So last month, in reaction to the Q-people and their conspiracy theories, I wrote about the State of the State of the Union Address which was mostly an opportunity for me to be nerdy about the Constitution and presidential history/trivia. Which I love doing.
Tonight President Joe Biden is giving his first address to a joint session of Congress, which some people are incorrectly calling his first State of the Union Address. I predicted in that post seven weeks ago that a typical address wouldn’t happen any time soon, and I’m only technically correct. Joe will deliver his speech in the House Chamber, per tradition. The Vice President and the Speaker of the House will be seated behind him, per tradition. There will be members of both houses of Congress in the room, and representatives from all three branches of government, also per tradition.
However! It’s only going to be 60 Senators (30 from each party), and 80 Representatives (40 from each party) in the chamber. There will be only two cabinet members, instead of nearly the entire cabinet. There will be only one member of the Joint Chiefs, instead of the all of them. There will be only one member of the Supreme Court (the Chief Justice) instead of all of them. And instead of the gallery being packed with guests invited by nearly every member of Congress and a bunch invited by the President, there will be exactly two guests: the spouses of the President and the Vice President. And since they will be observing social distancing, all of these people will be spread out from each other.
The rest of Congress, the cabinet, and the Court will be watching from their homes or their offices. This means that another tradition isn’t being observed: the official Designated Survivor. For the last few decades, it has been the practice of the Secret Service to guard one member of the President’s cabinet who is in the succession of the presidency in an undisclosed secure location somewhere. The reasoning is that if someone hit the capitol building with a missile or bomb or something during the speech, that potentially everyone in the line of succession could be killed.
It’s kind of a creepy tradition, when you think about it. On the other hand, just a few months ago a murder mob invaded the capitol and at least some involved intended to kill certain members of Congress. So maybe we should be more worried about possible attacks.
Tomorrow will be the Biden’s 100th day in office. Presidential candidates often talk about things they plan to accomplish in their first 100 days in office. It all started with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who managed to get Congress to enact 76 new laws during his first 100 day. Something never accomplished before, and a record that has never been matched since.
Since FDR, journalists have treated the President’s first hundred days as an important benchmark. While it might be a self-fulfilling prophecy (because we pay attention to those days, they become important) it is also true that new administrations only get to focus most of their attention on their own agenda before events beyond their control begin to require more attention.
Anyway, here are a few takes other people have on how they thing Biden’s first 100 days will be remembered:
This started as a twitter rant, but I wanted to flesh things out a bit.
First, I saw a lot of people sharing the above tweet from Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer with comments ranging from "LOL!" to "That’s some fine trolling!" Which I had me scratching my head. Were there literally people who didn’t know that all beer is made from fermenting grains and hops — plant products?
To be fair, one of the ingredients in beer making is yeast, which is technically a fungus, and therefore no long considered part of the plant kingdom. But most people don’t understand the difference between a plant and a fungus, and usually retailers and food producers use the term "plant-based" to refer to any a meat substitute.
So for a second I thought this might be like the phenomenon I remember at the height of the gluten-free craze: where foods that have never contained glutens were labeled gluten free (corn ships, for instance) leading some people to think that any other brands of the same food contained gluten.
Nope. Turns out that a former Trump administratin member over the weekend started the lie that President Biden was going to outlaw meat (he can’t legally do that on his own, btw). And the specific lie that they ended with was a claim that because of this, come the Fourth of July "No burgers on July Fourth. No steaks on the barbecue. … So get ready. You can throw back a plant-based beer with your grilled Brussels sprouts and wave your American flag." Source: Befuddled Larry Kudlow Rails That Biden Will Force Americans To Guzzle ‘Plant-Based Beer’ – So no more beer made of grains, yeast and hops? Oh, wait …
But the kicker is that Repubs (including Donald Jr) started repeating specifically that claim about plant-based beer, right?
Now I have to pause for a moment to point out that grilled Brussells sprouts are f-ing delicious, and go particularly well with a juicy rare New York steak. Most barbecues I have attended in my six decades of life, including those hosted by my much more conservative relatives, have usually included a number of grilled vegetables along with the typical burgers and hot dogs. I mean, in parts of midwest it is practically illegal to have an outdoor barbecue without grilled cobs of sweet corn as part of the menu!
But back to the beer: all beers are plant based. It doesn’t really surprise me that Donald Jr. has no clue what beer is made of, but surely at least some of the MAGA people who are seeing the claim being shared on social media have been home brewers! Why aren’t they speaking up?
For those who surprised to learn what beer is made from, I have a few other revelations that some may find shocking: All ciders are plant-based, as are all whiskeys, all rums, all tequilas, all gins, all vodkas — booze is basically fermented plant parts. Similarly it may surprise these people to find out that hamburger buns are plant-based and always have been. French fries? Plant-based. Ketchup? Plant-based. Mustard — yes, even the cheapest, yellowest, most generic mustard is made from ground mustard seeds, not just the fancy Grey Poupon. So that big burger you assemble with the extra tomatoes (plant), sliced onions (plant), lettuce (plant), et cetera, has a whole lot of plant-based stuff as part of the package.
Unless you’re making a burger out of three hamburger patties and a couple of slices of cheese and just holding the greasy thing in your fingers (yes, I’m looking at you, Uncle Gerry), you’ve eaten a lot of plant-based stuff at your previous Fourth of July barbecues.
This whole lie springs from conflating a few studies out there that have shown how reducing how much of our agricultural activity goes to raising various sources of meat could reduce carbon emissions and help mitigate some of the problems of climate changes. These are mostly private studies. The only one I could find (in what was admittedly only a few minutes of Google searching) that was published by a government agency was commissioned by the Trump Administration.
But for many years now neither facts, truth, nor logic have been exactly the strong points of Republicans.
The finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a lot of fun. This is a superhero story, so there was a lot of superheroics. They did a much better job wrapping up most of the problematic plotlines than I had feared in the middle.
I’ve been reading a lot of other people’s reviews of the earlier episodes, and someone made an observation that echoed something I had been thinking about, but I can’t find the review where I read it so I can credit them. Marvel had a plan for this phase of their cinematic universe, which was to be kicked off by the Black Widow movie last summer, and then we were supposed to get The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series and then after that we were supposed to see WandaVision.
Instead, that part of the schedule was reversed. WandaVision was a very out-of-the-box story and didn’t follow typical superhero combat outlines. Because we saw it first, it raised the bar. So when The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is more of a typical superhero story, we keep expecting something more because WandaVision was so different.
It has also been revealed that at least one character who was introduced in this series is also in the Black Widow movie, and that was supposed to be our introduction to them. Not sure how, if we had been able to see Black Widow first that might have changed some of our perceptions of this series.
I think the series overall was fair, but not entirely good and certainly not great. I know opinions vary on this.
But to talk about the finale and what I thought worked, I’m going requires some spoilers. Before we jump into that, because this is a Disney owned property and for some time Disney has been refusing to pay some writers royalties owned, it is nice to note that Disney and Alan Dean Foster approaching settlement on royalties
Okay, so, let’s get into it:
Warning: Spoilers Below!
We finally see Sam in a Captain America themed costume. That favor Bucky called in really paid of, because Sam’s new flight suit is a major upgrade. This episode had lots of fights, and those were all thrilling.
The identity of the Power Broker is revealed as being Sharon Carter. I was a bit disappointed in this development since in the comics Sharon was never a villain. I’m also disappointed because all the previous clues pointed to Sharon so obviously that I was certain they were red herrings. I think this is another one I have to chalk up to WandaVision having raised my expectations too high.
The political parts of the plot don’t hang together well. Camestros Felapton opined in a previous review that this is because the writers are attempting to riff on the original Captain American’s unwavering moral compass, but the writers don’t seem to have the same moral compass. Cora Buhlert pointed out more than once that the supposed villains, the Flag-Smashers, are mostly right in objecting to the policies of the Global Repatriation Council, while the GRC’s policies amount to genocide under real world international law.
I have a really hard time believing, even when half the population of the planet disappeared five years previously, that the remainder of most of the world’s governments would cede all decisions about international travel and so forth to a single committee. If you can suspend your disbelief enough to at least see the GRC’s vote as having something other than symbolic value, you can kind of muddle through that part of the plot.
The fights play out, with Sam and Bucky each getting to be probably heroic. Captain Nationalism shows up in the middle of things and for a bit it looked like it was just going to be a repeat of him murdering one or more members of the Flag-Smashers. Instead, when Karli endangers a truck load of hostages, he breaks off from the fight and tries to save the hostages.
The Karli does get killed before everything is said and done, but it is Sharon Carter who does it, under circumstances where it appears to Sam that Sharon was just acting to save him. The viewers know that Sharon had tried to recruit Karli and the remaining super soldiers to come work for her, and then Karli refused, Sharon needed to kill her or be exposed as the villainous Power Broker.
Sam gets to have a debate with the members of the GRC, the entire thing filmed not just by news camera but by dozens or more bystanders. So the whole world heard him talk about being a Black man wearing the Stars and Stripes. The speech was moving, but we still didn’t take a very deep dive into the problems of systemic racism.
Isaiah Bradley’s stories gets a good closure. We get a scene where Isaiah sees that the story of him and the other black soldiers involuntarily experimented upon is now part of the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian. I’ve been trying to avoid reviews until I finished writing this but I did notice something on Twitter and Tumblr. Fans (as far as I can tell) are white, thought this scene wasn’t very important to the plot or was too superficial a take on the troubling relationship between the American Medical Establishment and the African American community. Whereas fans I know are people of color found the scene very moving; some declaring it the most important moment in the whole series.
I thought it was a good scene, though I would have liked a bit more of an examination of the meaning of Isaiah’s earlier declaration that no Black man should want to become Captain America. But I’m going to defer to the opinions of the PoC on how well this scene really worked.
We get to see Zemo one more time, but he isn’t talking to anyone, and that’s a shame. The rest of the super soldiers in the Flag-Smashers are killed by a bomb. The Contessa has a short scene with Captain Nationalism and his wife, where he gets a new uniform and the name USAgent. Bucky goes to the elderly man from episode one and finally confesses that he was the one who murdered the man’s son, and apparently explains about the whole Winter Solider thing. And Sharon got her pardon–which she is going to use to steal secrets from the government.’
And it seems that the powers that be are all okay with Sam declaring himself Captain America. We get a final wrap up with Bucky and Sam back in Louisiana with Sam’s sister, nephews, and all the community members we met earlier. I have to say I like that Bucky is able to smile again.
And the final title card changes the name of the show to Captain America and the Winter Soldier.
One of the jobs this series set out to accomplish was to show us that Sam could step into Steve Roger’s boots and be a great Captain America. It pulled that off, but it’s fair to say it did that in spite of the main plot of the show, rather than because of it.
The show is uneven. It worked for me, I think, because the character arcs for Bucky, Sam, and USAgent held together, again, sometimes in spite of the plot, not because of it.
At least for me, I’m left wanting to see what happens next for Sam, and Bucky, and Zemo. I want to know what kind of trouble the Contessa is going to get USAgent into. And I want to know how Sharon’s plots will be thwarted.
And I’m hoping that Loki is better.
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I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the presents my husband got me for Christmas was a replacement coffee maker, since the heating plate on the one I have been using for years was rusting out. I have only been using the coffee maker for about a month, so I was a little surprised after making the a new pot of coffee on Monday that the clean light was flashing on the maker. Which means that as soon as I finished drinking the coffee, I needed to clean everything out, load up the reservoir with a blend of vinegar and water and run a clean cycle.
Since that took a while late in the afternoon, I didn’t make a second pot of coffee.
My usual routine is to make a fresh pot of coffee on Monday morning, then after I drink the first pot, I make a second pot in the afternoon. I only drink about half of the second pot. Then usually on Tuesday morning I heat up the leftover from the previous day in the microwave until I finish it off, then I make a second pot which is usually consumed that day.
So I’ve used to having some coffee I can drink first thing on at least two days a week so I don’t have to try to make a new pot without already having some caffeine in my brain. I got through the rest of Monday by drinking a couple of cans of a brand of Cold Brew I sometimes mix with the homebrewed coffee to make a kind of mocha.
Even though I knew what had happened Monday afternoon, I was a bit shocked when I came into the kitchen Tuesday morning that the carafe was completely empty. I put some coffee beans in the grinder, then went back to my desk to boot up the work computer. There were several urgent messages awaiting me, so I started working on various things.
During a break between urgent calls from various co-worker, I headed into the kitchen to get some coffee. Except there wasn’t coffee. There were just fresh ground beans waiting to be put into the filter basket. I hadn’t remembered to come back and do the next part of the process. So I put the gounds into a filter.
And because there were a lot of alert sounds coming from the work phone, I headed back to the computer to deal with the follow up questions. By the time there was a break, I was developing a caffeine-deprivation headache. So I headed into the kitchen again…
…I had put the grounds into a fresh filter and put the filter into the coffeemaker, but I hadn’t put any water in the reservoir, let along turned the coffee maker on.
I didn’t get the coffeemaker actually going until about noon.
So it wasn’t exactly the best day.
Maybe Wednesday will go better…
I guess I’ll find out!
Finally! However, we can’t let this one, and so far only one, instance of a cop getting real consequences for murdering an unarmed person distract us from the many, many, many other cases where the cops get away with murdering a black man, or any person of color, or a queer person.
There is a long way to go! We still need to eliminate qualified immunity and so many other things!
Meanwhile… The following news about another bad white man who has been causing problems in my state for years broke on Friday, but I didn’t have time to do a Weekend Update post, so you get it now.
I have written more than once about financial and other shenanigans of local political gadfly and perennial anti-tax, anti-gay, anti-well-anything-decent initiative filer: Tim Eyman. This a-hole had previously been found in violation of a number of campaign finance laws and was forbidden from being treasurer of any political action committee. Unfortunately he continued to find was to skim tons of money illegally out of the campaigns he was still heading up, even though technically not the treasurer. Please note, I didn’t say allegedly, because as of Friday, a court came to that conclusion:
Tim Eyman fined $2.6 million, barred from campaign control. So now he is no longer allowed to be in control in any way shape or form of political campaigns.
And on top of that, Tim Eyman ordered to pay additional $2.9 million to reimburse taxpayers
Allow me to quote the judge:
"In the history of the Fair Campaign Practices Act enforcement, it would be difficult for the court to conceive of a case with misconduct that is more egregious or more extensive than the misconduct committed by defendant Eyman in this matter.”
The wheels of justice may have ground slow on this one, but eventually…
Episode five of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was very enjoyable. The storyline made some progress on a portion of the plot that has been muddled in previous episode. They also finally made a few specific mentions of racism, rather than relying on Hydra as a stand in for white supremacy/white nationalism. They dipped a toe in, at least. It’s still unclear whether the whole story is going to hold together, and there is only one episode after this.
I can’t be more specific without some major spoilers. So if you haven’t seen the episode and don’t want to be spoiler, don’t scroll past the warning below.
Before I get into that, this show is on Disney+, and the parent company, I should remind you that the parent company, Disney, continues to refuse to pay royalties owed to Alan Dean Foster and others for novelizations and similar work.
Okay, so, let’s get into it:
Warning: Spoilers Below!
The episode picks up apparently only minutes after the end of the previous episode. USAgent, aka the new Captain America, aka Captain Nationalism has fled the scene of his street execution of an unarmed member of the Flag-Smashers. Bucky and Sam are hot on his tail.
They try to talk him into surrendering, which of course he won’t do, so we get a fight. It’s a superhero series, there has to be a fight, but I have to say I was a bit impatient for it to be over.
See, in Captain America: the Winter Soldier Bucky, as the Winter Soldier, was able to give the real Captain America quite a run for his money in combat when Cap had Black Widow and Falcon assisting. And later when Cap had to go up against the Winter Soldier alone, he lost the fight (though he won the war). So, I’m sorry, Captain Nationalism, even with the super soldier serum, is no Steve Rogers. Bucky should have been able to take him down, by himself, in half the time that the showrunners stretched out the fight against Bucky and Sam.
Okay, that’s my fanboy nerdy moment over.
It was very poignant after the fight seeing Sam try to wipe the blood of the murdered man off Cap’s shield.
I found my suspension of disbelief stretching later in the episode when we find out that, Captain Nationalism murdered an unarmed man while literally hundreds of bystanders recorded it and uploaded to the internet, that instead of being turned over to the authorities in Latvia to face charges, he apparently got back to the U.S. only to face a disciplinary hearing. If the government whisked him away, surely they would have already known that he no longer had the shield right?
Whisking him away would be a violation of international law… but in the real world the U.S. military is notorious for violating those laws and treaties when service members commit crimes in allied countries where we have military bases. We are particularly guilty of doing it when white American G.I. commits sexual assault against a person of color. So it isn’t unbelievable that we would do it. I would just feel a whole lot better had the writers made some acknowledgement that that’s what happened.
Before I get back to Sam and Bucky, I just want to say what a wonderful surprise was the cameo of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. That’s a character who is a bit of a deep-dive. She was original introduced in the late 60s in the super-spy version of the Nick Fury comic books. She was much later revealed to be a sleeper agent all along and became a villain. There are several possibilities for how Marvel plans to use her later, but I think it is particularly telling that she shows up right after Captain Nationalism’s trial to offer him a job.
It was a very short scene, but she was awesome in it. And I look forward to seeing her interact with other characters–dare we hope she gets significant screen time with Daniel Brühl’s Zemo in a future show?
Speaking of Brühl, we get a very satisfying scene with Bucky confronting him at the Sokovia Monument before he is arrested by the Dora Milaje and taken away to that floating super prison which I believe we last saw in Captain America_ Civil War.
Sam, meanwhile, returns to the U.S. and meet with Isaiah Bradly, the black super soldier buried from history that Bucky introduced Sam to earlier. They have a couple of moving scenes. Not surprising that it is moving because Carl Lumbly is a talented actor. This is the scene where the writer’s finally stop used code, allowing Bradley to talk about the racism inherent in how he and his former comrades were chosen to test the early attempts to duplicate the last super soldier serum. Anyone familiar with the Tuskegee Experiment will not be surprised at some of the horrible things Bradley reveals.
He makes an impassioned argument that, first, certain people will not stand by and let a black man take up the name Captain America. And second that, because of the way America treats its minorities, no black man should want to wear those stars and stripes.
The action then moves back to Louisiana. Sam calls in favors from the community and starts working to fix the family’s fishing boat so his sister can sell it to save the family home. Bucky shows up obstensibly to deliver a “favor” he cashed in with the Wakandas (perhaps a new flight suit, since Sam’s was destroyed during the fight with Captain Nationalism).
Anyway, this leads to the best parts of the episode. I have mentioned so many times how episode two was so awesome because if you just let Bucky and Sam interact, wonderful things happen. There is less snark between them in their scenes here. And the scenes do a good job of dealing with the the family legacy subplot while showing realistically Sam and Bucky bonding, and trying to move past being two guys who happened to both love the same man. Er, that is, I mean, both were extremely close friends with and worked as sidekicks to.
While it may be a bit formulaic, even the superhero trains himself montage they gave Sam felt earned and meaningful. If one of the purposes of this series is to convince fans of the Captain America and Avengers movies that Sam is ready to become the new Captain America, it seems to be accomplishing that.
The political plot still seems to be a mess. The mulit-government council the Karli and the Flag-Smashers are fighting is proposing things that are blatantly bad. So the viewer ought to be cheering for the Flag-Smashers. I can’t tell if that writers simply don’t realize this is what they are doing, or if they trying so hard to to cast what are clearly alt-right/white nationalist ideas as objectively immoral because they don’t want to offend American conservatives.
We get more clues implying the Sharon Carter is the mysterious villain known as the Power Broker. The fact that she hires the international terrorist, Batroc, who has fought both Captain America and Falcon earlier certainly doesn’t bode well for her not being a villain.
It’s still too soon to tell. In the comics the two roles that Sharon Carter played in most storylines was to be Captain America’s modern era girlfriend, or to be a spy usually working for S.H.I.E.L.D. In the latter role she often was working in what could at best be termed morally grey areas (which often caused tension between her and Cap). So it is still possible that it’s going to turn out that these clues hinting at her being the Power Broker are red herrings.
The show ends with the Flag-Smasher’s taking the members of the Global Repatriation Commission captive. Sam seems read to be a hero again. We presume he will take up Bucky’s offer to call when he needs back-up. So expect a big fight next episode.
And then, of course, there is the post-credits scene. Nothing is going to be simple.
I can’t tell, yet, if this is a series that aimed at a very difficult goal and isn’t quite pulling it off, or if it is going to completely crash and burn.
I guess we’ll find out on Friday!
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