31 May 2017

Funny man in the Senate

Esquire has another article by Charles Pierce, this one about Al Franken:

On a sunny spring afternoon in a Washington apartment downslope from the Capitol, Minnesota's Democratic junior senator, Al Franken, (photo, top) took stock of a busy and, well, strange week during which he made a rare mention of his previous career— a writer-performer for Saturday Night Live— while grilling a former reality television star's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. Having been reelected in a landslide for a second term after squeaking into the Senate through a recount for his first term, Franken, 66, has written a clear-eyed and, yes, frank memoir, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, covering everything from his days at NBC to his emergence as a leader of the loud legislative resistance.
Pierce: I did a profile of John McCain back in 1998, when I joined Esquire, and I talked to Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone, just because I wanted to talk to Wellstone and now I had an excuse. I've never met a guy with so many enthusiasms.
Franken: He had unbelievable energy and heart and intellect. I never really considered running for office until after he died, and I read the first profile of his Republican successor, Norm Coleman, in Roll Call, and Coleman, who's chewing on an unlit cigar with his feet up on his desk, says, "To be very blunt, I am a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone."
Pierce: And, rather than driving up to his house and punching him in the face, you ran against him in 2008.
Franken: Well, I just said "Who's gonna beat this guy?" I didn't necessarily think it was going to be me, but I started talking to my wife and said, "You know, we're gonna be empty nesters. We can move back to Minnesota. . . "
Pierce: When you came to the Senate, you lowered your profile and learned how to be a senator. Was that something you were conscious of having to do?
Franken: Extremely conscious! I had won by just 312 votes! I had a lot to prove. During the campaign— it was a very vicious campaign, which I talk about in the book— they put everything I'd ever done in comedy through the Dehumorizer. And when you rob things of their context— in comedy you use irony, ambiguity, and hyperbole— well, they all look bad when you put 'em through this fifteen million dollar machine with advanced Russian technology. Minnesotans were concerned that I was not there to do a serious job. I remember I went to an economic development meeting, and I see this businessman there who looks pretty damn Republican. The next day, I see him on the plane back to Minneapolis, and he says, "You were a lot better than I thought you'd be." And I said, "Thanks for having such low expectations!"
Pierce: I grew up reading all those Allen Drury books [such as the Pulitzer-prize-winning 1959 novel, Advise and Consent] about how the Senate was this real club that was supposed to be insulated from the passions of the day. That's gone.
Franken: That's totally gone. Part of it is campaign finance, because of Citizens United, and part of it is the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet and where people get their information. It's rougher now. You can't be insulated.
Pierce: Is it working on behalf of your constituents that stops you from becoming a complete cynic and just throwing up your hands?
Franken: It's hard to be cynical when you see people in your state doing great things. You go to a Career Pathways roundtable and everybody's putting their heads together and going, "How do we keep our kids here?" or "How do we also make sure that we keep our businesses supplied with skilled labor?" I don't know what party anyone's in, and I don't care. When you talk to people like that, you go "okay, this is about real stuff."
Pierce: During the Gorsuch hearings, you seemed genuinely angry about Gorsuch's ruling against that truck driver who had been fired for abandoning his broken-down trailer in subzero weather.
Franken: I was very angry, because I knew that Gorsuch wasn't being honest. I said, "What would you have done?" Would you have just stayed there and maybe frozen to death? Or would you do what he did and unhook the trailer, go find a warm spot, warm up, and then come back, and he came back! Everybody in that huge room would've done exactly what the driver did, but Gorsuch said, "Oh, Senator, I don't know what I would've done. I wasn't in his shoes."
Pierce: Neither was the driver at that point.
Franken: Well, he couldn't feel his shoes. Now, I know that was not an honest answer. Gorsuch would've done what everyone would've done, but he didn't want to say that because he had ruled against the guy on something called the plain-meaning rule. I'm not a lawyer, but I've been on the Judiciary Committee for eight years, so I know the exception to the plain-meaning rule: you can't do it if it's an absurd result. And I said that I used to make a living finding absurdity, and this result was absurd.
Pierce: Washington is a target-rich environment on occasion.
Rico says that Esquire used to make fun of Nixon (not that that was hard) by running a picture of him (top) with the caption 'why is this man smiling?' The same could be said of Franken...

Another kids-with-gubs disaster

Esquire has an article by Charles Pierce about more stupid kids with gubs:

On two occasions in the last week, local police officers have been confronted by potentially deadly attempts at what's become known as "suicide by cop", the ploy by which the criminally deranged try to create a threat serious enough for the police to shoot them dead. In Bogue Chitto, Mississippi, a man named Willie Godbolt shot and killed eight people, including a county sheriff's deputy, before being wounded by other police and taken into custody. (Godbolt was sufficiently uninjured to grant a reporter from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger an interview while handcuffed by the side of the road.) On Tuesday night, at Orlando International Airport, Michael Wayne Pettigrew waved what ultimately turned out to be a toy gun at officers who responded to Pettigrew's outburst. "Kill me," Pettigrew reportedly shouted at the police, who did not oblige him, but negotiated their way out of the stand-off without anyone's being shot by anyone else.
Except in very extreme circumstances, suicide by cop should never work. Good solid police procedure should always prevail, as it did in these two situations. Godbolt, who'd already killed eight people, was rendered incapacitated, but just enough to be placed in custody, and Pettigrew was talked down from what appears to have been a mental breakdown. All of the police involved in these two incidents deserve as much praise as we can give them for exemplary public service. The two suspects now will face the legal consequences of their crimes, Godbolt's being obviously more serious than Pettigrew. Suicide by cop shares one characteristic with murder by cop: It usually only happens when procedure breaks down out of panic, or impatience, or, in far too many cases, racial animus.
Which brings us back to Cleveland, Ohio, and the little gazebo in the playground where a twelve-year-old named Tamir Rice was killed by a cop who'd rolled up on him three seconds earlier. Like Michael Wayne Pettigrew, Rice had a toy gun. Unlike Michael Wayne Pettigrew, Tamir Rice is dead. On Tuesday, the Cleveland police officer who killed Rice, an incompetent rookie named Timothy Loehmann, was fired from the force, not because he played Wyatt Earp on a twelve-year old, but because he was as bad at paperwork as he was at policing. I am not joking about this. From Cleveland.com:
Tamir's mother promptly responded that the punishment was not enough. You see now-former officer Timothy Loehmann wasn't fired for shooting Tamir. The rookie officer was fired for not being completely forthcoming on his application to become a police officer. Samaria Rice said she was relieved, but not satisfied. She thought the firing should have come as a proximate result of the actions that led to her son's death. She also said Loehmann's training officer, Frank Garmback, should have been fired for his role in the events that led to the fatal shooting. Garmback was censured for driving the police cruiser too close to Tamir, forcing Loehmann's hand.
Right on cue, and because there are very few more sadly predictable figures in public life than the heads of police unions, Steve Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, expressed outrage that these two fine officers had been punished at all. From Cleveland.com:
"We have maintained from the outset that the death of Tamir Rice was, and is, tragic, but, as the decision-makers in this city know full well, his death was not caused by any failures of Officers Garmback or Loehmann," Loomis' statement says. "Both our officers reacted to the events that unfortunately unfolded before them. This is why Officer Loehmann was not charged criminally or with a single rule, policy, or training violation."
(Actually, Loehmann wasn't charged because the Cuyahoga County prosecutor did everything he could to avoid doing so, and was rewarded by having his ass thrown out of office at the next election.)
The best refutation of what Loomis said comes in the fact that Willie Godbolt and Michael Wayne Pettigrew are still alive today. They are alive because the police who confronted them managed to stay cool and professional enough to follow their procedure and rely on what they were trained to do. They are alive because good cops declined their open invitation to kill them. Tamir Rice should have been so lucky.
Rico says the parents should do jail time for this...

The Earth, farting

Adam Clark Estes has a Gizmodo article about an unusual phenomenon:

When thing go wrong underground, we’re often reminded that the Earth is nothing but a big ball of hot rocks, covered in a delicate skin of smaller, slightly cooler rocks. That became clear on Monday, when an underground water pipe exploded in Kiev in the Ukraine. It actually looked kinda hilarious.
The explosion sent water, mud, and debris as high as seven stories, but, luckily, the only things that got hurt in the incident were some nearby cars, the neighboring building, and, well, the Earth’s thin skin. Workers who had installed the pipe still don’t know the cause of the explosion, but it’s highly possible that Earth was just feeling a little gassy.
Rico says that, given the high order of materials and workmanship in the Ukraine, don't blame the Earth for this one...

Dumb clothing move

Esquire has an article by Christine Flammia about clothing that Rico won't be wearing (nor you, if you're smart):

There's a lot to thank the bros for in terms of modern menswear. They've brought us boat shoes and fleece vests. They've embraced body confidence in five-inch-inseam shorts. They've even made us rethink what it means to wear a classic gingham shirt. But today, in what might possibly be the bro-iest style move in all of bro style, a new brand launched on Kickstarter that might change the face of menswear: the RompHim.
Here's what the experts think of your BroRomper:
No, it's not a romper. It's a romphim. Well, actually, it is a romper, but it's made for dudes. Let's be clear here: we happily invite all people to wear whatever it is that makes them feel like themselves, gender labels be damned. But as a woman who is decidedly anti-romper of any sort, I'm not sure this is a train I'd recommend anybody hopping aboard. Do you have any idea how hard it is to pee in those things? (Okay, fine; this one has a zipper fly. But this is still very dangerous territory.)
From what we can gather from its page on Kickstarter, it's positioned to be the next big thing in frat and post-frat culture. The bros are shot in their natural habitats— drinking beers, going to Coachella, etc.— and in colors close to their hearts. Think pastels, youthful prints, and at least one "America!" riff on the style.
Take a look at a guy wearing them at Wrigley Field:

Rico says you gotta be brave to wear them anywhere, but a baseball game may be dangerous...

30 May 2017

Trumpcare doesn't

Slate has an article by Ben Mathis-Lilley about the replacement (such as it is) for Obamacare:

One of the ways that the Trump administration and House Republican leaders won key conservative members' votes for the American Health Care Act was by adding a provision that would allow states to waive Obamacare regulations limiting how much insurers can charge individuals with pre-existing conditions. Republicans insisted that a different provision in the bill— funding for "high-risk pools"— would ensure that no one with such a condition would lose coverage under their plan. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office review of the bill released Wednesday afternoon says otherwise. Here's the money quote regarding what's projected to happen in states that waive the Obamacare rules:
... as a consequence, the waivers in those states would have another effect: community-rated premiums would rise over time, and people who are less healthy (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all, despite the additional funding that would be available under H.R. 1628 to help reduce premiums. As a result, the non-group markets in those states would become unstable for people with higher-than-average expected health care costs. That instability would cause some people who would have been insured in the non-group market under current law to be uninsured.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that one-sixth of the US population lives in states where the situation described above would play out.
Rico says he has a pre-existing condition, and Trump won't make it any easier... (But, then, his healthcare is paid for by all of us...)

Pope disses Trump

Slate has an article by Osita Nwanevu about the Pope's view of Trump:

President Trump's first foreign jaunt brought him to the Vatican on Wednesday morning. His Holiness Pope FrancisBishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God— was pissed. Just look at him.
Rico says that, when Francis doesn't like you, you must be a dickhead... (but, then, we knew that.)

Another rat off the ship

The New York Times has an article by Jonathan Weisman and Maggie Haberman about Michael Dubke:

A long-promised shake-up of the White House staff began on Tuesday with the resignation of the White House’s communications director, Michael Dubke (photo).
In a note to colleagues, Dubke said the reasons for his departure were “personal. But it has been my great honor to serve President Trump and his administration. It has also been my distinct pleasure to work side by side, day by day, with the staff of the communications and press depts. This White House is filled with some of the finest and hardest working men and women in the American government,” he wrote in his letter.
Dubke was on the job three months. His departure could be the first of many in the media offices of the White House.
Rico says he has no idea why anyone would work for Trump...

More Kushner

The Washington Post has another 'exceeds Rico's quota' article by Ellen Nakashima about Jared the Doofus Son-in-Law:

The Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner (photo, center) wanted a secret communications channel with the KremlinSergey Kislyak’s account of the meeting was captured by American intelligence.

But three reporters have an article in The New York Times about it:
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was looking for a direct line to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a search that, in mid-December, found him in a room with a Russian banker whose financial institution was deeply intertwined with Russian intelligence, and remains under sanction by the United States.
Federal and congressional investigators are now examining what exactly Kushner and the Russian banker, Sergey N. Gorkov, wanted from each other. The banker is a close associate of Putin, but he has not been known to play a diplomatic role for the Russian leader. That has raised questions about why he was meeting with Kushner at a crucial moment in the presidential transition, according to current and former officials familiar with the investigations.
The New York Times first reported the meeting between Kushner and Gorkov in March of 2017, but the White House at the time did not explain its aim. That article quoted a White House spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, who said that the meeting came at the request of the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, with whom Kushner had met earlier in December at Trump Tower to discuss opening a communications channel with Russian officials during the presidential transition.
But the half-hour meeting with Gorkov has since come under increasing scrutiny. The current and former American officials now say it may have been part of an effort by Kushner to establish a direct line to Putin outside established diplomatic channels.
The meeting came as Trump was openly feuding with American intelligence agencies and their conclusion that Russia had tried to disrupt the presidential election and turn it in his favor.
The Senate Intelligence Committee notified the White House in March of 2017 that it planned to question Kushner about the meeting.
On Friday, citing American officials briefed on intelligence reports, The Washington Post reported that Kislyak told his superiors in Moscow that Kushner had proposed a secret channel and had suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for communications. The White House has not denied the Post report, which specified that Russian communication centers at an embassy or consulate in the United States were discussed as hosts for the secure channel.
It is not clear whether Kushner saw the Russian banker as someone who could be repeatedly used as a go-between, or whether the meeting with Gorkov was designed to establish a direct, secure communications line to Putin.
The reasons the parties wanted a communications channel, and for how long they sought it, are also unclear. Several people with knowledge of the meeting with Kislyak, and who defended it, have said it was primarily to discuss how the United States and Russia could cooperate to end the civil war in Syria and on other policy issues. They also said the secure channel, in part, sought to connect Michael T. Flynn, a campaign adviser who became Trump’s first national security adviser, and military officials in Moscow.
Flynn attended the meeting at Trump Tower with Kislyak.
Yet one current and one former American official with knowledge of the continuing congressional and FBI investigations said they were examining whether the channel was meant to remain open, and if there were other items on the meeting’s agenda, including lifting sanctions that the Obama administration had imposed on Russia in response to Moscow’s annexation of the Crimea and its aggression in the Ukraine.
During the Trump administration’s first week, administration officials said they were considering an executive order to unilaterally lift the sanctions, which bar Americans from providing financing to and could limit borrowing from Gorkov’s bank, Vnesheconombank. Removing the sanctions would have greatly expanded the bank’s ability to do business in the United States.
In a statement, Hicks said that “Kushner was acting in his capacity as a transition official” in meeting with the Russians. Kushner has agreed to be interviewed by congressional investigators about the meetings, she said.
In March of 2017, Gorkov said in a statement that his December 2016 meeting with Kushner was part of the bank’s strategy to discuss promising trends and sectors with influential financial institutions in Europe, Asia, and the United States. That statement said he met with representatives of “business circles of the US, including with the head of Kushner Companies, Jared Kushner.” At the time, Kushner was still running the company, which is his family’s real estate business.
Vnesheconombank has not responded to questions about which other financial institutions and business leaders Gorkov met with while in the United States.
Trying to set up secret communications with Putin in the weeks after the election would not be illegal. Still, it is highly unusual to try to establish channels with a foreign leader that did not rely on the government’s own communications, which are secure and allow for a record of contacts to be created.
But the Trump transition was unique in its unwillingness to use the government’s communications lines and briefing material for its dealings with many foreign governments, partly because of concern that Obama administration officials might be monitoring the calls.
In addition, Kushner disclosed none of his contacts with Russian or any other foreign officials when he applied for his security clearance in January of 2017. He later amended the form to include several meetings, including those with Kislyak and Gorkov, but it is unclear whether he told the investigators who conducted his background check about the attempts to set up a back channel. His aides have said his omissions from the clearance form were accidental.
The meeting with Gorkov is now being scrutinized by the FBI as part of its investigation into alleged Russian attempts to disrupt last year’s presidential campaign, and whether any of Trump’s advisers assisted in such efforts.
His bank is controlled by members of Putin’s government, including Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev. It also has long been intertwined with Putin’s inner circle: it has been used by the Russian government to bail out oligarchs close to Putin, and has helped fund the Russian president’s pet projects, such as the Winter Olympics in Sochi in the Crimea in 2014.
Vnesheconombank has also been used by Russian intelligence to plant spies in the United States. In March of 2016, an agent of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR., who was caught posing as an employee of the bank in New York City, pleaded guilty to spying against the United States.
The spy, said Preet Bharara, then the United States attorney in Manhattan, was under “the guise of being a legitimate banker, gathered intelligence as an agent of the Russian Federation in New York.”
Gorkov is a graduate of the academy of the Federal Security Service of Russia, a training ground for Russian spies. Though current and former Americans said it was unlikely that Gorkov is an active member of Russian intelligence, they said his past ties to the security services in Moscow were a reason he was put in charge of the bank.
In March, both CNN and the Post columnist David Ignatius reported that Kushner had met with Gorkov because he wanted the most direct possible contact with Putin.
But days earlier, responding to questions from The Times about the meetings with Kislyak and Gorkov, Hicks said the meetings were part of an effort by Kushner to improve relations between the United States and Russia, and to identify areas of possible cooperation.
 Rico says the guy's gotta be an embarrassment to all sides...

No laptops? Whatever will people do?

The BBC has an article about an extended ban on flying with laptops:

American authorities are still considering banning laptops from cabin baggage on all international flights, the head of Homeland Security, John Kelley (photo) says. He said there was a real threat and terrorists were "obsessed" with the idea of knocking down a US plane.
The US already has a ban on laptops on flights to and from eight mostly-Muslim countries. Two weeks ago, officials decided not to extend that ban to flights between the US and EU countries.
But Kelly's comments cast doubt over that decision.
The measure was introduced over fears a bomb could be concealed in a device.
Kelly was speaking on the breakfast program Fox News Sunday about efforts to combat terrorism after Monday's bomb attack in the UK.
When the host asked him if he would ban laptops from all international flights, he answered: "I might. We're still following intelligence," he continued. "It is a real sophisticated threat and I reserve that decision until we see where it's going."
The US restrictions, introduced in March, apply to devices "larger than a smartphone". They are not allowed in the cabins of flights from Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. The UK issued similar rules for flights from six countries.
But air travel safety experts warn there is a greater risk of lithium battery fires going unchecked if large electronic items are left in the hold.
Rico says people will have to go back to reading... (And adding fire suppression in the holds ain't that expensive...

History for the day: 1953: Hillary and Tenzing reach Everest summit

At 1130 on May 29 1953, Edmund Hillary (photo, above, left) of New Zealand and Tenzing Norgay, (photo, above, right) a Sherpa of Nepal, become the first explorers to reach the summit of Mount Everest, (photo, top), which, at 29,035 feet above sea level, is the highest point on Earth. The two, part of a British expedition, made their final assault on the summit after spending a fitful night at 27,900 feet. News of their achievement broke around the world on 2 June 1953, the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, and Britons hailed it as a good omen for their country’s future.
Mount Everest sits on the crest of the Great Himalayas in Asia, lying on the border between Nepal and Tibet. Called Chomo-Lungma, or Mother Goddess of the Land, by Tibetans, the English named the mountain after Sir George Everest, a nineteenth-century British surveyor of South Asia. The summit of Everest reaches two-thirds of the way through the air of the earth’s atmosphere, at about the cruising altitude of jet airliners, and oxygen levels there are very low, temperatures are extremely cold, and weather is unpredictable and dangerous.
The first recorded attempt to climb Everest was made in 1921 by a British expedition that trekked four hundred difficult miles across the Tibetan plateau to the foot of the great mountain. A raging storm forced them to abort their ascent, but the mountaineers, among them George Leigh Mallory, had seen what appeared to be a feasible route up the peak. It was Mallory who quipped when later asked by a journalist why he wanted to climb Everest: “Because it’s there.”
A second British expedition, featuring Mallory, returned in 1922, and climbers George Finch and Geoffrey Bruce reached a height of more than 27,000 feet. In another attempt made by Mallory that year, seven Sherpa porters were killed in an avalanche. (The Sherpas, native to the Khumbu region, have long played an essential support role in Himalayan climbs and treks because of their strength and ability to endure high altitudes.) In 1924, a third Everest expedition was launched by the British, and climber Edward Norton reached an elevation of 28,128 feet, nine hundred vertical feet short of the summit, without using artificial oxygen. Four days later, Mallory and Andrew Irvine launched a summit assault and were never seen alive again. In 1999, Mallory’s largely preserved body was found high on Everest, having suffered numerous broken bones in a fall. Whether or not he or Irvine reached the summit remains a mystery.
Several more unsuccessful summit attempts were made via Tibet’s Northeast Ridge route, but, after World War Two, Tibet was closed to foreigners. In 1949, Nepal opened its door to the outside world, and in 1950 and 1951 British expeditions made exploratory climbs up the Southeast Ridge route. In 1952, a Swiss expedition navigated the treacherous Khumbu Icefall in the first real summit attempt. Two climbers, Raymond Lambert and Tenzing Norgay, reached 28,210 feet, just below the South Summit, but had to turn back for want of supplies.
Shocked by the near-success of the Swiss expedition, a large British expedition was organized for 1953 under the command of Colonel John Hunt. In addition to the best British climbers and such highly experienced Sherpas as Tenzing Norgay, the expedition enlisted talent from the British Commonwealth, such as New Zealanders George Lowe and Edmund Hillary, the latter of whom worked as a beekeeper when not climbing mountains. Members of the expedition were equipped with specially insulated boots and clothing, portable radio equipment, and open- and closed-circuit oxygen systems.
Setting up a series of camps, the expedition pushed its way up the mountain in April and May of 1953. A new passage was forged through the Khumbu Icefall, and the climbers made their way up the Western Cwm, across the Lhotse Face, and to the South Col, at about 26,000 feet. On 26 May, Charles Evans and Tom Bourdillon launched the first assault on the summit and came within three hundred feet of the top of Everest before having to turn back because one of their oxygen sets was malfunctioning.
On 28 May, Tenzing and Hillary set out, setting up high camp at 27,900 feet. After a freezing, sleepless night, the pair plodded on, reaching the South Summit by 0900 and a steep rocky step, some forty feet high, about an hour later. Wedging himself in a crack in the face, Hillary inched himself up what was thereafter known as the Hillary Step. Hillary threw down a rope, and Norgay followed. At about 1130, the climbers arrived at the top of the world.
News of the success was rushed by runner from the expedition’s base camp to the radio post at Namche Bazar, and then sent by coded message to London, England, where Queen Elizabeth II learned of the achievement on 1 June, the eve of her coronation. The next day, the news broke around the world. Later that year, Hillary and Hunt were knighted by the Queen. Norgay, because he was not a citizen of a Commonwealth nation, received the lesser British Empire Medal.
Since Hillary and Norgay’s historic climb, numerous expeditions have made their way up to Everest’s summit. In 1960, a Chinese expedition was the first to conquer the mountain from the Tibetan side, and, in 1963, James Whittaker became the first American to summit Everest. In 1975, Tabei Junko of Japan became the first woman to reach the summit. Three years later, Reinhold Messner of Italy and Peter Habeler of Austria achieved what had been previously thought impossible: climbing to the Everest summit without oxygen. Nearly two hundred climbers have died attempting to summit the mountain. A major tragedy occurred in 1996 when eight climbers from various nations died after being caught in a blizzard high on the slopes.

Rico says another feat he won't be attempting...

Nobody looks good at 3am

Tiger Woods got busted for drunk driving:

Rico says the guy's rich enough to have his own driver, or take an Uber to anywhere, so that was stupid...

Indicting a President

From The New York Times, an article by Adam Liptak about Trump:
A Constitutional Puzzle: Can the President be indicted?The Constitution includes detailed instructions for impeachment. But there's no clear answer on whether a President may be criminally prosecuted.
Rico says let's hope so... (Nixon got indicted, but not before he resigned.)

Religious rocks

From The Washington Times, an article by Bradford Richardson about squabbling over rocks:

A creationist wants rocks to study. The Grand Canyon says no.
A lawsuit by a creationist geologist brings to light a dispute between science and religion at Grand Canyon National Park:
A geologist is accusing the Federal government in a lawsuit of barring his research in the Grand Canyon because of his biblical beliefs, which religious liberty advocates cite as part of a growing trend of persecution against Christians who try to live their faith in public.
Andrew Snelling holds a doctorate in geology from the University of Sydney and has conducted previous research at the site. His lawsuit claims that park officials have blocked his research efforts for more than three years because of his faith.
“The government isn’t allowed to discriminate against someone based on their viewpoint, and National Park officials have absolutely no legal justification in stopping a scientist from conducting research simply because they don’t agree with his views,” said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the lawsuit last week on behalf of Snelling. “Using someone’s views to screen them for a government benefit is unconstitutional.”
The alliance filed the lawsuit against the Interior Department, the National Park Service, and Grand Canyon National Park, which have not issued statements about the lawsuit or the geologist’s research.
Kelly Shackelford, president and CEO of the First Liberty Institute, pointed to cases of football coaches barred from prayer and Christian bakers forced to violate their beliefs by providing cakes for same-sex weddings.
“Attacks on religious freedom, in all areas, are much greater than they used to be,” he said.
Rico says that, since the age of the rocks would obviate the Christian timeline of history, fuck him...

Quote for the day

From The New York Times:

"I looked over and said, 'Oh, a bloody shark.'"

Terry Selwood, fishing for snapper in Australia when a five-hundred-pound, nearly nine-foot-long Great White jumped into his boat, hitting him in the arm and knocking him over.

Star Wars, racist?

George Takei shuts down racist criticism of the new ‘Star Trek’ series in a Washington Post article by Avi Selk:

George Takei (photo) was first cast in Star Trek two decades after World War Two, when American racism against his Japanese ancestry still burned strong.
Takei is also gay, and he played Lieutenant Sulu, revealed to be gay last year, fifty years into a series that has always celebrated diversity in its cast and stories, as Michael Cavna noted in The Washington Post.
So who better than Takei to respond to a spate of racist and race-tinged criticism that greeted a trailer for the series’ new installment, Star Trek: Discovery, featuring high-ranking black and Asian officers, some of them women, to boot.
MSNBC interviewed Takei on Sunday to get his take, probably knowing that, aside from his Trekkie history, the actor has loudly protested Hollywood’s history of “whitewashing” American entertainment.
“People are finding the time to hate on Star Trek for having diversity,” host Joy Reid prompted. “What?”
“Well, you know, in this society, we have alien life-forms that we call trolls,” Takei replied. He explained: “And these trolls carry on without knowing what they’re talking about and knowing even less about the history of what they’re talking about. And some of these trolls go on to be presidents of nations.”
Yeah, Takei was going to bring alien analogies and President Trump into this space fight.
The president actually hadn’t said anything about the new show, at least not in public. But Takei is no fan of Trump. He even wrote for The Post last year about how Trump’s threats to ban Muslims from the United States recalled the Japanese internments through which his family suffered during World War Two, which came up again on MSNBC.
“These people claiming Star Trek is racist genocide, or whatever, ‘white genocide‘, don’t know what they’re talking about,” Takei said. “They’re equal to the president of the United States.”
Discovery actually features plenty of white, male characters, enough that some fans were criticizing it for not being diverse enough, before the trailer brought on the troll attack.
As Metro noted, the series’ casts have always looked more diverse than those of most contemporary shows: from the 1960s-era run with Takei and a black female lieutenant, to later installments where a woman and a black man commanded star ships (as Michelle Yeoh will in Discovery).
Not all the critics of appearances by Yeoh and Sonequa Martin-Green (as the captain’s first officer) in the trailer resorted to racism.
Rico says the guy's still looking good, and diversity is what America is all about...

More Trump

The Washington Post has an article (you read it there; Rico's run out of his quota) by Phillip Rucker about Trump and his consumption (or not) of intelligence:

Rico says that Trump is supposedly an intelligent man; Rico reserves his opinion until Trump's (hopefully just four years) term is up...

Memorial Day 2017

Rico's old buddy Tyner, a former Marine, resplendant:

27 May 2017

More Kushner

The New Yorker has an article by Evan Osnos about Jared Kushner's latest:

When The Washington Post reported that the FBI is investigating Jared Kushner’s meetings with Russian visitors, the news thrust the Russia probe to a new level of proximity to President Trump, reaching above former campaign aides to encompass the President’s close adviser and son-in-law. The news also reminded me of an odd episode that highlights how Kushner (photo) and the White House have struggled to clarify the nature of his Russian contacts.
In February 2017, not long after the national-security adviser, Mike Flynn, resigned for lying about his conversations with Russia’s Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, I heard from sources that the two men had also had a meeting with Kushner. If any of that were true, I realized, it was news; there had not been any reported contact between Kushner and a Russian official, and Flynn’s dealings within the Administration were now of obvious importance. On 23 February, I asked a senior White House official if the three had met. The official would check with Kushner, I was told. A few hours later, the official called back. “My understanding from Jared is that he met with Sergey alone and just for a few minutes,” the official said. I double-checked with the official about Flynn. Was he there, too? No, the official said. “It was a very, very brief meeting to get a sense of what Sergey’s role was and who he was in contact with in Moscow.” In any case, the official had confirmed that Kushner had met with Kislyak, and I included that in a story I co-authored with David Remnick and Joshua Yaffa, published on 24 February.
There was more to the story, however. On 2 March, the Times reported that Flynn did, in fact, attend Kushner’s meeting with the ambassador. The next day, I called the senior White House official and asked about the denial that Flynn was there. The official took responsibility for the mistake, saying that it was a failure to nail down the details. Kushner would not talk to me, so there was no way to learn more about what he had told his colleague.
Why does any of this matter? Because the White House’s multiple mistakes in describing Kushner’s Russian contacts are now a matter of interest to investigators. Nobody who reports in Washington is stunned when an administration—any administration—tells you something that’s not quite right. But this is not an attempt to puff up the impact of a policy, or an effort to downplay a flawed initiative. These are misstatements of verifiable facts. Last month, the Times reported that, in filling out his security-clearance forms, Kushner omitted two meetings with Russian visitors— the encounter with Kislyak and a meeting with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, a state-owned bank that has been subject to US sanctions. An attorney for Kushner has said that he had offered to amend the forms once the errors were discovered.
Until recently, Kushner’s ties to the Russia investigation had been a low-grade, if recurring, problem for the White House. Kushner had reportedly defended Flynn, long after other advisers determined that he had done damage to the White House. Other stories depicted Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist, as concerned about Kushner’s contact with Russians.
There is still much to be learned about why Kushner has become a “significant focus” of the investigation. Is the FBI looking at his role in possible co√∂rdination between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. or in efforts to cover that up? Or any link to improper financial dealings with Russian-backed businesses? All of those prospects have been mentioned in reporting on the growing Russia probe.
Kushner, who rarely speaks in public, has volunteered to speak to congressional committees that are looking into Russian interference. His lawyer has said that Kushner will speak to law-enforcement investigators as well, if he is asked to do so. Hearing from the President’s son-in-law directly may well clear things up, or muddy them further.
Rico says this is going to make trouble for Trump for years...

History for the day: 1941: The Royal Navy sinks the Bismarck

A dark day for the German Navy, but a brilliant one for the Royal Navy:

On 27 May 1941, the British navy sank the German battleship Bismarck in the North Atlantic near France. The German death toll was more than two thousand sailors.On 14 February 1939, the 823-foot Bismarck was launched at Hamburg, Germany. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler hoped that the state-of-the-art battleship would herald the rebirth of the German surface battle fleet. However, after the outbreak of war, Britain closely guarded ocean routes from Germany to the Atlantic Ocean, and only U-boats moved freely through the war zone.In May of 1941, the order was given for the Bismarck to break out into the Atlantic. Once in the safety of the open ocean, the battleship would be almost impossible to track down, all the while wreaking havoc on Allied convoys to Britain. Learning of its movement, Britain sent almost the entire British Home Fleet in pursuit. On 24 May, the British battle cruiser Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales intercepted it near Iceland. In a ferocious battle, the Hood exploded and sank, and all but three of its 1,421 crewmen were killed. The Bismarck escaped but, because it was leaking fuel, it fled for occupied France. On 26 May, it was sighted and crippled by British aircraft, and, on 27 May, three British warships descended on the Bismarck and finished it off.
Rico says a touch of hubris was the real cause...

Trump and Russia

The New York Times has an article by Matt Apuzzo, with Emmarie Huetteman, Matthew Rosenberg, and Mark Mazzetti contributing reporting, about testimony damning Trump:

John O. Brennan (photo), the former CIA director, described a nerve-fraying few months last year, as American authorities realized that the presidential election was under attack and feared that Donald J. Trump’s campaign might be aiding that fight.
Brennan, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned by a series of suspicious contacts between Russian government officials and Trump’s associates. The CIA learned about those meetings just as it was beginning to grapple with Russian hackers and propagandists trying to manipulate the presidential race.
His remarks were the fullest public account to date of the origins of an FBI investigation that continues to shadow the Trump administration.
“I know what the Russians try to do,” Brennan said. “They try to suborn individuals and try to get individuals, including American individuals, to act on their behalf, wittingly or unwittingly.”
When he left his post in January, he said that “I had unresolved questions in my mind as to whether or not the Russians had been successful in getting US persons involved in the campaign or not to work on their behalf.”
Brennan acknowledged that he did not know whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives, and said the contacts might have been benign.
American intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, tried to damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and help Trump. On 4 August 2017, as evidence of that campaign mounted, Brennan warned Alexander V. Bortnikov, the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, not to meddle in the election. Not only would such interference damage relations between the countries, he said, but it was also certain to backfire. “I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,” Brennan said. “I said American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in the election.”
Brennan’s prediction proved inaccurate. Though intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered in the election, it has become a divisive partisan issue, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to accept the conclusion. Trump has declared that “Russia is fake news” and has tried to undermine the conclusions of his own intelligence services.
He has also tried repeatedly to beat back news reports about his campaign’s ties to Russia. White House officials tried to enlist the FBI and C.I.A. to dispute stories early this year. Then, after the F.B.I. publicly confirmed its investigation, Mr. Trump asked Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, and Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, to publicly deny any collusion between Russia and his campaign, according to two former American officials. The Washington Post first reported Mr. Trump’s entreaties.
On the day of the FBI’s confirmation, a call from the White House switchboard came in to Coats’ office with a request to speak to the director, a former intelligence official said. Calls from the switchboard are usually from the highest-ranking officials at the White House — the President, the Vice President, or the National Security Adviser.
Coats took the call, but would not confirm what was discussed. Coats, who testified on Tuesday in a separate congressional hearing, declined to discuss his conversations with the president.
The White House regarded Brennan’s testimony as the latest example of a former official from the Obama administration describing great concern, but offering no public proof of wrongdoing.
“This morning’s hearings back up what we’ve been saying all along: that despite a year of investigation, there is still no evidence of any Russia-Trump campaign collusion,” the White House said in a statement.
During the campaign, a spokeswoman for Trump declared that “there was no communication” with foreign entities. In January, Vice President Mike Pence flatly denied that there had been any contacts with Russians. Journalists have since reported repeated undisclosed meetings with Russians. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, was forced to resign over misstatements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak.
A Justice Department special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is investigating whether any collusion took place. A grand jury in Northern Virginia has issued subpoenas for information related to Flynn’s lobbying and businesses. That investigation is separate from multiple congressional investigations into Russian meddling. Flynn has declined to be interviewed or provide documents to Congress, citing his constitutional right not to incriminate himself.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued subpoenas for documents from two businesses owned by FlynnFlynn Intel LLC and Flynn Intel Inc.— escalating efforts to learn more about his potential business ties to Russia.
Senator Richard M. Burr, a Republican from North Carolina and the committee’s chairman, left open the possibility of holding Flynn in contempt of Congress.
“At the end of that option is a contempt charge,” he told reporters on Capitol Hill. “And I’ve said that everything is on the table.” But the committee’s members are not ready to take that step, Burr said, adding that they want to give Flynn the opportunity he requested to tell his story.
During his testimony, Brennan described Russia’s efforts around the world to use politicians to further Moscow’s objectives. “I certainly was concerned that they were practicing the same types of activities here in the United States,” he said. He added that American targets were often unwitting in such efforts. “Frequently, people who go along a treasonous path do not know they are on a treasonous path until it is too late,” he said.
In late July, officials established a group of NSA, CIA, and FBI officials to investigate the election interference. The information was tightly held, and the FBI took the lead on investigating potential collusion, Brennan said. “I made sure that anything that was involving U.S. persons, including anything involving the individuals involved in the Trump campaign, was shared with the bureau,” he said.
That investigation was on Trump’s mind this month when he fired James B. Comey, the FBI director, the president has said. And the next day, Trump told Russian officials during an Oval Office meeting that firing Comey had eased pressure on him. Such comments, in addition to Trump’s efforts to publicly undermine the FBI investigation, have fueled suspicion among Democrats and some Republicans that Trump is trying to obstruct the case.
Brennan said Russia was trying to capitalize on the turmoil in Washington. “Even though the election is over,” he said, “I think Putin and Russian intelligence services are trying to actively exploit what is going on now in Washington to their benefit and to our detriment.”
Rico says this is far from over...

24 May 2017


Rico says it's still one of the best Westerns and (obviously) one of his favorites:

Badass, thy name is Eastwood

The most badass scene in movie history:

From A Fistful of Dollars, directed by Sergio Leone in 1964. The actor is Clint Eastwood.

Savaging Trump

Various actors have had their moments doing Trump:

Rico says the guy's a target for savagery, even from the normally-polite Finns and the Dutch...

Outcarving Mount Rushmore

The BBC has an article about the Ziolkowski family's massive work in the Black Hills:

For seventy years, the Ziolkowski family has been carving a sculpture out of South Dakota’s Black Hills that will be nearly ten times larger than Mount RushmoreMount Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial are located just seventeen miles apart.
Dirty patches of snow dotted the roadside as we drove the winding route through the evergreen forests of south-western South Dakota, the van rattling despite the sedate pace. A late afternoon chill travelled through me as we reached the top, stepping out of the van and into mud that sloshed beneath our feet.
“I believe in first impressions,” my guide, Matt, said, “so don’t turn around until we get out to the wrist.” We walked on. Around me, mountains rose and hills rolled in the afternoon light. The dense pine forest extended for miles, set against a cerulean sky that peeked out from behind slate-colored clouds. “Okay,” he said, “turn around.”
I turned and looked up, higher and higher, at the ninety-foot-tall face of nineteenth-century Lakota leader Crazy Horse emerging (photo) from the granite slope of the mountain. His gaze extended past where I stood, on the protruding ledge that will one day become his arm, and out over the rugged Black Hills.
In the Black Hills of South Dakota are two impressive monuments to great men in American history: Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Crazy Horse Memorial, located seventeen miles apart. Both sculptures remain unfinished, but only one stands to be completed.
When Korczak Ziolkowski first arrived in South Dakota in 1939 to help carve Mount Rushmore, he had no idea that his family’s legacy would in fact unfold just a few miles away. For years, Lakota chief Henry Standing Bear had been on a mission to see a monument to American Indians erected in the Black Hills, land that the Lakota considered sacred and wrongfully taken from them. When workers began sculpting Mount Rushmore in 1927, it spurred the Lakota elders to pursue a mountain carving of their own.
“My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes also,” Standing Bear wrote to Ziolkowski at the start of the 1940s.
The hero Standing Bear had in mind was his cousin Crazy Horse, the Oglala Lakota leader who had fought in the Great Sioux War against the US government over ownership of the Black Hills. Crazy Horse had helped defeat General George Custer and his cavalry in 1876 at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in southern Montana, a battle that went down in history as Custer’s Last Stand.
Though the project resonated with Ziolkowski, he did not immediately commit. He instead returned home to Connecticut before volunteering for service in World War Two, eventually participating in the invasion of Normandy, landing on Omaha Beach.
But when the war ended, Ziolkowski turned down offers to build war memorials in Europe, returning instead to the Black Hills on 3 May 1947 to begin what would be his last sculpture, that of Crazy Horse. Standing nearly six hundred feet high, the sculpture will be the largest mountain carving in the world. By comparison, the heads of Mount Rushmore each measure sixty feet tall.
Standing on the outcropping that is slowly becoming  an arm, I zoomed in on the granite horseshoe-shaped pupil of Crazy Horse’s left eye and snapped another photo. So far, only his face has fully materialized, but, when completed, the gigantic sculpture will depict Crazy Horse, his hair streaming in the wind as he sits atop his horse pointing out over his lands.
“So, how did you find us?” Matt asked.
“I came here to see this,” I replied.
“Really?” he said. “You’d be surprised how many people have no idea we’re here. They see us from the road on their way to Mount Rushmore and stop.”
I wasn’t surprised. The Crazy Horse Memorial receives roughly one-third the visitors each year that Mount Rushmore does. Some of the disparity is likely due to the cost of admittance; up to $28 per car as opposed to a $10 parking fee at Mount Rushmore. To avoid the fate of Mount Rushmore, which was never completed after government funding dried up, Ziolkowski decided that the Crazy Horse Memorial would be privately funded by admissions and donations.
More than one person I had spoken to in diners and at rest stops en route from California had been amazed to learn of the mere existence of the enormous memorial. If anything surprised me, it was that something so immense could remain a secret.
Korczak decided that, if he was going to give his life doing this, it might as well be something big
“[Korczak] decided that if [he was] going to give [his] life doing this, it might as well be something big,” explained Mike Morgan, the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation’s vice president of media, marketing and public relations, and a 40-year veteran of the project.
But the concept of ‘big’ at the Crazy Horse Memorial goes far beyond the size of the carving. It extends to the vision that Ziolkowski had from the outset.
The ever-expanding complex is home to the Indian Museum of North America, the Native American Educational & Cultural Center and the Indian University of North America. “The mountain, Dad said, was the smallest part of the whole project,” said Ziolkowski’s youngest daughter, Monique, in a televised interview last year.
The Crazy Horse Memorial complex is also home to the Indian Museum of North (Credit: Credit: David R. Frazier Photolibrary, Inc/Alamy)
The Crazy Horse Memorial complex is also home to the Indian Museum of North America (Credit: David R. Frazier Photolibrary, Inc/Alamy)
Ziolkowski gave his life for the mountain, breaking bones, undergoing numerous back surgeries and suffering multiple heart attacks. He remained in charge until he died in 1982. He never saw Crazy Horse’s face emerge from the rock.
Some wondered if his passing would mark the end of the memorial, but his wife, Ruth Ziolkowski, picked up the mantle. Under her leadership, focus shifted to completing the sculpture’s face to mark the 50th anniversary of beginning the carving. Her plan succeeded; the face was unveiled in 1998.
All the Ziolkowskis’ ten children worked on the Crazy Horse Memorial in their youth: the girls helped their mother in the visitor complex, while the boys worked on the mountain with their father. Seven of the children made the memorial their profession, and today, a third generation of Ziolkowskis keeps the family legacy bright.
After descending from the memorial, I stood in the parking lot and took one last, long look at the sculpture. I imagined a young Ziolkowski surveying the mountain beside Standing Bear. I imagined him hanging from a rope without a harness, a single can of paint in one hand, outlining the horse’s head. I imagined him walking up the stairs he built to the top of the mountain in that first year and, though it never happened the way I pictured it, in my imagination his children and grandchildren followed closely behind.
The people working on Crazy Horse, they see the vision and they’re interested in being involved with something that’s bigger than themselves
Towards the end of our conversation Morgan’s voice grew a shade quieter, a touch more nostalgic. “I don’t think I’ll see it completed,” he said, pausing for a moment as if to let the words settle. “But you might.”
Rico says that Henry Standing Bear is also a character, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, in the Longmire television series..

Mother Nature wins again

Rico's friend Kelley forwards Janie Har's Yahoo article via The Associated Press:

A massive landslide that went into the Pacific Ocean is the latest natural disaster to hit a California community that relies heavily on an iconic coastal highway and tourism to survive, and adds to a record billion dollars in highway damage from one of the state's wettest winters in decades.
The weekend slide in Big Sur (photo) buried a portion of Highway 1 under a forty-foot layer of rock and dirt and changed the coastline below to include what now looks like a rounded skirt hem, Susana Cruz, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Transportation, said Tuesday.
More than a million tons of rock and dirt tumbled down a saturated slope in an area called Mud Creek. The slide is covering up about a one-quarter-mile stretch of Highway 1, and authorities have no estimate on when it might re-open. The area remains unstable.
"We haven't been able to go up there and assess. It's still moving," Cruz said. "We have geologists and engineers who are going to check it out this week to see how do we pick up the pieces." It's the largest mudslide she knows of in the state's history, she said. "It's one of a kind," she said.
One of California's rainiest and snowiest winters on record has broken a five-year drought, but also caused flooding and landslides in much of the state, and sped up coastal erosion. "This type of thing may become more frequent, but Big Sur has its own unique geology," said Dan Carl, a district director for the California Coastal Commission whose area includes Big Sur. "A lot of Big Sur is moving; you just don't see it."
Even before the weekend slide, storms across California have caused just over a billion dollars in highway damage to more than four hundred sites during the fiscal year that ends in June, Mark Dinger, also a spokesman for the state transportation agency, said Tuesday. That compares with just over six hundred million last year, he said.
Big Sur is one of the state's biggest tourist draws in a normal year, attracting visitors to serene groves of redwoods, beaches and the dramatic ocean scenery along narrow, winding Highway 1.
This winter has been particularly rough for Big Sur, state transportation spokesman Colin Jones said. Repeated landslides and floods have taken out bridges and highways, closed campgrounds, and forced some resorts to shut down temporarily or use helicopters to fly in guests and supplies.
Even before the weekend damage, the state had closed Highway 1 along Mud Creek to repair buckled pavement and remove debris after an earlier slide. Authorities removed work crews from the area last week after realizing that saturated soil in that area was increasingly unstable, Jones said. Road crews also have stopped work at another damaged stretch of Highway 1 in the area for the same reason.
Last year, a wildfire burned for nearly three months in the Los Padres National Forest and on private land, sparked by an illegal campfire. Thousands of visitors were shut out from signature state parks and the businesses that cater to them.
Kirk Gafill, president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce and owner of the historic Nepenthe Restaurant, said the slide may prove a blessing, stabilizing land that Caltrans was working to shore up. On the other hand, he acknowledges his theory may be wishful thinking. "There's no question, if you live and own a business in Big Sur, you live in a very dramatic landscape, and we know historically, whether it's fire or a mudslide or a landslide from one year to the next, it's not very predictable," said Gafill, whose restaurant is serving two to three dozen local diners a day rather than the thousand a daytypical for this time of year.
Gafill said repairing damage from the this landslide is not as critical for business as replacing Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge, a span on Highway 1 that had to be demolished earlier this year after it was badly damaged by storms in in January and February. The new bridge is scheduled to open in September.
Kurt Mayer, who owns Big Sur Tap House, was also taking news of the slide in stride. He said he wouldn't trade in his work location for somewhere safer. "We're all going to make it, I'm pretty sure," he said. "Big Sur can scare some people, but those people usually come and go pretty quickly. And those who can hang, they're still there and they'll continue to be there."
Rico says it's been decades since he drove that road, but it's still scary. If you build a highway on an unstable cliff, don't be surprised if it occasionally falls into the ocean...

Ahead of the style curve, for once...

Esquire has an article by Christine Flammia about Hawai'ian shirts:
The tropical shirt is a summer staple, often detailed with brightly colored palm trees and hibiscus flowers. While many drunk uncles and ill-dressed tourists wear similar prints without much sartorial whimsy, don't let their cargo shorts and water shoes scare you; they're one of the coolest shirts you can wear this summer.
Look for fresh prints and lightweight fabrics to make it feel modern. Balance the bold look by keeping the rest of your outfit tame (think chino shorts and espadrilles). Here are twelve of the coolest ones for this summer. See the article for more selection and pricing.
Rico says he's been wearing them for decades, and does so every time it turns warm.

The song in Rico's head...

...because clover was all along Rico's walk home:

23 May 2017

Empowerment of women

Slate has an article by Josh Voorhees, a Slate senior writer who lives in Iowa City, Iowa, about Ivanka Trump's latest boondoggle:

The World Bank announced this past weekend that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a combined hundred million dollars toward a planned billion-dollar fund aimed at helping female entrepreneurs around the world. The World Bank doesn’t plan on officially unveiling the specifics of the initiative until next month’s G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. This recent light-on-details announcement, then, amounted to little more than an effort to drum up some good press for the donors, the bank, and the person who’s getting credit for coming up with the idea for the fund in the first place: Ivanka Trump.
Ivanka’s involvement with the fund drew heavy criticism when she first made it public last month. For starters, the project appears to share broad strokes with the Clinton Foundation. Except, in this case, instead of being the work of a presidential nominee’s spouse, it is said to have been hatched by a family member of the current President, one who also happens to hold a major role in the administration. In an alternate world where White House senior adviser Chelsea Clinton spent this past weekend touting her role in launching a fund that takes donations from foreign governments, many on the right would be screaming Pay-for-Pay and Lock-her-up. Trump, remember, had this to say last summer in regards to Saudi donations to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s family non-profit:
Saudi Arabia’s involvement in this fund, meanwhile, is particularly notable, given both the timing of the donation and how the Saudi government treats women at home. It’s funny how eager Saudi leaders are to cut a multimillion-dollar check to help women-owned businesses in the Middle East when they still severely restrict women’s rights at home, including their ability to drive and work. The news also comes only days after the Saudis signed a hundre-billion-dollar-plus arms deal with the United States, the final negotiations for which were reportedly hashed out by Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner. Toss in the Trump family’s well-documented history of using other people’s money to playact the role of benevolent billionaires, and it’s hard not to smell something odd wafting across the Atlantic.
It’s worth asking, however, whether in the alternative Clintonian timeline proposed above, conservatives would have been justified in their hypothetical collective freak-out and what that means for our current timeline. Based on the limited details we do have, I’m not so sure it would be fair to attack such a move were the shoe on the other foot, and I was reasonably troubled during the campaign by the potential conflicts of interest raised by the Clinton Foundation.
The issue is this: the similarities between the World Bank-run fund and the Clinton Foundation appear to be mostly superficial. According to the World Bank, Ivanka won’t have any control over how the money is doled out and, according to the White House, she won’t take an active role in soliciting the funds either. (The Clintons did both at their foundation.) Assuming both of those prove true, then what we have here isn’t the Ivanka Trump Foundation by another name but, instead, a World Bank initiative that has the support of the White House. This isn’t the first time that the bank has teamed up with a First Family to push a project near and dear to the White House’s heart either. Just last spring, for instance, the World Bank announced it would invest $2.5 billion over five years in education projects that benefit adolescent girls around the globe— news of which came at an event hosted by Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative, which shared that same goal.
Two of Trump’s most vocal critics when it comes to his many conflicts of interest see things similarly in regards to this new fund. Norm Eisen, a former Obama ethics czar, and Richard Painter, a former George W. Bush ethics czar, both told NPR over the weekend that, as long as the World Bank runs the new fund and the donations are properly vetted, there’s good reason to believe everything is above board, and these are not men who are willing to blindly trust Trump. “In my view, foreign government donations to a fund run by a reputable international organization like the World Bank for a good cause are generally acceptable,” Eisen wrote in an email. Added Painter: “I don't see this fund as a big problem if she does not solicit donations and it is entirely World Bank run.”
Those are big ifs, obviously, and the Kushner-brokered arms deal in particular deserves further scrutiny. You certainly shouldn’t rule out the possibility that the Trump administration prioritized Ivanka’s brand, however subtly, at the expense of US interests in order to secure the Saudi cash— such decisions, after all, were frustratingly baked into our diplomatic and political systems even before Trump arrived on the scene. But until there’s evidence that’s what happened here, it seems this is better seen simply as Trump and his family reversing how they view the Saudis and “pay-for-play” now that they’re the ones in power. Such hypocrisy has been a common occurrence in this administration, but, at least this time, the biggest winner of the about-face will likely be someone other than the Trumps. That doesn’t make everything right, exactly, but I’m not sure it makes it wrong either.
Rico says the whole family works sleazy...

Quote for the day

From Command and Control:

There were some guys you wouldn't trust with a .22 rifle, much less a thermonuclear bomb.

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