Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Preview Of Coming Distractions

Josh Marshall at TPM shares what he thinks will be coming up for Brett Kavanaugh and the Republicans trying to get him on the Supreme Court.

The smart people I talk to are fairly confident, or at least they were this afternoon, that in the end Senate Republicans will be able to push Kavanaugh through. I’m not sure they’re right. The situation has been changed dramatically in the 30 hours or so since the Post published Professor Ford’s account along with additional details which tend to bolster her credility [sic].

It was highly likely Kavanaugh would be confirmed before these revelations. But even then it was close. There’s very little room for error or defections. Quite simply, Kavanaugh wasn’t a terribly good witness for himself or a very good liar in his first hearing. (I mentioned earlier that I thought he should be removed from his current job as judge on the DC Circuit Court because of the pretty strong evidence he has repeatedly perjured himself about his connection to the Manny Miranda email hacking scandal from 2004.)

Based on all this, I strongly suspect that the upshot of this new hearing will be that a fair minded person, one without strong preconceived opinions, will believe that what Ford alleges likely did happen. That should allow every Democrat to vote against Kavanaugh. I don’t think it’s likely that every Republican walks that plank, even with all the conservative movement has invested in Kavanaugh. I have no secret knowledge on this. It’s just my sense. The nature of conduct, the high likelihood it’s true, the apparent fact that Kavanaugh is lying all combine with the intensity of the #metoo historical moment – I am just skeptical they can pull this off.

He worries that the backlash from the right-wing evangelical nutsery if Kavanaugh either withdraws or is not confirmed will be intense.  He’s their big shot at getting Roe v. Wade overturned, and that is all they care about.  But it would also energize women of all parties if he is confirmed; proof once again that men can do anything and get away with it.  That will have an interesting impact on the mid-terms; a record number of women are running for federal and state offices across the country, and how this sideshow of a Supreme Court nomination plays out could be crucial in the outcome of races from Rhode Island to California.

Meanwhile, you can be sure that Trump isn’t going to let this go on without his braying via his thumbs.

Trump won’t let this go. We know Trump never likes to admit he’s wrong and cannot stomach defeat. In this case we have the additional factor that as a serial sexual predator, President Trump has a deep identification with any man accused of sexual misconduct. He won’t give this up easily or quietly.

Mitch McConnell reportedly warned Trump that of the people he was considering, Kavanaugh would face the hardest time getting confirmed. I don’t think McConnell had anything like this in mind. But Trump picked Kavanaugh because he liked him.

The White House has already signaled through their press minions and Fox News that they will release the banshees, including as many blonde white women on their payroll that they can get in front of a camera, that Prof. Ford is a lying schemer who was plotting ever since high school to get even with Kavanaugh because she knew back then that he would be appointed by Trump and this is payback time.  (Just like Barack Obama’s mother planned to have him become president and faked the birth certificate.)

There will be a public hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee next Monday where both Judge Kavanaugh and Prof. Ford will testify.  Stock up on Jiffy-Pop.

Monday, September 17, 2018

If History Is Any Guide

The fact that Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser of sexual assault has come forward and is willing to testify is good in that it removes the shadow of anonymity behind which his supporters can hide and dismiss the claim.  But if history — in the name of Anita Hill — is any guide, it is she who will be vilified and Judge Kavanaugh portrayed as the victim, and the Republicans will still vote to confirm him to the Supreme Court.

It’s not just the intervening years since Anita Hill testified that Clarence Thomas displayed himself as a sexual predator or the emergence of the #MeToo movement have elevated the consciousness of sexual assault and the pervasive ways in which the perpetrators try to convince us that it’s all a witch hunt.  They haven’t, even though the number of people who have been brought to justice — or at least been identified and faced the consequences — has risen dramatically in the last few years.  It’s only been happening among those who have a conscience, and oddly enough, the people who preached the loudest about “character counts” and worried endlessly about what to tell the children, are the ones who rise to the defense of the accused and find creative ways of dismissing the charges.

The vote may be delayed.  Christine Blasey Ford may give testimony on live TV, reenacting the Clarence Thomas hearings of 1991.  But in the end — and especially with their party led by someone who was able to be elected while bragging about committing sexual assault — they will find a way to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the court.  Then he and Justice Thomas can share a Coke and a smile.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Sunday Reading

It’s my birthday, so let’s lighten things up a little.

Are They Back? — Charles P. Pierce reports on strange goings-on out in New Mexico.

OK, this is pretty weird. From The Alamogordo Daily News:

The Sunspot Observatory is temporarily closed due to a security issue at the facility that’s located 17 miles south of Cloudcroft in the Sacramento Mountains Friday, an Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) spokeswoman Shari Lifson said.“The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time,” Lifson said. “We have decided to vacate the facility at this time as precautionary measure. It was our decision to evacuate the facility.”

(Aside: how great is it that there are places in New Mexico called Sunspot and Cloudcroft? Rivendell must have been booked.)

The facility is the National Solar Observatory facility at Sacramento Peak that’s managed by AURA. Apache Point Observatory (APO) is currently in operation. APO was not evacuated. APO is about a mile away from Sunspot observatory. She said AURA does not have a comment about the type of security issue at this time. “I am actually not sure (when the facility was vacated) but it will stay vacated until further notice,” Lifson said. “It’s the people that vacated. At this time, it’s the facility that’s closed.”

Oh, OK.

She said she cannot comment on whether the FBI was involved in the situation. Otero County Sheriff Benny House said the Otero County Sheriff’s Office was asked to standby.

Wait. What?

“The FBI is refusing to tell us what’s going on,” House said. “We’ve got people up there (at Sunspot) that requested us to standby while they evacuate it. Nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why. The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say.” He said he has a lot of unanswered question about what occurred at Sunspot. “But for the FBI to get involved that quick and be so secretive about it, there was a lot of stuff going on up there,” House said. “There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers but nobody would tell us anything.”

Sunspot, I would point out is only 134 miles from Roswell, as the alien gravity-powered spacecraft flies.

I’m just sayin’.

Love Me Tinder — Irving Ruan imagines legendary lovers meeting via social networking.

Romeo and Juliet

ROMEO: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth with a tender kiss . . .

JULIET: Um, I shalt not wanteth sexual congress.

ROMEO: Thus with a text I die!

Two days elapse.

ROMEO: Heyyy, I think I killed your cousin.

Gatsby and Daisy

GATSBY: I’m glad we finally matched. I’ve been stalking you from West Egg for five years.

DAISY: Jesus Christ.

GATSBY: I’ve missed you! And by the way, I’m very rich and look like Leonardo DiCaprio.

DAISY: James, I’m married.

GATSBY: Then why are you on Tinder?

DAISY: I’m bored. LOL.

Lancelot and Guinevere

GUINEVERE: Nice sword 😉

LANCELOT: Thanks! We probably shouldn’t be chatting—feels like betraying Arthur.

GUINEVERE: It’ll be our little secret 😉 Meet me for a drink tonight in Camelot’s dungeon?

LANCELOT: Can’t. I’m teaching a seminar on sword-juggling. Can you do Friday?

GUINEVERE: I’ll be out of town for my niece’s birthday.

LANCELOT: Scheduling in 512 A.D. suuucks.

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

LADY MACBETH: Wanna Murder King Duncan and chill?

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy

MR. DARCY: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Hi 😉

ELIZABETH: What the fuck.

MR. DARCY: Well, this is the first time that opening line didn’t work.

ELIZABETH: I could easily forgive your pride, if you had not mortified mine.

MR. DARCY: So . . . no sexual congress?

Dante and Beatrice

BEATRICE: Your profile says that you’re a writer who was exiled from Florence for twenty years—so, basically a travel blogger!

DANTE: Not really. I’m writing an allegorical comedy starring myself, Satan, and a tiny boat.

BEATRICE: So you’re a comedian!

DANTE: Not really.“The Divine Comedy” is just a working title. On a separate note, would you like a nude drawing I made of myself on papyrus?

Two days elapse.

DANTE: So this is Purgatory.

Catherine and Heathcliff

HEATHCLIFF: Less than a mile away, huh? 😉

CATHERINE: Hehe 😉 What’re you up to tonight?

HEATHCLIFF: Being emo. You?

CATHERINE: Same.

Doonesbury — Getting the message out.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Self-Made Man

Trump claims the death toll of 3,000 — more than the number of deaths from the September 11, 2001 attacks — from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year is fake and “done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible…”

No, actually, he’s doing a great job of making himself look bad all by himself.

The more disturbing aspect of this is that this is now what passes for normal.

Hurricane Florence Update

Here’s the latest (as of 3:00 AM EDT) from Weather Underground:

Hurricane Florence ground its way along the southern coast of North Carolina on Thursday night, delivering torrential rains, high winds, and an already-dangerous storm surge. As of 11 pm EDT, Florence was about 60 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, drifting northwest at 6 mph with top sustained winds of 90 mph. Although Florence had become a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, it remained a Category 5 heavy rain and inland flooding threat, and a Category 3 storm surge threat.

Radar data from the Morehead City, NC radar showed Florence’s outer spiral bands twirling across much of southern and eastern North Carolina on Thursday night. Atlantic Beach, just south of Morehead City, recorded 12.73″ through mid-evening Thursday, noted weather.com, and the preliminary total was nearing 18″ by midnight. Several Personal Weather Stations on the coast near Morehead City reported 5 – 10 inches of rain by 6 pm EDT Thursday, but later went silent.

Some of the highest winds with Florence were produced by a secondary ring of thunderstorms encircling the storm’s main eye. That ring of intense convection lay parallel to the coast on Thursday afternoon, slowly translating inland and dumping huge amounts of rain. A flight-level wind of 117 mph was reported by hurricane hunters Thursday night in this outer band. Surface winds gusted to 106 mph at Cape Lookout and 105 mph at Fort Macon late Thursday.

It’s not the wind so much as it is the volume of rain that will be the biggest danger.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

That Won’t Be The Worst Of It

There is nothing to stop Hurricane Florence — or any other storm, for that matter — so the best we can do is be fully prepared and safe.  What happens after, however, is completely in our hands and those of the people we’ve chosen to run things, and that’s where the real disaster can happen.

Given the current administration’s down-is-up view of how they handled things with Hurricane Maria and the fact that there’s a runway full of bottled water in Puerto Rico waiting to be distributed a year later, the people who will be impacted by Hurricane Florence had better know that they are in for a long and strenuous struggle when the winds and rains have ended.  It will be just the start.

Meanwhile, the money set aside for FEMA has been rerouted to ICE because brown people seeking asylum are a much larger danger to America than a Category 3 hurricane.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration took nearly $10 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget this summer to help boost U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to budget documents shared with USA TODAY.

The revelation, just ahead of Hurricane Florence’s expected landfall in North and South Carolina, was found by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., who first shared the documents live on MSNBC late Tuesday.

He told USA TODAY that after the devastation of last year’s storms, including hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, FEMA should have the funds it needs to be prepared for another disastrous hurricane season.

“It’s almost guaranteed to happen again, so this is just incredibly irresponsible,” Merkley said.

The budgeting document, titled “Department of Homeland Security FY 2018 transfer and reprogramming notifications,” lists $9,755,303 taken from FEMA’s budget, about .9 percent of the agency’s listed overall budget, and given to support ICE.

Heckuva job, there.

Hurricane Florence Update

Here’s the latest from Weather Underground.

Hurricane Florence’s peak winds have fallen to Category 3 strength, but the storm remains a catastrophic rainfall threat and significant storm surge and wind threat to the Southeast U.S. Florence is expected to stall on Friday and move slowly west-southwestward along or just inland of the coast for several days, bringing a catastrophic rainfall well inland, and a destructive storm surge and wind event along a considerable swath of the North and South Carolina coasts.

The Hurricane Hunters and microwave satellite imagery this afternoon found that Florence was not able to recover from this morning’s eyewall replacement cycle (ERC). During this phenomenon, common in intense hurricanes, the eye shrinks to such a small diameter that the eyewall becomes unstable and collapses. The hurricane then creates a new larger-diameter eyewall out of a spiral band. During this process, the peak winds typically fall by 10 – 15 mph, and the central pressure can rise 10 – 15 mb. Florence was never able to rebuild its inner core after this morning’s ERC, though, and data from the Hurricane Hunters and satellites have shown large gaps in the eyewall this afternoon.

As a result, Florence has not been able to concentrate a major portion of its wind energy into an intense eyewall, and the hurricane’s wind energy has spread out over a larger area. This will reduce the potential wind damage from the storm at landfall, but will allow a larger storm surge to build. At 5 pm EDT Wednesday, Florence’s tropical storm-force winds had expanded, and extended out up to 195 miles from the center; hurricane-force winds extended out up to 70 miles. For comparison, at landfall, Hurricane Katrina’s tropical storm-force and hurricane-force winds extended out up to 230 miles and 125 miles from the center, respectively.

It’s big and slow-moving.  Those are two qualities you do not want in a hurricane.  To put it in perspective, if the eye of the storm was over Miami, they’d be feeling hurricane-force winds as far away as Palm Beach to the north and Marathon in the Keys to the south, and the storm effects would be knocking over things in Orlando.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence is getting closer and is expected to hit land later today.  If you are in the path or even within the cone of possibility, get prepared or get out now.  And if they tell you to go, go.

Some words of advice from someone who went through Hurricane Irma a year ago: take pictures of every room in the house from as many angles as possible, including the kitchen cabinets, the dining room breakfront where your grandmother’s wedding china is stored, the closets, the bathrooms; everywhere.

If you evacuate, let your friends and family outside the area know where you are, and stay away until the authorities say it’s safe to return.  They can arrest you if you violate their orders, and they’ll be doing you a favor if they keep you away.

If you hunker down and stay, have enough supplies for at least a week of living without power or water.  Canned goods, bottled water, medicines, pet supplies, emergency goods such as first aid, and toilet paper are on the top of the list, but so are spare batteries and reading material.

If you have hurricane shutters, make sure they’re securely fastened; they can come loose and become dangerous missiles in the wind.  Don’t waste battery time on your radio or phone by keeping it on when the power goes out.  Turn them on to catch regular bulletins — most radio or TV stations will update on the hour or half-hour, but unless there’s a bulletin, they’ll be just nattering to fill the time.  As for your cell phone, if you still have service, turn it to low-power if you have the setting to save the battery.  If you have a generator, use it to power essentials such as a refrigerator, battery charger, or medical devices; you can live without A/C.

Once the storm passes, check your house and your area, but wear shoes and long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.  The debris can be very dangerous, and above all, stay the hell away from any power lines, even phone lines.  Take pictures of the damage; you’ll need them to file insurance claims if you have coverage.  And for dog’s sake, don’t go out and “explore” just to see what’s happened; keep off the road so emergency and recovery crews can get around.

Finally, and this is most important: you’ve been through a natural disaster and it will take a toll on you mentally as well as physically.  If there’s a lot of damage and loss to your property or personal effects, it will cause anguish.  Don’t be afraid or act too butch to reach out for help from friends and even professionals to cope with the loss.  And if you’re lucky enough to get by with minimal damage, as I was with Irma, remember that you’ll still need time to recover.

Stay safe.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Since Then

Today marks seventeen years since the attacks in New York, Washington, and the foiled one that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.  Since then, what have we become?

I remember driving home from school that afternoon, listening to NPR as they covered the aftermath live, and the days afterward; going out before dawn to walk Sam and not hearing the usual air traffic overhead, thinking of the yet-unimaginable responses this country would have to such a brutal attack.  I don’t think I had the foresight to wonder how it would change our national psyche, but I remember thinking that whatever happened, I hoped it would be for the better.

It has not.  In the years since, we have become more narrow-minded, paranoid, defensive, and easily frightened, even when we have tried to respond to our better angels.  Seven years after the attack we elected our first African-American president, many of us with the hope that this was a sign of healing and growth, only to have it turned immediately to hatred, recrimination, and xenophobia against our own.  The fear of the Other, be they from different countries, of different ethnicities, or even of a non-conformist sexual orientation, became fodder for political ambition and divisiveness.  Instead of coming together, we pushed away.  As so many have noted, the goal of terrorism is to kill not one person but kill as many as possible not to achieve a body count but to weaken the body as a whole.  In that regard, the attacks that Tuesday morning were a success.

Look at what we have become.  We flinch; let one deranged individual try to bring down an airplane with a sneaker and we spend ten years shuffling barefoot through the airport.  We kneejerk; when African Americans rightly point out that America is still dealing with its original sin — slavery and Jim Crow and the social structure it created — and football games become a clash of symbolism over an icon.  When black men are killed by police and people object, it is no longer a cause for examination of a culture but a rallying cry for racists.  And when we elect a president who embodies the worst aspects of authoritarianism, narcissism, and cannot think beyond the end of the last election cycle, we have allowed ourselves to become the pawns of those who would like to bring us down, not just to their level but to where we can be conquered; not by an army but by our own lizard-brain reflexes.

We’ve been here before and we’ve recovered from worse.  There have been countless good deeds of healing and growth since that day, even though it takes reminding.  We have seen over and over we can do better, even if the bellicose and the tweeters drown them out.  The number of us who want to work together is greater than those that wish to keep us apart; we just have to be that much more assertive.  As I’ve said so many times, hope is our greatest weakness, but it is also like gravity: invisible, immeasurable, but constant and unconquerable.  Channeled with action and reinforced with a belief in ourselves and what we can do together, hope can win.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Featured Speaker

From the Washington Post:

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a gubernatorial nominee who recently was accused of using racially tinged language, spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country’s “only serious race war” is against whites.

DeSantis, elected to represent north-central Florida in 2012, appeared at the David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences in Palm Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, said Michael Finch, president of the organization. At the group’s annual Restoration Weekend conferences, hundreds of people gather to hear right-wing provocateurs such as Stephen K. Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Sebastian Gorka sound off on multiculturalism, radical Islam, free speech on college campuses and other issues.

“I just want to say what an honor it’s been to be here to speak,” DeSantis said in a ­27-minute speech at the 2015 event in Charleston, a video shows. “David has done such great work and I’ve been an admirer. I’ve been to these conferences in the past but I’ve been a big admirer of an organization that shoots straight, tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.”

[…]

The Freedom Center covered DeSantis’s expenses for the 2017 conference at a luxury resort in Palm Beach, according to disclosure forms he filed as a member of Congress.

Fellow speakers included a former Google engineer who was fired after arguing that “biological causes” in part explain why there are relatively few women working in tech and leadership; a critic of multiculturalism who has written that “Europe is committing suicide” by welcoming large numbers of refugees and immigrants; and a British media personality who urged the audience to keep the United States from becoming like the United Kingdom, where “discrimination against whites is institutionalized and systemic.”

Requests to the campaign and the congressional office to interview DeSantis were declined. A spokeswoman for the congressman, Elizabeth Fusick, provided a statement that described DeSantis as “a leader in standing up for truth and American strength.”

There are a large number of places in Florida — and not exclusively upstate in what’s known as Lower Alabama — where these kinds of views are held as mainstream.  And knowing that he attended these meetings and spoke at them is probably what got him Trump’s endorsement in the first place.