Trust me. Really.
You have to trust me on this one. This actually, really, truly is an "adorable animal video." I've left the seemingly-gruesome comment in by the person posting it because it makes the actually adorable animal video all the funnier in proper perspective.
Trust me. Really.
"To see those, those monkeys from those African countries -damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!”
-- Ronald Reagan to President Richard Nixon who laughs, 1971
Yes, I know that this story is from three weeks ago. But there was SO much Trump Hell (tm) that I kept putting it off. And it's not like it's newsworthy now but two reasons why I decided to post it -- 1) I just didn't want to write anything about Trump today. And there was plenty: his anti-Semitic comment about 79% of Jews being "disloyal;" him canceling a meeting with the Prime Minister of Denmark because they wouldn't sell him Greenland (really, it was in a tweet); caving in to the NRA on his earlier false-call for universal background checks for buy guns; news that the Trump administration is being sued to provide basic health care because, despite three immigrant children dying in their prison cages of the flu, the government would not be providing flu shots to those incarcerated which risks a tragedy; and a report that Trump appears to have lied on his tax forms to both the IRS and Scottish tax office for $165 million which could be two federal crimes punishable by up to six years in prison. And that's just for starts and just yesterday But I don't want to write about that. Just listing them is wearying enough. And 2) this conversation is SO racist and shameful by two former Republican presidents that it just shouldn't be ignored, no matter how belated.
Here's the Atlantic magazine article written by former director of the Nixon Presidential Library Tim Naftali, and the accompanying audio, if you care to hear the evidence.
So, clearly this sort of attitude isn't all new in GOP leadership. Or the GOP. It's who they are for the past 50 years. I know that Republicans hate it when others call them "racists" all the time, but seriously if you don't want to be called a racist, stop acting like one. For the past half century.
And at the very least, stop electing them to be your party's leader to set the standard for members to follow.. Time after time after (once again...) time.
The Party of Lincoln, indeed...
The past couple of weeks, I watched a couple of recent foreign-language thrillers which were both absolutely tremendous. Both are far under the wire for being foreign language, but if you like mystery thrillers, don't let them slip through the cracks. Check them out.
First, we'll start with a 2018 Danish movie that I saw on DVD. It’s The Guilty and is absolutely terrific. It's also the kind of film I especially like that takes place entirely in one very-contained location. (Like the movies Phone Booth and last year's Searching.) It’s about an emergency police dispatcher (like 9-1-1) who gets a call from a woman being kidnapped, and it all takes place in real time at the dispatch office. In fact, not just at the office, but the first half the film is entirely at his desk. Eventually he moves into an office for more privacy -- that’s the Big Location Move… -- and the rest of the film takes place there. It’s only about 90 minutes, done in real time, as I said, and is tautly written and directed. And remarkably, it takes some surprising turns left and right and goes off into unexpected directions at times. VERY understated from the police officer’s perspective because he’s trying to stay focused and also keep people calm, though since some of the people on the phone are so emotional and occasionally raw that the film is anything but dry.
Thirty minutes in, I was sure the rights had to have been bought up by Hollywood, and it turns out that they were. I’d think someone in Hollywood would also want to hire the main actor, Jakob Cedergren, who carries the film seriously-impressively, largely acting to disembodied voices and going through a personal hell, but so far the iMDB doesn’t show that to be the case.
Here's the trailer. It's done well, though doesn't come close to giving the intensity of the film and do it justice.
The other film, which I saw streaming on Netflix (they don't have a DVD available), is a 2016 Spanish thriller The Invisible Guest. It’s like a dark, edgy Agatha Christie short story filled with twists and turns. (There's even a secluded mountain retreat, reachable only by funicular). Much to my surprise, I figured out a few of the twists, but not even close to all, most notably its biggest wallops.
The mystery centers on a very successful, young businessman on trial after having awakened in a locked hotel room next to his murdered lover, With a surprise witness about to be brought to court, he and his lawyer now have only three hours to go over the story again and figure out what's been missed in order to discover who actually killed her, why, and how it was pulled off. The movie (known as Contiempo in the original film). is exceedingly well-done, as it unravels layer after layer, and more memories and surprises keep getting revealed. Yet everything is laid out pretty fairly for the audience. (“Fairly” as in “done with fairness.”) I have to believe someone is smart enough to do a U.S. version. It’s a no-brainer.
Here's the trailer. Honestly, it's not especially good, and if you plan on watching the movie there's no need to check it out. If you're not sure, though, then at least you'll see how stylish the film is.
Two caveats: Don't look up the movie on iMDB because, for some inexplicable reason, there is something there which gives away a bit plot twist. It's subtle, and many may overlook it, but it's not buried away, Also, don't check out any YouTube clips before seeing the movie because -- for an unacceptably egregious reason -- someone posted a clip of the last seven minutes of the film! And after a basic search, it shows up second from the top.
Hillary Clinton has kept a pretty low profile since the 2016 election, most especially in almost never responding to Trump at all, but especially directly. However, when he attacked the credibility of her 3 million-popular vote win due to a deeply-criticized study three years ago, that crossed the line for her...
For the record, and to be completely accurate, the study had 95 participants. (Or as it's also known in academic circles, "a whopping 95 participants.") However, Secretary Clinton is correct that it did use 21 undecided voters. And is correct that the study -- which was not published in a peer-reviewed publication -- has been debunked.
It should also be noted that yesterday Politifact asked Dr. Epstein if he took issue with Trump's assertion about his study. He answered -- "I sure do. I have never said that Google deliberately manipulated the 2016 election."
Last week, there was a lot of news from a "Fox News" poll that showed all of the leading Democratic contenders ahead of Trump. That and some other results were part of Trump's Twitter spewing of how something is wrong with Fox these days.
But there was another number in that same poll that didn't get nearly as much attention, yet I found it even more fascinating. The pollsters questioned people who didn’t like either Trump or Joe Biden and asked which one of these two candidates they didn't like would they vote for in a race between each other. Biden won 43-10.
As remarkable a result as that was, it wasn't what I found the most fascinating. It was wondering how other Democratic candidates who are currently less-favored in the polls than Biden would stake up with the same question. And what I found so fascinating about that was the realization that I think it’s an academic question.
There are two reasons I find it academic. The first is that it's moot that they're less-favored than Biden right now, because whoever gets nominated (if not Biden) will be, without question, significantly better-known as the election nears. Indeed, almost as well-known as Biden is now.
But it's the second point which which I most leaps out and fascinates me. – and it's that this 43-10 number isn’t about Joe Biden. It's entirely about Trump. After all, the question was asked to people who didn’t like Joe Biden – and didn’t like Trump. So, then when asked who they’d vote for between two people they didn’t like, they didn't say, "Well, okay, I like Biden enough to vote for him" -- because they already said they didn't like Biden. So, that means they went for “not Trump.” So, I suspect that whoever the Democratic candidate is, by the time of the election when that person is better known and shown to be 1) sane, 2) not a racist, and 3) not Trump, my guess is that the numbers would be somewhat close to the same 43-10 we see with Biden. Again, that 43-10 number is based on people who DON’T LIKE Biden. But they don’t like Trump more, in fact with a result that significant they seem to hate him. So, it’s almost (almost) academic who the Democratic candidate will be to this “I don’t like either” group.
And in the end, it's those people in the middle who pretty much decide every election. Yes, the poll results that show each of the leading Democratic candidates favored over the Trump is interesting. But that the people in the middle -- and smack in the middle since they're not just undecided, but don't like either -- so heavily favor "not Trump" is, to me, the most fascinating result of all.
If you didn't get to see Last Week Tonight with John Oliver last night, he had an interesting main story on bias in medicine, focusing on gender and racial bias. Some of it historic, much systemic. Like all his pieces, it's pretty funny, though more than that what stood out is how the bias manifests itself and the impact of it all. And like my favorite of his shows, he has a fun twist towards the end. Less grandiose than some of their best, but enjoyable nonetheless.
You've possibly seen this by now. It's a picture of Saturday's town hall held by Rep. Steve King (R-IA). And importantly, no, It is not photoshopped. What you see is what you get -- there is only ONE attendee, Jessica Birch on the left.
Yes, it looks like two people attended, but the other person there on the right is a paid King intern.
One person. And she isn't even a Republican. Ms. Birch is a Democrat, a college student studying public administration who admitted to being hungover but felt it was her civic duty to attend.
There's a wonderful article about it all in the local Iowa paper, the Iowa Starting Line, which you can read here. In it, Ms. Birch says that she apologized later to the six policemen there for security, telling them that she felt bad making them stay there for work because of "someone as rowdy as me." She also comments that she turned down an offer to have a picture taken shaking hands with Rep. King, explaining she plans to run for office some day and didn't want the photo to haunt her.
Does this all mean that Rep. King will lose his race in 2020? After all, he on re-election in the 2018 mid-terms even though his district knew about his latest racist comments that got his committee appointments stripped from him.
There's no easy answer. After all, it's certainly possible he could get re-elected. It's also reasonable to think that NO REPUBLICAN showing up at a town hall is a very bad sign and that something did shift in the zeitgeist this time.
A couple of things suggest such a shift. Having one huge problem that gets you to lose your committee positions can be dismissed by voters as a "one-off." Having a second one is less easy to dismiss. But also, this recent "gaffe" last week could, in part, be seen as a slam at not just the world, but at the people in his own district. "Everybody rapes and has incest" is not a good look from the person you've chosen to select you.
What's worth noting, as well -- Steve King won his race in 2016 by 23 points. But he won in 2018 by only 3 points. Not only is that a very bad direction... but most candidates would try to be on their best behavior under those conditions and not have a new huge scandalous problem to deal with.
But could he get re-elected? Absolutely. Though it would appear less-certain than in the past. Especially considering his 20-point drop in 2018.
And by the way, there's actually even a post-script to this all. You probably thought that Steve King couldn't make the situation worse for himself. But the, You Don't Know Steve King! King is now demanding an apology from the liberal media and from Republican leadership! That's quite a combo. He says that he was (of course...) misquoted about his comments on rape and incest being so commonplace that it wasn't for them, the history of mankind might cease to exist. Mind you, the problem with getting such an "apology" (no seriously, he's demanded one -- from both the liberal press and Republican leadership) is that it was the unedited, in-context VIDEO of his comments that got the most attention.
But clearly, Steve King has never let reality get in the way of pretty much anything he says.
If you’re feeling sluggish today and want to get the juices running, here’s an article which will do the trick. The headline alone should be enough, but the full article will give you a complete fill-up. It centers on a memo uncovered from House leadership to members. It's pretty ghastly, and Republicans are lucky it surface over the weekend and hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. Hopefully it will this. week. As I said, just the headline is plenty to sicken most thinking-people --
“GOP leadership tells House Republicans to lie about white supremacist gun massacres – call it ‘violence from the Left’”
You can read the full article here -- if you can stomach it. For instance, among the things the memo says to lie about (though they don't call it that, but it is) is to tell members to say -- "We also can’t excuse violence from the left such as the El Paso shooter..."
In case you can't remember back two weeks, the El Paso shooter specifically left a document that specifically tied his beliefs to those specifically of Trump. It isn't that there wasn't anything "left" about the shooter, but that it was specifically tied specifically to Trump, specifically.
There are a three very important things of note that must be mentioned to put this in proper perspective -- separate of how if anything demonstrates how empty of values the Republican Party has become, harmful to America and reiterates that this is not about Trump but the elected members of the Republican Party who enable him and are complicit in it all.
First is the most obvious: the is blatant lying. Even if some of the shootings they mention in their memo are not tied to the Republican Party and today's conservative values, pretty much none of the mass shooting massacres have not been related to liberal values of "the left" and, in fact, many of the mass shooting massacres have been.specifically and tied to Trump's words, the far right and white supremacy. Moreover, the memo conveniently leaves out almost all of them.
Second, even putting politics aside -- including ignoring all the specific ties specifically to Trump -- there is one thing all of these shootings and mass shooting massacres have in common. They all involved the usage of guns. Every one of them. Guns. And that is an issue that entirely turns itself to the Republican Party that has not only fought to block any and all gun control laws to help make American society safer, but even passed a law that specifically allowed for severely mentally ill people to own guns. A full 90% of the country supports background checks for all firearms -- yet the Republican Party continues to block all efforts to bring that to reality. Because it's not what the NRA wants. And ultimately, the money donations between the NRA and Republican Party are ties that bind all of these shootings together.
And third, the only impact this memo will have is on the Republican base, because they have shown they will believe almost-literally anything their GOP conservative overlords tell them. Hey,as a starting point, the Republican base believes Trump is a deeply moral and religious man who was elected because of God's will. After you begin with that, you know they'll believe most anything. But however stupid some people may cynically believes most of the rest of Americans are, I think think that that veil of stupidity believes that the mass shooting massacres of blacks, Hispanics, Jews and other minorities is because of liberal violence from "the left." So, this Republican House memo will not only have no impact convincing Americans of its lying point -- but the only serious impact it will have is to further convince those in the undecided Independent middle how craven, dangerous and devoid of trust the Republican Party today has become. The GOP will certainly reinforce their base, which is SO "reinforced" at this point it is immobile, but the Party will continue to put a deep wedge between itself and the rest of America.
This is not about Trump. This -- and in this case, it is specifically "this" -- is about the elected officials of the Republican Party, who enable Trump and are complicit in his divisiveness that is dangerous to America. They actually, specifically do put us all at risk.
So, if at this late date you needed a reason to distrust pretty much anything these days from the Republican, I have a memo for you.
This week's contestant is Chuck Romportl from Hopkins, Minnesota. I was able to get the hidden song pretty quickly. The composer style, though, is in that area of which I generally have to toss a coin, and didn't get it. And in fairness, it's pretty tough. To my shock, the contestant actually guessed the composer style right off -- but didn't get the hidden song. Only on a second go-round, where pianist Bruce Adolphe brought the song out more, did he guess correctly.
On this week's podcast from Al Franken, he begins in his monologue talking about the recent appointment of Pat Pizzella as the acting Secretary of Labor, who Franken says the House should hold hearings on Pizzella’s past. As for the rest of the show, author and Atlantic Monthly staff writer, Franklin Foer joins Al for an interesting conversation about Big Tech.
As Al notes -- The questions asked include "'re filter bubbles dividing us? Is Facebook deliberately keeping us angry and upset? Is everyone's attention span dwindling? Is Google selling records of all your searches? Is the Big One coming? You know – the day everyone who’s ever watched pornography will be revealed to everyone else who’s ever watched pornography?'"
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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