Category: Diaries

DeeJay Trump & The Beat of America

The night of the election I went to bed about 9:30 PM (Eastern) after telling my son that Trump was “pulling away”. The channels I sampled were keen to say “no surprises” had yet occurred based on their predictions of who would win or lose in this city, that state. But they also broadcast the down-ballot races from time-to-time at the bottom of the screen in silent text. I began to notice the pattern of incumbents, mostly Republicans in the Rust-belt, holding on to their seats after only 5% to 15% of the votes were counted. It was clear enough to me Clinton would lose and Trump had unexpectedly long coat-tails despite the way many prominent Republican leaders had distanced themselves from him. Although I drew my conclusions intuitively, I could see Michael Moore’s outline for a Trump path to the White House was becoming a fact and the momentum was evident.

It is now 48 hrs after the election results were declared. The pollsters are still making apologies and offering convoluted defenses for how good their models were but how unconventionally Trump and the voting public behaved. They don’t say “black swan”, but that is what they hint.

Republicans who once shunned Trump are donning his puppet strings (if he will let them). Those already in his thrall are in the queue for the next installment of The Apprentice. He is the piper who calls the tune, the DJ who sets the beat.

The Democratic Party is still trying to put a good face on a candidate and a campaign that was outmaneuvered and rejected for being both artificial and smug.

Then there is the “Why do we have an Electoral College between the Oval Office and popular vote anyway?” refrain which seems to come up after every election I can remember.

Recrimination and self-recrimination have to burn themselves out. The panic and the fear promoted by this extraordinarily bitter campaign will burn out despite the demonstrations in the streets. The post mortem is already reflecting the smoother, soothing sound I heard today: “Oh, you know voters always vote against an incumbent president’s party if he has been in office for two terms–regular as clockwork! They just want change! It’s just the way Americans are.”

I predict the Democrats will eventually retrench but the result will be to become more Republican. There is no mystery in this. They have to. They are subordinate, have no imagination, have compromised their power and their principles, and are the subject of intense ridicule. They are far from home and whistling in the darkness.

On the other hand, the new President is going to age rapidly like all presidents before him because he is going to do something he hasn’t done in 50 years: on-the-job training. I expect Trump will delegate the hard work to Pence as a result and reserve any glory to himself. His Administration will test the checks-and-balances. As the Manager-in-Chief, he will have more hands on the various levers of government power, but he does not have a mandate. That will present some issues.

Our governmental architecture is capable of withstanding a lot. ‘A lot’ includes a Civil War. Whether or not our nation was great, is great, or will ever be great again I do not know, but it does have a pretty durable structure, a strong constitution so-to-speak. We may survive, but we may not thrive. The republic is about to endure one whale of a test. We are about to see if the Founding Fathers are the geniuses they are made out to be in our grade-school history books and Broadway shows.

If you think I am doing a lot of whistling in the dark myself, you’re mostly right. I am doing my best to be hopeful. Our system was designed to prevent tyrants from governing us. I think the past 20 yrs of gridlock suggest it is still pretty resilient. I don’t know if it has ever been tested against a sociopath, but I am pretty sure it can handle it.

With Pope’s cardinal picks, Bernardin’s ‘seamless garment’ is back

Crux, By John L. Allen Jr., October 9

By naming Blase Cupich of Chicago, Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis and Kevin Farrell, formerly of Dallas, as cardinals, Pope Francis has moved the senior leadership of the American Catholic Church to a centrist, non-cultural warrior stance reminiscent of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s “seamless garment.”

Pope Francis on Sunday engineered what may prove to be a seismic shift in the Catholic hierarchy in the United States, elevating not one or two, but a full three new American cardinals seen as belonging to the centrist, non-cultural warrior wing of the country’s hierarchy.

The pontiff announced a consistory, the event in which new members are inducted into the Church’s most exclusive club, for Nov. 19, coinciding with the end of his special jubilee Holy Year of Mercy.

The list includes 13 new cardinal-electors, meaning those under 80 and eligible to vote for the next pope, and features three Americans after Francis bypassed the U.S. in both 2014 and 2015.

The three Americans are Archbishops Blase Cupich of Chicago and Joseph Tobin of Indianapolis, as well as Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, recently chosen by Francis to head his new “dicastery,” meaning a Vatican department, on Family, Laity and Life.

While none of these three figures would be seen as “liberal” by secular standards, they are perceived as belonging to the more progressive camp in the Catholic hierarchy.

Goddess Name Inscribed in Lost Language on Ancient Tablet

Live Science, By Stephanie Pappas, August 26

An ancient tablet recently unearthed in Tuscany has revealed its first secret: the engraved name of a goddess linked to fertility.

The 500-pound (227 kilograms) stone slab, or stele, was unearthed earlier this year at Poggio Colla, a sixth century B.C. site built by the Etruscans. The stele bears a long inscription in a language that has not been used for 2,500 years, project archaeologist Gregory Warden, a professor emeritus at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told Live Science in April.

Now, translation is underway and archaeologists have discovered that the tablet references the goddess Uni. [Photos: The Tomb of an Etruscan Prince]

“We can at this point affirm that this discovery is one of the most important Etruscan discoveries of the last few decades,” Warden said in a statement. “It’s a discovery that will provide not only valuable information about the nature of sacred practices at Poggio Colla, but also fundamental data for understanding the concepts and rituals of the Etruscans, as well as their writing and perhaps their language.”

Via IFLScience: Archaeologists Have Discovered A Brand New Ancient God

More To Life Than Bacon – Crockpot

Sweet & Sour Chicken
Recipe serves 2 – Adjust accordingly

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast.
Or boneless thigh meat if you prefer.
1 package Campbell’s Skillet Sauce (Sweet & Sour).
12-15 baby carrots (or carrots cut small).
1/2 green Bell Pepper, diced.
1/2 cup white onion, diced.
1 cup honey.
1/2 cup light brown sugar.
2 tblsp Kikkoman soy sauce.

Cook on high for 4 hours.
Shred chicken with forks.
Serve over your favorite rice. Continue reading

Incredible discovery reveals the truth behind an ancient Chinese legend

A deluge on the Yellow River 4,000 years ago led to a feat of Bronze Age hydro-engineering.

Ars Technica, By Annalee Newitz, August 5

Ancient Chinese legends tell of a catastrophic flood along the Yellow River that led to the founding of the Xia dynasty, roughly 4,000 years ago. A legendary hero named Yu is said to have established the Xia dynasty after figuring out how to stop the flood waters by dredging, thus marking the dawn of Chinese civilization with a feat of landscape engineering. Now, a group of geoscientists and archaeologists in China has discovered that this flood actually happened.

The group’s recently published findings in Science magazine explain how they found traces of this historic deluge. For more than a century, archaeologists have looked for evidence that could shed light on historical accounts of early Chinese civilization, such as those in first century BCE book Shiji (史記, traditionally translated as Records of the Grand Historian). Many accounts in the Shiji have turned out to be fairly accurate, especially when it came to the Shang dynasty that followed the Xia. Because the Shang dynasty civilization had writing, scientists have been able to verify the Shiji’s accuracy from written records as well as material remains.

American Narrative

  The bullshit American Narrative to the contrary, America is and has always been a ‘class society’. There are basically three classes: Rulers, Mandarins and Peasants.

  The Rulers care only about acquiring and increasing their own personal wealth and power. To that end they will enslave, oppress, plunder, exploit and murder, from individuals to entire countries and populations. One thing that has traditionally held them in check has been competition from rulers in other countries, but with economic globalization, national distinctions are vanishing and we can speak of a trans-national elite, a ruling class no longer limted to one country.

  The job of running the world for their benefit is too large and complicated for them to accomplish directly. They have therefore established a class of Mandarins – the professionals who actually do the day-to-day work of making the Rich & Powerful richer and more powerful and otherwise supporting the status quo. They do this for the sake of crumbs from the Rulers’ table and the few benefits that place them above the class of Peasants. Joe Bageant nailed it: “The truth is that when we are looking at the political elite [and Mandarins in general], we are looking at the dancing monkey, not the organ grinder who calls the tune”.

  If the Rulers constitute the top .1% financially, the Mandarins constitute perhaps the next 20% or thereabouts. They are the visible aspect of the Ruling Class; the pundits, politicians, opinion-shapers, and technicians. As long as they are kept well fed and housed and given the [false} hope of rising to the status of Ruler, they will labor mightily to keep the wheels on the wagon and the Rulers in power, It has been the Rulers who have called the shots politically, economically and culturally for centuries and it has been the Mandarins who have enabled them. They are as guilty as the Rulers, since they facilitate the Class System.

  The Peasants? Well, they have provided the actual labor to create the true wealth and have provided the cannon fodder for the Rulers’ wars of conquest and plunder. Both the Rulers and the Mandarins keep the Peasants distracted and provided with the minimum necessary to keep them alive and useful (to the Rulers), but only the minimum, since giving Joe Redneck more than a living wage would reduce the Rulers’ profit margins.

  There have been isolated periods of time and place when the Peasants have rebelled, sometimes with temporary victory and sometimes suffering horrendous defeat. However, never having exercised the wheels of power, they are inexperieced in wielding it and the resulting regimes soon fall prey to the machinations of Ruler Class survivors or Mandarins (trained to administer) newly elevated to Ruler Class. Note that educating the Peasants in how to run the world is taboo – can’t have the rabble thinking thoughts above their station. Which partly explains the state of the educational system in America today (along with the desire of the Rulers to reduce taxes and privatize for profit).

BTW: The widely-touted success of the American Revolution was not a matter of Peasants throwing off Rulers. It was about replacing Rulers three thousand miles away with local Rulers. George III & his ministers vs New England mercantile interests and Southern Plantation owners.

  Fortunately or unfortunately, some things are self-limiting. The obsession with cheap energy. for example, (to net them every penny in manufacturing and distribution) has triggered Global Warming. The only thing that will limit climate change is the collapse of the mechanisms that drive it. But in the process, billions of people will die and billions more have their lives reduced to precarious day-to-day survival. The Rulers don’t care. They. Do. Not. Care. They themselves will survive in style, in well-protected enclaves (on high ground), served by (fewer) Mandarins and protected from the Peasants by other Peasants.
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” – Jay Gould

  Ultimately, greed is self-limiting, a la the Goose That Laid The Golden Egg. The social, political, economic and human equivalent of Golden Eggs is playing out in slow motion today. We are witnessing the gradual (but accelerating) collapse of economies, politics, societies and nations. This is not new. It has happened repeatedly over the centuries. What is depressing is that it will likely continue to happen as long as the species lasts. And if anyone believes that one leader, one politician, one party can somehow reverse, avoid or prevent historical processes from running their course, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell them.

Advice to Hillary

The latest Silly Season is weighing on me. I had the following dream last night

  Clinton has won the Primary and the General Elections. Between November and her inauguration, she has embarked on a a cross-country trek of ‘town hall’ meetings, ostensibly to thank the voters. For some reason, I am attending one of these meetings (What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment). Hillary picks me out of the crowd (my Abe Lincoln appearance, probably) and invites me to share the stage and talk with her, tell her what I think she needs to do, where I think the country needs to go. Mentally licking my political chops, I agree.

  You will make history as the first Woman President. That is largely due the change in the way Americans treat gender nowadays and is vindication of the efforts of a lot of women – and a few men – over the decades. It’s not you.

  You should understand that you won the election not so much on your own merits or positions on the issues. You won because enough voters realized that Donald Trump is a 4-door, brass-plated, air-conditioned, turbo-charged, 12-cylinder, 5-speed asshole. They were scared shitless at the thought of what he might do as President. Many – on both sides of the aisle – are also worried about what you will do as President.

  Much has been made of the fact that Trump’s campaign fed on and fed racism, bigotry and xenophobia. But the bottom line on his support and the support for Bernie Sanders should tell you that a great many Americans realize and resent that they have seen their income, privacy, freedom, security and future worsened or destroyed by the policies and practices of the Money Elite, many of whom contribute heavily to your financial undertakings and campaigns – and we both know they expect the favor to be returned. Screw the bastards.. They richly deserve it.

  A woman President was inevitable. It happened to be you. If you want to be a great President, you need to address the real problems of people, both here and abroad. Some of the solutions are not under your direct control but will require action by Congress and the Courts, but even there your leadership could wield influence, as a ‘bully pulpit’ and through appointments in various departments, particularly Justice and Defense.

  Get big money out of politics. Finance elections from tax money and limit spending to some reasonable amount. Ban lobbying. Entirely.. Proposals for government action should never come from corporations with a financial stake in that action. It’s bad enough that when the government puts out an RFP, those who respond will naturally toot their own horn, but we don’t need retired generals/admirals or bankers bullshitting the selection process via the Old Boy Network. Stop it.

  Implement Single Payer Healthcare by simply expanding Medicare to everyone. The procedural and IT infrastructure is already in place and functioning pretty well. At most, it might require an upscale of computer hardware. Healthcare, like education, clean water & waste disposal should be the right of every citizen – and on a not-for-profit basis.

  Stop trying to control the entire world. We are no longer the envy of the world we once were. Instead we are much of the world’s worst nightmare. Our wars, our financing and support for any petty dictator that we approve of, our CIA-led coups in various countries for decades should stop. It is true hypocrisy to criticize and even hate refugees who are are fleeing the hell we created or support. When we destroy Iraq, Syria, Libya, we can’t complain about the consequences. Stop it.

  Stop supporting privatization of things which are inherently public. Prisons and schools and water systems are not being privatized to improve efficiency but to enrich those with friends in power. Stop.

  End the ineffective (though profitable) war on drugs. Just stop it. Legalize and regulate (reasonably) all drugs.Empty and issue a blanket pardon for the thousands of people in prison for posseesing pot. If that’s their only rap sheet, wipe the record clean. And always help them reintegrate into society.

  Instead of prosecuting whistle blowers, prosecute the high-level, wealthy and well-connected criminals. The financiers responsible for the economic meltdown (and who have continued to profit). Politicians for war crimes, torture, the lies that put us in Iraq, the indiscriminate use of drones. Stop it.

  End the militarization of non-Federal law enforcement. All it does is enrich crony capitalists and facilitate an authoritarian mindset among officers who are supposed to be public servants and are increasingly acting as public masters. Stop it.

  End the NSA’s and DOD’s over-the-top spying on innocent people. Put all wiretaps and snooping back to requiring a traditional search warrant – person(s); item to be searched for; reasonable cause – before a judge. And if that overwhelms the judges, it might just indicate too much snooping. You think maybe?

  Note that most of the items involve stopping what we’d doing. It’s enough to make one contemplate the virtues of a government too small to make the mistakes we have inflicted on our people and the world. Unfortunately, the modern world does require Big Government. Stopping the misuse of government power would meet stiff resistance from those who profit from the status quo. But perhaps if we stop wasting time, money and effort on the wrong things, we would be able to spend our time, money and effort on things like improving peoples lives (at home and abroad) and limiting or even reversing Global Warming – for the sake of your new grandchild and and my great-grandchildren.

  You will make history as the first woman President.
  You could make history as a great President.
  Or not.
  It’s up to you.

World’s largest radio telescope completed in China

SlashGear, Shane McGlaun, July 5

For the last half decade, researchers in China have been at work on a gigantic radio telescope hailed as the world’s largest single dish radio telescope. That monster telescope completed construction on July 3, 2016 with the installation of the last of its 4,450 reflecting panels. The telescope is equivalent in size to 30 soccer fields and is called the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope or FAST.

With construction complete the scientists on the project are now counting down to when the telescope will see its first light in two to three months. FAST is significantly larger than the previous record holder the Arecibo telescope at 300-meters. The larger FAST telescope is much larger and more sensitive and is able to cover a larger area of the sky thanks to a lightweight adjustable feed cabin.

Crippled Atlantic currents triggered ice age climate change

Science, By Eric Hand, June 30

The last ice age wasn’t one long big chill. Dozens of times temperatures abruptly rose or fell, causing all manner of ecological change. Mysteriously, ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica show that these sudden shifts—which occurred every 1500 years or so—were out of sync in the two hemispheres: When it got cold in the north, it grew warm in the south, and vice versa. Now, scientists have implicated the culprit behind those seesaws—changes to a conveyor belt of ocean currents known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC).

These currents, which today drive the Gulf Stream, bring warm surface waters north and send cold, deeper waters south. But they weakened suddenly and drastically, nearly to the point of stopping, just before several periods of abrupt climate change, researchers report today in Science. In a matter of decades, temperatures plummeted in the north, as the currents brought less warmth in that direction. Meanwhile, the backlog of warm, southern waters allowed the Southern Hemisphere to heat up.

AMOC slowdowns have long been suspected as the cause of the climate swings during the last ice age, which lasted from 110,000 to 15,000 years ago, but never definitively shown. The new study “is the best demonstration that this indeed happened,” says Jerry McManus, a paleo-oceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and a study author. “It is very convincing evidence,” adds Andreas Schmittner, a climate scientist at Oregon State University, Corvallis. “We did not know that the circulation changed during these shorter intervals.”

Pope scraps abuse tribunal for negligent bishops

AP, By Nicole Winfield, June 4

Vatican City — Pope Francis on Saturday scrapped his proposed tribunal to prosecute bishops who covered up for pedophile priests and instead laid out legal procedures to remove them if the Vatican finds they were negligent.

The new procedures sought to answer long-standing demands by survivors of abuse that the Vatican hold bishops accountable for botching abuse cases. Victims have long accused bishops of covering up for pedophiles, moving rapists from parish to parish rather than reporting them to police — and suffering no consequences.

Exclusive: Snowden Tried to Tell NSA About Surveillance Concerns, Documents Reveal

Vice News, By Jason Leopold, Marcy Wheeler & Ky Henderson, June 4

On the morning of May 29, 2014, an overcast Thursday in Washington, DC, the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Robert Litt, wrote an email to high-level officials at the National Security Agency and the White House.

The topic: what to do about Edward Snowden.
Continue reading

Love Me, Love Me, Love Me, I’m a Leninist

Corey Robin, May 19

Now that they’ve discovered the notion that a political party, faced with a dangerous political enemy, should suppress all internal criticism of its putative leader lest she be “harmed” by that criticism, and that the party should refrain from fractious internal debates lest it be ill-equipped to defeat the enemy, I wonder if liberals are rethinking their views on Lenin.

The principle of democratic centralism and autonomy for local Party organisations implies universal and full freedom to criticise, so long as this does not disturb the unity of a definite action; it rules out all criticism which disrupts or makes difficult the unity of an action decided on by the Party.

Actually, by the standards of today’s liberal, Lenin’s strictures come off as relatively benign. He at least called for “universal and full freedom to criticise” the party unless and until that criticism threatened “the unity of an action decided on by the Party.” Whereas the Democrats haven’t even yet decided on Clinton, and we’re already being told that any criticism of her in anticipation of that decision will threaten the party’s ability to act upon that decision once it is made.

Dogs were domesticated not once, but twice… in different parts of the world, research shows

Phys.Org, June 2

The question, ‘Where do domestic dogs come from?’, has vexed scholars for a very long time. Some argue that humans first domesticated wolves in Europe, while others claim this happened in Central Asia or China. A new paper, published in Science, suggests that all these claims may be right. Supported by funding from the European Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council, a large international team of scientists compared genetic data with existing archaeological evidence and show that man’s best friend may have emerged independently from two separate (possibly now extinct) wolf populations that lived on opposite sides of the Eurasian continent. This means that dogs may have been domesticated not once, as widely believed, but twice.

A major international research project on dog domestication, led by the University of Oxford, has reconstructed the evolutionary history of dogs by first sequencing the genome (at Trinity College Dublin) of a 4,800-year old medium-sized dog from bone excavated at the Neolithic Passage Tomb of Newgrange, Ireland. The team (including French researchers based in Lyon and at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris) also obtained mitochondrial DNA from 59 ancient dogs living between 14,000 to 3,000 years ago and then compared them with the genetic signatures of more than 2,500 previously studied modern dogs.

The results of their analyses demonstrate a genetic separation between modern dog populations currently living in East Asia and Europe. Curiously, this population split seems to have taken place after the earliest archaeological evidence for dogs in Europe. The new genetic evidence also shows a population turnover in Europe that appears to have mostly replaced the earliest domestic dog population there, which supports the evidence that there was a later arrival of dogs from elsewhere. Lastly, a review of the archaeological record shows that early dogs appear in both the East and West more than 12,000 years ago, but in Central Asia no earlier than 8,000 years ago.

History: Frank Schaeffer on the Development of the Religious Right

“Abortion can no more be legislated than Niagara Falls can be dammed with a spoon”

Hullabaloo, By Gaius Publius, May 31

Another in our series, “They knew and they didn’t care.” The video above shows ex-evangelical minister Frank Schaeffer talking about the birth of the anti-choice movement and how it’s responsible, among other things, for the presidency of George W. Bush.

Video after the jump.
Continue reading

The Bank Robber

The computer technician who exposed a Swiss bank’s darkest secrets.

The New Yorker, By Patrick Radden Keefe, May 26

A few days before Christmas in 2008, Hervé Falciani was in a meeting at his office, in Geneva, when a team of police officers arrived to arrest him. Falciani, who was thirty-six, worked for H.S.B.C., then the largest bank in the world. He was on the staff of the company’s private Swiss bank, which serves clients who are wealthy enough to afford the minimum deposit—half a million dollars—required to open an account. Falciani had been at H.S.B.C. for eight years, initially in Monaco and then in Geneva. He was a computer technician who helped supervise security systems for the handling of client data. He had grown up in Monaco, where as a young man he had worked as a croupier at the Casino de Monte-Carlo, and developed an excellent poker face. As the Swiss police escorted him from the building, he insisted that he had done nothing wrong.

Officers questioned Falciani at a nearby station. They were investigating a data theft from the bank. Since 1713, when the Great Council of Geneva banned banks from revealing the private information of their customers, Switzerland had thrived on its reputation as a stronghold of financial secrecy. International élites could place their fortunes beyond the reach of tax authorities in their own countries. For Swiss wealth managers, who oversaw more than two trillion dollars in international deposits, the promise to maintain financial privacy was akin to a religious vow of silence. Switzerland is the home of the numbered account: customers often specify that they prefer not to receive statements, in order to avoid a paper trail. In light of these safeguards, the notion of a breach at H.S.B.C. was shocking.