Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Garden in Progress

From commentor Lyrebird:

I got inspired by Ozark Hillbilly’s post with his great photos of seed packets. I definitely needed inspiration because we were still under some snow then, with just a few green shoots showing against the warmest wall of the house. My photos are not as well composed, but maybe they will bring some hopeful signs of spring nonetheless.

Six weeks ago, to last week:


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I ordered some tomatoes and some nasturtium seeds. Only one Mallorcan tomato seed has germinated out of 6, but the Peron and purple varieties are going strong.

The nasturtium seeds are doing pretty well. Based on this one haphazard attempt, I can say that I have had slightly better luck with High Mowing Seeds from Vermont, but the Baker Creek folks do very good work, and I am happy to try out their stuff.

Of course it’s more fun to go to a plant store in person, but some of us live off the beaten path. I have ordered plants from Prairie Nursery, and Prairie Moon also offers some of the same plants. Am getting two kinds of milkweed, some Mountain Mint, and a few other things to try to keep pollinators around for those tomato plants.

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For most of the year, I’m not a big fan of yellow flowers. But the fireworks explosion of forsythia blossoms at the dreariest part of early spring always lifts my spirits!

What’s going on in your garden (planning), this week?








Early Morning Open Thread

Bad news to start the day — there was a horrific terrorist attack in Sri Lanka:

Early reports say three churches and three hotels were bombed simultaneously. No one seems to know who or why so far. There will be no satisfactory answers to those questions. There never are.








Late Night Gentrification Open Thread: The Arrogance of Privilege

Even thirty years ago, when I worked on the campus of a Midwestern sports-powerhouse state university, the ongoing joke was that the administration counted on the revenue from parking enforcement almost as much as from stadium tickets!

Fellow DC gentrifiers add, Hold my beer baby –

Since I am an old, I found the replies to that tweet entertaining…



Butter Lamb Tutorial

What in the hell is a butter lamb? That’s what I asked the first time I heard of it. See this article for details — tl;dr version: it’s a lamb carved out of butter that is an Easter dinner tradition among Polish-American Catholics in Buffalo, New York.

I am neither Polish-American, nor Catholic nor an Empire Stater, but I married into that sort of family. In Buffalo, you can buy butter lambs in stores at Easter time.

My snowbird in-laws used to get family members to bring a butter lamb to Florida in a cooler for the Easter table each year. But one Easter about 10 years ago, there were no Florida-bound Buffalonians to bring a butter lamb, and everyone was sad about confronting a feast table bereft of butter lambs. So, I found a YouTube of a lady making one, and I carved a butter lamb for the family so everyone would be happy again.

Ever since, it has been my yearly job — store bought butter lambs aren’t good enough anymore! Below the fold is an illustrated 12-step process that explains how I make them, though honestly, the ladies in the linked YouTube video are more entertaining, but people have asked, so… Read more



We Must Turn The Country Around

I attended a symposium on authoritarianism a week or so ago. Two of the presentations implicitly compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and Hugo Chavez. The parallels are striking. Jay West, retired from teaching Russian history at Middlebury College, spoke about Nazi Germany and the temptations of fascism, something that naturally accompanies Russian history. Charles Shapiro, American ambassador to Venezuela during the Chavez years, spoke about his experience with Chavez.

Hitler, Chavez, and Donald Trump were all elected. Portions of the electorate disapproved of them for one reason or another, but they supported them because they thought they shared common goals and that those elected would be controllable. West and Shapiro gave much longer lists.

Trump has removed the people who might have braked his worst inclinations: the generals and legal staff and cabinet members who have carried out his orders imperfectly in his judgment. He has hollowed out government agencies designed to provide the president with information. He is behaving increasingly erratically; he now opposes his own State Department on Libya. Policy on North Korea and Russia is equally confused. This is the way wars start. Trump has threatened legal action against his enemies. Mitch McConnell is packing the courts with judges who will approve Trump’s agenda. Trump’s rhetoric uses hate and fear to divide the country.

We are in a sequence of events similar to those of the 1930s in Germany or the early 2000s in Venezuela. We must do something that the Germans of the Weimar Republic and the Venezuelans failed to do: stop the progress toward fascism and destruction.

I can’t think of a historical example of a country this far down that road that turned back, but that may be my limitation. Populism had some successes in the United States in the late 19th century, so there may be some examples there. If you’ve got an example, please send it along; we need to look at the historical successes as well as the disasters that rivet our attention.

Today’s situation, while analogous to points along the way to those historical disasters, has significant differences. The courts have struck down a number of Trump’s initiatives, most recently Trump’s reversal of a moratorium from the Obama administration on federal coal leasing. According to the Mueller report, members of the administration have slowed or thwarted actions Trump desired. Voters mobilized sufficiently in November 2018 to turn the House of Representatives Democratic. The system is partly holding.

With the Mueller report, the press seems to be turning from its reflexive “both sides do it” and the overwhelming desire to see Trump become a “normal” president. It’s not clear whether this change in direction will last.

Trump is far from giving up. He has shown extreme persistence in trying to find a way to build a wall along America’s southern border, legal or not. As French Ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, said

[Trump] once criticized the French president [Emmanuel Macron], and people called me from Paris to say, “What should we do?” My answer was clear: “Nothing.” Do nothing because he will always outbid you. Because he can’t accept appearing to lose. You have restraint on your side, and he has no restraint on his side, so you lose. It is escalation dominance.

Trump and his minions are now touting the Mueller report as a success for them. How far that fiction will go is not clear.

A segment of the population will continue to support Trump no matter what; they will see information unfavorable to him as a test of faith. Another segment has been strongly opposed to him since he began his presidential campaign. A middle segment that supported him may have reservations about his behavior in office that are now reinforced by the Mueller report. Elected Republicans are totally committed to him or have felt that they need to support him to avoid primary challenges.

Most analyses of the possibility of impeachment look at those divisions and commonplace sentiments about how voters are likely to behave. There is no reason to believe that any of that basis is lasting. It is very early for polls, but an Ipsos-Reuters poll shows a decrease in Trump’s support. The Mueller report is wide-ranging over Trump’s malfeasance. It will continue to make news, which is likely to continue to erode his support. Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have expressed concern about Trump’s behavior. Yes, they have expressed concern before in empty ways. Let’s see how this goes.

My point is that a static analysis of impeachment is a mistake. Opinions will change as investigations continue in the House of Representatives. Trump will likely become more incoherent and unhinged in his tweets, which even many of his fans express doubts about. Opinions will change.

We don’t know the direction of that change, of course, but I suspect it would be largely against Trump. It’s possible there would be a reaction in his favor, although that seems unlikely as more of his malfeasance is revealed. There will be little change if things continue as they are. But if we are to stop the descent into fascism, we must change direction.



Columbine: 20 years

It never gets easier. It’s difficult to realize these beautiful children might now have children of their own. Maybe one of them would have run for office or become the scientist who solved climate change.

It was awful when it happened, so close to home. What I didn’t realize was it was going to keep happening….



Excellent Reads: The Washington Post Takes Much-Deserved Victory Lap

Book critic Carlos Lozada:

The Mueller report is that rare Washington tell-all that surpasses its pre-publication hype.

Sure, it is a little longer than necessary. Too many footnotes and distracting redactions. The writing is often flat, and the first half of the book drags, covering plenty of terrain that has been described elsewhere. The story shifts abruptly between riveting insider tales and dense legalisms. Its protagonist doesn’t really come alive until halfway through, once Volume I (on Russian interference) gives way to Volume II (on obstruction of justice). The title — far too prosaic, really — feels like a missed opportunity. And it hardly helps that the book’s earliest reviewer, Attorney General William Barr, seems to have willfully misunderstood the point of it; he probably should not have been assigned to review it at all.

Yet as an authoritative account, the Mueller report is the best book by far on the workings of the Trump presidency. It was delivered to the attorney general but is also written for history. The book reveals the president in all his impulsiveness, insecurity and growing disregard for rules and norms; White House aides alternating between deference to the man and defiance of his “crazy s—” requests; and a campaign team too inept to realize, or too reckless to care, when they might have been bending the law. And special counsel Robert Mueller has it all under oath, on the record, along with interviews and contemporaneous notes backing it up. No need for a “Note on Use of Anonymous Sources” disclaimer. Mueller doesn’t just have receipts — he seems to know what almost everyone wanted to buy.

Befitting a best-selling work of political nonfiction — less than 24 hours after the report went online Thursday, paperback versions took the top two spots in Amazon’s new-release sales ranking — the Mueller report has its miniseries-ready signature moments. There is the obligatory expletive for the ages, when President Trump learns that Mueller has been appointed as special counsel. “This is the end of my presidency,” he moans. “I’m fucked.” There is the embarrassing contradiction from the president’s press secretary, Sarah Sanders, who told reporters that countless FBI employees loved the firing of director James Comey but then admits to investigators that she’d made it up. (Though, in truth, it’s only embarrassing if Sanders maintains any residual capacity for said emotion.) There’s the contrast between the president’s public bluster, evident in his Twitter rants, and his private diffidence, embodied in Trump’s lawyerly written responses to Mueller’s queries, full of “I do not recall” and “I have no recollection.”…

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Columnist Anne Applebaum, “Trump is not vindicated. But I am”:

But not only me: Everyone who began writing about the weird connections between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government in the spring and summer of 2016, is vindicated: Sarah Kendzior, Josh Rogin and Franklin Foer, for example. But, of course, there were many more. As it turns out, the Russian attempts to assist the Trump campaign were deep and broad, and those who described them, even if tentatively at first, were right to do so…
Read more



Saturday Morning Open Thread: D&D, the Family-Friendly Modern Edition

I first hooked up with the Spousal Unit when we were sharing a crowded off-campus ex-frat-house, and he was a serious Dungeon Master. (I wasn’t a player; it was obvious we could either game together or date, and dating won.) His feelings about the game’s new popularity are — as with so many phenomena for us late-Boomer nerds — somewhat mixed:

There was something about Dungeons & Dragons that spoke to Mario Alvarenga in a deep way. He tried it for the first time five years ago — never mind that he was not a teen, as most newbies are, but an adult. While experiencing the role-playing game, he could imagine scenes down to the tiniest detail: the bump of cobblestones on a street, the smell of baked goods in a market, the coldness of the wind. The boredom in his life melted away.

He joined one regular group, then two, then four. Soon, he was leading games as a Dungeon Master at his local game store. Alvarenga, who is 31 and works full time as a caregiver, quickly found his entire nonworking life overtaken by elves, gnomes, dwarves and wizards…

Yes, D&D is back. But it’s cool now (sort of). And legions are into it, including an unprecedented number of adult and female players, attracted by a popular recent revamp and new online playing options. It’s the ultimate sign that nerd culture is now mainstream.

Vin Diesel, Jon Favreau, Drew Barrymore, Dwayne Johnson, James Franco, Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper, Ta-Nehisi Coates: The list of celebrities who have “come out” about rolling the 20-sided dice is as long as a wizard’s beard. “Game of Thrones” writer George R.R. Martin first flexed his storytelling muscles as a young Dungeon Master, as did the showrunners on the HBO series. Joe Manganiello is so obsessed that he wrote a D&D movie script. The game has been on TV shows including “Big Bang Theory” and “Futurama.” Next month will see the release of a “Stranger Things” tie-in D&D starter set…

D&D has come a long way since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson invented it in 1974 as an alternative to miniature-military war gaming. No longer is it a game to hide out with in Mom’s basement.

Today, people play it at bar and restaurant pop-up events such as “Drinks and Dragons” in Philadelphia, and “Orcs! Orcs! Orcs!” in Portland, Ore. They pay $2,650 per person per weekend to play it in Caverswall Castle in Staffordshire, England. They swell the ranks of the D&D Meetup groups from Tokyo (37 members) to Kolkata, India (501 members)…
Read more



Friday Night Respite Open Thread


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I’m sure the rationalists are already explaining that this is not true language use, but the cat and his person have achieved a mutually satisfactory method of communication, and by my standards that is enough.








Warren throws down the gauntlet, stomps it into the mud, squirts lighter fluid on it, sets it ablaze

Thank you, Elizabeth Warren:

I’m in for $50.

I was just informed that Easter is THIS Sunday rather than next. Fucksake! Guess I’ll be shopping and carving three butter lambs tomorrow. You?

Open thread.



Mueller Report Open Thread: Assange/Russia/Trump Collusion Edition

Trump is a godsdamned magnet for monsters. Per Kevin Pousen, at the Daily Beast:

As laid out by Mueller, Assange’s involvement in Russia’s election interference began with a June 14, 2016 direct message to WikiLeaks’ Twitter account from “DC Leaks,” one of the false fronts created by the Russians to launder their hacked material.

“You announced your organization was preparing to publish more Hillary’s emails,” the message read, according to Mueller’s report. “We are ready to support you. We have some sensitive information too, in particular, her financial documents. Let’s do it together. What do you think about publishing our info at the same moment? Thank you.”

A week later, WikiLeaks reached out to a second GRU persona, Guccifer 2.0, and pitched WikiLeaks as the best outlet for the hacked material. On July 14, 2016, GRU officers used a Guccifer 2.0 email address to send WikiLeaks an encrypted one-gigabyte file named “wk dnc link I .txt.gpg.” Assange confirmed receipt, and on July 22 he published 20,000 DNC emails stolen during the GRU’s breach…

Rich was a 27-year-old DNC staffer when he was gunned down in what police have described as a robbery gone wrong. The unsolved murder timed shortly before Assange’s DNC leaks spoke volumes to inhabitants of the far right wing fringe, where it’s long been an article of faith that Hillary Clinton has her enemies killed…

With Assange behind it, the Seth Rich hoax moved into the almost-mainstream, spawning a quickly-retracted report on Fox News, and a series of “investigations” by Assange ally Sean Hannity. It also wreaked havoc in the lives of Rich’s surviving family, particularly his anguished parents who later begged perpetrators of the charade “to give us peace, and to give law enforcement the time and space to do the investigation they need to solve our son’s murder.”

Even as he was ruthlessly framing Rich to protect himself, the GRU, or both, Assange was privately communicating with his real sources to arrange the transfer of the second election leak, material the GRU stole from John Podesta’s Gmail account…

The Mueller report quotes from cryptic emails and messages exchanged between WikiLeaks and the GRU accounts in September 2016, and based on metadata, Mueller suspects the transfer occurred on September 19. But the actual transmittal of the massive Podesta haul evidently took place in a channel that Mueller couldn’t crack. The report notes the possibility that, this time, the files were simply carried into the Ecuadorian Embassy by one of Assange’s visitors.

In the end, the most charitable interpretation of Assange’s “dissembling” as Mueller calls it, in the Seth Rich hoax is that he genuinely couldn’t rule out the possibility that Rich was his source. The Mueller report demolished that final moral refuge. Rich had been dead four days when Assange received the DNC files...



Fucking Schrödinger’s Exoneration Here

Does this sound like an innocent man who was totally exonerated by the Mueller report:

God I hate this motherfucker and all the stupid pricks and lying sacks of shit that put him in office and continue to enable him.

Happy fucking Easter.








The Coming Information War

The Mueller investigation was primarily into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Much of the discussion in the report about that interference is redacted.

We can expect the same in the runup to the 2020 election. That means starting now.

What Russia is doing cannot entirely be dealt with by those in political power (those who want to, anyway) or those in network power (same). And it’s not just Russia, it’s China, North Korea, Iran, and some 400-pound dude in his mother’s basement. We all have to be responsible consumers and distributors of information on the internet.

This is going to be one of my themes. Today I found a particularly good Twitter thread, which I’ll put into a more narrative form. The thread has gifs that I won’t drag in, so if you like that sort of thing, check out the link.

1/ Finished Reading the . I want to highlight 3 things in the report and how they relate to the IRA (Senate data set) investigation that I was part of last year:

2/ #1 In the “Tactics and Tropes of the Internet Research Agency” report, it was important to me to focus on the *infiltration of movements & activation of Americans* who were identified and targeted. The Mueller report does that as well, noting repeated outreach via Messenger.

3/ From both far-left/far-right press there’s been an ongoing “haha it was just some stupid memes” line.

No.

The IRA went far beyond what a “social media agency” does. It leveraged techniques used by intelligence pros to target Americans, develop trust, get ppl to take action.

4/ When we think about how disinformation will spread in 2020, this kind of engagement with real, aligned Americans will likely be a big part of it. It’s hard to identify this kind of activity.

7/ There were dozens of formal FB Events but they also occasionally put random event promos into Insta posts. There were tons of community events promoted on Black-community targeted FB pages. Instigating in-the-street action is another thing I would expect more of for 2020;

8/The Mueller report did a great job describing how the IRA prioritized getting people out into the street, carefully monitored results, had ppl take photos, etc. That’s bc it’s an important part of their operation. News coverage + incendiary images lead to emotional engagement.

9/ Point #3: Influencer manipulation. This is another tactic we wrote ab in the Tactics & Tropes report. Many Trump campaign accounts retweeted IRA sockpuppets. Not mentioned in the Mueller report: the celebrity accounts, journalists, etc that also retweeted this stuff.

14/There are still ppl who don’t believe Russia did anything, or can’t separate “interference” from “collusion”; maybe the will help them accept that the GRU hacks & IRA influence op really happened.

They did.

And whatever party you are, that should make you mad

15/ Thanks for reading this thread that was actually very short compared to other threads. 420.



Gardening Question

Both sides of my deck have several feet in between the deck and the fence where grass has a hard time growing. I am thinking about planting some english ivy and then just putting hardy vegetable plants in there like squash and okra that can comingle.

What do you think?








Team Broken Glass (Open Thread)

It’s safe to say the vast majority of folks who comment on this site aren’t big fans of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). I’m not either. During the 2016 campaign, I went from believing his candidacy would be a welcome opportunity to emphasize important issues like wealth inequality and the out-sized influence of wealthy donors on politics to wishing he’d shut the fuck up and concede the race already to blaming him in part for fracturing the party and contributing to Clinton’s defeat.

That said, if — dog forbid! — Sanders wins the 2020 Democratic Party nomination, hell yes I’ll vote for him. I would not only crawl over broken glass to do so, I’d swim through sewer pipes, climb a mountain of toxic waste, rappel down a cliff face made of rat shit and THEN crawl over broken glass to vote for Sanders.

Why? Here’s one reason: Trump was tacky and ghoulish enough to announce to cronies that he is “saving” a far-right religious nut judge named Amy Coney Barrett for Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat.

Now, I hope that when Trump finally drops dead, Ginsburg attends his funeral wearing a red dress and a mysterious smile and then goes on to live for a thousand more years. But the fact is, we’ll be lucky to hold Trump’s SCOTUS picks to the two disasters he’s already placed on the court. Whoever wins in 2020 will probably get to choose at least one and possibly two.

In 2020, I hope to Christ it doesn’t come down to a choice between Trump or Sanders, but there’s a non-zero chance it will. Sanders, for all his myriad faults, wouldn’t appoint a Gorsuch, Kavanaugh or Barrett to the SCOTUS. Trump has/would. So yeah, Team Broken Glass. Any questions?