existentialism (133)

Diversity or Dystopia...

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Watch: Nichelle Nichols Tells The Story Of How Martin Luther King, Jr. Dissuaded Her From Quitting ‘Star Trek’ TrekMovie.com

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights, Star Trek

"It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine."

-- Martin Luther King, Jr., Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution, 31 March 1968, King Institute, Stanford University

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is the reason Nichelle Nicoles stayed with Star Trek after the first season. She wanted to return to her first love - theater, and Broadway.

As it turned out, Dr. King was the self-professed biggest fan, and what ensued was life-affirming for Nichelle Nichols. When speaking to NPR, she said: “He complimented me on the manner in which I’d created the character. I thanked him, and I think I said something like, ‘Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you.’ He said, ‘no, no, no. No, you don’t understand… You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for.'”

She continued: “I said, ‘Well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered…’ — and he stopped me and said: ‘You cannot do that.’ And I was stunned. He said, ‘Don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen.’ He says, ‘Do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch?’ I was speechless.'”

How Martin Luther King convinced Nichelle Nichols not to quit 'Star Trek', Mick McStarkey, Far Out Magazine, United Kingdom (Rest in Power, Nichelle Nichols)

Star Trek is the child of Gene Roddenberry, birthed at the height of the Civil Rights movement. This time was also the period of government surveillance of those same organizations by the FBI via COINTELPRO. It was a Pollyanish vision that two centuries in the future, we would mature from our societal adolescence, our tribal factions, and mature enough to work together, across cultures and worlds. Dr. Maya Angelou said "we grew up" after the inauguration of President Obama. We hoped we had.

Gene and his scriptwriters were products of the Second World War, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. Hence, in creative license, they somewhat hinted, that the utopia of the 23rd Century was preceded by a self-imposed, dystopian hellscape.

World War III was the last of Earth's three world wars, lasting from approximately 2026 to 2053. The conflict involved nuclear cataclysm as well as genocide and eco-terrorism. The post-atomic horror in the aftermath persisted as late as 2079.

The war was preceded by the Second Civil War and the Eugenics Wars, all of which were sometimes regarded as parts of a single escalating conflict. It resulted in the deaths of some 30% of the Human population, at least six hundred million people, and the extinction of six hundred thousand species of animals and plants. By the end, most of the major cities had been destroyed and there were few governments left.

Star Trek Memory Alpha: World War III

If you follow the link for the Second Civil War, it refers to contemporary concerns about a certain twice-impeached Oval Office resident and his rabid followers. The inset of scenes from the January 6th insurrection was ominous and brilliant social commentary in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. The first episode was both social commentary and warning: there are no benevolent Vulcans that will show up to clean up our nuclear mess after the discovery of a superluminal warp drive. With our luck, we'd encounter Klingons or Romulans. Social commentary and hope animated Dr. King's remarks to Nichelle/Uhura.

Social commentary is what Star Trek has always tried to do. Gene Roddenberry appealed to our secular better angels, our shared experience as humans beyond color or culture.

Viktor Orban was in Dallas, Texas yesterday. He received a standing ovation for his remarks about race mixing, the LGBT, and taking over universities and the press. This is fascism. The Republicans in Dallas are true RINOs and should have worn their white sheets. It is the aftermath of their patron saint, Ayn Rand's admiration of a serial killer, William Hickman: cruelty. Only a psychopath can admire a psychopath. Reagan admired Rand. What does it say about a party that makes her words the sacred scripture of apoplectic violence?

The reason fascism seems to be spreading across the globe is the same reason terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda spread across the globe: the Internet. We are now investing more in newsfeeds, tweets, and blogs that we can read on our ineptly-named "smart phones." There have always been factions - they are encouraged by the wealthy. It's better for the rubes to fight each other than use critical thinking on who the theaves are.

“If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best-colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you.”

― Lyndon B. Johnson

People are not leaving their homes because of whims or WWII Nazi survivor George Soros (a familiar racist trope). They are leaving because of failed governments in Central America affected by US trade policies such that there is effectively no middle class. Their daughters will be the prostitutes to drug lords and their sons will be the runners and soldiers for them. They are leaving because of wars in Somalia, Chechnya, and elsewhere so-called "strongmen" punch down on weaker populations. They are leaving because of climate catastrophes that are decimating their nations with floods like those in Kentucky or fires like those in California. Colonizing the Moon or Mars is not a plan - it's a suicide mission, and we don't have any warp-capable starships or a Starfleet. We have a "pale blue dot" Carl Sagan said we live on together. In order to survive on it, we're going to have to share resources and work together.

Savvy demagogues like Orban, Putin, and the criminal who previously had the nuclear codes are using the tribal "fear of the other," the desire not to "mix races" to seize power, with no intention of relinquishing it. It allows the hoarding of resources, wealth, power, and the licensing of cruelty. Weaponizing fear of "others" is also profitable, hence Fox Propaganda and Reich Wing media promoting it. Carotin or Melanin: Every human being on the planet is from the African continent. The variations are the result of migratory patterns, the foods encountered, and the angle of incidence of the sun. We don't need to go to another planet to know that - just pay attention in high school biology, or read a science report.

If we were to colonize the Moon or Mars (hopefully without terraforming with nukes), in a hundred years, the colonists would no longer look like Earthlings: they would be Lunarians and Martians, and due to their wildly different environments, they could not come back to Earth. One of the things Star Trek probably got right: under similar conditions - a planet in the "Goldilocks" zone, with similar gravity and atmosphere, aliens on those worlds would probably develop into similar physical structures, similar skin variations.

We are being held hostage by so-called "white" men hoarding resources to themselves in the deluded notion they could survive a full-scale collapse of civilization and life on Earth. Diversity or dystopia. A beloved community or extinction.

"We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

“The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community. The aftermath of nonviolence is redemption. The aftermath of nonviolence is reconciliation. The aftermath of violence is emptiness and bitterness.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Cooling Centers...

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Projected temperature change for mid-century (left) and end-of-century (right) in the United States under higher (top) and lower (bottom) emissions scenarios. The brackets on the thermometers represent the likely range of model projections, though lower or higher outcomes are possible. Source: USGCRP (2009)

Topics: Climate Change, Environment, Existentialism

The heat index in Jefferson County reached 105 degrees by noon Monday — and it’s only getting hotter.

More than 50 million Americans face scorching temperatures as a heatwave spreads over most of the country this week. Louisville could see heat indices as high as 115 degrees, putting many residents at risk of heat illnesses.

Every year, more than 600 people die from extreme heat. Dizziness, muscle cramps, and vomiting are telltale signs it’s time to cool down, according to Zach Harris, medical director of emergency services at Norton Hospital.

“If you’re so hot that you start to not feel good, that’s the right time to go inside or find some shade or some way to cool down,” Harris said.

Older adults, young children, and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk, but even healthy adults can experience heat-related illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cooling centers are open to help Louisville residents beat the heat, Michael J. Collins, 89.3 WFPL

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The death toll from the devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky continues to rise.

Eastern Kentucky flood relief: Ways you can donate

Governor Andy Beshear confirmed Monday evening that the death toll has risen to at least 37. The governor says refrigerator trucks are serving as mobile morgues to hold bodies as they are flown to the medical examiner’s office in Frankfort.

4 siblings among dead in Kentucky flooding

Beshear says the number of missing is in the hundreds. He says Search and rescue crews are still running into areas where it’s difficult to get to.

Beshear says the flooding death toll has risen to at least 37, WKYT New Staff

Future temperature changes

We have already observed global warming over the last several decades. Future temperatures are expected to change further. Climate models project the following key temperature-related changes.

Key global projections

Increases in average global temperatures are expected to be within the range of 0.5°F to 8.6°F by 2100, with a likely increase of at least 2.7°F for all scenarios except the one representing the most aggressive mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Except under the most aggressive mitigation scenario studied, the global average temperature is expected to warm at least twice as much in the next 100 years as it has during the last 100 years.

Ground-level air temperatures are expected to continue to warm more rapidly over land than in oceans.

Some parts of the world are projected to see larger temperature increases than the global average.

Maybe like, Kentucky?

Future of Climate Change, EPA.gov

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Occam's on Steroids...

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Image source: Dictionary dot com

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Politics

Originally from the entry: Apathy, Crisis, and Zappa (another blog I posted to before WordPress).

So what exactly is a constitutional crisis? We should be clear about what does — and, more importantly, does not — merit this description. It’s possible to have a major political crisis even if the Constitution is crystal clear on the remedy or to have a constitutional crisis that doesn’t ruffle many feathers.

Political and legal observers generally divide constitutional crises into four categories:

1. The Constitution doesn’t say what to do.

The U.S. Constitution is brief and vague. (Compare it to a state constitution sometime.) This vagueness has one major advantage: It makes an 18th-century document flexible enough to effectively serve a 21st-century society. But sometimes the Constitution leaves us without sorely needed instructions, such as when William Henry Harrison became the first president to die in office in 1841. At the time, it wasn't clear whether the vice president should fully assume the office or just safeguard the role until a new president could somehow be chosen. (It wasn't until 1967 that the 25th amendment officially settled the question.) When Vice President John Tyler took over, no one was sure if he was the real president or merely the acting president, nor was anyone certain what should happen next. Tyler asserted that he was, in fact, the new president, and since then, vice presidents who have had to step into service as chief executive have been treated as fully legitimate, but early confusion took its toll on the perceived legitimacy of Tyler’s presidency.

2. The Constitution’s meaning is in question.

Sometimes the Constitution’s attempt to address an issue is phrased in a way that could allow multiple interpretations, leaving experts disagreeing about what it means and making it difficult or impossible to address a pressing problem. In this way, both the Great Depression and the Civil War created constitutional crises. The problem sparked by the Civil War is obvious: The fight rested on a bunch of unsettled constitutional questions, the biggest of which was about slavery and the federal government’s ability to control it, a subject on which the Constitution was silent. And while the Constitution provided information on how a state could join the union, it didn't say whether one could leave it or how it would go about doing so. It obviously took a war to resolve this crisis.

3. The Constitution tells us what to do, but it’s not politically feasible.

This category of constitutional crisis can crop up when presidential elections produce contested and confusing results. In the 2000 presidential election, when George W. Bush and Al Gore were separated by just a few hundred votes in Florida, the tipping-point state whose electoral votes would determine the winner, the state’s election results remained contested for weeks due to a number of irregularities and a secretary of state who seemed determined to cut a recount short. In theory, the Constitution allowed for various solutions to this problem: Congress could have decided which of Florida’s electors to recognize, or Congress could have determined that neither candidate had achieved a majority in the Electoral College and let the House of Representatives decide on a president (per the process spelled out in the 12th Amendment). Such outcomes, while certainly constitutional, would have been politically infeasible, creating a significant legitimacy crisis for the new president.

4. Institutions themselves fail.

The Constitution’s system of checks and balances sets the various branches against each other for the laudable purpose of constraining tyranny. However, due to partisan polarization, individual corruption, or any number of other reasons, sometimes the political institutions in these arrangements fail, sending the governmental system into a crisis. This was the type of constitutional crisis commentators were seemingly referring to in describing reports that Customs and Border Protection agents (members of the executive branch) weren't following orders from the judicial branch.

Five Thirty-Eight blog: The 4 Main Types of Constitutional Crises, Julia Azari and Seth Masket

Secret Service Jan 6 text erased despite Congress' request

Jan. 6 texts missing for Trump Homeland Security secretary and deputy

Occam's razor: a scientific and philosophical rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities Merriam-Webster

So, what do we call this?

Too many people who know that you're supposed to keep official records (Secret Service, Homeland Security) aren't keeping official records.

The GOP had CPAC in Vicktor Urban's authoritarian country (he's apparently not a big fan of diversity, and by extension, neither is the GOP).

Homeland Security: a lot of angst about the name came up post 9/11 because it sounded so - "Nazi." This is, sadly, when Alex Jones gained a lot of traction. He popularized "9/11 truthers" before he saw where his depraved bread was buttered with Sandy Hook, lying about dead children, and anything else he could glom onto for a fast buck that I hope he's finally being separated from his exchequer. It's like the chips all fell in place for the Joker to take over Arkham, and Batman is TDY across the universe with the Justice League.

Dumbo Gambino lied to 9/11 victims about going after the Saudis (15 of the 19 highjackers) to their faces in the height of their grief and loss. That hasn't stopped the sociopath from hosting the LIV golf tournament at his Bedminster course, because that would take something he has ZERO in his emotional fuel tank: empathy. It's all about money and protecting those who he thinks will give him boatloads more.

Malcolm Nance's new book: "They Want to Kill Americans" couldn't be starker. The Introduction had me up past midnight! He's gone back to Ukraine to help them win the war. I sometimes think it's safer than America right now.

Orange Satan didn't do this by himself. He had a lot of complicit help that doesn't mind turning our high-sounding Constitution into toilet paper (for flushing). He just saw where the wind was blowing after the country elected its first and so far, only black president, and lost its collective mind!

Coup. Insurrection. Insurgency. They're all words. We went from Obama's tan suit and Michelle Obama's bared arms controversies to the Grand Pooh-Bah storming the Capitol to save us from whatever addles their loose minds. For the record: the 1995 Million Man March was a peaceful exercise of the First Amendment that resulted in no Capital Police Officers' deaths, storming of the Capital, the display of an insurrectionist flag, Grand Pooh-Bahs howling at the moon, or the deposit of urine and feces.

The only option Malcolm gives in interviews about his book is to vote. Vote in record numbers every election. Vote for the proverbial dog catcher. Nothing is trivial. Fascism is a fungus on the body politic. You can't give it any room to grow, otherwise, we'll have a January 6 in 50 state Capitols. Dysfunction equals dystopia, not democracy or civilization.

Maybe we're not calling it a constitutional crisis because four decades of dumbing down a previously "informed citizenry" has led to the dichotomy of proletariat drones carrying "smart phones."

Also from the previous blog post:

"One of the things taken out of the curriculum was civics," Zappa went on to explain. "Civics was a class that used to be required before you could graduate from high school. You were taught what was in the U.S. Constitution. And after all the student rebellions in the Sixties, civics was banished from the student curriculum and was replaced by something called social studies. Here we live in a country that has a fabulous constitution and all these guarantees, a contract between the citizens and the government – nobody knows what's in it...And so, if you don't know what your rights are, how can you stand up for them? And furthermore, if you don't know what's in the document, how can you care if someone is shredding it?"

"Notes From the Dangerous Kitchen," a review and a quote from Frank Zappa, Critics at Large

A few months before January 6, someone was flushing it.

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Counting in Counties...

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Credit: Amanda Montañez; Source: “Political Environment and Mortality Rates in the United States, 2001-19: Population-Based Cross-Sectional Analysis,” by Haider J. Warraich et al., in BMJ, Vol. 377. Published online June 7, 2022

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism, Politics

Reality literally bites.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the link between politics and health became glaringly obvious. Democrat-leaning “blue” states were more likely to enact mask requirements and vaccine and social distancing mandates. Republican-leaning “red” states were much more resistant to health measures. The consequences of those differences emerged by the end of 2020 when rates of hospitalization and death from COVID rose in conservative counties and dropped in liberal ones. That divergence continued through 2021 when vaccines became widely available. And although the highly transmissible Omicron variant narrowed the gap in infection rates, hospitalization and death rates, which are dramatically reduced by vaccines, remain higher in Republican-leaning parts of the country.

But COVID is only the latest chapter in the story of politics and health. “COVID has really magnified what had already been brewing in American society, which was that, based on where you lived, your risk of death was much different,” says Haider J. Warraich, a physician and researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In a study published in June in The BMJ, Warraich and his colleagues showed that over the two decades prior to the pandemic, there was a growing gap in mortality rates for residents of Republican and Democratic counties across the U.S. In 2001, the study’s starting point, the risk of death among red and blue counties (as defined by the results of presidential elections) was similar. Overall, the U.S. mortality rate has decreased in the nearly two decades since then (albeit not as much as in most other high-income countries). But the improvement for those living in Republican counties by 2019 was half that of those in Democratic counties—11 percent lower versus 22 percent lower.

People in Republican Counties Have Higher Death Rates Than Those in Democratic Counties, Lydia Denworth, Scientific American

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Perils of Privilege...

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Pence Secret Service detail feared for their lives during Capitol riot, Martin Pengelly, The Guardian

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Dark Humor, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

Steven Bannon's "medieval," take-no-prisoners defense rested yesterday. The three-shirt Troglodyte didn't take the stand in his defense on advice from counsel. He said more outside the courtroom than he did inside. Today is closing arguments.

The January 6th Committee ended "season 1" yesterday as well, promising more hearings in September, just in time to keep the subject fresh in voters' minds before the midterms. I hope my Fraternity Brother, Bennie Thompson, heals soon from his Covid infection.

The 45th occupant of the Oval Office looked small yesterday. The hearings didn't drop so many bombshells, in my opinion. It presented a so-called "white" privileged man that could not, and cannot, admit he lost the 2020 election. He is using that narcissism in the "Big Lie" that infects so much of our politics now. It presented that a man who can't admit after six bankruptcies he sucks at business, a con artist who steals money through fake real estate schools, border wall scams, and teasing his cult following that he's going to run again for president (any day now), is simply a spoiled, entitled brat. It's no wonder he and Bannon found each other. I'm not a right-wing podcaster with millions of listeners, many of whom he scammed with a "build the wall" boondoggle. Three-shirts, Senator Hawley, who had an impressive sprinting form on January 6th, and Baby Huey are all so-called "white" privileged men who know how to manipulate their enraged constituents, who they enraged.

They're enraged because someone told them they are "white," that God is "white," and that "white" is blessed, exalted, and privileged. All other colors fall below the apogee of the American hierarchy and caste system.

They're enraged by critical race theory, which is not taught in K-12, but what they fear is accurate history that doesn't show so-called "white" privileged men in a good light.

They're enraged because Rush Limbaugh told them to be enraged about "Feminazis" and anyone who didn't look like so-called "white" privileged men like him.

They're enraged because it's better for those who scam and steal money from 99% of the population to keep them engaged with the Reich-Wing media complex that keeps them angry at the "other." It's the "others" who took the jobs their fathers used to privilege their way to lifetime employment, pensions, and retirement. It couldn't possibly be the so-called "white" privileged multimillionaire and billionaire class, the gods that they actually worship. It can't be them: they look like (other, poorer so-called "white" men). But those same so-called "white" privileged men were in the boardrooms deciding to send those jobs overseas for profits. They don't live with you, and they don't care about you.

Their rage causes them not to invest in books or education, but in arsenals. Their rage merges lethality with hoarding disorder, the stress of no longer being the center of the citizenry, and Norman Rockwell-type images depicting diversity, driving some stark raving mad. Every human, despite shades of Melanin, can only fire one gun type once. There is no credible animal that is hunted by AR15s, Sig Sauers, or Kalashnikovs. The only animal that they have hunted are those they consider fellow human beings, and "others."

This rage caused (I believe) the Secret Service to delete text messages from January 5th and 6th, and no other days, even after Congress asked for them. Did the Secret Service follow their Comms Plan? Preserving records and evidence is the first duty of law enforcement. If law enforcement isn't upholding the law, there is no "rule of law."

Despite the incredible pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope, I am struck by two things:

If we were to read the spectrograph of some distant exoplanet's atmosphere, we might see something resembling ourselves. The distance between us is prohibitive, we're not likely to see this world in a human lifetime. Because they're so far, arrival will be after conditions would have evolved, or dissolved over millennia.

If there have ever been other intelligent beings in the universe, they may have died off: a victim of their own misplaced hierarchical privilege and abject stupidity inhibiting spacefaring.

This rage will be the necrosis of the species.

 

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Zombie Apocalypse...

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A nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Guwahati, India, on 10 April. A new subvariant named BA.2.75 that was first detected in India has surfaced in many other countries. ANUPAM NATH/AP IMAGES

Topics: Biology, COVID-19, DNA, Economics, Environment, Evolution, Existentialism

Ed Rybicki, a virologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, concentrated his article in Scientific American on the viruses dominating the news cycle in the early 2000s: Ebola, Marburg, and HIV. Not comforting, but he said, "HIV, which is thought to have first emerged in humans in the 1930s, is another kind of virus, known as a retrovirus." Not mentioned, but the H1N1 comes from the 1918 Flu Pandemic, and a friend in Texas lost his girlfriend to it also in the early 2000s. Retro means "a process that reverses the normal flow of information in cells" and relates to a bridge between the first forms of life on this planet. In an e-brief, I wrote my first year at JSNN, an article in Nature: Education posits that viruses are not ‘alive’ because they don’t have metabolic processes, one of the four criteria for life (“organized, metabolism, genetic code, and reproduction”). The last part is important: they cannot reproduce asexually (unicellular division), or sexually with genders, spermatozoa, and an incubation period before birthing a copy. In other words, they aren't "alive," but they aren't dead either. They manage to replicate themselves by invading a host. Usually us.

It DOES mention three possible mechanisms as to origins: The Progressive Hypothesis, i.e., “bits and pieces” of a genome gained the ability to move in and out of cells (retroviruses like HIV given as an example); The Regressive Hypothesis, meaning the viruses evolved from some common ancestor to their current state (reductio ad absurdum), lastly The Virus-First Hypothesis, which puts any anthropocentric notions away and their hypothesis that viruses existed before mortals as “self-replicating units.”

I am as ready for this pandemic to be over as anyone else. However, this read from AAAS didn't give me hope that a societal "all-clear" will be uttered, or that we'll overcome our shared arrogance and stupidity:

In the short history of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 was the year of the new variants. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta each had a couple of months in the Sun.

But this was the year of Omicron, which swept the globe late in 2021 and has continued to dominate, with subvariants—given more prosaic names such as BA.1, BA.2, and BA.2.12.1—appearing in rapid succession. Two closely related subvariants named BA.4 and BA.5 are now driving infections around the world, but new candidates, including one named BA.2.75, are knocking on the door.

Omicron’s lasting dominance has evolutionary biologists wondering what comes next. Some think it’s a sign that SARS-CoV-2’s initial frenzy of evolution is over and it, like other coronaviruses that have been with humanity much longer, is settling into a pattern of gradual evolution. “I think a good guess is that either BA.2 or BA.5 will spawn additional descendants with more mutations and that one or more of those subvariants will spread and will be the next thing,” says Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

But others believe a new variant different enough from Omicron and all other variants to deserve the next Greek letter designation, Pi, may already be developing, perhaps in a chronically infected patient. And even if Omicron is not replaced, its dominance is no cause for complacency, says Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for COVID-19 at the World Health Organization. “It’s bad enough as it is,” she says. “If we can’t get people to act [without] a new Greek name, that’s a problem.”

As Omicron rages on, scientists have no idea what comes next, Kai Kupferschmidt, American Association for the Advancement of Science

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Thanks to Joe Manchin...

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Kayakers and other boaters paddled up to Manchin, who famously lives on a houseboat named “Almost Heaven” when he’s in DC. The subtitle should be “for the rest of you, hell.” Source: Washingtonian, Maya Pottiger, 10/14/21

Topics: Civilization, Environment, Existentialism, Global Warming

Four more people died that night. In the morning the sun again rose like the blazing furnace of heat it was, blasting the rooftop and its sad cargo of wrapped bodies. Every rooftop and, looking down at the town, every sidewalk was now a morgue. The town was a morgue, and it was as hot as ever, maybe hotter. The thermometer now said 42 degrees (107.6 F), humidity 60 percent.

—Kim Stanley Robinson, from The Ministry for the Future

The first chapter of Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future takes my breath away. Not just because I can almost feel the heat and humidity dripping off the pages, but because I know that—although the story is fictional—similar scenes are already playing out in real life.

Are cities ready for extreme heat? John Morales, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Factions, Fascism, Dystopia...

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Thoughtco.com: Banana Republic definition

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, COVID-19, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

President George Washington, September 19, 1796, Farewell Address

Brittany Griner was selected by Moscow/Putin because she, like a lot of WNBA players, receives less pay than most men playing the same game in the country of her birth, leading her like other athletes to seek more lucrative exchequer overseas. This sexism has been justified with tropes like "the games aren't exciting" and "women can't dunk." Brittany Griner and a host of other athletes proved that wrong. If she did have cannabis in her vape cartridges as the Russians allege, they already knew it before the illegal war in Ukraine, and conveniently ignored it for their national entertainment. She's a bargaining chip because she has the temerity to be married to a woman and play basketball overseas in a nation whose dictator is homophobic. She's a bargaining chip because she is African American, dreadlocked, tattooed, tall, and gay. She is a pawn in a game of real politick.

If you haven't seen the January 6 Hearings, you can catch up on YouTube. Pundits have been discussing it exhaustively - even Fox couldn't ignore it anymore. It's painful to think a subpar reality TV star, failed real estate huckster, serial pathological liar, and murderer of over one million Americans whose great plan during the height of Covid was to "inject bleach" actually once possessed the nuclear codes. As the former member of the Proud Boys and insurrection supporter said yesterday, this could lead to a second uncivil war.

Fascism (noun): 1. often capitalized: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition: 2. a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control Merriam-Webster

Here at home, the repeal of Roe vs. Wade was because of a 50-year project and blatant obfuscation in the confirmation hearings of Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, the oft-used dodge in Latin: Stare decisis (precedent). "Roe is decided precedent." It was until it wasn't. The precedent was the right to privacy, which was the basis for the reason Brittany Griner is married to a woman (Obergefell v. Hodges), Clarence Thomas is married to Ginny the insurrectionist (Loving v. Virginia), Contraception, the Fair Housing Act, Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act: it would be a repeal of the Civil Rights era. I guess they'll go for Brown vs. Board of Education to repeal the 20th Century.

The Handmaid's Tale is in America. We are Gilead. Our dismal performance during the Alpha variant contributed to the deaths of one-million American citizens, that if we had Universal Healthcare or our dear leader hadn't lied, recommended hydroxychloroquine, drinking bleach, a significant fraction less would have perished.

Uvalde, Texas showed us that every theory post-Columbine is utterly false. Our taxes outfit police efficiently to be the "good guys with guns," impressive, camouflaged, looking tough, and utterly incompetent. They "protect and serve" the property of the wealthy, not "we the people." They are battle-dressed paper tigers, standing by, rubbing hand sanitizer, popping gum as nineteen children and two teachers are transformed into ground meat. If nineteen highly-trained "protect, and serve" officers can't engage a single shooter, how do any teachers who didn't sign up for combat take them out?

Christian Sharia was brought to us not by an Ayatollah Khomeini and Mullahs in dark robes in Iran, but by zealots on the former Supreme Court who lied under oath. Ten-year-old rape victims have to go to other states that still have the rights their mothers had for forty-nine years. The Economist put it bluntly: Why nations that fail women fail. Jim Jordan deleted a tweet calling the story a lie, but refuses to hold his insurrectionist president responsible for January 6 (he also is culpable in the crime). The entire Reich Wing media complex tried to make a 10-year-old rape victim (the crime happened when she was nine) an urban myth, a breathtaking display of gaslighting. If Moscow Mitch becomes Senate Majority Leader after November, he vows that the ban on bodily autonomy will become national, and women, without irony, second-class citizens and modern-day slaves.

George Carlin's tragicomic observation of women becoming broodmares of the state is hauntingly prescient. The 6-3 not-Supreme Court's Christo-fascist default is whatever their idea of Christianity wants, as in the case of the football coach who prayed in the middle of a field, in the middle of a game. Whether he gained divine intervention towards victory (or whether it mattered), it flies in the face of Matthew 6:5, usually in red letters, so it might have some importance:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray to stand in the synagogues and on the street corners (now, football fields) to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Constitution Center, First Amendment

Legally and liturgically, six out of nine of the former Supreme Court is spitballing. Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson has her work cut out for her.

On the evening of October 31, 2020, Steve Bannon told a group of associates that President Donald Trump had a plan to declare victory on election night—even if he was losing. Trump knew that the slow counting of Democratic-leaning mail-in ballots meant the returns would show early leads for him in key states. His “strategy” was to use this fact to assert that he had won while claiming that the inevitable shifts in vote totals toward Joe Biden must be the result of fraud, Bannon explained.

“What Trump’s gonna do is just declare victory. Right? He’s gonna declare victory. But that doesn’t mean he’s a winner,” Bannon, laughing, told the group, according to audio of the meeting obtained by Mother Jones. “He’s just gonna say he’s a winner.”

“As it sits here today,” Bannon said later in the conversation, describing a scenario in which Trump held an early lead in key swing states, “at 10 or 11 o’clock Trump’s gonna walk in the Oval, tweet out, ‘I’m the winner. Game over. Suck on that.'”

Leaked Audio: Before Election Day, Bannon Said Trump Planned to Falsely Claim Victory, Dan Friedman, Mother Jones

This was not a spontaneous demonstration that got out of hand. The chaos WAS the plan.

The term rule of law refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions, and entities, public and private, including the state itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards. It requires, as well, measures to ensure adherence to the principles of supremacy of law, equality before the law, accountability to the law, fairness in the application of the law, separation of powers, participation in decision-making, legal certainty, avoidance of arbitrariness, and procedural and legal transparency. Justice Initiative: Three Principles to Strengthen the Rule of Law

As the evidence of continuous crimes committed by a sociopath mounts, the decision Attorney General Merrick Garland has is to either charge him or not. The "rule of law" was violated on January 6, 2021, and an angry, murderous mob was directed to the Capitol like a weapon wielded by tweet: "it will be wild." It was a planned wilding, launched on social media, with a lie so big, that Joseph Goebbels would blush. The rule of law was violated when the sociopath called potential witnesses - Cassidy Hutchinson, and one who has yet to appear before the January 6 Committee - to witness tamper and intimidate them into Omerta. If one man is not charged, one man is above the law. If one man is above the law, there functionally IS no law. Just zealots, dictators, and spitballing.

In a second uncivil war, there would be no Appomattox, or reunification afterward. There would be no myths of American exceptionalism, "melting pots," or "lost causes" to placate uncomfortable histories we don't want to deal with. We would physically be here, but any pretense of being a functional government would be erased as we devolve into territories, Hatfields and McCoys, red hats and "team normal," warring tribes, and factions. It would be the dissolution of the United States and a byword for the continued existence of democratic republics worldwide.

In dystopias, there is no rule of law.

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Martians and Vulcans...

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(Credit: ktsdesign/Shutterstock)

Topics: Astrobiology, Astrophysics, Civilization, Existentialism, Philosophy, Special Relativity

The Cold War was a genesis of angst about the future due to the detonation of the atomic bomb by the Soviet Union in Kazakstan in 1949. After WWII (WWI was originally called, "the war to END all wars," until the sequel), the existential nervousness is understandable. Extraterrestrials, or musings about them, let humans off the hook if the Earth is rendered dystopic, and uninhabitable (with respect to "War of the Worlds" Martians), and some more advanced species to come to save us from our screw-ups (Star Trek Vulcans). Trek aliens that aren't that hospitable are the Gorn and Klingons. Neither of which I'd prefer to see on first contact. However, the vast distance between stars, relativistic speeds, and the drag of mass on even reaching a fraction of the speed of light make that possibility remote.

*****

In September 1961, Barney and Betty Hill were driving late at night in the mountains of New Hampshire when they saw a flying object whizzing in the sky. Barney thought it was a plane until he saw it swiftly switch directions.

According to The Interrupted Journey, the couple nervously continued driving until a spacecraft confronted them. They remembered seeing “humanoid-like” creatures and hearing pinging sounds reverberating off their car trunk. And then, they found themselves 35 miles further along on the highway with almost no memory of what had just transpired. They believed they had been abducted.

Scholars mark 1947 as the start of the UFO fascination. A pilot flying in the Cascade Mountains in Washington state reported seeing disc-shaped objects. In the next decade, aliens were primarily seen as benevolent, intelligent beings who came to Earth to offer advice or warnings.

In 1961, the Hills reported their abduction, and stories about aliens became more sinister. Social scientists, like famed psychologist Carl Jung, analyzed the UFO obsession and found it fit neatly with humans’ long fascination with heavenly ascents. Whereas past societies looked for angels, saints, or Gods to descend from the heavens, modern Americans were looking for “technological angels.”

Starting in the 1960s, aliens were both benign angels and menacing demons, which prompted some religious scholars to see UFO fixation as a modern religious movement.

Our Fascination With Aliens and When it All Started, Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine

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Reality Daytraders...

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Image source: Facebook, Rick Steves

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

Vladimir Putin is a reality daytrader. His invasion of Ukraine is a "special military operation," not a war, or more accurately, an ongoing war crime. Gaslighting eleven Russian time zones is as easy to him as flatulence. With the GRU and American social media, he can hack American minds with the wildest conspiracy theories almost at will. The ridiculous QAnon claptrap that democrats are "demon-spawned, blood-drinking pedophiles" sounds like a propaganda tactic from the Kremlin:

Putin befriended and supported European politicians who were willing to defend Russian interests. One was Gerhard Schroder, the retired German chancellor, who was in the employ of the Russian gas company Gazprom. A second was Milol Zeman, elected president of the Czech Republic in 2013 after a campaign partly financed by the Russian oil company Lukoil, and reelected in 2018 after an election financed by unknown sources. A third was Silvio Berlusconi, who shared vacations with Putin before and after leaving the office of Italian prime minister in 2011. In 2013, Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud and banned from public office until 2019. Putin suggested that Berlusconi's true problem was the persecution of heterosexuals. "If he were gay, no one would ever lay a finger on him." Here Putin was enunciating a basic principle of his Eurasian civilization: when the subject is inequality, change it to sexuality. In 2018, Berlusconi began a political comeback.

"The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America," by Timothy Snyder, page 100 (paperback), author of "On Tyranny."

Gallop shows the number of adults self-identifying as LGBT ticking up to 7.1% isn't evidence of lower testosterone any more than it is of mythical cooties. We've gone from "Will and Grace," the sitcom "Soap," Ellen DeGeneres, and Rachel Maddow on primetime television to legalizing same-sex marriage as a Constitutional Right. At least on the surface, we seem to be more tolerant. Math question: isn't 7.1% less than 92.9%?

Or, take nonexistent voter fraud. The Brennan Center "found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent." Red states are making laws over something more infinitesimal than pocket lint.

An election happened in 2020, and the Russian asset (emphasis on the first syllable), lost. He couldn't even admit the truth to his friend Piers Morgan, telling him "what if you're not real?" In typical duplicitous snowflake fashion, he stormed out when confronted with the truth: he lost. Did we give this ingrate the nuclear codes?

Vance: Some opposition to Obama ‘comes from the color of his skin’

Vance also previously advanced [a] defense of former President Barack Obama, a Democrat who was the country’s first Black president, and who was falsely labeled a Muslim and was the subject of the racist “birther” conspiracy. Vance said he admired Obama for his personal accomplishments, even though he disagreed with him politically.

J.D. Vance used to admonish Donald Trump’s ‘xenophobic’ appeals to voters. Until he decided to run for Senate. Clevland.com

The "Big Lie" as popularized by Timothy Snyder in "Bloodlands" and executed by Vance and the American "son of perdition" has become less of a loyalty test, and more of a chanted mantra, eerily similar to Orwell's "two minutes hate" ritual. Yet, part of being in a cult means you curate reality: you daytrade it to avoid pain and steamroll up Maslow's pyramid to self-actualized pleasure. "Freedom" isn't the freedom to say two plus two equals four, it's the ability to troll on Twitter without fact check, or the threat of banning. (That worked out really well on January 6th.) What is painful to admit must be a conspiracy, not the outcome of voter mobilization, or concerns about fascism. "Others" - women, people of color, LGBT, youth - who did not vote for their Gollum avatar are "unpersons," and therefore since they do not exist, their votes are by definition fraudulent. Dehumanization is the first stage before slaughter and genocide.

Actual voter fraud committed during the 2020 election was committed by the followers of Putin's asset's personality cult. History has no impact and facts do not matter. Karl Rove opined about "creating realities" and for Putin and Russophiles like Rand Paul, Ukraine doesn't exist because it never existed. Therefore, uncomfortable histories about "your tribe" in the formation of the US must be banned, and I'm sure eventually, burned.

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

“The best books... are those that tell you what you know already.”

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself."

"Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Since the beginning of your life, since the beginning of the Party, since the beginning of history, the war has continued without a break, always the same war."

-George Orwell, "1984"

Alternative facts. Big lies. Created realities. These things are not the basis for democracy, and two plus two is not five.

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”― George Orwell, 1984, all quotes in italics from Good Reads

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Shields Up...

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Ukraine foils Russia-backed cyberattack on the power grid, The Statesman

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Cybersecurity, Existentialism, Fascism

Summary

This joint Cybersecurity Advisory (CSA)—coauthored by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Department of Energy (DOE)—provides information on multiple intrusion campaigns conducted by state-sponsored Russian cyber actors from 2011 to 2018 and targeted the U.S. and international Energy Sector organizations. CISA, the FBI, and DOE responded to these campaigns with appropriate action in and around the time that they occurred. CISA, the FBI, and DOE are sharing this information in order to highlight historical tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by adversaries to target U.S. and international Energy Sector organizations.

On March 24, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed indictments of three Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers and a Russian Federation Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics (TsNIIKhM) employee for their involvement in the following intrusion campaigns against the U.S. and international oil refineries, nuclear facilities, and energy companies.[1]

  • Global Energy Sector Intrusion Campaign, 2011 to 2018: the FSB conducted a multi-stage campaign in which they gained remote access to U.S. and international Energy Sector networks, deployed ICS-focused malware, and collected and exfiltrated enterprise and ICS-related data. 
    • One of the indicted FSB officers was involved in campaign activity that involved deploying Havex malware to victim networks. 
    • The other two indicted FSB officers were involved in activity targeting U.S. Energy Sector networks from 2016 through 2018.
  • Compromise of Middle East-based Energy Sector organization with TRITON Malware, 2017: Russian cyber actors with ties to the TsNIIKhM gained access to and leveraged TRITON (also known as HatMan) malware to manipulate a foreign oil refinery’s ICS controllers. TRITON was designed to specifically target Schneider Electric’s Triconex Tricon safety systems and is capable of disrupting those systems. Schneider Electric has issued a patch to mitigate the risk of the TRITON malware’s attack vector; however, network defenders should install the patch and remain vigilant against these threat actors’ TTPs.
    • The indicted TsNIIKhM cyber actor is charged with an attempt to access U.S.-protected computer networks and to cause damage to an energy facility.
    • The indicted TsNIIKhM cyber actor was a co-conspirator in the deployment of the TRITON malware in 2017.

Alert (AA22-083A)

Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures of Indicted State-Sponsored Russian Cyber Actors Targeting the Energy Sector, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)

So the warning by CISA has some connotations we should think about. Since Nexflix bailed on Russia, they could block streaming services and retaliate rather petty. Another is infrastructure such as public utilities. Yeah, getting your AC turned off when it's in the eighties outside sucks, but a hospital getting its power cut during an emergency operation, an episiotomy or sinus surgery can cost lives that otherwise wouldn't be affected. It would affect water and utilities, access to ATMs, and Wall Street trading. Any attack is a move of desperation, not "strength." Any rat trapped in a corner will strike back, even with its last breath. Sean Hannity tried to give Mango Mussolini a layup question that he couldn't answer: "is Putin evil?" After bodies stacked like Hurricane Katrina victims, a plethora of war crimes that would embarrass HITLER, he still can't form his puckered mouth, which strangely looks like an anus, to criticize his handler; he is still the lapdog of a KGB spymaster. I doubt it has anything to do with pee tapes: it's darker than that. He wants to BE Putin, he wants America to be Russia. He wants Jeff Bezos to bow to him on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in parody to 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Here is a failed businessman, a serial bankruptcy artist, a short-fingered vulgarian whose college professor stated he was the "dumbest student he EVER had," using more colorful metaphors. He takes a gig as host of a reality show to pay just enough of his crumbling life expenses to keep up the facade, and never admitted to himself that whatever his father had, he never had, and never will have. A person like that constructs fantasies because reality, "real reality," is too harsh for malignant narcissists. "Great again" in a sick mind is a dystopian nightmare to the sane rest of us, unless you're QAnon while reading this.

I think of Edward Snowden at this time. He's probably a valuable asset to Vladimir Putin and the GRU, despite his rock star status in exposing corruption: he broke the law and fled the country before it could prosecute him. Funny how he ends up in Russia; funny how the malware the GRU started using in 2016 suddenly "sprang up" spontaneously. I'm surprised no one is discussing this as a possibility. If you look at the link that I've provided, he boasted a top salary of $200,000 working at the NSA, as he put it, as a "computer Guru," without the benefit of a college degree. His paint job and privilege greased the skids to his ascension in the intelligence community (an oxymoron if there ever was one) and his six-figure salary. One thinks of the idioms "blowback" and "chicken's coming home to roost" the second made famous first by Chaucer of The Canterberry Tales before Malcolm X used the idiom to comment on President Kennedy's demise.

As Ukraine goes further in the crapper for the Russian bear, and Putin gets desperate to pull off a "win" in time for the May 9th festivities (the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in WWII), cyber warfare is his best option to damage, deter the West, and save "face" at home. Moscow's Flagship sunk: either from Ukrainian armaments, or Russian naval incompetence. Social media is making it difficult to blame the "special military operation" on ghost Nazis. Since American billionaires hide their money in the Caymans, and Russian oligarchs (tomato, to-MAH-toe) hide their grand theft in western countries, "nuking the joint" just because you're pissed at looking bad doesn't make financial sense. Neither does the use of chemical weapons because the optics of killing babies in a majority white country can't endear you to the crowd that thinks white people are being "replaced." Free trade after Ukraine is going to have a cost for Vladimir: it's not going to be free, and like Finland and Sweden considering NATO membership, he may have sparked a global "Green New Deal" revolution that mere logic, and the absolutely sane desire to save the planet couldn't. The veneer of invincibility so-called strongmen like to exude can't be as shiny as it was when W "looked into his eyes, and saw his soul." At least the 46th president called "malarky" on that google-eyed tyrant worship, proto the fascism the right is exhibiting daily.

CPAC stands for "conservative political action committee," and the action you would THINK they would like to be politically responsible for is the election of conservative lawmakers to enact a platform and state an agenda. As of 2020, there is none, except supporting the American Orange Fuhrer. CPAC is meeting in Hungary, home of authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán, who has packed the courts, squelched the news down to a cheerleading outlet, attacked the LGBT in his country (guilty of the crime of EXISTING), rigged elections to where he cannot lose, demonized minorities and added to that antisemitism. Just the kind of country American Conservatives cum fascists (prior to WWII, there was a German American Bund that openly supported Hitler and the Nazis) would love to form in the US.

The Growth and Opportunity Project stated things that the right has thus far refused to do: change, evolve, give up the "Southern Strategy," start sounding less racist and appeal to more minorities, and young people. In other words, a functional political party would have taken the 2012 election loss as a wake-up call to course-correct.

What we are currently experiencing isn't a functional party. The party went from GOP to INGSOC, from Mitt Romney to a Boy From Brazil that had a copy of Hitler's speeches on his nightstand, that he obviously read. What he leads is more a Congress of sociopaths, people fearful of the changes their hubris wouldn't let them make. The percentage of black republicans has dwindled steadily since the 2000 RNC convention, but the New York Times managed to cobble a few together to make a point that fascists somehow have "inroads" with the African American community after Associate-Designate Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson survived what amounted to a Klan coven. Yeah: inroads.

If the DNC isn't making attack ads with the material the insurrection party gave during her marathon, disrespectful confirmation hearings, it amounts to bringing a butter knife to a bazooka fight. It is political malpractice. Batman doesn't negotiate with the Joker: he pummels him and sends him back to Arkham. He does it as many times as necessary.

Racists could care less about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and fascists ONLY care about their "superiority" and making sure the necks they stamp on never shift from their places. Put on your flack jackets and gear up for piles of manure dressed up as political discourse. Get ready for malware blackouts and excuses that this direct attack on our homeland is somehow "our fault" because a psychopath believed his yes men, and got out over his skis. Like Dumbo Gambino, we're finding out the "stable geniuses" are all flatulence and hype.

In the words of Star Trek (any version): "red alert. Shields up!"

 

 

 

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Forging Ahead...

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Clean energy sources like wind turbines are part of Argonne’s decades-long effort to create a carbon-free economy. (Image by Shutterstock/Engel.ac.)

Topics: Battery, Biofuels, Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions and removing them from the atmosphere is critical to the global fight against climate change. Called decarbonization, it is one of the focal points in the nation’s strategy to ensure a bright future for our planet and all who live on it.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has been at the forefront of the quest to decarbonize the U.S. economy for decades.

Argonne scientists are developing new materials for batteries and researching energy-efficient transportation and sustainable fuels. They are expanding carbon-free energy sources like nuclear and renewable power. Argonne researchers are also exploring ways to capture carbon dioxide from the air and from industrial sources, use it to produce chemicals, or store it in the ground.

The ultimate goal? To reduce the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet.

An overview of Argonne’s lab-wide effort to create a carbon-free economy, Beth Burmahl, Argonne National Laboratory

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Dystopian and Unthinkable...

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An activist holds a candle during a vigil in Lafayette Park for nurses who died during the COVID-19 pandemic on January 13, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Topics: Civics, COVID-19, Epidemiology, Existentialism, Politics

With all due respect to the recently departed former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, she started using the phrase "indispensable nation" after political reporter Sydney Blumenthal coined it. From Foreign Policy Magazine:

In his memoir of the Clinton presidency, The Clinton Wars, Blumenthal elaborated on what the phrase was intended to represent: “Only the United States had the power to guarantee global security: without our presence or support, multilateral endeavors would fail.” Albright, then secretary of state, began using the phrase often, and most prominently in February 1998, while defending the policy of coercive diplomacy against Iraq over its limited cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors when, during an interview on the “Today Show,” she said: “If we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.”

The Myth of the Indispensable Nation, Micah Zenko, Foreign Policy

Though politically expedient, and in the parlance of activism, it "chants" well, we're not indispensable, nor are we exceptional. We allowed the worst of a pandemic to spread by ineptitude and Twitter addiction, science denialism, and conspiracy theory. Since the introduction of cable news and siloes of news consumption, we have citizens that believe in different versions of reality. It puts the "United States" in the realm of the oxymoron.

Now, we're at this grim milestone. Conservatives live to push buttons, "own the libs," grift off culture issues, and keep their constituents at high levels of anxiety and anger with right-wing echo chambers to ensure they vote for them to "own the libs." Progressives think high-minded logic, social media presence, "woke-ness," diversity, equity, and inclusion by proximity will produce a Star Trek utopia, because of high-minded logic. I purposely made each perspective a grammatical ouroboros. We're at a grim milestone because our major political parties have wholly different means of evaluating reality, and because compromise is frowned upon: "DINO, RINO." There are dark, nefarious forces that only the well-connected to Q-drops or Alex Jones can decipher.

431,000 non-farm jobs were added, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.6%. Yet, the 46th president's approval numbers are in the toilet largely because he isn't as entertaining as the last spastic, pathologically lying, hand-waving caricature of a mob boss with a dead ferret toupee, a metaphor for a lifetime of hiding hard truths from himself.

We are codependent on being perpetually angry, and not wed to the idea of speaking to our neighbors who might not consume the same media. We thus base our understanding of the world and facts on separate lenses we view reality through.

Tom Nichols, former professor at Annapolis Naval Academy, opined about "The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters" in 2017, and it doesn't look like we've turned a corner from that analysis of our national death spiral. Because we can "Google it," we're a Dunning-Kruger nation of narcissists and debase people who put a lot of work into understanding how the world works. We are a byword and a proverb. We are Guy Debord's "Society of the Spectacle."

“The whole idea of a democratic application of skepticism is that everyone should have the essential tools to effectively and constructively evaluate claims to knowledge.”

― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Good Reads

*****

Laura Jackson feels the loss of her husband Charlie like she is missing a part of herself. He died of COVID early in the pandemic, on May 17, 2020, just weeks after the couple celebrated his 50th birthday. Charlie was an Army veteran who served in Iraq during Desert Storm, and Laura finds herself returning to images of war and loss—to those who have lost a limb but still feel its phantom tingle, who unthinkingly reach for a glass of water or try to step out of bed before realizing what has been lost forever. Even now she still turns to find Charlie, eager to share a joy or a disappointment, only to remember with a jolt that there is a missing space where he once was.

“I don’t know that you ever get over it,” says Jackson, who lives in Charlotte, N.C. “Your person who was supposed to be there for life—to have that tragically ripped away has been a huge, huge adjustment to make.”

The U.S. will record one million confirmed deaths from COVID in the next several weeks. This toll is likely an undercount because there are more than 200,000 other excess deaths that go beyond typical mortality rates, caused in part by the lingering effects of the disease and the strain of the pandemic. These immense losses are shaping our country—how we live, work, and love, how we play and pray and learn and grow.

“We will see the rippling effects of the pandemic on our society and the way it impacts individuals for generations,” says Nyesha Black, director of demographic research at the University of Alabama. “This is definitely a huge marker in the way we will think about society moving forward—it will be that anchor event.” COVID has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer.

These deaths have wide-ranging consequences. The effects on children may be the longest-lasting. In the U.S., an estimated 243,000 children have lost a caregiver to COVID—including 194,000 who lost one or both parents—and the psychological and economic aftershocks can have lifetime negative impacts on their education and career.

What One Million COVID Dead Mean for the U.S.’s Future, Melody Schreiber, Scientific American

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Breadbaskets and War...

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Image Source: Hub Pages

Topics: Biology, Civics, Civil Rights, Climate Change, Democracy, Existentialism, Politics

The cornucopia’s history lies in Greek mythology. There are a lot of different stories it might have originated from, but the most common one tells the story of the lightning god, Zeus. As an infant, Zeus was in great danger from his father, Cronus. Zeus was taken to the island of Crete and cared for and nursed by a goat named Amalthea. One day, he accidentally broke off one of her horns, and in order to repay her, he used his powers to ensure that the horn would be a symbol of eternal nourishment, which is where we get the idea that the cornucopia represents abundance.

The History Behind the “Horn of Plenty”, Winnie Lam, Daily Nexus

*****

Russia’s war highlights the fragility of the global food supply — sustained investment is needed to feed the world in a changing climate.

Six boxes of wheat seed sit in our cold store. This is the first time in a decade that my team has not been able to send to Ukraine the improved germplasm we’ve developed as part of the Global Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Texcoco, Mexico. International postal and courier services are suspended. The seed had boosted productivity year on year in the country, which is now being devastated by war.

Our work builds on the legacy of Norman Borlaug, who catalyzed the Green Revolution and staved off famine in South Asia in the 1970s. Thanks to him, I see how a grain of wheat can affect the world.

Among the horrifying humanitarian consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are deeply troubling short-, medium- and long-term disruptions to the global food supply. Ukraine and Russia contribute nearly one-third of all wheat exports (as well as almost one-third of the world’s barley and one-fifth of its corn, providing an estimated 11% of the world’s calories). Lebanon, for instance, gets 80% of its wheat from Ukraine alone.

Broken bread — avert global wheat crisis caused by invasion of Ukraine, Alison Bentley, Nature

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Kalashnikovs and Switchblades...

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Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

Note: Coming up for air (briefly). Still writing the dissertation. My plan is to post Tuesday - Friday of next week. Blogging will be my sanity in an insane world.

Using pictures out of Ukraine showing a crumpled metallic airframe, open-source analysts of the conflict there say they have identified images of a new sort of Russian-made drone, one that the manufacturer says can select and strike targets through inputted coordinates or autonomously. When soldiers give the Kalashnikov ZALA Aero KUB-BLA loitering munition an uploaded image, the system is capable of “real-time recognition and classification of detected objects” using artificial intelligence (AI), according to the Netherlands-based organization Pax for Peace (citing Jane’s International Defence Review). In other words, analysts appear to have spotted a killer robot on the battlefield.

Russia may have used a killer robot in Ukraine. Now what? Zachary Kallenborn, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

And we have Switchblades.

President Biden signed a bill allocating 800 million dollars of military aid short of an official no-fly zone by either US forces or NATO. It does include anti-aircraft missiles and drones, specifically the Switchblade. Both organizations have argued establishment of a no-fly zone isn't casual: it means enemy planes will be challenged in the air, and enemy planes, Russian planes, if not retreating, will be shot down. We then go from World War Two and one half to WWIII.

Wars are like avalanches. They may start with a snow flurry someone rounds into a snowball. Someone, a child perhaps, throws it innocently. As it descends the incline of a mountain, it gathers speed and adds mass. By the time it reaches civilization, the accumulated mass and momentum make it all but impossible to divert or stop. It starts with a snow flurry, then it escalates. Tit for tat. Switchblades for Kalashnikovs.

There are some things that give me simultaneously hope and concern:

Casualties: The Russians have lost more troops in three weeks than the US lost in 20 years in Afghanistan.

Cyberwarfare: It hasn't happened. The Russian GRU used ransomware to shut down Colonial Pipeline. The threat of shutting down power in Ukraine (or here): hasn't happened.

Putin was a mid-level bureaucrat in the KGB, and not looked at as an asset. He had one main talent of getting kompromat - compromising information - and using it to leverage someone to betray their country for Russia. His problem is like his Manchurian Candidate in America that he pushed into the presidency, he's a malignant narcissist, and quite the opposite of a "strongman." He, like the former faux billionaire host of "The Apprentice," is acting. Two euphemisms come to mind: "fake it until you make it" and "faking the funk."

To answer that question, you have to understand the power and information ecosystems around dictators. I’ve studied and interviewed despots across the globe for more than a decade. In my research, I’ve persistently encountered a stubborn myth—of the savvy strongman, the rational, calculating despot who can play the long game because he (and it’s typically a he) doesn’t have to worry about pesky polls or angry voters. Our elected leaders, this view suggests, are no match for the tyrant who gazes into the next decade rather than fretting about next year’s election.

Reality doesn’t conform to that rosy theory.

Autocrats such as Putin eventually succumb to what may be called the “dictator trap.” The strategies they use to stay in power tend to trigger their eventual downfall. Rather than being long-term planners, many make catastrophic short-term errors—the kinds of errors that would likely have been avoided in democratic systems. They hear only from sycophants and get bad advice. They misunderstand their population. They don’t see threats coming until it’s too late. And unlike elected leaders who leave the office to riches, book tours, and the glitzy lifestyle of a statesman, many dictators who miscalculate leave office in a casket, a possibility that makes them even more likely to double down.

Vladimir Putin Has Fallen Into the Dictator Trap, Brian Klaas, The Atlantic

At Nuremberg, Hermann Goering was asked by Gustave Gilbert as to “why he and the others had been such abject “yes men,” Goering replied: “Please show me a ‘no man’ in Germany who is not six feet under the ground today.”

Yes Men and No Men: Hermann Goering and Johannes Steinhoff in the Age of Trump, The Inglorious Padre Steve's World

The "Dictator's Trap" is set by his narcissism (it almost always is a male pronoun leader). Unable to "handle the truth," he surrounds himself with yes men, whose careers and livelihoods are directly proportional to their degree of sycophancy. In sadistic cases, their lives depend on kowtowing to limbo levels. People do tend to get shot, poisoned, die of radiation poisoning, and fall spontaneously out of windows in the eleven-time zone prison known as Russia. He's also such a pathological liar, and so keenly good at gaslighting, he has a tendency to believe his [own] press, thus gaslighting himself.

I don't speak Russian. However, the body language in this rant (Twitter link below) is shouting to the rooftops. This man is panicking.

He didn’t house arrest his intelligence chiefs because he’s displeased: they’re KGB like him. He’s isolating the competition for power before he outright eliminates them.

I don’t speak Russian, but I can tell when someone is terrified:

This is not only a nutball fascist rant, but man, it is *full* of projection. Putin's own inner circle could be the people he's talking about - and especially their children, who are watching all of this from London and Paris, and New York. Tom Nichols, @RadioFreeTom

When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard. Sun Tzu, "The Art of War."

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A BFD...

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This one map shows the mounting tensions between NATO and Russia, Jeremy Bender, Business Insider, July 7, 2016

Topics: Existentialism, Fascism, Politics

I have been working on my dissertation, so I have understandably been missing from blogging. Now, I don't know if I will be able to give my final defense. One needs a functional planet for that.

Information bubbles are a big problem here in America. People sink themselves into warm, soothing cocoons of agreeable media and opinions until they lose touch with reality. It’s how we end up with stuff like Republicans admiring Vladimir Putin more than President Joe Biden.

Now imagine you took somebody who lived in such a bubble and gave them control of the world’s largest country by landmass and all of the vast natural resources that came with it, along with an enormous army. Oh, and also nuclear weapons. So many nuclear weapons. Do this, and you get the aforementioned Putin, whom Andreas Kluth describes as someone who not only lives in a bubble, but also has the power to reinforce it with quivering toadies attesting to the reality in Putin’s brain, that he is a stable genius with history, public opinion and international law on his side, and also a snappy dresser and the best at judo.

Putin’s Secret Weapon Is a Bubble Made of Toadies, Oil, and Nukes, Mark Gongloff, Bloomberg Opinion

Abstract

This paper presents the results of an indirect assessment of the personality of Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, from the conceptual perspective of personologist Theodore Millon.

Psychodiagnostically relevant data regarding Putin were extracted from open-source intelligence and synthesized into a personality profile using the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with Axis II of DSM-IV.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed on the basis of interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Putin’s primary personality patterns were found to be Dominant/controlling (a measure of aggression or hostility), Ambitious/self-serving (a measure of narcissism), and Conscientious/dutiful, with secondary Retiring/reserved (introverted) and Dauntless/adventurous (risk-taking) tendencies and lesser Distrusting/suspicious features. The blend of primary patterns in Putin’s profile constitutes a composite personality type aptly described as an "expansionist hostile enforcer."

Dominant individuals enjoy the power to direct others and to evoke obedience and respect; they are tough and unsentimental and often make effective leaders. This personality pattern defines the “hostile” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Ambitious individuals are bold, competitive, and self-assured; they easily assume leadership roles, expect others to recognize their special qualities, and often act as though entitled. This personality pattern delineates the “expansionist” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Conscientious individuals are dutiful and diligent, with a strong work ethic and careful attention to detail; they are adept at crafting public policy but often lack the retail political skills required to consummate their policy objectives and are more technocratic than visionary. This personality pattern fashions the “enforcer” component of Putin’s personality composite.

Retiring (introverted) individuals tend not to develop strong ties to others, are somewhat deficient in the ability to recognize the needs or feelings of others, and may lack spontaneity and interpersonal vitality.

Dauntless individuals are adventurous, individualistic, daring personalities resistant to deterrence and inclined to take calculated risks.

Putin’s major personality-based strengths in a political role are his commanding demeanor and confident assertiveness. His major personality-based shortcomings are his uncompromising intransigence, lack of empathy and congeniality, and cognitive inflexibility.

The Political Personality of Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, Aubrey Immelman, and Joseph V. Trenzeluk, Department of Psychology, Saint John's University

At a joint German-Russian cabinet meeting in Siberia in 2006, German Chancellor Angela Merkel unsuccessfully tried to persuade President Vladimir Putin that cabinet ministers should be treated with respect rather than contempt. Resentment is the emotion for superiors while anger is reserved for equals. But contempt is the emotion reserved for those we regard as inferiors.

Now, Putin’s contempt for others is spreading far beyond his cabinet to include the entire western leadership, from Cameron to Obama. Putin’s personality and thinking have become grossly distorted by the effects of enormous, largely unfettered power on his brain. Since then, Putin has invaded Crimea and engineered the swift dissolution of a country.

Interpreting political behavior in psychological terms is always a risk: Ukraine’s ethnic balance is a fragile one and there is the scent of possible Crimean oil reserves as a juicy incentive for Putin’s political adventurism. But perhaps most politically useful of all is the whipped-up nationalist fervor to bolster Putin’s hold over a decaying Russian economy with its aging workforce and corrupt institutions.

But, after 15 years in power, psychological factors have to be taken into consideration in analyzing Putin’s actions and, more importantly, in deciding how to respond to them. And contempt must be considered as one of the most important elements of his psychology. It is not only contempt for what he almost regards as weak—and, possibly in his macho world view, effeminate—Western leaders. More important is his contempt for their institutions such as international treaties and laws.

The Danger That Lurks Inside Vladimir Putin's Brain: Contempt is key to Putin's troubling psychological profile. Ian H. Robertson Ph.D., Psychology Today

In this country, we have an entire party, and Reich Wing echo chamber "rooting for Putin." If anything, this lack of patriotism doesn't "flatter" him: he would regard them with contempt.

If you're NOT willing to fight for your country, and its ideals, let's replay "Red Dawn," with Patrick Swayze not fighting for the Wolverines, but with the Russians.

Or, more close to home: maybe these Confederate and Nazi flag-carrying "patriots" instead of fighting for the homefront, join the Warsaw Pact as they roll over the Ottawa border into the United States? Hey, a white Russian country is coming to save white supremacy? Who gives a damn about a Constitution, the "rule of law," or democracy? Why would Putin bother keeping such traitors ALIVE?

Here's a formula for starting World War III:

1. Install a useful idiot in a contested election (America, 2016 - 2020, they tried in France, and the UK, maybe).

2. Get everyone in the country tired of the complexities of citizenship, and democracy (just leave me alone, and let me stream Netflix).

3. Put undesirables like ethnic minorities, LGBT, activists, and artists on "kill lists" (so NOT like Adolf Hitler, and the Nazis, o_9). White evangelicals should hereby be called "evilgelicals" for supporting a psychopath (they've had practice in America with Orange Satan).

4. Threaten the world with nuclear weapons, and Armageddon.

5. Run the world, or, what's LEFT of it, like Dr. Evil.

Biden said the incident occurred while he was touring Putin’s office in the Kremlin.

“I had an interpreter, and when he was showing me his office I said, ‘It’s amazing what capitalism will do, won’t it? A magnificent office!’ And he laughed. As I turned, I was this close to him,” Biden said, signaling that the two leaders were standing just inches apart. “I said, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.’”

“And he looked back at me, and he smiled, and he said, ‘We understand one another.’” Biden said. “This is who this guy is!”

Biden to Putin: I don't think 'you have a soul', Justin Sink, The Hill

By extension and relation, I'm not sure the American Reich has a soul.

Ukraine had a Russian puppet put in place by Paul Manafort, who mysteriously worked pro bono as campaign manager for Dumbo Gambino, voted out by the people of Ukraine in 2014. Putin has a new puppet ready to go once he kills all on his list.

Ukraine came into focus over the "perfect phone call" that led to the first of two impeachments, the second for an insurrection by our former head of state.

Ukraine has vast mineral wealth: "manganese, bituminous and anthracite coal used for coke"; "titanium ore, bauxite, nepheline (a source of soda), alunite (a source of potash), and mercury (cinnabar, or mercuric sulfide) ores." Source: Britinnica.com. China controls over sixty percent of lithium and nickel refining (you need that for those "Green New Deal" car batteries). Wars over resources are as old as human civilization. Expect the cyber warfare in Ukraine to extend to Europe, and other countries, like America.

"This is the way the world ends.

"This is the way the world ends.

"This is the way the world ends."

The stanza is from TS Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men." The traditional ending is "not with a bang, but a whimper."

The bangs (plural) may precede the whimpers, screams, gnashing of teeth, and the eternal silence of extinction.

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Things We've Lost...

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At CERN in 1973, John Bell (left), who was working there at the time, interacts with Martinus Veltman (right), who was then a professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Since early 2020, COVID-19 has hindered physicists’ ability to travel and discuss physics in person. (Courtesy of CERN.)

Topics: COVID-19, Existentialism, Physics, Research

An excerpt. The longer article piece is at the link following.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only killed a large number of people—approximately 5.5 million worldwide at the time Physics Today went to press in mid-January—it has also disrupted life in a fundamental, nonperturbative manner, forcing large-scale changes in human behavior from without.

It was difficult at the beginning of 2020 to anticipate the great COVID-19 calamity awaiting the world. In February of that year, I was apparently among the first people to have urged the leadership of the American Physical Society to cancel its upcoming March Meeting in Denver, which APS finally did at the last moment after considerable hesitancy.

The logistics of canceling a meeting of 10 000 people right before the event are not trivial. But given the crowd density in APS March Meetings, it is reasonable to assume that the 2020 event would have led to a few thousand COVID-19 cases just among the physicist attendees. Overall, it may have led to many tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of cases, if not more. That estimate is based on research related to the now-infamous Boston Biogen superspreader conference in late February 2020. Within a month, roughly 100 people in Massachusetts who either went to the conference or were a household contact of someone who went tested positive. The genetic-code-based investigation estimated that the event led to 300 000 COVID-19 cases worldwide by the beginning of the following November. APS made the right call in canceling the meeting.

Commentary: A physicist’s perspective on COVID-19, Sankar Das Sarma, Physics Today

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Fifth-Column Fascists...

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights, Propaganda

Note: I will be attending the funeral of my brother-in-law. I will take a blog break to mourn.

[A] fifth column, clandestine group or faction of subversive agents who attempt to undermine a nation’s solidarity by any means at their disposal. The term is conventionally credited to Emilio Mola Vidal, a Nationalist general during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). As four of his army columns moved on Madrid, the general referred to his militant supporters within the capital as his “fifth column,” intent on undermining the loyalist government from within.

A cardinal technique of the fifth column is the infiltration of sympathizers into the entire fabric of the nation under attack and, particularly, into positions of policy decision and national defense. From such key posts, fifth-column activists exploit the fears of a people by spreading rumors and misinformation, as well as by employing the more standard techniques of espionage and sabotage. Source: Britannica.com

When I saw this, it was usually on a UHF channel after school. The subtle racist trope against Japan happens at the 2:42 mark, tarnishing its brilliance. (In light of our current appeal to diversity, equity, and inclusion, I'm preparing you for the shock.) The cartoon was produced in 1943, and the stated Axis powers were Germany, Italy, and Japan. Inclusivity wasn't the point: rage to continue the fight, then, and now, delivers a potent message. The cartoon served as a simple illustration of what a fifth column infiltrator, or in this case, internal grey-colored collaborator mouse, A.K.A. Tucker Carlson, looks like.

Tucker Carlson again questions why the US would side with Ukraine over Russia, Sinéad Baker, Insider.com

"My office is now getting calls from folks who say they watch Tucker Carlson and are upset that we're not siding with Russia in its threats to invade Ukraine, and who want me to support Russia's 'reasonable' positions," Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) said in a tweet on Monday afternoon.

Democrat says Tucker Carlson viewers telling his office the US should side with Russia, Dominick Mastrangelo, TheHill.com

Do you know whose parents immigrated from Ukraine? Leonard Nimoy, who gave us the "live long and prosper" Mr. Spock salute from his Jewish synagogue traditions.

Public-opinion polling shows that Trump’s low opinion of American elections has practically become Republican Party orthodoxy. According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Friday, Republicans have an “unprecedented” level of “concern and mistrust in the system.” Roughly 70 percent of Republican voters believe that if Hillary Clinton wins the election, it’ll be due to fraud. In both this poll and an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll, only half of Republicans say they’d accept a Clinton victory. (In the latter poll, by contrast, 82 percent of Democrats said they would accept a Trump victory.)

This suspicious Republican electorate is joined by growing ranks of conservative politicians, pundits, and intellectuals. They’re all increasingly willing to say that the existing American political system is hopelessly flawed and needs to be rolled back to the days before blacks and women could vote. On the most obvious level, this can be seen in moves by Republican governors all over America to make voting more difficult, through stringent voting ID laws, new hurdles to registration, and the curtailment of early-voting options. Equally significant has been the gutting of key provisions of the Voting Rights Act by conservative Supreme Court justices in the 2013 Shelby Country v. Holder ruling.

The Right Is Giving Up on Democracy, Jeet Heer, The New Republic, October 24, 2016

Speaking of mice: Tennessee is blocking the graphic novel, Maus (I ordered it). 1/27/2022 yesterday was the 77th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The 1619 Project by Nicole Hannah-Jones is being referred to BY name and blocked. Reich Wing governments in red states are blocking Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" and "Beloved." "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee can hurt fragile feelings, this sentiment from people who mocked the left, and wore t-shirts to tell us: "F Your Feelings." Yeah.

On Wednesday, the Harvard University scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. appeared on Oprah Winfrey's celebratory post-election special. After learning the news, Gates says, "we jumped up, we wept, we hooped and hollered." It is hard to overestimate the historical significance of the election of the first black U.S. President. For many blacks, and certainly, for much of the country and world, Obama's victory is an extraordinary step toward the redemption of America's original 400-year-old sin. It is astonishing not least for its quickness, coming just 145 years after President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation effectively ending slavery and four decades after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. And it is even more astonishing for its decisiveness — Obama carried Virginia, once the home of the Confederacy, a place whose laws just five decades ago would have made the interracial union of his parents illegal. (See pictures of Barack Obama's family tree.)

What Obama's Election Really Means to Black America, Steven Gray, TIME, November 6, 2008

What Obama's election meant to White America was the eruption of racist tropes in the form of Obama-as-Hitler, Obama-as-Medicine-Man-Voodoo-Mystic, Obama-hung-in-effigy. The right-Reich-wing echo chamber kicked into high gear on television, podcasts, the Internet, and AM talk radio. White America was telling Black America precisely what they thought of having a black president. We weren't in "post-racial America," and the years of detente between the cultures was a smokescreen, a strong delusion.

Despite the fact that the 46th president has appointed more judges than any other president, despite the fact that the economy has grown faster than my senior year in college as an undergrad (1984), the Orwellian programming has his numbers in the statistical toilet. My theory is because 1. he's competent, 2. he's boring, which is largely what he promised after four years of 140-character COVFEFE-misspelled rage tweeting and genuflecting to Vladimir Putin from his megalomaniacal predecessor. What matters in our entertainment-first-news-later fourth estate of "journalism" is rage viewing, ratings, and clicks. We have forgotten what "normal" looks like if we ever knew.

We are ignoring the fifth column among us. They are armed. They want to "take their country back," as Glenn Beck (unvaccinated, caught covid TWO times) led chants at the Lincoln Memorial on August 27, 2010. "In 2012, a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey reported that Fox News viewers were less informed about current events than people who didn't follow the news at all." (This is FORBES! Read that again at the link.) The fifth column is pissed that they have to now share with "others": African Americans, Asian Americans, First Nation Peoples, Hispanics, Immigrants, LGBT, women, and haven't shared well since kindergarten. Sharing power is what happens when a democracy diversifies, and they have shown - from their electorate, their elected officials, their contrived laws to block votes, their propaganda outlets, and their brown shirts, to have little interest in doing that.

Watch what you're watching

Fox keeps feeding us toxins

Stop sleepingStart thinking outside of the box

And unplug from the Matrix doctrine

But watch what you say,

Big Brother is watching

Watch what you're watching

Fox keeps feeding us toxins
Stop sleeping
Start thinking outside of the box
And unplug from the Matrix doctrine
But watch what you say,

Fox Five is watching

"Sly Fox," by Nas, Genius Lyrics, and YouTube

We are whistling in the dark on the road to fascism.

2 Thessalonians 2:11 "And for this, cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had to pleasure in unrighteousness."

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire

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Endgame...

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Source: Marvel Disney Plus

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Human Rights, Fascism

Happy New Year, of a sort.

This kind of post would appear on a Friday, but it appears today on the one-year anniversary of an insurrection that one party that attempted it, is denying that they did try to overthrow the government.

"Problem 1. Suppose that we use a revolver with six chambers and one bullet. Calculate the probability of death of the first man mathematically.

"Suppose that players A and B play the game, and A is the first player. A takes up the gun in the first round and pulls the trigger. This time the probability of his death is 1/6.

"If A survives, then in the second round, B takes up the gun and does the same, and if B survives, then in the third round, A takes up the gun and does the same thing.

"Let’s calculate the probability of A’s death in the third round. If A is to die in the third round, A must survive the first round. The probability of survival for A in the first round is 5/6. After that, B has to survive in the second round. There are only five chambers and one bullet, so the probability of survival is 4/5. Then there are four chambers and one bullet, and the resulting probability of death is ¼.

"Therefore, the probability of death for A in the third round is 5/6 x 4/5 x ¼.

"As to the probability of A’s death in the fifth round, we can do almost the same calculation, and we get 5/6 x 4/5 x ¾ x 2/3 x ½.

"Finally, the probability of death of the first player A is 1/6 + (5/6 x 4/5 x ¼) + (5/6 x 4/5 x ¾ x 2/3 x ½) = 3/6 = ½."

From: "Elementary Theory of Russian Roulette: interesting patterns of fractions," Satoshi Hashiba, Daisuke Minematsu, Ryohei Miyadera

It's serendipity that the date of the modern attempted overthrow of our Democratic Republic, 1/6/2021, corresponds with "Russian" Roulette.

I've been asking myself this same question over again: "what is the endgame?" The Republican Party in 2016 at the influence of the convicted (and indebted) campaign manager, Paul Manifort, dropped any mention of opposition to Russian aggression in Ukraine. In 2020, they opted for the "Seinfeld Platform" of nothing and garnered 7 million MORE votes than the previous attempt to usurp democracy.

In the summer of 2016, McCarthy endorsed Trump for President, but only after the In the summer of 2016, McCarthy endorsed Trump for President, but only after the interloper from New York had sewn up the nomination. A year later, it emerged that, in June of 2016, McCarthy had told some of his fellow members of the House Republican leadership that he believed—“swear to God”—that Trump was in the pay of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. When the Washington Post eventually reported about these comments, McCarthy tried to laugh them off as a joke.

The G.O.P. Can No Longer Be Relied On to Protect Democracy, John Cassidy, December 12, 2020, The New Yorker

The United States is marginally both a democratic republic and so-called "Christian" nation because of its slow expansion of citizenship to the marginalized: African American men, white women with the 19th Amendment, August 18, 1920, and black women finally with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Immigrants, LGBT, refugees are slowly gaining rights only afforded by our "Founding Fathers" (or narcissistic sociopaths) to "propertied white men." The current majority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, has scheduled a vote to debate the Voting Rights Bills in the chamber, and if Moscow Mitch et al elected fascists follow past precedent, they will block the bill with a cowardly email. A workaround could be making the Republican Senators debate it on C-SPAN and explain WHY they DO NOT want the franchise to expand any further. They won't do that of course, essentially making opposition attack ads of themselves acting like buffoons, or mean tweeting Big Bird. It will likely be blocked by the tweedle dee, tweedle dumb dynamic duo of Mazarati Man-Chin, Firebrand liberal-turned-Blue Dog Kirsten Sinema, who seems to miss that "Don't Look UP" is a parody of politicians like herself.

The real answer is, even in the numerical majority in the Senate, republicans represent fewer actual voters than democrats. As of 2019, California registers 39.51 million citizens; Wyoming (Liz Cheney and her father's state) has 578,759. Each state gets two senators. So theoretically would Washington, DC at 692,683, more than Wyoming, but most likely, those senators would not be republicans, but democrats. And Republicans have only won the popular vote under the two Bush's, meaning their policies only appeal to oligarchs.

Tucker Carlson has almost given up the game by softball interviewing the authoritarian dictator Viktor Orbán on his propaganda network, then CPAC is going "full Borat" by hosting an American conservative conference in a foreign country that's NOT a democracy. Projection, much?

So, what's the endgame? Are we "fascism fluid"; "authoritarian curious"? I don't think we have to wait for more than one more round of this existential Russian republic roulette.

What happens to the other world democracies if the largest, most powerful in human history disintegrates into a pile of feces? I don't expect a band of family dysfunctional superheroes is going to save us. Nor do I think Bezos, Branson, or Musk are going to save humanity by cracking the mystery of "warp drive" (don't hold your breath). If they could, do you think they wouldn't CHARGE an exorbitant fee to ride The Enterprise? In this case, Bill Maher has a valid point. It's made us infantile and "Waiting for Godot."

Lastly, cute curtseys won't save us from being a proverb, a byword, and a laughable mistake. Franklin's statement: "A republic, if you can keep it" is currently in doubt.

 

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