Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Clapper... Clapper, why does that name ring a bell????

Today we heard some terrible news from our intelligence committee.  Terrible!  ISIS is goign to try to attack America in 2016.
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Wow!
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Who knew?
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That is the kind of keen intelligence we pay billions for - and he wants billions more.
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You know what, pay me 5% of what he is making and I can give the same "shocking" answer.
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But that name, James Clapper.  Where do I know that from?  Where?
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Oh right, he is that lying sack of sh*t!
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Don't remember?  Let me remind you.
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The Lie

On March 12th, 2013, during a United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing, Senator Ron Wyden asked Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper the following question:
"Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
Director Clapper responded "No, sir."
Incredulously, Senator Wyden asked "It does not?"
Director Clapper responded "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertantly perhaps collect, but not wittingly."
So that he would be prepared to answer, Senator Wyden gave these questions to Director Clapper's office a day in advance of the hearing. Upon the hearing's completion, he also gave the Director a chance to amend his answer. He opted not to do so.

The Revelations

On June 6th, 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed to the world that the NSA was engaged in a secret program to collect tens of millions of Americans' phone call records. Further revelations would unveil NSA programs collecting Americans' web browsing histories, chat logs, email usage and even their physical locations.
The NSA had been collecting data on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans, and continues to do so.
Finally forced to acknowledge his remarks as "erroneous", Director Clapper claimed that he "misunderstood" the question (which he had been sent a day in advance) and that he had simply "forgotten" the relevant section of the Patriot Act covering these programs.

This Site (sm:LINK)

If you or I had given this testimony before Congress and lied as Director Clapper has, using the same excuses that he provided when caught, we would be charged with perjury. Until such time as the Director is indicted for this crime, as Americans we can only assume that there are two sets of laws: One for the architects and enablers of the NSA surveillance state and another for the public at large.

Is Kasich Good or Just Adequate in a Year Where the Threshold is Very Very Low?

Not his normal Karate Chop hands
So in listening to the (Republican) debates, I tend to lean towards John Kasich.  I just wonder if it is because he is reasonable, or in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King?
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He doesn't poll particular well in Ohio (where he is Governor), but that is a trait of each Governor in this race.  I know he is very conservative, particularly with regards to women's rights - but he says some intelligent things on a raise in the minimum wage and on immigration.
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So he seems reasonable, for a Republican.  I hope he does well.  Because - well, I would like a choice this November.  And I would like it between 2 people that might reasonably perform as President.

San Francisco Buildings

So I saw some very cool buildings in San Francisco.  I am including them here, grouped.
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First the new Federal Building on 7th right near Market.  It is a little brutalistic, but I liked it.
This is the new Federal Building.  It's kind of cool


Detail of the fencing.
The next interesting building was the addition to the Contemporary Jewish Museum.  It houses the Museum Store and some upstairs space, but the whole "cube dropped on a corner" vibe worked for me.  Particularly against the dullish facade of the CJM and directly behind an older traditional church.
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It sits behind a church off the plaza, near a hotel entrance that serves as a walkway . alley between Mission and Market.

The addition (dead center) to the Jewish Contemporary Museum (right) and old church back (left).


Finally I saw the Federal Court building (opposite the new Federal Building) and it was 180 degrees different.  I think it was built in the 1990s, although it is a Federalist style.  I particularly liked the lights.
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Monday, February 08, 2016

I Loved Hail Caesar - But It Probably Isn't For Most People

This wee3k-end we saw Hail Caesar. Now, it is true that this is a very white film.  It is set in the early 1950s during the Studio System, and it reflects that.
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On the other hand, if you can see past that, it is wonderful.  The references to Gene Kelly, Ester Williams, Roy Rogers and Charleston Heston, it is hilarious.  Look at the stills, there is a technicolor beauty that is almost alive.
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Tilda Swindon as Hedda Hopper (and Louella Parsons with a different hat)

Scarlett Jonhansson somehow pulls off Ester Williams and Lana Turner combined

Channing Tatum can see and dance

Alden Ehrenreich - plays a western cowboy pressed into a High Society role.

Torture Schmorture - Is It a Big Deal? YES

So there is this UN Thing - that the United States INSISTED upon after World War II.  It is call the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It is a statement of 30 Basic Human Rights every person is endowed with (by God, or the UN or whomever you want to believe in).  Thing is, it was US,  not "us" just the Good Guys out of World War II, but us Americans.
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Here is article #5 "No Torture".  This is not complicated.  Not, "no torture unless a nuclear bomb is going off in LA and Jack Bauer can find it by chopping off the fingers of a random bad guy."  Not, "no torture unless it's an Arab."  Not, "no torture unless you are a Republican and Obama is a wuss."  A Basic Human Right is to be free from Torture.
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Here is the Republican Debate Responses:(LINK)

Not a popular stance among the Republicans
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Meanwhile, the rest of the debate was notable for its return to enthusiastic bloodlust and torture. The real GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump, went for it. When asked about waterboarding he eagerly endorsed it, and more:

MUIR: … Mr. Trump, you said not only does it work, but that you’d bring it back.

TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you what. In the Middle East, we have people chopping the heads off Christians, we have people chopping the heads off many other people. We have things that we have never seen before — as a group, we have never seen before, what’s happening right now.

The medieval times — I mean, we studied medieval times — not since medieval times have people seen what’s going on. I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

This was greeted with ecstatic applause from the audience.

When asked about it further the next morning he was more explicit:

STEPHANOPOULOS: The issue of waterboarding front and center last night as (INAUDIBLE). You said, I would bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

What did you have in mind?

TRUMP: Well, George, you’re not talking about what I said before that. I said we’re living in a world where, in the Middle East, they’re cutting people’s heads off. They’re chopping a Christian’s head off. And many of them, we talk about Foley, James Foley, and you know, what a wonderful young man. Boom, they’re chopping heads.

So then I went into this. I said, yes, I would bring back waterboarding. And I would make it a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.

What did you have in mind?

TRUMP: I had in mind going worse than waterboarding. It’s enough. We have right now a country that’s under siege. It’s under siege from a people, from — we’re like living in medieval times. If I have it to do and if it’s up to me, I would absolutely bring back waterboarding. And if it’s going to be tougher than waterboarding, I would bring that back, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: As president, you would authorize torture?

TRUMP: I would absolutely authorize something beyond waterboarding. And believe me, it will be effective. If we need information, George, you have our enemy cutting heads off of Christians and plenty of others, by the hundreds, by the thousands.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do we win by being more like them?

TRUMP: Yes. I’m sorry. You have to do it that way. And I’m not sure everybody agrees with me. I guess a lot of people don’t. We are living in a time that’s as evil as any time that there has ever been. You know, when I was a young man, I studied Medieval times. That’s what they did, they chopped off heads. That’s what we have…

STEPHANOPOULOS: So we’re going to chop off heads…

TRUMP: We’re going to do things beyond waterboarding perhaps, if that happens to come.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

middle of the night idea: Audubon's Birds - The Carolina Parakeet

My middle of the night ideas are always odd.
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Last night I thought it would make a fascinating study to show the Audubon Bird Plates (which are gorgeous - we saw a display at the New York History museum this last year) and then next to it, put two data plagues.  The first showing original and current ranges.  The second showing the population change since the paintings were done.
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Here is the Carolina Parakeet.  The northern most ranging parakeets.  They were once found as far north as New York and Wisconsin.  There were probably millions of them - almost a million in Florida alone.
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There are now zero.  They went extinct in 1916.  My guess is that a lot of Audubon's birds have been lost (besides the famous Passenger Pigeon) - but I am guessing.  Maybe they have thrived.  I know that damned Canada Goose is everywhere and leaves turds bigger than Trevor's.
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Anyway, here is a copy of Audubon's Plate of the Carolina Parakeet - note there are parakeets in the wild now in California and some other areas, but they are feral (escaped) pets.  They were beautiful.
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Friday, February 05, 2016

Post from Photographers Without Borders

So I am working with Project 1948, an non-profit group working in Bosnia.  This year we are doing a collaboration with Photographers Without Borders - and they did a great write up on the group.  The write up explains it better than I do - for those of you who ask what the group is all about.
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http://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/blog-content/2016/2/1/the-rights-of-being-human-the-fusing-narrative-of-project-1948 (link)
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Nothing to do with Project1948, but I did love their cover photo!
This year many of the participants (of Project1948.ngo) are working with Syrian refugees in Bosnia.  It is very cool.

Meanwhile... Over at the Peace Journal

I am blogging about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the Peace Journal at Project1948.ngo (link).  Today's is so basic, and yet still we see this.
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Ok - Sometimes I am Wrong..

Sometimes, rarely, but sometimes, I am wrong.  And then I must admit it.
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So... I was having coffee with a neighbor this morning (which is so NOT me, but whatever).  And i was talking about how kids don't have to learn anything anymore with the google and the internet and the attention span of a gnat.
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And she says, "Well, they maybe are learning differently."
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I did not argue, although I may have snorted a bit with derision.
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"For example," she says.  "My grandson is very much an inventor."
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Now you, like me, probably nod and go, Of course, everyone's grandchild is brilliant.  But my neighbor continued...
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"He invented this toothbrush" and she shows me " that screws onto a toothpaste bottle.  He had a hard time squeezing the toothpaste onto the brush when he was five - a big glob would pop out, so he had the idea to have the toothpaste come out through the brush.  And he sold it to Quirky. "
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So yeah, I felt like a bit of an idiot.
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There is a funny follow up to this, but the main story is - okay, maybe all kids aren't coasting by.  And yes, that's a picture of him on the front - Houston Diaz.   Unfortunately Quirky has gone bankrupt through no fault of Houston's, so you can't buy them right now, but good idea, right (and patented... "Yes, that's right.  I got my first patent at 5."

Good Grief: Conspiracy People

So this is a thing:


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Apparently there are really people who believe this stuff (link).
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Of course there is a perfectly rational explanation - Greek funeral statuary shows the dead enjoying physical possessions - like, you know, picking out the right necklace to wear.
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And then there are people who are convinced that time travel has happened and this is a computer laptop.  Carved into marble.  Without a power source.  Because, well, there is a world wide conspiracy to prevent us from knowing about time travel in Greek Funeral Statuary.  Or something.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

If you live in Southern California, this makes no sense

... but if you have moved out of LA, it makes every bit of sense in the world.
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Trader Joe's is good and (in Los Angeles) convenient.
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In New York City it has taken on the complexion of the city itself... rude, over-expensive and a pain the ass.  It's not to say there isn't much to love about Trader Joes.
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But if I have to put in my patience somewhere, I will do it for theater and great dining - not stevia drops and frozen thai goyza.
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(link)

Mascot of February 2016: Shirley Chisholm

Kids today, oy, what are you going to do? (If you do nothing else watch the bottom video!).
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I joke, but with an ounce of truth.  History is not something many people are interested in today.  I suppose such was always the case.  Actually, I don't think think that really.  A lot of people seemed to study history before you could use the internet to google anything - so you learn very little.
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Anyway, many people don't realize how recently the lack of equality was both obvious and unsurprising.  It wasn't until 1968 that American had its first Black Congresswoman.  And she was Shirley Chisholm.  A fighter for people everywhere.

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You can read a lot about her on the net, but the most important things are the most lost in text.  The First Black Congresswoman.  Not big deal now.  But think about it! 179 years after the first Congress.  103 years after slavery ended.  It took that long for a Black Woman to be elected to the house.  And she was an orator that moved you.  She spoke simple truths honestly and without malice.  Not without emotion, but without malice.
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And she shook Washington DC up.  She was a founding member of both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Woman's Caucus.  She worked with Republican Bob Dole to expand the Food Stamp act (now SNAP) to prevent hunger, particularly for seniors and the children of our poorest Americans.
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In 1972 she ran for Democratic Nomination for President.  Proud to say, she got the most votes from California.
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She was fearless, and the country is better for her.
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And, in her spirit, I ask - almost beg - you to watch the video below.  It isn't about race at all, it is about how your brain works (and stars a white science guy and a bike).  But it will make you question your assumptions.  And isn't that worth just a few minutes of your time?
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Better Pictures from the Show


So I attended a show at the San Francisco Library that dealt with California Wildflowers and the effect of global climate change on them.
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So it is a very mixed bag.  The deserts in particular have these things called "100 year blooms" where a spectacular and unexpected rainfall in the winter leads to amazing flowers.  But with lcimate change they are happening more often.
How he gets those black or white backgrounds - without cutting the flowers.  Very cool.
They had a "100 Year Bloom" in 1998 and 2005.  Jane happened to visit in 2005 when we had the amazing bloom.  Lynn and I took her up to the Antelope Valley to see the poppies and then Eddie and I took her to Vegas across the desert floor.
The wall of Southern Californian Desert wildflowers
The effect of climate change on non-desert plants isn't as positive.  Less regular rainfall and snowfall means that flowers in delicate ecosystems are not thriving.
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This isn't a discussion of what to do about the climate, but just cataloging the effects of climate change on California Wildflowers and some spectacular pictures.
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This is my favorite picture.  The ocotillo in full bloom with the jumping cholo cactus.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Show at San Francisco Library

Re: Previous Post

San Francisco is...

....less annoying after a nice Pho and Beer Lao

Sent from my iPhone

It's Caucus Day in Iowa

So after all the small talk, the flirtatious winks and stripe tease-it's time to get down to business (or Buzy-E-ness to torture the metaphor).
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My favorite part of this is when all 256 pundits tell us why they knew it all along. 
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We will also be subject to another week of hype before New Hampshire before everyone can relax one second and cuddle or have a cigarette. 
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Ah, politcis

Saturday, January 30, 2016

January 30 - Mark it in your Caldenars

So mark today down in you Calendar.  Janurary 30th, 2016.
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So today is the first day in history I got up,  looked up in the mirror and couldn't pretend I looked okay.  I couldn't suck it in enough or stand up straight enough or whatever.
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Today Sucked.
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I
Am
Million
Years
Old

Hillary: Doubts from a Believer


Let me start with saying words that will simply drive my mother mad (if you are anywhere near Victor Montana - you might hear her tortured "Aargh!" echoing across the lovely terrain) - I support Hillary Clinton in 2016.
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And yet, I have doubts.
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Not doubts with regards to Bernie Sanders - a man with great ideas and no chance of implementing them win or lose.
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And certainly no doubts with regards to the Republican race, which resembles a three legged race, except the pairs are tied facing opposite directions.
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And no doubts about whatever scandal of the day we are on now; Benghazi, Email Servergate, Whitewater, Travelgate, etc.  They are a succession of side-shows that she can handle, which I think is her personal biggest net positive.  She has been accused so often of being everything from a shrew to a doormat to the antichrist herself, that she harbors no illusions about Washington.
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She will go in with a clear focus on what can get done and what can't.
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And that is great.
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And sad.
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She is no Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan who can move crowds or followers and haters forward with their oratory.
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Perhaps that cannot happen anymore.  The media is too segmented to give an orator, even a great one - a single platform. And the snark of tweets and comments happen realtime with self-reinforcement.  President Obama had the gift of Oratory, and - once elected - rarely used it.  Maybe he realized it wouldn't help.
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She will go in (if elected) knowing that the Republican opposition in Washington has no strategy.  They are unified ONLY in their voracious hatred of Democrats - even when those same Democrats offer reheated Republican policies.  And so she will be competent - and hated.  Four more years of bile.
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On the other hand, she won't scapegoat gays or women (probably).  And I think her heart (while two sizes too small) is in the right place.