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Hometown: Green Mountains
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Member since: Tue Feb 5, 2013, 03:27 PM
Number of posts: 9,017

Journal Archives

So far 2019 has set 33 records for heat, but none for cold (NewScientist)


This seems like a pretty powerful argument against those troglodytes and venal businessmen/politicians that argue "everything is just fine".

North America is in the grip of a polar vortex, bringing freezing weather from North Dakota to Ohio. The cold snap has prompted predictably icy comments from climate change deniers. But the global picture tells a different story.

So far, no weather stations have recorded all-time cold records in 2019 – which is unprecedented at this stage of the year, according to weather records compiler Maximiliano Herrera.

In contrast, 33 stations in the southern hemisphere have recorded all-time highs. Among them were Noona in New South Wales, where the temperature at night remained above 35.9°C on 17 January – the hottest night in Australia’s history. Reunion and Christmas Island also experienced all-time hottest temperatures.

Mathematical models predict that in a stable climate, the number of hot and cold records should be equal, and new records occur less frequently over time.

In 2018, 430 stations worldwide saw all-time high temperatures and 40 saw all-time lows. Despite what many in the US are experiencing now, this ratio is as clear a sign as any that the planet is getting hotter.

NYT Krugman: The Real Governments of Blue America


Officially, a big part of the federal government shut down late last month. In important ways, however, America’s government went AWOL almost two years earlier, when Donald Trump was inaugurated.

After all, politicians supposedly seek office in order to get stuff done — to tackle real problems and implement solutions. But neither Trump, who spends his energy inventing crises at the border, nor the Republicans who controlled Congress for two years have done any of that. Their only major legislative achievement was a tax cut that blew up the deficit without, as far as anyone can tell, doing anything to enhance the economy’s long-run growth prospects.

Meanwhile, there has been no hint of the infrastructure plan Trump promised to deliver. And after many years of denouncing Obamacare and promising to provide a far better replacement, Republicans turned out to have no idea how to do that, and in particular no plan to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Why can’t Republicans govern? It’s not just that their party is committed to an ideology that says that government is always the problem, never the solution. Beyond that, they have systematically deprived themselves of the ability to analyze policies and learn from evidence, because hard thinking might lead someone to question received doctrine.

And Republicans still control the Senate and the White House. So even when (if?) the shutdown ends, it will be at least two years before we have a government in Washington that’s actually capable of, or even interested in, governing.

But not everything is on hold. For America has a federal system, and the 2018 elections set the stage for a wave of actual governance — of real efforts to solve real problems — at the state and local levels.

Justice Louis Brandeis famously described the states as the laboratories of democracy; right now they’re the places where we’re seeing what it looks like when elected officials try to do what they were elected to do, and actually govern. If we’re lucky, two years from now that attitude may re-establish itself in the nation’s capital.

Maybe the "states rights" repugs have actually pushed us into an effective way forward.

Seems like the repugs can't do much right except to Mitch and Bone about what others do

Donald Trump: The Moscow Candidate


Just an example of how our outside-of-the-beltway citizens see what's happening with the (R)s and their Chosen Leader.

Searching “Trump 1987,” yields, among other things, an account from Politico that appeared in 2017. It’s very interesting; reminding us that on his first visit to Moscow, he seems to have been cosseted by the KGB. This has probably been mentioned many times before but deserves special attention in light of this weekend’s revelations.

In the same search, I came across a curious piece from the Hollywood Reporter claiming that, in 1988, Trump was angling for Reagan to appoint him ambassador to the Soviet Union. I offer the link here with no idea how valid the assertion may be.

The New York Times provides an exhaustive timeline of intersections between Trump-world and Russia. Of course it ends in December 2018, well-before the new bombshells hit, but covering Donald Trump’s indiscretions seems to be a never-ending job.

Another good read comes from New York Magazine, “What if Donald Trump has been a Russian Asset since 1987?” It even has a pictorial chart!

Exactly how might Trump have given service to Russian handlers over the years, even before reaching the White House suggests some additional data points. Trump has been a public fountain of misinformation through much of his adult life.

Remember the Central Park Five? What prompted the stingy mogul to invest $85,000. in advertising to gin up hatred for these wrongly accused young African American men and advocate for their execution? This, from a man who is notoriously un-philanthropic and won’t even pay his bills on time. Why did he appear to care so uncharacteristically much?

One can’t help musing that this would have been an ideal way to introduce a future candidate to the hate lobby.

This was followed by accusations that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and the repeated suggestion that, if the accusation was true, his presidency was illegitimate.

He let that insulting calumny hover out there in the hate realm, without an apology, long after it had been effectively debunked.

Then, leading up to the 2016 election, he repeatedly attacked the integrity of the electoral process. Most people just assumed he was making excuses for why he would most likely lose the election, but what if this was part of Putin’s plan to delegitimize the U.S. democratic process?

Anyway, it’s quite a pattern; and Trump himself doesn’t display the cunning or even the simple attention necessary to sustain such a prolonged assault on our norms. It is far more likely that he is simply the corrupt vessel through which Putin has delivered poison to the very roots of American democracy.

What my father's death taught me about 'Being Mortal' - Kevin O'Connor


Having been a fan of Atul Gawande's books and viewpoints on life, medicine, and dying, I thought this piece was very good.

This was supposed to be a simple story about Atul Gawande — a New England surgeon turned author of the nationally best-selling book “Being Mortal” — born of an unexpected meeting in the fall of 2017.

“The conversation I felt like I was having was, do we fight, or do we give up?” I heard him say on public radio the weekend before. “And the reality was that it’s not do we fight, or do we give up? It’s what are we fighting for? People have priorities, besides just surviving no matter what. You have reasons you want to be alive. What are those reasons?”

Then my father was diagnosed with fast-spreading cancer and died soon after, turning this into something personal.

Most people don’t want to think, let alone talk, about mortality, starting with health care providers who often view saving lives as the only measure of success. That’s why Gawande — believing physicians and patients need to acknowledge and address reality — wrote “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.”


“Accepting that life can be shorter than we want is very difficult,” Gawande concludes. “It’s easy for all of us, patients and doctors, to fall back on looking for what more we can do, regardless of what we might be sacrificing along the way. You know, people have priorities besides just living longer. You’ve got to ask what those priorities are.”

For in the end, “Being Mortal” isn’t about how to die, but how to live.

Guardian: Ontario is under one-man rule. Who will stop Doug Ford?


The rightwing premier has trampled on democratic norms. The province urgently needs electoral reform to prevent a repeat.

Last year, while Conservative MPs in London held a confidence vote on Theresa May’s leadership, in Ontario, Conservative MPPs (Members of Provincial Parliament) were competing with each other to be the first to leap up and give rousing standing ovations each time the populist premier, Doug Ford, or one of his cabinet ministers spoke in the house.

Six months ago, running on a rightwing populist platform that was long on rhetoric but short on specifics, Doug Ford, the elder brother of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, was elected with a majority Conservative government. Ford has hit the ground running. Claiming a strong mandate for his non-existent platform, Ford has eliminated environmental, worker and consumer protections, cut public services, cut education funding, and teed up public assets for a mass selloff. These typically neoconservative policies are concerning, but what’s truly frightening about Ford’s reign is the way he is concentrating power in his own office and is trampling over the democratic norms of Ontario’s parliament.
Under Ford, a majority government is translating into a four-year elected tyranny. The glimmer of hope in all of this is that people are starting to mobilise and there is renewed interest in replacing first-past-the-post elections with proportional representation, a move that would prevent a repeat of the one-man rule Ontario is currently suffering.

Sounds like the same virus that is infecting the dump(R)s has crossed the northern border. I bet oranganus is jealous of ford's powers.

Rebecca Solnit: The Trump era won't last for ever. But we must do our part to end it


A hopeful piece to wish in the New Year.

I see the rage all around me, but painful emotions can coexist with activism – and millions of Americans are stepping up


I keep the newspaper clipping inside a Milan Kundera novel: it shows demonstrators in Prague in 1989, one of them carrying a badly chipped bust of Stalin around whose neck hangs a placard that says nic netrvá věčně: nothing lasts forever. It’s not a war cry, nor a prophesy, but a bald statement of fact at the moment when the Soviet bloc Stalin had been critical in establishing was falling apart and Czechoslovakia was liberating itself.

It must have seemed like forever to those who lived under totalitarianism until all of a sudden “forever” crashed and burned. People worked to make it so at terrible risk; some were imprisoned, or otherwise punished. Some died. They worked without knowledge of how and when their efforts might matter, and the faith that drove those activists is still stunning to contemplate. I think of that history when I think of our present predicament in the United States.
The latest major Trump resignations and firings
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I know a lot of us have rage fatigue and moral exhaustion from a little over a year and a half of the hell of Donald Trump’s ascendancy. I know that seeing the vulnerable crushed, and the sabotage of the things that we fought for from reproductive rights to climate policies, and in particular the recent efforts to destroy small children weighs on most of us. I see and hear the dismay all around me at what is happening to this country, but dismay and devastation are emotions, and painful emotions can coexist with active strategies. Active strategies may be the best response to those emotions, not to take care of oneself but to forget oneself in responding to the larger crises. Slaves were devastated by slavery; Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth were not felled by that devastation but driven to act by it, and they did not confuse their devastation for despair. Americans like quick results and predictable outcomes, and in pursuit of those things squeeze out room for the unknown and the unknowable. Despair is an analysis of sorts, a conclusion that nothing can be done; it is usually premature.

A year ago it did not seem likely that Mexico would elect a left-wing president and sweep into power hundreds of progressive candidates, many of them women, but that happened on the first day of this month; with that clean sweep the country may have rewritten what for many years seemed to be a grim destiny. Most countries on earth have survived nightmare regimes: South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Argentina come to mind. They ended for many reasons, but they ended in part because people did not regard the regime’s power as infinite, eternal, inevitable; they resisted even when resistance was dangerous and victory seemed impossibly remote.

We are not in such an era, though many fear we are close. Some among us are losing their rights—ICE is going after naturalized citizens and the atmosphere of intolerance is encouraging a terrible rise in hate crimes and harrassment nationwide. At this point each week seems bleaker than the ones before, and a great many people worry that we are gradually adjusting to a loss of rights and rule of law. But there are two forces at work now. There’s that of Trump, who won a minority victory in a corrupted election and works to represent the wishes and feed the rages of a minority of Americans, the authoritarians, racists, and misogynists.


The Trump era will not last forever. How it will end we do not know, because how and when it ends is in part in our hands. Waiting for it to end is not a strategy. Working for it to end is, and in the meantime preserving what we can of the rule of law, the rights of everyone in this country whatever their immigration status, the environment, the institutions that benefit us from public schools to scientific projects. And more than protecting what we had, building what we lacked: I believe Trump came to power because people were indifferent and inattentive.

Quite a lot of people are now neither. If they were dozing, they are now wide-awake; if they were indifferent, they are now passionately engaged. In organizing, in working on electoral campaigns, in standing up for what they believe in. Millions of people have found that justice and truth and human rights are key to their own lives, even when they themselves are not directly menaced; millions have found that they care passionately about public life and public institutions; millions have stood up to make this an era that is truly unprecedented in the level of activism, in both sheer numbers and in the geographical scope of this engagement, from small towns in all fifty states to major cities. People are ready. They are ready for someone, something, to pull the alarm so that they can step it up. They are where my hope resides now.

Judge Sullivan Was Prepared For Potential Flynn Perjury and Fraud On The Court


I don't know about how everyone else feels, but to me this blog is an incredible resource and timeline of all the criminality and corruption, in the US and around the world.

Okay, that was quite a morning at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in DC in regard to the Flynn plea and sentencing. In the windup this morning, well before the proceeding began, I cautioned that Flynn and his attorney Rob Kelner would have to back off the right wing Fox News Trumpian nonsense they stupidly included in their sentencing memo. See this report from Marcy on the sentencing memo, and this one as to how the FBI 302’s the Flynn team stupidly demanded be made public ate them alive. And, they really did.

There is already simply a ton of discussion on the Flynn proceeding today, I will leave that to others. But there was one little nugget I say from, I think, Glenn Kirshner, as almost a throwaway comment, on MSNBC that Judge Sullivan insisted Mike Flynn be sworn in before proceeding today. I was not really ready to write about this until confirming it from others in the courtroom this morning. I have now received that corroboration from multiple sources. In fact, Judge Sullivan directly said he was doing so because “he was doing basically an extension of the plea colloquy”. Wow!!

What Judge Sullivan effectively did was set the first real “perjury trap” to date in the greater Mueller investigation (despite the idiocy purveyed relentlessly on Fox News and by Rudy Giuliani). And it was a federal court and judge that did it, not Mueller or his deputies. Emmet Sullivan was loaded for bear today on multiple fronts, but this is one the media does not seem to have caught on to yet.

What the President Could Do If He Declares a State of Emergency - The Atlantic


(My emphases/bold)

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, President Donald Trump reached deep into his arsenal to try to deliver votes to Republicans.

Most of his weapons were rhetorical, featuring a mix of lies and false inducements—claims that every congressional Democrat had signed on to an “open borders” bill (none had), that liberals were fomenting violent “mobs” (they weren’t), that a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class would somehow pass while Congress was out of session (it didn’t). But a few involved the aggressive use—and threatened misuse—of presidential authority: He sent thousands of active-duty soldiers to the southern border to terrorize a distant caravan of desperate Central American migrants, announced plans to end the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship by executive order, and tweeted that law enforcement had been “strongly notified” to be on the lookout for “ILLEGAL VOTING.”

These measures failed to carry the day, and Trump will likely conclude that they were too timid. How much further might he go in 2020, when his own name is on the ballot—or sooner than that, if he’s facing impeachment by a House under Democratic control?

More is at stake here than the outcome of one or even two elections. Trump has long signaled his disdain for the concepts of limited presidential power and democratic rule. During his 2016 campaign, he praised murderous dictators. He declared that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, would be in jail if he were president, goading crowds into frenzied chants of “Lock her up.” He hinted that he might not accept an electoral loss. As democracies around the world slide into autocracy, and nationalism and antidemocratic sentiment are on vivid display among segments of the American populace, Trump’s evident hostility to key elements of liberal democracy cannot be dismissed as mere bluster.
The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—he is able to set aside many of the legal limits on his authority.

It would be nice to think that America is protected from the worst excesses of Trump’s impulses by its democratic laws and institutions. After all, Trump can do only so much without bumping up against the limits set by the Constitution and Congress and enforced by the courts. Those who see Trump as a threat to democracy comfort themselves with the belief that these limits will hold him in check.

But will they? Unknown to most Americans, a parallel legal regime allows the president to sidestep many of the constraints that normally apply. The moment the president declares a “national emergency”—a decision that is entirely within his discretion—more than 100 special provisions become available to him. While many of these tee up reasonable responses to genuine emergencies, some appear dangerously suited to a leader bent on amassing or retaining power. For instance, the president can, with the flick of his pen, activate laws allowing him to shut down many kinds of electronic communications inside the United States or freeze Americans’ bank accounts. Other powers are available even without a declaration of emergency, including laws that allow the president to deploy troops inside the country to subdue domestic unrest.

This edifice of extraordinary powers has historically rested on the assumption that the president will act in the country’s best interest when using them. With a handful of noteworthy exceptions, this assumption has held up. But what if a president, backed into a corner and facing electoral defeat or impeachment, were to declare an emergency for the sake of holding on to power? In that scenario, our laws and institutions might not save us from a presidential power grab. They might be what takes us down.

It seems likely that this is part of his playbook (how do you say that in russian?)

Guardian: A torrent of ghastly revelations: what military service taught me about America


Excellent reflection on the author's changing attitudes.

My first and only war tour took place in Afghanistan in 2010. I was a US Marine lieutenant then, a signals intelligence officer tasked with leading a platoon-size element of 80 to 90 men, spread across an area of operations the size of my home state of Connecticut, in the interception and exploitation of enemy communications. That was the official job description, anyway. The year-long reality consisted of a tangle of rearguard management and frontline supervision.

f boot camp had given me a keen awareness of my country’s violence and the overcompensating sentiment that went with it, my experience in school at Twentynine Palms took longer to register. For a while, all I retained was unrelated impressions: a sulphuric stench that would come with the rain, something of which, years later, I would get a second whiff during the wet sand season in Afghanistan, or the sight of meth-heads and tweakers (that’s what we called them) on the public bus I’d take to Walmart where I’d buy items like cheap portable irons or rechargeable Bluetooth headphones. They were alive with death, and their deathliness had an aggression to it, one that burned with a spirited rage.

It is exhausting having to declaim the same talking points over and over again: that the majority of the US official adversaries were once clients and allies. That almost every intervention comes with an ex post facto assessment from the government acknowledging the failure of the mission. That investigative reporters and historians almost always unearth internal documents betraying motives that not only run counter to public rationales but undermine all claims to humanitarian intent. That the US supplies the world with a preponderance of its weapons and fuels a plurality of its animosities. That the US is the only power to have ever dropped the bomb, that it did so twice, and that it did so not to end a world war (a war that was about to end anyway) but to launch what became a half-century-long cold war on superior footing. While not alone as a global malefactor, the US is the world leader in conventional foreign invasions since 1945, with 12; has engineered at least 38 coups or regime changes since the Spanish-American war of 1898; and has offered direct military support and training to dozens of governments with no regard for human rights. The US incarcerates the most people today, both in absolute and relative terms. It has incarcerated the most people for at least 30-odd years, and it either led the world in its incarceration rate or trailed closely behind the Soviet Union and South Africa for the preceding decades. As early as 1976, one study described America’s rate as the “highest in the world and still rising”. By any standard, the US empire ranks among the world’s most formidable producers of violence, and one would be hard-pressed to defend such all-consuming production on liberal democratic grounds.

En route to Afghanistan, I read the American political theorist Michael Walzer. Back then, I was still a reluctant believer in the gospel of American righteousness, and when Walzer wrote that the global fight against terrorism was “not backward looking and retributive, but forward looking and preventive”, that was enough to keep me faithful. Walzer had come after a more vulgar procession of neoconservative evangelists like Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan. These were the men who had ushered me to the right as an idealistic high school student, and I became quite the campus missionary when, weeks into my freshman year of college, the two towers fell. I became an opinion columnist and an op-ed editor for the school newspaper, where I penned romantic paeans to the democratising missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of my final contributions was a sombre explanation of why I felt obligated to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and don the uniform. But by the third month of my deployment, even the subtle apologetics of Walzer struck me as dangerously absurd. If only Walzer and others could see what I saw. If only those who saw it with me could really see it.

Boffins don't give a sh!t, slap Trump's face on a turd in science journal


A pair of boffins are in hot water after the image of president Donald Trump made an unexpected cameo in a paper on how to gather animal DNA from their poop at scale.

The paper, which was published in Nature Scientific Reports, discusses the difficulties of gaining high-quality DNA samples from wild animals in a non-invasive way.

Feces is the obvious option, but it is dominated by DNA from other organisms, such as bacteria – so the authors proposed a way to enrich the desired animal's DNA from the sample.

However, the pair also buried an Easter egg in a figure depicting the method, which shows a baboon sitting next to an average-sized turd. And on that turd, is a tiny image of the leader of the free world.

For those of you that can get twits,

And the actual paper from Nature:
(Methylation-based enrichment facilitates low-cost, noninvasive genomic scale sequencing of populations from feces)
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