Monday, July 24, 2017

TrumpBrand - America For Sale

The tweeted idiocies, outright lies, and deceptions gurgling up out of the TrumpBrand Government might appear entertaining, but the real, daily, and constant work to dismantle America is growing by leaps and bounds. Six months into this wrecking ball approach to government and the damage is already immeasurable. What a horrifying mess the TrumpBrand Government is making.

The Big Lie (aka the Blame Them Game)  which many Republicans and most Conservatives cling to, demands all problems or issues are merely the fault of any and every one except themselves - the reason those who hold office can't affect change is you, bucko, you and your crowd are bad hombres. It's the media, it's the previous administration, it's students, it's China, It's Germany (but it's isn't Russia), it's the immigrants, it's refugees, it's lazy poor people who make the problems that won't go away.

Oh and it is also the governed and those who govern. They - they - they - it's a mantra of blame throwing.

Meanwhile the real work to transform and elevate the control of business over government and the governed is on a stampede, noted in this report from Washington Monthly:

"The Trump/GOP effort to shrink the civil service plays on a narrative the American people have been hearing for decades: the federal workforce is bloated. As Mulvaney’s guidance put it, there are “too many Federal employees stuck in a system that is not working for the American people.” Press secretary Sean Spicer, announcing Trump’s executive order in January, explained that the hiring freeze “counters the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.”

"The only problem with this narrative is that it is the exact opposite of the truth. As a share of the U.S. workforce, the federal civil service is actually smaller than at any time since before World War II. In absolute terms, it has been about the same size for half a century. In 1966, there were about 2.1 million executive branch civil servants (not including Postal Service employees). Since then, the country’s population has increased from 196 million to 323 million. The annual gross domestic product, along with annual government spending, more than quadrupled. And the workforce? In 2016, there were still only 2.1 million federal employees.

"There’s no rule that says the number of civil servants has to rise in lockstep with the population or the economy. Many federal jobs in the 1960s were clerical positions that computers have made obsolete. But still. In 1966, there was no Environmental Protection Agency, no Department of Homeland Security, no Federal Emergency Management Agency. Medicare and Medicaid had been signed into law just a year earlier. It’s hard to believe that the same number of people we had in 1966 can run such a radically larger government enterprise.

"And, in fact, they don’t.

"While the number of federal employees has basically flatlined for a half century, the government has ballooned if you include another group in your tally: private contractors. As the size and scope of federal programs grew, but the number of civil servants stayed fixed, that labor had to get done by someone. Congress’s answer has increasingly been to contract with the private sector. So when Trump and the Republicans say they’re going to shrink government by cutting federal workers, do a mental autocorrect. What they’re really saying is, we’re going to be shoveling a lot more money out the door to federal contractors."

For the record, anyone who says government should run like a business does not know what government is actually for or what it does. 

" ... there are between 600,000 and 800,000 service contractors; the government spends more on them than it does on the salaries of the entire civil service, which has three times the number of people. Contracting accounted for 40 percent of all discretionary spending in 2015, and service contracts accounted for 60 percent of that (even more at nondefense agencies). And it’s rising. Even the Defense Department spends twice as much on contracts for services as it spends on aircraft, ships, and land vehicles. According to a 2015 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, spending on contractors nearly doubled from 2000 to 2012, and the subset “that grew the most in dollar terms was contracts for professional, administrative, and management services”—that is, service contracts."

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Breezes of Heaven

Jupiter: Juno Perijove 06 from Sean Doran on Vimeo.

"As soon as somebody demonstrates the art of flying, settlers from our species of man will not be lacking on the moon and Jupiter... Given ships or sails adapted to the breezes of heaven, there will be those who will not shrink from even that vast expanse."  -- Ovid

Cyclones as big as the planet Mars - dozens of them - cover the poles of the planet Jupiter. A spacecraft named for the mythical Jupiter's wife, Juno, has traveled the 300 million plus miles and is capturing the best images yet of this giant planet.

Here on Earth, we have observed and studied Jupiter for thousands of years, and we've never had such astounding images or detailed measurements. 

More on the mission itself here.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Who Could Possibly Be Surprised at the State of Trump's Presidency?

All of us who intentionally voted otherwise (aka the majority of Americans, thank God) knew.

A lot of those who voted for this deeply unqualified man, they knew too, but they were willing to gamble everything ... everything. Shame, shame.

Many voted to see if he would just gum it all up, turn into a headline fest of outrage. They are likely pleased, but still, not surprised.

What did we know? Trump is way out of his league, and his business practices are ragged secrets on the dark side.

As for me? My post  from Nov. 9, 2016 says it well -

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, puh-leeeze welcome the 45th President of the United States -- you know him as a middling brand name product made from toxic materials, the Kmart of Billionaires, the golden-toned skeezy Gordon Gecko leftover, the C-list TV actor popular in Soviet bloc countries - one Donald Trump -  and here we go on a slippery and rapid descent into political madness.

There has been no mass repudiation of politics-as-usual despite claims to the contrary, since the vast majority of folks already in office were re-elected yesterday. 

Anger, seething for 8 years, directed at all those who dared support a non-white male president, has flowered with poison.

Yes, only the man who was born with solid-gold privileges can save Americans from solid-gold privileged men.

On a personal note, there is not one person in office in the state or nation that I voted for. Whatever is about to happen, it will not be my fault. I'll just be over here complaining and saying I told you so."

And you know what, oh constant readers? I freakin' told you so.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Armaggedon Roundup

Some observations -

- If you run a gun shop called Armageddon Supplies, isn't it inevitable one day some dude will send a 200 page manifesto of discontents to the White House, and steal dozens of guns and tons of ammo and armor from your store? Yer store, see, is called Armageddon Supplies, so that's like ... stupid.

- The witless prom girl video blogger is suing her insane boss for wrongful termination. Smart money says the two agreed to file suits against each other in order to generate some publicity, aka desperate pleas for attention. So, no.

- We've all seen some Dick moves in our time. For the president - any president - to gut billions from national parks and then donate $76,000 to them -- Grade A Dick move. It's the kind of asshole thing the asshole character in a bad movie does. Dick.

- The actual facts, the plain narrative of the president's financial connections to the Russian mob is right here to read. No special investigation revealed this - and any new investigation into this swamp means one thing which I predict right here - the current administration is defunct and within 2 years, the U.S. is going to be placing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan into the presidency. It's fairly inescapable.

- Here In Tennessee, those poor folks in the internet provider business just got $45 million in tax dollars to encourage them to actually provide internet in places they have refused to go. Oh and to let utilities to run internet wherever they can, because two businesses that just can't seem to make a profit are utilities and internet providers? 

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Disappeared-In-America Immigration System

You can read this article and you can not believe it, or not believe it, you can call it a generalization, or call it an abomination. Yet, dear reader, your opinion about this story and the people in it does not matter. Many others will be treated like the individual in this story, no matter who you share this story with or how much you might not want to even believe it or protest against it. 

That's because right now, a loud chunk of the voting public and the elected leaders hate immigrants. Voters don't actively hate them, they do it passively . Elected leaders are, however, very actively drafting and enforcing policies which are beyond cruel and abusive. Everyone, of course, can just call this system inadvertently harsh and brutal. And do nothing about it.

So why am I posting this? As with so very many posts here - it is something I do for myself. I post this because I do not want to be part of such a system. I have many friends who are terrified to be even near the edges of our current war on immigrants. I post it because I have this awareness, this slim bit of knowledge added to what is already known.

Anyone (typically not white) can be taken by ICE agents, and as a their detainee, you have no right to call anyone, no visitors, nor right to counsel though the detainee can hire one if he/she fills out the proper paperwork, that is if they can read and write English, and in the meantime ICE can move you from prison to prison, no outside contact, no hearings, no pleas, no time limit on how long you can be held so they just wait for the detainee to wear down and sign a voluntary deportation order.

"Locking up accused criminals indefinitely is a tried-and-true way of getting them to plead guilty, whether they actually committed a crime or not. The same principle applies to immigration detainees. And criminal defendants, even those accused of the worst crimes imaginable, don’t get sent to three different states in a two-month period as part of their pretrial detention."

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Artists Are All Loser Slackers, Says Lying Media Outlet

I avoid reading the thin drool offered on the PJMedia website but I happened to read the opinion piece recently offered by a failed artist now church employee who demands the National Endowment for the Arts be totally eliminated 

The writer trots out withered, ancient and fake narratives which ignore the reality of what the NEA does and how it does it. The writer wails that crazy commie leftist artists suck up tax dollars to insult you with lousy arty stuff no one needs 'cause art ain't food; another false claim is that all art should be regulated by a free market and therefore insure only good art that everyone likes will survive and crappy art will die; and finally that "all Americans' don't have any creative notions so no creative notion should be supported.

The facts are enormously and utterly at odds with such drivel.

"The NEA’s 2017 budget is $149.8 million. In a nation of 319 million people that amount doesn’t allow the agency to subsidize much of anything. But the endowment has found ways to make the money work with outsized effectiveness and efficiency. It makes thousands of small grants to nonprofit organizations — on average 2,100 a year. Each grant requires the recipient to raise matching local funds — often at a ratio of two or three local dollars for each federal one. So the NEA mostly serves as a catalyst for local groups to raise private and state money to serve their own communities.

On its modest budget, NEA funding now reaches every state, every congressional district, and even most counties — rural and urban — in the United States. Grants fund programs in schools, libraries and military bases. Nearly half the grants go directly to state and regional arts organizations to expand grass-roots efforts. NEA grants never pay overhead or annual expenses. They only fund specific programs of artistic and educational excellence that reach the public."
"The arts in America wouldn’t be destroyed if the NEA ceased to exist. But music, dance, theater, literature and visual arts would become less widely available, especially in schools, rural areas and poorer communities. Access to culture should not be a function of family income. That is why citizens should remind their representatives in Washington that the NEA needs to be protected. Believe it or not, most members of Congress will be pleased to get these letters.

Public support for the arts and arts education is neither a partisan nor a divisive issue. Most Americans want to see the arts in their communities and their schools. Most members of Congress agree. So do most governors and state legislatures. A 2016 public opinion poll conducted by the advocacy group Americans for the Arts found that 55% were in favor of doubling the NEA’s budget (from 46 cents per person then to $1 per person)."

Truth - eliminating the tiny amount of the NEA budget resolves no issue and addresses no problem. So why push for it?

I find it fascinating the writer from PJM is employed by a religious organization, which is exempt from paying taxes - if the writer were truly concerned about fair tax policies, shouldn't he argue that religious organizations should be taxed? So it isn't a tax issue or an economics issue - it's a cultural control issue. It also perpetuates hateful, demeaning, false and ignorant views about anyone who works in the arts - as the article's writer asks, "why should my tax dollars pay for your slacker son to be in a play when if had any talent he would not need any support to reach the heights of success and fame and wealth'.

A few million dollars supporting tens of thousands of arts programs is bad. Billions to subsidize oil companies or banking is good. Only art that is bought is good. The crap you make in your own community is crap, go get a real job, slacker.

The Republican party continues to show it opposes collaboration, open dialog, education, a free press, or anything which provides opportunities for the poor, for rural residents, for schools. Every argument about the arts they offer is debunked but they continue to lie and distort reality - the real problem, they say, is your sin of not being wealthy. Art is for the wealthy and talented - your creative contribution is a laughable pile of crap.

And, as usual, those ideas are held only by a small, angry, petty crowd of deplorable clucks who have a warped view of the world. They simply lust for power for it's own sake while claiming to be your Protectors. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Let Me Tell

It seems clear to me and to many others that the one word and concept which the current president does not understand is -- Intelligence.

Presidential campaign staffers - likely at trump's orders - contact foreign envoys for Russia (and probably other nations) whose phone calls have been routinely tapped by U.S. agencies since the 1950s - and they informed the president a month ago about such critical lapses and potential crime. When the president failed to act, they wisely informed the press, something intelligence agents have always done when national security is in grave danger.

It's even more unusual that a former intelligence director (Mike Flynn) appointed to National Security Adviser would not know about the taping of calls.

Russia meanwhile, acts pretty much like the One Who Defeated Trump - Russian jets buzz over our navy, a spy ship is spotted off the Connecticut coast, they're refusing to even discuss the Crimean issue, they've gotten the Syrian civil war going their way, they've violated missile treaties - who knows what else they can push into Trump's blustery face?

Now let's consider China, where Trump's business interests have been losing a 10-year legal battle over the rights to trademark his name. Dozens if not hundreds of lawsuits are underway. And as with Russia, the American people and Congress have zero idea how much of Trump's businesses rely on income from these countries - and most important - what will he do to preserve his income?

National security? Why that's just entertainment for Trump's country club gang.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Age of Trump and the Rise of the Fake Generation

The president-elect truly wielded the digital might of Twitter into office. There are some basics about our digital communications which most Americans don't know, however. 

Overseas, nations like Russia, China, the Philippines, India, and more, have thriving digital economies built solely on defrauding digital communications. I'm not talking cyber-spies and plots. This is pure economics. 

Also worth a read - clickfarming.

The problem so clogged up the giant Instagram platform that in 2014 they had to purge over 18 million suspected fake accounts.

Such digital tactics have been honed into a targeting political tool which found great success in the presidential election.

Cutting across many demographic groups, the rise of believers in Fake coalesced around a TV celebrity, Donald Trump, whose identity is and remains more of an Avatar than a person. He's the perfect spokesman of the Fake generation.

Accuse the spreaders of fakery (and their leader) and they'll respond such accusations are proof of guilt of the accusers. A political writer at Politico chucked mainstream news outlets for a couple of weeks and just followed the Fake generation online for information:

"Indeed, my feed was totally saturated with Pro-Kremlin sentiment. Part of that seemed connected to the likely Russian hack of emails that weakened the Clinton campaign and were published on Wikileaks, an organization that seems to have the trust of the alt-right. Anti-ISIS sentiment was baked in, and many Tweeters were just parroting the nation’s most prominent Russophile, Donald J. Trump. In any event, Russian propaganda intersected with Trumpian propaganda to such an extent that I observed little skepticism of Putin or RT, his English-language mouthpiece. At one point user @neverRINOs retweeted an image of Bashar Al-Assad on RT, saying, “Western media has no credibility, morality.” Above it, he wrote, “FACT CHECK: TRUE.” As Cernovich tweeted, “Putin is a larger than life alpha male who loves his country and will fight to defend it. Why don’t you admire him? Brainwashing.”

It's a swamp that isn't being drained, it's growing.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

7th Annual Christmas Monkey Caption Contest

The Annual Christmas Monkey Caption contest began here on this humble but lovable blog Dec. 22, 2009. To be honest, so far, despite a weak handful of entries, my sample captions have always been better than any submitted by a reader.

The Christmas Monkey does not care what anyone says. The Christmas Monkey seen here, since 2009, has not been replaced or upgraded. The Christmas Monkey is beyond replacing. Do not mess with Christmas Monkey.

Christmas Monkey dares you to write a good caption.

Here's a couple to get you going:

"I'm gonna make Christmas great again!!"
"What did I get for Christmas? An orange, an apple, and three brazil nuts."
"Say "egg nog' one more time."

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Royals and Dignitaries Warned 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall'

How fascinating to watch the recent Nobel Prize ceremony awarding Bob Dylan. Dylan's designation as recipient of the Nobel for Literature was instantly incongruous.

Singer Patti Smith performed Dylan's apocalyptic warning "A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall", in the middle of a fantastically plush concert hall for an audience that included a King, his royal family, members of parliament, international dignitaries, all wonderfully arrayed in luxurious tuxedos and designer gowns, as bejeweled and regal as imaginable.

Dylan's words and a spare Philharmonic(!) arrangement filled the room as Patti sang before the very type of audience that the song seeks to challenge. The song from 1962, like much of his work from that decade, seethes with rage at the institutions corrupted and the decency abridged in the modern world. And Hard Rain especially forecasts the dire consequences of allowing corruption to flourish.

And while Patti became overwhelmed briefly at one point, she soulfully delivers Dylan's words with great power.

Dylan's writing galvanized protests around the world, demanding humanity become the best it could be, his love songs throb with desire and longing, his words express hopes, dreams and sorrows felt by all. More than that. the elegant and vivid poetry of his words is imminently distinctive, unique and startling.

Dylan submitted a speech to be read (I truly appreciate the fact that only Dylan's words were heard at the event and that he was not seen), and he said:

"As a performer I’ve played for 50,000 people and I’ve played for 50 people and I can tell you that it is harder to play for 50 people. 50,000 people have a singular persona, not so with 50. Each person has an individual, separate identity, a world unto themselves. They can perceive things more clearly. Your honesty and how it relates to the depth of your talent is tried. The fact that the Nobel committee is so small is not lost on me."

Awarding the prize, the host said "Alfred Nobel wanted to reward those who have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind." The prize committee did just that this year. 

Take the time to visit Dylan's website to read his lyrics. It's a stunning collection.


Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?

I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains

I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways

I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests

I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans

I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?

I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it

I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it

I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’

I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’

I saw a white ladder all covered with water

I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken

I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?

And what did you hear, my darling young one?

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’

Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’

Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’

Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’

Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter

Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?

Who did you meet, my darling young one?

I met a young child beside a dead pony

I met a white man who walked a black dog

I met a young woman whose body was burning

I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow

I met one man who was wounded in love

I met another man who was wounded with hatred

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?

I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it

And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it

Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music