Friday, August 31, 2018

One of the Most Fascinating Posts Ever

I am linking to Bloomberg, which has a fabulous set of information on land use in our country. Below is simply the last map with the percentage of land used for some major uses. It is very cool. I was surprised by a lot of stuff here.  Details here....

So, we have a lot of cow pastures. Urban lands (housing and commercial) take up more land that I expected. Weyerhaeuser owns a shit-ton of forests.

if you go through the details on the site, you see breakdown to more detailed levels for each.  It is very interesting.

Democracy Wept

For a moment let’s take a look at the country we live in:

1.     The President daily breaks the Constitutional Emoluments clause by enriching himself at the expense of tax payers. The payments to Trump properties from the  Trump presidency in the first year were at least $120 Million (USA today link).
2.     One of the President’s ex-Campaign Manager was convicted of millions of dollars in tax fraud, which the President has said was a shame and a witch hunt.
3.     The President authorized two payments of hush money less than a month before the Campaign in order to influence the outcome of the Presidential race. This was illegal and unethical.
4.     Members of the Administration have been forced out because of:
o   Tax Fraud
o   Illegal Lobbing
o   Perjury on clearances
o   Domestic Abuse
o   Misconduct in Office
o   Cussing like a sailor on television (that one was fun though)
5.     The President has obstructed justice and then bragged about it on television (NBC interview to Lester Holt) and to a foreign power (Russian Ambassador)
6.     The President fired the head of the FBI in order to obstruct justice
7.     The President has denigrated the Department of Justice, the FBI, NSA and Military intelligence to argue that that a foreign power did not try to influence the election.
8.     The President has demanded legal action against his enemies.
9.     The President has demanded legal action against media that was critical of him.
10.  The President has demanded legal action against technology providers that don’t support his world view.
11.  The President has demanded that his Justice Department and the FBI fire people who have spoken out against him.
12.  The President has not had a press conference but has made multiple appearances on a friendly media output that does not ask difficult questions.

The Rush to Define Democratic Socailism

This year more that a few Democratic candidates for office have taken up the mantle of "Democratic Socialism". This is relatively new for America, and maybe we should look at it for a moment - without scare tactics. Not taking the "ain't it great" nor the "ain't it Commie" side, but a look at what these voters are looking for and why.

The why is pretty easy for anyone under 48 years old to understand; that is anyone who was 10 years old or younger when Ronald Reagan came into office.

Since Ronald Reagan's presidency, Capitalism with a side of Democracy has been the dominate sociopolitical direction for the country. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the mix has turned more Capitalistic with less Democracy and proceeded to be less Democratic yearly.

I don't want to argue Republican versus Democratic Party, but neither major part has produced great results for many of our people, particularly American under the age of 40. Getting a job, paying for education, moving up the socioeconomic ladders - all of these things are getting more and more difficult, while older Americans and richer Americans are doing better and better.

To these younger Americans, Capitalism definitely is not doing a great job of providing opportunities. So they look to a limited set of governmental intervention to provide goods like a $15 minimum wage - which would be a bit more than inflation adjusted minimum wage from 1978, or free higher education - which was the norm when I went to college in 1977 - 1980, or free health care - which seems reasonable since we spend more on health care than countries where it is all subsidized.

While to older Americans, this reeks of Communism and everything we fought against, to young people it reeks of European life style where people are happier, take more vacations and live longer.

Neither side is 100% correct here, but the Capitalistic side has been shown to be severely wanting, and you have to expect young people to want to try something, anything, else when the dominate system is systematically leaving them behind.

The push for a new system is almost assured when the old system is failing so many. And this movement will only grow larger and more self-assured the longer it is unaddressed or demonized.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

I Don't KNow About That.....

UCLA is started the new Chip Kelly coaching era with a Michigan Quarterback.

That is like Wisconsin starting a new season with a USC Quarterback.

Also, what kind of name is Wilton?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I don't know about Rafa back in sleeveles shirts

Rafa is back in sleeveless shirts. I don't know if I like it.  I will have to take a few long good looks to decide.....

Saturday, August 25, 2018

There is Passively Hating Faggots and Then There Are These 16 States

These sixteen states have petitioned the Supreme Court to rule that employers in their state are free to fire workers for being homosexual. Not for doing a bad job or anything, simply for being homosexual. You know, cuz it's ikcy.

The Trump Administration's Justice Department believes they should have that right. The United States' Equal Employment Opportunity Commission believes that this is against the law.

(l to r, Utah, Wyoming, Texas, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama. South Carolina, West Virginia, Maine)

I give you the link and the lead 4 paragraphs....
A group of 16 states urged the U.S. Supreme Court Aug. 23 to rule that companies can fire workers based on their sexual orientation and gender identity without violating federal workplace discrimination law.
The states, led by Nebraska Attorney General David Bydalek, asked the justices to overturn an appeals court decision against a Michigan funeral home that fired a transgender worker. They said Congress didn’t intend the ban on sex discrimination in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to cover bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender employees.
“The States’ purpose is to note that ‘sex’ under the plain terms of Title VII does not mean anything other than biological status,” Bydalek wrote.
The friend-of-the-court brief is the latest development in a legal debate that has divided courts and exposed a rift within the Trump administration. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says LGBT bias already is banned, but the Justice Department disagrees.

I Wish John McCain a Peaceful Passage From This Life

John McCain was, 99% of the time, a great American that I admire. He served he country valiantly both in times of conflict and as a Senator. He was a gentlemen from the old school and I have (almost) nothing but admiration for him.

The one caveat is his tip toe to the dark side during the 2008 Presidential campaign when he let advisors doom him by abandoning some old positions to try to find more palatable stock Republican positions and his nomination of Sarah Palin with seemed to have unleashed an ugliness he always fought against.

But, both before and after that aberrational moment, he held up public service as an actual service to the public at large.

I might have disagreed with him often, but I rarely felt that he was representing anything but the public's best interest as he saw it. He was a rare bird on both sides of the aisle.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Not a Lie.. Just Disingenuous

Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, the shining star of truth that is Donald Corleone Trump's mouth piece, took questions yesterday in the White House briefing room. And, true to the room, her answers were brief (get it - some are just for me ladies and gentlemen).

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answer questions about President Donald Trump’s former associates — Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen — becoming felons, repeating six times at Wednesday's briefing: “The president has done nothing wrong, and there are no charges against him.”

This is disingenuous because it implies that sentence phrase part A "the president has done nothing wrong" is a result of part B "there are no charges against him."  In fact these are two completely separate clauses that are not dependent on each other. And repeating them 6 times doesn't change that.

One might say that lying to the media and the US people as President is, indeed, something wrong. One might say that directing your lawyer to pay off the books hush money and violating campaign finance laws is, indeed, something wrong. Charges or no.

As to "no charges against him", this is due to a long standing Justice Department policy not to allow (frivolous) charges against a sitting President. She may regret those words as we have a new special prosecutor law that might well be tested. The new law was instigated under Bush 2, but not needed under his Republican or Obama's Democratic administrations. It is being tested now.

If the special prosecutor finds illegal conduct, particularly illegal conduct that is serious, s/he has the option to bring criminal charges. In order to do this, s/he would ask the Attorney General - in this case acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein - for the permission to bring charges. This triggers a required action. If the AG allows charges, they are filed. If the AG does not allow charges (this being a case where the AG is protecting the President) a mandatory report gets filled with Congress and the media.

The design of this was to allow transparency in the process, but rein in the special prosecutor's office that ran roughshod over the Reagan, Bush 1 and Clinton Presidencies.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Sometimes It Just Rears Up on You

I am pretty good with my mood, but occasionally I have triggers I don't expect.

Today at the food store, there were 2 lines and about 9 or 10 people in each. This being New York, it is not unusual. And I settled in for a Zen moment before stepping into line.

When I was 2 people back (and now the line stretched far into the store), the woman checking out changed her mind on which cereal she wanted. So she left. With over $112.00 wrung up so we couldn't unring her. The other line had a problem I don't know what it was.

We wanted over 3 minutes, with the customers getting more and more angry. And LOUDER. I didn't participate. I stood quietly as the woman in front of me went off. After about 5 minutes, they finally opened another line and took the woman in front of me (with - honestly - a full to the brim basket top and bottom) to another line and people filled after her.

I wanted as the Chex cereal mom returned. She finished. Then I noticed she only finished part of her order. She then used some checks I don't understand to buy milk - but she tried to by Lactose free milk and it wasn't covered, so they unrang that and restarted.  Then - after that check - she had 2 more for fruits and vegetables. The cashier kept ringing various combinations up trying to find the number closest to $15.00.

I started to set down my groceries and the customer said, "Don't throw my food." And I lost it. Honestly, fucking lost control.

I responded, extremely vocally, "I did not THROW anything. Look. No, look! I put your tomatoes here so I could finally set some of these things, I have carried for 15 minutes as you got your cereal,  down."

"Just don't throw my food."

I am not proud of it, but I said, even louder, "What? What did I throw?  Tell me." I looked at the woman behind me and asked her, "Did you see me throw anything?" Turned back.  "When you see me throw something, you'll know."

And like that my mood, previously under check, zoomed out the fucking door and into the sewer. I was pissed all the way home. Yelled at the building for not finishing the front of our condo in A YEAR! And was about to start on a rant with someone else, when I decided to write this down and get it out.

Deep breath....

Ed's Pictures from the US Open opening!

These are cool. If you don't know the globe, it is right at the front of the Tennis Complex. It was built for the 1964 New York World's Fair.
They showed astronauts playing tennis on the space station.

This is the new US Opening logo. It replaces the flaming tennis ball.  Very nice.

"Witch Hunt" Finds Trump Guilty of Illegal Campaign Finanace

The witch hunt has captured Michael Cohen in it's maw. The President's lawyer, still not cooperating fully, pleaded guilty yesterday to illegal campaign contributions to President Tr.ump's 2016 campaign.

From here the law has no precedent. If Trump had lost, he would be charged with campaign fraud. If he was a lesser politician he would be charged (as one of his first backers, Hunter Duncan, was yesterday) for misusing campaign money and fraud.
See, if you're NOT President, you get indicted....

In a normal world, one that wasn't back ass wards, he would be impeached (or leave in disgrace, like Spiro Agnew did in 1971) and we would move on with President Mike Pence. But we live in a world where the Republican base no longer believes in equality under the law (which joins their other dead ideas like running a balanced budget and Canada as an ally). So who the fuck knows what is next.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Two Types of Ball Vices

This is a universal ball vice.

This is a ball vice for Donald Trump.

What Gives Me Nightmares

These are the Midterm scenarios that give me nightmares:

1. That Trump's Republicans lose very badly AND then the Republicans (at Trump's prompting) refuse to accept the result. They claim that, obviously, there WAS foreign tampering and we shouldn't seat anyone new until it can all be investigated for problems.

2. That Trump's Republicans lose very badly primarily in California, Texas, Florida and random districts so they can claim illegal voting and do not certify the results.

3. That Trump's Republicans win and we all find out that Americans are really horrible people that don't care about democracy and the rule of law or truth.

4. That Democrats win a majority of the House of Representatives and move to Impeach Trump without the backing of people. (Don't do it!)

5. That everything goes okay, Democrats win the House. Trump freaks out about the vote and worries about November 2020 so he starts a war to boost his ratings.

The Fuel of the Future.. (drumroll)... Coal!

Yay! It's been too long since good old Acid Rain fell.

End of an Era

No mass Citibank accounts for Scooter...

After years and years (since 2009) I have had a Citibank account (checking, savings, credit, and extended savings) and liked them. Combined, I usually keep between $3,000 and $6,000 dollars in them. It is free, not for my balance, but because I was an employee and they never took my funds away.

Well, that is no mas. Citi finally wrote me a few weeks ago and said that my free days of banking are over.

I have a business account I still keep there (free after $5,000). I could keep my personal account free if I left more than $20,000 combined in my accounts. I believe the offer came with a free supply of lube, but I am not sure. There were definitely directions to bend over and smile.

Today I went down and closed my accounts. It's too bad, Citi has been a good company for me in many ways. I have a new bank - of course. The good news is now I can use Citi as an example of business practices in my training role in more frequently.

Maybe I'll even spill some funny stories.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Republicans Impeached Clinton over "Depends on what the definition of 'is' is..."

Republicans trying to support Donald Trump manage to fellate themselves, again.

Outrage is Useless Against This Level Of Amoral Behaviour

The full report on the sexual abuse of children by 6 of the 8 Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania paints an amoral picture of abuse by the Catholic Church that is probably repeated throughout the country, we know it is so in many places. (link)

It includes a playbook on how to protect priests who are accused of raping boys and girls.  Here are the details (LINK)...

First, they reported, the church employed euphemisms for sexual assault, referring to the crime not as rape, but as “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues.” In one case, the grand jury reported, a priest’s repeated and violent sexual assaults of children were referred to as “his difficulties.” 
Then, the church did not conduct genuine investigations, often limited to just asking suspected abusers a few questions and accepting what they said as gospel. 
And if a priest had to be removed from his church, they were directed to announce it as “sick leave,” or to not say anything at all. For appearance sake, they were to send the priest for “evaluation” at a church-run psychiatric facility that, more often than not, concluded that the offender was not a pedophile and could return to ministering the faithful. 
If it became known in the community that a priest was a “problem,” they were to transfer him to another parish where nobody knew he was a child molester. That happened frequently, the grand jury reported. One priest was transferred from Allentown to New Mexico and west Texas after accusations of abuse came to light. He was later arrested in Briscoe County, Texas, for molesting a boy, one of his numerous victims he found in his new location. 
And, finally, church officials were told: don’t call the cops. “Handle it like a personnel matter, ‘in house,’” the grand jury reported. 
There were several instances reported by the grand jury in which sexual abuse was reported to local police or prosecutors by victims or their parents. Few of those cases wound up being prosecuted.
And when all else fails, lie. 

I don't have any reasonable response because this is not reasonable behavior. I technically understand it more in the really olden days, when the first son of rich families inherited the land and title, the second son went into the Military and the third son went into the Church. Those were privileged men of stature who probably sexually abused who they wanted in or out of the church. 

But I do not understand men doing this now. Someone thinking it is okay and having a church cover up for it. That does not speak to the Catholic Church as a center for the veneration of God or religion, but rather the Catholic Church as a center of power only. Power for power's sake.

There is nothing Godly about this.

We had a great week-end in the Hudson Valley

We went up a visited a friend in the Hudson Valley. They had a house built on some land. They wanted a style that was "farm building"ish. It turned out amazing.

You arrive from the road and drive down to the house. This is from the driveway, so you can even see any of the house from the road except glimpses of it. And the structures, from here, look vaguely barn like. At least, not very housey.

This is the house from close up (Ed's car). It rained a lot when we first got there, but it was a lovely time with friends (and bar b que)

 The view (to the north) from the kitchen window.

The view to the south, from the sliders. This patio is where we bar-b-qued.
  But the amazing and gorgeous part of the house, to me, was the inside. It was a sparse, but very contemporary layout that was beautiful. I loved it.

And, in a very scooter touch, it had concrete floors with ambient heat. Wonderful (and yes we took Trevor and his bed - he is always more comfortable with his own bed when we travel).

Friday, August 17, 2018

Seriously, What Happened To The Good Old Days...

.. when a man could represent a foreign government without registering, make a few millions under the table and hide it in 31 offshore accounts and not pay taxes without being dragged into court?

The Odd Success of Running Against Nancy Pelosi

Republicans up for election this mid-term are running against Nancy Pelosi. For those of you in America out of the loop, or for those outside of America - Nancy Pelosi is the leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives. She has very little power - she is in charge of the minority of the lower house of Congress.

She is an older woman who has ran the Democratic Representative group for a long time. She is a conservative boogie-man, because she is unabashedly liberal and represents San Francisco (and hence is tied to "the gays"). Fox News and Republicans have railed against her for at lest a decade - but she has been in the minority since 2010.

But she is so vilified by the Right side of the political spectrum, that her name is toxic in many areas. This is not unusual.

But it is unusual that the Republicans, in charge of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Court and the Presidency don't have a positive message. Their singular message is "we suck, but she sucks more".

It is too bad that this message, combined with a malicious, venial, rascist thin-skinned vulgarian in the White House might be enough for many people.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Problem with Turkish / American Politics (NOT Trump's fault)

We are in the midst of a slow motion disaster with Turkey. It started with problems inherit in our relationship, which is critical to both our countries. Time and political progress has increased the pressures working against the relationship and removed some of the factors that kept us working together. These are now coming to a boil with two leaders who do not like to back down (Erdogan and Trump)

The short story (read below to understand it all, here is the incomplete but critical story):

After an attempted coup in Turkey, which their President blames at least in part on the United States, Turkey arrested over one hundred thousand possible conspirators. An American Pastor was swept up in these arrests. The Pastor and his family appear to be innocent - but we haven't cooperated in picking up a Turkish Religious figure in the United States that President Erdogan has loaded the blame upon. So Turkey is holding our Pastor, hoping to exchange him for an America based Turkish citizen he blames for the coup.

Side-bar, the Turkish citizen in America does not seem to be the instigator of the coup. However, if (I said IF) America had an interest in the new outcome or, worst, was tipped off the coup was coming, the Turkish guy here might be who we would have informed about it. IF any of that was true, we don't want to hand over an innocent man.

The Americans want the US Pastor released and the administration has worked hard to make it happen. The latest effort included a complex series of moves in which we provided some relief and Israel was going to release a Turkish woman. Everything seemed to happen, except that hte Pastor wasn't released.

The administration was furious and President Trump was furious, since his base is loudly saying the Pastor knew nothing. And Trump isn't furious quietly.

Erdogan said he wouldn't cave to America and there was no deal for the Pastor. Now he, like Trump, has painted himself into a corner with his political base.

Trump has loudly more than doubled the tariffs on Turkish Steel and Aluminum. This has pushed the already weak Turkish Lira lower and made it more wobbly. It is also illegal and should have been done quietly another way. (It is illegal because we said the tariffs were a security issue and therefore had to be consistent across nations - we are in of breach on the WTO which we set up.)

It matters because Turkey is an ally with a lot of information and an US Air Base and Russia is waiting to welcome them (and our info) into their waiting arms.

It's going to get ugly

The long story (necessary to understand this)...

Friday, August 10, 2018

Looking Back on Able Gance's Napoleon

I was recently looking at the Internet and memories were brought back by this piece of click bait.

I saw the first restoration of Napoleon, albeit only the 4 hour version not the 6 hour full restoration that occurred a few decades later. It was one of the few things that came out of Zeotrope Studios before One From The Heart bankrupted it. (And it is a beautiful piece of filmmaking, way before it's time - watch it again and see how in front of the times it was!)
Expand to Read about the Plitt Century City

Anyway, I saw this at the old Plitt Century City theaters back when they were still 2 huge ass theaters. (Side note, I was there once to see a movie and during previews the Secret Service came in and President Regan sat with Nancy to watch it with an audience. This was only a few years before the attack on him and the end of Presidents sneaking in anywhere.)

Zeotrope Studios was run by Francis Ford Coppola. He had restored much of the movie, including the tinting and tri-part screening, and his father had written a new score for the film. The time I saw it, there was no live orchestra (as there was in New York at the Restoration Premier a few days earlier). But it was cool. L O N G, but cool. The big ending with the three screen shots, tinting in France's tricolor was very memorable.

Apparently 30 years later, the British Film Institute restored the entire 6 hour version and had lots of copy write fights with Coppola, but that was after my time. However the preview below gives you an idea of the scope. Image seeing this on that massive Plitt screen.

The Nerd in Me Loves This... The Scooter in Me Hates It...

Here are the logos we get to vote on for the new Space Force Logo.

Now, here is what is annoying. These logos aren't anywhere near what the actuality will be should it ever come to pass. If it is a branch of the US Military, then it won't be a fun logo. See the bottom of page for our real military logos.

No this is a marketing ploy by the Trump Campaign - THE CAMPAIGN - to raise money and get names and email addresses. And by using Administration Officials to go out and sell merchandise based on US Government intentions that then drives profits for our VSG's reelection is both annoying and illegal.

But illegal means nothing to this administration and this is the least of it.

PS - Mars Awaits (my personal fav) is, per the Pentagon (really!!!) not applicable because this would be a defensive force, not an exploratory force.

PPS - They are all a little too Disney-Up With People for me. I want a death star.

PPPS - The Pentagon loves this idea, more money for them.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

THIS was right over us

A Friend took this from his place in Hudson Yards. It is looking towards the north. He is at 30th and we are at 59th.  I think this strike was right above us (we heard a ton of them)....

What is Normal and What is Not Normal

In many ways Donald Trump is a typical Republican by the way he governs. So let's look at some of what is new and what is old. What is working and what is not working.

The economy is his big achievement. Most Democrats will say that he has imply benefited from Obama's economic recovery, and it is true that all the indicators point to the fact he seems to have maintained the trajectory. But our current economic situation is a pretty big achievement. This recovery is one of the longest lasting there has ever been.  And while I disagree with much of what he has done, his business friendly positioning has undoubtedly helped that along.

Tax rates. Donald Trump and the Republican Congress have passed a big ass tax cut. Some of the items, like the new business tax rate, I applaud. Other items, like the gigantic tax break to the wealthiest individuals, I abhor. But here, he has acted as a normal Republican.

Regarding environmental law, I have massive problems with what he has done. However, the majority of the changes would have been followed by any Republican - sure a few exceptions stand out, the rolling back of car mileage, the attack on California's right to regulate emissions and the reduction in National Monuments, but otherwise it is a traditional Republican line.

Also at MOMA

In addition to the Architecture part of the show at MOMA, there were a few sections that talked about Yugoslavian design. They could export to Eastern Europe when much of the West was cut off from those consumer. So they had a variety of Exports.

Including kiosks that became ubiquitous through much of Europe, as elements could be added as necessary.

There was also a show of sculpture from Constantin Brancusi.  You know him probably. Look at the bronze sail/butter knife stuff in the background.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Wonderful Show at MOMA

So there was an architectural show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that was very very cool. It was about Yugoslavia and it's love of concrete and brutalist architecture. 

After WWII much of Yugoslavia had been destroyed so they had to rebuild, the did the big building and housing in concrete with futurist designs. Don't get me wrong, these buildings don't age well and I wouldn't want to live there. But as statement buildings and futurist goal, I understand the aesthetic at the time.

One of the best things about the show was they showed the models, next to the actual buildings. In some cases (like the Transmission Tower at the top of the page) the idea flowed through, in other cases, not so much.

Many of the these are now gone, and those that are still there don't hold up well - aside from the memorials. But it was a cool show. The picture above is a memorial to those lost in the wars against fascism - it hasn't aged well. The picture below is of the memorial to Yugoslavian rebels win against the Nazis. This memorial was in the show, but I like the picture I took with myself and the memorial in May better.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Miss Very Special Genius, If you could have one wish granted...

"Miss Very Special Genius, If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?"

"World Peace."


Monday, August 06, 2018

The Good and the Bad of a Brand New Condo By Silverstein Properties

Well, there is good and bad.

The good, the grills started working and we love them.

The bad, the water leak, which we have complained about now for months, finally dropped into our condo through the roof light. We spent the week-end fighting with a smelly recycling bin to go the toilet. (Fought past a leak to take a leak.... get it?) It has not been pleasant.

The reason is not that important - a problem a few floors up. I get this happens in new buildings, I just wish they had listened earlier. I also wish we had a condo board.