CAPT (ret) Gene Cernan 1934-2017: Rest in Peace

CAPT (ret) Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, has died.

Here is CAPT Cernan’s take on the Right Stuff:

Update at 10:50 PM EDT

Thanks to commenter Another Scott, here’s the restored video of the Apollo 11 EVA:








Stone Cold Killer

I killed a man on twitter just to watch him die:

I’m proud of that one. I am just sick of the fucking bullshit from these religious nutjobs. Especially since a shit ton of these fetus fetishists voted for Trump, just like Jesus would do.








Progress

When I lived in Georgia, I had an older friend, a great guy, from nearby to Athens (Greenville) unlike my other co-workers. He will be played by Billy Bob Thornton in the me biopic. We talked about politics a lot because he was the only person I knew who was as mad as me about the 2000 election/selection. One time, I said to him, about all the bullshit Jeb played with voters lists in Florida, “this is just like Mississippi in 1960.” I’d never seen him be anything but jovial before but when I said that he said “you fucking Yankee idiot, you have no idea what it was like down here before Civil Rights. Civil Rights changed everything in the south.”

It’s tough to talk about such an important event without sounding glib, but I’ll give it a try. I think it’s true that most white people, especially up here in the north, don’t appreciate just how enormously important the Civil Rights movement was. I also don’t think most people appreciate how clever a tactician Martin Luther King Jr. was. It wasn’t obvious that non-violence was the right strategy then, I’m not one of those who thinks non-violence is always the answer (and I agree that it’s ridiculous to think victims of state oppression and violence have no right to fight back), but there’s no question that King’s strategy worked brilliantly.

All the great oratory and great music and so on associated with the Civil Rights movement shouldn’t obscure the incredible skill that King and his allies displayed in getting so much ground-breaking legislation passed in just a few years. It didn’t have to happen that way, and it should be remembered a triumph of the mind as much as (or maybe even more than) a triumph of the spirit.








And That’s Pretty Much a Wrap on the House Renovation

The last major project was the construction of my custom desk. We stained it today, and are going to put a couple coats of polyurethane on it to make it impervious to coffee stains, and here it is:

I can’t decide if it needs another coat of stain or not. At any rate, this is going to be my main room (other than the bedroom and the kitchen), since I spend so much time in here, and I am really super excited. I put a couple 2 inch holes in the desk for cables, and have pvc piping underneath the desk, AND LOOK AT ALL THOSE FUCKING OUTLETS. Only computer dorks will totally appreciate this room, I guess, but I am soooo excited to get in there.

I am going to mount my older 42″ tv that is in my living room on the wall above on the bigger desk, daddy’s (my grandfather’s- that’s what mom calls him) antique desk against the wall for actual paper work, and my big lazyboy from the current living room will go in here so I can put adult furniture in the living room that fits the house and a new tv when I can afford to buy furniture, end tables, lamps, a desk, and an area rug. For now it will just be two old couches, but I won’t use the room much anyway so no big deal.

Tomorrow the inspector/appraiser comes and when he is gone, we are going to stain the main stairway, Comcast comes on Wednesday, and after they leave, we are going to put two coats of varnish down, and I plan to move in this weekend. Still waiting on one of you to needlepoint this (from the Money Pit) for me:

Also, in the front entryway, I am going to clean up and hang my great great-grandmother’s old mirror:

It needs some love and attention and I want to really have a good brace and support on the wall, so that will be down the road, too. At any rate, I gathered the crew together for a team picture:

And that’s a wrap. For now, because as people have been fond of telling me, you are never done. I’m going to go take a nap and lock my checkbook and atm card in the safe until December.



And Now a Word from the Professionals

I give you the USMC Small War’s Manual. You want to fight a rebellion? Lead a revolution? Overthrow tyranny? Counter an insurgency? Get to reading!

I’m personally going to the gym…








Implacable

There’s been a lot written about “resistance” lately, and I’m all for it, and of course it’s a wonderful topic for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

I’ve done my share, but never anything like what animal activist (and FOIA ninja) Ryan Shapiro describes:

My first arrest was at Ringling Brothers in 1997. We locked ourselves together using steel pipes to prevent the circus from getting the elephants into the auditorium. For a period of hours, our action shut down the circus (and led Ringling Brothers employees to position the elephants such that they urinated on us, resulting in us marinating in gallons of elephant urine both while locked down at the circus and then later in jail in Southeast DC).

Now, after 146 years of abducting, enslaving, and torturing animals for profit and amusement, Ringling Brothers is shutting down for good. I honestly can’t believe it. However Ringling Brothers’ PR team might spin this, there is simply no question that decades of aggressive animal rights activism of all sorts played a critical role in bringing this behemoth of cruelty to its knees. Amazing. We actually did it. We ended Ringling Brothers.

Now we need to end the rest as well. Whatever your style of activism, go do it. Do it now. Do it more. Do it better. Get the fuck out there and keep doing it. I’m so proud to be part of this great struggle for freedom and justice with all of you. Together we just killed a giant. Now on to the next. Animal liberation now.

The point is not to convince everyone to put their bodies literally right on the line (against animal exploiters or Trump or any other oppressor) like Shapiro and his colleagues did. (Although if you can, more power to you!) It’s to talk about implacability, which I think is a key ingredient of any resistance / revolution. Animal abusers and exploiters know we (the animal rights / animal liberation / vegan community) isn’t going away or relenting–in fact, that we’re just going to get stronger–and that gives us a lot of power.

It’s similar, really, to what I see in this community when a nonhuman or human community member needs help. The community galvanizes, everyone gets focused, people contribute their unique talents and resources, and the job gets done.

Looking forward to people’s thoughts about implacability and other aspects of resistance. One thing that helps is that you don’t focus too much on the opposition and how big and scary it is. You focus on the job, and on supporting your comrades.








Historic Animal Rights Victory – Ringling Brothers Circus Shutting Down

First, in honor of the holiday, I’ll mention that Dexter King is, and the late Coretta Scott King was, vegan. Both saw veganism as a natural extension of Dr. King’s nonviolence philosophy.

Now, onto the victory:

On Saturday, officials of the company that owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it will close in May, ending a 146-year run that dates back to a time before automobiles or airplanes or movies, when Ulysses S. Grant was president and minstrel shows were popular entertainment.

What killed the circus? There are many suspects: increased railroad costs. Costly court battles with animal rights activists that led to an end to elephant acts — and the fact that some people didn’t want to see a show without elephants.

Or with any other captive, tormented creature.

Although some may feel a nostalgic pang, keep in mind that:

1) Ringling was an egregious serial animal abuser and violator of the Animal Welfare Act.

2) Even absent “official abuse” the circus is truly the “cruelest show on earth,” subjecting beautiful wild animals to kidnapping and family separations, prolonged confinements, and cruel “training” methods.

3) You can have some good circus fun absent the cruelty and abuse.

This is a particularly sweet victory coming mere months after SeaWorld’s announcement that it will cease orca breeding and performances, and TripAdvisor’s announcement that it will delist many animal-themed entertainments. One day–and probably sooner than we all think–live-animal entertainment will be considered an embarrassing relic, and we’ll all be grooving on virtual attractions and wondering what all the fuss was about.

There’s been some effort to dilute the role of animal activists in this victory–talk about transportation costs, etc.–so I’ll let Kenneth Feld (chair and CEO of Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment) have (almost) the last word: “In the past decade there’s been more change in the world than in the 50 or 75 years prior to that.”

Thanks to the decades of activists that made this happen, and thanks in advance to the activists who will open even more cages in the future.








They’re Already Here

Institutional momentum is a hell of a thing. Even desiccated institutions that have proved too hollow to perform the functions for which they were designed — e.g., to prevent an unstable, unqualified puppet of a foreign power from ascending to the office of the U.S. presidency — have a heft that keeps them rolling in their well-worn grooves toward a predetermined destination.

That’s why, though we can hope for deus ex machina in the form of a CIA bombshell, etc., we will almost certainly see Putin’s poodle sworn in as POTUS at noon this Friday, with most Democratic lawmakers in attendance. That’s when the real work of the resistance will begin.

But in the meantime, between calling our reps to try to save the ACA, I don’t see why we can’t have a little fun at the expense of the brittle narcissist who is almost certainly furious at the prospect of his inaugural becoming a very public flop that is insufficiently staffed by celebrities and attended by citizens. Read more



Incentives matter

This is why we call. This is why we organize. This is why we politely but firmly get in our representatives faces. Representatives are mostly lazy and they’ll go down the route that promises them the easiest win. We need to change that calculus and making the lives of representatives who are persuadable but currently voting against our interest unpleasant in a legal and above board manner will change priorities. Repeal and not Replace has, in my opinion, a short time frame for the act to be commissioned. It has to happen fast or it won’t happen as more and more of the 218 people who will vote to screw tens of millions of our fellow citizens for ideological reasons will get scared of the blowback. Let’s keep on informing the swingables that there will be blowback.

And let’s make it clear that opposition is a clear winner for any and all Democrats even the ones that drive most of this readership (myself included) nuts during normal times.

But to get away from healthcare for a moment, let’s look at where the incentives may be conceivably perverted:

The Trump administration could have a strong incentive to hope for a terrorist attack within the United States. It did not hurt Bush and the Republicans in 2002 or 2004. And it would allow for a massive shock doctrine purge of the civil service in the intelligence community.  People rally around the flag, people get suspicious of expanding the circle of US instead of THEM and the fear of another attack shuts down critical thinking and allows the few voices speaking out to be marginalized as Saddam lovers (that was the 2002 play-book as I remember it).

So incentives matter and in this last case, they are perverted.



Monday Morning Open Thread: Re-litigating the 1960s At Their Worst


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Here come the cheap thugs in their ill-fitting, flag-pin-bedazzled suits…


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Apart from uplifting fantasies, what’s on the agenda for the day?

(Tim Eagan via Gocomics.com)

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Late Night California Nightmarin’ Open Thread: Guvernator Thiel

From the Politico article:

Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, has been discussing a prospective bid with a small circle of advisers, including Rob Morrow, who has emerged as his political consigliere.

Morrow has worked at Clarium Capital, the San Francisco-based investment management firm and hedge fund that Thiel started.

Those who have been in touch with the 49-year-old entrepreneur are skeptical that he’ll enter the race. He is a deeply private figure, and California is unfriendly territory for a Republican — particularly a pro-Trump one. The president-elect won just over 30 percent of the vote there.

But they add that Thiel has conspicuously yet to rule out a bid and that those around him continue to discuss it…

Thiel, who is worth an estimated $2.7 billion, would fill an important need: the ability to self-fund. Waging a gubernatorial bid in California, where campaigns are famously expensive, could cost over $100 million.

He isn’t the only billionaire who may run. Environmentalist Tom Steyer, a prolific giver to Democratic causes, is also seen as a possible contender.

With Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown term-limited, several high-profile Democrats, including former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and state Treasurer John Chiang have already launched campaigns…

I’m assuming, from my perch here on the opposite coast, that Thiel is just drafting in Trump’s slipstream, getting his vanity stroked by Repub apologists like Politico without having to task his highly evolved brain with grubby political calculation.

Another sign of the President-Asterisks’s negative effects on the general political sphere — he hasn’t even been inaugurated, and he’s already encouraging the worst sort of anti-human grifters to speculate about following his slimy path.



The union of the snake

Could one of you artistic types create a picture of a snake with Donald Trump hair (maybe also a Donald Trump face?) with “Don’t Pee On Me” written on it?

In the style of this Wonkette classic








The Real Reason the US Supports NATO and the EU

And so it begins…

From the Bloomberg reporting:

Trump, in an hourlong discussion with Germany’s Bild and the Times of London published on Sunday, signaled a major shift in trans-Atlantic relations, including an interest in lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia as part of a nuclear weapons reduction deal.

Quoted in German by Bild from a conversation held in English, Trump predicted that Britain’s exit from the EU will be a success and portrayed the EU as an instrument of German domination designed with the purpose of beating the U.S. in international trade. For that reason, Trump said, he’s fairly indifferent to whether the EU stays together, according to Bild.

Repeating a criticism of NATO he made during his campaign, Trump said that while trans-Atlantic military alliance is important, it “has problems.”

“It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump said in the Bild version of the interview. “Secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should” and NATO “didn’t deal with terrorism.” The Times quoted Trump saying that only five NATO members are paying their fair share.

I’m going to quickly move past the NATO funding issue, as that is both solvable and is actually being resolved.

Of the 28 countries in the alliance, only five — the US, Greece, Poland, Estonia and the UK — meet the target. Many European members — including big economies like France and Germany — lag behind. Germany spent 1.19% of its GDP on defense last year and France forked out 1.78%.

All member countries that fall below the threshold committed in 2014 to gradually ramp up military spending to reach the target within the next decade.

For more on NATO funding, here’s NATO’s explanation of both direct and indirect funding.

Again, the funding issue isn’t really the issue – it’s an excuse. It is resolvable by bringing up the contributions of the member states that are in arrears to the 2% level. The issue here is what is the real purpose behind these two institutions. It is true that both NATO and the EU were created at a different time and for reasons that are only partially why they are important today. The real genius of both NATO and the EU, regardless of how they’ve developed and recognizing that no institution or organization ever develops perfectly and that reasonable, rational adjustments to both institutions should be made as needed, is that they knit Europe together. Despite what the populist-nationalist or national-populists or whatever they finally agree on calling themselves say, the purpose of NATO and the EU isn’t the destruction of sovereignty or national independence. Rather both organizations serve as a forcing function. They force the European member states of both organizations to work together, to cooperate, to recognize that sometimes there are bigger and more important issues than simply national interests.

The proof that NATO and the EU have been successful is that there has not been a war in Europe between European states over national interests, including national pride or economic disputes since the end of World War II. By stitching Britain and France and Germany and Belgium and Denmark and Spain and Portugal and France and Greece and Italy and Iceland and Norway and now all the member countries from Central and Eastern Europe together, NATO has made war in Europe among the Europeans less likely. The same for the EU. When Germany and France have a dispute they and their allies no longer spill blood and treasure across the fields of Belgium. Instead they meet in Belgium and talk it out. The forcing function, forcing these states and societies to work together, means that the uniformed and civilian personnel of all these countries have studied and travelled and worked and vacationed all over Europe. They all have counterparts and colleagues from the other European NATO and EU member states. Their children’s friends are the children of their colleagues from other countries. This is the real, tangible benefit of the EU and NATO. Its not a common market or a mutual defense pact. The real benefit is that the EU and NATO have broken the reality of over a thousand years of conflicts, capped off by World Wars I and II, in Europe and among the people of the nation-states that make up Europe.

Perhaps the biggest failure of the post Cold War period was the US and its allies losing sight of the real value of NATO and the EU. By doing so when NATO and the EU expanded they were unable for a number of reasons to expand to one crucial European nation-state: Russia. As is always the case the decision makers at the time believed they had good reasons for pursuing the policies and strategies they did after the end of the Cold War. Policies and strategies that jettisoned the idea of including Russia within NATO or the EU. And as is always the case, successfully implementing strategy to achieve one’s policy creates new opportunities, challenges, and threats. We are now facing one of those threats: a Russian led campaign to destabilize and break up NATO and the EU through the support of neo-nationalist and anti-EU parties and movements throughout Europe and the US. Regardless of what the foundational documents of NATO and the EU may say, the real purpose, whether explicitly or implicitly stated, has become to bind the nation-states and societies of Europe together to prevent future conflict. It has worked very, very well even as the leaders of NATO and the EU couldn’t bring Russia in from the cold. Now we have to see if it worked well enough for them to survive an active attempt to dismantle them.



Steelers v. Chefs Open Thread

Great googly moogly.








Open Thread: Putin’s Poodle No Longer Even Trying to Disguise His Primary Allegiance

Per the Guardian:

Donald Trump’s first foreign trip is to be to Iceland for a summit with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, according to reports.

In a move that echoes Ronald Reagan’s cold war meeting in Reykjavik with Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986, Trump and his team have reportedly told British officials that the summit will take place within weeks of him becoming US president…

On Saturday the president-elect said he would consider dropping sanctions against Russia if Moscow helped tackle terrorism and worked with the US on other goals, although they would remain in place “at least for a period of time”…

Trump’s claims that he has “nothing to do with Russia” appear to have been contradicted by his son Donald Jr, who reportedly said in a speech in 2008 that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section” of a lot of the Trump Organisation’s assets…