A few signs and images from today’s rainy March for Science. Here’s another batch of photos from a local news station.
A few signs and images from today’s rainy March for Science. Here’s another batch of photos from a local news station.
In case for some reason I want to look back on this amazing moment in history, I’ve compiled some of the consequences of electing an incompetent president. Here are a few examples of the mess:
Refugee and immigration ban – doomed to failure
The executive order barred entry to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries (newly arriving immigrants and refugees from these countries would be deported), detained and interrogated green card holders from those countries, suspended the U.S. refugee admission program, and revoked 60,000 visas. That was the idea, anyway. Details of how to carry out the order and exactly who it applied to were unclear.
The vague executive order created immediate chaos at airports around the country as travelers, immigration attorneys, airlines, and customs workers tried to understand it. Legal U.S. residents were detained. Returning students were blocked. People who risked their lives for the U.S. in Iraq and were promised resettlement here were barred from the country. Ironically, people from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (home of the 9/11 terrorists) were untouched by the ruling.
The poorly written and conceived order was easily subject to legal challenges. A federal judge in New York immediately ordered a stay on deportations of people with valid visas. Another federal judge placed a temporary stay on the travel ban. A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously ruled against reinstating the ban.
The Michael Flynn debacle
Let’s start with chronological list of events.
Interesting details – Why are FBI and NSA listening in on these conversations? Since 1981, the FBI and NSA have had authority to monitor the calls and emails of foreign officials within the U.S. and have been doing so. Flynn should have known his conversation would likely be recorded. Kislyak certainly knew.
Per regulations, if the conversations had been innocent and routine, Flynn’s part of the conversation would have been deleted. However, something that was said in the call flagged an intelligence analyst to move it up to the next level of analysis. And the next level. And then it went to James Comey, FBI Director, and his deputy, who had to decide if the communication needed more investigation, and they thought that it did.
In other words, the recording of calls was routine, but there are specific requirements – hurdles to be jumped – before something is considered serious enough for the kind of attention Flynn got. We the public need to know more about what he said, and whether Trump knew and approved.
Outpouring of Lies
As with before the election, the President has spewed lies in a quantity not seen in any U.S. president in my lifetime and probably for many decades before that. Examples:
“I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan.”
It was the 46th biggest win out of 58 elections.
“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
There is no evidence to back up this claim.
“The murder rate in the United States is the largest that it’s been in 45 years.”
Highest rate was in 1980, the lowest was in 2014, and it’s still extremely low.
“Here in Philadelphia murder has been steady — I mean — just terribly increasing.”
Last year Philadelphia’s murder rate was the third lowest in the last 26 years.
“If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?”
Obama publicly denounced Russia for trying to influence the election on 10/7/2016, well before the election.
Referring to a TV network that reported that 250,000 people attended Trump’s inauguration: “That’s not bad, but it’s a lie…there were people all the way back to the Washington Monument…So we caught them. And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.’’
Aerial photos clearly show there were not people going back the Monument (as they were at Obama’s inaugural) and judging by bus usage, the 250,000 number is close to the truth.
“I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.”
One of his golf courses got a “green” award for landscaping that included a nature trail. If there are more, no one has found them.
Took credit for Ford’s decision not to open a new auto plant in Mexico.
Ford says they did it for business reasons, not for Trump.
Trump claimed that two people were fatally shot in Chicago during Obama’s last speech as president.
Is there any reason to believe anything this president says, when he lies on an almost daily basis? Is this good for the country? Is he a good role model? If these are mistakes instead of lies, then he’s grossly incompetent.
Murky Ties to Russia
Putin’s Russia tried to influence the U.S. election in favor of Trump by selective leaks of hacked data. Confirmed by multiple U.S. intelligence agencies.
Trump has been highly complimentary of Putin, who is likely responsible for the murder of many journalists and political opponents, has used the presidency to enrich himself, keep himself in power, quash opposition, and start wars of conquest. In Putin’s defense, Trump said, “Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too.”
One-time Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort has ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine. He worked for Ukraine’s pro-Putin former president.
Trump held the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia and personally invited Putin. He has also been trying to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Trump’s former campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page advised Russian gas company, Gazprom.
Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn attended a gala for state media network RT with Putin, and later lost his job for talking to the Russian ambassador about U.S sanctions and then lying about it.
This month the New York Times reported about three men pushing for a back-channel peace deal between Russia and Ukraine. The men do not represent the U.S. government. Two of them are Trump business associate Felix Sater and Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen (who founded an ethanol business in the Ukraine).
Donald Trump Jr., said at a real estate conference in 2008, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets.”
Is there anything sinister or suspect about all these Russia ties? It would help to know how big Trump’s financial ties to Russia are, but he refuses to release his tax records, even after the election. Why? Also, how much of that 35-page dossier on Trump allegedly compiled by the Russian government is true? Citizens deserve clarity on these issues.
Draining the Swamp?
A few of Trump’s cabinet members and a strategist:
Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State. Former president and CEO of ExxonMobile, where he worked for over 40 years. Where is his experience as a diplomat, vs. a business deal maker? Made large business deal in 2011 with the Russian oil company Rosneft. Received the Order of Friendship from the Russian government in 2012. Under Tillerson, ExxonMobile paid a lobbying group almost $200,000 to oppose economic sanctions on Russia. Conflicts of interest?
Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary. First hedge fund manager to run the treasury. Formerly of Goldman Sachs and CEO of OneWest Bank. He is known as the “Foreclosure King,” based on OneWest’s practice of buying distressed mortgages during the financial crisis and evicting thousands of homeowners. He helped create the swamp.
Scott Pruitt, EPA. Classic fox-guarding the henhouse situation. As Oklahoma Attorney General, he sued the EPA 14 times, including opposition to limits on environmental mercury, and anything that would fight global warming. He sent letters to the Interior Department and EPA that were written by energy lobbyists — simply putting his name at the bottom and using government stationery — indicating that he’s a puppet for industry, not a representative of voters.
Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist. A founder and former CEO of Breitbart News. Under Bannon, Breitbart published lies about Obama being a Muslim and being born in Kenya; lies about the “Pizzagate” child sex ring; lies about Hillary Clinton health issues; and lies about a mob of migrants setting fire to a church in Germany. Chief Strategist and Liar?
Our Republican president seems terribly unstable. He throws around insults with abandon in off-the-wall rants. Anything he doesn’t agree with is “fake news.” He continually talks about how great he is. Hangs up on the Australian prime minister. Privately brags about assaulting women. Sends angry Tweets about a department store. He acts like a spoiled, vindictive child.
Consider this – the actions of the worst president in recent history (Republican George W. Bush) left hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children dead and injured. The useless invasion of Iraq is one of the biggest and most horrendous blunders in American history. Yet Bush’s personality isn’t nearly as unhinged as Trump’s. Should we expect even worse from the new president?
Trump’s command of the military and the nuclear codes could cause utter devastation. A childish bully is the wrong man to hold this power. There is no predicting what he might do. Surely the leaders of ISIS see that provoking the man could cause an overreaction that would bring them plenty of recruits. Trump may also come to see war as a way to rally people around him.
I’m feeling anxious about it already and it isn’t slated to happen until October 2018. I’m talking about the launch of the long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Huge amounts of time and energy (and money) have been funneled into this telescope. It’s a nail-biter unlike other launches because you can’t just turn around and redo this if it fails.
If successful, this telescope will enable some serious science. I read a quote from one astronomer who said that with the JWST, in one day we’ll learn more than everything we currently know about the first galaxies in the universe. It’s designed for viewing the first luminous objects after the Big Bang, and learning how they developed.
Interestingly, another one of its tasks is to directly observe and photograph planets around other stars. Spectroscopy might tell us something about an exoplanet’s weather, color, and maybe even help identify whether there is vegetation.
A few other amazing things I didn’t know:
You see why I’m already worried? There are so many bits and pieces that have to go right, not to mention the launch itself. If it all goes as planned, this will be stupendous. Of course, the Mars rover missions were incredibly complex and they worked, so maybe …
I don’t know why, but I sometimes feel inclined to spout out my opinions on movies to all two people who read dangblog.
I had high hopes for this series due to the reviews, so it was big disappointment when I finally saw it. I watched many episodes because of an unfounded faith that it would get better. The acting was fine, the production and visuals were sometimes great – the stories were the problem.
One flaw that held for a majority of the shows was an attempt to stretch a 30 minute or even 15 minute idea into a excruciatingly long hour. After 15 minutes I got the point, but it kept going on, seemingly just to fill a time requirement.
Many of the shows filled this time with the following plot idea: start with a good or mildly bad situation and make it worse. If you think a particular future technology is bad at the beginning of the story, wait a few minutes and it will get even worse. By the end of the episode, it’s really, horribly, terribly bad and everyone loses. The end. Repeat this plan next episode.
I liked the one about the two lovers living a 1980s dream in a virtual reality. Personally I wish it would have addressed issues like, “Is a copy of you really you?” and “What happens if there’s a power outage?” But I was okay with it as is.
That’s it. Lots of other episodes had sparks of interest that just didn’t hold for an hour, were poorly handled, or just went for a predictable bad outcome.
Better than average science fiction story. Go linguists! There are unexpected twists, and a fun unravelling-of-the-plot discussion to be had with friends afterward. You can’t ask for too much more from mainstream Hollywood products.
Sure there a things I could pick at. When the protagonists first approach the floating spaceship, the soundtracks lays on the weird dissonant sounds in a way that says, “You are supposed to feel like this is awesome and alien now, audience. Okay? Get it?”
There is other silly stuff, but overall it’s a win when the aliens aren’t people with plastic bumps glued to the forehead. Like “Sixth Sense,” “Inception,” and “Memento” there are twists that you may not be expecting.
This is a lightweight adventure film. Enjoyable, but nothing to get excited about. It may that because I was never a huge “Star Wars” fan that this didn’t provide a ton of thrills. One problem is that I never felt an emotional investment in the characters so it all seemed a little flat. We’ve got the required ingredients for the franchise – a Force-imbued character who disables opponents with a big stick, dozens of disposable storm troopers with armor that must be made of cheap plastic, for all the protection it provides (and the troopers still can’t shoot straight), and a wise-cracking robot.
Are you getting the idea that I’m a science fiction fan? Yup. I haven’t seen the second season, but the first one was good. There is relatively believable science, which is a nice change. No faster than light, no aliens, no ray guns. Gravity and momentum seem to work like the real world. The whole atmosphere and look of this show – set a few centuries hence in a colonized solar system — looks good and feels somewhat reasonable.
They have learned from other series like “Game of Thrones” that some gritty, realistic politics and believable human conflict make for better entertainment and believability in an otherwise fantastic environment. Hope that continues into season 2.
I spent a couple of hours distributing dinners to homeless people on Christmas day. Thai Siam restaurant feeds about 700 people each year, both on the premises and through deliveries. We picked up between 50-60 dinners (turkey and meatloaf) and a large bag of sandwiches, plus another bag full of cookies.
We were not asked to visit any place in particular, so we went looking for people who seemed like they might be sleeping outside or in a shelter. First stop, the University District. Next: Native Park near the Pike Street Market. Lastly, the Pioneer Square area.
I perfected a non-threatening, no-assumptions gambit when approaching people. “Hey, we’ve got a bunch of food to give away.” I don’t ask, “Do you need food?” or “Are you hungry?”
Back at the restaurant, the people at Thai Siam know this secret. No questions for those filing in for meal just treat everyone as if they deserve some dignity, and it works out.
I received an 8-1/2″ x 11″ color booklet in the mail from REI. On the second page it tells about the pitfalls of wanting more stuff. It says that if something doesn’t make us “laugh and sweat and surprise ourselves” then it’s just another thing. We’re also told:
“As malls fill up and credit cards overheat, let’s get back to what really matters.”
So I turned the pages to find out what really matters. As it turns out, what really matters is a $350 YETI brand cooler that keeps snacks ice cold and dry. Also, lots of expensive shirts, jackets, and shoes. A $400 GoPro camera really matters. As does a $35 “Stanley Shaker Happy Hour System.”
REI, please don’t pretend you are somehow morally superior regarding consumerism, while at the same time suggesting that we buy your costly YETI coolers. Just admit that you’re no different than any other retailer trying to cash in on the holidays. We’ll respect you more.
If you really want to be different, make “opted out” the default for receiving glossy paper catalogs from you. Stop making your name so prominent on clothing and gear that I can’t use it without feeling like a walking billboard.
Finally, if you’re worried about credit cards overheating, stop asking me to get an REI-branded credit card.