07 December 2016

Mt. Hood from Robinette Court


​Only from a tiny corner near the street, but you actually can see the snow capped peak of Mt. Hood from our front yard. 

02 December 2016

Carrier Stunt and Trump as Con Man

This is a little out of context. It's part of a response I wrote to a friend who had some specific thoughts about Trump's Carrier stunt and cabinet picks. 

Trump's Carrier coup was just a stunt. It's not a policy. It's a PR stunt. And a pretty effective one. They aren't going to systematically use public funds to try to save American jobs. It's only a small amount of money, and Carrier went along with it (for now) in order to curry favor, and for no other reason. The realcause of this kind of thing is the change in SEC rules in 1982 that permitted unregulated stock buybacks. Owners, and CEOs are owners, of large corporations are incentivized to maximize their short term gains at the expense of the company's long term health, and even moreso at the expense of their American employees. Before 1982 this kind of conflict of interest/market manipulation was (sensibly) illegal, as it had been since such destructive anti-democratic and anti-free market policies had been seen to have contributed to the crash the first time. In 1929. The gradual unraveling of financial regulations that prevented a recurrence, or relapses, in the 1930s, started under Reagan, and has continued under all presidents since, including Democrats. Obama, notwithstanding Dodd Frank (now facing evisceration anyway), did very little to change it. (BTW Chubb did a lot of stock buybacks, enriching Finnegan and other top execs, prior to the ACE buyout, which we should have seen coming when it became clear what they were up to. This kind of stuff, which should be as illegal as insider trading, is so common nowadays it hardly even gets any notice at all). 

As far as Il Donaldo's choices for the cabinet go, I look upon his entire campaign as a grift. A con. He sold one thing, and now that the bait has been taken, it's switcheroo. Kleptocracy full on. Use of public assets to enrich himself and his cronies. Mnuchin is a perfect example. I strongly recommend you listen to THIS segment from Ian Masters's program 11/30 to get the picture of Mnuchin, an odious kleptocrat who would not be out of place in Putin's sphere. 

This is Trumpworld, and we're going to have to somehow survive it. I hope the Democrats wise up and organize soon, because this guy is a very effective con artist, and he just might pull off a long stint at the helm, to the great detriment of the United States of America. 
¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
«The people united will never be defeated!»

The utterly odious Mnuchin

I was disappointed and disgusted by Trevor Noah's softpedaling the odious predatory banker Steven Mnuchin, nominated by Trump for Treasury Secty. This total asshole engineered a government guarantee of the face value of thousands of loans in So. Cal. (IndyMac, renamed OneWest). Bought portfolio for about 65cts. on the dollar, got the govt. to guarantee 80% of FACE value, then aggressively foreclosed, auctioning houses, depressing RE market and throwing thousands out on the street, so he could get 80% of the losses measured by FACE VALUE reimbursed by the taxpayer and make millions in Corporate Welfare while the kind of people who believed and supported Trump were badly hurt. Mnuchin is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Trump promised, a vicious financial predator, second generation Goldman Sachs sharpie, put in charge of the henhouse! But was there even a HINT of this in the Daily Show's segment on him? Nope.
​ 

¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
«The people united will never be defeated!»

29 November 2016

We must make this their Waterloo

You gotta wonder how many of the idiots who believed the worst serial liar ever to run for president and voted to elect Trump had any clue that he would immediately appoint someone to HHS who has declared his intention to achieve not only the complete destruction of the Affordable Care Act, but Medicare, the second most popular social program in history, and Medicaid, on which millions of Americans depend, as well? Can Social Security be far behind? 

We must make these attempts to destroy the social safety net the WATERLOO FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. 

Organize! Act! Join! Contribute! Resist! Protest! Demonstrate! Write letters, call, and e-mail Congress! Do not sit idly by and let them do this! We won the popular vote, by 2.5 million votes, it now appears. We can organize and change course before it's too late, but it's gonna take involvement from millions of ordinary citizens. 

PLEASE DO WHAT YOU CAN. 

Are you in? 

What truly terrifies me

I repeat: It shouldn't even be necessary to point out that Trump's saying burning the flag should result in jail time and loss of citizenship just shows that he has absolutely zero grasp of the First Amendment, either in its legal effect or its spirit. Nothing is more essential to what American Constitutionalism is all about.  

What truly terrifies me is the realization that the limits of power are only what we demand and what we refuse to allow. Trump has already shown that he is perfectly willing to lie brazenly about just about anything, ignore norms and laws, and arrogate unto himself powers and perquisites that are not actually allowed by any law or norms. So it is a small step to simply nullifying Constitutional limits to power by simply defying anyone to do anything about it... this is how Fascists operate. Does anyone really feel confident that our system is robust enough that this is not possible? Do you really picture THESE Republicans in Congress doing anything about the seizure of unwarranted power by these people?

We must unite, organize, stand firm, resist, refuse, protest, and persuade. We must join forces. We cannot allow our country to fall into the hands of people who care nothing for its founding principles and care only for protection of their privileges and arrogation of power unto themselves. Don't kid yourself... this is what Trump and the current crop of Republicans in Congress ARE, full stop.

National Popular Vote

Trump is LYING. As usual. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2½ million votes. This can NEVER, EVER happen again. The National Popular Vote initiative must be a TOP PRIORITY.

If you live in a bluish or purple state that has not passed this bill, or even if you live in one (like New York and California) that has, please do what you can to support passage in enough states to ensure that from now on, the winner of the popular vote will become president as a matter of course.
 



¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
«The people united will never be defeated!»

National Popular Vote does not require a constitutional amendment

[To an OFA activist friend], 

Although it is easy to focus on other priorities, I think the fact that this election was the second time in less than a generation that democracy has been subverted by the antiquated and entirely undemocratic Electoral College System is reason enough to make the National Popular Vote compact a top priority. We must NEVER let this happen again. I advocate this to you because I'd like to suggest that OFA should make THIS one of its top priorities. 




¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
«The people united will never be defeated!»

28 November 2016

Trump's Mania

Last week I thought this election was a nightmare. Now this serial liar is making Infowars-originated conspiracy claims and conducting crazed foreign policy by tweet. And planning to basically privatize all the assets of the United States. I am getting more and more scared. "Deeply concerned" doesn't even get it started. 

¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
«The people united will never be defeated!»

22 November 2016

Remembrance

Could we take just a moment to reflect on the memory of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945), the Lutheran Pastor who was an influential critic of Hitler and Nazism. He was executed in 1945, after publicly speaking out against the Nazi policy of euthanasia and the murder of Jews, shortly before the end of the war.
And of Martin Niemöller (1893–1984), another Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany, who narrowly escaped the same fate and who famously said: ""In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
I truly hope it will not be that bad in Trump's America, but may we all have the courage to resist whatever may be coming.

​ 
  

¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
«The people united will never be defeated!»

Resistance

I am truly alarmed by this Neo Nazi stuff, the appointment of Bannon and overt racist Jefferson Beauregard Sessions as AG (the name alone is like some Gone With the Wind nightmare). To see Neo Nazis celebrating the ascendancy of their movement with Trump, and saying "Hail Victory" (a literal translation of "Sieg Heil") and "Hail Trump" should send chills down the spine of EVERY decent American.
RESIST! NEVER GIVE UP!
The People United Will Never Be Defeated!
I was prepared to hope for the best, but it's already clear these people are unbelievably terrible. It's going to be a long hard time, and we must make dead sure it's over after four years, by organizing and fighting them at every turn, and working like crazy people to change hearts and minds to overturn their regime at the ballot box, while it's still possible (assuming it even will be).


¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
«The people united will never be defeated!»

20 November 2016

What REALLY scares me about Trump

I haven't yet seen this put quite this way, so here goes. What really scares me about Trump is not just that he shows unparalleled mendacity, narcissism, psychopathology, and every intention to pull the biggest bait and switch in history by gutting the key elements of the social safety net (after promising to enhance them), turning back the clock on all forms of social progress to the first gilded age, bankrupting the government, and selling off its assets and ongoing operations to the highest bidders (or in some cases, friends or relatives). These things are terrible, and frightening, and his authoritarian tendencies and apparent belief that no limits or rules apply to him at least hint at far worse even than that. But what really scares me is the realization that he and those who have put him in power do not care about losing elections in the future. They believe, probably correctly, that they have the tools at hand right now to do irreparable damage to our country (of course they think it's in their interests, but they will find out different; eventually a shrinking pie gives even those at the top smaller slices). And they think that damage will be so complete and irreversible given the current economic and political climate, not just in America but globally, that there will never, in the lifetime of most Americans, be any way back. And they may be right. 

Which, of course, is all the more reason why every American who cares about any of this is going to have to get out of their comfort zone and get active, organized, and militant. As my new e-mail signature says (and I hope it doesn't get me put into a Trump Branded reeducation camp), The people united will never be defeated! (The slogan of the Allende revolution that was brought to an abrupt end by a CIA coup in 1973 that resulted in his murder). 

♦ David Studhalter
¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
«The people united will never be defeated!»

19 November 2016

Re: None dare call it ILLEGITIMATE?

AGREE. This is a travesty 

Why in the hell was my vote in Georgia totally nullified by those of the White Crackers? 

Electoral "College?"

~ Jean Clare Smith



On Nov 19, 2016, at 9:41 PM, David Studhalter (studhalter@gyromantic.com) <oldionus@gmail.com> wrote:

 The late count of the popular vote for Clinton over Trump is now very close to 1.5 million votes, far more than the margin of victory in several modern presidential elections. OK, then. This has to be said.

THIS CALLS INTO QUESTION THE LEGITIMACY OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE SYSTEM. It may be "the system," but legitimacy of republican (small-r) government derives, according to "inalienable" principles our founders clearly believed in, from THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. Donald Trump does not have the consent of the governed. Not even close.

I will say it. The presidency of Donald Trump is not legitimate. (As was not, in my view, the first term of George W. Bush's). If he governs with anything like recognition of the issue of the fact that more than half the voters chose his opponent, we can limp through this Constitutional anomaly. But if, as it appears he will, he intends to continue the radical upending of governing norms
​ commenced by his party during the Clinton administration of the 90s,​
and essentially be a plutocratic autarch, then he MUST BE RESISTED, through civil disobedience and whatever procedural means are available to those of us who stand opposed to autocratic, anti-democratic governance.
​​

None dare call it ILLEGITIMATE?

 The late count of the popular vote for Clinton over Trump is now very close to 1.5 million votes, far more than the margin of victory in several modern presidential elections. OK, then. This has to be said.
THIS CALLS INTO QUESTION THE LEGITIMACY OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE SYSTEM. It may be "the system," but legitimacy of republican (small-r) government derives, according to "inalienable" principles our founders clearly believed in, from THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. Donald Trump does not have the consent of the governed. Not even close.
I will say it. The presidency of Donald Trump is not legitimate. (As was not, in my view, the first term of George W. Bush's). If he governs with anything like recognition of the issue of the fact that more than half the voters chose his opponent, we can limp through this Constitutional anomaly. But if, as it appears he will, he intends to continue the radical upending of governing norms commenced by his party during the Clinton administration of the 90s,​ and recently accelerated to full-on Constitutional crisis; and essentially be a plutocratic autarch, then he MUST BE RESISTED, through civil disobedience and whatever procedural means are available to those of us who stand opposed to autocratic, anti-democratic governance.

​​

14 November 2016

PLEASE READ: NYTimes: Bernie Sanders: Where the Democrats Go From Here AND another plug for national popular vote compact


Bernie Sanders: Where the Democrats Go From Here http://nyti.ms/2epRZVl


​This sums it up for me. Engage Trump, see what good things may be possible. But plan and strategize to develop a winning coalition. Republican-lite Democratic politics have now conclusively failed, and it's time to rebuild the party as a winning coalition that can attract not only its "new demographics," but working and middle class white people in the flyover states who feel marginalized (including by that expression), and voted for Trump because he (falsely) promised to "Bring Back Jobs" and "Make America Great Again." (I believe more despite than because of his racism, misogyny and complicit homophobia). 

​Bernie has not only a clear agenda, but a clear strategy. He understands that we have to mobilize and rebuild, and that it won't be easy, and that in the meantime we have to mobilize public opinion to oppose oppressive minority rule... because that is what it is. The electorate did reject Clinton, under our system, but we must keep in mind at all times that the majority who voted voted for the Democrat, Clinton. 

I want to encourage Keith Ellison (likely new DNC chair), Schumer, Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and other Dem leaders to ​strongly back passage in enough additional blue and bluish states of the National Popular Vote compact (already passed by California, New York, and enough other states to comprise 165 electoral votes). If you aren't familiar, look it up on Wikipedia. Basically, it's state law, but when enough states pass it to equal 270, it goes into effect, and binds each state's electors to vote for the declared winner of the popular vote nationwide. Were such a law in effect in 2000, there would've been no Bush v. Gore, and Gore would've been the 43rd president. Were in in effect before Nov. 8 this year, Clinton would be preparing to become the 45th. Before 2000 the last time this happened was in 1888. It is a travesty of Democracy, that's happened twice now in a single generation. (It could happen to a Republican, too). We must never let this happen again. And Democrats on a national level need to strongly support it... which they failed to do after 2000. 



12 November 2016

National Popular Vote Interstate Compact... the TIME IS NOW

California passed this. My new state, Oregon, has not done so --- yet. If you live in a state that has not passed this legislation to create the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, please consider urging your state legislators to do so. Never again should the winner of the popular vote fail to become president. This has happened twice now in this century: Gore and now Hillary Clinton. It should NEVER be allowed to happen again. This end run avoids the need for a Constitutional Amendment, and the States are explicitly empowered to choose the method of determining by election who their electors must vote for, so this law is CONSTITUTIONAL. 

Thank you. 

​ 

My letter to Donald Trump




November 12, 2016

Hon. Donald J. Trump
President-elect of the United States
c/o The Trump Organization
725 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10022


Dear Mr. Trump:

I am writing to you as a citizen of the United States, to appeal to you based on your recent promise to unite all Americans. Candidly, I was not one of your supporters, but I hope you will take note of my appeal and suggestions, because they come from something all Americans should share: love of our country, and desire that it thrive and its people prosper, above all political considerations.

My idea is simple in its broadest stroke: surprise everyone. Really be inclusive. Focus on those things that will help make (or keep) America great, things that everyone can agree are positives. De-emphasize policy ideas where there is great dissension, and in those areas, really listen to the ideas of all walks of Americans, to try to find a way forward that is genuinely in the best interests of all Americans.

I have some detailed suggestions, which I hope will somehow come to your attention.

First, it would go a very long way towards healing the deep divisions in our country if you acknowledge, boldly and without reservation, that in this recent election only about half of the voters voted for you. In fact, under our system you legitimately won the election, but more voters voted for Clinton than for you. This is just a fact. Acknowledge it. Embrace it. Tell the American people you meant it when you said you wanted to be the president of all the people. Tell us you want to hear what we have to say, whether we were your supporters or not, and that you want to take into consideration the views and ideas of all the people; especially the fresh ideas that go beyond conventional politics and address the very real needs our people face. And you want to use your influence to make the good ideas happen, and discard the bad ones, the ones that divide us and do not advance our interests as a nation.

President Obama had in place a system where if enough people petitioned the White House, they would respond. Keep this. Expand on it. Ask people to send in their ideas to “help America achieve its highest potential.” Of course it’s not possible to please everyone, but by focusing on what people want and need, and not on negative actions, that feel threatening to people, you could transcend expectations.

Think of Eisenhower, who built the Interstate Highway system despite the innate conservatism and tendency to not want to spend money or take on big projects in his own party. Who is Donald Trump? Trump is the builder: so build. Propose and make happen massive infrastructure improvements. New highways, bridges, rail lines, airports, offshore wind farms, solar power plants in the southwest, nuclear fusion research laboratories, electric vehicle charging networks, earth orbit facilities, return to the Moon, national laboratories to really investigate climate change and propose practical, positive solutions, rather than just limits on human activity. Maybe there really is a way to scrub carbon from the atmosphere. Let’s find it and deal with these problems forcefully, not passively. Take on climate change. You can say, we are not scientists, but we as a people respect the truth, and we want to do what’s right for future generations. Commission a report, unbiased and accurate, about what the likely scenarios are, and, again, use your ability as the head of a party controlling all three branches of government to change minds. If we build renewable energy power systems, and promote and build what actually works, not only to address the problem but to create jobs and increase prosperity, everyone will benefit, and everyone will eventually support it.

Think of John F. Kennedy’s “man to the moon in this decade and return him safely to Earth.” Make huge, bold proposals that will capture the imagination of every American school kid and garner public support.

Address it as a challenge, like World War II. Roosevelt had the support of nearly everyone, because he took on the vital need to win the war. If you were to identify the challenges facing America as a vital need to transform our country, to address its economic and environmental problems with positive action, you could get the support of nearly everyone. Americans want and crave leadership that will bring them together for a common purpose. Many would not have thought first of you to be that leader, but surprise us. Be that leader.

And how to pay for bold strokes? What do all Americans, other than elites who benefit from the arcane Tax Code written for them, want? Fairness. Appoint a blue ribbon panel to come up with a vastly simpler tax code; one that recognizes that a “flat tax” is too simplistic and ultimately unfair since it benefits the richest too much, but that taxes can be lower if everyone has to pay their fair share. Who other than you is better positioned to say, look, folks, in the past the tax system has been rigged so that a lot of the revenue that should have come from those who can afford to pay just wasn’t there. We can have a simple, progressive tax code that gets rid of all the loopholes and tricks, and collects the funds to advance a bold agenda to restore American infrastructure and meet the needs of the people, without raising taxes on ordinary citizens at all.

You promised to preserve Social Security and Medicare. Keep that promise. And go beyond it. The American people want economic security. Your supporters may have voted for you for other reasons, but they want the system to ensure medical care and retirement security just as much as the “left” does. Every survey shows this.

You promised to rethink global trade. Why not convene a global conference, like Breton Woods, to hammer out a new trade regime; one that acknowledges American interests in preserving and restoring good jobs, but also recognizes that materials and goods flowing freely is the key to increased prosperity for everyone. Those goals are not necessarily in conflict. It just takes negotiation that is designed to create a system that works for the people, not for private corporate interests. Like Roosevelt who “went against his class,” you could surprise the nation and world if you were to become the champion of the people’s interests, not those of big corporations. If America demands that global trade be fair and crafted to benefit its people, and the people of all the nations, no one could avoid joining in.

Of course no leader can please all the people. But I believe you must recognize that many of the ideas leaders in both parties in recent years have made their standard operating procedure just aren’t working. America needs to break through. Discard recrimination, delay and defuse dissension, and get behind positive action that benefits everyone. If you make that your watchword, your agenda for the future, you will succeed beyond the wildest imaginings of anyone, including your supporters.

But if you follow the old thinking, divisive and punitive ideas of many, particularly on the Right, who mainly see politics as a struggle against “the other side,” our country will remain divided, and struggling.

I did not support you, but I hope and pray that you will now do the right thing and transcend expectations, to bring great and positive things to our country going forward.

Thank you for your attention. I plan on posting this letter as a petition to you, as the next president, to think of all the people in every action you take.

Very truly yours,


David Studhalter

°In writing this letter, I do not realistically expect to rally around Trump, the great leader. Actually, that idea is farthest from my mind. But if we do not try to constructively engage with power, try to influence them to see it in their best interests to do AT LEAST SOME good things, we are essentially denying the possibility that reasoned appeal to the better nature of our political opponents can ever accomplish anything. 

I intend to work and fight to gain Progressive control of the Democratic Party, and to work for a time when it will be ascendant and able to defeat Republicans at every level. But Trump is not, after all, a conventional Republican. And, while it may seem quixotic and unlikely to succeed, I feel that the only reasonable thing to do RIGHT NOW is to appeal to him to do the right thing. Or at least some right things. If he does not, then I will oppose him implacably. But this is my appeal.

10 November 2016

Please support new Progressive Leadership... we must rebuild the Democratic Party from the ground up

Farflung correspondents, 

​My initial reaction to the election was to "cocoon", ​to plead fatigue and old age to just withdraw into my private life and hunker down, avoiding political involvement as just too painful. But that is not the way forward. We, who believe in a sensible, fact based Progressive agenda, must take control of the Democratic Party and rebuild. It will take a long time, and much ground has been and will be lost. But there is no alternative. Politics is in its essence is nonviolent struggle, but it is struggle. And we cannot give up. We must get smarter, and get moving. 

​ 

It is abundantly clear that the Democratic Party is in need of new leadership. Deborah Wasserman-Schultz, the former chair, was forced to resign after emails showed her interfering in the primary between
Sanders and Clinton.
​ 

CLEARLY, the old guard of the Democratic Party has FAILED UTTERLY, and it's time for a new Progressive party to emerge, with entirely new leadership. 
 
Frankly put, the Democratic National Committee's last two leaders have been mired in controversy and ineptitude, and after giving away full control of the House, the Senate, and the White House to Republicans, it's time to appoint a truly strong and progressive leader to take the reins. Someone who has a finger on the pulse of the American middle class, and who has a long track record of standing up for the people in a fair, honest, and unwavering way.

Keith Ellison is that leader, and its time we show the DNC that millions of Americans agree. Please sign our petition.

That's why I signed a petition to Democratic National Committee, which says:

"Bernie Sanders has proposed that Keith Ellison be the next Chairman of the DNC. Now its time for millions of Americans to voice their agreement: sign and share today. "

Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:

http://pac.petitions.moveon.org/sign/appoint-keith-ellison?source=s.fwd&r_by=16843784

Thanks! 

♦ David Studhalter
 
Please visit The Gyromantic Informicon

Please sign the Petition to Eliminate Electoral College

The fact that Hillary Clinton, as badly as things really did go, did in fact win the majority of votes casts, should trouble every fair minded citizen of this country to his or her core. 

PLEASE consider signing this petition, and help create a critical mass that demands that this injustice, which has now occurred TWICE in a generation (Gore, 2000 and Clinton, 2016), must never happen again. 

Bring real democracy to the choice for president of our Republic. 

09 November 2016

Retraction

In my postmortem e mail, I said "if you voted for Trump (I don't think I know anyone who did well), or even for a Republican for Senate or a governorship, please unfriend me on Facebook and ask to unsubscribe from my e-mails. Sorry, but I don't care to know you. We don't share any common interest."

I toned that down considerably on Facebook, mainly out of consideration for my husband's relatives (there's something ...("my husband")...right there that would never have happened in Trump's America, and if his Alt Right loonie advisers have anything to say just might be undone). 

But, in calm retrospect (already at the first go-round of "acceptance"), I retract it. I actually want to maintain a dialog, even though in fact I hardly know anyone who voted for Trump or would even consider doing so. I have an inkling why people did that (Michael Moore, who predicted this outcome even as recently as a week ago, did a whole movie about it). The alienation. The anger. Some of that overlaps with Progressive alienation and anger. Their solution is ignorant, unthinking, counterproductive. And the powerful oligarchs they have now given power to will do enormous damage, until their unsustainable and fundamentally foolish policies collapse of their own weight. Which I predict will be sooner rather than later. But we must maintain the lines of communication. We are not in a civil war, and I hope and pray we never are. We must somehow find our way to a path forward. It will take quite some time, but there really is no viable alternative. And I do mean it when I say I am not going to be in the vanguard. I am on the threshold of old age, and this will be the job of people younger than myself. I will cheer them on, and maybe help here and there with a little money, and my vote. But that's about it.  

And I did mean it that I will not watch Trump on television. Ever. I feel no need to subject myself to that pain. I will read about what awful things are going on in our name in Washington in the "print" and "electronic print" media. No more MSNBC or evening news. No Meet the Press (not that I watched it anyway). I will try to read about what's going on in America as if it were the history of an unfortunate historical period long past. As, someday, it will be. 

Postmortem


Well, then. The long, grinding election, which started for me early last year when I became interested in trying to help Bernie Sanders challenge the Democratic establishment to run for president, is over. The most nightmarish election night of my life, over. And the outcome the worst result I gave any thought to. I admit I didn't think it at all likely. Complete control of the government by a party that has become protofascist, led by a foolish and ignorant sociopath. I almost want to say, echoing Jefferson, that I tremble for my country. But it's worse than that. (And I actually do believe that Sanders, or maybe even Clinton if she had just given a version of Sanders's stump speech wherever she went, would likely have won, because what people wanted was someone who'd care about them, not Trump, per se, but this is not the time for recrimination). 


It's worse than that because I cannot embrace this result. I cannot say, well the people elected him. (It was close, but it appears the majority who voted, as in 2000, voted for the losing candidate. But will we finally ditch the undemocratic Electoral College system? Don't count on it). I am proud to live in the West Coast (which now includes Nevada)... a transRockian country that increasingly is culturally and politically separate from the rest of the United States, as is the Atlantic Northeast region. This is what disturbs me the most. Since 1860 we have never been more divided. The Upper Midwest failed to hold. Any semblance that the Progressive Majority in this country can make common cause with the people who elected Trump is a fantasy. We are condemned to a generation or more of horrible struggle and division. And we have lost, for now... and our loss will destroy the last vestiges of the social democracy our country more or less was from 1945-1974. I will not live to see a reformed and more enlightened America. 

And it's worse because the whole world must tremble at the prospect of a protofascist America. There will be no mobilization to address the Climate Catastrophe, which instead will proceed through crisis after crisis. It may well be too late already to delay another decade before taking strong global action. And ask yourself, seriously, with Republicans... these Republicans... in charge of all three branches of government... do you expect anything other than stalling, and continued reckless burning of every last drop of bitumen?


​I could go on and on. I am too old to live through this and come out on the other side. I will have to hunker down and just try to maintain. A friend even said on Facebook that he was going to give up even voting. I won't do that. I will focus on my own state and region, which are solidly Progressive, and hope that we can become a region of relatively enlightened policy despite the fact that we, like the Catalonians and Scottish, feel like a nation under occupation by the more militarily powerful dominant, albeit foreign, culture that controls the nation state we are forced to be part of. Yep, that is how it feels to us in Oregon and the rest of the West Coast. And no doubt to New Englanders, New Yorkers, and residents of the Atlantic States down to Virginia. 

But I do intend to just stop watching video media. Hell with it. I will read the New York Times (at least until Trump figures out how to kill it). I will engage locally. I will support Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders's efforts to hold a rearguard action... at least to a degree. But I am defeated. I plan to just stop talking about national politics. I will not watch Trump speak... ever. I don't see any reason to subject myself to that. 

If you voted for Trump (I don't think I know anyone who did well), or even for a Republican for Senate or a governorship, please unfriend me on Facebook and ask to unsubscribe from my e-mails. Sorry, but I don't care to know you. We don't share any common interest. 

For the rest of us. We must hold on. Politics never ends. This too shall pass. But my ability to do anything about it is kaput. So I will mourn. 

I hope for the best possible outcomes in our darkest national hour in a long time, for everyone I know and care about... and for those I don't as well. ​




 

03 November 2016

Trump v. Clinton ... a turning point in World History?

I really try not to hate Trump. He is damaged. But if he becomes president, it's just possible that the catastrophe will snowball from there. No mobilization on climate change. No movement towards global cooperation. No movement towards economic equity. More violence. Rinse. Repeat. Collapse of the economy and environment. Ultimately human extinction due to global climate catastrophe left unchecked till it's too late.


Think elections don't matter? Think again. Vote for Hillary Clinton and House and Senate Democrats like your life depended on it. Because just maybe it does. 


The possibility that Nov. 8, 2016 is a turning point, where the world chooses whether to live or die, is actually not all that unlikely. 

 

A Victory Plan for Climate Change ::: A Call to Arms

To my farflung correspondents: 

If you are genuinely interested in what can be done about Climate Change, take a look at this detailed "Victory Plan" put forward by Climate Mobilization. Warning: it's quite long; it's a detailed agenda for the transformation of society, economically and socially, in order to seriously deal with what scientific investigation has converged on telling us: this threat is not an "oughta do" it's a "gotta do" --- if we fail to remedy the accelerating descent into runaway Climate Change in this century we face extinction. It's as stark as that, no kidding. 

Let me repeat that another way, my friends: This crisis is the greatest threat to civilization ever. Before the invention of agriculture, there was a time when our species was close to extinction, about 150,000 years ago. THIS threat is the most serious to our survival as a species since then (not to mention dragging the whole biosphere down with us in what could be the worst mass extinction since the End-Permian Extinction, 252 million years ago). 

Within the next ten years, the accelerating effects of Climate Change will have made themselves manifest to every man, woman and child in the World. For once, we need to be smart and get out in front of this rapidly developing crisis, and solve it, while creating a better and more economically just society from the Infrastructure development that will be necessary to do it. 

Defeating Trump and electing Clinton is absolutely essential, of course: we must avert that total disaster. But the future is going to require us to stop focusing on nonsense and entertainment, and start focusing on facts: we face a crisis that requires full mobilization, not like the Apollo Program (as folks were saying 20 years ago), but like World War II. Our entire economy needs to be transformed to end net carbon emissions entirely, and hopefully develop technologies that can actually begin to reverse some of the changes that have occurred. 

This will require a serious commitment from all of us. 

Are you ready? 


Climate Mobilization

I want to encourage everyone I know to go to http://www.theclimatemobilization.org/ and get involved. The science on the Climate Crisis is now beyond doubt: our civilization is risking extinction if we do not mobilize a WWII-level effort to deal with this threat. And the time is not some vague "soon," it is NOW. 

01 November 2016

Yet more ramblings on cosmology.


Another friend wrote some questions based on what I'd written about cosmology. So here are my answers.


1. Is it correct to hypothesize that we could use three dimensional Cartesian coordinates and investigate where the Big Bang occurred?


No. Spacetime (if it exists at all other than as a nonlocal system of energy levels, but let's leave that aside; it appearsto exist)... is not three dimensional. There is the special dimension of time, which is constrained (broken symmetry), giving us time's arrow. So set that one aside, as well. The spatial matrix is still not three dimensional. It is an open hyperbola (apparently; it could be finite, or infinite, it's almost impossible to tell), with a curvature in a dimension additional to the three dimensions of "ordinary space." Thus, just as the surface of a sphere is unbounded and uncentered but can be "mapped" onto a two dimensional matrix (like a sheet of paper) which has edges and a center, the apparent space we live in, of three dimensions, which would normally have edges and a center, actually has neither. It is either open and infinite, or recurved, so that, as in a sphere, translation in any direction will eventually return you to the same spot (except that it's trillions of light years, no exaggeration). There is no center. The Big Bang did not happen anywhere; it happened everywhere. It's just that at that time, the entirety of space was smaller than an atom. (Much smaller, actually, it was just about the Planck length, 1.6 x 10 ​^​-35 m or about 10​^​-20 times the size of a proton). Already, it is so large that from most of it (possibly 99.99... followed by a whole lot of 9's... % of it) is so far from here that light from there never has reached and never will reach here. And everywhere in the universe is the same in that respect, you can only see to the horizon determined by the speed of light... most everything that exists is beyond that, forever unseen. (Some cosmologists' theories give lower figures, such as that the observable universe is maybe 1% of the whole, but even that's pretty amazing).

If this sounds like God is in all places, you can think of it that way if you want.

Incidentally, the accelerating expansion of space itself is independent of this geometry. There is a force that acts like inverse gravity (repulsion), formerly referred to as the Cosmological Constant (except it's not constant, it's increasing), that is inherent to space itself and is directly related to the increasing entropy of the universe. This causes the expansion to accelerate, such that it will expand forever, and eventually become so attenuated, after all the black holes due to quantum effects, leak away all their mass as radiation, and all the protons decay into radiation, that it will be nothing but extremely low density, low energy radiation. In a quadrillion years, it will just be a boring region of the multiverse where nothing but stray​, ultra low-frequency​ photons exist. Thus dieth the world, not even a whimper. Nor even a glow. But that's a long time off, and in the meantime else"where" in the multiverses, there's every reason to believe that new universes are emerging all the "time."


2. The idea of a big Attractor leads me to wonder if the Big Bang and the Attractor are the two end points of a gigantic cosmic magnet.

I believe my answer above makes fairly clear that the answer to this is also no. The Great Attractor is not certainly understood, and there is a wild theory that it's an incursion from outside this universe, but more likely it's a concentration (fluctuation) of mass in the general direction of the central region of the Laniakea Supercluster, but possibly well beyond in the same direction (again, since lateral as opposed to radial velocities of galaxies are unmeasurable, it's almost impossible to tell). Thus, on the scale of the entire universe ("Big Bang Universe" I call it, to distinguish it from the Multiverse, the current term for "all that exists"), the Great ​A​ttractor​ is a local phenomenon. Most of the universe not only cannot see it, but not even in principle could they be affected by it in any way. Totally different order of magnitude from the Big B​ang​.

Hope this makes sense. ​Another friend, to whom I wrote these essays, accuses me of being incomprehensible.

Some commentary on cosmology I sent to a friend

I got into a colloquy with a friend arising from my post about the Great Attractor. Which led to me trying to splain it a little bit more in depth. For those relatively few
​ who might be interested​
interested, here's what I
​wrote to her
.

> * She asked if the "Great Attractor was what it sounded like"  and was it in the picture I included in my post.


To which I replied,

Yes, although it's not a visible feature. The Great Attractor is a direction in space towards which everything in a large region including our galaxy, and the Virgo cluster BEHIND us, is being drawn. It was formerly thought to be an unusually massive region of galaxy concentration in that location (indicative of many supermassive black holes), but now there are other ideas, since the effect is so large. These range from even more massive concentrations behind that apparent point in space, possibly obscured by what's in front, to an incursion or leak in gravitational energy from outside the Big Bang universe. That suggestion is allowed by some versions of String Theory, but most cosmologists don't buy it. Most think it's an anomalous, but statistically not really outlandish, concentration of ordinary matter. Here is a version of that view:
>
> "
​​
The Great Attractor is one such structure, a diffuse concentration of matter some 400 million light-years in size located around 250 million light-years (ly) away in the direction of the southern Constellation Centaurus, about seven degrees off the plane of the Milky Way."  [SolStation]

It's like the earth. It's 12000 km in diameter, but because it's spherical, even from as close as its surface, the gravitational force is even and acts as if all the mass were concentrated at a point, the center. Similarly, an enormous mass concentration approximately symmetrical in shape acts like a point source of gravitational attraction from a distance.
>
> *To which she replied:
> so it's an actual planet?  or it's postulated?
> that's so massy that it attracts, gravitationally, all the mass in the galaxies around it?
> I feel as if all this you say is like 'talking around what you want to say', instead of saying it.
> Is this you? or is this all the scientific writers?
> So when you say attractor, you mean gravitationally?  Or just that everything seems to moving in that direction, but it's not known why?
> Define your terms please.


And I responded:

Sorry. I have been interested in this subject since I was six years old so I speak the language and sometimes forget that others don't.

No it's not a planet. Wrong scale. We are talking about something that's 250 million light years distant and associated with the largest structures known in the universe. There are literally trillions of planets in these structures. The Great Attractor is a concentration of matter on an enormous scale that attracts galaxies tens of millions of light years distant, including our own. Yes. Gravitationally. Gravitation is the only known force that acts on these scales, although it's now believed that space itself exhibits a repulsive force analogous, but opposite,  to gravity that acts to drive the expansion of space, now known to be accelerating. So, no. Convergence (big crunch) has now been ruled out. The present universe will expand forever, becoming more and more attenuated, until it essentially evaporates, tens our hundreds of trillions of years in the future.

Remember that as recently as 1920 most astronomers believed our Galaxy WAS the entire universe. We now know there are at least 300 billion galaxies in the observable universe, and undoubtedly far more than that in the (vastly larger) portion of the universe that is already beyond the horizon of ever being observable (given the accelerating expansion of all of space in the Big Bing Universe).

The reference to the gravitational force on the surface of the earth was only an analogy, to explain how something very extensive and diffuse can act as if it were a point source of gravitational energy. Thepp Great Attractor is not a "thing," per se, it's the nexus of a large region of concentrated matter.

I don't know any other way to express these concepts. There are no other terms for such large scale phenomena.

And yes I am writing this, but of course it reflects my reading in the non technical astronomical literature. Like I said, this is an interest of mine and always had been.


​--​
And then later added,


To your specific question: "so, from the big bang, things spread out, but now they're converging back toward a point?"

Your question reflects that you aren't realizing the scale of the observable universe. Hubble has revealed that in any direction you look, the "deep field" shows galaxies at distances of 10+ billion light years (which means we're looking at galaxies as they were when the universe, now 13.7 billion years old, was only less than four billion years old). The Laniakea Cluster, and (probably) the Great Attractor, are local phenomena on this scale, hundreds of millions of light years as opposed to quite a few billion light years distant.

The actual distance to the "Attractor" is not known, however. The assumption is that it is a concentration of matter in the densest part of our local Supercluster, but it's very difficult to say for certain that it isn't from even larger and more powerful sources of gravitational energy that are further, possibly much further, away, in the same direction.

But in any case the motion of everything around here, on a scale of tens of millions of light years to a few hundred million light years, towards the Great Attractor, is only an overlay on the continuous and accelerating expansion of space itself. As it turns out, we are living in an epoch when the universe is largely observable. We can almost see back to the time when the universe first became transparent, and we can detect the energy of the that time as the cosmic background radiation. (Only less than a million years after the Big Bang). Due to cosmic inflation, which is a whole other subject, most of the universe is and has been from near the beginning already too far away for light from those regions to ever reach here (and the same applies everywhere; observers anywhere can only see a small fraction of the universe). But that horizon will shrink as the accelerating expansion of space continues. Eventually even galaxies now visible at a few billion light years distant will be moving away from us faster than light travels (this is possible because space doesn't move, it expands). Their light will then never reach us. And this horizon will get closer and closer. In something like 10 billion years, which is a long, long time of course but less than the time the universe has already existed, and there will still be stars shining then, this horizon will essentially reach the position of a local observer. Anyone alive at that time will be able to see only their own galaxy and any local objects actually gravitationally bound to it; all other galaxies will be moving with the expansion of space faster than light from their stars could ever reach their eyes.

25 October 2016

Get Scientific American for November

 I don't often urge people to dash out and buy a magazine, but just looking over the November issue of
​​
Scientific American's
Table of Contents, I'd like to suggest if you have any interest in a scientific perspective, that you get a hold of a copy or take a look in the library. A really stellar collection of articles this month.

1. Fascinating article on how quantum entanglement may play a role on a large scale as well as a micro scale (hence the pic on the cover of entangled black holes). See also interesting new book by Musser on the same topic, taking a snark of Einstein's as a title, "
​​
Spooky Action at a Distance
."

2.
​"​
The Fusion Underground,
​"​
about physicists working on new ideas for fusion energy, which someday somehow will be the energy of our civilization (it's what powers stars, after all).

3.
​"​
Things We Know to be True (but keep forgetting).
​"​


4.
​"​
Get Clean or Die Trying
​"​
about medically controversial use of illegal and potentially dangerous anti-addiction drug ibogaine.

5.
​"​
Language in a New Key,
​"​
critiquing Noam Chomsky's innate language facility theory.

Our home Supercluster

Everyone knows their street address, the name of their town, their state or province (or County, or whatever), the nation they live in; that they live on Earth, a planet. Most people understand that the Earth, where they live, is in a star system (system of planets orbiting a star, a common entity in the universe), called the Solar System. That the sun and its planets are in something (maybe they're not too clear on what that something IS), called the Milky Way (or sometimes just the Galaxy, which is derived from a Greek word that means the same thing). (It's a larger-than-average barred spiral galaxy (lower-case 'g'), with something on the order of 300 billion stars, most of them a good deal smaller than the Sun, in case you are one of those not too clear).

The more astronomically oriented may know that the Milky Way is the second largest member of a smallish group of galaxies (the largest is M31, the Andromeda Galaxy), called the "Local Group" (how poetic). And maybe even that it's at the tail end of a medium size cluster of galaxies called the Virgo Cluster, which is centered on the Giant Elliptical Galaxy known as M87.

But few know we live in a particular Supercluster of Galaxies, which is one of the type of the largest gravitationally bound unit of matter defined, Superclusters. It's called (drumroll please), Laniakea. ("Immense Heaven" in Hawaiaan). This is a grouping of approximately 100,000 galaxies, and it really is a thing. Has been for billions of years. Probably other beings living in it have all kinds of other names for it, but we humans of Earth have named it Laniakea. Please remember that.

Here's what's in it: 


  • Virgo Cluster (formerly called Virgo Supercluster), the part in which the Milky Way resides (in the wispy tail end still called the Local Group).
  • Hydra-Centaurus (formerly called) Supercluster
    ​ ​
  • the Great Attractor, the Laniakea central gravitational point near Norma
    ​ 
    Antlia Wall, still referred to as the Hydra Supercluster (OK the terms are a little indefinite)
  • Centaurus Cluster (formerly Supercluster)
  • Pavo-Indus Cluser (formerly Supercluster)
  • Southern Cluster (Supercluster), including Fornax Cluster (S373), Dorado and Eridanus clouds

(Does not include the Coma Supercluster, which is beyond Virgo in a direction away from the Great Attractor).

​ Laniakea Supercluster 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laniakea_Supercluster
​ ​

15 October 2016

Attending a lecture by Richard Tarnas

The following is a slight revision of some comments I wrote to a friend about attending a lecture by Richard Tarnas at the local C.G. Jung society. Tarnas is the author of Cosmos and Psyche. If you're not familiar with him, he is a Jungian, but more particularly, he has a whole theory of history based on his own particular interpretations of astrology. The lecture was interesting, but not impressive, at least not to me, as a basis for any reasonable basis to adopt his "world view."

Tarnas subtitles his book "Intimation of a New World View," which is an example of a Jungian "synchronicity," (coincidence), because I just read Sean Carroll's rather less flamboyant book, The Big Picture, with the same aim, albeit from an entirely different perspective. I'm pretty sure Tarnas would say that Carroll's is really just the "old world view," but I don't actually think so. Just one example. Tarnas played a clip during his lecture in which John Cleese satirized a white coated scientist and he pointed to a model and said something like "we have just discovered the gene... just here (pointing)... which causes people like me to believe that the world is completely susceptible to measurement and mechanistic explanations, even though Quantum Physics proved in the 1920s that that is impossible." It was funny; typical Fawlty Towers Cleese mode. 

But, in all seriousness, as you'd know from reading Carroll, that's not really accurate. There is nothing in quantum physics that affects an empirical analysis of the world. Quantum physics is entirely consistent with a scientific worldview, that treats truth claims as testable propositions which must undergo and survive rigorous attempts at falsification before they can be accepted as working versions of "truth." It is, in fact, precisely the refusal to accept predetermined thinking that led scientists to accept that, however counterintuitive and strange the world appears to be on the micro level, experiments and the rigorous logic of the theory than predicts their results compel the conclusion that it really is that strange (although some of the details, especially of the sort of "meta theory," as opposed to the math and experimental demonstrations, remain controversial, even among those very few in the world who are capable of understanding the issues in depth). 

What fundamentally bothers me about Tarnas's world view is its lack of consistent derivation from nature. There's no fascination, or even mention, of the scientific discoveries of the last half century of what Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune (he hardly mentioned Neptune, wonder why?), Uranus and, just recently, Pluto, actually are, which to me is far more interesting than the seemingly arbitrary "archetypal" associations, which come from human history and culture, that are attached to these planets and their supposed natures. Uranus is a gaseous planetary body that formed naturally about 4.5 billion years ago. 60 years ago we knew hardly anything about it other than its celestial mechanics (orbital data) and that. Now, it is a world. We have images. We know a good deal about its actual nature. Why is this not even relevant to this "new" world view? What about this actual place, that really exists, is a "trickster" (as claimed), and why? These questions aren't even asked; the correlations are claimed but not explained, and the data for them is, well, let's just say, hardly universally accepted. 

Just saying (as he did during the lecture, at least twice), that "there are more things in heaven and earth, [] than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (from Hamlet; Hamlet was chiding the unimaginative Horatio), seems to me just an acknowledgment that science is incomplete (hey, we knew that), rather than a valid or insightful critique of its methods. Nor does it really address or distinguish the things that have found their way into the category of "so well and consistently demonstrated that they can be accepted as elements of truth," which include things like the photoelectric effect, General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, and the Standard Model, at least as it pertains the the particular array of politics that make up the ordinary matter and energy that we are made of. The rather nebulous descriptions of synchronicity, archetypal "energies" (a loose use of a word that in science has a very precise, and quantifiable meaning), etc. do not, it seems to me, amount to knowledge of anything; they are, rather, poetry, or metaphor; soundings of the mind into the unknown. We should not draw conclusions from dreams, even though, as limited beings and not gods, we have no choice but to continue to dream them, since there clearly is so much we do not know. Which just brings us back to the "more things in heaven and earth." Sure, that's right. But imagining a system based on creating patterns in the mind and then looking for ways to match those patterns to events is not a methodology that results in valid conclusions. This is, in fact, why traditional civilizations like China and the Central Asian/Arab Islamic civilization of the Middle Ages, while they flourished and produced great accomplishments, failed to develop a true scientific method. Science IS rigorous submission to falsification. That's the essential element that leads to progress in separating the wheat of actual correspondence to what's real from the chaff of spinning stories without being able to ensure that they are grounded in reality. It was not Chinese astrologers who discovered the Cosmic Background Radiation. It was Western science. The fact that traditional views (astrological correlations, traditional cosmologies, traditional explanations for the origin of the Earth), while having interesting cross-cultural consistencies, are not, in fact consistent or independently verifiable, is an indication that their primary value is as culture, and literature, not as a basis for drawing conclusions about nature. 


​​
(For a critique of Tarnas from someone who actually agrees with him about the importance of a new-agey "holistic" relationship between humans and the "cosmos," see this.)