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Weird Al & Harry Potter: The Strangest Combo of the Year??

[NOTE: The “life story” depicted in the forthcoming parody biopic described below is a fake; or rather fiction. Or better to call it a parody of the life of its real-life protagonist, Alfred Matthew (Weird Al) Yankovic. The real Yankovic was born in October 1959 in Lynwood California, just south of LA & just north of Compton.  Offstage, Yankovic is authoritatively described (by Wikipedia) as leading a distinctly un-weird life: married, a daughter, no drugs or alcohol, vegetarian, no cussing in shows, a regular churchgoer. But the part about being taught the accordion by a protective mother is true. For the rest, including info about Daniel [Harry Potter] Radcliffe who stars as Weird Al in the flic, read on . . . ]

New York Times – Sept. 8, 2022

When Weird Al Yankovic Met Daniel Radcliffe, Things Got … Well, You Know

For their decidedly nonfactual rock biopic, the pop-music parodist and the “Harry Potter” star found themselves on the same wavelength.

The real Weird Al Yankovic, left, and his movie double, Daniel Radcliffe. “I hope this confuses a lot of people,” the musician said of their biopic.
Credit…Sinna Nasseri for The New York Times 

Generally speaking, Weird Al Yankovic and Daniel Radcliffe are never going to be mistaken for each other. Yankovic is the lanky, longhaired Southern California dude who became an accordion whiz and a master parodist of pop music. Radcliffe is the more compact, London-born wunderkind of the “Harry Potter” movies who has since graduated into an eclectic acting career.

Still, this past winter, during the making of the new movie “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” their mutual presence on the set occasionally led to confusion. When crew members called for “Weird Al,” they wanted the actor playing him, which meant Radcliffe. Eventually, for maximum clarity, they began referring to the authentic Yankovic as “Real Al,” though some further disorientation was inevitable.

Continue reading Weird Al & Harry Potter: The Strangest Combo of the Year??

Quote of The Week

Dahlia Lithwick. In 2018, the Sidney Hillman Foundation awarded Lithwick with the Hillman Prize for Opinion & Analysis Journalism noting that she “has been the nation’s best legal commentator for two decades”. She often covers the Supreme Court.

The Anti-Abortion vision of Post-Roe America in a terrifying summary by  Canadian-born lawyer and writer Dahlia Lithwick:

Efforts of those who have taken the position that forced birth is somehow pleasant and rewarding, even for America’s 10-year-old rape victims, have backfired spectacularly, as have their claims that abortion rights advocates are lying about new dangers that abortion bans pose to patients with high-risk pregnancies or who are experiencing a miscarriage.

For the last six weeks, Republicans have touted their vision of a post-Roe America. It is a place in which rapists get to choose the mother of their children, even if she is 10 years old; in which patients must be dying of sepsis before they can terminate a failing pregnancy; in which doctors who follow their duty of care to perform a life-saving abortion must persuade prosecutors of their proper judgment at risk of incarceration; and in which pharmacists refuse to provide women with autoimmune treatment because they suspect it could be used for an illicit abortion. This reality unfolded in under a month, because it’s the fondest dream of a small minority of uncompromising extremists.

In under a month, even Americans who call themselves abortion opponents have come to see that when abortion is criminal, every uterus is a potential crime scene.”

Budd & Hines Scrub NC Campaign Sites, Cover Up Anti-Abortion Rhetoric, Trump Ties

Midterm Scramble: NC GOP Candidates Ted Budd and Bo Hines Are Now Hiding Trump Ties & Anti-Abortion Planks

NYTimes, August 31, 2023; excerpts

At least 10 Republican candidates in competitive races have updated their websites to downplay their ties to Mr. Trump or to adjust uncompromising stances on abortion. Some have removed material from their websites altogether.

The changes to the websites for Mr. Laxalt and [NC Republican Senate candidate Rep. Ted] Budd have not been previously reported. . . . Other news outlets have identified editing by several House candidates, including Yesli Vega in Virginia and Barbara Kirkmeyer in Colorado, Bo Hines in North Carolina and Tom Barrett in Michigan. . . .

Mr. Budd updated his website in late July, well after North Carolina’s May 17 primary, according to archived pages reviewed by The Times.

Until July 22, [Budd’s] home page featured a prominent, all-caps message that read “endorsed by President Donald J. Trump,” above a photo of Mr. Budd with the former president and a sign-up form urging voters to “join President Trump in supporting” him.

Budd with Trump on Budd’s campaign home page, July 2022, before Kansas sank in.

But since July 23, it has instead featured a rotating slide show of endorsers, starting with Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of North Carolina and circulating through former Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee before reaching Mr. Trump. A viewer would need to look at that spot on the page for about 20 seconds to see Mr. Trump.

Ted Budd Site - No Trump - with Robinson
Scrub, scrub: Revised Ted Budd campaign homepage, August ‘22

“It’s pretty basic — general elections have different dynamics than primary elections,” Jonathan Felts, a spokesman for Mr. Budd’s campaign, said in an email.

“We face a female opponent, so we’ve added prominent female politicians who have endorsed Ted,” Mr. Felts said. (Mr. Budd’s Democratic opponent is Cheri Beasley, a former chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.)

Other differences have been more subtle. Mr. Budd, for example, has made no changes to a page that outlines his views on abortion, but he has moved the link to that page lower on his website’s list of his positions; it was second as of July 23, but is now fifth.


And in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District [gerrymandered into the north central region] since winning the May 17 primary, Republican Bo Hines has removed his “life and family” issues section from his website, which previously linked to a fundraising page touting his belief “that life begins at conception and that we must protect the rights of the unborn.” . . .

[Budd & Hines are not alone.] Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters, who is trailing incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in recent polling, removed language from his website indicating support for a “federal personhood law” that would treat abortion as murder.

Tom Barrett, running in Michigan’s 7th Congressional District against Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin, removed language saying he would “always work to protect life from conception.”

Before his North Carolina primary, Hines, who is running for an open seat, told the Raleigh News & Observer that he would back legislation banning all abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest. He hasn’t weighed in publicly on the matter since the primary. . . .

Bo Hines, GOP candidate in NC-13.

All three political contests are rated toss-ups by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. While most forecasters still expect Republicans to take the House in the November elections, Democrats’ chances have improved in recent weeks, in part because of voters’ opposition to near-total abortion bans.


Gorbachev: More Proof No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

He ended The Cold War.

Moved the world away from nuclear war.

Permitted much truth to be told, opening up a totalitarian system.

Allowed hundreds of millions to sleep easier.

Helped us begin to rediscover hope.

But lived to see almost all of it undermined, rolled back, and destroyed, and a new imperialist tyranny installed. Continue reading Gorbachev: More Proof No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The Last Member of An “Uncontacted” Amazon Tribe Has Died

BBC News: ‘Man of the Hole’: Last of his tribe dies in Brazil

Vanessa Buschschlütter — August 29, 2022

The last remaining member of an uncontacted indigenous group in Brazil has died, officials say.

The man, whose name was not known, had lived in total isolation for the past 26 years.

He was known as Man of the Hole because he dug deep holes, some of which he used to trap animals while others appear to be hiding spaces.

His body was found on 23 August in a hammock outside his straw hut. There were no signs of violence. Continue reading The Last Member of An “Uncontacted” Amazon Tribe Has Died

Historians Take a Turn, Debating Putin’s “General Winter” vs. Ukraine’s Invincible Stories

Putin is banking on a failure of political will in the west before Russia runs out of firepower

Democratic leaders need to prepare their citizens for a long struggle over Ukraine – and a hard winter


The Guardian
Published: 05 August 2022

Ukrainian soldiers unpack US Javelin anti-tank missiles in Kyiv

The Russo-Ukrainian war is coming down to a race between the weakening political will of western democracies and the deteriorating military means of Vladimir Putin’s dictatorship. But this race will be a marathon, not a sprint. Sustaining that political will requires the kind of farsighted leadership which most democracies are missing. It calls for a recognition that our own countries are also, in some important sense, at war – and a corresponding politics of the long haul.

Is this what you hear when you turn on your television in the United States (where I am now), Germany, Italy, Britain or France?

Is this a leading topic in the Conservative party contest to decide Britain’s next prime minister, or the run-up to the Italian election on 25 September, or the campaign for the US midterm elections on 8 November?

No, no and no.

“We are at war,” I heard someone say recently on the radio; but he was an energy analyst, not a politician.

The fact that Ukrainian forces are preparing for a big counter-offensive to recapture the strategically vital city of Kherson shows what a combination of western arms and Ukrainian courage could achieve. US-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars) – longrange multiple-launch rocket systems – have enabled the Ukrainians to hit artillery depots, bridges and command posts far behind Russian lines.

Russian forces have been redeployed from Donbas to defend against the expected offensive, thus further slowing the Russian advance in the east. Richard Moore, the head of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), observed recently that Russia might be “about to run out of steam” in Ukraine because of shortages of material and adequately trained troops. So Ukraine has a good chance of winning an important battle this autumn; but it’s still a long way from winning the war.

In his campaign to defeat not only Ukraine but also the west, Putin is counting on Russia’s two traditional wartime allies: Field Marshal Time and General Winter. The Russian leader is weaponising energy, reducing gas flows through the Nordstream 1 pipeline so Germany can’t fully replenish its gas storage before the weather turns cold.

Then he will have the option of turning off the gas entirely, plunging Germany and other dependent European countries into a desperate winter. High energy prices as a result of the war continue to turbocharge inflation in the west while keeping Putin’s own war chest filled with the billions of euros Germany and others are still paying for Russian gas and oil.

Although a few grain ships are now leaving Odesa, his blockade of Ukrainian ports has caused a food price crisis across parts of the Middle East and Africa, resulting in much human misery and potentially in refugee flows and political chaos. Those, too, are Putin’s friends. Better still: the global south seems to blame this at least as much on the west as on Russia.

Putin’s cultural and political analysis of the west leads him to believe that time is on his side. In his view, the west is decadent, weakened by multiculturalism, immigration, the post-nationalism of the EU, LGBTQ+ rights, atheism, pacifism and democracy. No match, therefore, for carnivorous, martial great powers which still cleave to the old trinity of God, family and nation.

There are people in the west who agree with him, subverting western and European unity from within. Just read Viktor Orbán’s scandalous recent speech to an ethnic Hungarian audience in Romania, with its insistence that Hungarians should not become “mixed race”, its sweeping critique of the west’s policy on Ukraine and its conclusion that “Hungary needs to make a new agreement with the Russians”.

Although the party likely to emerge victorious from next month’s Italian elections, the Fratelli d’Italia, is the indirect successor of a neo-fascist party founded in 1946, it does at least support the western position on the war in Ukraine. But the leaders of the Fratelli’s probable coalition partners, the Lega’s Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia’s Silvio Berlusconi have a pro-Putin past and cannot be relied on to stand firm on Ukraine, as the current Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, has done.

In Germany, a plurality of those asked in a recent opinion poll (47%) said Ukraine should give up its eastern territories in return for “peace”. European voices calling on Ukraine to “settle” along those lines will only get louder as the war grinds on. (Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently joined them, although his intervention won’t affect the strong cross-party consensus in Britain on support for Ukraine.)

Most important are the midterm elections in the US. If Donald Trump announces his presidential candidacy off the back of midterm election successes for his partisans, this could spell big trouble for what has so far been rare bipartisan consensus in the US on large-scale economic and military support for Ukraine. Notoriously reluctant to criticise Putin, Trump has told his supporters that “the Democrats are sending another $40bn to Ukraine, yet America’s parents are struggling to even feed their children”.

What would it take to prove the Russian leader wrong about the intrinsic weakness of western democracies?

Rather a lot. The two largest armies in Europe are going to be slogging it out in Ukraine for months and quite probably years to come. Neither side is giving up; neither has a clear path to victory. All the current peace scenarios are unrealistic. When you can’t begin to see how something is going to end, it’s unlikely to end soon.

To sustain Ukraine’s resistance and enable its army to recover lost territory requires weapon supplies on a scale that is large even for America’s military-industrial complex. For example, the US has reportedly already sent one-third of its entire stock of Javelin anti-tank missiles. According to a former deputy governor of the National Bank of Ukraine, the country needs a further $5bn a month in macroeconomic support just to ensure that its economy does not collapse – close to double what it is currently getting.

That’s before you even get to the challenge of postwar reconstruction, which may cost as much as $1tn.

If we stay the course, at scale, then Field Marshal Time will be on Ukraine’s side. Putin’s stocks of his most modern weapons and best trained troops have already been depleted. Keep up the pressure and – military experts tell us – he will be reaching back to 40-year-old tanks, and raw recruits. Western sanctions are hitting the hi-tech parts of his economy, needed for resupply.

Could he compensate for the loss of skilled troops by a general mobilisation? Will China come to his aid with modern weapons supplies? Can he escalate? These questions have to be asked, of course, but the pressure would be back on him.

In democracies, leaders must justify and explain to voters this kind of large-scale, strategic commitment, otherwise they will not support it in the long run. Putin would then be proved right in his diagnosis of the weakness of democracy. Estonia’s Kaja Kallas is giving an example of such leadership, but then her people know all too much about Russia already. At the moment I don’t see any leader of a major western democracy doing the same, except perhaps for Mario Draghi – and he’s leaving.

  • Timothy Garton Ash is a historian, political writer and Guardian columnist

Continue reading Historians Take a Turn, Debating Putin’s “General Winter” vs. Ukraine’s Invincible Stories

Pundits Pontificate on the Ukraine War’s Future

[NOTE: The Short Answer: Experts agree —“Maybe.” Or “Maybe not.” Long answer: Below.]

New York Times  — Aug. 10, 2022
Is There Any End to the Ukraine War in Sight?

Mr. Bokat-Lindell is a staff editor.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, many observers expected that Russia’s military would make quick work of President Vladimir Putin’s mission: ​​to capture the country’s capital, Kyiv, depose its democratically elected government and restore Ukraine to Moscow’s control.

But nearly six months later, after Russian forces failed to take Kyiv, the war has evolved into one of attrition, grinding on with no end on the immediate horizon.

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine continues to project an air of cautious optimism about the conflict’s trajectory. In June he told world leaders that he wanted the war to end before 2023, adding that he would “only negotiate from a position of strength.”

What are the prospects that the war will end on such a short timetable, and what paths might its resolution take? Here’s what people are saying.

Continue reading Pundits Pontificate on the Ukraine War’s Future

Getting a Start on Worldly Quaker Wisdom

In the early 1830s, a young man went to sea, hoping to make his


A Presbyterian by birth, he read his Bible each night in his shipboard
hammock, and was haunted by a verse in the fourth chapter of Proverbs:

“Wisdom is the principal thing: Therefore, get wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.”

Wealth, the youth piously decided, was nothing without this special seasoning. But where was such a combination to be found?

Presently his ship sailed into the harbor of Nantucket Island, off the Massachusetts coast.  Nantucket was then a wealthy and vibrant community, built and largely populated by members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers.

As he walked the bustling, cobbled streets of Nantucket town, observing the fine grey shingled houses and the plain but prosperous inhabitants, another verse from Proverbs came to him. It was something about , “I am Wisdom, and in my right hand is riches and honor.”

The more he saw of Nantucketers, the more he felt sure that here was a group that genuinely understood and knew how to apply this kind of Wisdom. Continue reading Getting a Start on Worldly Quaker Wisdom

War Notes: Odessa and the Bread of Life

GWYNNE DYER: Ukraine’s Black Sea corridor

| July 25, 2022

“Not all issues have yet been resolved, but the fact that there is movement is already good,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin in Tehran on Tuesday, July 19.

“We feel that incrementally, there’s been a little bit more progress made, but there’s nothing to announce at this stage,” said Farhan Haq, spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

It could be good news, although unfortunately not news of a ceasefire in Ukraine. Both men were talking about a deal to let ships take out the 25 million tonnes of grain that is trapped in Ukrainian ports by the Russian blockade.

There won’t be dancing in the streets in Kyiv about this, but there could be some dancing in the several dozen countries in the Middle East and Africa that have been facing the threat of mass hunger, in some cases even famine. Continue reading War Notes: Odessa and the Bread of Life