Saturday, April 22, 2017

SATURDAY POLITICS: Presidential First-Quarter Approval Rating Comparisons; #CA34 Runoff Between Gomez and Ahn; Gorsuch's 1st Killer Vote


TRUMP'S FIRST-QUARTER APPROVAL RATINGS ARE HISTORICALLY LOW COMPARED TO OTHER FIRST-TERM PRESIDENTS
The Huffington Post reports that Donald Trump is the first post-World War president to have less than majority support from the American populace after the first quarter of his first term.

President Donald Trump received substantially worse ratings for his initial months in office than any other president elected to his first term since World War II, according to Gallup.
Even those presidents who went on to be unpopular generally enjoyed high ratings during their first months in office after their electoral victory. But Trump’s average rating since Inauguration Day is just 41 percent, Gallup finds, making him the only such president in its polling history to fall short of majority approval during his first quarter.
President Bill Clinton, the next-lowest ranked, had an average approval rating of 55 percent for that time period, while Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush enjoyed first-quarter ratings of 63 percent and 58 percent, respectively. 
It should be noted that Trump's approval rating among Republicans (as depicted in the graphic at the top of this post) is 87%, which is well aligned with the political support other presidents have received from people in their same party.


#CA34 JUNE 6 RUN-OFF ELECTION SET BETWEEN JIMMY GOMEZ AND ROBERT LEE AHN
Previously I analyzed the race to replace Xavier Becerra as the United States representative for the 34th Congressional District of California. I also voted in the April 4 election by absentee ballot. The top two finishers were Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez and former Los Angeles City Planning Commissioner Robert Lee Ahn. One of these two will be elected as a Congressmember on June 6, 2017. Ahn, 41, raised the most money but Gomez, 42, received the most votes.


JUSTICE NEIL GORSUCH JOINED THE SUPREME COURT AND HIS FIRST VOTE ALLOWS ARKANSAS TO KILL
Neil Gorsuch is now the newest member of the United States Supreme Court. His very first vote was on Monday night, in the case of McGehee v. Hutchinson, which was in a death penalty case out of Arkansas. In a 5-4 decision, Gorsuch's was the deciding vote which led to the execution of Ledell Lee. This was the first execution in the state of Arkansas in a dozen years. The state had intended to execute 8 men in 11 days but that plan is in doubt now, but they have "successfully" killed at least one man.

Friday, April 21, 2017

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Serena Anounces She's 20 Weeks Pregnant, Will Not Play Again In 2017

Serena Williams stunned the tennis and sporting worlds by revealing on Instagram a few days ago (on Maria Sharapova's 30th birthday, no less)  that she is 20 weeks pregnant. The implications of this announcement are huge.

First, it means that when Serena won her 23rd major title at the 2017 Australian Open approximately 12 weeks ago, she was two months pregnant at the time!! (I wonder if Venus knew? I doubt it! I wonder is Serena knew? Probably!) This should put to rest any doubts as to whether Serena is the greatest female tennis player of all time.

Secondly, Serena's spokesperson also made it very clear that Serena will not be competing at any other tournaments in 2017, which clears the field for other players to win some trophies, namely, Victoria Azarenka, who just gave birth in December, and Sharapova, who is returning to competitive tennis next week after a 2-year gap due to a drug violation ban.

Thirdly, it means that Serena is revealing that she has been having unprotected sex (and is presumably not using birth control) with her fiance Alexis Ohanian. Will she have the child and be an unwed mother or will they push forward the date of the wedding? (No date had previously been announced.) If Serena is 20 weeks pregnant now, she should give birth before the end of the summer. Maybe a June wedding? She'll be pretty huge, by then!

Beynce and Serena pregnant at the same time is too much motherhood to take! #mindblown

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

GODLESS WEDNESDAY: Montana House Candidate Believes In Creationsm


There has been a lot of talk in political circles over the special election in Georgia's 6th congressional district, but not much about another special election that is upcoming for Montana's at-large congressional seat which was vacated when Ryan Zinke became Secretary of the Interior.

The most prominent Republican candidate in the special election to replace Zinke is Greg Gianforte, who is a tech millionaire who has used money from his family foundation to support the belief that the earth is 6,000 years old, Huffington Post reports.

Just in time for today's Godless Wednesday, The Friendly Atheist has published an excerpt of an interview with a reporter where Gianforte "doubles down" on his creationist views:
MAUK: Your position on evolution has come up in past campaigns because of your support, primarily, of the Glendive museum. Do you personally believe in evolution?
GIANFORTE: I personally believe, as many Montanans do, that God created the Earth.
MAUK: But do you believe, personally, in evolution?
GIANFORTE: I believe that God created the Earth. I wasn’t there, I don’t know how long it took. I don’t know how he did it exactly. But I look around me at the grandeur in this state and I believe that God created the Earth.
MAUK: And so evolution is not something that you believe in?
GIANFORTE: Um, I think I’ve answered your question.
I believe everyone running for public office should be asked, "Do you believe the Earth is less than 4 billion years old?" and if they give some weasly answer like "I wasn't there" or "I don't know" or "I am not a scientist" they should be asked "What other undisputed scientific facts do you not know or personally believe in? Do you believe the Earth is round? Do you believe the Earth revolves around the Sun? Do you believe in the germ theory of disease? Do you believe in antibiotic resistance?"

FYI, the March for Science is happening this Saturday April 22 in Washington, DC  and around the country and the world.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TENNIS TUESDAY: Coric Wins 1st Title; Federer Iffy On Paris; Sharapova Returns; Schiavone!


ROGER FEDERER IS STILL UNSURE HE WILL PLAY 2017 FRENCH OPEN
After completing his 3rd sunshine double as part of a 19-1 blistering start to 2017 which has included his 18th major title in Australia and 91st tour title overall. Federer is now ranked World #4 but, conscious that he needs to nurture his body at age 35, he is skipping all the clay court warmups and may even skip the clay court major in Paris as well. He told CNN Sport that "I don't think I will skip it, but I will have to see in, say, four or five weeks how I feel when I get on the clay, how my mood is." Since he also missed the 2016 French Open, he has no points to lose, but doing well there would be a golden opportunity to pick up ranking points if he really wants to challenge for the year end #1.

MARIA SHARAPOVA RETURNS TO WTA TOUR NEXT WEEK AS 18-MONTH DOPING BAN ENDS
5-time major champion Maria Sharapova will return to the WTA Tour for the first time in nearly two years when her 18-month ban for using the banned substance meldonium for over a decade runs out on April 26th. Somewhat oddly, Sharapova was given a wild card into the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, which will be underway at that time, so she will be able to resume playing on the tour immediately, despite having literally no ranking points. She has since received wild card entries into Madrid

CORIC, 20, WINS FIRST ATP TITLE IN STYLE, SAVING 5 MP AGAINST KOHLSCHREIBER
20-year-old Borna Coric of Croatia, one of the photogenic up-and-coming #NextGen stars of the ATP won his first tour title this week in dramatic fashion, saving 5 match points  in the second set against veteran Phillipp Kohlschreiber in Marrakech. Coric was also down a break 2-4 in the deciding set, but won the match 5-7 7-6(5) 7-5.

2011 FRENCH OPEN CHAMPION FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE WINS 600TH MATCH AND FIRST TITLE IN NEARLY 2 YEARS
"Nothing is Impossible" said the t-shirts when Francesca Schiavone won her French Open title (d. Sam Stosur) in 2010 at the age of 29. The veteran is playing her last year in the tour and has been in danger of not qualifying to play her favourite tournament. However, thanks to an amazing performance in Colombia, the 36-year-old is now almost in the Top 100 (ranked #104)and should be able to get into the Roland Garros main draw. I wonder what Francesca will say if Sharapova gets a wild card into the French??

Friday, April 14, 2017

CELEBRITY FRIDAY: Colson Whitehead Wins The Pulitzer For Fiction


Colson Whitehead, the author of The Underground Railroad, has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for this award-winning work about slavery. The commendation from the Pulitzer jury says Mr. Whitehead's win was:
For a smart melding of realism and allegory that combines the violence of slavery and the drama of escape in a myth that speaks to contemporary America.

Whitehead, 47, had previously won the MacArthur "genius" grant (in 2002) as well as a Guggenheim fellowship.  The Underground Railroad also won this year's National Book award.

There has been an announcement that Barry Jenkins, the Oscar-winning director of this year's Best Picture, Moonlight, will adapt the book into a limited series for Amazon.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead


This was my first audiobook. My husband and I listened to it on our anniversary vacation in Hawaii (Kauai and Kona).

The narrator is Bahni Turpin and she is quite impressive. She provided individual voices for each of the characters and her vocal inflections communicate the nuances of the story and made the book a delightful experience. I would probably "read" another audiobook by her from an author I was ambivalent about just because she was the narrator! (Yes, she is that good.)

I'm not sure I'm a fan of the audiobook experience overall. I feel like I did not have as continuously engaged an experience with the audiobook as I would have had if I had read the book in either "dead tree" or electronic form. But it was fun to share the experience with my hubby. There were some scenes and plot points that my husband asked me about that I missed but as a whole the book was the source of many thoughtful and interesting conversations, which is one of the key reasons to read, in my humble opinion.

All that being said, The Underground Railroad  is very effective at depicting the horrors of slavery and illustrating the toxic effects of white supremacy and legal racial subordination on both Black and White people. There's an especially affecting scene when the ramifications of harboring a fugitive slave in a upside-down version of North Carolina become chillingly clear.

Another thing that comes across is how difficult life was back then without the modern technological advances we are now used to (in 2017); I'm not talking about fancy inventions like iPhones and electric cars and the Internet, but basic necessities of modern life we almost always take for granted like antibiotics and anesthesia and electricity. 

The Underground Railroad also points out all the different ways that people's humanity is degraded by the various horrible jobs (slave catcher, slave boss, overseer et cetera) that they are forced to undertake in order to survive. This is true of the black people and the white people in the book.

Although its calling card is the fact that the "metaphorical" Underground Railroad we have heard of in history books is a real thing in the book, to me this was a minor point, and even a bit silly. The primary selling point of The Underground Railroad is its depiction of slavery (even in a fictionalized, heightened form).

The Underground Railroad is also a compelling (and action-packed) story about what happens to a number of slaves named Cora and Cesar.


Title: The Underground Railroad.
Author: 
Colson Whitehead.
Paperback: 320 pages.
Publisher:
 Doubleday.
Date Published: August 2, 2016.
Date Read: January 17, 2017.


OVERALL GRADE: A (4.0/4.0).

PLOT: A.
IMAGERY: A-.
IMPACT: A+.
WRITING: A.

Monday, April 10, 2017

EYE CANDY: Chaera Brown




Chaera Brown is a model from Alexandria, Virginia. He is active on Instagram (@only1chaera) and Facebook. He is today's Eye Candy model.

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