Thursday, November 30, 2017

Selected Questions-Answers From All Experts Astronomy Forum (Cold Space and Cold Fusion?)

Question -
Dear Sir, A young person told me that the Sun was cold, hence cold fusion.
Reason: the higher up the mountain you go the colder it is. Space is cold,
it is the microwaves from the Sun that excite the atmosphere and hence
make us warm. I am a Civil and Mechanical engineer but this stumped me.
Please help.

Answer -

Your young person has misinformed you re: the Sun. It is assuredly not "cold" with

a surface temperature of 6,000 C (11,000 F) and a core temperature of 15
million Celsius.  Given the latter, you can see that fusion in the Sun's core
is not "cold" but extremely hot.

Indeed the temperature of  15 million C is needed in order to achieve the fusion of
hydrogen nuclei into helium., the net effective reaction being:

H1 + H1 + H1 + H1  ->  He4

Regarding colder temperatures with altitude, this has everything to do with
the density of oxygen, nitrogen (e.g. air) molecules decreasing.  Hence,
the higher one goes up a mountain the fewer molecules (matter) there are
to absorb heat- or retain it.

What we call 'heat'  (internal energy) is really energy associated with the motion
of molecules in a medium.  The graphic shown below illustrates the relation of

heat energy to kinetic or motion energy in a gas contained within a cylinder. The
cylinder has a solid bottom at one end and a moveable piston at the other..

In this case the heat imparted by the Bunsen burner causes the molecules in the gas to move more rapidly - colliding with each other and causing the piston to move upward -expanding the gas volume. This changes the volume of the gas from V1 to V2 where V2 > V1.

Space is "cold" because there are so very few molecules of matter in it, being nearly a perfect vacuum.  The presence of so few molecules means very few collisions and little available internal energy.  Hence,  even if you try to heat a volume of space there will be little detectable difference.

Regarding the Sun, it radiates at all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum - not just microwaves.

If you study the diagram of the EM spectrum below you will see that microwaves form only a relatively small region:
Illustration showing comparison between wavelength, frequency and energy

These are associated with longer wavelength EM radiation, as are radio waves. The
shorter wavelengths (to the left) include what we call the "visible" band - as well as
ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma ray.

The Sun actually shines with its maximum radiation emitted at about
5500 Angstroms (550 nm)   - or in yellow light. It radiates at all wavelengths
but has the maximum at that band. This is depicted below:
Image result for solar radiation spectrum

The conversion of radiant energy - say from the Sun- is really a conversion of large
scale energy, e.g. in electro-magnetic waves- to internal or microscopic energy.

In effect, if air is thin, as it is at the top of a mountain, there isn't enough mass

present to enable or facilitate energy transfer to the medium. Hence, it feels 'cold'
to the human observer. But this has nothing to do with the Sun being 'cold'. (As I noted

The fact is the Sun's radiant energy is being transferred to the Earth through space
by the process known as radiation - which can occur even in a vacuum (or in a
medium of very low particle density).  But the fact the Sun's radiation (including as

heat) can be transferred through space doesn't mean space itself will be hot - as 
I've explained.

The point here is that no heat energy transfer occurs from a cooler body to a
hotter- ONLY from a hotter to cooler. Hence, it follows the Earth must be
the cooler body compared to the Sun

Space is 'cold' not because it absolutely lacks heat  but because its
density (of particles) is too low to have much quantity of heat, or
'thermal capacity'.

The thermal capacity is defined by the amount:

W = mc

where m is the mass and c, the heat capacity. It is a measure of how difficult

it is to increase the temperature of a medium by one degree (e.g. Kelvin).

Obviously, since space is a near-vacuum, m is near 0, and c is near 0, so little

or no thermal capacity exists. What this means is that energy from the Sun (via
radiation) can be transferred through space, without appreciably heating

What about in the vicinity of Earth? Similar arguments apply. The higher
one is above the Earth, the lower the thermal capacity of the medium (e.g. air) -

hence the lower the amount of heat that can be retained, or measured.

Conversely, the more one descends in altitude, the greater the number of particles,

and the greater their retention of heat.

Your young person does have one part of the concept roughly correct: in
linking solar radiant energy to activity of  molecules in the atmosphere. What is

happening is that the radiant energy (mainly from the infrared region, transfers
kinetic energy to the molecules of the atmosphere, thereby raising its internal energy.

The internal energy is defined:  U = 3kT/2

where T is the temperature, and k is Boltzmann's constant (1.38 x 10^-23

The equation above is actually a statement for what we call the
equipartition of energy amongst the air molecules - with kT/2 being
transferred to each "degree of freedom" (defined in x, y and z directions)
that a molecule of atmosphere can move.

This internal energy, defined along with the thermal capacity of the air
(W = mc as noted earlier) is what enables us to feel warmth.

Two further points:

i) There is as yet no confirmed evidence for any 'cold fusion' that
extends beyond the magnitude of experimental uncertainties or errors.
(E.g. all results disclosed thus far fall well within the limits of
experimental error).

ii) One can have an enormous temperature - say for the Sun's corona- which
is still not enough to burn anybody!

In the case of the solar corona, we estimate a kinetic temprature of 2
million degrees K, yet if one could insert a finger into it, there'd be NO
burn. Why is this?

Because the corona is essentially a vacuum containing very few particles (low
thermal capacity). However, those few particles have very high velocities, so
possess extremely high 'kinetic temperature'  - which is most of what the '2
million Kelvin' magnitude is about.

Hopefully, this answer will  also prove enlightening to the young person who
claimed the Sun was 'cold'.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Has The Stock Market Dodged A "Bullet" In The "Unlucky Sevens" Streak? NOT If The Reep Tax Cuts Are Passed!

No photo description available.
Graph showing the stock crashes for years ending in '7'. (From The Wall Street Journal, p. B18, Oct. 18)

Many headlines have been generated in the past nine months or so warning of an imminent stock market correction or even crash.  Such headlines have included:

'A Case For The Bulls Is Hard To Warrant' - James Mackintosh

E'verything Is Awesome! Now Is The Time To Sell Your Stock' - James Mackintosh

'Warning Signs Mount As Stocks Stumble'   WSJ,  'Business & Finance', Aug.. 21

'Crashes Are Inevitable But That Doesn't Mean Now'  (WSJ, Oct. 9)

Perhaps the pithiest advice offered in these assorted stories was by Mackintosh in his 'time to sell your stocks' piece, noting:

"Investors believe that bear markets only come with recessions, and so reassure themselves that there is no sign a recession is imminent, repeating the mantra that 'economic cycles don't die of old age'. Unfortunately, this is both wrong and useless.

First, 20 percent drops happen outside recessions, as in 1987 and 1966. Second, economic cycles can be killed by a financial crash, and as the late Hyman Minsky pointed out, the longer a financial cycle goes on, the more likely it is to turn to excess and end badly. Worse, there is no reliable method of forecasting a recession, so even if it were true that only a recession can end a bull market, that isn't a lot of use to investors."


"When everything is awesome it is best to prepare for things being a little less awesome in the future, even at the cost of missing out on some of the gains."

A few months earlier, Mackintosh's column was preceded by one  ('Do You Have The Stomach For The Next Stock Crash? ) in The Denver Post Business Section, written by Charlie Farrell, the CEO of Northstar Investment Advisors LLC,  wherein he writes:

"For the past eight years, investors have enjoyed a steadily increasing stock market. Memories of the 2008 crisis have largely faded and many investors have forgotten that sinking feeling. But if you want to avoid the mistakes investors made during the last crisis, you should start thinking bad thoughts. Yes., bad thoughts. Start training your brain and your guts for the next stock market decline. Why? Because big stock market crashes and declines happen and they pose a big threat to your wealth."

Of course, Farrell is quite correct and it's been literally known since the birth of the stock market that  all bull markets end in veritable crashes, the purpose of which is a massive transfer of wealth to the upper crust . (See e.g. George P. Brockway,  'The End Of Economic Man'). 

SO there have been endless warnings, some of which have come to pass, i.e. such as those who were correct about the October, 1987 stock crash.   But what about the more recent one in 2008? Too many members of the "dismal science" missed it, perhaps because they didn't put 2 + 2 together to grasp that years of the Bush tax cuts - taking place during de facto 'war time' - preceded it.  Add to that the fact that a bubble had been created and you had all the elements necessary for a crash. All that was needed was a 'trigger' and that was provided by the infusion of financial toxic waste known as credit default swaps. These unstable instruments (buried in bonds) found their way into everything from collateralized mortgage obligations to pension fund investments and most were classified as 'AAA' despite the fact there was no basis to do so.

The failure of the credit agencies themselves to be onto the junk bond nature of CMOs and allowing the presence of fractions of  toxic  CDS bonds in each – then designating the whole AAA - led directly to the collapse of the credit markets in 2008. The realization of their presence across the financial spectrum triggered a credit freeze then crash. (See e.g. )

Fast forward now to the latest take: that the current market may well be on its way to defying a nasty "unlucky -sevens" trend (WSJ, 'Market's Unlucky -Sevens Streak In Danger', p. B18, Oct. 18). What ate we talking about? Basically, a pattern that has held for U.S. blue chip stocks for at least the last 130 years.

Specifically (ibid.):

"For the past 13 times that a year has ended in seven, going back to 1887, the Dow Jones Industrial Average or its predecessor has suffered a sharp downturn at some point between August and November. The average downturn has been a little over 13 percent according to the research firm Leuthold Group."

The piece by Spencer Jakab goes on to note:

"The most memorable of those drops was 30 years ago. The 1987 stock market crash sent the Dow tumbling 22.6 %, its worst single day percentage loss ever, including a selloff that began earlier and wiped 36 percent off the Dow's value."

So the gist of Jakab's piece is this unlucky streak is "in jeopardy".  But is it really?

The problem with all pattern -based reasoning or templates is that there is no bearing on actual causes, and causal relations. Theodore Moois, the author of the monograph 'Predictions', for example, (p. 156), observes that the factors that most impacted the 1987 crash were the energy oscillations at that time in terms of energy prices, relation to consumption, and lack of investment in new jobs. In particular "stock market plunges manifest themselves during the downward trend of the energy oscillation and hence correspond to a downturn in the economic cycle".

Let us also note in conjunction with this that the 1987 crash occurred after a major tax cut was enacted via the Economic Recovery Tax Act in 1981.  Included in the act was an across-the-board decrease in the marginal income tax rates in the United States by 25% over three years, with the top rate falling from 70% to 50% and the bottom rate dropping from 14% to 11%.  The cut itself may not have been as toxic, but Reagan also launched a $2.2 trillion defense spending spree - effectively burning the fiscal candle at both ends.  This, I believe, set the stage for the 1987 crash.

The 2008 crash occurred after years of the Bush tax cuts which drove the deficit even higher and also:  "The 2000s- that is the period immediately following the Bush tax cuts – were the weakest decade in U.S. postwar history for real, non-residential capital investment. Not only were the 2000s by far the weakest period but the tax cuts did not even curtail the secular slowdown in the growth of business structures."  (Financial Times analysis, in 9/15/10)

What one must conclude is that while the credit meltdown with CDS infusion was the proximate trigger for the 2008 crash, the Bush tax cuts were the effective distal cause - specifically on account of the lack of investment, which itself created an "energy sink" in terms of the transactions between workers-consumers and employers.  Because many workers barely benefitted from the cuts , millions had to go into credit card and other debt to make up for the dearth in earnings. Much of this was needed for health care, and utilities. The narrow vision of these tax cuts -  like the current ones on offer (giving those making over $5m /year a $200k cut) left the jobs-energy landscape as a wasteland. Also, the bubble created - including by selling millions of sub-prime mortgages to borrowers who couldn't really afford them, paved the way to a crash.

For reference, the top marginal tax rate during the Bush years (for income tax) was reduced to 36% from the 39.5% during the 1990s Clinton Years. Over the 1950s and into the 1960s (until about 1964) the top marginal rate was at 91%, going down to 65% by the mid -60s. The low level of 50 % wasn’t reached until Reagan arrived and passed his tax cuts in 1981. (And we note here that the debt as a percentage of GDP rose to nearly 30% during the Reagan years, caused by his tax cuts in conjunction with mind boggling military spending.)

Another telling statistic from the FT study is the growth rate for investment in equipment and software for business. They note that this ranged from 5.7% a year to 9.9% in earlier decades but was reduced to 1.9% during the 2000s.  Meanwhile, “average growth in non-residential structures ranged from 1.3% to 5.7% from the 1950s through the 1990s but declined 0.8% during the 2000s.”
A fair and timely question must be asked at this point:

Why do Republican tax cuts lead, counter-intuitively, to industrial decline, stagnant wages, and finally financial collapse? The fact is that high marginal tax rates strongly correlate with economic growth.  In December 2010 Mike Kimel examined the effects of cutting the top marginal tax rate:
….real GDP also grew faster under Bill Clinton, who raised taxes, than it did under Ronald Reagan. In fact, from 1981 to the present, the period in which Reagan’s philosophies have reigned triumphant, the correlation between the top marginal tax rate and the annual growth in real GDP has been positive. That is to say, higher top marginal tax rates have been associated with faster, not slower real economic growth. Conversely, lower top marginal tax rates have coincided with less economic growth.

The positive relationship between the top [higher] marginal tax rate and the growth in real GDP is very nearly bullet-proof. For instance, it extends all the way back to 1929, the first year for which the government computed GDP data. Additionally, higher marginal tax rates are not only correlated with faster increases in real GDP from one year to the next, but also with increases in real GDP over the subsequent two, three, or four years. This is as true going back to 1929 as it is for the period since Reagan became president. In fact, since the Reagan Revolution took hold, similar relationships have existed between the top marginal rate and several other important variables, like real median income, real private investment, consumer sentiment, the value of the dollar relative to other major currencies, and the S&P 500.  
Lower tax rates in any given year are associated with slower growth rates for each of these variables, whether those growth rates are measured over periods of one, two, three or four years.

What is the takeaway here? Although Treasury guy Steve Mnuchin predicts a stock market crash if the Reepo tax bill isn't passed, e.g.

The fact is that all the historical evidence points to the opposite. I already referenced the lack of investment during the Reagan and Bush tax cut years, but less well known was what transpired before the 1929 stock market crash.  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.

Again, I submit that energy oscillations - usually as liabilities  -are also tied to these tax cuts and lower tax rates. It takes energy, after all, to build new plant for labor or even less carbon -generating  energy infrastructure,  e.g. solar collectors, wind turbines.. But if corporations merely use the money to buy back shares as a form of tax avoidance, the energy goes nowhere useful. (As Joseph Stiglitz noted this morning on 'Morning Joe').  Lower tax rates  encourage taking wealth out of industrial companies; the wealth taken out must then be "put to work." That means more money chasing "investment opportunities" (instead of real investment in capital goods and employees), leading to price increases in financial capital or real estate or some other asset.  The end result? An energy use distortion in an environment of low aggregate demand and high deficits (set to get much higher) setting the stage for a deleterious energy oscillation leading to a crash later next year.

I predict that if this Repuke tax "reform" bill passes, then we will see a monster crash (up to 40 %)  by October  of next year.  You can make book on it.

See also:



Will Trump Launch A Nuclear First Strike On North Korea? One AF General Vows To Refuse Any Illegal Order

The malignant narcissism of Dotard may be enough to hurl the world into nuclear war.

In the early 1960s, physicist Herman Kahn's books “On Thermonuclear War” and “Thinking About the Unthinkable”, were must- read fare for those of attending Loyola.  Hours were spent discussing the perils of nuclear war, this barely two years after JFK - using utmost temperance -  saved the collective ass of civilization. He did this by rejecting the Joint Chiefs' demands to bomb and invade Cuba at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Kahn warned his readers with words still are relevant today, and more than 50 years after they were written: “We must guard against many types of events – psychopathic or irrational individuals, mechanical or human failure, sabotage, irresponsible behavior, and so on".  He also cautioned leaders that “we must not look too dangerous to the enemy. This does not mean that we cannot do anything that threatens him … We must not appear to be excessively aggressive, irresponsible, trigger-happy, or accident prone, today or in the future.”

This is exactly the problem with Donnie Dotard and why now -  after the latest North Korean Missile launch -  we may be even closer to nuclear war.  Dotard - let us make no mistake (and despite how Peter King (R, NY) tried to defend his sanity this a.m. on 'Morning Joe' - is a deranged fool, whose malignant narcissism and sociopathy could get us all incinerated - maybe even before Christmas. But hell, don't take my word for it.

In the book, 'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump' clinical psychologist  Michael J. Tansey informs us (p. 121):

"Although there are several areas in which DT's particular version of personality disorder is vital to understand, none is more compelling or terrifying than his control of the nuclear codes.  Surpassing the devastation of climate, health care, education, diplomacy, social services, freedom of speech, and liberty and justice for all, nothing is more incomprehensible than the now plausible prospect of an all -out nuclear war.

For all but the few remaining survivors who witnessed the atomic bombing of Japan and its aftermath we simply have nothing in our own experiences to imagine the instantaneous annihilation. Quite literally we are here one second and vaporized the next along with everyone and everything."

Let me pause here to interject that although none of us except the Japanese survivors have experienced an atomic bomb attack, you can get a very good inkling of what happens to humans by watching it in this clip from the movie 'Threads', e.g.

Watch it then watch again- especially the last 2 minutes of the clip-  to see what we may be in for with this goddamned lunatic.

Back to Michael Tansey's take (ibid.):

"Because of this very real existential threat, it is absolutely urgent that we comprehend the titanic differences between a president who is merely 'crazy like a fox' versus one I have termed crazy like crazy (possessing core grandiose and paranoid delusions disconnected from factual reality."

The evidence Dotard is literally crazy like crazy is abundant and Tansey (and the books' other contributors) references it with numerous episodes over the past 10 plus months, such as (p. 123) "his early morning tweets that his phones had been tapped by Obama." See e.g.

Prof. Tansey like the others is adamant that Trump must not be enabled to launch a first or pre-emptive strike. Every general worth his salt has to either prevent this catastrophe (say by snatching the football from the bastard) or plainly refusing any other orders connected to launching ill -advised attacks, say a "decapitation strike" on the North.)

Enter now a REAL patriot, not a paper one: Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the US Strategic Command.  On November 19, Gen. Hyten declared he would refuse to follow an illegal presidential order to launch a nuclear attack.   At the Halifax International Security Forum in Nova Scotia he explained:

"If you execute an unlawful order, you will go to jail," the general explained . "You could go to jail for the rest of your life."

For those in the military, there is a legal duty to obey a lawful order, but also a legal duty to disobey an unlawful order. An order to use nuclear weapons -- except possibly in an extreme circumstance of self-defense when the survival of the nation is at stake -- would be an unlawful order.  Many more military, as well as the media and citizens need to process this.

Now with the latest North Korean ICBM test launch there is increased cause for concern that Trump may order a preemptive nuclear strike on North Korea. Dotard, indeed,  has indicated his willingness to use nuclear weapons. In early 2016, he asked a senior foreign policy adviser about nuclear weapons three times during a briefing and then queried, "If we have them why can't we use them?"

Of course, after hearing that  idiocy - if it were up to me - I'd take this fool, strap him down in a chair with his eyelids taped open (like Alex in 'A Clockwork Orange') e.g.
Image result for Scene of Alex eyes forced open in CLockwork Orange

And let him watch the 'Threads' nuclear attack scene on an endless  loop.

Then in April, "multiple senior intelligence officials" told NBC News that the administration was "prepared to launch a preemptive strike" if they thought North Korea was about to conduct a nuclear test. Preemptive strikes violate the United Nations Charter, which forbids the use of military force except in self-defense or with permission from the UN Security Council.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) requires that all military personnel obey lawful orders. Article 92 of the UCMJ states, "A general order or regulation is lawful unless it is contrary to the Constitution, the laws of the United States...." Additionally, both the Nuremberg Principles and the Army Field Manual create a duty to disobey unlawful orders.

Article II of the Constitution states, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States." However, Article I specifies that only Congress has the power to declare war. Taken together, the articles convey that the president commands the armed forces once Congress authorizes war.

The president can only use military force in self-defense or to forestall an imminent attack. There must exist "a necessity of self-defense, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation," under the well-established Caroline Case. A president has no lawful authority to order a first-strike nuclear attack.

As the heated rhetoric with North Korean president Kim Jong-Un escalated, Trump tweeted that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was "wasting his time" by pursuing diplomacy with North Korea. Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea. During his visit to South Korea earlier this month, Trump distinguished his administration from prior ones, who refrained from using nuclear weapons against North Korea. "This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past," he said. "Do not underestimate us. And do not try us."

Well, Mr. Dotard Putz, do not try us,  the citizens of this nation. My paternal ancestors have been here since before the Revolutionary War and one even fought in it - for the Pennsylvania Regiment. We are not about to let a vermin rat like you destroy everything this country stands for - no matter how much your sick fuck "base" eggs you on in your psychopathy. In the meantime, we applaud those like Gen. Hyten who vow to stand against any reckless orders issued.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

No RAT (Like Mick Mulvaney) Should Be Put In Charge Of The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Image result for brane space, rat Mulvaney"

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was launched with great fanfare back in 2012 when President Obama finally had to act on behalf of consumers who'd too often been taken to the cleaners by assorted financial rats.  The biggest scam of all, of course, was the use of credit default swaps and their role in the 2008 financial meltdown.  These were basically financial bets - say on losses to be had by this or that bank, mortgage company, pension source - and were buried in dozens of financial instruments, especially collateralized mortgage obligations or CMOs.

In one FORTUNE article, ‘The $55 TRILLION Question', October, 2009, p. 135).Frank Partnoy- an economics professor and Morgan Stanley derivatives salesman was quoted thusly:

"The big problem is there are so many public companies- banks and corporations, and no one really knows how much exposure they have to CDS (credit default swap) contracts."

Since most CDS contracts were made "on the fly" in no formal mode, and often by word of mouth on cell phones (ibid.) no one even knew where all the $55 trillion of this toxic waste was buried. As another hedge fund operator (Chris Wolf) quoted in the article put it:

"This has become essentially the dark matter of the financial universe"

When the stuff was located, as banks etc. had to come clean (finally) it nearly brought down the entire financial system via a vast credit seizure.  In the wake of this debacle, President Barack Obama knew he had to act and approved of the  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - the original brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

At the time Obama named Richard Cordray, a respected former attorney general of Ohio, to be the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, after giving up hope for a confirmation vote in the Senate. The appointment meant the agency would be able to oversee a vast swath of lending companies and others accused at times of preying on consumers with shady practices.

In political terms, some media outlets portrayed Obama's move as "unapologetically brazen, the equivalent of a haymaker at Republicans in the Senate who had blocked his nominee". But in more sober and rational terms, Obama simply responded in kind to the fierce opposition and GOP obstructionism which had paralyzed many facets of his administration since he came to office.

The first move of the new  CFPB head, and one long overdue, was to demand simplified language for credit card and financial forms  (e.g. loans) . Hitherto, the language had been so dense and replete with mumbo-jumbo escape and conditional clauses that most Ph.D.s  in linguistics or English couldn't make sense out of it. In fact, had the Repukes  truly been for the little guys that they claim, they'd have applauded such simplification instead of trying to retain it.

But as we know Repukes are in the pockets of Business, whores to corporations and hyper-rich fatcats like the Koch brothers.   They view the "little guy"  basically as a collection of stupid pawns to be sacrificed when and where they see fit - to feed the extras to the rich.

That is exactly why the generic Repuke hates the CFPB.

Consumer groups hailed Obama's decision but as one might expect, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce balked and warned it was so legally shaky that the consumer bureau's work may be compromised. Of course, this is palpable horse manure. It isn't legally "shaky" at all, except in the minds of those who would screw consumers.

Flash forward now to the current impasse with Cordray having left but who promoted his assistant Leandra English  to interim director of the CFPB  on Friday. Trump, a.k.a. Dotard, countered by naming the Mick Mulvaney - already director of the Office of Management and Budget.  Recall Mulvaney is an incorrigible sleaze bag and rat who pushed for a despicable Donnie  Dotard budget back in March to cut programs such as "Meals on Wheels".   

The program is often the only lifeline many  oldsters and disabled vets have to getting decent nutrition because they're no longer mobile or able to drive.  The Meals on Wheels personnel also provide regular social  contact for people who may otherwise see no one for days or even weeks. As one WaPo writer noted at the time, one year's benefit from 'Meals on Wheels' for a senior is equivalent to his spending one day in the hospital.

Mulvaney at the same time also insisted on scrapping the School Meals program, claimng  "there is no demonstrable evidence school meals programs actually work". In fact, there is ample evidence, including here in Colo. where many kids depend on those meals to get them through the day's classes, so they aren't distracted by hunger. Of, course, the POS Mulvaney probably never had to go through a day's hunger at his posh elementary school.

But this is the rat the Mega -Rat Dotard has now appointed as head of the CFPB.   The stage was set for conflict  yesterday, when Leandra English and Mulvaney duly sent rival emails to the CFPB’s 1,600 employees, the Washington Post reported. First, English wrote: “I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. With Thanksgiving in mind, I wanted to take a moment to share my gratitude to all of you for your service.”  She signed off the message with the title “Acting Director.”

But it was Mulvaney, carrying a paper bag of doughnuts for staff, who entered the Director’s office at CFPB headquarters. He fired back: It has come to my attention that Ms. English has reached out to many of you this morning via email in an attempt to exercise certain duties of the acting director. This is unfortunate but, in the atmosphere of the day, probably not unexpected. Please disregard any instructions you receive from Ms. English in her presumed capacity as acting director.”

The White House and congressional Republicans expressed confidence in Dotard's "authority" based on a 1998 federal law.   But recognizing the illegitimacy of the whole operation Leandra English filed suit on Sunday night in the US district court for the District of Columbia, asking for a declaratory judgment and a temporary restraining order.  If law has any more meaning in Trump's Amerikka  she  ought to get that restraining order. Even better, tossing Mulvaney into the ape or rat cage he really belongs.

Let us note here for the sake of clarity, that the CFPB was created as an act of moral authority and initiative  on behalf of millions of citizens besieged by all manner of finance (loan, banking, credit card) sharks. Up to now, the CFPB has spared citizens more than $12 b in fraudulent hits that would have been extracted from their hides had the agency not existed.  Does Mick Mulvaney car about any of this? Hell no! NO more than he cared in March about seniors not getting food from 'Meals on "Wheels' or hungry kids getting fed via the School Meals program.

Let's also be mindful of the fact that on Nov. 16 Mulvaney actually stated:

"I don't like the fact that CFPB exists, I will be perfectly honest with you."

Now, if he hates the fact the very existence of the agency he is supposed to lead, then it follows that he has NO moral authority to lead it. One cannot at the same time be against an agency's very existence and also head it. At least not in any moral capacity.   That would be like Adolf Hitler appointing Himmler in charge of the Theresienstadt  camp and Himmler saying:  "I don't like the fact that Jews exist, I will be perfectly honest with you."

Would you really expect Himmler to attend to the needs of the Jews in that camp? Or, would he more likely dispatch them to the nearest gas chambers at Auschwitz?  I defy anyone to convince me Mulvaney's motives are any different with respect to the life, activities and influence of the CFPB!

Mulvaney, therefore, is just a large rat "guarding" the vulnerable eggs in a henhouse. In this case, instead of eggs the latter is full of citizen safeguards in respect of finance. Also, appointed by the illegitimate Dotard (himself a treasonous Russian backed rat) Mulvaney has no legal authority either.  That is my take and you are free to disagree with it if you will - but there it is.  And I don't give one damn what any judge rules.

Barney Frank, the retired Massachusetts Democrat who was one of the authors of the law that created the CFPB, told CNN on Monday that Trump and Republicans were seeking to weaken the agency in an administrative fashion, rather than legislative, because it was popular for its work standing up to banks, mortgage companies, loan companies and debt collectors on behalf of ordinary Americans.
The CPFB, he said, was “fighting the big interests on the battlefield every day”.

Dem Senator Dick Durbin perhaps put it best in terms of Mulvaney, Wall Street and the CFPB:

"Wall Street hates it like the devil hates holy water,” Durbin said. “And they’re trying to put an end to it.”

And those of us who've studied the Malleus Malleficarum know that the "Devil" needs  demons to do his dirty work for him. That, of course, is where Mick Mulvaney comes in - keeping our analogies straight.

See also:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Another Intertel "Genius" Exposed As A Global Warming Denier Fool

Global warmin' just a ploy for socialists to take over!

In a recent essay appearing in 'Port of Call' (Intertel Region VII's NL) Jeffry R. Fisher  devoted considerable space to ideas for enhancing our nation's economic growth and efficiency.   For example, in one segment he proposed moving the current capital (in Washington, D.C.)  to "a more central location" - say "on the border between Nebraska and Colorado." This is his alternative "better solution", instead of giving the citizens of the District of Columbia two Senators and a House rep.  Besides, the new central location would then have:  "adequate highways, more interstate access, airport, commuter and distant rail locations".

Yeah, right,  Fisher's going to go for a more central geography at the expense of the very identity of the nation's capital.  Or....maybe down the line he will also propose moving the capital's historic landmarks, including Capitol Bldg., Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial etc. to the Nebraska - Colorado border?  Methinks just giving D.C. representation would be a far easier - and much more practical - solution!

Having read this nonsense one can imagine what his solution for better policy on global warming would be.  According to Fisher:  "We need to rethink the way we research 'Global Warming' (climate change)".   WHY?  The way we research it currently (thousands of peer-reviewed papers in professional journals)  is just fine and has brought us to a much better grasp of how the climate is changing. This is from Prof. Gunter Weller's work on the rapidly thawing Arctic, to the enhanced role of methane as the permafrost melts, to the acidification of the oceans  - and the increasing moisture content of the atmosphere. (See my previous post).

But this isn't good enough for Fisher because well, "there are so many political axes to grind, there's no way a collegial system of peer review can function correctly."  

Says WHO?   In fact, the existing system of peer review functions just fine for  dozens of professional journals and thousands of climate scientists - real ones, not paid hacks or frauds.  These journals  still dictate the highest professional standards and adherence to empirical data and consistent models, as opposed to wishful thinking and pseudo-scientific, quasi-political bull crap.

To Fisher and his suspicious cohort in the "HI-Q" societies - who fancy themselves critical thinkers and debunkers - peer review is all about giving global warming proponents a leg up over their contrarian colleagues. Of course this is total rubbish, and in fact shows a serious lack of critical thinking. Scientists - from fields as diverse as anthropology to astronomy  - like professionals in other fields (e.g. finance, economics, history etc.), actually compete for scarce resources.  They are not about to help a competitor - say with a competing model or theory - be published merely because they propose global warming models.  Thus, if anything,  peer review is likely to be even more brutal than for deniers.

What Fisher is really saying here is:

"There are so many political and economical axes to grind by my skeptic side that we can't get our stuff published in the current system!"

I concede Fisher has good reason to think or believe this given virtually no denier  papers are published in peer-reviewed professional climate science journals. They are generally dismissed precisely because they lack the basics of scientific authority - including: proper data selection, bias-free  analysis, consistent interpretation of data, and appropriate mathematical techniques. Hence, their papers are tagged as the opposite of  authoritative science.

Fisher's objection is really that  the peer review process poses too formidable an impediment for denier ("skeptic")  codswallop.  He instead wants any old trash to see publication to further bamboozle the masses who may never have taken a thermal physics course. By contrast, those without any ulterior political or economic agenda are willing to subject their research to rigorous peer review. They  don't cry and whine about "bias" or "propaganda" when a paper is rejected. They act like adults are supposed to and carefully go through the referee's criticisms and seek to correct the errors.

So what does this genius want to do instead? Well, he wants to ditch the peer review process entirely.  What does he want to replace it with?  Well, he wants to have basically two  teams go at it in an "adversarial system" - say like two teams of lawyers would in court.

The dope doesn't even grasp that such a stupid system is not based on scientific data or its merits at all, but subjective arguments. Still he claims the opposite,  as when he writes:

"Each side has a no-pretense partisan advocate backed up by staff doing research.  All sides meet periodically in a battle royal - preceded by a discovery phase in which each side published its claims, its methods, its data, its methods, its models' source code etc.  All sides cross examine each other's witnesses."

Can others also see why this is fulsome twaddle, and science - properly done- cannot be carried out like in a court room?    Why not? Well, because we base physical science (of which climate science is a sub-discipline) on existing well- accepted principles that best describe the objective phenomena under investigation,  as well as models that comport with those phenomena.  We also adopt the models and analytical methods that best reflect the principles.  This is not a matter for courtroom grandstanding, debate - even in "a battle royal."  There can be no "battle royal" if all parties agree on what the objective phenomena are and how they are measured from the outset. The problem is that the denier brigade doesn't agree because they know that to do so undermines their true premise: that it is the capitalist economy which trumps all.

What Fisher is really proposing is a kind of academic cage match as when he writes:

"At the end the battered sides retreat to their respective labs to lick their wounds, improve their models and methods and prep for the next meeting."

To what end? Just to go round and round with deniers and real scientists (weighted the same by Fisher's false equivalence)  going back and forth with no ultimate resolution?   Fisher likely can't even see this is the very essence of the agnotology that the denier side has been invoking since day one.  To refresh people's memories -  agnotology,- derived from the Greek 'agnosis', is a PR category to promote culturally constructed ignorance. It is achieved primarily by sowing the teeniest nugget of doubt in whatever claim is made.

It shouldn't take a near genius I.Q. to see the ideal way to achieve this is to set up a fictitious, straw man ("skeptic") side to oppose the genuinely scientific side - and have them go head to head in endless debates.   After all, there's just so much "uncertainty"!  How can you not go to the fabled adversarial model?  Let each side try the other's case and the one that does the best prosecution wins. (Interestingly there is no 'judge' to adjudicate the "battle royal".)  What could be wrong?  

Well, everything, because that's not how science works! Science progresses by incremental steps, which we call successive approximations. Basically then, each new datum is integrated into the existing model(s)  to enhance them in order to predict new data - which are then compared to what we actually observe. This has led us to the present understanding of our warming planet and that includes insights such as:  the current CO2 concentration is 403 ppm, every increase in CO2 concentration by 2 ppm increases the radiative heating effect by 2 W/ m2, and, the planet's heat balance currently being out of kilter by  0.6 W/ m2.

Opposed to this is Fisher's prescription for  adversarial agnosis but now in the guise of court room proceedings with each side engaged with the other in a series of "battle royals".  No, you can't make this stuff up.  (But neither could one make up the notion of moving the nation's capital to the Nebraska-Colorado border!)

Fisher's arguments in defense of this "adversarial"  system are even loopier, e.g.

"If my strategy is sound then each cycle of research and confrontation will force the sides to converge on something approaching "truth". In addition, all of us on the sidelines can gain confidence that what we eventually get is in fact the truth and not somebody's dogmatic propaganda."

But clearly the two sides can never ever "converge in something approaching truth" because genuine science can make no compromises with pseudo-science. We don't see Darwinian biologists allowing for theologic creation in certain species, any more than astronomers allow some planets - like Earth - to be flat and others spherical. It is total bollocks, so Fisher is wallowing in self-delusion.

 He then claims it's important we (e.g. in the US of A) do this because "the rest of the world is committed to climate alarm propaganda".  In other words they embrace at least some lowering of carbon emissions, as prescribed by the Paris Climate Treaty.

Which is total nonsense.

Of course, Fisher's adversarial strategy has already been shown not to work given his skeptic, actually pseudo -skeptic side- have been consistent losers. It is, after all, HIS side that has failed to get their papers published in respected journals because they have not met even minimal standards as I have described earlier.  For example, Willie Soon's bunkum, e.g.

Ignoring clowns like Willie Soon, there are few others with whom Fisher can stack his pseudo-skeptic side, so why even waste the time? The matter for all intents has been settled whether Fisher and his clique of HI Q deniers like it or not  As noted by P. T. Doran and M. Kendall-Zimmerman(Eos Transactions, Vol. 90, No. 3, ,p. 24) :

The debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely non-existent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.”

The problem, as we know, is that those like Fisher have no clue concerning the underlying physical principles - even basic thermal physics.  Hell, I defy Fisher or any one of his "climate alarm" conspiracy compadres to get even 50 % in this basic thermal physics test:

To be sure, this denier lot hurl up science smokescreens because they are averse to embracing real climate science. This is because they are all about ideology!   We now know, thanks to the research of Yale prof Dan Kahan,  that "strategies" like the one espoused by Fisher are determined by deep-seated political values and cultural identities. Thus, a white libertarian member of  Intertel, for example, will see REAL global warming science  (as validated by peer review) as a dire threat against his precious conservative economic values and capitalist system.

This threat is then attributed to "global warming alarmism" which is tied to "dogmatic propaganda". Fisher proves my point that he'd never accept the real climate side anyway when he babbles at the end:

"So eliminate all funding for any and all orthodox view climate scare mongering and give all that money to iconoclasts and skeptics"

In other words, give it to the fraud side. Note before this he even acknowledges the need to stack his mock climate court, i.e. "even if the truth is close to the orthodox view" etc.  Yeah, even if the truth is close we will "eliminate any funding for the orthodox view".  (By which he really means the consensus view - since these climate change dolts....errrr....deniers,  are unable to accept there can be such agreement on real climate science and real climate change. Why not? Because they don't know anything!)

 In fact, according to Dan Kahan's theory, these high IQ skeptics don't really have the time (or inclination) to evaluate the global warming evidence that comes before them (say ice cores containing CO2) so they basically punt.  Instead of rationally and objectively evaluating the existing evidence they imbibe specious and spurious refuse  -generated by fakes like Willie Soon. They use their arguments to try to trash the climate science consensus - which they mislabel the "orthodox view" - that human induced warming is real, e.g.

At a deeper level, the pseudo skeptics like Fisher understand that stopping actual climate science is the highest priority for their warped economic system to prevail. Otherwise, it must be discarded for a system with emphasis on collective action and welfare. Nowhere has this been better articulated than by Naomi Klein in her recent book, 'NO Is Not Enough - Resisting Trump's Shock Politics'.   She writes (p. 81):

"Climate change, especially at this late date, can only be dealt with by collective action that sharply curtails the behavior of corporations such as ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs. It demands investments in the public sphere - in new energy grids, public transit, light rail, and more energy efficiency....and that can only happen by raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

In short, climate change detonates the ideological scaffolding on which contemporary conservatism rests."

I believe Fisher and his misguided ilk are smart enough to grasp that Naomi Klein has distilled their position to a tee. It is not about science so all this balderdash about pairing adversaries against each other - with opposing "data, methods, models, code"  etc. - is total bullshit.  It's bullshit because there is only ONE set of data, of models, etc. that matters.  The other side's is as phony as a 3 dollar bill, and I suspect Fisher already knows that.

In effect, Fisher's lot grasps that the issue really is about "detonating the ideological scaffolding" of modern day economic conservatism to which they are committed and they can't have it. They can't tolerate it.  Fair enough, then at least be honest!  Drop the pseudo-scientific baloney and admit once and for all that this is about protecting the capitalist economic system. Then, instead of wasting their time and ours by creating fabulist versions of climate science,  talk straight about the real concerns, and how we might work together to ameliorate them. 

But don't hold your breath.

Friday, November 24, 2017

"Rivers From The Skies" - The Nature of Mega Thunderstorms in a Climate Change Future

The new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on Monday was sober and unrelentingly grim. It points to a future - thanks to ramping up climate change-  of mega thunderstorms that will spawn such monster deluges they've been compared to "rivers in the skies" by one of the study's authors.

Think of what happened to New Orleans with Katrina and more recently to Houston with Harvey. Now try to imagine either scenario but with 60-80 percent more precipitation.

The U.S. in recent years has experienced prolonged drenchings that have doused Nashville in 2010, West Virginia and Louisiana in 2016 and Houston this year. The disasters cost about $20 billion a year in damage. Now, imagine the costs ten times more with the much wilder, vaster storms - covering entire metropolitan areas of cities.

By the end of century if emissions aren’t curbed, these deluges will be much worse because they will get bigger, said Andreas Prein, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, who led the study.

Prein and colleagues used high-resolution computer simulations to see how global warming will likely change the large thunderstorms that are already daily summer events in North America. Previous studies projected more frequent and wetter storms, but this is the first research to show they likely will be more widespread, covering an entire city instead of just half of it.

We see increases that are beyond our expectationsfar beyond our expectations,” Prein said. “It looks everything that can go wrong does go wrong concerning flooding.”

With the size of the storm factored in, according to Prein,  the total amount of rain in the U.S. South is projected to jump 80 percent between now and the end of the century.  For Mexico, the increase in rainfall would be 70 percent and 60 percent in the U.S. Southwest. Canada and the rest of the U.S. should expect a 40 percent rain increase from current levels.

About half of those increases are from the storms being larger, Prein said. These types of storms include tropical storms, but most of the storms studied are average thunderstorms.

"You can really think about these storms as rivers that come from the skies,” Prein said. “The largest ones are several times the Mississippi River discharge.”

Where is all this latent moisture coming from?  We already know the answer from basic thermal physics.  We can use the well known   Clausius-Clapeyron equation   to  ascertain that for every 0.5 C increase in warming there corresponds a  roughly 3% increase in average atmospheric moisture content.  For a climate 1 to 1.5C warmer than several decades ago this translates to an enhanced atmospheric moisture content of up to 9 percent.   One hundred years hence, hitting the 6 C temperature threshold, we are looking at an average 36 percent increased moisture content world wide.  Hence the looming risk of "rivers that come from the skies."

The costs of insurance, namely flood insurance, will soar - even in the U.S. southwest (projected to have a 60 percent  increase in precip -including hail).  This assumes people will be able to even purchase it. The takeaway from all this is that the incredible "gully washers" we see today will be like small rain bursts compared to what is experienced in the future.  As I've told my great nieces, nephews, be sure you get ready for it because you are the ones who will have to deal with it.

To read a summary of Prein et al's  paper, go to:

Amidst The Tide Of Abuse Allegations - The Risk Of Trivialization & Overkill

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"What we owe all people, including women, is to listen to them and to respect them and to take them seriously. But we don’t owe anyone our unthinking belief. “Trust but verify” may not have the same ring as “believe all women.” But it’s a far better policy."- Bari Weiss, NY Times

As more allegations of "inappropriate touching" come from female accusers of Sen. Al Franken, the whole abuse meme threatens to get out of control and bring down the entire #MeToo  movement by trivialization.  This isn't just whistling Dixie either. After more accusations of "verbal bullying put downs" came from a former female staffer (Melanie Sloan) of Rep. John Conyers, even wifey had appeared to have had enough saying: "This is ridiculous! All these women coming out with these trivial complaints (compared to those against Roy Moore) now risk degrading and trivializing the whole movement!"

She has a point, and whether people want to hear it or not there is such thing as indignation overkill.  Right now as the allegations of sexual harassment and minor abuse ("butt pinching", "verbal abuse' etc.) continue,  the whole impetus is threatened by implosion if  serious violations get conflated with minor or trivial ones.  Some outspoken feminists and defenders of women's rights  have actually come out in public and insisted "Zero tolerance!"   Meaning that even the slightest perceived infraction must receive the full, maximal weight of penalty. In other words, analogous to putting a jaywalker in a gas chamber.

But this is bonkers and counterproductive. If all infractions major and minor receive the same condemnation and sanction - say expulsion from office and equal destruction of reputation -  then there is total loss of balance, of moral perspective. In that case, what we end up with is a misfiring moralism and an atmosphere of feeding frenzy, not morality.  We end up with absolutism as opposed to conscious interpolation of actions differing in intent and transgressive impact. 

While I've been tempted to describe what's happening now as bordering on hysteria, my great niece Shayl (completing her psych Ph.D.) disagrees and compares the incipient atmosphere to the witch burning frenzy of the Middle Ages. While "hysteria" suggests individuals affected, the frenzy denotes an atmosphere of imbalance and unreason. For example, one beheld mainly elderly women led to dreadful torments based on mere allegations, including (Malleus Maleficarum , p. 68):

i) Her spouse (if any) being unable to “perform the carnal act”

ii) A female friend is prevented from conceiving or miscarries after she conceives.

iii) Possession of specific herbs such as “savin”.

Later, the ownership of a cat or cats was deemed evidence of  consulting a "familiar" or minor demonic entity.  In the age of witch burning, the "MeToo" meme (mind virus)  manifested as "She cursed me too!" Or "Her cat looked at me in an evil way!"

In each case, for each type of witch,  Kramer and Sprenger's  book gave the formula for extracting the confession. Worse was how easily a poor innocent woman could be suspected of being a witch since the threshold criteria were so low and subjective.  Shayl observed the same low criteria apply now, say in the case of the "inappropriate touching" allegations made by Franken's recent accusers. "It's too subjective!" she asserted, "What does that mean anyway? It could mean different touches for different women. The most innocent contact could be construed as 'inappropriate'!"

Let me add in conjunction with this that new polls disclose males are less likely to give cardio-pulmonary resuscitation to a female because of the possibility she will later cry 'Foul'. In other words, this frenzy about touching is no laughing matter, it could cost a young, single woman her life!

What is needed  instead of "zero tolerance" absolutism is to arrive at a weighing or interpolation of actions based on critical thinking combined with the exercise of ethical provisionalism. Just as provisional ethics provides a reasonable middle ground between absolute and  relative systems, it also provides a middle ground for sanctions imposed on a scale of actions or infractions.  Thus, while one may rightly demand a capital punishment (say lethal injection) for a mass murderer of infants in their cribs, one may not do so for a jaywalker.

The scale of infraction is vastly different, hence it is madness to apply the same sanction to both violations.  By the same token, provisional ethics bids us withhold the hand of punitive extremism, say for infractions like Al Franken's,  compared to those of  Roy Moore (sexually assaulting children).  Hence it is also madness to demand the expulsion of Al Franken for his alleged violations, which are nowhere in the same league as Moore's.  It is also nonsense to demand Franken's resignation if you don't also demand Donnie Dotard's for his much more malicious "grabbing pussies".

Former GOP Rep. (FL) Dave Jolly put it well in his appearance on Lawrence O''Donnell's show on Wednesday, that "we have to take care to distinguish fallibility from criminality".  This is especially as Mr. Jolly expects many more allegations to erupt in the coming weeks. As these further accusations pile up one must bear in mind that Roy Moore's advances on underage girls amount to the criminality (pedophilia), but Al Franken's mock grope of  Leeann Tweeden  does not.  Neither do his "inappropriate touches" - construed as such by assorted women who posed with him in takes at the MN state fair.

If Franken did cross a line in his accusers' minds it more likely was an  instance of over familiarity and perhaps fallibility.   It is also an overstep a male teacher can easily make - say in the jubilant moment a female student exceeds beyond all expectations in a science fair project - and hugs her without thinking. Is he guilty of "inappropriate touching" for being spontaneous?  As Shayl would put it "Give me a break!"

 And let us pause here to note again that not all allegations made by women are true, especially if there is no clear evidence of such. While we desire to give women's claims of sexual harassment validation, we cannot ignore the possibility that there may also be ulterior motives in play- and bad actors.  These motives (and strategies) didn't just originate recently but have been around for decades under the guise of "dirty tricks" -  e.g. since the Nixon campaign's tactics against Dems in 1968 and 1972..

As I pointed out to wifey (and she agreed) what better way  - in the wake of the  Roy Moore tarnishing of the GOP - to bring down Dem efforts to take back the House next year?  All the Roger Stone- trained hit team would need to do is hire dozens of female moles to come out of the woodwork at different times and make all kinds of allegations against sitting Dems.   At the very least - even if the accused parties weren't forced to resign - those less substantive allegations ("He pinched my ass!") would cast such a pall as to make their lives and service almost unmanageable.  Worse, most of this could be done - in the current climate- without demanding one scintilla of hard evidence. Just validate whatever accusations as part of #MeToo.

As John Conyer's lawyer Arnold Reed put it yesterday:

"If people were required to resign over mere allegations a lot of people would be out of work in this country, including the president."

This is exactly why we have a standard of jurisprudence in this country that says a person is innocent until proven guilty. But with the tidal wave of new allegations we are expected to dismiss or forget that standard and just toss Franken and Conyers  (to start) out based on sketchy, subjective allegations.

Unlike Franken's photo showing him mock groping  Leeann Tweeden  there isn't anything - other than his latest accusers' words - to prove Franken's "butt pinches" or "inappropriate touching"  occurred.  We have no distaff side images of his hands doing any gropes or pinches, only what they claim. That simply isn't good enough given : 1) it risks conflation of serious abuse with minor forms, and 2) it risks degrading the whole effort of women who've been seriously violated - to come forward, and 3) it risks casting suspicion of a political hit job or dirty tricks, with the 2018 mid terms approaching.

Even Left blogger Amanda Marcotte - after Tweeden's more justified accusation (with an actual photo to back it up) - has suspected her claim of being a Reepo dirty trick.  However, she's perversely invoked that to insist Franken resign -which is total bollocks. According to Marcotte "if this is a political stunt then the people behind it surely want Franken to stay". Thus, she tried to make the case that Franken "take one for the team"- which, of course,  would demonstrate to the GOP the dirty trick worked.

Bottom  line: it's critical now to distinguish between minor and serious violations, as Dave Jolly noted . If you got your butt pinched in a one off  ten years ago, deal with it, don't make a federal case out of it  now .  Unless the violation is of the most egregious type, don't turn it into a capital crime just to jump on the #MeToo bandwagon. Be conscious then that we are in a conflationary environment or a "frenzied atmosphere" to use Shayl's parlance.

Even political contributor Michelle Goldberg, on All In Wednesday  evening, seemed to be dithering with respect to Roy Moore's serious abuse of young girls, and Franken's (alleged) butt pinches of adult women. She actually whined at one point: "I  just don't know if I can go on splitting hairs about these things".

Sorry, Michelle, but you do have to keep making distinctions and it's NOT "splitting hairs"!  Franken's mock groping of Leeann Tweeden and assorted, alleged butt pinches (if true) of adult women - while immature and disrespectful  emphatically are NOT on the level of what the Alabamy slime ball Roy Moore has been doing, including to a young girl of 14. Anyone who tries to equate those two things on a moral spectrum is guilty of false equivalence. It is also up to those of us capable of critical thinking to make that distinction clear.

So let's not talk of 'splitting hairs' - let's talk of separating a cholera bacteria from one that maybe causes salmonella.

The worst thing we can do now is get intellectually sloppy with our categories of offense, and become too lazy to make the necessary distinctions. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Discovering "Hot Jupiter" Exoplanets Using CUTE (Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment )

Hot Jupiter illustration
Artist's depiction of vaporization of a Jupiter-sized exoplanet

In our solar system, there are no "hot Jupiters". The only Jupiter we know is a frigid (-161 C) gas giant:
Jupiter and its shrunken Great Red Spot.jpg
It is some 86,000 miles in (mean) diameter, and at a distance of 5.2 AU (778 million km) from the Sun.   Given that semi-major axis distance then by Kepler's 3rd law of planetary motion, the orbital period would be 11. 86 years.

But now consider another, distant solar system which features a "hot Jupiter" as an exoplanet.  A hot Jupiter is a giant gaseous planet that orbits close to its parent star.  Unlike Jupiter this planet  takes only a couple of days to complete a trip compared to the 88 days it takes Mercury to orbit the Sun.  How close would a planet have to be to its Sun to complete an orbit in 2 days? By  Kepler's 3rd law:

3 = P 2

Where P = 0.006 yr.  So:  a = [P 21/3   =   0.033 AU

Or, just over 3 million miles distant, which is approximately 12 times closer to its Sun than Mercury is in our own solar system.  At this close distance the parent star would dump 400 times more radiation into the nearby planet, superheating it. This would then cause the planet's atmospheric gas and particles to move ever faster until they exceed the escape velocity, shooting out of the large planet’s gravitational pull.  This would have the general appearance of a large comet - hence is  represented by the depiction shown in the graphic.

Now introduce the Colorado Ultraviolet Transit Experiment or CUTE, a shoebox-sized satellite equipped with a telescope that will launch in 2020. Its objective will be to study 12 to 20 exoplanets:  gigantic gaseous planets called “hot Jupiters, which have evaporating atmospheres trailing behind them akin to a comet.

In February, NASA allocated $3.3 million of funding for four years to the CUTE project. CUTE will leave the lab at University of Colorado-Boulder where it is being built in 2020 to hitch a ride to space along with another NASA mission. It will still be operated from the CU campus — with the help of students — as it remains in low orbit around Earth for a year, studying these “hot Jupiters.”

If all goes well, the CUTE team will ask NASA for approval to continue the research.  The candidates sought as hot Jupiters will have certain signatures for sure. In particular, the CUTE team will seek evidence for a planet which becomes "big and puffy" and  continues trucking around its star as stellar wind drags the atmosphere into a tail.

Hot Jupiters aren’t found in our solar system because no gas giants are found any nearer our Sun than Jupiter at 5.2 AU..  Our space neighborhood doesn’t even have the most common planet in the Milky Way: a "Super-Earth", or a sub-Neptune as some call it. This is a planet that’s a little bit larger by volume,  and a bit more massive than Earth.

The hot Jupiter phenomenon was first discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope.  But no such entity has ever  actually been photographed. The discovery is made by the indirect light curve method, e.g.
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 Thus, any planet that passes in front of its Sun blocks most of the light. But scientists have (in this caae0 noticed times when a planet had already passed its star but the light continued to be partially blocked, as though something was trailing it. This tipped researchers off to the planets’ tails.

The CUTE team includes Kevin France - the project leader and assistant professor at the CU Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and other LASP researchers. The latter include professional research assistant Rick Kohnert, engineers and several graduate students. CU’s Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences research professor Brian Fleming is also part of the team.

Outside of CU, the CUTE team includes researchers from the University of Arizona, the Space Research Institute of the American Academy of Science in Graz, Austria, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, the University of Toulouse, France, and the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
When asked if the CUTE acronym was intentional, one team leader (France)  let out an extended “yeah” and then started to laugh.

When casual observers ask 'what's it all for'?  France and his team deliver a solid, coherent responose - as articulated by Kevin France himself:

"All of exoplanetary science is about understanding our place in the universe. It ties into all of those big picture questions. Are we alone? Is Earth unique? Are there other solar systems like ours?"

The CUTE project will go a long way toward answering many of those questions, and the UC team should be proud of its role.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

One End Of Life Care Decision You Better Not Get Wrong

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Reading the posts in the prostate cancer survivor group to which I belong is sometimes enough to get you depressed for days. And that's why I only read them now occasionally, especially as the cryotherapy results are still ambiguous in terms of getting rid of my cancer. Some of the more depressing posts are made by those who've already gone through three or even four treatments only to have the cancer return. By that point many are exhausted and this is downright understandable. Why keep going on if it looks like I'm going to lose the battle anyway?

The medical complex, of course, wants (and often demands) we go on until there is essentially zero chance of changing the game. Hence, they regard the palliative option as failure, even though added treatments may only marginally increase life - but usually at the expense of life quality. (E.g. hormone treatments for advanced prostate cancer can increase life by 1-3 years but usually with side effects including: memory loss, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular problems, enlarged and tender breasts, shrunken testicles, zero libido and hot flashes such as suffered by menopausal females.).  Most do agree that if a guy has recurrent disease and a biopsy - PET scan shows it has spread to the bones ("bone mets"), his days are basically numbered - though certain treatments (e.g. Radium 223 or "Xoftigo") will allow some limited life extension.
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The PET scan image above shows bone mets even in the spine. Each met is in reality a locus of prostate cancer.  Most oncologists examining this image would say the guy's days are numbered and the best option is just to make his final months- days comfortable, say with hospice care.

When, in June 2016,  I confronted my primary care physician and told her -  after the latest PSA test came back at 6.0 - that I planned to do nothing more, she asked what options I had. The first thing that came to mind was hospice care.  She wouldn't hear of it. Short of strapping me down to the exam table and coercing me, she said I HAD to see the urologist and listen to what he said concerning the latest fusion biopsy-MRI results .  "What's wrong with hospices?"  I asked, incredulous.  She replied, "Nothing, IF you manage to get one that tends to your needs and has the staff to meet them".

At the time, though I believed this was balmy, I did comply with her urging and went on to get a 3D staging biopsy at UCHealth in January of 2017, then focal cryotherapy in June of this year.

It wasn't until yesterday, in the latest TIME magazine (Nov.27-Dec. 4, p. 50) I came across the hair raising accounts of what can go awry under hospice care in the article 'Hospices Promise Peace At The End But Many Don't Deliver'.  It started with the horrific story of a 66-year old physician who chose hospice care at Mat-Su Regional Home Health and Hospice Care in Alaska, and when he needed it most, couldn't even get pain meds or a catheter.  According to the piece:

"Patricia had enrolled her husband in hospice when the metastatic prostate cancer reached his brain."

(If you check the PET scan image above you will see the black mets in one patient's brain, taken from a UCSF study)

Continuing (ibid.):

"She expected him to receive the same kind of compassionate, timely attention that he had given his own patients. But Bob had the misfortune to require care during a long holiday weekend when hospices are too often short-staffed to fulfill written commitments to families. The consequences, as documented through a review of written documents and interviews are dire."

In the case of Dr. Robert E. Martin "it took six days and many calls before he received the liquid methadone he needed"

To add insult to injury:

"The Hospice denied Patricia's request for a catheter and she and her son had to cut away Bob's urine-soaked clothing and bedding, trying not to cause him additional pain. A nurse who was supposed to visit never showed up, saying she was called for jury duty. The supervising hospice doctor never responded. Bob died just after midnight on Jan. 4, 2014."

So in effect, this is what my PCP was trying to spare me, or at least the chance of ending up in such a place by having to play "Hospice roulette".    This, despite the fact - as the article points out - the Martins had entrusted Bob's care "to one of the nation's 4,000 -plus hospice agencies which pledge to tend to a dying person's physical, emotional and spiritual needs."

Can you say travesty? I can!  Some facts pertaining to hospices in the US of A extracted from the article:

- Hospice is currently a nearly $20 billion a year business which serves 1.4 million Medicare patients (including over a third of Americans who died the same year as Bob)

- The mission of hospice is to leave patients and their loved ones in control at the end of life.

- Hospice care is available through Medicare to critically ill patients expected to die within 6 months who agree to forgo curative treatment.

- To get paid by Medicare hospice agencies must lay out a plan of care for each patient, snsuring they'll treat all symptoms of the patient's illness and be on call 24/7.

- Hospices must stipulate in each patient's care plan what services will be provided, when and by whom and update the plan every 15 days.

-  Hospices are licensed by state health agencies and subject to oversight by federal Medicare officials and private accreditation groups.

- Though many people think of hospice as a site where people go to die, nearly half of hospice patients receive care at home.  (This was the case for my mother who died of Alzheimer's in November of 2014.)

The above basically outlines the game plan of how the hospice system is supposed to work and what underpins it in terms of the regulations. (Which you can be sure will be upended if the GOOPs tax plan goes through and Medicare is cut to the tune of $25b a year).

For example, an investigation by Kaiser Health News in collaboration with TIME "analyzed 20,000 government inspection records, revealing that missed visits and neglect were common."

In fact, "families or caregivers filed over 3,200 complaints with state officials in the past five years. These led government inspectors to find problems in 759 hospices - with more than half cited for missed visits or other services they had promised to provide."

Though CMS tightened the rules in 2014 - requiring states to increase their oversight and records reporting by 2018 - the hospices don't face inspection each year to retain certification. Indeed, the only sanction now is termination and "CMS records show that the termination is rare".   SO basically there is little or no accountability and hospice staff will figure they can still get paid by Medicare (which they do) even if the cut corners, fail to provide needed services - or even alter records (as one hospice nurse reportedly did - p. 53 - altering the time she had reported being at a home).

Without  stricter regs, and enforcement, we are thus facing a hospice care environment run by too many renegades.

Why should you care? Well, if you give one damn about how much money is now being spent on elder care in the last years, this is a no brainer.  As one writer (Josh Zepps) wrote in a 2016 'We The People Live' podcast:

Medicare costs more than $500 billion per annum, 30 percent of which is spent on the five percent of beneficiaries who die each year. One third of that is spent on the final month of life. The final month. I mean, you want to talk about priorities, let’s just take that one datum. More than $50 billion each year spent on the final month of life.

But - can he or anyone else blame seniors for grasping on to the "curative"  (treatment) straw at the end of their days, if the hospice situation means playing roulette with your care?   (As the TIME article notes, p. 52: "1 in 5 respondents said their hospice agency did not always show up when help was needed according to the Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems'")

So - though I am leery of spending any more money on prostate cancer treatments - especially if the latest treatment result goes south I am not about to risk going the way of "Dr. Bob" in Alaska playing hospice roulette - and not even being able to get a Foley catheter when needed. No, I will stick on the curative - treatment path so long as warranted (by my PCP, urologist and others).

A waste of money? Maybe. But if that's the case - and it likely is for many hundreds of thousands  - then we need to fix the damned hospice system so severely ill patients (and their families) can feel confident going that palliative route!