Friday, January 27, 2017

Bad Lip Reading

We don't usually like the "bad lip reading" videos, but this one was pretty good:


Does this picture creep you out as much as it does me?

No, not the seditionists who seized Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. But a good guess!

Click on it for a better view.

No, it's not Steve Bannon ending his first day of work in the West Wing, either, though you are excused for thinking so. 

The guy sitting at the desk is Valery Bolotov, the former head of the Russian-speaking militia in Ukraine: a different Putin Puppet. He was to be a witness in the international investigation of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight #17, which was brought down by a Russian missile over Eastern Ukraine.

Bolotov died today, aged 46, in Moscow of a "heart attack".

Some people are suspicious.

[By the way, hats off to the photographer who took this shot. He/she knows how to take a group portrait.]

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Starting to Feel Comfortable?

Charles P. Pierce writes in Esquire:
You want a scary number? Here's a scary number.
That's the number of state legislatures over which the Republican Party now has complete control.
You want a scarier number?
That's the number of state legislatures required now to call a new constitutional convention under Article V of the Constitution.
Every state should have a web site like Swing Left that identifies the swing legislative districts in the state. C'mon Dems, let's get moving.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Still Pissed? Do This!

Okay, we've had our march, and it's good to know we're not the only sane people left in America. But now what?

Here's what!

We need to focus like a laser on the 2018 elections: in the House, in the Senate, in the state legislatures. The Democratic Party has done a terrible job being a national party. It focuses only on the Presidential election and leaves the rest to the Republicans, who've been cheerfully collecting enough state legislatures to amend the Constitution or call a Constitutional convention.

We've got to stop them. We've got to build a Democratic Party that's as strong as it was in FDR's day.

Here's a two-step suggestion for getting started:

First, read this. It'll fire you up like you've never been fired up before.

Then, go to a web site called Swing Left. Swing Left was put together by a group who are not professional political people, but are pretty savvy in the use of technological tools.

At Swing Left, you put in your zip code, and it identifies the Congressional swing district nearest to your home. A swing district is one that could go either way in any given election. Many are Democrat-represented districts and need to be defended. The rest are Republican-represented districts that can be and need to be flipped.

Then, you pledge to help make sure that district votes Democratic in 2018 by giving them your email address. They send you weekly information about what's going on in the district, give you ideas on things to do to help, and let you know how to make contributions directly to the Democratic candidate there. What could be easier?

I have signed up to protect the nearest swing district to me, which is currently held by a Democrat, and to help win two swing districts nearby, currently held by Republicans. Oh, it would be so sweet to send them home.

Are you ready, Charlie?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

BAM Takes to the Streets

Everyone got up unusually early for a Saturday. It was the day of the Women's March in Chicago, January 21, and BAM wasn't going to miss it. [BAM is the name the three girls are referred to by themselves and others, when they are referred to as a group. I'll refer to them here only by their initials.]

The 3 Feministas take it to the streets.

Under light jackets they wore white, they said, as a tribute to the suffragettes of a hundred years ago, on whose shoulders they consciously stood. B's t-shirt references the SCOTUS Angels, an allusion to the female members of the Supreme Court. 

March organizers had originally planned for 20,000 marchers. The night before, the prediction was raised to 50,000. But by the time BAM arrived at the neighborhood El station, all trains heading downtown were packed. It was already clear this crowd was going to be WAY more than 50,000.

There was a point when nobody else could get on.

M and B managed to grab a seat when someone got off, and one sat in the other's lap. A stood the whole way down. (As did the chaperone, need we say?) They alighted near the Harold Washington Library and, amazingly, immediately found friends from school. Their friends had made ... er, um ... uh ... let's call them "kitten" ears. They're actually called something else, a reference to one of Donald Trump's favorite pastimes when a TV celebrity (and, for all we know, even now). They had made extras and gave them to BAM. After some excited chatter, the group was off for the march assembly point.

Walking under the El on the way to the March.

It was just a matter of following the flow of the crowd, and in no time at all BAM found themselves separated from their friends and in the middle of a crowd (later to be reported as 250,000 souls) that was going nowhere.

And that's where they stood for about an hour and a half.  For a while, other marchers' signs were enough to keep everyone amused.

Clicking on a picture enlarges it and makes it easier to read.

While waiting for the march to begin, various chants started up in the crowd, including several initiated by BAM. The young marchers became intoxicated with their power. Well, no, not really. But they appeared to be enjoying it.

After a while, there was a slow but perceptible flow of movement toward the lake. A good theory was that the group just to the north of us (see aerial photo) was moving out, and BAM would come in behind them. But after about 10 minutes of shuffling, people in the crowd started pointing back towards the west, indicating BAM would be marching into the streets.

What no one knew until watching the news that night was that the entire march route was already effectively filled with protesters – there was no open space to march TO! The police had advised the organizers it would not be safe (not to mention possible) to have the march. The organizers then cancelled the march and retroactively made it a rally or demonstration.

All of which was totally unknown to about 250,000 people ready to march.

Presumably, somewhere people started moving off the parade route and going home, creating room for the crowd in Grant Park (see aerial shot) to take their place. This created enough movement for the Grant Park folks to move onto the streets – designated marching streets and otherwise – creating the sensation of ... wait for it ... MARCHING!

And march BAM did:

As did all those around them:

State Street (🎶that great street 🎶)

Finally, the chaperone suggested that any time BAM wanted to head back home would be okay. And within 10 minutes they were on their way to the El station. This time, though, they boarded early enough that there were seats for all three.

As the train passed the cross streets, it was clear the march had taken over the Chicago Loop.

Shot from the moving El.

A few notes about the March:
  • The crowd was wonderful – friendly and cheerful.
  • Early-on, we spotted some counter-demonstrators heading for the march. We never saw them again, and there was no trouble at all. Chicago Police reported there were no arrests.
  • The chaperone, being an old fart, believes that minds are not changed by vulgar language and images – in fact, they are reasons to shut your mind to the message – and unfortunately there was some of both on a few signs. Too bad about that. But let's face it: Trump set the tone.
  • BAM witnessed very little littering. We came across one sign on the ground. M picked it up and leaned it against a building so it could be read by passers-by.
  • M's parents should know that I saw her slip a five dollar bill to a grateful homeless man. I'm sure they're proud of her, as B's and A's parents are proud of their girls, and of their girls' friends.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Poetry for a New Day

Our ultra-literate readers will remember William Carlos Williams's poem:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Well, a fellow on Twitter who uses the "handle" Chaosprime has rewritten it for us:

This is Just to Say

i have stolen
the presidency
you probably wanted
to go
to someone qualified

forgive me
i am so rich
and so white

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

While We're on the Subject of Prostitutes

We've received hundreds of letters and calls from people asking, "When is Sempringham going to update its data on persons listed as prostitutes in the U.S. Census to take into consideration the recently released 1940 Census?"

J. Edgar Hoover was not listed as a prostitute in the 1940 Census.

Well, we undertook a study of this very issue last year, but quickly discovered that we couldn't trust the raw data we were getting from  There are 440 people in the 1940 census whose occupation includes the word "prostitute," using the Ancestry search engine, but a closer look makes it clear that something has gone awry.

Because searching the 1940 U.S. Census is free to non-subscribers, you can reproduce our results.

Type "prostitute" into the "occupation" field, and no other search terms, and you will receive the list of 440 workers in the "sex industry", as it's called today. But click through to the actual records, and you will be surprised.

Ruth Flickinger, a 73-year-old living in Pittsburgh, is described as a "prostitute nurse" in the index, but a look at the original records reassures us that she was a "practical nurse". Her grandchildren are relieved, no doubt, but perhaps a tad annoyed.

Jay Ingram, listed as a "prostitute inspector" in Los Angeles, is actually a "parachute inspector" at the airport.

Joseph John Jr., of Aurora, Indiana, is not a "prostitute mail carrier", he is a "substitute mail carrier".

John Kaszuba's wife in Chicago will be relieved to hear he is not a "prostitute laborer" but a "painting helper".

And that's just going through the first six people listed in Ancestry's indexed records.

What happened? We have three hypotheses:
  • The optical character reading software Ancestry uses is version 1.0.
  • The census entries were indexed by someone making $2 a day, for whom English was not a first language.
  • The records were indexed by a 400-pound person sitting on a bed somewhere.
But who knows?

Whatever the answer, you can see that this important research we have undertaken is not as easy as it seems. We have to stop laughing long enough to get the data written down. This may take some time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Musical Interlude

Iris Luella Dement sings her song, "Let the Mystery Be". Lyrics below.

Everybody is wonderin' what and where they they all came from
Everybody is worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
So it's all the same to me
Think I'll just let the mystery be

Some say once you're gone you're gone forever
And some say you're gonna come back
Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour
If in sinful ways you lack
Some say that they're comin' back in a garden
Bunch of carrots and little sweet peas
Think I'll just let the mystery be

Everybody is wonderin' what and where they they all came from
Everybody is worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
So it's all the same to me
Think I'll just let the mystery be

Some say they're goin' to a place called Glory
And I ain't saying it ain't a fact
But I've heard that I'm on the road to purgatory
And I don't like the sound of that
I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
I choose to let the mystery be

Everybody is wondering what and where they they all came from
Everybody is worryin' 'bout where they're gonna go
When the whole thing's done
But no one knows for certain
And so it's all the same to me
Think I'll just let the mystery be
Think I'll just let the mystery be

The World's BEST Prostitutes!

We always get more hits if we make liberal use of the word "prostitutes".  Apparently the people Googling "prostitutes" are legion.

But this is a legitimate use! Bloomberg reports that we have a judgment on what country has the best prostitutes in the world, and it comes from none other than former Village People groupie, Vladimir Putin:
Trump is “a grown man, and secondly he’s someone who has been involved with beauty contests for many years and has met the most beautiful women in the world,” Putin said. “I find it hard to believe that he rushed to some hotel to meet girls of loose morals, although ours are undoubtedly the best in the world.”

Vlad loves to relive his years as a Village People groupie.

Of course, if Vlad ever does decide to use the videotapes that don't exist, he will be "shocked! shocked!"

The rules of the Prostitute Olympics require Putin to turn in his score cards within two weeks.

What if They Had an Inauguration and Nobody Came?

Trump and Carnival Culture

David Brooks has a strange but interesting column this morning which concludes:
The sad part is that so many people treat Trump’s tweets as if they are arguments when in fact they are carnival. With their conniption fits, Trump’s responders feed into the dynamic he needs. They contribute to carnival culture.
The first problem with today’s carnival culture is that there’s an ocean of sadism lurking just below the surface. The second is that it’s not real. It doesn’t really address the inequalities that give rise to it. It’s just combative display.
This is a resolution I’m probably going to break, but I resolve to write about Trump only on the presidential level, not on the carnival level. I’m going to try to respond only to what he does, not what he says or tweets. I really wish some of my media confreres would do the same. [Italics are my emphasis.)
The problem with this is that the carnival culture is not just his tweets, it's his whole life, including "the presidential level". God help us.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Republican Health Care Plan Revealed

 Via Chris @Bassoonjokes:

"The new healthcare plan is everybody gets 50 Tylenol at birth. Those are your Tylenol. Use them whenever or however you want."

Did You See This?

British reporting about Christopher Steele, the MI6 agent who collected the dossier on Donald Trump:
Mr Steele also decided to pass on information to both British and American intelligence officials after concluding that such material should not just be in the hands of political opponents of Mr Trump, who had hired his services, but was a matter of national security for both countries.
However, say security sources, Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. 

It is believed that a colleague of Mr Steele in Washington, Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who runs the firm Fusion GPS, felt the same way and, at the end also continued with the Trump case without being paid.
The whole article is here.

Mark Salter, John McCain's former chief of staff, writes:
If any of the allegations are true, and if our worst fears about Trump’s temperament are realized, no one with power or influence today will be remembered for whether they tinkered with Medicare reimbursement rates or lowered the corporate tax rate or disapproved of a  Supreme Court appointment or won a Pulitzer Prize or had the highest ratings on cable television.
They will be remembered for whether they tried to protect the country from the grave harm Trump could do or whether, by negligence or active support, they helped him do it.
 A poster across the street from the American Embassy in Moscow:

In the upper right is Aleksandr Bastrykin, a Russian spy who was sanctioned by Obama. In the lower left is a picture of Obama, with the caption "Bye-bye, Obama!"

David Corn talks about his October meeting with Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who may have saved the western world:
After speaking with the former counterintelligence official, I was able to confirm his identity and expertise. A senior US administration official told me that he had worked with the onetime spook and that the former spy had an established and respected track record of providing US government agencies with accurate and valuable information about sensitive national security matters. "He is a credible source who has provided information to the US government for a long time, which senior officials have found to be highly credible," this US official said.
Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post catalogs some things we know about Trump, exclusive of Christopher Steele's memo or the declassified version of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence report on Russian involvement in the presidential campaign, including:
Throughout the campaign, Trump repeated slogans and conspiracy theories — “Obama invented ISIS,” “Hillary will start World War III” — lifted from Sputnik, the Russian propaganda website. Was this just Trump campaign chief Stephen K. Bannon borrowing ideas, or Manafort using tactics he perfected in Ukraine? Or was there deliberate linkage? 
She concludes:
Information doesn’t have to be secret to be shocking. Trump doesn’t have to be a Manchurian candidate who has been hypnotized or recruited by foreign intelligence. It’s enough that he has direct and indirect links to a profoundly corrupt and violent foreign dictator, whose policies he admires, whose advisers he shares and whose slogans he uses. That’s kompromat enough for me.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Inauguration Weekend

Headline in the Washington Post:

200 buses have applied for city parking on Inauguration Day. 1,200 have applied for the Women’s March.

The Republican Health Care Plan

It's all right here. A fascinating read.

H/T to Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine.

[Don't click around too much. There's nothing there. There hasn't been for six years.]

Monday, January 09, 2017


From Andrew Tobias:
Zac Bissonnette quotes Lincoln . . .
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
And then — “150 years of investment in education and social progress later” — President-Elect Donald Trump:
Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT. So much for being a movie star – and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Old News in a New Light

[Updated 12 p.m. January 7, 2016]

From a November 10 Reuters story:

The Russian government was in touch with members of President-elect Donald Trump's political team during the U.S. election campaign and knows most of his entourage, one of Russia's most senior diplomats told the Interfax news agency on Thursday.

Accused by defeated Democratic contender Hillary Clinton of being a puppet of President Vladimir Putin after praising the Russian leader, Trump has dismissed suggestions he had anything to do with the Russian government during the campaign.

But in comments that could prove politically awkward for the president-elect, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there had indeed been some communications.

"There were contacts," Interfax cited Ryabkov as saying. "We are doing this and have been doing this during the election campaign."

Such contacts would continue, he added, saying the Russian government knew and had been in touch with many of Trump's closest allies. He did not name names.
From an October 31 David Corn article in Mother Jones:
On Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid ... sent Comey a fiery letter saying the FBI chief may have broken the law and pointed to a potentially greater controversy: "In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government…The public has a right to know this information."

Kathleen Parker Goes There

Just to be clear: this is not Kathleen Parker.

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker writes for the Washington Post and is syndicated, according to Wikipedia, in more than 400 outlets.

Today she writes [my emphases]:
What is so obviously a conspiracy of Russian leadership, hackers and spies, Trump has repeatedly dismissed as lousy intelligence. Why would he do such a thing? Is it that he’s so thin-skinned he can’t tolerate anyone thinking that he might have benefited from the cyberattack? Or is it that he knew about it in advance and doesn’t want to be found out? This is how conspiracy theories get started. Then again, sometimes a conspiracy is just a conspiracy — and a fool is just a fool.

Consider what we know: Our best intelligence indicates that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. Trump, who has long expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin (once a KGB agent, always a KGB agent), has his doubts.

Obviously, Trump wants to preserve the narrative that he won fair and square. And, clearly, claims of Russian interference would muss his ego. But is that it? Ego and narrative?

Consider further: Trump would rather make common cause with our fiercest geopolitical adversary (hat tip Mitt Romney) than take the word of our best people. Moreover, he has said he won’t receive daily security briefings and reportedly plans to reduce our security agencies.

Pray tell, whose side is this man on? When was the last time you had to ask that question about a president-elect?
On Friday, Trump met with real American spies and others who attempted to explain things to him, leaving open the question: Can Trump learn? From his statement following the meeting, it doesn’t seem so.

On Thursday, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the agency is “now even more resolute,” and that Trump is damaging American intelligence (not to be confused with the absence thereof, to wit, Trump). To top things off, former CIA director James Woolsey quit Trump’s transition team Thursday in protest against being bypassed.

In sum, when the president-elect persists in a state of denial, siding with the enemy against his own country’s best interests, one is forced to consider that Trump himself poses a threat to national security. 

In Russia, they’d just call it treason.
Meanwhile, Trump said a week ago that he knew things about the email hacking that others didn't know, and that he would share that information with us on Tuesday or Wednesday of last week. Guess what never happened!

Today's vocabulary word is popinjay: a strutting, supercilious person. Use it five times today, and it's yours.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

The Question on Everybody's Mind

A few weeks ago nobody would have even thought it. But his constant attempts at redirection have only raised suspicions.

Eventually, somebody is going to start asking out loud:

What did he know about the Russian hacking, and when did he know it?

Update (January 6):

From the NY Times:

The Trump campaign knew in advance about WikiLeaks’ plans. Days before the Podesta email release began, Roger Stone, a Republican operative working with the Trump campaign, sent out an excited tweet about what was coming.

But in an interview, Mr. Stone said he had no role in the leaks; he had just heard from an American with ties to WikiLeaks that damning emails were coming.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

La Même Chose

Marine Le Pen insists Russian annexation of Crimea is totally legitimate.

I guess it was sort of a Russian Anschluss.

Oh, well. Le Pen/Petain – c'est la même chose. I wonder if there are Russian collaborators in any other countries?

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

David Brooks Tries to Understand Trump

Over the holidays, a person I know started speaking favorably about "Republican values". I was dying to ask just what "Republican values" are, but it was the holidays, and really, I didn't see any plus side to blowing up the relationship.

Joe Biden says, "Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I will tell you what you value."

Which is only broadly related to this post, the purpose of which is to point you to David Brooks's column this morning.

It concludes:
I’ll be curious to see if Trump’s public rhetoric becomes operationalized in any way. For example, I bet his bromance with Putin will end badly. The two men are both such blustery, insecure, aggressive public posturers, sooner or later they will get in a schoolyard fight.
It will be interesting to see if that brawl is just an escalating but ultimately harmless volley of verbiage, or whether it affects the substance of government policy and leads to nuclear war.
Happy New Year!