Daily Archive: 02/22/2015

Feb 22 2015

Rant of the Week: How Is This Still A Thing?

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue – How Is This Still a Thing?

We’ve noticed that the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue still exists but can’t quite figure out why.

Feb 22 2015

Random Japan

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Want your mecha models to look amazingly realistic? Don’t stop at the robot – Make the buildings!

 Casey Baseel

Whoa, hold on a second! We know Amazon Japan now sells giant robots, but we didn’t know someone else had made something this big! This mecha looks like it’s at least twice as tall (and three times as awesome) as the one offered by the online retailer. Don’t you need a permit to build something that huge?

Actually, the only legal paperwork involved in this photo was for model-making supplies, as that’s not a real giant robot, but a scale replica. What’s more, the way it appears to be standing with its head almost in the rafters of the structure housing it isn’t thanks to a mere trick camera angle, but rather the considerable skills of the modeller who also crafted a miniature hanger for his compact mobile suit.

Feb 22 2015

Going Down?

Loretta Lynch confirmation as attorney general dogged by HSBC scandal

Dan Roberts, The Guardian

Friday 20 February 2015 13.58 EST

Opposition to Barack Obama’s nominee for US attorney general over her handling of the [HSBC ] scandal is growing in Congress after she admitted deciding not to prosecute the bank for money laundering offences without hearing from key regulators or a separate investigation into tax secrecy.

A Senate vote to confirm Loretta Lynch, who as US attorney in the case instead agreed a $1.9bn financial settlement, has already been postponed until next Thursday amid concern she was insufficiently aggressive in pursuing Wall Street criminal allegations.

But new responses to questions on HSBC put to Lynch by Senate judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley reveal just how isolated her decision was from other allegations swirling around the giant bank and has now prompted another member of the committee, Senator David Vitter, to demand further disclosures.

“These decisions by the [Department of Justice] and Ms Lynch’s office raise troubling questions about whether pertinent information of public concern regarding HSBC was ‘swept under the rug’, if justice was served, and why HSBC was given special treatment that allowed it to walk away from such serious offences unscathed,” Vitter writes in a letter to current attorney general Eric Holder. “This case is increasingly relevant and pressing now that Ms Lynch has been nominated as the next attorney general.”

Lynch has confirmed she was not aware of the damning tax allegations against the bank when negotiating a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) over it facilitating money laundering by Mexican drug cartels and helping clients evade US sanctions.

This was despite a separate investigation into documents from whistleblower Hervé Falciani showing HSBC’s role in colluding with Swiss bank clients to hide their assets from tax authorities, which were passed to the US government by French authorities.

“To my knowledge, my office did not have access to the Falciani documents prior to execution of the DPA,” said Lynch in responses published on Thursday. “I am not aware of whether or how the information was conveyed to the department, nor do I have information about why my office did not have access to it.”

The admission has angered campaigners who say the crucial Facliona documents were “lost in the haystack of information” at the DoJ but their public existence could have been easily verified.

“She could have looked it up on Wikipedia,” said Bart Naylor, an expert at Public Citizen. “She oversees 340 attorneys; at least somebody should have been thinking about this and put it on Google alerts,” he added. “At the time of December 2012 when she signs this deal she should have said to somebody, can I have a fuller account of this?”

“From a policy perspective, that’s the most troubling aspect of this: that people not expert in this made an otherwise momentous policy that this bank was too big to jail.”

The ‘too big to jail’ argument was subsequently undermined by successful prosecutions of Credit Suisse and BNP Paribas, who entered guilty pleas in similar cases without triggering a banking meltdown.

Feb 22 2015

On This Day In History February 22

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 22 is the 53rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 312 days remaining until the end of the year (313 in leap years).

On this day in 1980, the U.S. Olympic hockey team makes “miracle on ice”.

In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. The Soviet squad, previously regarded as the finest in the world, fell to the youthful American team 4-3 before a frenzied crowd of 10,000 spectators.

The United States did not win the gold medal upon defeating the USSR. In 1980 the medal round was a round-robin, not a single elimination format as it is today. Under Olympic rules at the time, the group game with Sweden was counted along with the medal round games versus the Soviet Union and Finland so it was mathematically possible for the United States to finish anywhere from first to fourth.

Needing to win to secure the gold medal, Team USA came back from a 2-1 third period deficit to defeat Finland 4-2. According to Mike Eruzione, coming into the dressing room in the second intermission, Brooks turned to his players, looked at them and said, “If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your graves.” He then paused, took a few steps, turned again, said, “Your fucking graves,” and walked out.

At the time, the players ascended a podium to receive their medals and then lined up on the ice for the playing of the national anthem, as the podium was only meant to accommodate one person. Only the team captains remained on the podium for the duration. After the completion of the anthem, Eruzione motioned for his teammates to join him on the podium. Today, the podiums are large enough to accommodate all of the players.

The victory bolstered many American citizens’ feelings of national pride, which had been severely strained during the turbulent 1970s. The match against the Soviets popularized the “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant, which has been used by American supporters at many international sports competitions since 1980.

Feb 22 2015

The Breakfast Club (A Young Person’s Guide)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgSo instead of what I should have been doing, which was writing a kick ass Breakfast Club, I spent last night watching a movie called Moonrise Kingdom with my family and a few friends.

I think their intention was that I should like this movie, which I do.  It’s a coming of age love story between two quirky misfits set in the Penobscot Islands, just about the best place on the planet as far as I’m concerned.  It features Bill Murray, one of my favorite actors, and Bruce Willis, in one of his less objectionable roles.

Things work out well in the end, most of the jerks come to the realization that they are being jerks and stop it and become inspired to aid the course of true love.

If it’s still available on YouTube I’ll put it up tonight as a Sunday Movie Spectacular, but I’ll warn you in advance that unless you want to spend between .99 and $2.99 for an Amazon stream or a month or two rooting around the remainder bin, you’ll want to install this tool (Free YouTube Downloader) and grab a copy for yourself.  It comes with the usual load of bloatware, so choose ‘custom install’ and decline where possible.  View on YouTube, Share, copy the http:// code and paste it in the downloader, hit the downward pointing arrow on the right.

The rest of the audience felt it was terrifically uplifting and funny, but it left me kind of sad and depressed.

I haven’t quite worked that out yet which is why I’ll have to watch it again, but I think a part of it is that I am 120+ years old and no longer have the innocence and enthusiasm of youth and true belief.  Instead I am trapped in the ashes of past decisions, mostly good but some bad, along with the awful certainty that things never really change for the better and the best and most heroic you can hope to do is keep sticking your fingers in the dike until the tide overwhelms you.  The closest thing to actual excitement I can muster is a rather cynical and insincere quote from a better known Bill Murray movie-

Excuse me Egon?  You said crossing the streams was bad!  You’re going to endanger us, you’re going to endanger our client – the nice lady, who paid us in advance before she became a dog…

Not necessarily.  There’s definitely a very slim chance we’ll survive.

I like this plan!  I’m excited to be a part of it!  Let’s do it!

But how does this relate to Art Music?

Well, most of the music in the movie comes from the pen of Benjamin Britten, a central figure of mid-20th Century British Art Music which the female lead plays incessantly on a battery powered record player she stole borrowed from her brother.

This is not surprising, among the works he’s best known for is The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra which if you are of a certain age and cultural background will fill you with instant nostalgia.

But he wrote other, more serious, things too and while he has a resume that proves his mastery of all the conventional forms, he’s best known by older students for his vocal compositions which include many popular Operas (“according to Operabase, they are performed worldwide more than those of any other composer born in the 20th century, and only Puccini and Richard Strauss come ahead of him if the list is extended to all operas composed after 1900.”) and many, many complicated and difficult a cappella pieces sadistic Choirmasters use to torture their Choruses and expose their vocal weakness in front of the public (have I mentioned I spent 5 years in purgatory Choir and am a natural, but very bad, Tenor?).  I suppose this is only to be expected given his Edwardian, Public School education.

Once upon a time there was a prep-school boy. … He was quite an ordinary little boy … he loved cricket, only quite liked football (although he kicked a pretty “corner”); he adored mathematics, got on all right with history, was scared by Latin Unseen; he behaved fairly well, only ragged the recognised amount, so that his contacts with the cane or the slipper were happily rare (although one nocturnal expedition to stalk ghosts left its marks behind); he worked his way up the school slowly and steadily, until at the age of thirteen he reached that pinnacle of importance and grandeur never to be quite equalled in later days: the head of the Sixth, head-prefect, and Victor Ludorum. But – there was one curious thing about this boy: he wrote music. His friends bore with it, his enemies kicked a bit but not for long (he was quite tough), the staff couldn’t object if his work and games didn’t suffer. He wrote lots of it, reams and reams of it.

He was very conscious of the tenuous hold Art Music had on the public and did many film scores and live appearances as a featured performer (pianist) or conductor to pay the bills.  Many of his pieces dealt with alienation, existential angst, and the corruption of innocence.

He was an out homosexual in a long term relationship with his protégé and partner Peter Pears and because of his orientation and his interest in educating young people (as well as his habit, unfortunately common among people of a personality type I share, of simply writing off relationships that don’t work) was the subject of many scurrilous rumors about pedophilia which extensive historical analysis has shown to be no more justified in his case than that of Charles Dodgson, and a secret syphilis infection that was dismissed as “complete rubbish” by his Doctor and the Hospital where he died in 1973 of complications after cardiac surgery.

Rather than the overplayed Young Person’s Guide, today I offer Gloriana, an Opera in 3 Acts written in celebration of Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953.  It’s one of a few works of his that was not a critical success, probably because Elizabeth I (Gloriana) is portrayed “as a sympathetic, but flawed, character motivated largely by vanity and desire.”

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

Feb 22 2015

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: The guests on Sunday’s “This Week” are: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson; Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT); and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Writers Shelby Steele and Ta-Nehisi Coates debate overcoming this countries racial past.

On the panel are: Amy Chozick, political reporter for the New York Times; Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MI);  Joe Klein, columnist TIME; and Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guests are: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh JohnsonGov. Greg Abbott (R-TX); and David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Obama.

His panel guests are: Danbielle Pletka, American Enterprise Institute; David Ignatius, Washington Post; Michele Flournoy, Center for New American Security; and Farah Pandith, the State Department’s former Special Representative to Muslim Communities.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: The guests on Sunday’s “MTP” are: Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA). The rest is anybody’s guess.

State of the Union: Gloria Borgia is this week’s host and her guests are: Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson; Iraq war architect and war criminal Paul Wolfowitz; Gov. John Kasich (R-OH); former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY); and former Gov. Tom Ridge (R-PA).

Feb 22 2015

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Turkey launches rescue operation inside Syria

      Turkish forces carry out incursion into Syria to evacuate Turkish soldiers from Suleyman Shah tomb, Turkish PM confirms.

22 Feb 2015 07:27 GMT

Turkish soldiers guarding the tomb of Suleyman Shah in Syria have been successfully evacuated to Turkey in a military operation overnight, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.

Davutoglu said the remains of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, would be moved to a different area of Syria which has been brought under Turkish military control.

The military said in a statement that there had been no clashes during the operation but that one soldier had been killed in an accident.

Sunday’s Headlines:

At long last, Australia is able to halt the relentless advance of the cane toad

 The Grexit Dilemma: What Would Happen if Greece Leaves the Euro Zone?

Runaway British schoolgirls ‘have already crossed Syrian border’

Nigeria military retakes Boko Haram town: Is the tide turning?

It’s (almost) official: The 2022 World Cup is a total abomination