Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mars Closest Approach To Earth In 15 Years Is Tonight

No photo description available.

Telescopic image of the type that might normally be visible at opposition.


The good news for astronomy buffs and sky observers? The Red Planet Mars is at its closest distance  in 15 years - barely 35.8 million miles from Earth this evening.  The bad news? The planet is currently in the throes of a massive dust storm - obscuring details (see image) normally visible through Earth bound telescopes. (The Martian atmosphere is currently so inundated by dust that NASA's Opportunity Rover hasn't been able to recharge. There simply isn't enough sunlight to get through to its solar panels.)


For reference, Mars came to the configuration known as opposition  on July 27th or 4 days ago. That meant that Mars and the Sun were on exactly opposite sides of Earth, conforming to the dotted alignment S-E-p  shown below.
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Two relevant questions are:

1) Why don't Martian oppositions occur at the same distances relative to Earth each time? (See e.g. the color graphic showing different Mars-Earth distances for Mars' oppositions over 2003-18)

and

2) Why do the dates of opposition and closest approach usually differ?

In respect to (1) the reason is basically to do with Mars having a more elliptical orbit (eccentricity e = 0.093) than Earth. All planets have  elliptical orbits  featuring a perihelion (closest point to Sun) and aphelion (farthest point)  On account of Mars' orbit being more elliptical, Mars perihelion distance from the Sun can vary by about 26 million miles.  By contrast, Earth's perihelion distance - because of its more circular orbit - doesn't vary by more than 3 million miles.  As you can see,  our planet's perihelion variation and Mars perihelion variation are dramatically different. But it is this variation that accounts for the differing distances at Martian oppositions (see color graphic)  Near - or distant - oppositions of Mars recur every 15-17 years.

In respect of (2) we note Earth being closer to the Sun than Mars means it takes less time to make its circuit than the Red Planet. (365.25 days vs. 687 days).  In addition, Earth's perihelion arrives yearly in January, while Mars arrives on Sept. 16.   At the alignment SEp shown in the diagram (p for Mars), for the date July 27 - when Earth was directly between Mars and the Sun -  Mars was still drawing closer to the Sun (remember its perihelion date is Sept. 16).  Because of this disparity the closest distance between the two worlds occurs tonight, as opposed to 4 days ago.  For those curious about the length of the disparity, the time can be as long as 8.5 days (in 1969) or as brief as 10 minutes (in 2208 and 2232).

Critical to determining these variations is measuring the synodic period of Mars.   In general, we define the synodic period to be the time interval for the revolution of a planet as determined from the same phase, or the same geometrical configuration. In this case between successive Martian oppositions. 

Now, over t days, the 180 degree 'straight' angle, i.e. at opposition,  will have increased to a value Θ given by the  angle SE1 p1 or :

Θ = [n - n(p)] t

where n, n(p) are the mean daily motions of the Earth and the planet, (Mars)  respectively, and t is in days. Using  the  respective sidereal periods  for Earth (P) and Mars ( P')  we may write:


n =   0.98564  deg/day   =  360/P   where P  = 365.25 days

n(p) = n(Mars) =   0.52407 deg /day =  360/P'   where P' = 687 days


 Then:

Θ = 360 (1/P - 1/P') t

The synodic period  (S) of the planet (Mars) is then found  (with t = 1 day):

Θ = 360 (1/S) =   0.462   deg


Or:    S  =    360 deg/day /  Θ  deg   =    360 /0.462 =  780 days  


 The synodic period can also be found in more direct form, viz.


1/S   =    1/P   -  1/P'

1/ S =    1/ 365.25   -   1/ 687   =   0.001282

So:   S  =   1/   0.001282   = 780 days

Knowing the period S allows one to answer the question 'How long until Earth and Mars are lined up, i.e. at opposition, again?'   So the inner planet (e.g. E, Earth in this case) will make one circuit around the Sun then catch up to the outer one (Mars or P in the diagram) to reform the alignment. Thus, Earth laps the outer planet (Mars) so as seen from the Earth the synodic period will be longer than the sidereal one (measured with reference to the stars).  The inner planet (Earth) moves at 360/ P degrees per day, while the outer planet (Mars) moves at the slower rate of 360/ P' per day. So at the end of one day Earth will have gained an angle of (360/P - 360/ P') degrees.  This puts the answers to (1) and (2) above in context.

Another reason for viewing Mars tonight - despite the dust storm conditions on its surface - is the recent announcement that an advanced radar satellite (MARSIS) has detected subglacial liquid water.  An Italian research team (Roberto Orosei et al)  found what appears to be a massive 12 mile long lake  that is believed to be at least a meter deep. The Italian team published their work in the journal Science last Wednesday and readers can read more about it here:

Comprehension Question:

Show algebraically how to go from the equation:  Θ = 360 (1/P - 1/P') t

To the basic (more direct) form: 1/S   =    1/P   -  1/P'


 to obtain the synodic period.
Justify from a physical perspective why the equations are really the same.



Monday, July 30, 2018

Trump's Asset Bubble Economy - Based On Irrational Exuberance- Contains Seeds Of Destruction Within It

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The Trump buffoons, and Preznit "Gaslight" himself,  are busy bragging on the 4.1 percent growth over the last quarter -  the largest since a 5 percent spurt after Obama took office. As we know from previous Bull Market terminations, market crashes, irrational exuberance reigns before the fall - as it does now. Scanning over the financial headlines in both the WSJ and Financial Times the past six months all I've seen are warnings and insinuations the alarms are "blinking red" - as they did before 9/11. But too few are paying attention, they're too drunk on Gaslight's Kool aid.

Too many citizens are drunk with their seemingly flush investments, including 401(k)s and IRAs, and they are failing to see the warning lights, far less pay any attention to them. It's much too easy to just coast and enjoy the economic bounty while it lasts  - besides it's believed it's about the only positive aspect to the Trump Imperium's reign.  Most economists, even those who are citing the warning signs, grudgingly concede the dousing of regulations (i.e. citizen protections) as well as the tax cuts of last year- have ginned up the economy.  Others have rightly warned that basic economics says you do not gin up or stimulate an already humming economy because it risks inflation - and that means the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. That scenario carries the same horrific specter for the markets as crucifixes do for vampires.

The other aspect missed by too many in their stock and bond hubris, is the fact the stock market was revved up after GE was replaced in the Dow Jones Industrial Average lineup by Walgreens, after being a member company for more than a century.. 
How many are aware, for example, that that Dow was also 'adjusted' ('juiced' by might be a better term) on March 17, 1997? And by the people that invented it (Dow Jones, Inc.)? As Jay Hancock notes ('Dow Index Detaches from Reality', The Baltimore Sun, April 4, 1999, p. 1E):

Quote:

A committee of green eyeshade types juiced the lineup, blackballing four down-at-heel Dow members and picking ringers as replacements. Out went Bethlehem Steel, Woolworth, Texaco and Westinghouse. In came Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, Hewlett-Packard and Travelers. One -eighth of the Dow membership changed that day, but you'd never know it from looking at those mountainous Dow graphs....Without the switch, by my calculation, the Dow would have been near 9,000 last week. Not 10,000.

What Hancock is basically saying, is that the alleged stock market upon which folks are basing their retirements and long term investments is a myth. It doesn't really exist because it lacks any fixed identity, e.g of component companies, over time..  It's like a human who changes personas every so often so no one can remotely know who he is.. That may sound like no problem, but it means the human's short and long term behaviors are unpredictable and it means the same for a stock market predicated on a DJIA subject to expedient reshuffling.  It also renders the frequent citations of rate gains over long periods of time, e.g. "7 % per year"  gains or whatever, totally fictitious. Since the identity of the DJIA alters with each replacement, or substitution it can't be the same over long duration. So you can't cite a fixed average gain - which implies component stability - over decades,. say from 1987 until now.  

Indeed as a WSJ piece notes ("In GE Ouster, Dow's limits Stand Out', June 21, p. B12):

"The Dow Jones Industrial Average has ejected numerous Blue Chip companies over the past decade including miner Alcoa Inc., Westinghouse Electric Corp. and this week General Electric Co."


Nor are serious market watchers particularly happy with this state of affairs.  Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager and chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth said of the decision to drop GE (ibid.):

"Honestly, I didn't like the move. It's supposed to be an industrial average that is reflective of the overall economy of the United States, and if that's the case then why replace it with Walgreen's?"

Well, the only reason would be to juice the index, by changing its identity - again reinforcing my point that what people are investing in lacks any persistent identity. Basically, people are pouring their money into an extravagant "pig in a poke". Most ominously (ibid.):

"The removal of troubled businesses appears to have helped keep the index moving higher."

Or, three card Monte on steroids.

Having dealt with the artificial identity of the DIJA - and hence the DOW overall   and how the several replacements of member companies  renders the "market" a fiction,  we now come to the more immediate factors destabilizing this fiction. Three article alerts that appeared in March and April and remain relevant today include:

1) 'Investors Fear Goldilocks Market Is Ending', noting "Nine years into a roaring stock bull market, fund managers are paying their last respects to Goldilocks".

2) 'Bear Markets Can Fly In On Their Own'  warning "stock market bulls shouldn't be basing their bullishness on recent bullish activity."

3) From The Financial  Times , April 17, ('IMF Sounds Alarm On Excessive Global Borrowing') :

"The world's $164 trillion debt pile is bigger than at the height of the financial crisis a decade ago, the IMF has warned, sounding the alarm on excessive global borrowing.  The fund said the private and public sectors urgently need to cut debt levels to improve the resilience of the global economy, and provide greater firefighting ability it things go wrong.

Fiscal stimulus to support demand  is no longer the priority the IMF said Wednesday in a report published at its spring meetings in Washington. "

Let's note here that "support demand"  referenced in the FT account means support of  "aggregate demand", i.e. getting citizens to spend more - which was the basis for the Trump-GOP tax cuts. This was an incredibly bad play given how much these cuts will add to the deficit, going forward, and how little they would contribute in terms of a job picture then already near full employment. And as the WSJ's Greg Ip showed, they will now increase the trade deficit as well, approximately $35 for each $100 increment in the budget deficit.  Since the tax cuts are now conservatively estimated to add $1. 5 trillion to the deficit, you can do the math for the trade deficit using Ip's ratio. 

Why does the U.S. run a trade deficit? Well, because "it consumes more than it produces while its trading partners collectively do the opposite."  Ip notes "another way of saying this is that the U.S. invests more than it saves while other countries save more than they invest."


The FT piece on the IMF warning goes on noting what is most worrisome:

"World borrowing is more than twice the size of the value of goods and services produced and 225% of global gross domestic product. This is 12 percentage points higher than the peak of the previous financial crisis in 2009."

And the U.S. is singled out as a primary debt offender, e.g.

"Vitor Gaspar, the director of fiscal affairs at the  IMF, singled out the U.S. for criticism, saying that it was the only advanced country that was not planning to reduce its debt pile - with the recent tax cuts keeping public borrowing high.

The fund urged policymakers to stop 'providing unnecessary stimulus when economic activity is already pacing up' and called on the U.S. to 'recalibrate' its fiscal policy and increase taxes to start cutting its debt
."


This previous significant reporting is relevant to the following more recent  WSJ reports:

1)'Markets Flash Caution For Stocks' (p. B1, April 14-15):

Evidence for crowded positioning, elevated valuations and fears that growth may be losing momentum.


2)'The National Debt Is Worse Than You Think', (p. A18, April 18)

"Today's outlook for revenue growth is based on policy that's unlikely to pan out. The CBO estimates that if current policy continues the cumulative deficit will rise a further $2.6 trillion over the next decade, to a staggering $15 trillion.


'3)Supply Starts To Crimp Growth' (p. B1, April 25)

Economic data are showing a strained supply side.  Set against global demand, supply chains are 'struggling to keep up'. This is increasingly a global phenomenon. 

4) 'Don't Get Hung Up On Yields' (p. B16, April 25)

Yields marching higher comes at an odd time, since the recent economic news hasn't been great. But what it also shows is that investors are operating with blinders on and ignoring events, such as the rise of right populists in Europe, and staggering global debt,  that they ought to have on their radar. Too much irrational exuberance, including using leverage to purchase more stock shares. 

 5) In GE Ouster, Dow's Limits Stand Out' (p. B12, June 21)

See earlier description of effects.

6) 'Consumer Spending Rise Has Dark Side (p. B1, July 16)

The Federal Reserve reported outstanding consumer credit debt rose $24.6 billion n May from a month earlier, or nearly double the $12.8 billion economists expected.

6) 'Tariff Threat Gets Closer To Consumers' (p. A8, July 18)

Massive increased costs on a variety of consumer products from cars and car parts, to furniture, to mobile phones, home improvement items, networking gear and seafood.  Takeaway? Consumers may have to go into more credit card debt to afford the higher prices of durables, especially, if their wages continue to stagnate. 

7) 'Fed Shouldn't Ignore Yield Curve' (p. B9, July 23)

The Fed isn't worried about the yield curve, for the same reason it wasn't worried before the 2008-09 financial crisis, but it should have been. (The yield curve is the difference between shorter and longer term Treasury yields - a key indicator for the future of the economy.)

"Today evidence abounds  - from supertight spreads, to negative yields, to high stock valuations to the popularity of structured products - that investors are willing to take risks to capture yield."

More irrational exuberance!

8) 'Stock Outflows Swell In Flight For Safety' (p. B13, July 27)

Investors are fleeing U.S. stocks at a rapid clip  as continuing market volatility and trade tensions pushes them to seek safety among less risky assets such as U.S. Treasurys. The exodus coincides with the implementation of the first round of tariffs between the U.S.  and China.

9) 'Stocks Are Up Despite Troubles' (p. B1, July 27-28):

Four primary risks exist now to the market's momentum: i) higher bond yields, ii) global economy - debt impacts, iii) Trump's trade war, especially new tariffs, iv) European politics.  Investors aren't pricing in much of a drag from the rest of the word, wrongly."

10)'Save Interest For Rainy Day' (Martin Feldstein,  p. A17, July 27):

"The downturn is almost certainly on its way. The likeliest cause would be a collapse in the high asset prices that have been created in the exceptionally relaxed monetary policy of  the last decade. It's too late to avoid an asset bubble. Equity prices have already risen far above their historical trend.  The price -earnings ratio of the S&P 500 is now more than 50 percent higher than the all time average, sitting at a level reached only three times in the past century.

The inevitable return of these asset prices to their historical norms is likely to cause a sharp decline in household wealth and in the rate of investment in commercial real estate. If the P/E ratio returns to its historical average, the fall in share prices will amount to a $9 trillion loss across all U.S. households."


Feldstein's argument - given the preceding  - is that it is essential to keep raising interest rates (the Federal funds rate) to at least 4 % over the next two years, to have room to maneuver out of a recession and stock crash should  these occur. And again, all the alarms are blinking red, despite the hubris and denial of so many, inebriated by irrational exuberance.

Arch-forecaster Nate Silver, in his book, The Signal and the Noise- Why So Many Predictions Fail But Some Don’t  warned (p. 347):

"Of the eight times in which the S&P 500 has increased at a rate much faster than its historical average over a 5-year period , five cases were followed by a severe and notorious crash, such as the Great Depression and the Black Monday crash of 1987”.

But even if Silver's statistical projections don't get you roused, the highlights of the preceding six months should, if you've taken the time to read them.  This brings us to collation of the information and then asking the question: Okay, the Trump asset bubble economy is like the "Titanic" heading for the iceberg, so what will be the signs of imminent sinking?  What warnings will we have?

Actually, very little if you're not already paying attention  - including to three things that could trigger a massive deleveraging: a) Trump's insane trade war, b) the ever mounting global debt c) the unwinding of  the Fed's remaining $3.8 trillion in QE (quantitative easing) assets.

In the first case the situation is vastly more perilous than either the political pundits or corporate media let on.  The fact Trump had to go to a Depression- era program to snatch $12b of taxpayer money for a bailout (sorry, Mnuchin, that's the word I'm using) is not a good sign.  It is indeed only a temporary fix and not a very good one. If it doesn't work - and it won't - then what?  Added to that, only a few of the more insightful farmers in flyover country appear to grasp it isn't just a loss of current revenue to pay their outstanding debts, but a loss of their markets - i.e. in China, Mexico which they'd spent years cultivating. Once those markets are gone to competitor nations there will be little, if any, chance of regaining them. That means permanent debts - many farm foreclosures- and little money for more bailouts.  (Apart from which many other trade sectors, e.g. the fishing industry, may also be looking for gov't handouts by then.)

It is also well for people of any sense to treat ALL Trump's statements on trade as LIES.  I cite here the WSJ piece, 'Europeans Dispute Trump Trade Claim' (July 28-29, p. A5)  in which we learn:

"While Mr. Trump told an Iowa crowd Thursday that "we just opened up Europe for you farmers", officials in Brussels later said he did no such thing."

Adding later:

"The U.S. side 'heavily insisted to insert the whole field of agricultural products', Mr. Juncker told reporters immediately following the meeting, 'We refused that because I don't have a mandate and that's a very sensitive issue in Europe."

Part of what he was referring to was GMO crops, a very "sensitive" issue for the EU citizens indeed..  In any case, given Trump's claims were palpable bullshit, the farmers again are left with no outlets for  their produce. Their wares will then keep piling up in silos, storage bins while other nations, like Japan, step in and reap the benefits.  Chance of getting their original markets back after Trump's trade war games are over? Slim and none.

Meanwhile, the mounting global debt has reached stupendous levels and already been warned abut by the  IMF which took a dim view of the U.S. tax cuts,  that only added to that debt.  As per a Bloomberg report from May, "the U.S ran a $466 billion current account deficit last year, meaning it imported far more than it exported".  In addition, the U.S. remained the "largest driver of global current account balances in 2017, running the world's largest deficit and adopting policies - i.e. a shift to much larger deficits via tax+ cuts - likely to increase imbalances in coming years."

The U.S. rightfully and properly ignored deficits to staunch the Great Recession and pull the nation back from the fiscal- credit  abyss, i.e. via stimulus spending ($797 b) in 2009 . But Washington not only failed to wipe out the red ink when the economy rebounded, but added much more via massive, uncalled for tax cuts. Now the red ink is a red tsunami and the entire global debt has rendered most assets suspect, or under water, meaning based on using leverage for purchases.

Bottom line: this current economic "explosion" is built on quicksand. You cannot base a sound economy on exploding debt. Rising debt also threatens to weaken the global power of the U.S. as it increasingly depends on foreign investors to lend money to the Treasury. As of now, the Chinese own 5.7% of all U.S. Treasury securities to the tune of $1.2 trillion. Americans had better pray every night Trump doesn't piss them off in his goofy trade war to the extent of calling in those markers.

In addition, we know that tax cuts added to an already stimulated economy can destabilize it into depression or serious recession. As I pointed out in my Nov. 29 post from last year:

"Calvin Coolidge signed into law the Revenue Act of 1924, which lowered personal income tax rates on the highest incomes from 73 percent to 46 percent.  Two years later, the Revenue Act of 1926 law further reduced inheritance and personal income taxes; eliminated  many excise imposts (luxury or nuisance taxes); and ended public access to federal income tax returns. The tax rate on the highest incomes was reduced to 25 percent.

The result was a speculative frenzy in the stock markets, especially the application of structured leverage in what were called at the time "investment trusts." In September 1929, this edifice of false prosperity began to wobble, and finally crashed spectacularly in October,  1929."

But. most of us suspect the immediate trigger could well be the Fed's unwinding of the 3+ trillions for easy money during the QE era.  As The UF puts it:

"As reported by Business Insider, a report from the global head of Société Générale's asset allocation team projected that the unwinding of easy money policies and broken politics in Washington will cause  today's market to unravel."

The 'broken politics' refers to an inability to resolve issues like the debt ceiling and out of control spending, especially with inadequate revenue coming in owing to addle- brained tax cutters.  And already Preznit Gaslight is threatening a government shutdown if he doesn't get his cockeyed "border wall", expecting the Dems to give in to his extortion.   The next debt ceiling increase is likely to exceed $22 trillion, and the money still to be unwound from the Fed's QE program is nearly $4 trillion.  Adding money for DoTurd's border wall would be one more spark to ignite the final unraveling of his "great" economy. Put it all together and you are looking at a major catastrophe ready to happen, never mind the current economic growth happy talk dominating much of the press.

The Forecaster goes on to note that other sources predict an even more dire end to this Bull, viz.:

"Legendary investor Jim Rogers says we're about to suffer the biggest stock market crash in our lifetime. And he believes it could happen later this year."

The UF goes on:

" Why should we listen to him?  The 74 year old not only helped found one of the most successful hedge funds of all time, he's made a number of market calls including the last housing crash. As Rogers observed, the debt that fueled the last downturn is nothing compared to the debt we've piled up since then. Over the last 10 years our national debt has more than doubled. His advice, 'Be worried!'

Would a stock crash- recession be the worst thing to happen? That depends on your perspective and political tribe affiliation.  Especially if you're a member of the Trump personality cult. If you're delirious about Trump and love his deregulation, tax cuts and so on, you will be hysterical after a 50 percent crash, followed by recession. You're best bet now is to stock up on anti-depressants.

For the rest of us, such events - horrific as they may be - finally portend an end to Trump's  "Teflon" cover via a fake economy based on asset bubbles and stock buybacks. As WSJ columnist Greg Ip put it regarding the current expansion based on debt and fumes (my terms), "this benefits Mr. Trump since it makes a recession less likely before he faces voters again in 2020."

My bet?  A stock crash either this year or next, coupled with Mueller's probe finding for conspiracy of the Trumpies with Russkies, will finally send this deadbeat pretender and traitor back to whatever crack in hell from which he crawled.

See also:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/robert-reich/80418/why-wages-are-going-nowhere

Excerpt:

"The typical American worker now earns around $44,500 a year, not much more than what the typical worker earned in 40 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Although the US economy continues to grow, most of the gains have been going to a relatively few top executives of large companies, financiers, and inventors and owners of digital devices. America doesn’t have a jobs crisis. It has a good jobs crisis."

And:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/will-bunch/80381/that-raise-you-were-promised-last-year-wall-street-took-it-from-you

Excerpt:

"Now, the post-tax-cut numbers are coming in, and you’ll be shocked, shocked to learn that America didn’t get that pay raise after all. In a widely read column last week for Bloomberg, Noah Smith pointed to statistics from PayScale showing that so-called real wages — your paycheck, but adjusted for inflation — actually fell in the just-ended second quarter of 2018, by 1.8 percent."

And:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/reese-erlich/80391/us-losing-trade-war-with-china

And:

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/william-rivers-pitt/80403/will-this-trade-war-be-donald-trump-s-political-waterloo


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Educating A Catholic Convert On Artificial Birth Control- And 'Humanae Vitae'

Image result for Ashley McGuire
Catholic 'two -percenter' Ashley McGuire - who fancies 'Humane Vitae' her "gateway" to a balanced and moral life, and liberation from "objectification".

In her recent (July 27) piece:

The Controversial Text That Saved Me - WSJ

Catholic convert Ashley McGuire,  also a senior fellow at The Catholic Association, insists that the papal encyclical of Pope Paul VI  ('Humanae Vitae') actually "saved"  her.  She writes:

"Two years ago I was baptized and received into the Catholic Church. 'Humanae Vitae' was my gateway. Disillusioned by a culture that habitually objectifies women, I found the document stirring- as did countless other converts - with its call to "safeguard the reverence due to a woman".   Today you can call me a Catholic two percenter - one of those few American Catholic women who have never used contraception."

The preceding is what I'd characterize as the sort of naive take we might expect of a convert, seeing the document for the first time. This, as opposed to studying it in detail like I had to do while attending Loyola University -New Orleans, in Father Alvin Holloway, S.J.'s Ethics class, e.g,











Fr. Alvin Holloway, Loyola Ethics professor (1966-67)

Father Holloway was an ok guy as far as Loyola's Jesuits went, but alas - like most padres  - he was severely brainwashed by his Church to respond to certain issues - like artificial birth control - in programmed ways.  For example, without any qualification he tried to teach us that artificial contraception would be the same as mutual masturbation given both are "unnatural" acts. One because it entailed self- gratification with sexual pleasure reserved exclusively for the procreative act. The second because it is mutual sexual gratification with no openness to procreation. In each case, he argued, "natural law" is violated.

He didn't cite Humanae Vitae at the time, because it wouldn't make its way to daylight until being issued in 1968, and this Ethics class was taken over 1966-67.  But we now know Paul VI issued this document in direct opposition to his own specially appointed Papal Commission on the matter. Author David Yallop, in his book In God's Name, 1984, has portrayed Humanae Vitae in stark terms indeed, as well as its paradoxical consequences (p. 58):

"On a disaster scale for the Roman Catholic Church, it measures higher than the treatment of Galileo in the seventeenth century "

The implicit assumption in Humanae Vitae and Pope John Paul II's subsequent encyclical Veritatis Splendor, is that procreation takes precedence over any other function of sexual intercourse. This is observably true in most other animals (with estrus cycles) but it certainly doesn’t apply to humans who exhibit a diverse array of sexual play. To devalue sexplay for its own end, while extolling procreation-based sex as the be-all and end-all, is to rob humans of their uniqueness as sexual primates. Or, to refer to the words of one Catholic biologist, Elizabeth Dougherty (in Contraception and Holiness, The Lessons of Zoology, p. 110):

"Why do we call secondary the ends of the sexual act which have been accorded in fullness to us, and why do we call primary the end that we share with the lower animals?"

She's referring to the core of  Pope Pius XI's  original encyclical Casti Connubii  i.e.  that the "sin" of artificial contraception inhered in making primary a sexual aspect that in reality is only "secondary". According to that pontiff:

"Since therefore the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature."

Which is irredeemable codswallop. As Daugherty notes in her chapter (op. cit.)  what the pontiff and his ilk really sought to do is reduce humans to the state of lower animals, at the behest of their "natural" reproductive cycles. In this sense, unlike the lower animals, humans have the intellectual capacity and sense of novelty to introduce a vast variety of pleasure-play into their sex relations. They aren't yoked to  primitive instincts to simply mount and hump at specific times. As Daugherty notes (pp. 96- 97):

"After ovulation, all mammalian females are under the influence of progesterone from the corpus luteum. This is a period of rapidly declining estrogenic activity which ends the sexual receptivity of the lower mammalian female, whether or not fertilization occurs. 

But (in humans) marital relations continue during this progesterone -dominated period before the abrupt onset of menstruation. It is the period of lowest estrogenic activity and the progesterone-dominated period after ovulation which are known as the 'safe period' for marital relations."

This then, is what the Catholics'  “rhythm method” (of  Ogino-Kaus)  seeks to do: establish the "safe period" for a particular woman and then ordain that this is the time to safely have sexual relations if one wishes to not have any kids. The trouble is, it requires meticulous temperature taking at various times during a cycle to establish where that safe period begins and ends, and often this will be for no more than 10 days or so in a given month.

It is also a method that Ashley praises (ibid.):

"The teachings on contraception in Humanae Vitae are often described as arcane and antiscience. To the contrary, the science on female fertility is slowly catching up with the document. As Paul VI argues, there are natural ways to preserve a woman's fertility while still respecting her and her family's needs in limiting and spacing births. The Church calls it 'natural family planning'."


She goes on to claim it's enjoying increasing popularity with the "organics crowd" whose "fertility awareness method" is becoming more widely used.  The problem is that it requires meticulous temperature taking during a cycle to establish where that safe period begins and ends, and often this will be for no more than 10 days or so in a given month.  So harried women with five or six kids and in a rush to get to work (and then come home exhausted) will be completing a temperature v. time of the month chart.

One misstep or missed temperature or even a reading off by 1 C will yield a baby who will, according to stats from Population Connection, gobble up roughly 170 hectares of resources in his or her lifetime. So the only thing true is that it's "free" (unless of course, a mom counts time as money!)

Oh yeah, and presumably, the couple is quite happy to do without sex the other two thirds of the time! 

In the end, the Vatican, its Bishops and assorted bunkum pushers can claim all they want they have a natural method of family planning, but the reality is it's "natural"   - based on specific fertility periods-  fertility  only to chimps, Capuchin monkeys, rhesus monkeys and similar denizens.

 Sadly, neither Ashley 's "two percenters"  or her "organics" crowd appears to appreciate that artificial contraception isn't used merely to prevent births.  Contraceptives are also key in limiting severe health problems - such as miscarriage or stroke - which could ensue if a woman becomes pregnant.  Artificial contraceptives are also used to control the pain associated with endometriosis and preventing that condition from getting worse. But you'd never know any of this reading Ashley's WSJ op-ed.

Nor do her Humane Vitae adherents appreciate that the "natural birth" control method espoused by the RC Church is useless in the face of an ongoing AIDS epidemic, e.g. in Africa, or the spread of Zika as well.  Prevention of these scourges requires the use of condoms, but I am sure Ashley would simply preach "abstinence" to the forlorn millions in Africa and the Caribbean as the superior method to avoid those diseases.  This is given they can't use her cherished rhythm method.  Of course, that "solution" means no sex, period.

Ms. McGuire writes at one point:

"Women who adhere to the Church's teaching on contraception are often described as out of the Handmaid's Tale"  

 And then dispatches this by reference to  "a suite of new fertility apps and laboratory grade ovulation strips" that "make natural family planing more accessible".

Maybe. But none of these 'strips' or apps will control endometriosis like hormonal birth control pills can, nor will they expand the time over the month during which sex is possible - without risking conception. In other words, for all the tech  advances, the women are still bound by time constraints like their monkey or ape cousins.   If hubby gets the urge during a non-safe interval, the only option is to tell him to get a cold shower, or gratify himself. Oh wait, can't do that -as it's also a violation of natural law. (The same one the Church once invoked to proclaim slavery was "natural" as some humans required guidance by more advanced humans, according to Julian Pleasants, op. cit., p. 88).

Then there are all  the millions of Catholic couples unable to have children for whatever reason.  By Ms.. McGuire's thinking they shouldn't be having sex at all, given the biological conditions at work prevent conception - so the act is de facto foreclosed to procreation.   I once brought this up as a hypothetical for Fr. Holloway's consideration and yes, he insisted such a couple would be living in "sin"  even if they didn't use contraception - but knew they were prevented from having children. 

Beyond the particulars of such couples, it was the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke who rightly called all the anti-contraception Popes "enemies of humanity" and with good reason! Their persistent commitment to this deformed doctrine and perverse moral value has consigned increasing millions of people in Asia and Africa to destitution and starvation. This is because the underlying ‘natural law’ remains uninformed by current data concerning food production in relation to rising birth rates. Or, other things being equal, poverty is the natural accompaniment of larger families. Rather than adaptation based on updated information, unthinking adherence to an outmoded precept prevails.

Bottom line: No one should really object if middle class, married (or single) white women wish to embark on Ashley McGuire's "natural" method of  birth control. But no sane global citizen should have the sheer chutzpah to endorse it for all the populations, demographics of the world.  That is lunacy.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Why The "America First" President Is Really America's First Traitor President (The Evidence Is In Thanks To Max Boot!)

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Hanging where he is now, on Putin's puppet strings, and where he should be hanging after stealing the 2016 election with Putin's help

George Will's article appearing in last Sunday's Denver Post ('Perspective', p. 5D, 'Why The  'America First President Put America Last in Helsinki')) basically put the recent Helsinki debacle in somber perspective.. As Will writes:

"America's child president had a play date with a KGB alumnus, who surely enjoyed providing daycare. It was a useful, illuminating event: Because we shall now see how many Republicans retain a capacity for embarrassment."

Well, as it turns out, a lot. At least enough of the throwback, knuckledragger faction - led by Tea baggers Jim Jordan (OH) and Mark Meadows (NC) - who've remained consummate Trump "asslickers" to borrow from Janice's parlance.  How so? Well, because they've launched out on a deranged quest to try to impeach Rod Rosenstein.  (Effort since shelved, probably because Jordan - up to his ears in a  sexual abuse case at Ohio State - has to get his bearings)  So there remain many quislings, i.e. minor traitors,  willing to carry the Traitor's water for him, for whatever reason. As Mr. Will put it:

"In Helsinki the president who bandies the phrase 'America First', put himself first - as always- and America last, behind Vladimir Putin's regime."

Of course, most of us aware, sane and still in contact with objective reality know what he did next: he again tried to deny anything amiss, but then in the next breath - invited Putin over for anther "summit" just before the midterms. Can you say "terrible optics"? How about  'ghastly guilty as sin' optics?  How about using Twitter recklessly like a tweet troll, such as this morning's bombastic effluent about Michael Cohen's assertion he was told in advance about the Trump Tower meet? Well, again, most of us knew that, and that a liar's denials will remain lies.  How does that old saw go? He "doth protest too much?"  In a "liar's contest"  who wins, Trump or Cohen? Well, Trump, hands down.

Then yesterday we were informed the Putin fall  meet was "pushed back" until next year, ostensibly "after the "Russia witch hunt" - according to John 'Ripper' Bolton.  This was echoed by a story in yesterday's WSJ 'Putin Summit Pushed Back' (p. A4) where we read:

"Trump won't hold another official bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin until next year, the White House said Wednesday, citing the  continuing special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election."

Thus the spin was that Dotard controlled the timing, whereas in fact, as security specialist Malcolm Nance pointed out on 'Last Word':  "It was just Putin giving Trump a thumb in the eye, after leading him around with a nose ring in Helsinki."

In other words, Vlad is da boss man here, not the Donald. After the obsequious Dotard blurted out the invite - as a slap to DNI Dan Coats, in Boulder for a security summit- he got a rather cool non- response from  Vlad as if to say: "What the fuck are you thinking, slave boy? You're really gonna invite me to the White House before the midterms after I helped you snatch the presidency in 2016?".  And, of course, nationwide all hell broke loose, because people still in possession of their faculties could not believe their eyes and ears that a sitting president - and I use that term loosely - would actually invite a co-conspirator in facilitating his election two years ago, to the White House. Had he finally gone round the bend?  Was his dementia finally catching up to him as it did his old man, Fred?  In any case "officials said they still hadn't been told what Messrs. Trump and Putin agreed to in their closed door meet in Helsinki".

And not even our intelligence agencies know yet what the duo agreed to, only that the Russkie media has been blurting out non-stop "updates" on alleged agreements.

Another chestnut from the WSJ account (ibid.):

"It is unclear what basis the White House has for believing special counsel Robert Mueller will conclude his investigation by the beginning of next year."

In fact, there is NO basis at all, zero, zilch and nada. Mueller's probe could be going on well into next year at this time or two further years, a la Watergate.  It is only wishful thinking to believe that Trump,  Putin's on site co -conspirator,  will be free of the Mueller spotlight by then. In fact, if he doesn't cooperate in answering questions of the special counsel it could drag on indefinitely.

Oh, wait, did I write 'co-conspirator" with Putin and the GRU in stealing that 2016 election? Yes I did and though the mutt incessantly bellows "no collusion" like a fucking mantra - and at least 264 times since Helsinki -  we  now know the opposite is true. . As Max Boot writes in the WaPo from two days ago:

"Trump is willing, under duress, to briefly and begrudgingly admit that Russian “meddling” took place in 2016 before reverting to calling it a “big hoax.” But he always maintains that the plot against America had no impact; he describes it as a “Democrat excuse for losing the ’16 Election.” Faithfully echoing the president, other Republicans, such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), say it’s “clear” that the Russian interference “didn’t have a material effect on our elections.” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders even claims that the U.S. intelligence community reached that conclusion.

Here is the intelligence community’s assessmentpartially declassified in January 2017: “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion.” When then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo claimed last fall that “the intelligence community's assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election,” his own agency rebuked him.

While the intelligence agencies are silent on the impact of Russia’s attack, outside experts who have examined the Kremlin campaign — which included stealing and sharing Democratic Party emails, spreading propaganda online and hacking state voter rolls — have concluded that it did affect an extremely close election decided by fewer than 80,000 votes in three states. Clint Watts, a former FBI agent, writes in his recent book, “Messing with the Enemy,” that “Russia absolutely influenced the U.S. presidential election,” especially in Michigan and Wisconsin, where Trump’s winning margin was less than 1 percent in each state.

We still don’t know the full extent of the Russian interference, but we know its propaganda reached 126 million people via Facebook aloneA BuzzFeed analysis found that fake news stories on Facebook generated more social engagement in the last three months of the campaign than did legitimate articles: The “20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.” Almost all of this “fake news” was either started or spread by Russian bots, including claims that the pope had endorsed Trump and that Hillary Clinton had sold weapons to the Islamic State."

Even more appalling:

 "the Russians may have been able to 'alter or delete voter registration data,' potentially disenfranchising Clinton voters."

Sounds like an election theft to me!

Boot goes on:

"Then there was the crucial impact of the Russian hacks of Democratic documents disseminated primarily by WikiLeaks. The first tranche of stolen documents — more than 19,000 emails and 8,000 attachments — was strategically released on July 22, 2016, three days before the Democratic convention.  The second tranche of stolen documents was released on Oct. 7, just 29 minutes after The Post reported on the “Access Hollywood” videotape in which Trump is heard boasting about grabbing women by the genitals. These emails, stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, distracted voter attention by revealing the transcripts of lucrative speeches Clinton had given to Goldman Sachs, a populist boogeyman.

A third release of stolen emails, on Oct. 11revealed that Democratic operative Donna Brazile, while working at CNN, had provided debate questions to Clinton during the primaries and that senior Democratic operatives, who were themselves Catholics, had exchanged emails disparaging Republicans who cherry-picked their faith for political gain. This fueled Trump’s narrative that the election was “rigged” and that the “Clinton team” wasas he said, “viciously attacking Catholics and Evangelicals.” The latter charge, unfair as it was, proved especially important in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — swing states with lots of Catholic voters."

As Boot put it:

"Little wonder that Trump said “I love WikiLeaks” and mentioned its revelation164 times in the last month of the campaign. “This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable,” Trump said on Oct. 12. Eight days later, he marveled, “Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn’t it?

Why all the praise for WikiLeaks? Clearly, as Janice put it, "there has to be something rotten in Denmark." ' By contrast, Trump and his apologists like  Devin Nunes and "Nosferatu" Giulani,
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pretend that the Russian attack — including the WikiLeaks revelations — was no big deal. That beggars belief, as Boot put it, given the attack succeeded. Dotard got shoehorned into the White House,  after all, and Hillary didn't. This isn't a case of "sour grapes"   but of acknowledging Trump's prime beneficiary - Vlad Putin - who,  as Julia Joffee explained a week ago,  is where the Kompromat lies, e.g.

"Many people tried to speculate on what it was,  what kind of Kompromat, the Russians had on Trump. When the answer - like infidelity or death-  was staring them in the face. Yes, Putin has something on Trump. He helped him win. That's the Kompromat."

So no the collaborators -conspirators  didn’t fail: Trump won, and even then only in the archaic electoral college - which also failed to do its job in stopping a populist demagogue, especially one adopted by one party with billions of bucks at its disposal and Russian agents to help . See e.g.

And:

Russian disinformation wasn’t the only factor in the outcome and was probably less important in the end than FBI Director James B. Comey’s announcement 11 days before the election that he was reopening the Clinton email investigation.

But  as former FBI agent Cliff Watts concludes: “Without the Russian influence effort, I believe Trump would not have even been within striking distance of Clinton on Election Day.” 

That is the inconvenient truth the Putin Republicans won’t admit.

Lastly, a clear piece of any whole conspiracy fabric is trying to cover up the crime, or nullify its reporting for history. This happened within days of Helsinki after a Reuters reporter at the press conference directly asked Putin if he'd helped Trump into power.  Within days the official White House transcript and video had been altered as Rachel Maddow originally reported, e.g.

MaddowWhite House removed Putin support for Trump from official 


As per The Hill  account from the above link:

"Maddow specifically references a question from Reuters reporter Jeff Mason, who asked Putin if he wanted Trump to win the 2016 presidential election and if he directed any of his officials to interfere in the election to help Trump's campaign. 
Putin responds that he did want Trump to win the election because "he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal." 
Maddow contrasted that footage with what the White House posted, which omits the first part of Mason's question. Mason is only seen asking if Putin directed officials to help with election interference.
"This was by no means malicious," a White House official told CNN. The White House told the outlet that the audio feed used to produce the video and the transcript did not turn up Mason's audio in time to catch the beginning of the question while the translator was still speaking.
But Maddow argued that the White House did it on purpose.
"They just dropped it out," Maddow said. “What the White House has disappeared from the official U.S. government record of that meeting ... is President Putin answering in the affirmative when asked if he wanted Trump to win the election,
Whom to believe? Having investigated other conspiracies and their methods of cover up, e.g. in the fake paper trails in Iran-Contra and the BCCI banking conspiracies, I side with Rachel.  Probably a more direct analogy is with Warren Commissioner Gerald Ford (who knew diddly  squat about anatomy) altering the JFK autopsy report location of the back wound to conform to the single bullet theory, e.g.
No automatic alt text available.Ford asserted his autopsy edits were merely "minor changes" that didn't affect history - a claim as false and disingenuous as Trump's telling a  Kansas City VFW convention several days ago:
"Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” 
Seriously? This is straight out of the playbook of totalitarian  "Oceania" as portrayed in Orwell's  '1984'. As noted in John Hohmann's 'The Daily', Trump's bizarre quote:

"reminded many people — including a former CIA case officer — of “1984,” the dystopian novel. “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command,” wrote George Orwell. “And if all others accepted the lie, which the party imposed, if all records told the same tale, then the lie passed into history and became the truth.” 

This is what Traitor Trump and his quisling accomplices want to happen, make no mistake. It is thus up to the rest of us - in possession of fully conscious brains and functional eyes,  ears  -  to ensure that travesty doesn't happen. So there you have it. And whether Trump is indicted or not the evidence is out there he's as guilty of high crimes, even treason, as any other historical collaborator n a nefarious conspiracy to undermine our nation.   

Right now this white....errr....orange  trash, lowlife "billionaire" grifter is on Putin's puppet strings. He deserves to swinging from a tree in D.C. after a Mueller indictment for treason.  Giving this treasonous rat a military parade would amount to a consummate insult not only to the military, but the nation. Right now, on learning of that, my Revolutionary War ancestors would be turning over in their graves.