Saturday Morning #PopCulture Open Thread

(h/t Adam)

If you ever saw Gene Rodenberry speak, you probably heard him describe how the Paramount suits demanded, after watching the Star Trek pilot, that he drop either the female second-in-command or the alien science officer. “So I married the woman and kept Mr. Spock,” he would finish, gleefully, “… because in California, it was illegal to do it the other way around!”

Forty years later…

Also, the new Wonder Woman movie is already drawing raves, so one Texas-based movie chain had a brilliant marketing idea. As described by a (male!) critic at Film School Rejects:

A few days ago, the Alamo Drafthouse did what the Alamo Drafthouse does best: announce a special event themed to one of its upcoming releases. In celebration of Wonder Woman, the first female-driven superhero movie in the current wave of Marvel and DC productions, Alamo announced that they would be holding a special women-only screening on Tuesday, June 6 at their downtown location in Austin. If you identify as a woman, you could spend a night at Alamo’s very own Themyscira and enjoy the film with an all-female audience and staff.

Almost immediately, the company was inundated with both positive and negative responses. The Drafthouse’s initial Facebook post became ground zero for both the worst and best responses to the event; some fans celebrated the fact that Drafthouse was using Wonder Woman as an opportunity to celebrate intersectional feminism, while others decried the event as just another example of liberal snowflakes and their need for safe spaces…

On paper, it’s hard for anyone to defend why they’re upset with the two special screenings of Wonder Woman. There are an additional 31 screenings (three-one) of Wonder Woman in Austin that same Tuesday; that doesn’t even include non-Drafthouse locations, an extra level of math I have no interest in doing. Hell, there’s even one additional late screening of the film at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz for those who really want to see the film in the heart of downtown Austin…

But I personally hope that those who click for the controversy will stay for the affirmation. For every person who has expressed outrage at the screenings, another has expressed excitement at the opportunity for a bunch of women to gather together and watch a kick-ass movie that celebrates women. I’ve seen people discussing sponsoring tickets for non-profit organizations focused on women and women’s health, making plans to drive down to Austin with a close sibling or parent, or simply cheering on those who will attend the screening even if it’s not targeted to them…

Alamo Drafthouse, of course, takes full advantage:

And, finally, happy news about a no-longer-nearly-as-popular “culture”:

What else is on the agenda as we start the holiday weekend?



Excellent (Depressing) Read: “The Seth Rich conspiracy shows how fake news still works”

Today, Dave Weigel published a story in the Washington Post on “The life and death of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory”:

When Seth Rich’s Gmail account received an alert this week from Mega.com, attempting to start a new account on a website created by the New Zealand-based Internet businessman and convicted hacker Kim Dotcom, his family knew that something was off.

Over seven frenzied days, Dotcom had become a leading purveyor of the theory that Rich, a staffer at the Democratic National Committee who was shot dead near his home in Northeast Washington last summer, had supplied DNC documents to WikiLeaks and was killed as a result. Multiple security analysts and an FBI investigation have tied the release to hackers with ties to Russia. D.C. police have said repeatedly that they think Rich was slain in a random robbery attempt…

All that began to unravel Tuesday afternoon when Fox News retracted a story that had claimed the same Rich-WikiLeaks connection, telling readers that the article was “not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting.” Fox News did not respond to a request for comment, but Dotcom wrote on his website that he would not speak further about his allegations…

Of course, this being the internet (and certain people & networks happy to be ghouls for profit) the morbid feasting on other peoples’ tragedy will never actually end.

Here’s Weigel’s original story, on May 20: Read more



Saturday Morning Open Thread: Light Breakfast Reading

Alexandra Petri, at the Washington Post“The president is not a child. He’s something worse:

We were wrong, it turns out. Anyone cannot be president. Anyone can be elected president (any man, that is), but not anyone can be president…

The Trump presidency is the discovery that what you thought was a man in a bear suit is just a bear. Suddenly the fact that he wouldn’t play by the rules makes total sense. It wasn’t that he refused to, that he was playing a long game. It was that he was a wild animal who eats fish and climbs trees, and English words were totally unintelligible to him. In retrospect, you should have suspected that after he just straight-up ate a guy. But at the time everyone cheered. It was good TV. Also, he was your bear.

Okay. So you have spent 200 years building a fragile snow globe, and now you have given it to a bear. The animal doesn’t care. You cannot even explain to him what the thing is. To him, all your words are just sounds. He looks at you when you are making them and he looks away when you are finished. You can only hope the bear becomes bored and sets the snow globe down and wanders off looking for food.

(Again, this is an insult to bears, who have fewer places to live than Trump and do not do so at the taxpayer’s expense.)…

He’s a human Failure to Read the User’s Manual…

Professor Krugman, “What’s the Matter With Republicans?“:

It has become painfully clear… that Republicans have no intention of exercising any real oversight over a president who is obviously emotionally unstable, seems to have cognitive issues and is doing a very good imitation of being an agent of a hostile foreign power.

They may make a few gestures toward accountability in the face of bad poll numbers, but there is not a hint that any important figures in the party care enough about the Constitution or the national interest to take a stand…

The Democratic Party is a coalition of interest groups, with some shared views but also a lot of conflicts, and politicians get ahead through their success in striking compromises and finding acceptable solutions.

The G.O.P., by contrast, is one branch of a monolithic structure, movement conservatism, with a rigid ideology — tax cuts for the rich above all else. Other branches of the structure include a captive media that parrots the party line every step of the way. Compare the coverage of recent political developments on Fox News with almost everywhere else; we’re talking North Korea levels of alternative reality.

And this monolithic structure — lavishly supported by a small number of very, very wealthy families — rewards, indeed insists on, absolute fealty. Furthermore, the structure has been in place for a long time: It has been 36 years since Reagan was elected, 22 years since the Gingrich takeover of Congress. What this means is that nearly all Republicans in today’s Congress are apparatchiks, political creatures with no higher principle beyond party loyalty…

In a perverse way, we should count ourselves lucky that Trump is as terrible as he is. Think of what it has taken to get us to this point — his Twitter addiction, his bizarre loyalty to Flynn and affection for Putin, the raw exploitation of his office to enrich his family, the business dealings, whatever they were, he’s evidently trying to cover up by refusing to release his taxes.

The point is that given the character of the Republican Party, we’d be well on the way to autocracy if the man in the White House had even slightly more self-control. Trump may have done himself in; but it can still happen here.

Apart from waiting for the next shoe(s) to fall, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Open Thread: In the Grand Tradition of Friday News Dumps…

The President-Asterisk won’t be asking for political asylum while he’s in Saudi Arabia, because he’s not competent enough to understand that this whole ‘Russiagate’ thing might be too big for him to skate away from. Wouldn’t come as a real surprise if one or more of Lord Smallgloves’ inner circle dropped out of sight during the travelling circus, though…

The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president, according to these people, who would not further identify the official.

The revelation comes as the investigation also appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks, the people said.

The sources emphasized that investigators remain keenly interested in people who previously wielded influence in the Trump campaign and administration but are no longer part of it, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Flynn resigned in February after disclosures that he had lied to administration officials about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Current administration officials who have acknowledged contacts with Russian officials include President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson…

Although the case began quietly last July as an effort to determine whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian operatives to meddle in the presidential election campaign, the investigative work now being done by the FBI also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president. The people familiar with the matter said the probe has sharpened into something more fraught for the White House, the FBI and the Justice Department — particularly because of the public steps investigators know they now need to take, the people said…

Much more at the link. Fire up the popcorn machine?



If Only There Were A RICO Statute for Criminal Congressional Conspiracy

They knew Trump was dirty even before he became their candidate. Another Pulitzer-worthy report from the Washington Post“House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump”

A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.

Before the conversation, McCarthy and Ryan had emerged from separate talks at the Capitol with Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladi­mir Groysman, who had described a Kremlin tactic of financing populist politicians to undercut Eastern European democratic institutions.

News had just broken the day before in The Washington Post that Russian government hackers had penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee, prompting McCarthy to shift the conversation from Russian meddling in Europe to events closer to home.

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks. . . . This is how we know we’re a real family here.”…

Evan McMullin, who in his role as policy director to the House Republican Conference participated in the June 15 conversation, said: “It’s true that Majority Leader McCarthy said that he thought candidate Trump was on the Kremlin’s payroll. Speaker Ryan was concerned about that leaking.”

McMullin ran for president last year as an independent and has been a vocal critic of Trump.

When initially asked to comment on the exchange, Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Ryan, said: “That never happened,” and Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, said: “The idea that McCarthy would assert this is absurd and false.”…


 


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Sunday Evening Open Thread: “This Is Not A Crisis…”

Give the Trump Mis-Administration this credit: It’s been a growth opportunity for young satirists. And the Washington Post‘s Alexandra Petri has really come into her own: “This is not a crisis, Republicans say as a large spider slowly devours them“…

This is clearly not the end of the world. That would be more clearly labeled and would be brought about by the other party. And the weather would be more ominous. Ravens would squawk, and the sky would turn red. It would not occur on a Tuesday when I had made other plans.

Okay, the firing of FBI Director James Comey looked bad. And when the president stunned him, pierced him with his fangs, wrapped him in a thick cocoon of impenetrable webbing and left him to hang there for days, that timing was also poor. It doesn’t seem as though it was what the FBI wanted or what the deputy attorney general wanted, either. But the American people voted for change! And the president is not Nixon. Nixon fired people on a Saturday, whereas this happened on a Tuesday…

This has none of the historical signs of a crisis. We still believe in small government, and that doesn’t have to change because the person or entity presiding over it happens to be a giant spider.

I think of the many norms that are still going strong as the digestive acid begins to eat its way through my flag pin.

We got an appointee for the Supreme Court! That, already, is a great accomplishment…

I am still getting what I wanted. It is good to have someone in the Oval Office who shares my values: covering everything with giant webs, eating flies and restoring our relationship with Russia. I think I once had other values but, well, winning is winning.

Also, we have yet to see what this will become. We don’t know that a special prosecutor is called for.

It is quite possible that the thing spewing its webbing everywhere in the Oval Office is not in its final form. Perhaps it will ultimately look like Merrick Garland. We should wait. Really, everything depends on the next move. Which will, of course, set the terms for the move after that. All of which we must contemplate and look into…

Besides, if it were really bad, Paul Ryan would say something….

Apart from always looking on the bright side, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the weekend?



Open Thread: The Noble Professor Is SHRILL!

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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Credit where due: The NYTimes is where most of us who aren’t econ majors first heard about Paul Krugman. “Judas, Tax Cuts and the Great Betrayal”:

The denarius, ancient Rome’s silver coin, was supposedly the daily wage of a manual worker. If so, the tax cuts that the richest 1 percent of Americans will receive if the Affordable Care Act is repealed — tax cuts that are, obviously, the real reason for repeal — would amount to the equivalent of around 500 pieces of silver each year.

What inspired this calculation? The spectacle of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, defending Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey.

Everyone understands that Mr. Comey was fired not because of his misdeeds during the campaign — misdeeds that helped put Trump in the White House — but because his probe of Russian connections with the Trump campaign was accelerating and, presumably, getting too close to home. So this looks very much like the use of presidential power to cover up possible foreign subversion of the U.S. government.

And the two leading Republicans in Congress are apparently O.K. with that cover-up, because the Trump ascendancy is giving them the chance to do what they always wanted, namely, take health insurance away from millions of Americans while slashing taxes on the wealthy.

So you can see why I find myself thinking of Judas.

For generations, Republicans have impugned their opponents’ patriotism. During the Cold War, they claimed that Democrats were soft on Communism; after 9/11, that they were soft on terrorism.

But now we have what may be the real thing: circumstantial evidence that a hostile foreign power may have colluded with a U.S. presidential campaign, and may retain undue influence at the highest levels of our government. And all those self-proclaimed patriots have gone silent, or worse…