The Mythical Moderating Influence

I’m not sure why the media is so invested in propping up the female Trumps as a “moderating influence” on the demagogue in the White House:

CBS News has learned President Trump took a lot of heat from his family over the racist chants at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday. He heard from first lady Melania Trump, his daughter Ivanka and Vice President Mike Pence.

I suppose it’s remotely possible that Pence, a professional politician, winked and said “ix-nay on the acism-ray” because he’s afraid a full-blown “send them back to Africa” campaign will hurt the reelection effort. Pence’s lips are so firmly affixed to Trump’s ass that it’s difficult to imagine such a confrontation, but okay, maybe.

But we’re seriously supposed to believe FLOTUS Birther McBirtherface and Princess Complicity give a shit what the unwashed MAGA hordes in North Carolina chanted? They didn’t say jack-shit about the racist tweet that inspired the chant, but now they’re concerned? Give me a fucking break.

The press really needs to stop falling for this bullshit PR spin. It makes them look like suckers every time.








I’ve Been To A Mountaintop…

Mauna Kea, to be precise — several times.  I’ve shot parts of three films there, all centered on the telescopes atop the highest mountain on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  As you may have noticed, the mountain — and a new telescope — have been in the news lately:

Construction was set to begin this week on a giant telescope on the barren summit of Mauna Kea, a volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, considered the best observatory site in the Northern Hemisphere.

That would be the Thirty Meter Telescope, or TMT, a project that originated with the same team that built the twin ten meter Keck telescopes that were the largest optical telescopes in the world from 1993 to 2009. (They’ve since been pipped by the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC), atop the Canary Islands.) Astronomers and designers from Caltech and the University of California system, later joined by other partners set out to build the TMT as one of the next generation of ‘scopes aiming to explore some of the fundamental questions of astronomy, many of which were raised by discoveries made by the current generation of ginormous light buckets. That would be stuff like deeper investigations of the large scale structure of the cosmos, maybe image of planet formation around distant stars, certainly black hole inquiry and much more.

The TMT project was launched with great confidence.  The problems its leaders anticipated were technical: how to construct an light-gathering area and/or an optical pipeline that large that holds its shape, that doesn’t mind temperature shifts, that can be morphed on demand to adjust for turbulence in the air above it and so on, through a whole host of very tricking engineering issues.

But there was never any real doubt about the right place to put this instrument, or of the project’s access to the summit of Mauna Kea, which, after all, already played host to more than a dozen other observatories.  (I know this, because I talked to those in charge of the project at the time of its inception, many of whom had appeared in one or another of my films.)

They were wrong. Last week, after years of delays, some negotiations, and, by now, mistrust and more on the Hawai’ian activist side, the state governor announced that the project had cleared its last hurdles and construction would begin.  This week, protestors blocked the one access road to the summit and the observatories brought their people off the mountain.  At first, law enforcement was on the scene, but there were no direct confrontations.  That changed yesterday:

On Wednesday, that opposition had a new face: About 30 Hawaiian elders were arrested as they blocked a road leading to Mauna Kea’s summit to halt the construction, organizers said. They described an emotional but peaceful scene as the elders, who were sitting under tents on the road, were escorted by police officers to nearby white vans while dozens of other protesters chanted and cried. Some had to be carried.

“We have come to the point in time where enough is enough,” Leilani Kaapuni, one of the elders, said in a phone interview. She said she was arrested for obstruction of a government road but later returned to the blockade. “This mountain is sacred,” she said.

If I had to guess, I’d expect this to end in a loss for the protests. There’s a lot of momentum behind the TMT, and a ton of money involved — and there’s a huge investment in cash and intellectual possibilities in the existing observatories that would probably be lost if the new instrument didn’t make it to the mountain. Money and power talk, so I’d bet the Hawai’ian state authorities will muscle this through — and likely with the support of plenty of citizens of the state (though I’d bet many fewer among those Hawai’ians of original Hawai’ian descent).

Visible protest against the telescopes will be much more difficult if/when the TMT goes in, as the almost all the action of high altitude astronomy now takes place far from its mountain tops.  The Mauna Kea observatories have the headquarters well away from the summit.  Those astronomers doing science with the telescope, if they aren’t looking at a truly remote feed back to their offices back home, get no closer than the cattle town of Waimea, miles away and more than 10,000 feet in vertical distance away from anything a mere observer could break.

Those using the TMT wouldn’t see, that is, the kinds of protests going on now.  And the question of who has power over sacred spaces of interest to the dominant culture will be answered again, in the same way it has been almost every time these conflicts come up.

I should say that I’m an astronomy lover. I find the science that the TMT could do to be fascinating and utterly beautiful.  But man-o-man, have the leaders of that project botched this dispute for years. I do not know how you now get this project i any way that acknowledges and accommodates the claims of the disempowered first residents of the island.  But I do know that failure will have consequences; human goods — which scientific discoveries certainly are — achieved by the destruction of other goods are tainted.

I’ll leave you with the text of an article I wrote for The Boston Globe on this same subject four years ago.  Looking back, I can’t say I’m surprised that the astronomical community didn’t find a way to connect to its opposition.  But I am saddened by that fact.

Images:  Johannes Vermeer, The Astronomerc. 1668

US Air Force file photo, Air Force 1 over Mt. Rushmore, 10 February 2001.

Read more








The Trump/GOP Healthcare Plan: Lie

Indefatigable CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale surfaced this big, fat whopper from last night’s racist hate rally. Warning: the CNN clip contains brief video of Trump speaking at the hate rally, so if you watch it, you’ll see the bloated, sweaty orange shitgibbon chopping the air with his hand as he lies about the nonexistent Republican healthcare plan for about 15 seconds:

Hasty transcript of Trump’s quote for those unwilling to subject themselves to the image:

“Patients with preexisting conditions are protected by Republicans much more so than protected by Democrats, who will never be able to pull it off.”

As Dale points out, Democrats already “pulled it off” with the ACA, which is the only reason preexisting conditions aren’t a thing now, and if the Trump administration gets its way, the ACA will be struck down entirely by the courts, which will not only cause millions to lose access to coverage via the exchanges but also leave every single American with private insurance to the tender mercies of the insurance companies on a whole host of provisions, including preexisting conditions.

A few months ago, Trump started making noises about GOP healthcare reform policies, which Republican electeds played down. That’s because even if Trump is dumb enough to believe his own lies about the nonexistent GOP healthcare plan (debatable), people like Mitch McConnell know releasing a plan would necessitate defending said plan in upcoming elections. But are they going to go into the 2020 election with absolutely nothing? Possibly!

Trump appointed a couple of GOP senators to look into the issue, naming Medicare fraudster Rick Scott as “point man.” But while Scott is definitely a crook, he’s not stupid, so he immediately threw that hot potato right back at the White House on one of the Sunday shows, saying “I look forward to, you know, to seeing what the president’s going to put out.” So did it fall through the cracks? Maybe Jared is working on it?

Anyhoo, regardless of what you think of the various Democratic Party primary candidates’ approaches to healthcare, at least they have policies to debate. The same is true of many other issues, like the phantom wall that Trump lied about last night too. It looks like all Trump will bring to the general election is more lies. Am I wrong in thinking it’ll be harder to pull off a all-lie-based campaign strategy as an incumbent? Maybe, but I ‘m going to choose optimism on this point.

Open thread!








Fake Eyebrows (Open Thread)

As you’ve no doubt heard, NBC News unearthed a 1992 video of a coked-up-seeming Trump cavorting with serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein at a party held at Trump’s tacky-ass Florida property. Here’s a still photo from the vid:

I apologize for inflicting Trump’s hideous visage on you, which I generally avoid. But I’m hoping someone can explain Trump’s eyebrows in that photo. They look fake, especially when you see them in motion in the video. Can heavy cocaine use combined with tanning bed and hair product exposure cause alopecia? I remember the early 1990s — the hairdos of the women in the NBC video brought on flashbacks — but I don’t remember fake eyebrows being a thing.

Allegedly, many of the women pictured were Buffalo Bills cheerleaders. In the video, Trump grabs one of them from behind by the pelvis and then smacks her on the ass. I took a quick spin through the mainstream news sites, and all have a blurb about the tape, but it’s not the main story on any site I saw, including NBC, which broke the story.

Since its now fairly unremarkable to view tape of a future POTUS leering at women and aggressively grabbing a cheerleader while yucking it up with a notorious pedophile, I thought I’d explore the weird eyebrows angle. What do y’all think of that pair of caterpillars attached to Trump’s ugly mug? Strange, huh?

Open thread.








Fucked Up & Bullshit Open Thread

NBC News says that after Trump concludes his “social media summit” whine-fest with InfoWars-backed trolls and QAnon crackpots, he’s going to announce that he’ll add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census via executive order:

President Donald Trump is expected to announce on Thursday that he is taking executive action to add a citizenship question to the census, according to an administration official.

Trump tweeted that he will hold a press conference in the afternoon to discuss his latest efforts at including the citizenship question as part of the census.

He’ll probably get away with it too. Sorry to be pessimistic, but pessimistic is the new savvy. Open thread.