossible, but a recent study explains a bit more about how LSD affects/stimulates parts of the brain:

“A team at Imperial College London says they found it broke down barriers between areas that control functions like vision, hearing and movement. The study was with a small group – 20 subjects – but the researchers say it could lead to a revolution in the way addiction, anxiety and depression are treated.”

– In 1947, Bernard Baruch coined the term “Cold War.” In a speech he gave at the unveiling of his portrait in the South Carolina House of Representatives (in which he also discussed industrial labor problems, in part calling “for longer workweeks, no-strike pledges from unions, and no-layoff pledges from management”), Baruch stated:

“Let us not be deceived-we are today in the midst of a cold war. Our enemies are to be found abroad and at home. Let us never forget this: Our unrest is the heart of their success. The peace of the world is the hope and the goal of our political system; it is the despair and defeat of those who stand against us. We can depend only on ourselves.”

– Also in 1947: while loading ammonium nitrate fertilizer, along with tobacco and “government-owned ammunition” onto a freighter in Texas City, Texas, a massive ammonium nitrate explosion killed 581 people as it blew the freighter to smithereens.

Coincidentally, on April 17th, 2013, the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas, exploded, killing 15 people and injuring scores more, and caused massive damage and destruction of nearby property. Apparently in 66 years, Texans hadn’t learned that ammonium nitrate is dangerous.

– In 2007, a disturbed student who should never have been able to own a gun killed 32 fellow students and faculty at Virginia Tech. According to History.com:

“Two days later, on April 18, NBC News received a package of materials from Cho with a time stamp indicating he had mailed it from a Virginia post office between the first and second shooting attacks. Contained in the package were photos of a gun-wielding Cho, along with a rambling video diatribe in which he ranted about wealthy “brats,” among other topics…
The public soon learned that Cho, described by ex-classmates as a loner who rarely spoke to anyone, had a history of mental-health problems. It was also revealed that angry, violent writings Cho made for certain class assignments had raised concern among some of his former professors and fellow students well before the events of April 16.”

Uh, yeah, so what have we learned from that, what has changed to prevent a similar disaster? ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING.

– And on this day in history in 1956 – 60 years ago – my oldest friend, Laurie Miles, was born. We’ve been friends since we were about 4 years old, beginning soon after our families moved to North Road in Brewster Heights, a brand-new development (aka subdivision) set on top of a hill overlooking the Middle Branch Reservoir.

Top Photo: the Sechny 'homestead' ; Bottom: Laurie's dog Winnie

Top Photo: the Sechny ‘homestead’ ; Bottom: Laurie’s dog Winnie

Everyone should have a friend with whom, even through time and distance, one can just pick up and continue that friendship, wherever/whenever. Laurie and I enjoy that kind of friendship, wherein we’ve been connected for so long that it’s wired into our DNA.

So Happy Birthday to my oldest and dearest friend, Laurie.

This is our daily Open Thread–better late than never!

The Watering Hole, Monday, April 11, 2016: I’d Vote For This One

This ad has no demonizing, no demon sheep, no end-of-days predictions if the other candidate wins, and it’s not set to “Il Fortuna.” What’s not to like? One thing’s for sure, I’d vote for the “Generic” candidate over Trump or Cruz any day!

 

~~~~~~~

This is our daily Open Thread–go ahead, open up a discussion.

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, April 6th, 2016: HUMP DAY

Mini-rant:  One of these Hump Days, when somebody cheerily tells me, “At least it’s Hump Day!”, I’m going to snap. EVERY day is Hump Day, just another work day to get through much like any other work day when you’ve been grinding away without hope for too many years. It’s like Office Space’s “Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the ‘Mondays!'” every single goddam day. But enough about me…

Here’s one of those “Your Tax Dollars At Work” stories: From Joe Davidson at The Washington Post, last week’s “boondoggle of the week” goes to the DEA and DOD, who, back in 2008, together bought a plane to be modified for drug-fighting in Afghanistan. They paid $8.6 million. As of last week, they’ve now spent at least 10 times that much, without the plane having ever gotten off the ground.

And a couple of pieces about Monday’s Supreme Court’s ruling in the Evenwel vs Abbott ‘one-man/one-vote’ case. [And no, not Terry Pratchett’s version: “the one man was the Patrician, and he had the vote.”]

First, Ian Millhiser’s initial thread at ThinkProgress on Monday discussing the SCOTUS opinion, authored by Justice “Notorious RBG” Ginsburg. While the 8-0 ruling upheld the traditional “one-person/one-vote” apportioning of districts, some of the language seems to leave disquieting loopholes for the States.

Next, from billmoyers.com, an interesting article by Janai Nelson, Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. A couple of excerpts:

“The suit was brought by two white voters from rural districts in Texas to challenge the state’s use of total population when drawing its state legislative districts. The use of total population in state redistricting has been a nearly universal practice not only in Texas but in all 50 states and countless local jurisdictions across the country for well over 50 years. The challengers here sought to change that practice and replace it with a count of eligible voters, meaning only persons eligible to cast ballots would be counted for purposes of redistricting.”

~~~~~~~

“Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — who each wrote a separate concurrence but also roundly embraced the ultimate conclusion of the Court that the Constitution permits total population count. Justice Alito, while disagreeing with some of the majority’s historical interpretation, even went so far as to acknowledge the perils of using alternative counting methods: “These [total population] statistics are more reliable and less subject to manipulation and dispute that statistics concerning eligible voters.”

And what was Justice Thomas’s “separate concurrence” about? Well, according to Ian Millheiser’s second piece on the subject at ThinkProgress, Thomas sounds more as if he disagrees with “one-person/one-vote.” A few excerpts:

“Thomas, however, rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments in Evenwel because he believed that states should have much broader power to draw legislative lines as they choose, even if doing so would produce grossly undemocratic results. He begins by claiming that “this Court has never provided a sound basis for the one-person, one-vote principle…”

~~~~~~~

“The justice criticizes the one person/one vote doctrine because he believes that it is “driven by the belief that there is a single, correct answer to the question of how much voting strength an individual citizen should have.” Such an assertion, Thomas claims, “overlook[s] that, to control factions that would legislate against the common good, individual voting strength must sometimes yield to counter majoritarian checks.”

As a sign of what sort of factions Thomas finds needing of control, and which “counter majoritarian checks” he deems necessary, Thomas offers a theory of the Constitution that closely resembles a theory a libertarian group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers tried to teach to school children. “Of particular concern for the Framers was the majority of people violating the property rights of the minority,” Thomas writes. Elsewhere in his opinion, he suggests that states may want to set redistricting rules that give an advantage to one side in disputes that “pit urban areas versus rural, manufacturing versus agriculture, or those with property versus those without.”

In case there are any doubts where Thomas’ sympathies lay, he closes his opinion with a flourish. “The Constitution,” Thomas claims, “did not make this Court ‘a centralized politburo appointed for life to dictate to the provinces the ‘correct’ theories of democratic representation, [or] the ‘best’ electoral systems for securing truly ‘representative’ government.””

Disgustingly, Justice Thomas seems to have suddenly found his voice, and he’s channeling Antonin Scalia.

This is our daily Open Thread – have at it.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, April 2nd, 2016: A Little Humor

I’ll start with the first of two jokes which one of my co-workers sent me; the second of the two will be at the end. That way we can begin and end with a smile. (Okay, there’ll be humor in the middle, too.)

“A Lexus mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of a LS460 when he spotted a well-known cardiologist in his shop. The cardiologist was there waiting for the service manager to come and take a look at his car when the mechanic shouted across the garage, “Hey Doc, want to take a look at this?” The cardiologist, a bit surprised walked over to where the mechanic was working.

The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and asked, “So Doc, look at this engine. I opened its heart, took the valves out, repaired or replaced anything damaged, and then put everything back in, and when I finished, it worked just like new. So how is it that I make $48,000 a year and you make $1.7M when you and I are doing basically the same work? The cardiologist paused, leaned over, and then whispered to the mechanic. “Try doing it with the engine running.””

Next, a whole bunch of political stuff from a recent Washington Post newsletter called “The Daily Trail”, including but not limited to:

-poll numbers indicating how ‘yugely’ unpopular Donald Trump is among women and other demographics;
-Trump + Reince Priebus = GOP Party Loyalty?
-Ted Cruz pulls out RNC rule book in anti-Kasich move;
-Superpac for Kasich responds with weird Pinocchio-themed anti-Cruz ad (created by the same guy who made what was called the “Demon Sheep” ad.)
-initial Electoral College projections from the University of Virginia show some good news for Democrats;
-will candidates never learn how to eat a slice of New York pizza in a New York pizzeria in the traditional New York manner? (Jon Stewart, I hope you’re not following ANY of this, please, it’s not good for your blood pressure!)
-and more!

Also from the Washington Post, an ‘April Fools’ story (okay, I’m a day behind) about two college professors who “gave up the fight to convince Americans that Africa is not, in fact, a country.”

And now the second of the two jokes:

“While the IRS agent was checking the books he turned to the CFO of the hospital and said, “I notice you buy a lot of bandages. What do you do with the end of the roll when there’s too little left to be of any use? “Good question,” noted the CFO. “We save them up and send them back to the bandage company and every now and then they send us a free box of bandages. “Oh,” replied the auditor, somewhat disappointed that his unusual question had a practical answer.

But on he went, in his obnoxious way. “What about all these plaster purchases? What do you do with what’s left over after setting a cast on a patient? “Ah, yes,” replied the CFO, realizing that the inspector was trying to trap him with an unanswerable question. “We save it and send it back to the manufacturer, and every now and then they send us a free package of plaster.

“I see,” replied the auditor, thinking hard about how he could fluster the know-it-all CFO. “Well,” he went on, “What do you do with all the leftover foreskins from the circumcisions you perform?” Here, too, we do not waste,” answered the CFO. “What we do is save all the little foreskins and send them to the IRS Office, and about once a year they send us a complete dick.” [rim shot]

This is our daily Open Thread – enjoy yourselves!

The Watering Hole, Monday, March 14th, 2016: Cuteness Trumps Evil At The End

This weekend I OD’d on Trump. And jelly beans. I’m not sure which made me feel worse.

I refuse to watch any of the myriad videos of Hair Drumpf that have dominated the internets over the past, well, forever it seems. As I have mentioned in comments elsewhere, being a lifelong New Yorker means, in part, that we’ve been exposed to toxic levels of NY’s own version of Agent Orange since long before “Celebrity Apprentice” existed. Having long ago dismissed Drumpf à l’Orange as a loud-mouthed, self-important asshole, it’s frightening to see so many people taken in by this vulgar charlatan. Especially if one looks at his mouth. It appears to have been shaped over a lifetime of angrily hurling bullying insults and orders. How can anyone look at Drumpf “speaking” without being disgusted and horrified?

Here’s a shot from a thread at ThinkProgress:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump describes how he was ready to punch a person who rushed the stage during an election rally earlier in the day, as he speaks to a crowd in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump describes how he was ready to punch a person who rushed the stage during an election rally earlier in the day, as he speaks to a crowd in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday. CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik

The next few are from various threads at Raw Story:

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Bloomington, Illinois, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Bloomington, Illinois, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

Trump prepares to spit venom at Jake Tapper.

Trump prepares to spit venom at Jake Tapper.

A commenter at Raw Story posted this GIF.

A commenter at Raw Story posted this ‘Trump Snarling’ GIF.

But enough ugliness, even for a Monday. Here’s some cuteness to counteract the face if evil:
cat star

And perhaps a little tranquility for the end of the day:
SKYFIRE4V

This is our daily Open Thread – talk about whatever’s on your mind.