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Comments of the Week #162: from singularity evaporation to the loss of Earth’s helium [Starts With A Bang]

“The ability to listen and learn is key to mastering the art of communication. If you don’t use your verbal skills and networking, it will disappear rapidly.” -Rick Pitino It’s been a week full of amazing and controversial stories about the Universe here at Starts With A Bang! Did you catch the fantastic live event on Wednesday at…

A sad man with small hands

A sad man with small hands

by digby

This deconstruction of "the handshake" from Sam Stein at Huffington Post is hilarious. And bizarre:

Had French President Emmanuel Macron been paying close attention, he would have recognized quickly just how fraught his coming exchange with Donald Trump was to be.

The two leaders had met briefly earlier that day, exchanging a firm, prolonged, “not innocent” handshake that drew attention for its unbound intensity. Now, hours later, as Macron approached Trump and other world leaders at the opening of NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels last week, the U.S. president offered several non-verbal cues indicating his desire to re-establish the global pecking order.

The first came well before he and Macron were face-to-face. Walking toward each other, Trump reached out to King Philippe of Belgium, who stood directly to his right, to offer an impromptu handshake. The King seemed caught off-guard. For good reason. No one in their group was making any such gesture.

Trump’s offer seemed out of place. But Florin Dolcos, a University of Illinois associate psychology professor and faculty member at the Beckman Institute’s Cognitive Neuroscience Group, suggested it was a deliberate. And the intended audience wasn’t Philippe but Macron.

“That’s a signal Trump was sending: ‘This is where you should come first because I’m the alpha here,’” Dolcos said. “‘Iinitiated with the other guy.’”


Moments later, another cue. With the two still walking towards each other, Trump looked up at Macron and opened his arms ― a signal typically reserved for family and friends, not two world leaders who’d just met. Once again, Dolcos suspected Trump was making a nonverbal signal to his French counterpart.

“I think it is a learned behavior. Because typically you don’t do that. You do it with people very close to you in natural circumstances. Not people you don’t really know,” he said. “In a way it could be seen as a trap.”


Macron didn’t fall for it. Instead, he greeted a few others before making his way to Trump. When he did finally arrive, Trump pounced, taking Macron’s hand and pulling it violently away from his body with enough force to turn Macron roughly 50 degrees.


Dolcos again saw a tactical play. Unable to torque his arm, Macron was rendered powerless. He attempted to pull away and Trump refused to let him go.


Macron put his other hand on Trump to pry himself loose. And when he finally freed himself, Trump gave him a pat on the shoulder, ending the exchange squarely on his terms.


Another bizarre, dramatic, uncomfortable handshake with a world leader was in the books, bouncing its way across the Internet to the wonderment of all.

“It goes down to asserting dominance,” said Dolcos. “Why he wants to do that? I don’t know. It looks, to me, like he is trying too hard…. It looks ridiculous”

What else is new?

Twitter wags boiling it down

Twitter wags boiling it down

by digby

Keith Boykin:

So, to recap, the French think Trump's a dictator, the Germans think he's unreliable and the British think he can't be trusted with intel.

Culture of Truth:

The Israelis think he gave away their secrets, Saudis think he's a sap, and Putin thinks he's an asset who can be blackmailed.

Update: And then there's this:

Good lord

Who protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds? @spockosbrain

Who protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds?

by Spocko

Gun goes off at health clinic after woman drops purse; 1 shot in leg

May 25, 2017 --Jackson Mississippi

Woman drops her gun in hospital waiting room, shoots another patient in the leg

The patient was hospitalised but said to have suffered "non life-threatening" injuries.

The question I'd like journalists to ask every time this happens:

Who will pay for the injured person's health care?

In this story in Politico about insurance they talk about the difference between the insurance that the states want to require gun owners to have, and the insurance the NRA is selling.

"Government-mandated firearms insurance shouldn’t be confused with the NRA’s insurance product—the former protects gun victims from bearing the costs of their wounds; the latter protects gun bearers from carrying the costs of their wounded."
- Matt Valentine, Politico

Gun owners are not required to have any liability insurance, but some have it; what does it pay for? Full medical care? Rehabilitation? Loss of time at work? Long term disability? Pain and suffering?

What if the injured person ends up having a pre-existing condition now because of the injury? "Non-life threatening" doesn't mean it's not life changing.

Journalists don't ask question of who is going to pay for medical care, but given our current President and the hostility toward providing health care by the GOP, this needs to be asked right now. Lawmakers in Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina, New York and Hawaii have introduced bills this year that would require gun owners to carry liability insurance. But all state and national level politicians need to be asked, "How are the costs of guns and health care going to be dealt with in your community?"

Watch the video and note how the UMMC police talk about what was legal or not legal. Part of this is used in the eventual criminal case--but it can also apply to civil legal cases. If the gun owner did something illegal, it changes things for criminal prosecution cases, but there is still a civil case that can--and should--be brought by the injured against the gun owner. If something is declared illegal it might also change what the insurance does or does not do regarding defending or indemnifying the person.

But gun owners aren't required to have insurance, so who pays for the injuries their negligence caused? The individual shot, and the community who picks up the bill. The gun lobby has blocked efforts to require "good guys with guns" to have insurance, complaining that they have to pay when criminals do not.

Debra McQuillen.
 photo, HCSO

McQuillen had a permit. She was still a law abiding citizen--up until the time she ignored the hospital's signs. If she was required to have liability insurance before she broke the law, she would be able to pay for the medical care of the woman she injured because of her negligence.

When the argument is that law abiding gun owners shouldn't have to have insurance, since criminals don't, it exempts all the gun owners who go from law abiding to law breaking in an instant. This is also why the NRA works so hard to get rid of laws that make their members law-breakers. (Even acts that make a member an "accidental lawbreaker." This line of reasoning --that members are so worried about being "accidental lawbreakers" --is used so that individuals can maintain the "law-abiding citizen" moniker and self justification. But primarily it is used to avoided criminal prosecution and civil liability. )

If McQuillen did everything the same, except it was in a location where it was okay to bring in her guns, the injury would still happen. No law would have been broken, no criminal charges would be filed-- but there could still be a civil case brought by the injured against the gun owner. This is a key part of the way financial responsibility is avoided by the gun lobby. They shift the issue from illegal to legal. Intent is a huge part of the issue, and by having the police and the media verbalize the word accident and legal instead of negligence and illegal they change the perception of what is happening.

I don't expect journalists to start asking these questions, so we will need to prompt them. I don't expect gun owners to claim being financially responsible for the damage their negligence cause as part of being a responsible gun owner, so we will need to ask them. The next time you are in person talking to a gun owner ask them, (And I recommend doing this in person, because online no one is under oath, and you can see their eyes if they lie to you.)

"Do you have liability insurance ? Who provides it? What does it cover? Would the person insured be covered, or would you be covered? Do you think all gun owners should be required to have liability insurance? Why not?"

There are a lots of different gun shooting scenarios to ask about. If you need one to choose use this one with McQuillan, or the one I wrote about last week with a 7-year old boy, Gage Meche or the one tomorrow, or the next day and the next and the next...

Fiscal responsibility must be part of the definition of a responsible gun owner.


The world has changed forever

The world has changed forever

by digby

On the morning after the election, I wrote this:

We wake up today to a fundamentally different world than the one in which we woke up yesterday. The nation our allies looked to as the guarantor of global security will now be led by a pathologically dishonest, unqualified, inexperienced, temperamental, ignorant flimflam man. Things will never be the same. And we have no idea at the moment exactly what form this change is going to take, which makes this all very, very frightening.

Well ...

Henry Farrell has a good piece in the Washington Post about this. The world is shifting under our feet.


He’s Baaaaack

He's Baaaaack

by digby

While he was away there was a lot of talk about staffer getting lawyers and others to keep him off twitter.

Nah gah happen:

Psychologists would call this "denial." And I would guess that it's genuine. He doesn't have the psychological strength to deal with the fact that everyone around him is betraying him. And his followers are probably going to go along with it. But at some point, reality bites and it will happen to them too.

It would be sad if it weren't for the fact that this man is a cretinous bully whose narcissistic ignorance will get people killed.


The last days of the trip

The last days of the trip

by digby

It makes you so proud to be an American:

In Brussels, where he attended a series of events celebrating NATO, Trump looked downright bored. As the king of Belgium and other leaders took turns at the lectern, Trump got fidgety, shifting in his seat, looking up to the sky and down to his feet, and crossing his arms over his chest.

The president — whom aides say has little patience for listening to other people speak — then endured a dinner session in which the leaders of all 28 NATO partners gave remarks.

And here in picturesque Taormina, at the Group of Seven summit on the rocky Sicilian coast, Trump struggled to look interested during long meetings with allies in a room decorated with the flags of other countries. As the other G-7 leaders strolled the streets of this ancient fortress town, Trump followed along in a golf cart.

A weight seemed to lift from Trump’s shoulders when he touched down by helicopter at the U.S. Naval Air Station Sigonella, on the Sicilian island, for a pep rally with military families before flying home to Washington.

He took a golf cart in Saudi Arabia too but I think they blamed it on the king rather than him.

I wouldn't normally mock him if he's feeling infirm on a long trip like this. It could happen to anyone. But he was such an asshole in the campaign toward Clinton and his other rivals about being "weak" and failing to have the "strength and stamina" that he deserves it.


21st century reconstruction by @BloggersRUs

21st century reconstruction

by Tom Sullivan

A Freedman Bureau agent stands between armed groups of whites and Freedmen in this 1868 sketch from Harper's Weekly.

You've got to admire their tenacity. Here in North Carolina, Democrats have been fighting a radicalized Republican Party for some years now. At least since they gained control of the legislature in the 2010 sweep election. Since that time, they have worked assiduously at consolidating their power at every turn using every method at their disposal.

The 2013 omnibus election law intended to suppress black turnout in the state "with almost surgical precision" lost in the Supreme Court this month. Their 2011 gerrymandering of state congressional districts designed to limit the influence of black voters lost in the Supreme Court a week later. Gerrymandering cases involving state legislative districts are working their way through the courts.

The New York Times observes that in spite of repeated losses, the Republicans are unbowed:

But if North Carolina Republicans have been chastened in Washington, there is scant evidence of it here in the state capital. Quite the opposite: Hours after the court nullified the elections law, for example, party officials said they would simply write another.
They keep pressing on. To say "with a vengeance" is no exaggeration.
“What we’re seeing in North Carolina is an effort at political entrenchment that is unparalleled,” said Allison Riggs, a senior staff lawyer at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, a Durham advocacy group that sued Republican leaders over the election law. “It requires a complete disregard for the will of the voters and political participation, and a disregard for the independence of the judiciary.”
That last statement refers to Republican efforts to prevent the new Democratic governor from filling vacancies on the state's Court of Appeals. (Merrick Garland knows all about how that works.) Republicans have also passed measures to make it more difficult for cases to rise to the state Supreme Court where Democrats now hold a slim majority. First-on-the-ballot placement in a nonpartisan Supreme Court race allowed a black Democrat to win a Supreme Court seat in November in the year of Trump. So that arrangement had to change.
In March, a state commission charged with improving the state’s courts urged the legislature to scrap the requirement that judges win election to the bench, saying it forced candidates to seek contributions from people who appeared before them.

Eight days later, the legislature voted to change lower-court elections from nonpartisan to partisan affairs, requiring nearly 400 judges to run under party labels in a bid to put more Republican loyalists on the bench. (The legislators had earlier made appeals and Supreme Court elections partisan.) Two Republican legislators filed a bill to split Charlotte’s Democratic-leaning Mecklenburg County judicial district into three new ones that would give Republicans a better shot at victory.

The assaults are not limited to elections or to the courts. Cities themselves are under attack. Public schools and universities are under assault. Public lands and infrastructure are being privatized. It is, as I've said before, the next phase of the conservative effort to defund the left.

Here is the GOP playbook: 1) Find the line. 2) Step over it. 3) Dare the courts to push them back.

If the courts push back, try, try again. If the courts don't, they've drawn a new line to be stepped over at the next opportunity. It is important for progressives to understand that winning a single victory, winning the presidency or a single court case (or a series) will not stop them. Like the Borg, they adapt and keep coming. Tenacity is a trait progressives will need for these fights.

The Times notes that much of this is "full-bore payback for Democratic abuses in the past."* But since Republicans have not seen this level of control in a hundred years, they are settling scores few Republican legislators serving today were alive to see, and visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation.

Like the bloody shirt, this is a theme. And like the Confederate war memorials just removed in New Orleans, these measures are being erected purposefully to send a strong message about who is in charge.

* Prior to losing the majority, friends had urged the Democratic Senate Majority Leader to move to partisan redistricting. They were rebuffed, the story goes. "Democrats draw great districts," he said.


SIFF-ting through cinema, Pt. 2 By Dennis Hartley: 7 new film reviews! #SIFF @denofcinema5

Saturday Night at the Movies

SIFF-ting through cinema, Pt. 2

By Dennis Hartley

SIFF is showing 400 films over 25 days. Navigating such an event is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. Yet, I trudge on (cue the world’s tiniest violin). Hopefully, some of these films will be coming soon to a theater near you…

Angry Inuk – Canadian film maker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril hails from an Inuk community near Baffin Island, where locals rely on traditional subsistence sealhunting; not only to literally put food on the table, but to earn a living from commercial sales of sealskin products. In 2009, the European Union banned commercial trade in all seal products except for those from Indigenous hunts. While that seems a reasonable concession, the director and her fellow Inuk activists feel that the legislators and animal rights groups miss the fact that the ban has all but killed the market for the products-thus putting the Inuk people in dire economic straits. Aranquq-Baril’s documentary is wise, witty and thought-provoking, offering up a unique perspective on this controversial issue.

Rating: *** (Plays May 28 & May 29)

A Date for Mad Mary – The phrase “star-making performance” is overused, but it’s apt to describe Seana Kerslake’s turn in Darren Thornton’s dramedy about a troubled young woman who is being dragged kicking and screaming (and swearing like a sailor) into adulthood. Fresh from 6 months in a Dublin jail for instigating a drunken altercation, 20 year-old “mad” Mary (Kerslake) is asked to be maid of honor by her BFF Charlene. Charlene refuses her a “plus-one”, assuming that her volatile friend isn’t likely to find a date in time for the wedding. Ever the contrarian, Mary insists that she will; leading to a completely unexpected relationship. The director’s screenplay (co-written with his brother Colin) is chockablock with brash and brassy dialog, and conveys that unique penchant the Irish possess for using “fook” as a noun, adverb, super verb and adjective. Kerslake’s remarkable debut reminds me of Emily Lloyd in Wish You Were Here (1987).

Rating: ***½ (Plays May 27 & May 28)

Endless Poetry – Ever since his 1970 Leone-meets-Fellini western El Topo singlehandedly redefined the meaning of “WTF?” for cult movie aficionados, Chilean film maker/poet/actor/composer/comic book writer Alejandro Jodorowsky has continued to push the envelope on all creative fronts. His new film, the second part of a “proposed pentalogy of memoirs”, follows young Alejandro (the director’s son Adan, who also composed the soundtrack) as comes into his own as an aspiring poet. Defying his naysaying father, he flees to Santiago and ingratiates himself with the local bohemians. He caterwauls into a tempestuous relationship with a redheaded force of nature named Stella. What ensues is the most gloriously over-the-top biopic since Ken Russell’s The Music Lovers. This audacious work of art not only conveys that its creator possesses the soul of a poet, but stands, in and of itself, as an almost tactile evocation of poetry’s soul.

Rating: **** (Plays May 29 & June 5)

Finding Kukan – The first documentary to win an Oscar was the 1941 film Kukan: The Battle Cry of China. There are two unfortunate footnotes. 1.) The film, a unique and historically important “front line” document of Japan’s 1937 invasion of China, has since all but vanished from the public eye. 2.) The female producer, Ling-Ai Li, was uncredited. With two tantalizing mysteries to solve, film maker Robin Lung had her work cut out for her. The director’s 7-year quest yields two separate yet convergent narratives: a world-wide search for prints of Kukan for possible restoration, and the fascinating life of a previously unsung female filmmaking pioneer. Lung nicely ties the threads together.

Rating: *** (Plays May 27, May 28 & June 2)

Godspeed – This neo-noir “buddy film” from Taiwanese writer-director Chung Mung-Hong’s concerns an aging, life-tired taxi driver (Hong Kong comedian Michael Hui) who unwittingly picks up a twitchy young drug mule (Na Dow). Blackly comic cat-and-mouse games involving rivalling mobsters ensue as the pair are pushed into an intercity road trip, with their fates now inexorably intertwined. If the setup rings a bell, yes, it is very reminiscent of Michael Mann’s Collateral, but unfortunately not in the same league. It’s not the actors’ fault; the two leads are quite good. The problem lies in the uneven pacing (an overlong and gratuitous torture scene stops the film in its tracks). Likely too many slow patches for action fans, yet too joltingly violent for anyone partial to road movies. It does have its moments, and I’m sure there is an audience for it, but I’m just not sure who.

Rating: **½ (Plays May 28, June 1 & June 2)

Lane 1974 – This episodic road movie/coming of age story may be too episodic for some tastes, but for those of a certain age (ahem), it hearkens back to the quietly observant character studies that flourished from the late 60s through the mid-70s like Scarecrow, The Rain People, and Harry and Tonto. Writer-director SJ Chiro adapted her screenplay from Clane Hayward’s memoir. 13 year-old Lane (Sophia Mitri Schloss), her little brother, and their narcissistic hippie-dippy mom (Ray Donovan’s Katherine Moennig adopt a vagabond lifestyle after they’re kicked out of a Northern California commune. Schloss delivers a lovely, naturalistic performance as an adolescent coming to the sad realization that she is the responsible adult, as her mother is really the self-centered child.

Rating: *** (Plays June 2 & June 3)

A Life in Waves – While her name isn’t a household word, Suzanne Ciani is a musical polymath whose work has been heard by millions…from New Age fans to pinball enthusiasts. Brett Whitcomb’s film is an inspirational portrait of this innovative artist’s 40-year career. An early electronica pioneer, the classically-trained Ciani was in one respect too ahead of her time, because she hit the glass ceiling fairly quickly (the late 60s synth scene was a boy’s club). Undaunted, she reinvented herself as a “sound designer”, making a ton of loot devising ad jingles (and effects, like the Coca-Cola “pop and pour” sound), theme songs, game sound effects, you name it. She kept composing, eventually founding her own New Age record label and becoming a genre star. A fascinating look at a creative genius who’s managed to ride the wave at the crest between art and commerce.

Rating: ***½ (Plays May 29, May 30 & June 7)

Time Trap – The discovery of a rusted-out VW van near the entrance of an underground cavern prompts a Texas professor/spelunker to investigate what happened to his parents, who mysteriously vanished decades before. Concerned that the professor himself may have now disappeared, two of his students organize a search party, dragging several other friends and young siblings along. From that point forward, it’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mish-mash of time portals, Spanish conquistadors, Neanderthals, aliens, The Fountain of Youth, a magic ring and the end of the world. The only thing missing is a cohesive narrative (and perhaps a MST3K riff track?). Co-directors Mark Dennis and Ben Foster desperately want us to connect the dots with 1980s films like The Goonies. So I’ll play along: this is the most indecipherable sci-fi mess since Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce.

Rating: * (Plays May 30)

Previous posts with related themes:

2017 SIFF Preview
SIFF-ting Through Cinema, pt.1

More reviews at Den of Cinema
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He’s unbelievable

He's unbelievable

by digby

Kush that is:

Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker unpacks the Kushner problem and draws attention to the fact that Kushner was especially hostile to Comey and alone among Trumps advisers wanted his to "counter-attack." One wonders why.

Here's the conclusion:

The main takeaway from the Kushner news is similar to the takeaway from Trump and Flynn’s handling of the Russia probes. In each case, we have a series of actions by people who seem to be concealing specific contacts with Russians connected to the Kremlin’s intelligence services and then acting to thwart an investigation. Flynn lied about his contacts with Kislyak. Trump tried to kill the F.B.I. investigation of Flynn and eventually fired his F.B.I. director. Kushner hid his contacts with Russian officials and then pressed his father-in-law to sack Comey, who was looking into the matter. “Anytime someone on the Trump campaign conceals or misleads about a contact they had with Russia at the time of Russia’s interference campaign, that’s a big red flag,” Eric Swalwell, the Democratic congressman, who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said.

We still don’t have a crime in this case, but there is an awful lot of coverup.

And this doesn't even get into the "back-channel" at the Russian embassy stuff.

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