Thursday, February 23, 2017

TRUMP STUFF


There is simply too much going on to keep up with when it comes to Donald Trump’s presidency.

 

Several things stick out so far:

 
The Republicans in the House and Senate don’t appear too concerned about Russia’s tampering with our elections and with our government.  They don’t appear concerned with Trump’s erratic behavior, odd statements, and trouble focusing on his job.  The reason?  I believe it is because they are still too excited about enacting their agenda.  They will not be eager to put our country first, as they still see Trump as their vehicle for getting things done, such as cutting into the social safety net, giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans, rolling back civil rights, overturning Roe v. Wade, rolling back government regulations in every area possible, and maybe even cutting into Medicare and Social Security.  I think it will take an issue that truly threatens national security or represents an obvious threat to our form of government before the Republicans begin to turn away from Trump.  It will be interesting to see how much of their agenda gets rammed through before they admit people such as Trump and his cohorts are a clear and present danger to America. 

 
Impeachment?  The Democrats might as well not bother with this unless something is revealed that represents such a smoking gun that even the hardest-core Republicans can’t overlook it.  The left would most likely not have the votes in the Senate to convict anyway.  I believe it is better to continue to try and build a stronger Democratic party now, which means finding new leadership as soon as possible and getting things organized. 


The face of the Democratic party needs to be someone new.  It can’t be Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi, or anyone who has been tarred and feathered in the right-wing media for the past 20 or more years.  It also needs to be someone who is dedicated to the party platform, but who is also dedicated to finding ways to reach moderate voters who are dissatisfied or concerned about Trump.  Simply expecting people to embrace the Democrats because they are not Trump is not going to get the job done.  The Democratic party has to appeal to voters.


Trump’s battle with the media is only succeeding to a point.  He continues to fire up his base, who have been fed the “liberal media” myth for decades, but he is not convincing enough others (yet) that the media is actually the “enemy of the American people”.  The media may be his enemy, yes, but if so it is for the benefit of the entire country.  We need to support our media, and continue to speak in support of our First Amendment rights.  This will require vigilance as well as action. 


Prediction:  Trump will not last two years in office.  It won’t make any difference to those Republicans hell-bent on ramming through their agenda anyway, as Mike Pence will still be in charge of implementing it.  And if not Mike Pence, it will be Paul Ryan.  I believe Trump will resign, either under pressure due to scandal, or due to not being able to do his job because his personality doesn’t allow him to.  Also, Republicans will get re-elected in 2020 unless Democrats get off their asses and do something.  So for now, let’s be vocal, let’s communicate often with our elected representatives, and let’s continue to keep the real news up front in the media.  The GOP has shown us how easy it is to manipulate America, and it has been easier with help from outside the country.  We need to be on the alert, and when we see something we know is not right, we need to be loud about it.   

 

TIME FOR SOME BASEBALL!


I’m cautiously optimistic about the Seattle Mariners this year.  That is, I think they will be a bit better than last year, which means they may be good enough to get into the playoffs for a change.  The playoff drought has lasted a while, and it’s well past time that my team made a post-season appearance.

 

What makes it different this time around?

 

For starters, the team returns its best players from 2016.  When the Mariners dished out a $240 million contract to Robinson Cano a few years ago, many wondered if this was such a great move.  In terms of his age and likely drop-off in skills by the end of the ten-year deal, it didn’t seem like a good investment at first.  As things have turned out, Cano has been a leader for the ball club, both on the field and in the clubhouse.  His strong work ethic and easy-going style have helped make the Mariners into a team that has fun as they go about their business, and he backs it all up with a great glove and a stellar bat.

 

Nelson Cruz is back, and this year it looks like he will mainly be the designated hitter.  While his glove is not bad in right field, he no longer has the range or skills needed to keep him from being a liability at times.  His bat will still be in the lineup on a daily basis, though.

 

Kyle Seager continues to be as steady a third baseman as you will find in the majors.  He has Gold Glove skills in the field, and he hits consistently well. 

 

And while the team has been terrible at base running in recent years, it looks like there is now some help coming.  The new shortstop, Jean Segura, is coming off of a career year with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He should slot into the order as the new leadoff hitter.  Jarrod Dyson was acquired from the Kansas City Royals, and he also adds speed, along with good outfield defense.  Returning center fielder Leonys Martin is a good defensive player who can also help charge up the offense at times. 

 

General Manager Jerry DiPoto smartly brought in veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz to help incumbent catcher Mike Zunino along.  Zunino is still a “project”, but it appears a stint in the minors last season has helped him develop into a better major-league hitter.  Zunino’s defensive skills are already major league caliber.  If his bat should falter this season, Ruiz brings a hitter’s eye, as well as defensive skills that remain quite adequate despite his age. 

 

First base, corner outfield positions, and utility roles should comprise most of the battles during Spring Trianing for the M’s this year.  Daniel Vogelbach was acquired from the Cubs in trade for pitcher Mike Montgomery last season, and at age 22 has yet to make his mark in the majors.  The organization has concerns about his ability to field his position, so DiPoto has brought in veteran Danny Valencia to help man first base in case Vogelbach is not ready.  Valencia has been a decent hitter throughout his career. It remains to see how he will fit in as a team member, as this has apparently been difficult for him in the past. 

 

Several young, athletic outfielders will be vying for playing time alongside Martin and Dyson.  Seattle is high on Mitch Haniger, acquired via trade this winter in the same deal that brought Jean Segura to the M’s.  The organization knows Haniger has good defensive skills, and they believe he can hit for power and for average.  Early indications are that he will see a lot of time in right field.  Others who could play outfield roles for the team this year are Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia.  While neither was particularly impressive in stints with the team in 2016, both are young and have good minor-league track records.

 

Utilitiy player Shawn O’Malley was fun to watch with the Mariners last year.  He is a gutsy player who epitomizes this year’s team motto, “Whatever it takes”.  This spring he will have competition from Taylor Motter and Mike Freeman for the jack-of-all-trades role.

 

In 2016, the Mariners had tough times here and there with their pitching.  Injuries played a major role, as did inconsistency.  Felix Hernandez, usually the Mariners ace starter, had a down year in 2016.  He underwent a strenuous conditioning routine over the winter, and results have been positive so far.  He will be joined in the rotation by two holdovers from last year, lefty James Paxton and righthander Hisashi Iwakuma, and two newcomers, veterans Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly.  All five of these starters have experienced success at the major league level, and the Mariners hope Safeco Field will provide a pitcher-friendly environment for everyone.  Paxton has appeared on the verge of breaking out the past few seasons, but he has been derailed by nagging injuries.  Iwakuma has been unspectacular most of the time, but has been a fairly reliable pitcher.  If the guys in the rotation are all pitching well, look out.

 

The bullpen is a bit of a question too, although as a former major league reliever, DiPoto seems to know how to assemble a workable group of relievers.  In 2016, righty “Electric” Edwin Diaz rose from AA ball to become the Mariners’ closer.  He was a raw rookie and he had his ups and downs, but he was mostly reliable in his role.  He and fellow AA right-handed pitcher Dan Altavilla hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun on a regular basis.   Altavilla impressed with the Mariners at the end of last season.  From among Steve Cishek, Tony Zych, Ariel Miranda, Chris Heston, Evan Scribner, Nick Vincent and a number of others, DiPoto and manager Scott Servais will assemble a bullpen that can get the job done.

 

While the Mariners added speed, defense and pitching during this winter’s Hot Stove League, they also added some organizational depth at the AAA level.  The team now has some options in Tacoma should any of their players get injured or falter in the majors.  Look for youngsters such as pitchers Rob Whalen and Max Povse, acquired from Atlanta, to help with pitching if needed.  If Gamel and Heredia are not on the major league roster to begin the year, they will be playing regularly in Tacoma, possibly alongside outfielder Boog Powell, catcher Tuffy Gosewitch, and others who have major league experience.  Relievers who don’t make the Mariners pitching staff will likely log a lot of innings in AAA, and Miranda and Heston have both been starting pitchers in the majors.  If the M’s need to call someone up, there should now be plenty of options. 

 

What does this all mean? 

 

The team improved itself in terms of speed, defense, and on-base percentage, and possibly in terms of starting pitching, all without decimating its major league roster or minor league system.   After an 86-win season in 2016, look for the Mariners to win at least that many again this year.  I’m thinking more like 89 or 90 wins…  and that ought to be enough to get them into the playoffs, at least as a wild card team. 

 

Whatever it takes! 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

TRUMP LEAGUE

A new idea for making the Trump regime more fun.  Get your dice ready!

GAME #1 - Where, and how soon, will we see "Boots on the Ground"?  Roll one die for each list.

1 - Iraq
2 - Syria
3 - Libya
4 - Yemen
5 - Iran
6 - other

1 - within three months after Inauguration
2 - 3-6 months
3 - 6-9 months
4 - 9-12 months
5 - 12-24 months
6 - during the last two years of the administration


GAME #2 - Match the appointee with the position!  Roll one die for each list. 

1 - Rudy Giuliani
2 - Trey Gowdy
3 - Chris Christie
4 - Newt Gingrich
5 - Ted Cruz
6 - other

1 - Attorney General
2 - Secretary of State
3 - Department of Education
4 - Environmental Protection Agency
5 - Chief of Staff
6 - Ministry of Propaganda


GAME #3 - Who will be the press secretary?  (just roll the die one time)

1-Kellyanne Conway
2 -Katrina Pierson
3- Jeffery Lord
4- Corey Lewandowski
5-Scottie Neil Hughes
6-Kayleigh McEnany



On the first game, my result was Libya, in 6-9 months.  My second result was Trey Gowdy for Attorney General.  For #3, I got Kellyanne Conway. 

TRUMPENSTEIN






Observations and predictions, after digesting some of the initial shock...

 
Pretty lousy election last night.  Maybe Trump won’t be all that bad, though I can’t imagine how he could really be very good at all.
At least the stock market hasn’t started tanking yet.  Heh! 
The Republicans will be like kids in the candy store.  The first 100 days will be brutal.  

No more Affordable Care Act, probably with nothing to replace it right away. 

Fast-track approval of some new far-right Supreme Court justice chosen by Trump to replace Scalia, plus another one if Ginsberg doesn’t make it through at least the next four years. 

Tax cuts enacted for the wealthy, so the rest of us will pay even more of the burden. 

Cuts to safety net programs.  Paul Ryan’s budget enacted. 

Defunding of Planned Parenthood, Public Broadcasting, and whatever else they don’t like. 

Lots of cronies (Giuliani, Gingrich, etc.) appointed to powerful positions. 

Heavy-handed pressure or worse on unfriendly media outlets and certain offending employees. 

Restrictions on the internet (no more net neutrality). 

Federal crackdown attempts on medical and recreational pot where it has been legalized. 

Republicans will attempt to undo Roe v. Wade, and to undo as much of the New Deal as possible. 

No luck getting anywhere on overturning Citizens United. 
Trump will run the country as a CEO, with Pence and others doing the bulk of the work.  Trump will be the figurehead; he will articulate policies, others will carry them out.  Pence will be as powerful as Cheney was, but won’t have as much success at pulling the president’s puppet strings. 
The wall won’t get built, and if it does, it won’t do anything much to stop people from entering from Mexico.  Obama’s Cuba progress will be rolled back.  We will get along better with Russia…  heh!  Trump will get lots of pressure to undermine NATO.  He will try to start trade wars.  And we will find ourselves in a war somewhere, with troops on the ground.    
Police violence will continue.  Minorities will continue to become more disenfranchised.  Oil pipelines will be built wherever they can be built, and there will be continued fracking.  Protestors will be dealt with in brutal ways.  Gun sales will continue to go up.  Militias will increase, and there will be more occupations like the one by the jerks at Malheur (there would have been more such occupations anyway, but a Trump win will only embolden the militias). 


Wildlife refuges, particularly in northern Alaska, will once again be under threat.  Attempts will be made to do away with the Environmental Protection Agency. 

It is the Democratic party that needs to do a post-election autopsy this time, and it needs to be done with lots of thought.  The emphasis needs to be on how to connect with rural voters, as well as with any others who weren't enthused this time around.  A better candidate might have done the trick this time, but then again I'm not so sure it would have.     
BUT…     
Polls showed 56% of people are either scared or concerned with the idea of a Trump presidency…  the GOP will be able to stay in power for a while by keeping people afraid, but I think things will gradually come around to where people realize they don’t have to put up with some of the far-right crap.  If we see a "revolution", it won't come from the "tea party" types, but from the rest of Americans.    
If Democrats have any sense at all, the DNC will quickly tear itself down and build back up, installing people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as leaders.  Look for a better performance from Democrats in the midterms in 2018, as intensive turn-out-the-vote efforts will prevail in some House and Senate races despite GOP attempts to restrict voting.  Some exciting presidential contenders will emerge for the left.    
By 2020 people will be pretty fed up with the Republican party.  By that time, the GOP will have trashed dozens of things the left (and many on the right) hold dear.  By then, the Dems will provide a better candidate that isn’t flawed like Clinton, and people will get enthused and get behind him or her.  And then, we will have to see if America makes the same mistake it did in 2004 by re-electing a consummate doofus.
Back to pot:  apparently Trump doesn’t have a problem with the medical aspects of it.  But if Pence is going to be the one doing all the work… and with him being the puritan he is… who knows what might happen.  It may be time to stock up, just in case!  J  Pot votes passing in CA, ME, MA, and NV might make it less likely that we’d see a fed crackdown on recreational sales and use, as it's in something like eight states now, and all up and down the West Coast.  It may be too late for crackdowns now.  Chris Christie is the one who’s such a hard-ass on pot, and I doubt he’d get any kind of powerful appointment after the Bridgegate thing…  but you just never know with the GOP. 
And I have doubts Trump would try and do the Mussolini thing.  I’m actually thinking it may be more of a mixed bag.  He may have some centrist tendencies, and he might do some things that are OK with people on both sides of the political fence.  He might even actually try to reach across the aisle.  But Pence will probably be whispering far-right crap in his ear.  The thought of Trump as the puffed-up figurehead running America, Inc. with Pence doing the dirty work is pretty frightening.  Trump may not have any real agenda to advance, but Pence will do whatever he can to advance a religious conservative agenda.  I’m starting to think Pence is possibly more dangerous than The Donald.
We can all hope the pragmatist in Trump comes out, that he pisses off a lot of people who voted for him by changing his mind or not following through on stuff he said during the campaign, and that maybe he won’t actually be too horrible.      
And I don’t believe Bernie Sanders would have beaten Trump, either.  To all those Bernie fanatics who are saying “We told you so”, all I have to say is “And so we will never know for sure, will we?” 
And when they say “But all the polls showed he had a better chance against Trump!” then I’ll say “Yeah, but that’s what the polls said about Hillary too, once she got the nomination…  why don’t you ask her about the trustworthiness of polls?”

I’m not sure I will ever be able to take comfort in polls again after this!  Meh...

Forgot to mention climate change, too…  efforts to slow it down are bound to take a huge hit now, and our attention-challenged public will probably start forgetting about it.  We can hope that isn’t the case. 
Whatever happens, I am relieved this election cycle is over.  I just wish it would have turned out better.


The next four years won’t be pretty, but we will survive.  The smiling face of a baby this morning at work reminded me that there is still a lot of good in the world, and that we need to teach our kids values, not ideologies.






 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2015

2015 was the Year of Psychedelia for me.

Here is a list of some of the things I listened to and enjoyed during this past year.

1. HOLY WAVE - The Evil Has Landed EP - Six great neo-psychedelic tunes.

2. FOALS - What Went Down - One of my favorite bands keeps putting out quality material.  Great album, lots of movement in the songs.

3. THE CHURCH - Further Deeper - Hard for me to believe this band has been around for as long as it has, and still has it going.  A great record, lots of moods and textures, and lots of atmosphere.

3. MY MORNING JACKET - The Waterfall - Another Jim James masterpiece.  Dreamy, druggy, and daring.

4. BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE - "+-" EP - Only three songs, but I love all three.

5. KURT VILE - B'lieve I'm Goin' Down - Took me a few listens, and I still don't like it quite as much as his last one, but it's very good.

6. NEW ORDER - Music Complete - I'm a fan, and had been waiting a long time in hopes the band would release something new.  It's a very rewarding album most New Order fans should appreciate, as it draws on all the phases of their long career since the ending of Joy Division.

7. LOW - Ones and Sixes - This is a return to form for Low.  It is more reminiscent of "The Curtain Hits The Cast" and "Things We Lost In The Fire" than their other recent albums.  Slow, dreamy, and beautiful.

8. MAGIC CASTLES - Starflower - Great psychedelic rock from this band, which records on the "A" records label (of Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe).

9. WILCO - Star Wars - The first couple of tracks didn't grab me, but everything after that did.  This album has a more spontaneous feel than some of their other recent releases.  It's a lot of fun.

10. TAME IMPALA - Currents - Not what I expected, but instead a more smooth, polished product of stuff that's more like Pop music.  Complete ear candy!

11. ISRAEL NASH - Silver Season

12. BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE - Mini-Album Thingy-Wingy - This is not as enjoyable for me as "Revelation" was, but it's good.  Anton Newcombe rocks.  

13. STEVEN WILSON - Hand.Cannot.Erase. - More great stuff from the master of modern Prog rock.  Keeping the Prog flame alive!

14. POND - Man It Feels Like Space Again
15. JOE JACKSON - Fast Forward
16. VERUCA SALT - Ghost Notes
17. VIET CONG - Viet Cong
18. THE ARCS - Yours Dreamily
19. JOE JACKSON - Fast Forward

Others:
BLUR - The Magic Whip - Somewhat disappointing, but still enjoyable
FETTY WAP - Fetty Wap - I'm not a Hip-Hop fan, but I do like this one.
BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE - Musique de Filme Imagine - Anton Newcombe ought to stay away from writing soundtrack music and stick to rock and roll

Ones I didn't get around to hearing yet:
MUSE - Drones
COURTNEY BARNETT - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
SWERVEDRIVER - I Wasn't Born To Lose You
COLDPLAY - A Head Full of Dreams
SUFJIAN STEVENS - Carrie and Lowell

Thanks to Jim Marquis of Major Conflict for turning me on to a number of these excellent recordings!

TEN MONTHS LATER

Ten months later, nothing had happened.  Nothing worthy of mention, anyway.  So he decided to post something, even it it was very little, if anything at all.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

A FEW PICTURES FROM MY HIKING TRIP

I thought I'd share a few pictures of a hiking trip I took this past week in the Wallowa Mountains of NE Oregon.  These pictures were all taken in the magnificent Eagle Cap Wilderness Area.















My 57-year-old body handled the trip.  Getting in a lot of good exercise off and on during the last year helped a lot!  My friend Rand and I hired some great people to haul our gear in for us on horseback, so we didn't have to carry more than what was in our daypacks, which was about 20 pounds each.  We were camped about a quarter mile beyond Moccasin Lake.



















The first day was an 8.5 mile walk to the camp site.  There was an elevation gain of 1,600 feet in the first 2.5 miles, which is steep.  After that it was pretty easy though, with a gain of 700 feet in the next 5 miles.  The last mile and a half was up and down to an excellent (and remote) campsite our packers found for us:






















We hiked to Razz Lake on Day 2, a 900-foot climb in one mile after a 3-mile walk to where we left the main trail to head up the mountainside.  We futzed around for a while trying to find the old trail to the lake, and finally found it about halfway up the hill after working our way up through steep hillsides and boulders.  The lake is a gorgeous spot, and it was nice to see it again after being away for close to 30 years.

















Razz Lake

















Razz Lake


Day 3 featured an all-on-trail hike through Glacier Pass to Glacier Lake.  It was a climb of 1,000 feet in about a mile and half, fairly steep to the pass.  Another half mile and 400 feet down the other side and we were at Glacier Lake, another place I hadn't seen in years.  On the way back we tried to replicate an off-trail side trip I did 40 years ago, and found that it looked pretty impossible...  how did I do it way back then?  We decided to save it for the next day.

















The Matterhorn as seen looking north from the Glacier Pass trail


















Me and Rand near the top of Glacier Pass

















Glacier Lake as seen looking south from Glacier Pass

















Glacier Lake



















Rand at Glacier Pass



Pocket Lake was for Day 4.  It was only about a 5-mile round trip, but none of it was on established
trails.  The lake sits in a cirque 1,000 feet up a hillside strewn with boulders ranging in size from wastebaskets, chairs, and tables to VW bugs.  There was a fair amount of scrambling near the top, including a section that involved crawling uphill along the top of a fairly high snowbank.  But all that was worth it for the chance to spend some time at the lake.  The way back down was marred by a couple of falls, but I got back to camp with nothing more than a sore shin and numerous rock scrapes.






















Me at Pocket Lake

















Pocket Lake 

The area around Pocket Lake























I got banged up but the trip to Pocket Lake and back was worth it!


On the last day the packers came to get our gear, and we hiked the 8.5 miles back to the trail head.  All in all, it was worth the soreness.  I was proud that I was able to do things that I think at least 80% of people my age would not be able to do, proving to myself that all the exercising I did during the past year has helped my strength and endurance.  Fun stuff!  :-)



Eagle Cap Mountain as seen from the East Fork Lostine River Trail 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

CRUELTY

"We cheer for cruelty and say that we are asking for personal responsibility among those people who are not us, because the people who are not us do not deserve the same benefits of the political commonwealth that we have. In our politics, we have become masters of camouflage. We practice fiscal cruelty and call it an economy. We practice legal cruelty and call it justice. We practice environmental cruelty and call it opportunity. We practice vicarious cruelty and call it entertainment. We practice rhetorical cruelty and call it debate."

- Charles Pierce 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

UGH



Right-wingers/"libertarians" might want to think twice about worshiping this troll, or even before saying nice things about her.

Think about this the next time you think of Paul Ryan...  he is a big fan of hers.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

"DOUBLE DUMB-ASS ON YOU!!"


http://www.macleans.ca/politics/america-dumbs-down/

This is some pretty sad stuff.

Anyone who doesn't believe religious conservatism and its use by the Republican party is a problem in our country hasn't been paying attention for the last 20-30 years.


RichardDawkins.net