Friday Morning Open Thread: “The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long”

At the beginning of the year, a bunch of you were sharing John Scalzi’s wise words. Time to re-up his argument:

… “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”…

… I think both Parker and King understood that moral endeavors can be measured in years, decades and sometimes centuries. This is not an argument toward complacency; indeed I think it’s an argument against defeatism and fatalism in the face of setbacks and stalemates. We live in moments and days and it’s often hard to see past them, and it’s easy to believe when we are struck a hard blow that all is lost. All is not lost. The arc is long. Nothing is ever fully decided in the moment or the day. There are years and decades and sometimes centuries yet to go. The arc continues to bend, if we remember that it is long, and that we need to imagine it extending further.

We need to imagine that because of the second thing: The arc is not a natural feature of the universe. It does not magically appear; it is not ordained; it is not inevitable. It exists because people of moral character seek justice, not only for themselves but for every person. Nor is the arc smooth. It’s rough and jagged, punctuated in areas by great strides, halting collapses, terrible reverses and forcible wrenching actions…

Remember the arc is long. It’s not one moment or one day or even a year or four years, even when that moment or day or year seems endless.

Remember the arc is not inevitable. It needs you. You are more important than you know, if you don’t give in to despair, to complacency, or to apathy. Add to the moral weight that bends the arc toward justice. You can’t do it alone, but without you the work becomes that much harder.

Remember that those who are working to flatten the arc hope you give up and give in. They are relying on you to do just that. Disappoint them. Disappoint them in big ways. Disappoint them in small ways. Disappoint them each day, and every day, in all the ways you can. Do not consent to this flattening of the arc…

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Apart from ignoring the tshit tsunami taking place on the Mall, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Early Morning Open Thread: Brace Yourselves

Figure I put this out there, for completeness, after which I’m gonna ignore the whole thing. I usually sleep from 6am-2pmEST, so by the time I get up, the ceremony will be over, Murphy the Trickster God willing. I’m sure someone will alert us if the old man actually drops trou and takes a dump on the podium, or if Steve Bannon attempts to Oswald Jared Kushner while all eyes are on Chief Justice Roberts…

The NYTimes, does, incidentally, include the Women’s March as the capper of the weekend. Complete with interactive graphic of the Sister Marches all over the world!

Friday in DC it’ll be… pissing down rain:



Breaking News: We Are In Uncharted Territory

Yesterday I wrote this:

While I cannot prove it, it is logical to reason that this information was provided to the McClatchy reporters so that it would be reported before the inauguration on Friday. By getting the information out now, the purpose of the reporting is to make it much more difficult for the incoming Administration to shut this investigation down or to interfere in how it is conducted.

For good, bad, or otherwise this is not going away. And the President-elect and his team seem unwilling to even try to provide reasonable explanations to knock the suspicions back. The longer this drags out the worse it will be. For all of us.

The New York Times has now reported:

WASHINGTON — American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.

The continuing counterintelligence investigation means that Mr. Trump will take the oath of office on Friday with his associates under investigation and after the intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government had worked to help elect him. As president, Mr. Trump will oversee those agencies and have the authority to redirect or stop at least some of these efforts.

And:

The counterintelligence investigation centers at least in part on the business dealings that some of the president-elect’s past and present advisers have had with Russia. Mr. Manafort has done business in Ukraine and Russia. Some of his contacts there were under surveillance by the National Security Agency for suspected links to Russia’s Federal Security Service, one of the officials said.

Mr. Manafort is among at least three Trump campaign advisers whose possible links to Russia are under scrutiny. Two others are Carter Page, a businessman and former foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and Roger Stone, a longtime Republican operative.

And (emphasis added by me):

The decision to open the investigations was not based on a dossier of salacious, uncorroborated allegations that were compiled by a former British spy working for a Washington research firm. The F.B.I. is also examining the allegations in that dossier, and a summary of its contents was provided to Mr. Trump earlier this month.

Representatives of the agencies involved declined to comment. Of the half-dozen current and former officials who confirmed the existence of the investigations, some said they were providing information because they feared the new administration would obstruct their efforts. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases.

As Ambassador (ret) McFaul stated:

The New York Times’ reporting now confirms not just yesterday’s reporting by McClatchy, but also some of Heat Street‘s reporting on this from last November.

As I’ve written several times: we are off the looking glass and through the map. We have never had a President sworn into office when he and his team are facing two investigations. One from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the other a counter-intelligence investigation conducted by the US Intelligence Community. It also gives credence to Congressman Elijah Cummings’, the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, statements yesterday.



Open Thread: Always Be Grifting, Donnie!

The spin — “Surprisingly, Trump inauguration shapes up to be a relatively low-key affair“:

President Obama’s first inaugural festivities stretched over five days. Donald Trump is spending barely three on his.

Bill Clinton hit 14 official balls on the day he was sworn in. Trump plans appearances at three.

And while other presidents have staged parades that lasted more than four hours, Trump’s trip down Pennsylvania Avenue is expected to clock in at 90 minutes — making it among the shortest on record.

In a word, the 45th president’s inaugural activities will be “workmanlike,” said Boris Epshteyn, communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a pop-up staff of about 350 people scrambling to put together the proceedings from the second floor of a nondescript government building just south of the Mall.

The notion of a relatively low-key inaugural bereft of many ­A-list entertainers may come as a surprise, given the president-elect’s flair for showmanship and his credentials as a reality TV star. Epshteyn said that Trump settled on a less flashy approach, however, including keeping the ticket prices for the inaugural balls at $50 apiece so that ­working-class Americans who helped fuel Trump’s victory can take part…

The old man wants to get home in time for his Matlock Apprentice reruns. Also, there’s that whole “can’t get any entertainers, or sell many tickets” problem.

But it’s not that he doesn’t have the funds! McClatcheyDC, “Big money names behind Trump inaugural start to come out despite his secrecy plan“:

Donald Trump is trying to keep the names of the people and companies donating millions of dollars to his inauguration festivities this week a secret — a break from his Republican and Democratic predecessors in the White House.

At least the last three presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, all disclosed names of donors before they were sworn into office .

A federal law passed when Bush was in office required presidents to reveal names of contributors, but only 90 days following the inauguration.

Some names have been leaked out or been released by the donors themselves. Chevron gave $500,000 and will sponsor additional events and Boeing pledged $1 million, according to the companies. AT&T and JPMorgan Chase also donated, according to the companies. Other corporate donors include those who donated to Obama’s inauguration or had declined to contribute to the Republican National Convention last summer, including UPS, Bank of America and Deloitte, according to the New York Times.

“It is all about access and influence,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the nonpartisan public advocacy group Public Citizen. “Donations come in very large amounts and from those who almost always want something from the new administration.”…

John Wonderlich, executive director for the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for more openness in government, called Trump one of the most secretive candidates in modern history. “This trend is continuing through the pre-presidency and likely the presidency,” he said.

Trump is expected to raise more than $90 million — a record amount — from people and corporations to pay for days of activities, including receptions, balls and the parade surrounding the 58th inauguration celebration. Taxpayers will spend millions more on the official swearing-in ceremony, security, construction and cleanup…

Am I the only one who suspects some large portion of these ‘donations’ will go straight into Trump’s pockets, while the usual party preps get skimped?



Wayne Barrett, July 11, 1945 – January 19, 2017: Rest in Peace

Wayne Barrett, the long time reporter for the Village Voice and one of the first biographers of the President-elect has died at the age of 71. Barrett had been in ill health throughout the 2016 election season, but continued reporting and providing analysis for as long as he was able to.

From his obituary at the NY Times:

Wayne Barrett, the muckraking Village Voice columnist who carved out a four-decade career taking on developers, landlords and politicians, among them Donald J. Trump and Rudolph W. Giuliani, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 71.

His wife, Fran Barrett, said the cause was complications of lung cancer and interstitial lung disease.

A 1992 book, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall,” was, as Mr. Barrett acknowledged, a flop at first. Thanks to his subject’s improbable political ascent 25 years later, it was successfully republished and expanded in 2016 as “Trump: The Greatest Show on Earth: The Deals, the Downfall, the Reinvention.”

Mr. Barrett’s voluminous background files from the Trump biography, and his professional courtesy, made his Brooklyn home a mecca for investigative reporters during the recent presidential campaign.

“There may be no journalist in the nation who knows more about Trump than Barrett,” Jennifer Gonnerman wrote in The New Yorker just after the election.

“He took Trump seriously long before anyone else did,” Mr. O’Brien, who is now executive editor of Bloomberg View, said, “and most of the work that followed Wayne’s was built upon his insights.”

Here’s a link to his Twitter feed, which includes links to much of his election year analysis of the President-elect.



Samantha Bee Vs. SpokesCobra

Cobra never had a chance. Open thread.



Open Thread: Palin Wept


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All of them, Katie!

Yeah, I think Sam Bee is right — the President-Asterisk can’t read, at least not with any fluency. And he’s too spoilt to put in the effort to overcome his deficits.

(I always suspected Dubya was an unacknowledged dyslexic / ADD sufferer, but at least his parents had taught him to fake an interest. Sometimes. “All right, you’ve covered your ass… “)
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Government, Meet Bathtub

It’s easy to run a government that does (next to) nothing.

Here’s where Trumpism — or really Pence-ism, or really, exactly what the GOP has been promising (threatening) will have its most immediate, and quite possibly its most damaging impact:

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The NEH and NEA cuts are at once symbolic — the GOP is killing stuff liberals like, which is reward enough in those quarters — and, I think, intended to distract from other hugely reckless choices:

The Heritage blueprint used as a basis for Trump’s proposed cuts calls for eliminating several programs that conservatives label corporate welfare programs: the Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the International Trade Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The total savings from cutting these four programs would amount to nearly $900 million in 2017.

At the Department of Justice, the blueprint calls for eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions.

At the Department of Energy, it would roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Under the State Department’s jurisdiction, funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are candidates for elimination.

The single most important point I can make is that this is the Kansas-ification of America.  This isn’t a Trump policy choice.  This is Mike Pence shepherding plans the Republican Party has been trying to implement for years, decades even.  I doubt it will all get through, but much of it will, I’d guess, and when it does we will need to hang every shitty outcome and terrible choice around the neck of every Republican officeholder.

This is what they want. This is what they told us they wanted. They’re likely going to get it, to some approximation.  And they’re going to have to own it, so that once again, Democrats can come in and fix the serial catastrophes we’re going to witness very damn soon.

Also, too — who wants to bet all the pieties about the deficit and restoring balance to the budget will fall to the tax cuts to come?

Fuck it.  I’m heading back to the seventeenth century.

Image: Francesco de Rossi, Bathesheba at her Bath1552-1554.



Open Thread: Prepping for the Women’s March

(Tom Toles via GoComics.com)
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Advice for the locals, from the Washington Post:

Thousands of people are expected to be in the region Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington, an event that could draw larger crowds than Inauguration Day itself, and present travel challenges for participants and residents.

Drivers will encounter day-long— and rolling— road closures near the Mall and public transit users should expect long waits at Metro stations and crowding on platforms and trains…

Metro announced Wednesday that trains will start running at 5 a.m. and up to two dozen trains will be added to accommodate the crowds. (The transit agency had originally said it would run regular Saturday service, which meant stations opening at 7 a.m.)

Demonstrators will gather for a rally at 3rd Street and Independence Avenue on the morning after the transfer of power to president-elect Donald Trump. The crowds will then march along the National Mall to The Ellipse, near the Washington Monument. Thousands of people are expected at the event, which organizers say is not a protest but a way to “promote women’s equality and defend other marginalized groups.”

The location: The stage will be on 3rd Street and Independence Avenue by the National Museum of the American Indian.

The program:
8 a.m.— activities start with images and video on display.
9 a.m. — pre-rally with speakers, music and public service announcements.
10 a.m. — the official rally starts, featuring celebrities including Katy Perry, Cher, America Ferrera and Uzo Aduba
1 p.m. — participants start marching toward The Ellipse where the program will end.

The March route: The group will begin to walk from the gathering location around 1 p.m. and march west on Independence Avenue SW, from 3rd Street SW, to 14th Street SW; then will turn north on 14th Street SW to Constitution Avenue NW; and will march west on Constitution Avenue NW to 17th Street NW, near the Ellipse and Washington Monument, where the events will come an end…

More information on parking, public transit, bike routes, and a list of banned items at the link.

Anybody who takes photos they want to share — either in DC, or at the Sister Marches — send them to me or TaMara and we’ll put them on the front page.

ETA, by request
: Here’s Adam Silverman’s post on ‘Peaceful Assembly and Personal Security‘.



Make It Stop! (Open Thread)

My dogs hate ice cream trucks. They cannot abide the tinkling, high-pitched songs played over the loudspeakers. As pups, they used to howl, but now they just frown. (Sometimes we howl when the ice cream truck is near to try to get the dogs to join in, but it never works.)

Daisy Mayhem, pictured above, was never a patient creature. But now that she’s becoming a grizzled old dog, she has a very short fuse. Yesterday evening, I thought she was going to fling herself over the fence, find that truck and sink her fangs into its tape deck (I imagine it is an old, shitty tape deck to match the old, shitty vehicle).

Anyhoo, I recognize that look in her eyes. I’ve seen it in the mirror. Make. It. Stop.

Captain Obvious observation: there’s much hypocritical conservative butt-hurt across the land over insinuations that Trump isn’t legitimate, isn’t a good person or that his upcoming Ultimate Ego Gratification Event (UEGE) should be boycotted. Even 1970s crooner Tony Orlando got in on the act!

I’m afraid the SS “Embarrassing to the World” sailed 11/9, Mr. Orlando, so tie a yellow ribbon ’round your big fat yap. Orlando is performing at one of the inaugural balls sans backup singers, so there will be no opportunity for Der Gropenfuhrer to be found fumbling at the crack of Dawn (yes, I went there…sorry).

WaPo has an article up about the blow-back groups and individuals are getting for attending the UEGE — including the Girl Scouts. From quotes in that piece and exchanges I’ve seen elsewhere, it seems the reaction of non-Trump supporters to the UEGE falls into at least two categories: those who view participation as validation of the “peaceful transfer of power” and those who see it as normalizing Trump.

Personally, I see it as the latter, and I wish each and every Democrat and/or person who values decency and American self-determination would decline to participate in or watch the proceedings. But I’m not going to harsh on people who feel obligated to attend, such as the Clintons. Sitting through that travesty will be hell enough.

While reading the article, I was struck by the comment of a talk radio host and parent who objected to an email sent by his kid’s teacher, in which the teacher conveyed his decision to allow the class to watch the swearing-in on TV but not the speech:

Radio host Steve Gruber took issue with the email, telling the Free Press, “He has an opportunity to demonstrate that even when you lose, you come together for peaceful transfer of power. The message to 10-year-olds in his class is that the president is a bad man, and that’s not acceptable.”

I remember being angry when a Sarah Palin knock-off on our local school board refused to allow public schools in my district to air an address to the kids from President Obama because socialism! But the thing is, Mr. Gruber, Trump is a bad man. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Hypocrisy sets a bad example for the children.

Open thread!



Yelling at assistant referees

538 has a good piece on the implicit bias referees have when they get yelled at in NFL games:

a sideline bias in the NFL is real, and it’s spectacular. To prove it, we looked at the rates at which refs call the NFL’s most severe penalties, including defensive pass interference, aggressive infractions like personal fouls and unnecessary roughness, and offensive holding calls, based on where the offensive team ran its play.1

For three common penalties, the direction of the play — that is, whether it’s run toward the offensive or defensive team’s sideline — makes a significant difference. In other words, refs make more defensive pass interference calls on the offensive team’s sideline but more offensive holding calls on the defensive team’s sideline. What’s more, these differences aren’t uniform across the field — the effect only shows up on plays run, roughly, between the 32-yard lines, the same space where coaches and players are allowed to stand during play.

Speaking as a referee, this makes intuitive sense. And it is a logical extension of the massive amount of research that shows crowd noise is a major factor in gaining home field advantage from refs. We’re human.

I would like to see a follow-up study for soccer and assistant referees. This would be a fairly clean study as the operational procedures produces a great data set for assistant referees. 95% of the time, both sets of benches are on the same side of the field. For the non-soccer folks, there are two assistant referees. AR-1 stands on the bench side with the right shoulder to the goal. A team bench is usually a few yards behind him and coaches have a technical area where they are allowed to wander freely. AR-2 is on the far side with no one behind them. Teams switch the direction of attack at half time.

So AR-1 has Team A in his ear for forty five minutes where A is attacking. And AR-1 also gets Team A in his ear for forty five minutes while they are defending. Team B does not have easy and constant access to AR-1 as they are always at least ten yards away from the halfline and at the professional level (where the data would be) there is a fourth official to act as a buffer.

My prediction is that Team A would over the course of the season have fewer offside violations called during its attack than Team B. I think the mechanism that will occur is that most assistant referees know that they are evaluated when the flag goes up on close calls. If they are not 100% certain that an offside violation has occurred, they are told to keep the flag down and not call the violation. If they miss an egregious offside, they will be graded down. But if they are not calling the occasional offside where the attacking player is off by half a shoe, their evaluation will not be impacted. None of this is conscious bias, it is human nature where a referee can firmly believe that they are only 95% sure instead of 100% and thus they keep their flag down.

I would love to see this data as I think the logic would hold true with a very clean data set.








Thursday Morning Open Thread: Keep Going After the Bastids

Per Crooks & Liars:

A frustrated Senator Warren asked Rep. Price direct questions about his own policy prescriptions, but he refused to give a definitive answer, even about the cuts he has repeatedly called for.

Sen. Warren discussed his calls to cut funding and asked, “You recently authored as chair of the House Budget Committee would have cut spending on Medicare by $449 billion dollars over the next decade, is that right?

Rep. Price replied, “I don’t have the numbers in front of me.”

She replied, “I have the numbers.”

He said, “I assume you’re correct.”…

Sen. Warren then brought up Trump’s positions on both health care plans, in which he states there will be no cuts to the programs, funding-wise. She asked if Trump was telling the truth and he replied, “yes.”…

Warren said, “Can you guarantee to this committee that you will safeguard president-elect Trump’s promise and while you are HHS secretary, you will not use your authority to carry out a single dollar of cuts to Medicare or Medicaid eligibility or benefits?”

Price said, “What the question presumes is that money is the metric. In my belief from a scientific standpoint, if patients aren’t receiving care even though we’re providing the resources, it doesn’t work for patients.”

Warren said, “We’re very limited on time. The metric IS money. The President-elect…said he would not cut dollars from this program. So that’s the question I’m asking you. Can you assure this committee you will not cut one dollar from Medicare or Medicaid should you be confirmed to this position?

Price replied, “I believe that the metric ought to be the care that the patients are receiving.”

Warren said, “I’ll take that as a no.”…

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Apart from applauding Women Who Take No Shit, what’s on the agenda for the day?
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Late Night Open Thread: Hail, Glowryus Leeder

If only it were as lazy easy as trademarking someone else’s slogan!

… The slogan itself was not entirely original. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had used “Let’s Make America Great Again” in their 1980 campaign — a fact that Trump maintained he did not know until about a year ago.

“But he didn’t trademark it,” Trump said of Reagan…

The trademark became effective on July 14, 2015, a month after Trump formally announced his campaign and met the legal requirement that he was actually using it for the purposes spelled out in his [2012] application…

“It actually inspired me,” Trump said, “because to me, it meant jobs. It meant industry, and meant military strength. It meant taking care of our veterans. It meant so much.”…

Halfway through his interview with The Washington Post, Trump shared a bit of news: He already has decided on his slogan for a reelection bid in 2020.

“Are you ready?” he said. “ ‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.”

“Get me my lawyer!” the president-elect shouted…

“I never thought I’d be giving [you] my expression for four years [from now],” he said. “But I am so confident that we are going to be, it is going to be so amazing. It’s the only reason I give it to you. If I was, like, ambiguous about it, if I wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going to be great.”…

Or at least that’s what Trump’s personal media will tell us! Remember Jeff Gannon?

Other journalists would be grilling [[press secretary] McClellan over the Bush administration’s activities. McClellan would call on Gannon for a question. And Gannon would bail McClellan out, frequently with a leading question laden with false assumptions.

In August 2004, for example, after taking several questions from a reporter about whether American forces had killed any innocent people in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and another seeking President Bush’s opinion of the disgraced Ahmad Chalabi, McClellen turned to Gannon. And Gannon came through: He asked McClellan about a new “piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda” and followed up by asking “how damaging” a New York Times story had been “to our war on terror.”…

Trump has already deployed the Gannon strategy as president-elect. During his press conference last week, he pivoted away from a series of questions about the intelligence community’s fears about his interactions with Russia to take one from Matt Boyle from Breitbart, the conservative website previously run by his chief strategist and that spent the election pushing his candidacy. Boyle’s softball sought Trump’s opinion of what “reforms” the media industry should undertake to avoid the “problems” of its election coverage. We should expect Trump to continue to use his platform to lift up such supportive outlets…



Sign Help

I have a friend heading to the march in Washington, and we are looking for some ideas for a sign for her to carry. Personally, I would just carry a sign that says “FUCK THIS BULLSHIT” but I am a crude vulgarian. She would prefer something punny and clever.

Have at it.