17 May 2017

Schadenfreude?

I would be lying if I said that, since Trump started his long, slow meltdown, I have not had my moments of Schadenfreude. But the present crisis, although it really does look like the turning point that will likely end in the premature end of his horrible, horrible presidency, is nothing to celebrate. Our country is wounded by these events, and we will be lucky to emerge on the other end without damage that will be very, very hard, and take a long time, to repair. And that's not even addressing the damage Republican policies will inflict, to the extent they are able to enact them. That, in fact, is about the only silver lining: Trump's corruption and ineptitude will have derailed a good deal of the Right Wing agenda. 

14 May 2017

Petition: Tell Senate Democrats to REFUSE business as usual until a fully independent special prosecutor is appointed

I just signed a petition telling Senate Democrats to refuse to allow business as usual until a fully independent special prosecutor is investigating Trump, and I
​'d like to suggest you do so​
, too.
https://act.credoaction.com/sign/Comey_Shutdown?sp_ref=303655619.4.180932.e.576211.3&referring_akid=.11044146.X86oP0&source=mailto_sp 

New York Times translation

Digital automatic translation (such as Google Translate) is already useful, but it isn't the equivalent of human translators yet, and may never be (although I'd bet it will). So, when a publication like the New York Times has to decide which languages are important enough to translate the contents of the daily digital edition immediately so it can appear timely, they obviously can't do dozens. You might expect French, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Hindi, maybe. But they only do two, probably because of resource limitations. And which two? Spanish. Not surprising. Chinese. Which even a decade or two ago would probably have seemed very odd. But now, well, it's the obvious choice.

10 May 2017

This cannot just be allowed to happen without consequences!

Look, we always knew McConnell was and is a party hack who cares nothing for something even as basic as the Rule of Law. But saying there's no need for additional investigation is so outrageous that I truly hope and expect there will be an enormous backlash. Folks. We CANNOT let this just go by as if nothing had happened. Trump and his thug cronies MUST be called to account. And if the institutions of our government fail, we must take to the streets to demand that this matter be investigated impartially and the law be enforced.

No Compromise.
No normalization.
No cooperation till this happens.
No let up on our own party until they have the spine to stand up for our country.

09 May 2017

Stupid Party and the plan to destroy Medicaid

If the Stupid* Party, despite clangorous pleas from their own Governors, hospitals, medical associations, doctors, and even many health insurers, goes ahead to gut and destroy Medicaid, they will create such an ungodly mess that the ONLY SOLUTION will be Enhanced Medicare for All, aka Single Payer. I don't hope for that, because literally millions will suffer, and hundreds of thousands will die, as a direct result of Stupid Party stupidity, but that is what will happen. And in the process the Stupid Party will lose the White House, both houses of Congress, and if their current extreme stupidity continues, eventually even control of the Supreme Court. And that will serve them right, but at what a price!

(* Definition of Stupid, in case you doubt it: quality of a person whose habitual actions harm others, despite little or no appreciable net benefit to himself or his community. I submit that the fact that one party in this country overwhelmingly practices stupidity, while the other, by and large, does not, is well nigh irrefutable. And which is which should not even be a question).

08 May 2017

Old White Male Power's last gasp

I guess I am somewhat insular... nearly everyone I know is appalled by the retrenchment of White Male Power symbolized by the news photo this past week of a bunch of old white men gathered around the Old White Man in Chief to celebrate the meaningless passage of their huge Tax Cut and Ruination of Health Care Act of 2017... in only the House... with no chance that anything like it will become law. But if you sometimes have difficulty articulating to others the BIG PICTURE of why this is terrible, and OBJECTIVELY, FACTUALLY bad for America, I highly recommend this website, and, for an introduction, the excellent Ian Masters interview from yesterday with Stephan Schwartz.

02 May 2017

Trump supporting elimination of Filibuster even for Legislation?

So now we read where Trump supposedly favors eliminating the Senate filibuster even for legislation.

Of course, the fear is, if that were to come to pass, that the Republicans, who now control both houses, the presidency, and the Supreme Court, could simply legislate their entire agenda without impediment.

But I'm not extremely worried (just somewhat). For several reasons: 1. McConnell is unlikely to go along with this, for his own reasons, and increasingly members of both houses are not that intimidated by Trump's bloviation. 2. See 1. For the same reason, and because the Republican party is sharply ideologically divided, they are unlikely to unify around a systematic policy agenda. (Although they could indeed do a LOT of damage, which would take a good long while to fix, so No. 1 is a critical line of defense). 3. Although there is a pretty serious short term downside risk of very bad consequences, in the long run, eliminating the filibuster for legislation is both good for progressive policy outcomes, and probably inevitable, now that the confirmation filibuster has already been permanently trashed. And, after all, it IS totally undemocratic, so with the future in mind, its demise should be accepted if not, immediately, celebrated.

If they do end up doing this, our resistance will have to kick up into War Emergency Overdrive. Resistance, including making it clear to Republicans in the House and Senate that they could well lose re-election if they destroy the social safety net that so many of THEIR constituents and supporters take for granted, has so far saved the ACA and prevented a massive tax cut from taking shape and sailing through (which was feared, and which may still happen). Resistance, even in the face of a simple majority Congress, could prevent the evisceration of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Progressive Taxes, and Fundamental Environmental Protections. But it will require truly MASSIVE activism on a scale dwarfing even the AntiWar movement of the Vietnam era.

Ready?

Republican Dithering may indeed kill the ACA Exchanges

It is unbelievably frustrating, as TPM reports, that the sheer ineptitude and dithering of the Republicans is creating so much uncertainty in the ACA Exchange marketplace that it will likely turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy: the exchanges will fail for the same reason stock markets often crash. Which is artificially induced uncertainty about the future of the "rules." If they would just quit messing with a system that works more or less (since they clearly have no intention of making the PROGRESSIVE fixes it actually needs), it would probably work OK until we can get rid of them in the next round of elections. But that may well not happen. Thanks to the uncertainty as to whether the critical subsidies will still be there for the next few years, the ACA likely WILL enter a death spiral, but not because of inherent flaws; rather because the government is not reliable. Sheesh. Now, in all likelihood, when the time comes, we'll have to start all over. And create Medicare for All. Which is a good thing. But in the meantime, people will suffer and die. And the blame goes nearly 100% to Trump and the Republicans in Congress.



28 April 2017

One grows weary

One grows weary.

The Republicans are a tripartite unholy alliance of Far Right Wingers (Tea Party), Ayn Randian Libertarian Ideologues who basically actually believe the kool aid that "low taxes and minimal government" is best for the people (ignoring that it is ALWAYS hijacked by the rich and powerful), and purely self-interested billionaire oligarchs, whose ultimate icon is Trump himself. These people seek to DESTROY the postwar prosperity for the great mass of the people that most Americans are still clinging to, at least as a myth.

Take this ridiculous, but fundamentally SINISTER proposed pair of huge cuts to the taxes the very richest pay. The first, dishonestly labeled "health care reform," is really nothing but a massive tax cut, eviscerating the taxes on the very rich and health care corporations that funds the subsidies that make Obamacare work (to the extent it does). The cuts are made up for by "something really great" all right, for BILLIONAIRES. Ordinary people get totally unaffordable health care, and at least 25 million will end up with no insurance. It also, stealthily, effectively ends MEDICAID, on which tens of millions of Americans depend for health care. People will die. Republicans don't care.

The second, the truly breathtakingly dishonest, mendacious and nakedly greedy 1-page "plan" Trump touts as tax reform, is the polar opposite of what he promised. It amounts to an enormous tax slash for people like him, with almost no tax benefit to ordinary people. It would explode the deficit by $5 trillion over ten years. Which will come out of essential government services. Only the military will escape massive cuts. Any idea that "growth" would offset these massive cuts is lunacy; we have seen repeatedly that just the opposite happens.

And as if that weren't enough, the Randites like Paul Ryan are working on a truly nefarious plan to eliminate payroll taxes. Sounds great, huh? But their motive isn't to help the middle class. It is to ELIMINATE SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE. Don't believe anything else. Of course they won't try to do it all at once, but that is their game plan.

These people are EVIL. Period.

RESIST.

Peace.

24 April 2017

Trump / Le Pen

Trump has made it pretty clear he favors the overtly racist, fascist Le Pen in the French presidential election. The shame of that is almost unbearable to those of us who actually believe in American democratic traditions.

20 April 2017

Newsflash: Donald Trump is a moron

Trump's moronic comment about the worst (and least likely to pass) tax cut called a health care bill yet ("Really, really good") proves it. This man is not only deranged and incredibly, dangerously ignorant, he is JUST PLAIN STUPID. I guess he's good at a kind of assholery that can be useful in extorting money out of people (y'know "the art of the deal"), but does he really believe that throwing 30 million people or more off of health care, and allowing health insurers to sell stinking turds that cover absolutely nothing and call them health plans will go over with people who were promised "something much, much better" than Obamacare? I mean there are diehard Trumpists, but people NOTICE when Pa comes home from the hospital with a $1 million unpayable hospital bill because his "insurance" allowed by the Republicans' idiotic law, for which he paid a huge chunk of his income, was really nothing more than a scam. And they talk to their neighbors. And pretty soon EVERYBODY KNOWS it's just a piece of shit designed to cut taxes for the richest and screw everyone else.

16 April 2017

Uh, no to CalExit

I toyed with the idea of a CalExit initiative (expanded to include the whole West Coast)... just to send a message. (Obviously, there is virtually no chance of successful secession, and if there were, it would be fraught with so many problems no one should even consider it unless the situation became a whole hell of a lot worse than it is). But in any case it turns out this effort is a deliberate distraction, actually being backed by a Russian oligarch! So, uh, no. Never mind.

10 April 2017

Williams and Zakaria have crossed the line of no return with Trump Sycophancy

Let me just call out the fawning of, in particular, Brian Williams and Fareed Zakaria, over TRump's preposterous Tomahawk stunt. These (among many other lapses) disqualify both of these men from ever being taken seriously again.

24 March 2017

Calexit?

I wish I could say I take this seriously, because I really would support it (with a caveat that I would want the Petition to explicitly state that California intends to invite other Western States to join a new union of Pacifica), but I don't think there's any chance at all this could actually happen. 

A Brief History of Secession (Why Calexit might not be as crazy as you think)   by Richard Striner 
from American Scholar, Spring 2017 

(Attached) 

22 March 2017

Demanding a Bipartisan Commission with Subpena Power and a Special Prosecutor

And I just sent this to my two senators and my Congressman: 

Dear. []: 

The questions being raised in the Comey hearings and more generally constitute a constitutional crisis. Democrats must present a united front, and demand a bipartisan commission, with subpoena power, and the appointment of a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of all the issues raised, including tax returns, Russian influence, any collusion with the Russians, emoluments and conflicts of interest of the president and all top executive officials, and any other related issues. The cloud of suspicion and probable cause to believe multiple impeachable offenses may have been committed is not serious enough that Democrats should say that UNTIL these processes are in place and functioning, they will not consent to any routine business, confirmations (including of Gorsuch), or legislation not actually an emergency. If they want to proceed on their own, so be it, but I don't think they can. This situation is grave and cannot go on. 

Thank you. 

Rejecting Gorsuch on Legitimacy Grounds

I keep pluggin' away. This is what I sent to my two Senators just now. 

Dear (Sen. Wyden): (Sen. Merkley): 

I believe Democrats must stand against any Supreme Court nomination of this president for two reasons: 

1. The seat was stolen. This hurts the court, as Dahlia Lithwick has stated. Democrats should say that they will not consent to any nominee other than Mr. Garland. Let them approve the nominee on their own... if they can... and if they kill the filibuster, that's on them, and we lose nothing from it anyway. They will do it eventually regardless, and in the meantime we get nothing. 

2.  There is a serious cloud over this presidency and its legitimacy. The Republicans refused to even hold hearings on the flimsy idea that the president had only a little MORE than a year to go. Well, this president has called into question his legitimacy, his fundamental mental health, and whether there is probable cause to believe he may have committed multiple impeachable offenses. No nominee for the SCOTUS from this president should even be considered until these issues are resolved, and Democrats should say so in a united front. 

PLEASE DO NOT SUPPORT THE CONFIRMATION OF GORSUCH AND PLEASE DEMAND RESOLUTION OF THE TRUMP CRISIS. 

Thank you. 

[signed]

21 March 2017

Trump like Tyler

My friend Sam says Trump will go down in history like John Tyler (who became president when Harrison died suddenly). Weak, despised, unpopular, and ineffectual. 

I kinda hope he's right. 

20 March 2017

It's time to say it ~


 


DONALD TRUMP MUST RESIGN IMMEDIATELY. 

Trump's Divisiveness

    It's absolutely amazing that Trump's approval is as HIGH as 37%.

    It is also significant that it remains the case that a very large majority of Republicans still supports him. That will probably rule out impeachment. I hate to acknowledge that, but I think it's true. The Republicans in Congress will not do it, because they can't see that it will help their re-election prospects. The era, if there ever was one, of responsibility in American politics, is over.

    Still, think about it. Almost 75% of Republicans support Trump, but his national support is only half that. That means almost everyone else doesn't support him. (Remember, nonvoters and Independents outnumber both Republicans and Democrats). It also means our nation is divided more sharply not only ideologically but regionally, in terms of social class, and, to varying lesser degrees racially and ethnically, as never before.

    What a dreadful situation. We must strive in every way, being more active than ever, to bring about change from the bottom up!

National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

I just mailed a whole slew of postcards to state representatives and senators here in Oregon urging support for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Already passed in Washington, California, New York, Illinois and enough other states to combine to 165 electoral votes, the uniform statute, when enacted by enough states to amount to 270, will take effect, requiring those states' electors to be pledged to vote for the candidate who WON THE POPULAR VOTE, as tallied in the official vote tally. The law is expected to pass muster in the courts as a proper Interstate Compact, because under existing case law where powers of the Federal Government under the Constitution are not involved, interstate compacts do not require Congressional approval. The governing portion of the Constitution, a mere 17 words, is very clear in granting the exclusive power to the states to determine how their electors would be chosen. (In fact, the current winner take all in 48 of the 50 states is not in the Constitution, and did not come to predominate until the 1880s).

If your state has not already passed NPV, please get involved in getting it passed. 2 of the last 5 elections did not result in the person who won the vote of the people becoming president. This must never be allowed to happen again.

PLEASE GET INVOLVED to make sure that is the case.

REJECT GORSUCH

Democrats must vote against Gorsuch. Period. That seat was stolen, and the theft must not be ratified. He could be Jesus Christ and I would still maintain this as a matter of principle. (And he isn't... he is a very, very misguided human being, as even the slightest examination of his record will show). 

16 March 2017

What the future of American Health Care should look like

It's not too early to assume that we will win. On every front. Specifically, on health care: I believe that, at minimum, a public option added to a somewhat tweaked ACA (with, for example, built in negotiations for pharmaceutical prices and medical equipment prices), plus lowering the enrollment age for Medicare to 55 and adding Vision and Dental, all paid for by increased taxes on the wealthier among us, is what we must fight for. (Since people in the higher end of Middle Class will be paying less in health care premiums, the increased taxes will be largely or even entirely offset; only the very rich will pay dramatically more, AS THEY SHOULD).

Then, gradually, Medicare enrollment can be narrowed from both ends. First, Medicaid for children can be rolled into Medicare (to age 18). Then the enrollment age for Medicare can be reduced to 45 and increased to 25, then, a few years later, Medicare for All can be rolled out.

Private Insurers will be impacted, of course, but Switzerland, France and Germany have a regulated NONPROFIT private insurance system, and so do we (minus the nonprofit part, but that can be mandated), even for Medicare. It's called Medicare Advantage. Personally, I think a pure socialist system is better, but the entrenched interests in this country probably preclude that for some time at least. And Medicare for All with ZERO SUBSIDY Medicare Advantage would work out pretty well. In the long run private management can't really compete with public options for paying for medical care, and fewer and fewer people will elect to pay high added premiums for relatively little value. (Right now, thanks to Republicans, Medicare Advantage amounts to a large subsidy for those people well enough off to pay a portion of the added cost for private plans... Medicare Advantage patients cost about 20% more than baseline Medicare patients. You rarely hear that mentioned in all of this). But if it does compete, then fine, I have no objection to private management. Many state Medicaid programs are managed by health insurers already.

Health Care Debate

This op-ed in the NY Times reflects the intellectual bankruptcy of the Right on the health care debate. 
 

Titled " Don't try to fix Obamacare, Abolish It," it purports to stand on the "principle" that what Republicans should do is to address costs, not coverage numbers, to make health insurance more affordable. It includes a single paragraph to morally justify the position taken (because ultimately, as a moral imperative, a health care policy must be about providing health care to the citizens, not reducing costs falling mainly on ultra-wealthy high bracket taxpayers). 

"Increasing competition and choice would lower prices for all kinds of insurance. Lower prices would free up corporate dollars for other things like innovation and jobs. Lower prices would also make it far more affordable for Americans to buy their own insurance than wait for government to subsidize it."

​But this is BS. Any honest economist will admit that health care is intrinsically a case of market failure. There is no health care delivery system in the world, never has been, never will be, that operates on free market rules. It simply does not work. Health care is not a profit center. It is a necessity, that must be paid for from the productivity of the economy as something that simply must be provided. Like clean water, electricity, sanitation, roads, bridges, railroads, air travel... all of these, to one degree or another, are not pure free market systems, but are subsidized by public wealth transfers. 

And there is absolutely no evidence that "free market principles" have ever resulted in lower health care costs. Just the opposite. The market incentive in health care is to deny sick and infirm people health care, so that they will die and rid the system of unprofitable cost centers. Unregulated or minimally regulated private insurance has much higher administrative costs, and most of its man hours are spent trying to minimize the delivery of health care, which is ultimately counterproductive. 

We need publicly financed health care, with sensible regulation to focus on prevention and health outcome, not maximized services delivery, and reasonable standards to avoid excessive costs. This works in many other countries, and it's time for us to admit that our system, even under Obamacare, does not work very well. We spend 20% of our GDP on health care, while most developed countries spend more like 10%. 

This Right Wing voodoo economic view of health care will make matters worse (as will the half-measures of the current Republican health plan, which is more a tax cut than a real health care plan). We must face facts and move towards an Enhanced Medicare for All system as soon as possible. ​

08 March 2017

Republican Health Care 101

Please, can we just stipulate to apply some modicum of honesty and logic to the health care mess? The Republican bill needs to be renamed for what it is: The Unaffordable Care Act. It's really pretty simple. You can't keep a few popular chestnuts, while radically cutting benefits (both Medicaid and subsidies for lower income people who can barely afford insurance under the current law), eliminating virtually all the tax provisions (which are relatively progressive) in the current law, doing nothing about out of control prescription drug and medical services prices, and not get the obvious result:

  • Far fewer people covered by insurance; more people uninsured, including children, more people die needlessly due to cruel public policy; AND
  • The deficit spending on health care will balloon all out of proportion, because they've eliminated virtually all the revenue.

Of course, after destroying the whole purpose and mechanisms of the ACA, which weren't great but at least afforded folks some help, they will just declare victory and watch the incredible destructiveness of their mean and stupid policies unfold.

For shame, Republicans! You are not only mean, you're cheap, greedy, favor the rich over the poor (how Christian of you), and you lie constantly and systematically. Swell folks.

07 March 2017

Mildly optimistic post on health care

I have something mildly optimistic to say (for a change). The Republicans' stupid health care bill is probably so bad, in different ways, even from their own points of view (because they are divided on this issue even more than some others), that it may very well fail to pass entirely. Which will mean that when (not if) Democrats retake control of the Legislative and Executive branches again, we can actually pass a major improvement that includes, at minimum, a public option. For a variety of reasons discussed at length already during the long debate pre-and post- passage of the ACA, that will eventually lead to a National Health Care system with private option for rich people. I can live with that.

Other piece of good (not as good) news: even if they pass this piece of shit, it's enough like the ACA that, although it will actually be far worse fiscally and really will be in a death spiral almost right out of the gate, it, too, will form the basis for the same reforms, so ditto.

Trump's Worst Deal: New Yorker Exposé on incredible corruption in the Trump Org. dealing in Azerbaijan

Farflungers, 

Please read this. (I'm pretty sure you can link to it without a subscription; the New Yorker considers exposing the corruption of the Trump Organization, a public service-- especially since Trump has refused to divest himself).  There are several grounds for impeachment in these facts alone. Ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard for crying out loud!  If you can't link to it and want to read it, e-mail me and I'll get it to you. 

03 March 2017

I recommend this new news website of the resistance, so to speak

IMPEACH!

 
Trump: reasonable and serious grounds to suspect refusal to reveal evidence (Tax Returns, other things) that likely indicate widespread violation of the Emoluments Clause and actual conflict of interest precluding continuing as president. 

Sessions: plain evidence on the record of a serious crime: lying to Congress during confirmation hearing. Various excuses are extremely thin.

Remember, impeachment is the charge. They are presumed innocent in their trial before the Senate, if they don't have the intelligence and good grace to resign.

Thing is, we're not naive. This probably won't happen. But that DOES NOT MEAN Democrats should not be insisting on it. Indeed, they should say, we will not entertain any other business apart from national security emergencies until these matters are resolved.

02 March 2017

Oldest fossil evidence for life ever found announced

In the news this week is a truly important scientific finding. (Trump is not truly important). 

Researchers (link below for more info) have eliminated other possible explanations for fossils that reliably date to 3.75 b.y. old. These are microfossils of what are essentially bacteria or bacteria like organisms. What is so significant about this is that it pushes back, right to the actual time when life first became physically possible on this planet, after the period of Solar System history referred to as the Late Heavy Bombardment (when asteroids collided with the inner planets regularly... they're the origin of the giant maria, actually craters, on the Moon). Before that, the surface was regularly literally melted, so that life could not have obtained a foothold. This suggests that either of two broad historical contingencies must have occurred: 1. A spectacularly unlikely event, the origin of life, just happened to occur almost immediately after it first became physically possible. Or, as is at least suggestibly more likely, 2. The origin of life itself is NOT spectacularly unlikely, and, in fact, is likely to occur relatively readily once conditions favorable to it are in place.


As a comment: Indeed, recent investigations have suggested that several other contingencies in the history of life leading to the complex biosphere Earth now has may have been much LESS likely (in that they took a long time to manifest and occurred only once). These would include the evolution of a truly efficient system of photosynthesis and the emergence of eukaryotes, which resulted from the merger of cells belonging to entirely different kingdoms, bacteria and archaea, to form cells with interior organelles that emerged as a whole new form of life, the Eukaryota. (Almost all life visible to naked eye is Eukaryotic).




25 February 2017

Repeating Myself : Choice of Perez a mistake

I am virtually certain that the majority of rank and file Democrats preferred Keith Ellison over Tom Perez. While I agree that it's not useful to relitigate the primaries of 2016 (where the choice ultimately made resulted in defeat, for whatever reasons), I think choosing the more establishment candidate over the popular choice was indicative of EXACTLY THE WRONG KIND OF THINKING going forward. I set my contribution form I got in the mail the other day for the DNC aside, awaiting today's outcome. I started to send it back with "Nope... wrong choice for Chair" scribbled on it, but I tossed it. Hell with it. Don't want to waste their money; they will do their part. But I made out my check to Progressive Change Campaign Committee instead and won't bother with the DNC. I put my money where people who agree with my view of the party and the future are in charge.

Democratic Party makes ANOTHER big mistake

The Democratic Party just made another big mistake in failing to recognize that the Progressive, younger voters who backed Keith Ellison are the FUTURE OF THE PARTY. Perez is not a terrible choice, but he WAS NOT THE RIGHT CHOICE for the future of our movement to stop Trumpism and regain Progressive control of government.

24 February 2017

Krugman on Republican Health Care "plan"

Many who style themselves even as "moderate Democrats" have an almost visceral distaste for Paul Krugman (which I don't share at all, but I note its existence). 

But whatever your politics, I think the points he makes today in this piece are well-nigh irrefutable. The Republican "ideas" about health care are intellectually and morally bankrupt, and, in fact, downright fraudulent in that they are based ultimately on intentional deception. Basically, they have no ideas: they just want to wreck a system that, while far inferior to the Enhanced Medicare for All that would actually reduce costs and enhance outcomes for everyone, is better than anything any Republican has ever seriously put forward. Their solution, in essence, is to simply NOT cover 35 million people. Let 'em die. While imposing greatly increased costs, and inferior service, on the tens of millions who can barely afford coverage. And I say, that is NOT ACCEPTABLE. I suspect that when people realize just how bankrupt "repeal and replace" really is, there will be a massive shift in public opinion away from Republicans in Congress. And it could not happen soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. 

21 February 2017

Thinking long term

In these very trying times, it's natural to focus on short term crises, and dismiss as "necessarily deferred" as presently impracticable the longer term, more optimistic-outlook societal projects. But I think we should resist that tendency. The present era should be treated as an aberration, which we will emerge from, and, with effort, relatively soon.

To that end, there's a short piece in Scientific American about the advocacy by Obama's former science adviser James Holdren of not only continued by increased funding for fusion energy research.

There's a rather tired joke, about but not really shared by, advanced nuclear engineering professionals: "Practical fusion energy is thirty years (or ten, or twenty) away. And always will be." It's true that practical sustained fusion in both major branches of this research; laser ignition of small pelletized fuel or tokamak style magnetic ring vessels, has proved elusive. And the eventual solution may be something else entirely. But I would like to suggest that given at least the three important considerations noted below, this is not a reason to abandon or scale back research.

1. Fusion energy is truly inevitable. It is what powers stars. It is THE fundamental method of deriving energy from matter; all other methods are lesser, stopgap technologies. I believe this is all but irrefutable.

2. Our civilization has NOT made this an all out effort, and the progress that has been made is actually quite tangible, if not as miraculously successful as one might hope.

3. While the basic research and development is very difficult, and very expensive, the promised payoff is enormous. Fusion energy promises to be nearly limitless, and will have applications where solar and wind energy (which should also be developed on an accelerated, crash program basis) will not be practical, including space propulsion, eventually.

In the 1880s the main technological challenges were how to make a practical transformer so that AC could be used to distribute electric power cheaply and practically, and how to build practical submarines (among other things; powered flight being an area of more long term technology research). In our time, fusion power is the great "heavy industrial" long term challenge, with greatly improved batteries and hydrogen production and utilization technologies on the list as well (I consider solar power to be mostly a solved issue; the challenge is to work out the practicalities and invest in the infrastructure to make it a reality). I believe we should be looking for every reasonable opportunity to scale back wasteful military spending and should make major, Apollo Program, or even WWII production level investments in rolling out renewable energy using available technology while expending major resources on the long term challenge of fusion energy and manufactured hydrogen fuel (for aircraft and other large vehicles where grid-based or onboard solar electric power isn't practical, such as ships) to usher in our post fossil fuel energy economy.

I don't anticipate nuclear fusion powered tankers, but if fusion energy, combined with widespread low cost solar electric generation, become a reality, hydrogen can be manufactured from water. The storage issues are not really all that intractable; we used liquid hydrogen for rocket fuel in the 1960s. Aircraft can be built with hydrogen powered turbojet engines, and the whole structure, despite the necessity of keeping the hydrogen under pressure and cold, would weigh less, using advanced origami-fold superstructure, than current aircraft. Such aircraft would inject only water into the stratosphere, and although water vapor is a greenhouse gas to an extent, it is not a long term problem, and a reasonable level of air travel should prove completely sustainable without fossil fuels. Same with surface shipping. Very large ships might even use electric propulsion, with onboard small scale fusion reactors to produce the power. Or hydrogen turbine generators, which may prove more practical. (Hydrogen isn't a primary fuel; it's an energy transformation medium).

But my main point here is that WE NEED TO LOOK AHEAD, and invest, and invest HEAVILY, in our future. Not focus on nonsense like Donald Trump. He is a passing anomaly.


18 February 2017

A comment about something other than Trump

In my formative years, while most of my contemporaries and friends cut their teeth, well, ears, rather, on Grace Slick, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, I was parsing the niceties of each and every one of Mozart's piano concertos, as music, not to play. (I wasn't that good at the piano; still not, really). Later I looked further back, to Bach, to the great Heinrich Schütz (still hardly a household name), to Josquin, Ockeghem, Dufay.

So that accounts for the following obscure judgments, one actually rather commonplace among classical music aficionados, the second slightly less so perhaps, and the third rarely mentioned.

1. Had Mozart not had kidney disease and died at barely 36, (and instead lived to a nice, ripe old age) he would have eclipsed Beethoven and be thought of today as the greatest composer ever, with the sole possible exception of Bach. (There are some who think so anyway).

2. Had Schubert not had syphilis and died at barely 31, (ditto) he would have eclipsed Beethoven and be thought of today as the greatest composer of the 19th century.

3. Had Orlando Gibbons not suffered an aneurysm (or something like it) at about the same age that Mozart lived to, in 1625, (ditto) he would have eclipsed John Dowland and be generally thought of as the greatest English composer ever, and the equal of the other titans of the 17th century, Monteverdi and Schütz.

I realize these kinds of contrafactuals are pretty meaningless, and they seem to annoy some rather persnickety folks, but I find them irresistible now and then.

11 February 2017

​ ENTIRELY INAUTHENTIC BUT NONETHELESS QUITE TASTY CURRY • and substitute for rice

 A friend actually asked for this, so I typed it up. 
​​------------- 

 ENTIRELY INAUTHENTIC BUT NONETHELESS QUITE TASTY CURRY

*NOT low fat or low calorie

Serves 4. Cut in half approximately to make for 2

 

8 boneless chicken thighs, cut up into bite size pieces.  

   (I use the frozen ones from Trader Joe's most of the time, although fresh is better. If using frozen, thaw them most of the way and drain them with a strainer to get the water out of them, pat them dry. I cut them when they're still a little bit frozen; it makes them easier to cut)

 

1 entire head of garlic, peeled and minced (Use a garlic press)

(I don't recommend jarred minced garlic, but the frozen kind from Trader Joe's is acceptable).

1 heaping tsp. ground cumin

1 heaping tsp. garam masala

1 heaping TBS mild curry powder… (don't stint; you can use a little more, but don't go overboard)

  (I use Sharwood's mild curry powder from World Maket, but any mild curry powder will work)

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. cloves

½ tsp. cardamom (may omit)

1 tsp. ginger, ground

sambal oelek (Indonesian pepper sauce), harissa, or red pepper flakes, to taste, as little as none as much as you care for

1½ tsp. sea salt or other salt

1 bell pepper, cut up into smallish pieces

1 regular size can diced tomatoes, partly drained, but retain some of the juicy water

1 small stalk of celery, cut into small pieces (optional)

coconut or avocado oil

1/3 stick of butter, or ghee (I just use butter)

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

 

 In a large anodized aluminum pan or other suitable large flat pan with tight fitting lid, put a tbs or so of oil in the pan and heat to nearly smoking point.

 Add in the cumin first, then the garlic. (Cumin must be cooked in fat to yield its unique flavor).  Turn the heat down and cook this mixture in the oil, stirring all the while, until the garlic just starts to change color. Add the other dry spices except red pepper, and mix into a sort of paste. Add a little more oil if necessary so it doesn't stick to the pan. Once heated through plus a minute or so more, scrape with silicone spatula into a small bowl.

 Add another tbs or so of oil to the pan and cook the chicken until just turning beige (from pink), turning to cook all sides. Add salt and whatever red pepper you are using. Add back in the spicy garlic paste. Stir in the bell pepper and celery and cook for a bit. Add the butter, and incorporate. Add the tomatoes.

 Cover and simmer for at least an hour, preferably an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Add liquid if necessary, but it shouldn't be. I sometimes even boil off excess liquid before adding cream.

 Incorporate cream, heat through, and serve.

 Serve with rice. I use a brown rice/quinoa/oat groats mixture. (see separate instruct. if you want to use that).


​**************************​
 


Complexer Carb Rice substitute

 

Mix in equal or not so equal parts (to taste) to make a quart or so:

Large red quinoa

Oat groats

Buckwheat groats

Black or brown whole grain rice

 

To make this "rice," it's necessary to thoroughly rinse in a fine strainer, then soak for a minimum of one hour before cooking.

I just soak in the same water it will cook in, in the same cooker or pan.

Then cook just like rice, except the water:grain ratio needs to be about 2½:1 rather than 2:1. Add about a tsp. of oil and a tsp. of salt for each cup of grain. 1½ cups of grain is enough for 3-4 people.

Cook 1 full hour in a rice cooker

or pan with tight lid; bring just to boil then simmer on very low heat, so it doesn't boil
​.


*************


Hope you like it. ​
 

 


06 February 2017

Fwd: Are you ready to take Indivisible Action?

   Farflung correspondents, 

If you are like me, you are deeply concerned about the crisis to our constitutional form of government and want to take whatever action you can to make sure it survives the current regime and that a semblance of actual representative democracy emerges from whatever havoc this regime is able to wreak. 

Personally, I have concluded that the individual elected to the presidency is in violation of the Emoluments Clause, at the very least, and that, based on ongoing investigations by Matt Taibbi, David Van Pelten, David Cay Johnson, and Scott Horton, there appears to be substantial evidence of financial entanglement with Russian oligarchs and Russian financial ties that, if even half of what is rumored is true, could amount to treason. I favor a robust and immediate investigation, while at the same time, I want my Congressman to start urging his colleagues to organize for what I believe will be inevitable: the impeachment of the 45th president. 

In any case, this tool... Indivisible.com is literally invaluable for anyone who believes it is their civic duty to get more involved in demanding responsiveness from our national government in this time of crisis. 



We're Indivisible, and we're ready
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