Friday, May 31, 2019

Selected Questions - Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum (Spiral Galaxy Shape)

Question:  I understand something called 'density waves' is responsible for shaping spiral galaxies like the Milky Way. Can you explain in detail how this happens?  - Margie, Mission Viejo, CA


Answer:  First, it's well to bear in mind that the particular density model (for a given galaxy) will vary depending on the conditions for that galaxy. In principle then, there can be differing density wave models, and these pertain to a number of variables, factors such as: how tightly wound the spiral is (there are different grades which are assigned, e.g. Sa, Sb, Sc etc.), the degree of axial symmetry of the galaxy, and the modeling assumptions - in particular the potential-gravitational fields (V(r)) imposed on the system which determine the locations of orbital resonance in conjunction with the equations used. 

The gravitational potential energy is defined according to:

V(r) = - GMm/r

where G is the Newtonian gravitational constant, m is the unit or elemental mass within the galaxy, M is associated with the central mass concentration, and r is the distance from m to M. The negative sign, as usual, indicates a bound system.
Interestingly, the use of density wave model development is largely contingent on the Boltzmann equation which is also used in space plasma physics. (The equation is used to describe the evolution of the velocity distribution of particles in space and time, cf. 

d f(x,v,t)/dt+ v*grad(x) f(x,v,t) +a*grad(v) f(x,v,t)=Col

Now, technically, the Boltzmann eqn. is applied to FLUIDS and for that purpose, the galaxies to which density wave approaches are applied are modeled firstly in the fluid format. (It is easier when dealing with an agglomeration of some 100 or 200 billion separate stars and associated orbits to think of them as comprising a "fluid" as opposed to say, 100 billion separate bodies to be treated in a 100 billion -body problem of celestial mechanics!) 

The referencing of stars, their locations and movements meanwhile embodies particulate approaches that are more kinematical in nature (but often less amenable to consistency with the density wave approach). Orbital assumptions, declarations are not simple by any means, and merely because a source says or asserts that "The stars in the inner part of a galaxy move faster than the density wave/s and the stars in the outer parts move slower than the wave/s." should not be taken too literally without posing a lot of further questions. (One could argue here that "apples" and "oranges" are being compared because the two entities, stars and density waves arise from differing backgrounds - kinematic-particle based and fluid mechanical, wave based.)

For example, what class is the spiral? How tightly wound? One must recognize too that an orbit in a spiral galaxy that appears closed (e.g. elliptic) in one reference frame may not be so in another. As an example, assume the (polar) coordinates for a galactic rotating frame are given as (r, φ) with:

dφ/dt = dΘ/dt - r

where  Ω r  is the angular velocity of the rotating frame. 

Then orbits are described by a Hamiltonian, H (the addition of the potential and kinetic energies of the system)  The point is that H can change depending on the coordinates, and what is presented for the previous frame as H = E - J Ω  may well be different for another frame.

Second, we see from this that the question as to why the spiral pattern is not affected by stars much further out cannot really be properly answered unless a full vetting of the assumed density waves for the particular galaxy is presented. In this sense, one recognizes that a full analysis of density waves for a galaxy - call it "Barred G1"- is needed before one can say stars in a given G1 region (e.g. inner or outer) "move faster or more slowly" than the waves at that place. We need to know then: the physical conditions for the establishment of the density waves at location r1 in G1 and r10 in G1 where the r's denote radial distances from the center with r10 = 10 (r1).

Another problem (or complexity) in dealing with density wave models is the fact they are mainly based on the mode chosen for particular dynamical wave equations that can be applied to the fluid framework. (In generic dynamical terms, a "mode" is a standing wave that can be supported by a disk of given dimensions, mass.) More broadly, most astronomers who work in this specialist area use the term interchangeabley with Fourier m-component. (And it should be understood here that one of the main tools is Fourier analysis of the waves, but alas Fourier analysis is only taught usually to those who take advanced Calculus or analysis courses).

As an example, a particular Fourier coefficient, call it a_n, applicable to a wave - may be defined: 

a_n = 1/π    ò  f(x) cos mx dx

 Integrated from (-π) to π.

Where m is the Fourier m-component. 

What types of modes can one have in these models? One is the "global" or m= 1 mode. Then there are the unstable (m= 2) modes.

Whether one mode or another appears (or is used in a spiral galaxy modelling) is critical since it may well determine at what stage a barred spiral develops, if at all. Alas, another complexity enters here since mode analysis is not simply a stand alone but also incorporates a subtle aspect called "marginal stability analysis" wherein one will solve for a quantity Q and if it is very close to 1 one has the case of marginal stability and tightly wound modes or in the case of spirals, around the Sa class. The trouble is that when one seriously incorporates any heating of the disk for whatever reason (say a massive central black hole sucking up matter and generating much radiation) then the desired values of Q are soon out of range, making it impossible for a given spiral structure to sustain itself.

Lastly, whenever one considers density waves in galaxies, it's important to bear in mind there remain enormous stumbling blocks even when applied to the simplest models of galactic disks (e.g. "zero thickness" disks). One of these arises from potential (V(r) - seen earlier) theory. Thus, the perturbed gravitational field at one location depends on the *density perturbation* at every other location. How will you know, ab initio, that the density perturbation at location r,φ, z say, does not accelerate the associated wave (in the fluid rest frame) to a higher velocity than any stars at the same or near location? You don't unless you investigate! What does it mean to "investigate"? It means a full bore mathematical modelling procedure to locate where all the (so-called "Lindblad") orbital resonances are, which ones can speed up the star, and also where the Landau damping regions are (which can impose a retardation of the waves).

In short, what I've shown is that density wave analysis as applied to galaxies is a field almost to itself in terms of being amenable to general understanding. And complexity is often compounded because the mere posing of a question to do with a particular spiral galaxy's form almost always introduces a number of tacit assumptions that may not be applicable at all. This, of course, is the difficulty when dealing in generalities, as opposed to specific cases, examples.




  

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Fake Video Of Pelosi Isn't Just About The Morons Who Believed It- But The Media That Covered It


Trump has lied more than any other President in history. Americans need to process that.

Nancy Pelosi's rebuke of Facebook on account of being a willing party to a clearly manipulated video of her was more than justified (WSJ, yesterday, p. A2). Facebook's line at the time was that its members ought to be free to "decide for themselves" the veracity of media content, including an obviously doctored youtube video.  Alas, fifty years ago when the bulk of Americans were well -read and not chained to screens which lowered their IQs that may have been so. But no longer. We now must depend again on responsible media gate keepers to save 'Muricans from their own worst instincts and idiocy.

I first saw the fake Pelosi video on Chris Hayes' 'All In' show last Friday.  Like other mainstream media outlets, it was presented  side-by-side with the un-doctored footage of the House speaker.  This was in an effort to debunk the viral clips which had been created and circulated by Right wing Agitprop specialists to snooker and distract the lower IQ segment of our nation. 

Neither Janice or I would have been fooled even if we'd only been shown the doctored footage, of what has now become known in techie parlance as “deepfake” videos .   In the case of  the one circulated and touted on FAUX News as if real,  Pelosi's speech had been subtly slowed down and then pitch-corrected to make it appear as if the House speaker was drunk or incapacitated .   It was an obvious fake to anyone who's seen Pelosi, thus Janice and I concluded only an imbecile would be fooled by it.

Facebook did not remove the video but eventually added “fact check” links to the clips, which most users likely ignored or didn't see. Journalists and pundits debated the social networks’ decisions to leave the video up, while others lamented the rise of political misinformation, filter bubbles, the future of “deepfake” videos and the internet’s penchant to warp reality.

But what is needed here is a larger context examination of how the corporate media itself is being outplayed by the liars, propagandists and pro-Trump fifth columnists (such as embedded at FOX News) in our midst. It has even gone beyond millions of citizens accepting the fake video at face value, to whether too many in the so-called "serious" media are themselves being played like puppets.

Eric Alterman, writing in a piece ('Lord of the Lies') appearing in a recent issue of The Nation (June 5-10, p. 10) notes, for example:

"Daniel Dale of The Toronto Star, who tracks Trump's deceptions, says that most journalists rarely bother to mention that Trump's statements are filled with falsehoods. 'If you watched a network news segment, read an Associated Press article, or glanced at the front page of the city that hosted him, you'd typically have no idea that he was wholly inaccurate'.  Most coverage, Dale points out, reads something like 'Trump speaks to big, excited crowd, insults X and Y, talks policy Z'"

Which is a sorry, cartoonish template that - if Walter Cronkite were alive today - he'd laugh at. He'd wonder what school of journalism the perpetrators had attended - if they did at all.  Incredibly too, Trump often lies about the lies and the media almost never really hone in on it.  Well a few did when Trump blurted out in a tweet several days ago: "I had nothing to do with Russia helping to get me elected!"  Huh?  The detestable toad then denied it, insisting to the yapping press corps that he never said any such thing. A Freudian slip then?

Another egregious example cited by Alterman occurred when he addressed the U.N. General Assembly in September last year and trotted out of his favorites, i.e. he had "accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country."

Caught out by hundreds with IQs far superior to his - "the assembled audience burst into laughter".  He was "briefly left speechless"  before realizing he needed another lie to cover his humiliation, i.e. "he didn't expect that reaction".  So then  he ad-libbed the lie that "he meant to get some laughs."

But while this one was good for yucks, others have had more real world consequences, such as at a Green Bay rally  on April 27.  There he related this wholesale whopper to a crowd of drooling MAGA goons who accepted it without question (ibid.):

"The baby is born. The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby. They wrap the baby beautifully.  And then the doctor and the mother determine whether to execute the baby."

Did any of the local papers or media expose this claptrap? Nope, not even The Green Bay Press -Gazette, so perhaps it was outside their  reporting wheelhouse. But that lies at the heart of how our nation is getting mind-fucked day in and day out. The press repeatedly being left sucking air and unable to catch up with all the lies, because Trump is treated with excess respect instead of plain contempt - in the futile effort to appear "objective'".  And so, with little or no blowback from the 4th estate (bloggers like me with lesser audiences having to call out the crap)   such atrocious lies continue to make abortion providers targets of domestic terrorists  - even as assorted backward states pass abortion banning laws.

Another example that rivals the preceding in vileness was Trump on Memorial Day, siding with the most bestial, bloodthirsty tyrant on the planet - Kim Jong Un.  Asked a question by the ever somnolent mainstream Washington press corps, Trump responded he had to believe Kim,  who told him "Biden is a low IQ individual".  This degeneracy did get a reply from Biden's campaign manager Kate Bedingfield the day after, i.e. in The Denver Post (May 29, p. 17A):

"For anyone to appear on Memorial Day and to side with a murderous dictator against a fellow American and former vice-president speaks for itself."

Only mentioned near the very end of the piece was that a half imbecile member of the press corps had actually asked Trump about "the North Korean leader's (earlier) description of the Democrat's intelligence level."

WTF?! Why is this even in the question mix?  Only an ignorant buffoon would ask that knowing full well how Dotard would respond given his ongoing bromance with the N. Korean swine.  But it gets to the heart of how much of the media itself is responsible for the mess we're in. I mean if we can't depend on the press to be critical thinkers how can we expect the ordinary citizen to be?

Alterman near the end of his piece writes "thankfully most Americans don't believe Trump" - citing fewer than 3 in 10 according to a WaPO Fact Checker. However he also writes:

"What worries me, however, is that people don't realize how much more dishonest Trump is than any of his predecessors. Only about 50 percent of Americans think he is 'less honest' than any previous president".

Which thereby conflates most presidents as liars in some form and worse, fails to hurl Trump into the depths to which he belongs.  Much of this again, is because of the media and mainstream press which often repeats his idiotic tweets without criticizing them properly - merely assuming (as in the case of the Pelosi fake video) most Americans have the intelligence and sense to separate what's factual from rubbish. Well, they don't!

How to respond?  In particular how should the media treat them: as official communications with all the gravitas of a presidential official statement or announcement - through the orthodox, standard channels? Or as disruptive refuse no better than environmental toxic waste?

Some (e.g. Journalism prof Indira Lakshmanan)  have proposed repeating the tweets, but then doing a fact check. The problem with that is twofold: first, most people will have already seen the tweets say on the morning or evening news. Doing a follow-up fact check will then be too late and of minimal impact. Thus, Trumpers' erroneous beliefs and fables are merely reinforced in a kind of confirmation bias. (As manifested in a recent Justin Amash town hall, with one of  his conservo constituents, see e.g. the lead off link below.)

Second, the very act of repeating the offending tweet has the effect of dignifying it - even if unintentionally.  (The same, obviously, applied to the treatment of the Pelosi fake video).


Back to the fake Pelosi video which the FOX News trolls  (e.g. Laura Ingraham,  Tucker Carlson et al) actually broadcast and integrated into their newscasts as evidence she was unfit to be House Speaker.  That above all revived for me the danger of propaganda and its effects on the brain as shown in the excellent PBS documentary series, ''The Brain'.  The series  featured neuroscientist David Eagleman who explored the role of that organ in social connections, as well as genocide and propaganda.  His key finding? 


"A basic, single word label is enough to change your brain's pre-conscious response to a person in pain, in other words, how much you care about them."   
In this context, the impact on the brains of those who watched the Pelosi video -  and didn't detect the obvious distortions - would have interjected a virulent anti -Pelosi bias.  Even in the more benign media treatments, whether repeating the lie or attempting to knock it down, the predominant political narrative suddenly became squarely on Pelosi’s health, not her competence.

As the video views continued to climb, I had to concur with Charlie Warzel in a recent Times piece that our attention was successfully hijacked by a remedial iMovie trick.  It’s easy to fall back on the notion that the Pelosi viral videos are an example of a broken system. But that’s not exactly true. Many of the forces that led this particular doctored video to become news are part of an efficient machine designed to do exactly this. Our media distribution systems are working just as intended. They just weren’t designed for our current political moment. 

Alterman and other media critics like Robert McChesney and Norman Solomon estimate it may take the U.S. media ecosystem years, decades to adapt. But we don't have that time while a pathological liar and criminal Vulgarian fouls the nation and the presidency every moment he tweets or talks.

As Warzel also notes: Facebook, by virtue of the fact that it made $16.6 billion in advertising revenue last quarter, is a media company. But Facebook wasn’t designed to be a media company, especially not one in the middle of an information war. As a platform, Facebook has no real responsibility for the veracity of its content; as a media company, it most certainly does.

Similarly, the press has few answers for how to cover propaganda in an online environment that is designed to spread hoaxes. The heart of the reporting process breaks down when your adversaries’ only goal is to hijack attention.   (See David Brooks' recent column in the NY Times on how much of the net is ideally adapted to infiltration by pathological, psychopathic trolls. The type who traffic in wacko conspiracy theories  like Pizzagate and the QAnon deep state B.S.)

And then there’s the political reality; the media has even fewer answers for how to deal with a president and his associates who are as prone to trafficking in these wacko conspiracies as they are to breathe. The media  then becomes trapped in a vicious cycle of newsworthiness, diverting attention and outrage to false claims and viral hoaxes. After all, the Pelosi fakes weren’t newsworthy because they were high-tech, but because the lie was so blatant and spread by powerful individuals.

In other words, it’s not only our systems that our broken,  and being degraded by the day, but our whole political landscape. And it’s only going to get worse. We need a new handbook. And quick. We definitely need a more advanced form of journalism that can better adapt to compulsive liar leaders - especially those who cozy up to bloodthirsty tyrants.

See also:
by Cody Fenwick | May 31, 2019 - 6:48am | permalink

And:

by Chris Hedges | May 27, 2019 - 5:27am | permalink

Trump's $16 Billion Farm Handout - It Turns Out - Will Do Little Or Nothing To Save His Midwest Farmers

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A week ago, watching the evening news, it was confounding to see and hear midwest farmers (i.e. in Iowa) proclaiming they plan to stick with Trump through thick and thin as he wages his trade war with China. They are 100 percent convinced he is firmly behind them, in their corner against those "evil' Chinese.  And woe betide any fool who thinks they will vote Dem.  Well, I just hope they have a nice fat $$ cushion (preferably a lotto win)  to cover their coming losses and possible foreclosures!

In fact, the outlook for these farmers so dedicated to Trump is grim.  They are already drowning in losses and ever higher costs including for fertilizers and farm machinery.  The tariffs and trade tensions are also pushing makers of farm machinery into a deep ditch, this according to a WSJ piece yesterday, p. B1.  We learn, for example, that during the first three months of this year, U.S. agricultural exports to China were 40 percent below the same period last year according to Agricultural Dept. data.   That 40 percent drop translates into very major loss in income for the farmers who voted Trump, and it means a major hit to their families' future economic security. That income could be the difference between holding onto farms and homes or losing them.

Worse, the more sober farmers understand they  have likely permanently  lost their precious soy and other markets to South America and elsewhere, all places quite eager to sell to the Chinese - and at the prices they want.

And indeed it's not just the lost markets - which once patiently cultivated - may never be recovered. It's also the ding that farm machinery sales are taking. As noted in the same cited WSJ article:

"Farmers interested in buying new machinery are finding it tougher to trade in their older models because dealers are already stuck with inventories of used equipment that can't sell."

That used equipment compliments of the farmers who've already bailed out, realizing that not even Trump's raiding of the public purse for a $20,000 odd handout won't be enough to save their farms.   As Barry Alexander, manager of 13,000 acre Cundiff Farms in western Kentucky put it:

"That used market is fairly saturated now."

And likely to get even more so as thousands more farmers realize they are batting on a losing wicket no thanks to their "star boy" Trump.  Left unexamined until now, is how farmers are being hit from another end: higher costs on their machinery including hay balers.As reported in the WSJ piece, one corporation  (Vermeer) that makes such machines expects to pay $4 million more in direct tariff costs this year, thanks to Trump.

Vermeer's steel costs alone rose by 50 % last year but prices have declined in recent months as steel inventories rise.  The WSJ piece also notes (ibid.):

"Lindsay Corp,, based in Omaha, Neb., said profit from its irrigation business fell 51 % as sales dropped by 16 percent in the three months through February."

So who's benefiting from Trump's steel tariffs? Well, the U.S. steel industry which has added some 13,000 jobs as reported in the WSJ last week. However, each job has been added at a cost of $906,000 each  - carved out from the hides of U.S. taxpayers. (Just like Trump's farm bailout of $16 billion).

Speaking of the last, as the cited WSJ article goes on:

"The Trump administration has said it would spend $16 billion to offset the impact on American agriculture from the trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Yet even if the dispute is resolved, some manufacturing executives say say U.S. farmers may still be worse off than before if China continues to buy grain from South America, which has increased output to accommodate China's demand."

Quoting CNH Chief Executive Hubertus Muhlhauser:

"Once those supply chains move it's not guaranteed they will return .  Brazil will keep its customers. They'll put more acres under the plow."

And U.S.   farmers, so dedicated to Trump and buying his bullshit, will be left holding the bag - an empty one. Well, almost, given they'll a few bucks from his handout.

The takeaway is that Dotard's tariffs and trade war on the Chinese have generated a relatively few winners, i.e. in the American steel industry, but left millions of others (including American consumers) sucking salt.   As for the Chinese returning to the American farmers and renewing those supply chains, why would they? So long as an unstable Vulgarian criminal named Trump is President there's no assurance another trade war or more tariffs wouldn't upset the apple cart.  And so long as midwest farmers stick to this swine, you can be sure the Chinese won't budge in moving to the U.S. from Brazil for their grain supply.

There's 'case closed' for the Dotard, if he needs one!

See also:

Trump Hates Farmers

by Jim Hightower | March 29, 2019 - 6:03am  

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Mueller's 9 Minutes of Fame Punts The Ball To Congress As Trump & Co. Continue Spinning More Lies


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Robert Mueller delivering his nine minute statement earlier today, which left most Americans seeking courage, unimpressed.

"Bob, your trail of bread crumbs just isn't good enough. We're just not that smart anymore! America is now an aging shortstop.  You have to hit it right at us."  Bill Maher on Real Time, Friday, April 26, on why Mueller's indirect, detached approach is useless

"If we had confidence that the President did not commit a crime, we would have said so."  - Robert Mueller, earlier today.


Well, at least one major milestone was passed earlier today, we finally got to hear Mueller's voice live and in person. No filters. The problem is it was mostly pro forma and the message enunciated: "If you want to see what I found, read the report."  Righto, like 100 million Americans will now rush to read it ASAP. Hell, I already published the 'juiciest' parts of Vol. II (with all the obstruction behavior involving WH Counsel Don McGhan that- propelled  GOP Rep. Justin Amash to call for impeachment) and  42  have read it to date. Not an auspicious sign.  On the upside, reading between the lines - or rather interpreting between Mueller's careful words- one beheld he wasn't letting Trump off the hook. Also, it was now time for House Dems & Pelosi to get some cojones and initiate impeachment inquiry - at least.

Bottom line: Mueller punted again but basically - in his Volume II - left the means to bring impeachment proceedings against the Vulgarian criminal fouling the highest office.  On the other hand, he isn't keen for any more public appearances, basically averring if the House Dems subpoena him to testify all he will do is read what's already been published, nothing more. Well, hell, at least it will be kinda like a parent reading a bedtime story to his kid - when the kid wouldn't have opened the book on his own.  It would be better than nothing, and hey, for each question Mueller could direct willing readers to the key parts of Volume I or II as he reads. It sure beats the Mr. Silent Sphinx Act we've beheld the past two years. At this point we will take anything, and so should Nancy Pelosi and the House Dems.  Pelosi claims she's still seeking facts and evidence of obstruction, but what do you call Trump's universal blocking of all subpoenas  - laughing them down, blowing them off - as he metaphorically pisses down the Dems' throats and laughs?

Finally launching an impeachment  might even shut up Trump and his top sycophant ass licker, Sara Sanders, who predictably came out with their own forlorn lying spin and distortions, yapping crap like "case closed", and "it's time to move on."  No, it's time for impeachment!

Mueller himself in his 9 minute spiel gave the usual reasons cited earlier for not going the whole hog and failing to issue and indictment: basically that DOJ policy (from the Office of Legal Counsel) "doesn't allow it".  Which is bull pockey. It's only a guideline, a policy after all, not an iron clad law or rule. And we've seen in the past two months how Dotard has spit on norm after norm blocking subpoenas  while congress is made to sit on its fingers fuming.  The correct interpretation of Mueller's citation of limits in issuing an indictment is:  "We found Trump guilty but the DOJ wouldn't allow us to say it."

Never mind. Dotard and his retinue of sycophants tried to spin this to mean "exoneration".   The first tool they used was to interpret a partial affirmation as a total negation. Thus, Mueller admitted he found "insufficient evidence" to identify a conspiracy with the Russians (in Vol. I). But Trump, his malleable cow press secretary Huckleberry Sanders and others tried to portray that as meaning "nothing was found" and hence "exoneration".  Nope, because insufficient evidence is not the same as zero evidence. One may have insufficient evidence a neighbor bludgeoned his wife with a hammer, as there are bloody fingerprints on it. But there is no confirming DNA evidence to match the suspect to the actual weapon and crime.

Mueller did (in Vol. 2) identify 10 incidents in which Trump attempted to obstruct justice, for example by firing the director of the FBI, though he stopped short of charging the Dotard with a crime.  Never mind, because again by the OLC guidelines Mueller's hands were cuffed on the issue of finding crimes. (As already explained.) But again, he clearly left the process open for congress to pursue "high crimes and misdemeanors" under the Article I powers allotted to it.  

Mueller himself fucked up badly during his soliloquy,  asserting:

"A president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office.  That is unconstitutional."

No, it would not. As one legal specialist and former prosecutor noted on MSNBC, "there hasn't even been a court decision to render a verdict on constitutionality".  Adding, he could find just as many to assert it was constitutional as not. In the end it is an OLC "guideline" that appears no where in the Constitution per se.

As MSNBC legal specialist Ari Melber and others put it (e.g. former DOJ spokes person Matt Miller) it wasn't a 100 % nothing burger. There were some actual ounces of 'meat' in the statement terms of Mueller saying (between the lines, as it were): "I could not deliver a criminal prosecution but congress can still act on its own".

Bingo! But most Americans - even with IQs in the normal range- might have missed that. As Bill Maher once put it in a New Rules segment (see top quote) on Real Time, Americans are like aging shortstops. They need the ball hit directly at their midsections to make the play. Or in this case, the connections. The perfect illustration was one of the Michigan voters  highlighted at a recent question-answer session held by Justin Amash. This woman was astonished to learn- after Amash educated her- that Trump was NOT "exonerated" in the Mueller Report. She'd only heard that by having been isolated in the conserve media (i.e. FOX, Rush Limburger ) echo chamber the past 8 weeks.

At least a number of Senators - following Mueller's performance- have sounded the proper perspectives to counter the balderdash of Trump and his minions, e.g.

Julian Castro:

Mueller made clear this morning that his investigation now lays at the feet of Congress. No one is above the law—Congress should begin an impeachment inquiry.
May 29, 2019

Elizabeth Warren:

Mueller leaves no doubt:

1) He didn't exonerate the president because there is evidence he committed crimes.

2) Justice Department policy prevented him from charging the president with any crimes
.
3) The Constitution leaves it up to Congress to act—and that's impeachment.
May 29, 2019

Kamala Harris:
What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral. Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable.

We need to start impeachment proceedings. It's our constitutional obligation
.
May 29, 2019

Again, I present the link to the full Mueller report which readers can access here:

www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf

Please read it yourselves to see why the above takes by the D-Senators are correct. If pressed for time, at least read my transcription of Vol. II to do with obstruction of justice involving Trump White House Counsel Don McGahn! (May 22 post).

Your country will thank you for it, and so will Democrats when they begin impeachment proceedings.  (IF they do!)  It will mean one less segment of citizens to have to educate.  In any case, I am for the Jerrold Nadler and House Judiciary Committee bringing Mueller in to testify - even if it means only seeing and hearing him read sections of his own report.

Something is better than nothing!   

See also:


And:


And:


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The Proliferation Of Plastic In The World's Oceans - As Bad As We've Suspected

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Seal pup almost strangled with plastic detritus around his neck.

According to a WSJ Op-ed yesterday, many Starbucks' coffee fans are feeling pretty self-righteous lately that they're doing great by the planet in congregating there because the CEO replaced plastic straws (For recyclable lids).  The author then had to add the cynical stat that the removal of plastic straws really only takes care of about 0.025% of the 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the oceans each year.   That's about 200,000 tons. A lot, but no where near enough to stem the flood tide devastating sea life - and eventually...humans.

Just how bad, or rather "gross" is it? Some findings which were recently published by scientists from the UK and Australia in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds some light.  The teams analyzed 50 years of seabird research and described the problem as "widespread, pervasive and rapidly increasing."   Indeed, by 2050 the researchers forecast 99 percent of all seabird species will have consumed plastic.   For other marine species the proportion is about 95 percent.

Among the mind boggling finds in relation to the latter:

-  In March, a male Cuvier's beaked whale was found in the  Philippines with 88 pounds of plastic in its belly, including 16 rice sacks. (No straws)

- In April a female sperm whale was found dead off Italy's coast with 48 pounds of plastic in her stomach.

Some insight into just how much plastic blights and contaminates the world's oceans emerged in a 2014 seminal report by Marcus Eriksen and an international team of marine scientists. They calculated - get this- there are at least 5.25 trillion individual pieces of plastic floating in the oceans, for a total of 268, 940 tons. Also, more than 92 percent of these pieces are less than 5 mm in size or microplastics.  Larger items such as nylon fishing nets and debris from cargo ships add to this deplorable mass of human detritus.

What about the toll on marine life? It comes in two forms: 1) from entangled animals being strangled or drowning (see image of the seal pup above), and 2) ingestion of plastics leading to starvation.  Neither of these outcomes confers a very happy passing.  In respect of (i) a 2014 report from the World Animal Protection pegged at least 136,000 seals, sea lions, and large whales perishing from ghost -gear entanglement each year.

In regard to the second, millions of different animals, from whales to porpoises, to seals and fish as well as sea birds, consume thousands of pounds of plastic each year. These cause obstructions, stomach ruptures and starvation.  The latter because actual nutrients cannot be processed given the volume occupied by the plastic garbage.   Sea bird chicks (e.g. Albatross)  are especially vulnerable given the parents "unwittingly feed our trash to their young creating a false satiation"  according to Eriksen. That in turn leads to malnutrition.

Another aspect apart from the malnutrition is poisoning, given ocean plastics contain a brew of toxic chemicals.  According to Stephanie Borrelle, a postdoctoral researcher in New Zealand, these toxins come from both the manufacturing process and pollutants that adhere to the plastic surfaces. The combination can affect "reproductive output" as well as "biophysical function".   Borrelle adds that the population degradation also occurs in the more general context of climate change.

What about plastic production? Is there any end in sight?   Not really. In 1950 global plastic production was approximately 2 million metric tons. By 2015, that had ballooned to 380 million metric tons, according to an assessment in Science Advances.  See, e.g.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318567844_Production_use_and_fate_of_all_plastics_ever_made


There can be little doubt humans are also caught up in this toxic web as well. As we consume fish, crabs, lobsters etc. which have ingested the plastic (especially  microplastics), they become part of our body chemistry as well  - and not in any good way.

In a way it would mark an "ecological karma".  Humans produce our own weight in plastics each year. How much ends up in the oceans is still a matter of debate but scientists in one study estimated between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons (in 2010 alone).  Three fourths of this waste comes from uncollected litter, the rest leaks from dump sites.

Can anything really be done to address the problem?  According to Marcus Eriksen, the most significant difference cam come via prevention as opposed to removal. In his words:

"If we focus on stopping the flow from land to sea and better regulate fishing gear and maritime activities it would solve the problem once and for all."

The question is whether there is the will to do it.

See also:

by Sonali Kolhatkar | May 31, 2019 - 6:40am | 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Forget "Godwin's Law" - The Hitler- Trump Parallels Grow By The Day

Image result for brane space, moral compass, Trump


"Look at Trump’s long history with Deutsche Bank, the former Nazi-enabling institution that hoped Trump’s celebrity would help it gain a toehold in the U.S. This as every other major bank had come to see the short-fingered vulgarian – whom, we now know, lost more money than any other American in the late ’80s and early ’90s – as utterly toxic.."  Will Bunch, Philly.com

"I am a 96-year old World War II veteran with a question: Why haven't America and the rest of the world spoken out against the resurgence of Nazism? ...WWII, one of history's worst wars, was the result of Hitler's Nazi party. Yet today in America, the resurgence of white supremacy and neo-Nazism goes widely ignored and unchallenged. .. Regressing to a country of hatred and division  is a slap in the face of all those who fought and died to protect the ideals our flag stands for."-  John R. Rohner, letter to The Denver Post, yesterday, p. A13.


Anyone who's observed the events of the past two weeks, including the continued stonewalling by Trump in releasing any documents,  AG Barr's turning a specious investigation on the FBI and other investigators of the Russia intrusion, and Trump giving Barr carte blanche to release sensitive intel files that put sources at risk (while barking the dog whistle of "Treason!") ,  knows we are hurtling toward a fascist, autocratic state.  Effectively, this Hitler clone, as even my long time German friends agree, is attempting to criminalize all political opponents just as Hitler did with his "Enabling Act" and Reich laws.

Add to that an effort to invoke the 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute Julian Assange, which would extend to the whole of the press and 1st amendment itself  - and this is a no brainer.  As author and history writer John Meacham put it Friday on MSNBC's 'Last Word':

"He's criminalizing dissent on one level. With the FBI, he's attempting rhetorically to criminalize the execution and mechanics of the rule of law.  It's not a heck of a lot more complicated than that... He's using a charged term to create a sense of anxiety and paranoia to get his supporters in a place where assent for Trump is a patriotic act.  By doing so he's throwing 243 years of constitutional history away.

The framers had this right. They were worried about demagogues, they were worried about exactly this type of person."

More worrisome, those of us who've watched Trump's relentless attack on norms the past two years (eroding them to the point of irrelevance), and who are also steeped in world and U.S. history, are understandably alarmed.  This is because we can see the progression (regression?) and know what it leads to, i.e. having studied Germany's history in the 1930s while also having had the advantage of talking to actual Germans - including former Wehrmacht soldiers - alive at the time, e.g.

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing
The photo above was taken in the Teutoburger Forest in May, 1985, with two former Wehrmacht soldiers-   on my left (Hans) and right (Dieter).  Reinhardt - to the left of Hans- acted as interpreter.  Both former soldiers agreed Hitler was a total crazy person (Verrückt!) who never should have been made Chancellor.  Similarly, Reinhardt -  still alive -  agrees Trump never should have been president.

Why is all this germane? Because we damned well know in retrospect how democracies fall!  We beheld it (those of us who've studied history) in the case of the Weimar Republic of Germany, and we're seeing the replay now though too many of our countrymen remain asleep at the wheel.   These somnolent, complacent citizens would do well to read 'How Democracies Die' by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.

Those who take the time to read the book, and have scratched their heads about the import of norms, will soon come to grasp they are the glue that holds democracies together.  Thus, the fragile nature of democracies exists precisely because they depend on competing actors, parties to agree to accept common norms. The nature of democracy insists these should not have to be made into laws and enforced, which would destroy the cooperative and volitional aspects.

At the same time, our whole system of checks and balances hangs on accepting these 'volitional' norms, not flouting them.  Attack and subvert the norms and they cease to act as bulwarks of democracy.  This is precisely why demagogues like Hitler and Trump always undermine and weaken the norms first.   This inevitably occurs once they are placed in a position of power, Hitler after losing the popular vote in 1933 (attaining only 36.8%) and Trump in 2016 after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million.

Hitler became Chancellor in January, 1933 on account of a reckless decision by then winning President Paul von Hindenburg, i.e. from Wikipedia: "Although Hitler lost the presidential election of 1932, he achieved his goals when he  was appointed chancellor on 30 January 1933. On February 27, Hindenburg paved the way to dictatorship and war by issuing the Reichstag Fire Decree which nullified civil liberties."

 Trump became president in December, 2016 on account of myopic, reckless electors who rubber- stamped an electoral college win, instead of applying the Hamilton standards not to insert a proven demagogue into office.  I.e. those standards as articulated in Federalist # 78:

"The process of election (by state electors) affords a moral certainty that the office of President shall never fall to the lot of any man who is not to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications...."

Once in power, both Hitler and Drumpf  knew they needed to attack and destroy the applicable norms,  which is what they did.  Once each had become freed by erosion of the norms they could then harness the "referees" (judicial system), i.e. forcing judges to retire, stacking the courts with others who do their bidding, appointing high judicial officials to carry out their agenda against political opponents and stifling and attacking the press.

Hence, Trump's moves in the past week, to enable Barr to go after sensitive intelligence files and release them for a pseudo investigation, and seeking to prosecute Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, fully fall into the Hitlerian playbook.  In effect, tilting the playing field permanently against all political opponents as a prelude to criminalizing and punishing them.  It is quite evident now that the American political system is under threat on all three identified fronts:  weakened judiciary, disabled press, captured 'referees' to do autocrat's bidding to persecute political opponents.


As the past two weeks have revealed, Fuhrer Drumpf is now on a tear to out-Hitler, Hitler.  And before anyone mentions "Godwin's Law", I already skewered that malarkey years ago.  It is a common and stupid fallacy that seems to have spread around the net that we are all to beware that "if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds." 

The corollary to Godwin's law  has been deemed even more canonical, i.e.  that "anyone who introduces Nazis or Adolf Hitler in a debate or discussion automatically loses by default". Of course,  this is arrant codswallop. If the comparison is applicable then we are enjoined to make use of it, and this is more and more the case with Donald John Trump. No, he hasn't launched concentration camps yet- but he is destroying norms and practices on a pace to what Hitler did - to Weimar Germany - from 1930 to  1933., ultimately leading to the Enabling Act, e.g.

http://www.dw.com/en/the-law-that-enabled-hitlers-dictatorship/a-16689839

The preceding provides a cautionary tale,  contrary to many pundits who beseech us to "chill"  because our Constitution will save us.  Well, not the way Trump and his fellow fascists have neutralized all checks and balances, with no courageous people coming forward to answer the true patriot's call.  Even Robert Mueller, evidently.

In the words of Levitsky and Ziblatt:

"American democracy is not an exception as we sometimes believe. There's nothing in our Constitution or our culture to immunize us against democratic breakdown."


Especially if the other party helps to destroy existing norms, and by extension checks and balances, because it seeks to protect and enable the fascist autocrat at the source.

WaPo columnist Dana  Milbank recently made the case even more cogently in the mainstream press.  This was based on a 'FACTBase' analysis of Trump's rhetoric and behavior compared to other demagogues in the last 100 years:

"But if Trump is without peer in the American political tradition, he unfortunately has equals in another tradition. Such rhetoric is a hallmark of totalitarianism. 

It’s using emotion to circumvent reason, to overwhelm reason,” says Jason Stanley, a Yale philosopher specializing in language and author of the bookHow Fascism Works.”

Stanley then related to Milbank the core of the autocratic Trump dynamic:

“He wants to get the situation such that it’s a crisis and there’s such fear and suspicion that the only happiness, the delivery, is winning over his enemies, Hence, the lavish praise of and great love for his supporters and the unalloyed vitriol toward foreigners, racial minorities, elites and socialists."

Trump 's praise for despotic tyrants like Kim Jong Un should also be mentioned here, as he believes a slime like Kim over his own security  personnel, i.e. as to whether North Korea has adhered to UN resolutions on missile testing. 


 Stanley adds:

"Goebbels talks about propaganda being best when it appeals to straightforward emotion: fear, suspicion, anger, and then it would be culminated with ‘we’re winning,’ ‘we’re going to get them,’ with extremes of paranoia and then praise of ‘us,’ ‘our’ greatness, and a desire for revenge for lost greatness. . . . When our emotions are being overwhelmed, it’s because people are trying to manipulate us and drive us toward a desired goal."

Again, straight out of the Hitler-Trump playbook. What about Trump supporters who I've also compared to the "Good Germans". Stanley informs Milbank(ibid.):

"His supporters, lovingly embraced, feel as though they’re in on the joke; they know he often lies, but they believe he’s lying for them — lying to the liars. Us-vs.-them thinking becomes so powerful that the enemy’s humiliation can be more gratifying than one’s own betterment"  

 This, of course, was the case with Hitler's supporters as well, evident when one watches archival films, as I had been shown by my late friend Kurt Braun, in 1978 and 1985. 

The difference between our situation now and the enforcement of the Enabling Act and Reichstag Fire Decree in the Germany of the 1930s is that there is still time to avert the rush to perdition.  There is still time to avoid the repeat of history from that era, but it requires: a) citizens grasping that we are in a 4 alarm fire condition right now, and b) People of substance, power to step forward to combat the corruption and dissolution of law.  

 That means citizens being alert to Trump's moves and not succumbing to his distractions, e.g. the Pelosi fake video, and people like Robert Mueller speaking openly in public forums. It also means more than one Republican (like Justin Amash) with the courage to stand up and oppose Trump's lawless rule.

Citizens are waiting, the nation is waiting.  But we can't wait too long before time runs out - as the Germans discovered to their horror in January, 1933.  

See also:




Excerpt:

"Just in the last few days, we’ve seen the Trump administration defy the role of Congress not just on subpoenas but on selling $8 billion in bombs and other weapons to the murderous Trump-friendly regime in Saudi Arabia, which will be used to slaughter women and children in Yemen. We’ve seen the president’s handmaiden at the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr, develop a new legal theory about news leaks that – while it’s being tried out for now on the loathsome non-journalist Julian Assange – can and probably will be used to kill the First Amendment rights of legitimate journalists. That’s on top of Barr’s Trump-ordered probe of his perceived political “enemies” in the FBI and other government agencies, which belongs on a “greatest hits” album of 20th-century dictators.
Waiting in a defensive crouch until an election in November 2020 is a terrible strategy, and not just because it’s too long to wait."